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Putting the NO in Casino

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The city of Toronto and the province of Ontario are currently embroiled in a debate about casinos; indeed, as I write this I’m listening to CBC Radio’s Kathleen Petty host the mid-day call-in show Ontario Today. Today they’re featuring Rod Phillips, president of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG). The callers are raising some great issues and the OLG is responding with typical bureaucratic rhetoric. Typically my blood is boiling.*

I’ve visited casinos on two occasions and played lotteries a few times, and without exception I’ve felt ripped off, as if I’ve spent $5 on a piece of paper that simply goes in the bin. No fun. No novelty. No gain. In fact, the one time I did win money on the slots ($12), I shoved it back into the machine only to lose $7. Imagine if I bet more. Imagine if I used my credit card.

What else was strange about the casino experience was the creepy feeling of being watched and intimidated. I literally huddled with my friends so I didn’t stand out. Does this make me a chicken, a wuss, a lightweight? If it does, so be it.

What’s creepier, however, is the line we are being fed by the OLG’s TV ads; that lottery and gaming money helps community centres and hospitals, implying that without the money you gamble away small towns will suffer. Let’s examine this: You have, say, $1,000 cash in your pocket. You go to a casino, gamble, and ultimately lose it all. The casino gets most of it and the OLG gets the remainder to distribute among various charitable groups.

My question is this: if that $1,000 is supposed to benefit charities, then why not give it directly to them? If not through taxes then by donation so you’d get a tax receipt)? These organizations are supposed to be supported by our tax dollars anyway; why are desperate people targeted to fund this scheme? We are fed a dream of winning the lottery, but so few do. The odds of winning are ridiculously low; indeed, I’d wager they’re in favour of the house. Yet people still bite in a bid for financial freedom and security. Ironically, they are likely the same people who are swimming in debt and bereft of savings. Why not take that $5, $10, $1,000 that you were going gamble and stick it in a high-interest savings account? Even at 1 per cent interest, you’ll be more ahead than you’d be at the roulette wheel.
Fun? Only if you own the joint.

*I actually wrote this on Wednesay, January 23, 2012, but I was listening to the show. Honest. Deadlines, appointments and falling asleep . . . well, you get the idea.

Anger

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In October 2010, Toronto underwent a mayoral election. Apparently we were an angry lot. Terribly so. I suspect that like many of the citizenry, I would have never had known this unless I was told by Rob Ford’s campaign. There was a “gravy train” at city council that so glutinous, so dripping, so deep and tasty Julia Child would be jealous. Yes, I ought to be angry. But I wasn’t.

There was a life-sucking land-transfer tax in place that was so prohibitive people were running screaming to Richmond Hill to avoid it. I ought to be angry about that too since I’m a renter who cannot yet afford to buy a home many of which list at $350,000…before tax. Any tax. Even before bidding wars set in. Grr? No, not really.

But the $60 car-registration tax surely must have raised my ire! That must boil my blood, yes? Nope. Smog pisses me off as do single-rider SUVs and congestion caused by private vehicles, but taxes on these vehicles. Nah. TTC fare hikes rankle, but I think there are bigger fish to fry.

Ooh, speaking of fish, what about the garbage strike, huh? That was AWFUL! It threatened our very way of life and civilization itself! THAT should have really gotten my goat. Well, it wasn’t pleasant, but we lived, and largely forgot about it.
Well, I must be angry about something, right?

Hmm. Let me think. Yes, by Jove I am.

I’m angry that I’m told by a bellicose, belligerent, pejorative-spewing spoilt brat that I’m angry and that I’m an elitist because I can string multisyllabic words together in a sentence uninterrupted by “uhs,” “ums,” and corporate jargon.

I’m angry because people who never venture into the downtown core let alone ride public transit are going to dictate its nature and makeup.

I’m angry that the very Conservatives that foisted amalgamation on Toronto in 1998* are now complaining that council is too big and things cost too much.

I’m angry that the minority Conservative federal government** that ignored the duly elected mayor of the largest metropolis in the country*** and stuck the G20 in the financial district endorsed the mayor-elect.

The funny thing about anger is it can make you do awful, destructive, desperate things. However, to channel the old-school punk ethos, anger can also be an energy and it can be power.

Yes, I’m angry…and engaged.

*Former Ontario Premier Mike Harris showed up at Rob Ford’s celebration shindig.( See CP24’s coverage.)

**Finance Minister Jim Flaherty endorsed the Ford campaign.(See The Globe and Mail)

***David Miller interviewed by Matt Galloway on CBC’s Metro Morning and Miller’s press confernence as reported by Digital Journal.

