My name is Dick Tater.
I'm the president and CEO of a really big vacant lot called Canada.
I used to be called Steve, but that handle just didn't cut it.
Lately, the court jesters have really been putting me off.
They want to see if we're being mean to prisoners in the castle dungeons and such.
Come on, Man! There effing prisoners!
And the Chamber of Cardinals - well, we call it here The Senate, just for show, you know - well, the Chamber had a few too many suspicious characters in it.
So what with all this messy fuss and folks wanting to talk - they gussy it up be calling it "debate the issues" or something - so with all this crap swirling round, I've just cancelled the whole bloody show for a while.
The stool pigeons call it "proroguing" or something and they've got their skivvies all in a knot about shutting down democracy - whatever that's supposed to be - while I re-jig the whole works.
Like, I can sneak a few of my sidekicks into the Chamber while everybody's scarfing down the turkey and catching the puck in the corners, you know?
One of the local broadsheets - I think they call themselves The Globe...ha! talk about delusions of grandeur - they put an editorial on their front page this morning called "Democracy Diminished."
Boy, they should be glad I'm giving them something to write about. You're welcome!
Anyhoo, kids...see you in March.
I've got some Games to check out and a bit of ice fishing and whatnot to fit in.
And, by the way...
Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 31, 2009
They are young. They are dedicated. They are Caring, with a capital C.
And I'd like to lasso them and put them on an ice flow (if such still exist) until they learn better or an endangered polar bear eats them.
They are the "helpers" who, in the absence of a needle exchange haunt with a street address, ride around Victoria on bicycles giving addicts clean needles and fresh crack pipe kits. How ecological! How Gregor!
These sisters of charity are delusional and monstrously destructive.
"There's not much time for support and education" says one of the official creeps who perpetrates this public crime.
Support and education was never in the deal. There have never been any intentions headed in that direction. It's all and only about Harm Production.
Victoria's Mayor at least has some very small shard of connection to reality. He admits that needle exchange places attract "dealers, conflicts and filth."
He is right.
But get this.
Treatment centres like Portage in Keremeos, Welcome Home in Surrey and BHF in Winnipeg DO NOT ATTRACT DEALERS, CONFLICT AND FILTH, BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL ABOUT GETTING PEOPLE CLEAN AND SOBER.
Meanwhile, these idiots in Victoria are sending out guerrilla teams of harm seduction workers to help addicts shoot up or light up as safely as possible.
"As safely as possible????"
No such thing.
What could be called safe about shooting up or smoking up?
This is do-gooding in its ugliest form.
All concerned should be arrested for public mischief.
Posted by David Berner at 9:32 AM
Konrad Yakabuski has written another excellent editorial commentary in the Globe this morning.
He questions President Obama's resolve and clarity when it comes to matters of urgent national defense.
His central argument seems to be that Obama doesn't quite have the stomach for war-mongering or international conflict.
It's a worthy read.
Posted by David Berner at 9:28 AM
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Now, here at last is some real news.
Japanese researchers develop see-through goldfish
Apparently, they've had see-through frogs for some time now.
If you look closely, you can see the goldfish's brain just above the eye and the heart beating somewhere just...well, back there somewhere.
I tell you what I am waiting for.
The see-through horse.
Finally, we will be able to spend a pleasant day at the track, enjoying the greenery without all those goofy nags getting in the way!
Posted by David Berner at 9:47 AM
I caught the first few minutes of "On the Waterfront" last night on TV.
I don't know why I had never before noticed in the opening credits that the music was written by Leonard Bernstein.
Yet, there it all is in the opening moments.
Johnny Friendly (the great Lee J. Cobb) and his gang of hoods are storming up the gangplank from their union office shack. Behind them looms a magnificent titanic-like ocean liner.
On the sound track, we hear startling New York jazz-inspired music.
Only a few years later, Bernstein would compose the music for "West Side Story," and it is not difficult at all to hear the same voice.
There are wonderful moments throughout this great classic film, when nothing seems to be happening, but the nothing is jacked up by the musical score. There is no overt action, yet the tension is palpable and terrifying. Johnny Friendly demanding of his lawyer (Rod Steiger) that he get his kid brother (Brando) to cool it. It's all looks and attitude and veiled threat.
Suddenly, boom-boom-dum-dum! A huge drum riff fires off like a rifle shot.
Just one of so many reasons this movie is so good, so watchable every time it appears.
Kazan, Bernstein, Brando, Steiger, Cobb, Schulberg, Saint, Malden...hole smokes...
The first ten minutes are shown above. Listen to the music.
Posted by David Berner at 9:16 AM
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
A comedian of very middling talent spoke recently about how dull and unassuming are we Canadians.
Our great gesture is the non-committal shrug.
We'll go along with practically anything as long as it doesn't actually bite.
Old comic territory, for sure.
But the Globe's Jeffrey Simpson has written a very good column today, listing the dozens of important matters that are left entirely unexamined in Canadian public life.
Aging population, health care, national energy policy, refugee/immigration issues, poverty, climate change, aboriginals, Afghanistan, and productivity for openers.
Just think about this.
