May 23, 2014

Say no to Hudak

I continue to watch the polls like a hawk.

The Conservatives continue to lead. The polls seem to show that the Liberals could still get more seats with a lower percentage of the popular vote because of their vote distribution. Yet it is disturbing that the Conservatives are still ahead.

The polls are a bit volatile, however.

It appears that the Conservative vote is more likely to hold than the Libs or NDP with voters moving between the latter two in preference. That would suggest that the biggest battle at this point is among the more ‘progressive’ voters. Conservatives know what they want, the rest of us are unsure. And that’s where strategic voting is so important.

At the moment the NDP have no chance of forming a government. They know that. They are hoping that disgust with the Liberals (and fear of the Conservatives) will move voters enough in their direction that they have a significant jump in seats after this election. That would position them, they feel, for a legitimate run in the next election. They could care less if this strategy puts in power an extreme right wing government in Hudak.

This is the same strategy used by Layton to dump Martin. To some extent it seemed to have worked. Their seat total propelled them into Official Opposition. The fact that it has given us 8 years of Stephen Harper seems not to matter to NDPers.

If the Liberals are resurgent in the next federal elution and the NDP goes back to 3rd party status all their machinations will have failed. This currently looks like a real possibility. They will have had a temporary blip in popularity at the price of a country-wrenching Harper government.

And this is what we may see in Ontario. The NDP will hand the reigns of power to the Conservatives while realizing some temporary gains in seats.

Having had a look at the NDP platform just released can anyone really say it is worth the gamble so the NDP can gain seats?

I know Liberals are not to be trusted. I know their ‘progressive’ attitudes can be fleeting. But Horwath is hardly the clear headed and decisive leader to move this province forward. She took weeks at each of the last two budgets, while standing outside with her finger in the air, before deciding whether she could support the Liberals. She is an opportunist.

I’m not looking for an ideologue. I can live with the NDP deciding a move to the middle is where they want to be. But they haven’t moved to the middle so much as the muddle.

I’m voting strategically. And I’m voting Liberal. That is, unless a shock happens and the polls show the NDP passing the Liberals in likely seats. Then I will vote NDP.

As I’ve said before: when the votes are counted and the Lieutenant Governor approaches a party leader to form the next government, I want that person to be anyone but Hudak.

May 17, 2014

Election Ontario

I’ve been wrestling with how to vote for a while now. Ever since St Jack screwed Canada so royally.

We had a negotiated national child care program, a Kelowna Accord. We lost both of those so Layton and the NDP could stroke their egos by denouncing their true enemy. No, no the Conservatives, but the Liberals.

I’ve been involved in politics for a lot of years. I began formally working for the NDP as a teen. I learned early on that the real enemy was those fickle Liberals. As Smokey Thomas pronounced at the start of this election campaign ‘at least we know what the Conservatives stand for’.

Well, yes we do. They stand for a lot of regressive and nasty things. Just the way Stephen Harper is no Brian Mulroney or Joe Clark, Hudak is no Bill Davis.

Now I have to admit, when I was younger I thought all Conservatives were the same. And, to be sure, I still don’t like them in most any guise. But Harper and Hudak aren’t your patents’ Progressive Conservatives. They are a new breed, a spin off of the American Republican right. Yes, we’ve seen these kind of people before in Canada. But until recently there has always been a tempering dose of Red Tory-ism in the party. Not this iteration.

So when the NDP hands the reigns of power to the likes of Stephen Harper because of some crass internal political calculation we have to take notice.

And if Andrea Horvath, in her new role as a small ‘c’ conservative populist, hands the election to Hudak’s Conservatives, then the NDP will have cemented their role as obstructionists to the progressive agenda.

I like my local NDP MPP. But when the ballots are counted and we are presumably left with a minority government (oh my god, not a Conservative majority) I want the Liberals to have one more seat than the Conservatives. Even if that means one fewer NDP sear. I want the Lieutenant Governor to ask the Liberals to form a government, not the Conservatives.