Guns Ablazin’

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After an unwitting year-long hiatus, I’m attempting to stretch my literary legs again and make good on my daily rant that I can write better than some authors. And so it goes. Stringing words together into sentences that exude meaning and motion. So without further ado…

Once upon a time, in a cubicle far, far away, I made plans to move to the United States. Nothing came of them, of course. Reality crept in, set my head straight and put my nose to the grindstone. Now, older, wiser, and nasally grounded, I am relieved to have stayed Stateless. Why? Crazy people. Crazy people who eat KFC’s double-downs. Crazy people who eat KFC’s double-downs while carrying guns. While I know statistically, Americans read more books, I’ll bet dimes to Tim Bits all those books are Smith & Wesson owner’s manuals, greasy with seven herbs and spices. Well, I’m here and they’re there and they can keep their guns. The streets of Toronto don’t need any more of their stolen and smuggled weapons.

Phil Spector Found Guilty

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>This is a few days old, but worth of posting here: Phil Spector was found guilty of second-degree murder!

From The Toronto Star:

Second-degree murder carries a penalty of 15 years to life in prison. The use-of-a-gun enhancement adds three, four or 10 years in prison, according to the district attorney’s office.

Defence lawyer Doron Weinberg said he believed the case was swayed by the judge’s erroneous rulings, particularly one that allowed five women from Spector’s past to testify. He said it would be the basis for appeal and a request for a new trial.

Spector’s young wife, Rachelle, sobbed as the decision was announced.

Rachelle has no idea how close she came…

My previous post: “Give’em Enough Rope.”

No Means No

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Canada is committed to the Afghan mission till 2011. Meanwhile, President Karzai is considering laws that are repressive to women, which includes one that sactions rape within marriage. Canadians are rightfully outraged, but remember that in Canada:

  • women have only been considered persons since 1930;
  • women have only had the vote in Quebec since 1949;
  • in 1968 it became illegal for a husband to beat his wife;
  • in the 1970s, women had to have a male family member co-sign loan and credit-card applications; and
  • in 1983, rape within a marriage became illegal in Canada

We rolled up our sleeves and changed the law here. Now, women in Afghanistan are doing the same thing. Correction, it isn’t the same: They are literally taking their lives in their hands for human rights. After being shot, killed, pummelled, set on fire, burned, had acid thrown at them and otherwise, Afghani women are STILL standing up and crying out: No means no. Weaker sex? Not bloody likely.

When Canada leaves the region, it is imperative that we not forget these women and their supporters. Women’s rights are human rights.

The Globe and Mail ran a good piece on April 18 that’s worth a read:”Plight of Afghan women prompts fresh debate over war,” by Sandra Martin.

Canadian Embarrassy

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Canadian citizens travelling or working abroad have a certain expectation that should they be detained, harmed, imprisoned, or have their rights otherwise compromised in a foreign country, the Canadian Embassy in that nation will step in. Not necessarily so.

William Sampson’s memoir Confessions of an Innocent Man: Torture and Survival in a Saudi Prison details not only his two-year ordeal but the apparent indifference of the Canadian government to his imprisonment.

Then there is the current case of Huseyin Celil being held by the Chinese government which accuses him of being a terrorist.

Another horrific example is photographer Zahra Ziba Kaemi, who was captured, tortured, raped and killed in an Iranian prison. Maclean’s magazine recently published an article exposing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ pathetic handling of her case.

All the News that Fit to Imprison

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>This story was aired today on CBC’s As it Happens , which archives its shows for live stream or podcast

From the International Justice Network website:

June 3, 2008, New York, NY—Attorneys from the International Justice Network (IJNetwork) filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. government seeking the release of 22-year old Canadian Television (CTV) journalist, Jawed Ahmad. Ahmad has been held incommunicado by the U.S. military for more than six months without charge at the notorious United States Air Base in Bagram, Afghanistan, where several confirmed instances of detainee abuse and deaths have occurred.

The lawsuit, filed as a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, was filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against President George W. Bush and U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, alleging that the government is holding Ahmad illegally.

The U.S. Department of Defense has admitted that Ahmad is being held at Bagram, but has refused to disclose the reasons for his arrest and detention. Ahmad is one of several confirmed cases of foreign journalists illegally detained by the U.S. government as part of the “war on terror.” Earlier this year, on April 6, the U.S. government finally released Pulitzer Prize-winning AP photographer Bilal Hussein after two years of military imprisonment without charge in Iraq, followed by the release, on May 1, of Al Jazeera cameraman Sami Al Haj after five years of detention without charge at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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