The major broadcasters are sending you dozens of pathetic self-serving little messages these days about how Local TV Matters.
Yet...Can you name one regular political talk or interview segment that appears on Global or CTV or CITY?
Of course, here on the Wet Coast, we have award-winning baristas and an array of flavorful roasts. We have the sea and the mountains. And we have Boxing Day sales.
Alfred E. Neuman for President.
Posted by David Berner at 9:04 AM
Whether or not someone actually tripped the Olympic torch bearer or not is a moot point.
Protest and public demonstrations are among the hallmarks of a free and open democratic society.
But the operative word is "peaceful."
You can stand anywhere you like, as far as I am concerned, and register your disagreement with public policy or the fashion of the day. This is healthy and to be invited and honored.
But the moment you start pushing and shoving and jostling and then worse, you have descended into Iran.
The Winter Olympics do have hold great interest for me.
I am unhappy with what I see as many suspensions of basic civil rights to further the mechanics of the The Games.
Finally, I just don't want to be inconvenienced by traffic nightmares for three weeks.
So, if the terrorists don't mind, I will fly away to Italy and come back when the hoopla has somewhat subsided.
But tripping Olympic torch bearers?
That's not legitimate disagreement.
Posted by David Berner at 8:55 AM
Flight 253, and the effects therein, are not going away:
- Just when you thought it was safe to return to investing in the airline industry...$50 Billion loss over the last decade. Not a typo...$50 Billion. Airline stocks fell yesterday and trips by the score are being cancelled. Which tells us that the terrorists are jubilant and tiumphant.
- Al-Qaeda issued one of its most lunatic statements to date: "We have people who love death as much as you love life." Can you even begin to get your head aroud that one? I can't.
- A number of Britons have travelled to terrorist training camps in Yemen. The Islamification of Europe is on and its working.
Posted by David Berner at 8:44 AM
Monday, December 28, 2009
Attempted bombing raises fears about al-Qaeda in YemenThat is one of many headlines round the world today following the "incident" aboard Northwest flight 253 approaching Detroit.
But it hardly begins to cover the depth of the problem, does it?
What about Denmark, Holland, London?
Chattanooga for all we know.
In recent weeks, I have read two major articles and watched one video all with the same theme - the "Islamification" of Europe.
Did you know that there are now more mosques in London, England than churches?
That the largest mosque in the world in being built in London?
Denmark and the Netherlands, deservedly known for decades as open and tolerant and inviting countries are reversing long-standing government policies of inclusion and diversity.
Because Muslims have moved into those countries in huge numbers, eating up welfare payments and health benefits.
Women in tents dominate the city streetscapes.
Gays and Jews are routinely beat up.
Mohammed is the most popular boy's name in Malmo, Sweden.
It is unsettling to say the least to listen to myself, a squishy liberal, tarnishing entire peoples with a single brush, fearful of people because of their appearance or their name or their professed religious beliefs.
But that is where I am on this sorry date.
Denmark has now declared that immigrants must study Danish history and social customs and live (somehow) by Danish social mores.
At least eight years ago, a dear friend of mine who lives in Europe told me this:
"Judaism can be seen as a Religion of Laws. Christianity a religion of Forgiveness & Compassion. Islam is a religion of the sword. Beware the future."
Well, the future is here.
The 19 who perpetrated 9/11 and Mr. Abdulmutallab who was dragged off that plane in Detroit are mere signals.
They have already seriously altered how we do business and how we travel and how we live.
I am not worried about al-Qaeda in Yemen, although I probably should be.
I am worried about the radicalized lunatic exchange student(s) at SFU.
And I am worried about flying to Italy to see old friends and more cathedrals and paintings.
Good luck to us all.
Posted by David Berner at 10:02 AM
In 1967, when I first began working with Native Indian ex-convicts, the recidivism rate for aboriginals in Canada was 97%.
That is not a typo.
Of every 100 male Aboriginal inmates released from a prison in Canada at that time, 97 could be assured of a return trip.
Inmates and guards alike used to joke with someone being set free, "We'll keep your bunk warm for you, Buddy."
How much have things improved over the years?
Here's the front page of this morning's Globe:
Posted by David Berner at 9:48 AM
Over the last few holi-days, the NFL Network has been runningand re-running a very special football game in their Classic Games series.
It is the January 10, 1982, NFC Championship match between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Fransisco 49ers.
Dallas, "America's Team," came into Candlestick Park full of themselves and their press releases confident that they would destroy the upstart who-are-they-anyway 49ers who had suffered through so many years with some great players but bad management and many losing seasons.
Now the Bay area team had Bill Walsh coaching, but he was at that time a guy with a record something like 22-37.
And they had a young, slight Joe Montana from Notre Dame at quarterback.
It was a great game and the final minute was unbelievable.
You can see it below in the video.
So...I watched this thing two days ago and I knew the outcome and I've seen "The Catch" only about 900 times over the years.
Nevertheless, I was sitting on the edge of the sofa, bouncing up and down, almost unable to watch because of the tension.
When The Catch happened, I leaped up screaming as if this were right here in front of me in real time.
Craziness, I know.
But great fun.
This game marked the end of Dallas' great run and the beginning of the 49ers dynasty.