Under Wynn the Liberals are campaigning to the left of the NDP. I know, the NDP rhetoric is that you cannot trust the Liberals to carry out their program. They have a history of running from the left and ruling to the right. I am not naive. But what I like about the Liberal campaign is their pension plan policy and their transit policy. Unlike the NDP’s policy of handing nibbles to the ‘middle class’ the Liberals are not afraid to offer vision and a bold role for the public sector. I feel the Liberals are saying ‘government is back’. I think in these times of less taxes and smaller government that’s a hugely important message.

That’s why, for the first time in my life, I’m going to vote Liberal. I want to break away from the strangle hold I feel the NDP has had on my vote and give it to a progressive party. This time around that appears to be the Liberal Party.

May 6, 2014

“Farmers feed cities”

I’m sure everyone has seen this bumper sticker at least once. It seems to be growing in popularity.

I guess farmers are feeling neglected.

Now I have nothing against farmers. We need food so we need farmers. But I find the whining and winging a bit annoying.

If it weren’t for urban population concentrations where would farmers sell their goods? If it weren’t for manufacturing and the urban working class how would farmers plant and harvest their produce? If it weren’t for scientists at universities how would farmers get those new hardier and more economically/environmentally viable strains of grain and other plants?

What I resent, as a progressive urban dweller, is the conservative governments that farmers continue to disproportionally support. Rural voters (not all farmers, of course) stymie the progressive instincts of the urban population. They vote for governments that would decrease the earning power of the people who buy from farmers and produce their machinery. They vote for governments that deny climate change and would cut back of agricultural scientific research.

So every time I see one of these bumpers stickers I feel like asking the driver ‘what the f**k are you asking for?’.

Read this article for some of the economics of farming in Canada:

I think it’s better to practice the politics of inclusion and unity of working people…whether in the city or on the farm, not sow division the way these silly bumper stickers do.

November 5, 2013

An open letter to the supporters of Rob Ford

Truly, I’m trying to understand.

I know Ford’s schtick is that he’s for ‘the little guy’. I can see why that idea is attractive. Most Torontonians are little guys and, of late, the bureaucracy has been more evasive…more distant.
Many officials treat the public with disdain. The economic recession has left a greater gap between haves and have-nots. There is much to be pissed off about.

But how is Rob Ford a reasonable response to this unease and sense of distance from our government?

Let’s just look at some facts. Many of the people I see interviewed on T.V. Who speak in support of Ford look like people who are self made and worked hard. But what about Rob Ford?

He grew up in a rich family. His father was a wealthy business man. HE may have been self made. Rob? He grew up rich. Did he use that privilege to go out and make something of his own?

No. He went into Daddy’s business … with his brother Doug, also a non self starter.
Their father was an MPP in Mike Harris’ government. Hardly an outsider by anyone’s definition.
So from where does this ‘outsider’ status accrue to Rob Ford? He’s been a politician for years. His Dad was one. He grew up rich and he lives rich. How many of you are riding around in a Cadillac?

Ok, then, but his policies are for ‘the little guy’.
Who uses public transit more: the rich or the poor and working class? Rob Ford has supported every policy in favour of cars over transit. In fact, his cancelling of Transit City when he came to office cost far more ($82,000,000) than any savings he has found on the gravy tran.
He supported cutbacks for the Toronto Public Library system and doesn’t support spending on community clubs in ‘at risk ‘ neighbourhoods. He doesn’t support public housing either.
So just who are the ‘little guys’ then?

When his private company held a party he called the City and asked it to pave the street in front of his building. They did.
When his football team needed a bus he called the Chair of the TTC … directly. The bus arrived.

Can you or I do that?
Is that the actions of the little guy or the privileged? You tell me.

So what about Rob Ford draws you to him?
He comes from the upper class and lives the lifestyle (out of the camera’s glare) and certainly behaves as if he is entitled.

Now, if you are just right wing and, on principle, believe that there is little or no role for government and that taxes are simply theft on your private wealth then I can see that you’ve found your man.
And I know that some working class people, in addition to many of the wealthy, have this point of view. I disagree with it but that’s democracy.

But for the majority of you for whom Rob Ford’s policies are destructive … I just don’t get it.

And this talk of ‘the elites’ out to get Ford. Well I have already covered this. How many of you can get the Prime Minister out to a barbeque, along with the Minister of Finance? That’s an outsider? C’mon, wake up folks!

May 24, 2013

Mike Duffy Exposed!!

It’s been bothering me for a while. I knew I’d seen Mike Duffy’s kind before. And finally I’ve got it!

Mike Duffy is Sontaran!!

*check out Dr Who to see what I mean*

March 27, 2013

Buying Cast Iron cookware

Recently, as I’ve been getting more into preparing food over going out, I’ve been paying more attention to cookware.

I’m not a gourmet cook. I do stove top frying and sauteeing. I do a lot of fish, pasta and mixed vegetables. And what I’ve found works best (at least for me) is cast iron skillets. Why cast iron? It holds heat evenly and consistently, without hot spots (if it’s quality cast) and it is better non stick than coated pans.

Cast iron is not all the same, however. Modern cast iron (post mid 1940s) is not as good as the more vintage skillets for a couple of reasons. The iron ore used after about1940 is said to be of a lower grade than previous ore. As a result of impurities, there can be hot spots and uneven heating. In order to maintain strength, the newer cast pans are thicker and heavier to compensate. The lack of the skilled tradespeople required to sculpt these pans is also a factor in the newer and heavier pans.

Not only does the extra weight make them harder to physically handle but also less responsive to heat manipulation from the burner.

Cast iron takes longer to heat than stainless or aluminum but it maintains its heat for much longer.  When cooking with cast one turns down the heat after the initial heat-up and lets the pan do more of the work. A thinner pan will be more responsive to heat input.

Older, thinner and purer cast iron are therefore better cookers and easier to handle.

As well, older cast iron skillets were hand ground after removal from the mold. The cooking surfaces, after conditioning, were like glass. Newer cast is pebbled because the cost of hand grinding led to its discontinuation as a cost cutting measure.

The end result is that modern cast iron is less non stick as well as less effective.

I’m afraid I don’t know much about Canadian cast iron as most quality products seem to be American.

There are several quality manufacturers of cast that date from about the 1880s. Griswold is the most desirable manufacturer (for collectors) followed by Wagner. Other well known brands are Vollrath, Wapak (known for thinness and lightness) and Favorite Piqua. The latter two happen to be what I own and enjoy.

If you are interested in cast iron there is a wealth of information available. One site I particularly like is The Cast Iron Collector (

The most important part of owning cast iron is learning to clean it properly. Water and soap are enemies of cast as it causes rust. A well seasoned iron pan (seasoning essentially involves heating the pan in the oven or stove top with cooking oil) is easily cleaned with a simple damp cloth while still hot and then allowed to dry and cool gradually. It is then lightly coated with oil and is ready for the next use.

The antique pans can be quite expensive to buy on eBay. A #9 or #10, the most versatile sizes, can run $50 and up (plus delivery) for the best sought after brands. They can often be found, however, at garage sales and the like for $5 or $10 and, unless they are badly damaged or warped, can be re-conditioned to perfection with a bit of effort.

A modern Lodge cast iron skillet can be had for $30. Personally, I would say if you can afford it, try a vintage skillet and you will never look back.

I must say that I don’t think I have used anything but cast iron on my stove top in the past year.

February 7, 2013

I hate Rogers!!!

Rogers wireless service people are terrible to deal with! I know this isn’t news to anyone who has the misfortune to be a customer of theirs but wow, what service.