San Fransisco went on to the Super Bowl to beat Cincinnati and quite a few championships after that.
Posted by David Berner at 9:38 AM
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
The Globe & Mail was heavy and thick this morning.
Twaddle, that's what.
It was all about "decoding" and "parsing" the decade.
Better it should have been parsniping.
(That's a Jewish sentence structure...although parsnips may not necessarily be considered a Jewish vegetable. Pickles are a Jewish vegetable and I know many people who have pickle trees in their back yards...although that doesn't necessarily make them Jewish, just people with exquisite taste and very high hopes.)
One of the many reasons I don't go to parties (The main one being that I'm rarely invited...) is that there is always one genius standing around the cheese and crackers table parsing and decoding practically everything in sight.
Some people just feel that it is given unto them to interpret the last 40 or 400 or 4000 years to everyone.
I say, "If you can make a convincing argument, Buddy, and convince Scribner or Knopf or someone to swallow your story whole, good on you, but in the meantime, let me at the appies and get the eff outta the way."
So all of the talent at the Globe got together and told me that Y2K didn't happen and that texting did. And MJ died and Tiger is in hiding. And "The Song of Bernadette" never did get remade for Tori Spelling. (I made that one up.)
Look why don't they just keep it simple?
Send out a one-pager on December 26th.
"Nut job tried to blow up a plane over Detroit, everything else is cool, shop till you drop."
I took my own advice yesterday.
I walked for about 90 minutes on one of my all-time favorite walks - English Bay.
I've been walking that walk since the first day I arrived here over 40 years ago.
I've walked in many wild and weird and wonderful places, and English Bay continues to be great.
Yesterday it was sunny and unseasonably warm and thousands of others were walking as well.
Today, a quiet stroll to the 'hood, a double espresso, a couple more lamb chops for the grill and that's a wrap, kids.
Cherish a day or two without da news.
Posted by David Berner at 11:19 AM
Friday, December 25, 2009
What follows below are just a scarce few of the many, many zillions of things that make me laugh and sing and cry and dance and generally, between all the troubles, remember all the great joys and pleasures of this inexplicable mad journey.
The sun is shining here today.
Walk off that cake.
Near the water...
Posted by David Berner at 10:43 AM
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Thanks for the many kind and encouraging comments about yesterday's test run of a video.
The content, the actually video, is an old piece I have had sitting on my desktop for ages. It is a sampler, what is called a "demo reel," that I have used for one purpose or another over the years.
The "testing" part was getting the thing uploaded to my blog.
I have been encouraged by a few friends to post video monologues or even interviews on the blog and to that end I have now tried about 14,000 different methods of doing so.
I bought a JVC Everio Camcorder.
The picture and sound are movie-quality, first-rate.
The thing boasts "one-touch YouTube upload."
I have two friends who are computer-wizards and even they have been pulling out their hair trying to solve this dilemma.
So yesterday, I tried a different system, "Vimeo."
Well, as you can see, it worked with that old demo reel.
It still won't take the material from my camera.
As of this morning, I think I may have another solution.
So, bear with me while I continue to try to solve this little annoying mystery.
In the meantime...
Would you be so kind as to tell me if you would prefer that I post video monologues or continue writing or offer a mix of the two?
Have a wonderful Christmas and holiday.
There is still nothing wrong and everything right with the old traditional greeting:
Peace on earth and good will to men.
Posted by David Berner at 10:41 AM
No country in the world spends more money in total or more money per capita on Health Care than the United States of America and gets less meager results.
The highest infant mortality rate and the lowest life expectancy for openers.
America also has almost 50 million citizens with no health insurance.
But it is likely that by end of day today a Health Care Reform Bill will pass.
That's the good news.
The not-so-very-great news is that, according to a wide-ranging piece in this morning's Globe by Konrad Yakabuski, the bill is an unwieldy mess.
"It will serve to fatten insurer profits and deepen the country's budget crisis. It's not clear it will make Americans any healthier. And it certainly won't make the system any simpler."
Under the current American system, "as much as a quarter of the $2.5-trillion Americans spend on health care annually goes toward administrative costs, compared to less than 10 per cent in most developed countries with universal health coverage."
"No wonder insurance company stocks have soared as investors contemplate 30 million new insurance consumers and the absence of new competition in the form of a public health-insurance plan for Americans under 65."
I understand the Americans' long-bred and almost natural hate of government.
But the evidence is in.
Canada, England, France, Denmark, among other Western democracies have been operating single-payer, government-based universal health insurance programs with considerable success for many years now.
For the Americans to ignore this, and worse, to hiss at these successes and call them names (COMMIES! SOCIALISTS!) is childish and self-destructive.
I repeat that I can only hope that this reform, watered down and confusing at it is, might be the first step in moving an adolescent culture into maturity.
When the USA creates and supports a universal health care insurance program, we will know that a New Day has truly arrived.
Posted by David Berner at 10:08 AM
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
As reported here yesterday, a noxious fog has descended upon us.
Your governments will spend many millions of dollars giving 300+ heroin addicts free heroin and heroin pill substitutes over the next four years.
The mad fools behind this wasteful, destructive scheme are all honorable men and women, leaders in our community.
They bring to mind Hannah Arendt's famous dictum about "the banality of evil."
These are some of the people who sit on the board of the strangely named InnerChange Foundation:
I know Richard and I like him.
I had lunch with him last year to discuss this very matter.
Richard was for many years the President and CEO of the Vancouver Foundation, for whom he did a wonderful job.
When he left, he told me that he would probably do some international charity work for CEDA.
Instead, he surfaced with this job.
Knowing my staunch and unchanging opposition to horrible bad ideas like this one, he invited me to talk about it over some good food at a favorite local eatery.
As always, he was good company. He's a good man.
But he is mistaken.
He is wrong about this endeavour and although I asked him, "WHY?" he could never really tell me why an otherwise reasonable person would champion such nonsense.
He sang the praises of the German psychiatrist who is at the core of this "experiment."
Dr Michael Krausz, MD, PhD, FRCPC
- UBC/Providence Health Care Leadership Chair in Addiction Research Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences (CHEOS) St.Paul's Hospital
- Founding Fellow of the Institute of Mental Health at UBC
- Member of the Brain Research Centre at UBC
- Member of the Research Advisory Council of the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
- Member of the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse (CCSA) of the Vancouver Foundation
- Fellow of the World Innovation Foundation (WIF)
Dr. Krausz started his professional carrier as a nurse in adolescent psychiatry working especially with young psychotic clients. After Medical School in Hamburg the H. Böckler Foundation awarded him a doctoral grant. He wrote his thesis on long-term course of schizophrenia starting in adolescence. In 1985 he started his residency in Adult Psychiatry until 1991. Parallel he wrote his PhD on "Psychosis and Addiction" evaluating the entanglement of severe mental illness and harmful use of psychotropic substances, which then became the major research focus of his further work. He became then responsible for big studies about mental illness among intravenous drug users with over 1000 individuals and especially the German Heroin trial as biggest randomized clinical trial in Addiction Research in Europe in this field. He could show, that it is possible to improve the most difficult to treat clients with the appropriate intervention and contributed to an important paradigm shift through clinical research. He founded and edited two scientific journals, which until now have a mayor impact in this area: European Addiction Research and Suchttherapie. 240 publications and even more invited presentations standing for his scientific contributions until now. After over 20 years in different positions in Germany he was selected as the first Providence BC Leadership Chair for Addiction Research in 2005.
As you can see, Dr. Krausz has made himself a world authority on the subject of addictions.
I have only one question for the good doctor.
How many addicts have you helped become clean and sober, sir?
I have helped thousands and so have my friends and colleagues in the rehab business.
I'm sorry. I forgot.
You're not in the people helping business.
You're in the scientific research business.
The nutty research business.
The business that pays no mind to the dreadful harming consequences of your arcane research.
Here are two more doctors at the heart of InnerChanges:
Dr. John Blatherwick
Dr. John Blatherwick is currently retiring as the Chief Medical Health Officer of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. He has been the Medical Health Officer in Vancouver since 1984. Prior to this he was the Medical Health Officer in the Simon Fraser Health Unit for nine years.
Dr. Blatherwick was awarded the Order of Canada in 1994 for his work in public health and received an award as a Canadian Health Hero from the Pan American Health Organization in 2002. He was also the recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.
Dr. Perry Kendall
Dr. Kendall is the Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia. He has pioneered programs for Harm Reduction, AIDS/HIV and drug abuse prevention in British Columbia and Ontario. He helped to form the Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario, and the Addiction and Mental Health Services Corporation.
In 1991 he was recognized for leadership in substance abuse prevention in Ontario and received an Addiction Research Foundation Community Achievement Award. He was awarded the Order of British Columbia for his contributions to Public Health practice and to harm reduction policy and practice in British Columbia.
Isn't the phrase "first do no harm" a central part of the Hippocratic Oath...
No, it isn't, but over the years we have all come to believe that this is a core dedication for doctors.
Explain then how these two good men and imminent physicians can want to give drugs to drug addicts and still sleep at night?
Why aren't they joining the good fight to help addicts NOT use more drugs?
"And how dare I question or challenge these honorable men?"you ask.
Because I have done the work and, in spite of all their awards and citations, they have not.
I know next to nothing about the flow and composition of blood in the human body, as they know next to nothing about addictions.
The sooner they re-focus on the practice of medicine and leave the addictions work to people who understand it, the better off the whole community will be.
And finally, bringing up the rear of InnerChanges, where he belongs is:
Hon. John Reynolds, P.C.
Mr. Reynolds started his political career in 1972, when he was elected a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for the British Columbia riding of Burnaby-Richmond-Delta. He was also elected to the BC Provincial Legislature, and served as Speaker of the Legislative Assembly and as Minister of Environment. He returned to the House of Commons as a Reform Party Member and served as Opposition House Leader and Leader of the Official Opposition. He co-chaired the national Conservative Party campaign in the 2006 federal election. He is currently a Senior Strategic Advisor to Lang Michener, a law firm in Vancouver.
All back room, all cloak-and-dagger, all out-of-sight string pulling.