I don’t have time to write more at this time because:

1. I’ve already spent two hours in the past 12 hours trying to sort out their mess

2. I’m too pissed to write sensibly.

The problem is that they see service as a game. If you’re willing to play, you can sometimes swing a good deal. But you have to watch your account like a hawk for unauthorized billings for services you thought were free. And when you speak to sales or service people and they say ‘don’t worry, I’ve made an entry of our conversation on your account’ don’t believe them. I had a long conversation with service last night. Then I phone this morning and their records show a conversation and ‘resolution’ of a problem that has little resemblance to the conversation I had with them. In fact, it is largely a fabrication.

So when I naively say to the service rep this morning ‘check your notes and you will see what I am complaining about’ the response is that the notes don’t substantiate anything I am saying to them! And there is no recourse.

Bell, of course, may be even worse. Is there no cell company with any integrity or sense of customer service?

November 30, 2012

Rob Ford, the Right and the failure of our education system

Yep, your heard me. They are all involved.

Rob Ford has been found guilty on conflict of interest charges. The prescribed penalty is banishment from office. You may think the penalty a bit harsh but that’s what it is. So now many members of the  body politic are up in arms. They say it’s undemocratic that a judge over ride the democratic choice of an electorate to remove Ford from office. I’m not going into this in a substantial way because in the past few days many others, more articulate than me, have done so. I just want to say that if you think an elected official found guilty of conflict of interest should not be punished then you have no clue as to what democracy is all about.

Why do we have laws to keep politicians in check if we aren’t going to use them? I find it disingenuous that the Right screams that it’s a left wing conspiracy that one of their own is found with their hand in the cookie jar and then claim it unjust when he is punished. And to make matters even more absurd, the proponents of mandatory sentencing rail at the harshness of the punishment meted out. They claim it is out of proportion to the circumstances that this should be taken into account.

Well, I say, welcome to the world of your own creation. How do you like it so far?

Nope, we’ve made a huge mistake in our school system. By putting so much emphasis on testing and acheivement we’ve forgotten about civic knowledge. It’s not that we need more ‘cooperative play’ in the schools. we have a lot of that and it doesn’t seem to have done much for us. What we need is a deeper pedagogy of teaching the roots and practice of democracy and our political system. Young adults have to graduate with critical faculties and the skill to understand and work with subtle nuances. Our educational system has proven itself not up to the task of teaching civics and critical thought.

If I were a teacher, I’d be ashamed of myself and my workplace right about now.

Otherwise, look what happens.

November 27, 2012

Better get used to Stephen Harper

Because, as last night proved, the Conservatives can hang on to power for as long as the left in Canada says they can.

In Calgary Centre the Conservative candidate won with 37% of the vote to the Liberals 32%. The Greens did well with 25% and I don’t blame them for hanging in there. However, if I were the NDP candidate I would have made a speech on election eve saying something like ‘I would like to thank all my supporters for the work they’ve done so far but it is apparent that I cannot win this riding. I think it is important to send the Conservatives a message and to signal to all Canadians that we have an alternative to allowing Stephen Harper t0 bully all of us. In a spirit of cooperation I urge my supporters to vote Liberal in order to defeat this particularly obnoxious Conservative candidate’.

Until such a speech can be made I don’t want to hear any more complaining about Harper.


November 27, 2012

I smell a rat!

So Ford may be finished as Mayor.

There is a quote on the front page of today’s Globe and Mail: “The ship is sinking and the rats are jumping.”

During the first year of Mayor Ford’s reign, Councillor Josh Matlow voted frequently with the Mayor to support the right wing at Council. In the second year, as Ford began to lose support, Matlow, with his moistened finger firmly in the air, began to vote more often with the progressive faction at Council.

Who do you think the above quote is from? Yes, from the Councillor looking in his rear view mirror to see who has now jumped into the water with him.

Hello Josh Matlow!

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