So write and email your MLA and your MP and your City Council member and point out that we are all mad, that we are throwing good money after bad to further enslave and entrap people who are already caught in the web, that we need to get more bang for our buck by funding REAL TREATMENT THAT WORKS.
That there is an officially sanctioned evil amongst us and it should be discredited at every possible turn.
There is no surer example in our culture today that I can think of that so clearly demonstrates how far off the rails we have fallen.
Posted by David Berner at 9:49 AM
Torture issue Afghan problem, not Canadian: PMIt's fascinating to observe on a regular basis how Stephen Harper makes it so hard for us to like him.
I'm sure he would point out that his job is running the afairs of the country and not winning popularity contests.
Here is his cheapest shot of all:
“The allegations are not being made – I hope – against Canadian soldiers.”
No, Mr. Prime Minister and you know very well that Canadian soldiers were never at question here.
It is the policy makers and leaders who are under fire for violating Geneva Conventions on the handling of detainees and prisoners.
To pretend that anyone was blaming soldiers on the front is specious at best and creepily manipulative at worst.
Get a new spin machine, please.
Posted by David Berner at 9:37 AM
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
And verily I say unto you...
That NAOMI begat SALOME
and SALOME was DISASTER.
It is a peculiar day today, a puzzling day.
The skies are clear and sunny here in Vancouver, but there is a deep dark cloud hovering over us all.
It is this:
Landmark heroin study set to begin in Vancouver
This very expensive and very sick madness is being hailed as something that will "transform lives" and "treat the root cause of homelessness on the Downtown Eastside."
It is the Silver Bullet that all the fools have been looking for lo these many unproductive, destructive years.
O.K. Enough with the rhetoric.
What is it?
SALOME is the Study to Assess Longer-term Opiod Medication Effectiveness.
In this so-called study, 322 chronic addicts will be given heroin and heroin pill substitutes at a private clinic.
This program is run by an organization that calls itself with no shame or irony the "InnerChange Foundation."
How does taking free heroin or a heroin replacement constitute "inner change?"
Inner change requires investigation and hard work and honesty and commitment. It is not an easy road. It is not found by showing up at a "clinic" once a day for your free fix.
A woman named Trish Walsh is the Executive Director of InnerChange.
Her qualifications are what exactly?
Her knowledge of addicts and addictions comes from what experience, please?
The people she has helped number how many and are named what?
But listen to Trish Walsh's voice of authority:
“This could revolutionize heroin treatment internationally."
By the way, this "treatment" - and it in no way qualifies as a "treatment" - is to run for four years.
And yet, as shams like this always do, this program throws in the little rider that
"While the long-term goal is to help the addicts get off hard drugs, in the short term, the plan is to get them away from the more dangerous and troubling aspects of heroin addiction, such as committing crimes, sharing needles and shooting up in back alleys."
No it isn't.
There is no demonstrable part of this project aimed at getting anyone off drugs.
It is entirely about giving addicts drugs in the mistaken and completely erroneous hope that that will alter the landscape...which, of course, it won't.
Ms. Walsh has also claimed that this magic act "would be a groundbreaking new treatment in a field where few options are available, especially in Canada."
What Walsh doesn't tell you is that this program will cost about $8 Million a year for the next four years.
In January I will go once again to Winnipeg to run a week of workshops with the staff and resident clients at the Behavioural Health Foundation.
At BHF, there are over 100 men, women and children who are resident clients. There is a 6 month waiting list. People are graduating every day at BHF from high school matriculation and University and college programs. Every one is clean and sober. The total cost of the program is less than $6 Million annually, which means that the individual cost is less than $50,000 annually.
When Walsh and her crew of mistaken pseudo-scientist lunatics backed by opportunist ex-politicians, when these ghouls hand out dope to dope fiends will they include breakfast, lunch and dinner? A roof over the addicts heads, clean clothes and bedding? Music, dancing, singing, group and individual therapy, swimming and hockey, concerts, laughter and tears?
No they won't.
But the Behavioural Health Foundation and Portage and Welcome Home and the handful of other therapeutic community programs and peer-group programs will do all of this and more.
You see, Walsh, there are other options in Canada. Not enough of them, yes.
But it's hard to get funding for real programs run by real people that really work for other real people when so much money is being given to hateful, detestable, mushy-headed obscenities like this latest atrocity.
Our Health Bill is our single largest line item in all our governments across the land.
So many legitimate needs are being ignored.
Seniors care, home care, child protection.
Yet there are the Sam Sullivans and the Larry Campbells and the others who can persuade governments and private benefactors to piss dollars down the drain on giving free narcotics to narcotic addicts, as if this is a new and untried idea.
As if this would add to the common weal.
It may be sunny today.
But for me, this is one of the darkest days I've ever seen.
Posted by David Berner at 8:45 AM
Monday, December 21, 2009
President Barack Obama's health bill will pass, but will it pass muster, particularly with his own Democratic colleagues?
The bill will have no public health plan.
It will extend access to insurance to all Americans, but at what costs and to whom?
It is astonishing to witness this struggle from the smug and superior position of Canadiana.
Perhaps you find it as difficult and mystifying as I do to see decent and reasonable people fighting what should be best for them all because of some ingrained and frankly simplistic outmoded belief systems.
In a classic case of the Law of Unintended Consequences, the private insuring companies are probably singing all the way to the stock market this morning.
As for Ms. Poor and Desperate with three kids...good luck.
Obama has played politics with this enormous issue.
But what did people expect?
He is not a shoemaker. He is a politician. He came from nowhere and grabbed the White House.
This bill is far from ideal, but it is something.
Let's be optimistic (if a little dewy-eyed, I admit) and pray that in the coming years this flawed compromise will be seen as the building block to something that really pays off for those who need it and ought to have it in a modern democracy.
Especially one that spends more on health care per capita and gets less results than any similar democracy in the world today.
Posted by David Berner at 9:46 AM
Sunday, December 20, 2009
It’s only taken about 40 years, but finally – finally – I have sorted out my thoughts and feelings about Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.
In short, Sinatra may be the greater artist, but I’d rather listen to and watch Tony any time.
KCTS has been running a number of their all-time favorites during their recent pledge drive, including “Sinatra at Carnegie Hall.”
I taped the 90-minute piece and watched it in several sittings between bites of food, Seinfeld re-runs and other mindless diversions.
Sinatra, about 55 or 60 at the time, was terrific.
So were the orchestra, the arrangements and the worshipping audience.
There were three big buts.
And one of them was a butt.
A cigarette butt.
There was a time not so very long ago in Magic Land when most of us smoked cigarettes and many of us developed certain styles and nervous tics with our habits that we believed spoke of sophistication, urbanity, hipness and cool.
We were wrong and deluded, of course, but it was great fun while it lasted.
A bit of an anachronism to witness therefore, the Chairman of the Board dragging the last possible hit out of his filter job – whilst singing up a storm no less – and then, before our very eyes, flicking the damn thing onto the hallowed parquet floor of the stage of Carnegie Hall and then grinding the thing in with the heel of his many-lacquered tuxedo slipper.
A cultural oddity I realize, forgivable by the relativity we call Time.
But the second offense was not a passing fancy.
It was essential core Sinatra.
Sinatra has always been famous for, among many other things (just ask Ava Gardner), crediting the great songwriters and tunesmiths just before he opens his pipes and delivers what is usually the defining version of a given melody.
In the concert I was watching he did just that with a song by Carol Bayer Sager.
Then for some inexplicable reason, he began riffing on her name, ending in a dreadful disrespectful insult, which he clearly thought was funny and clever.
It was neither.
“Carole Bayer Sager. Or, Carol Sager Bayer. Or, Bag Lady…”
I have never heard him do this with the names of Gershwin – George or Ira – Irving Berlin, Jimmy van Husen, Sammy Kahn, Rogers & Hart or any other of the great contributors to The American Songbook, which is Sinatra’s stock and trade.
But of course they are all men.
I would suggest that this odd and not amusing little sideways outburst has a lot to do with Sinatra’s great love for and fear of women.
Women have always been Man’s kryptonite.
Men adore the fairer sex and knowing at the deepest level our dependence on them, we fear them mightily.
It was Sinatra who insisted on calling them “broads.”
Finally, there is a palpable sense when one watches Sinatra that we are witnessing a guy who is oh so very in love with himself. He is so hostile and angry with you and you and me and so pleased with his own very wonderful self, that much of the potential for communication is cut off by the glory of the performance.
He was a marvelous actor, possibly the best pop singer in living memory, a pretty fair Sunday painter, a complete entertainer and a fascinating complex character.
He has left us much to cherish.
But you know what?
I’d still rather listen to the straight ahead and much less complicated voice of Tony Bennett.
Posted by David Berner at 9:04 AM
Saturday, December 19, 2009
My life has changed so much in the past decade.
Most, I suspect, has to do with aging and its attendant wonders.
But the rest I can lay squarely on the peculiarities of an evolving culture.
If culture is what we can call it.
Here are some of the basic upheavals.
I rarely go to the movies.
Seems like a small thing, I realize.
But not for a guy who can quote you chapter and verse of a few thousand flicks, who sat in movie houses through what used to be called "double bills" at least three times a week from the age of 4 to the age of 14.
I no longer like an experience I used to love.
People are noisy and rude and stupid and they are celling and texting and talking out loud.
And the movies themselves are more often than not juvenile nonsense.
So like many of you, I rent movies, I buy DVD's and I watch TV.
Moreover, the movies I rent are often from France and Italy and South Korea.
At best, I'll see a different point of view, a different sensibility.
At the very least, a travelogue.
If on occasion, there's another "Lawrence of Arabia" that demands the Big Screen experience, I'll sneak in on a Tuesday afternoon in the hope that the public mayhem is at a minimum.
But when is there another "Lawrence of Arabia?"
I don't think so.
I rarely go to the theatre.
No doubt I am missing the occasional treasure.
But I am also saving myself from hours of watching radio plays played out by wooden poseurs with no compelling life force in them.
I skip through the section of the newspaper I used to jump on - the movies and entertainment.
I don't know who the stars are and I can't seem to care.
No doubt there are some darn fine young talents and no doubt I'll stumble upon one or two in the coming days, but my searchlights are no longer on high beam.
I am increasingly a homebody.
The phrase "crotchety old fart" rushes to mind.
I don't tweet and I don't facebook or linkin.
On the other hand...
I still listen to music. I still sing. I still watch movies - at home. I still swim and play tennis. My cooking repertoire is building up and my cholesterol is going down.
Life is different for sure.
Friends and family remain the bedrocks.
And little bits and pieces of good work.
Posted by David Berner at 9:52 AM
Marcel Marceau - the world's most famous mime.
And VANOC's favorite performer.
Let's dig the poor fellow out of his grave and have him pretend to do practically everything at the opening and closing ceremonies.
Good idea. Won't that be fun?
Fun for everyone except Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
Kudos and Bravos to Bramwell who didn't really want to be the Sym-PHONY Orchestra de jour and pre-record their music only to have it be conducted by Milli Vanilli or someone rescued from the DTES.
Bramwell said quite rightly to VANOC, "Thanks, but we'll pass."
VSO refuses to play for Olympics
Vanoc wanted orchestra to let others pretend to play its music, conductor saysIt's like the wizards at VANOC are going out of their way to embarrass themselves.
Excuse me for a moment, folks.
I have to practice my beloved routine of walking silently into an enormous head wind while wearing snow shoes and leading a 90-piece band of cute forest creatures.
Posted by David Berner at 9:40 AM
Friday, December 18, 2009
Here was the plan.
Go into the high school.
Get the staff in the office to order all the students into the auditorium and then shoot everyone.
Then drive to the University of Manitoba and shoot more people until we get tired or the police shoot us.
The preparations included collecting guns, ammo and Molotov cocktails.
For this little piece of adolescent mischief, the 17-year old boy and the 18-year old girl have been given two years in jail.
Their handlers have already reported that while they in custody "they have made strides."
Now, let's not worry about all of that.
Let's have a look at this small concern.
Bonny and Clyde cannot be identified under court order, because of their age.
Even though they have been tried as adults.
I get it.
I really do.
We don't want to identify young people lest their youthful indiscretions brand them for life.
Like for stealing a car or giving their classmate a wedgie or for spitting on the sidewalk.
But do I not have a right to be protected from harm?
Does the state not have a solemn obligation to do its best to protect me from harm?
Should I not be allowed to know who these two sick lunatics are in case I run into them at Blenz shortly after they are released after serving way less than the two years because of time in custody, good behaviour and mandatory parole?
Arming yourself in preparation for mass murder is not necessarily what anyone had in mind when they determined years ago with nothing but goodness in their mistaken silly hearts that youngsters in crime should remain unidentified.
I want to know the names and photos of these two wretched souls.
I want the freedom to avoid them like the plague, to run screaming from public places that crazy people are about.
Then I want to sit down with the law makers and the nut cases who think these two have "made strides" and have a good old fashioned jawing with them.
Posted by David Berner at 11:02 AM
Turns out that the Richard Colvin warnings and claims about the torture of Afghan detainees was only the proverbial tip of the berg.
Seems that the entire Canadian mission in Afghanistan has been without direction or clarity from the beginning.
The revelations now surfacing are shocking, but they shouldn't;t be.
Disarray has been the norm on this front, with no one in charge and assignments spread across numrous desks with little or no communication between funtionairies.
Read the whole mess and weep for the soldiers who have been treated with such disregard by bureaucrats.
Highly paid bureaucrats.
Faceless and highly paid.
Canadian soldiers have died because of the sloppiness of the command that is supposed to be standing on guard for them.
Posted by David Berner at 10:54 AM
There are bargains and then there are Bargoons.
It's not even Boxing Day and the Biggest Give-Away is already being offered by The Harper Department Store.
Line-up early kids for your chance to buy a Candu nuclear reactor.
Shades of the Avro Arrow?
Baby with bath water?
It was only yesterday that I raised the question of when governments should sell assets.
Now, Harper Inc. has lifted the bar on this debate very high into the sky.
Bad move, Steve.
Posted by David Berner at 10:46 AM
Francis Bula has done a nice job as usual of covering the current deliberations of Vancouver City Council.
How to hold the line on expenditures without cutting back on all services.
Of course, this City Council like all councils before it and no doubt all that will follow, is taking exactly the wrong approach.
Here's what they are considering:
Close the Bloedel Observatory and the Petting Zoo.
Reduce Community Centre hours and Library hours.
The truth is that Vancouver City Hall, like all other City Halls across the nation, around the world is a bloating inflated bureaucracy with dozens of frivolous unneeded departments and hundreds if not thousands of useless money-sucking jobs.
The social planning and arts divisions alone are charter members of the What Do You Folks Actually Do Club?
Did I just say that social planning and arts are either not important or not within the purview of a city's responsibilities?
No, I did not.
I am saying that these departments - and they are only two examples - are over-staffed and under worked and cannot in any measurable way justify the money spent.
The City would be wise to hold budgets.
But closing libraries and community centres and local treasures is not the answer.
House cleaning is.
Posted by David Berner at 10:31 AM
Across the globe, more than 1.2 billion people smoke - and one billion of them are more or less poor.
Tobacco taxes are poverty taxes.
This is the gist of a fascinating column by Neil Reynolds in today's Globe.
While governments everywhere are having a lot of fun suing Bog Tobacco for health costs, the governments are raking in 50 cents on every dollar spent on cigarettes.
And this money is spent more often by poor people.
The reasons for this are complicated and very interesting.
Posted by David Berner at 10:24 AM
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Canadians are feeling ashamed to be Canadian.
Apparently, Copenhagen and Afghan detainees are spurring on a recent fit of self-loathing.
I am happy to be Canadian.
While this is not the best of all possible worlds, it is pretty darn good in most ways.
A strange absence of mortal shells zinging over head is a good start.
Then there's our universal health care and our glorious physical beauty and warm and friendly neighbourliness - everywhere except Vancouver, of course.
That goes without saying.
Or saying very loudly.
But this morning there is one thing that made me feel downright queasy about being Canadian.
It's that full-page ad in the morning paper from Roots.
Many, many, many leather goods - bags, wallets, purses, pouches - all adorned with the Canadian flag.
There is something creepy about this kind of cheap and phony patriotism.
How does putting the national flag on a shoulder bag make me or you or the shoulder bag any more attractive or superior or pious?
Can I start selling products stitched with the Maple Leaf on them, or is this an exclusive deal for the Roots people?
From whence comes this special dispensation?
99% of everything we wear in Canada is made in China.
Does Roots get flags because it is the rare exception?
Are Roots products secretly made you know where?
If you are carrying such a bag, please don't stop and say Hello.
In any event, I live in Vancouver and I don't know how to say Hello back.
Posted by David Berner at 9:06 AM
Wanna start a good fight in a bar?
There's a word that'll get the fists flying.
The Ontario government is considering turning over to the private sector their Hydro, Gaming and Liquor exclusives.
And this is not mere conjecture.
They have asked two major banks for assistance in this initiative.
This matter always seems to bring out the North and South in us all.
Turning government crown corporations over to the wheelhouses of the free market is always the best idea or the worst evil imaginable.
But I don't settle in either of those camps.
I would prefer governments to NOT be in many businesses IF AND ONLY IF they ever bothered to provide some safeguards and protections for the public good during the dumping process.
Did the Campbell government do that with B.C. Ferries?
I don't think so.
Was the sale of BC Rail a good clean kosher deal?
If the Basi-Virk trial ever begins or ends, we might find out.
The Globe has written an excellent editorial this morning on exactly this dilemma.
"As governments assess which services they should and should not provide, they need to decide when owning a company is in the public interest. A sale may make sense if it can satisfy four conditions: It should give the government an immediate upfront cash benefit; it should allow the public to continue to share in the profit the company makes; it should preserve the priority of the public good; and it should not harm vital public-policy interests."
All of this, is, of course, sound theory.
Practice is so very different, isn't it?
Posted by David Berner at 8:54 AM
“We have all the manuals, but we haven't had the opportunity to do the training.”
Thus spake Oak Bay Police Chief Ron Gaudet two years after Peter Lee murdered his family in the good chief's jurisdiction.
But not to worry.
The chief's all over it.
Chief Gaudet promised his members will complete a mandatory, one-day online training program by next spring.
Let's pause a moment and think about that.
The police in leafy old Oak Bay, B.C. by the Sea have had two years to get their act together long enough to do a one-day training course on domestic violence.
Think about that phrase.
A one-day training course on domestic violence.
Oh yes, that'll really bring everyone up to speed.
Now look again at the description of this potential life-saver.
Not only is it all of one day, but it is...wait for it...online!
You can really get a feel for the subtleties of human interactions from an ONEFFINGLINE course on domestic violence.
Then, when all of these treasures are considered, consider this.
The police in the Lee case had asked the Crown to hold Mr. Lee after he'd already almost killed his wife.
But it was the Crown who saw fit to let this time bomb out on bail.
Will the Freuds and Jungs down at Crown Counsel be taking this one day on line course too?
Oh, we are in good hands all right.
Posted by David Berner at 8:41 AM
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Jim Sinclair, the President of the B.C. Federation of Labour is a good friend.
Once again, Sinclair has called for a $10 minimum wage.
Quebec just raised its minimum to $9.50.
Ours has been frozen at $8 since 2001.
As you all know, not much has changed in the world economy since then.
Except for Premier Gordon Campbell's take home.
It's only gone up more than 100%.
Posted by David Berner at 9:36 AM
Not only that but it carries 270 people, has larger tinted windows and costs one-third less to operate (read burn fuel) than previous conventional aluminum bodied jetliners.
Which is why the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is being hailed as "a game changer."
While the Punch 'n Judy Show is holding every one's attention in Copenhagen, scientists and engineers have been doing at least one right thing about reducing some one's "footprint."
I admit it.
I am an airplane nut.
And I am excited to see this baby being released for public viewing.
Although two years late in being brought forth, it is expected to be in full production and on your flight schedules within the year.
I can't wait.
Posted by David Berner at 9:29 AM