Sunday, 30 November 2008


This image is itself an example of copyright theft. It is not mine. I have not provided a link to the source - though if you know what you are doing you can find out easily enough.

The FBI does not scare me since I live in Canada. And I always thought that reference to an aged statement by Interpol was laughable. But that does not mean that the greedy people and their lawyers won't try civil proceedings


Strasbourg, France, November 8 2008: MEPs discuss the EU response to the world fi nancial crisis and the G20 summit
Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters

"Crisis? What crisis?"

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Mount Baker

Mount Baker
Originally uploaded by Stephen Rees
Cold clear weather and a stray beam of sunlight through the overcast. Remarkable clarity. Taken from the eastern end of Steveston Highway

This picture featured on the CBC Vancouver News at six on Tuesday November 25

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

CRTC to rule on Bell's throttling on Thursday

All internet users in Canada need to watch the results on this one.

Bell has been throttling "its own Sympatico retail customers [since] October 2007, and extended the practice in March to" smaller internet service providers. Bell is both a wholesaler, retailer and competitor. For instance it sells telephone services for which Skype is a direct competitor.

But many ISPs throttle their customers - did you know that Rogers and Shaw do too? This is mainly aimed at peer to peer file sharing which while it is famous for illegal file sharing is also widely used for perfectly legal file sharing

Regulators in the United States have taken decisive action against throttling by service providers. The Federal Communications Commission in August ordered Comcast Corp., the country's largest cable company, to cease its throttling of peer-to-peer applications.

UPDATE Bell won - but the CRTC is going to look at the whole issue of throttling next year

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Third Tuesday

Because someone I know was speaking, and some I know sent me an invite on facebook I went. Rebecca Bollwitt was speaking on Building Your Personal Brand

The meet up site has a link to what was said, and all I am going to talk about is the place - not the event itself. It was held in the Vancouver Room. Rebecca was standing in the middle of the long thin room with her back to the bar and managed to make herself heard. The bar did not have a working microphone - though it did have a very loud sound system which got turned up as soon as the meeting was over, which chased a lot of us out. They also had an espresso machine - and that did not work either, and an inability to deliver alternative non-alcoholic refreshment. Somehow I got tap water which was not even offered to one of my companions. I got the impression that this location may be unused to hosting this kind of event. Staff seemed overworked and generally unenthusiastic about this clientele.

Of course it does not help when the people who come to "meet up" do not really want to listen, and keep their conversations going even though that means all the questions were completely inaudible. Which I think is, at the very least, discourteous.

This end of Granville has always been the tackier end. And that I think is not coincidence that it is the section kept open to traffic. It is also now one of the highest densities of seats in establishments licensed to sell alcohol in the City. Which actually has lead to it being closed to traffic when the bars tip out at weekends. New developments seem to be trying to raise the tone. A couple of doors down, on the corner of Nelson, is a new Blenz which has a distinct "new coffee house" smell, nice furnishings and a state of the art computerised system for its display screens. These carry the menus, promos and a very large read out at the the till. One very prominent display was unfortunately also featuring a Windows update pop up in the lower right hand corner - which staff of course were unable to do anything about.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Dying of hopelessness: A case against assisted suicide

I am going to take the contrary view. I think that the good people of Washington were right to follow the example of Oregon. And whoever Leonard Stern might be, I somehow doubt that he is as caring as he would like to present himself.
The researchers discovered that in 2007, not one "of the people who died by lethal ingestion in Oregon had been evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist."
I have been treated for depression for some years now. I have never "been evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist" either. I suspect that is true of most of the people who are prescribed anti-depressants. They are evaluated by the use of a simple questionnaire, which can be administered by all kinds of people including counsellors. Many people live in very depressing circumstances - and the way out of those circumstances may or may not be clear cut. But by picking up on this one study, and indulging a bit of sleight of hand, the realities can get nicely sidelined.

He also picks a "hard case" - and as the saying goes "hard cases make bad law". A young athlete could not face life after a catastrophic injury. And his parents took him to Switzerland where he could die comfortably and legally. And of course we would all like to think we can be Christopher Reeve were such circumstances to afflict us. But he was an exceptional case too.

Euthanasia is something we have no trouble with when it comes to our pets. And indeed it may well be true that many people have a closer relationship to their constant companion than many of their family members. And it was not so very long ago that people with terminal illnesses were given a merciful overdose of pain killer by a sympathetic doctor. Of course, some more recent cases such as Dr Harold Shipman have made that informal practice much too risky for the average GP.

But a couple of years ago I had to watch my dog die by lethal injection - and also my brother died from an inoperable brain tumour. I know that I made the right decision in my dog's case. I also know that my brother did not have that choice. And that is a right I think we all should have. And people like Leonard Stern should not be allowed to keep that choice from us.

But, at the same time, I support the Samaritans and people like this

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Religious right requiem

I am an atheist.

But I quite like that famous quote from Ghandi: "I like your Christ. I don't much like your Christians"

And I really do not like the American religious right. Which has, over the last thirty years, demonstrably failed in its objectives, and at the same time kept in power some of the most incompetent administrations on the planet.

Cal Thomas used tp work for them, became disillusioned and has been writing about them for some time. This is in Friday's Washington Times and I Stumbled Upon another blogger's take on it. Here are his own words

If results are what conservative evangelicals want, they already have a model. It is contained in the life and commands of Jesus of Nazareth. Suppose millions of conservative evangelicals engaged in an old and proven type of radical behavior. Suppose they followed the admonition of Jesus to "love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and care for widows and orphans," not as ends, as so many liberals do by using government, but as a means of demonstrating God's love for the whole person in order that people might seek Him?

Such a strategy could be more "transformational" than electing a new president, even the first president of color. But in order to succeed, such a strategy would not be led by charismatic figures, who would raise lots of money, be interviewed on Sunday talk shows, author books and make gobs of money.

I think a lot more people (whom he might label "liberal" but I think of as "progressive") have also stepped up to the plate as the right wing rhetoric flew and disgraceful policies were introduced. For instance, food banks were introduced into BC as a way of disgracing the Social Credit government's welfare cuts. Sadly, we still have food banks and welfare rates well below the poverty level. Other people I know spend their retirement and their own resources on trying to make up for Canada's cynical withdrawal from aid to impoverished countries. Of course there is much less one person can do than a country as wealthy as Canada when it did devote a percentage of its GDP to international aid. And these people certainly do not live in Mansions and drive SUVs. Oddly enough enough, such people do not tend to talk about politics or religion. But you can judge their character by their actions, just as I judge Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

CBC Journalist released after kidnap

The CBC's Melissa Fung was kidnapped in Afghanistan a month ago. She has now been released safely - and no ransom was paid. The press was asked to keep quiet about the story while she was in captivity - and they did. The story linked from the Title explains why.

This unusual reserve and respect for the individual must be applauded and shows that not all journalists are devoid of ethical principles. Standards have definitely slipped in recent years - with more than one news organisation leading the charge into the gutter. This rare story restores my faith a little.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

US war on cocaine failure

A multi-billion dollar US anti-drugs programme has failed in its plan to cut cocaine production in Colombia. A US Congressional report says coca cultivation in fact rose by 15 per cent between 2000 and 2006. As a result Colombia remains the world's top cocaine producer and is reportedly the source of 90 per cent of the drug in the US. The report says the aid programme did succeed in reducing Colombia's kidnapping and murder rates. The programme, started in 1999, trained Colombian forces and provided equipment and intelligence to combat drug-traffickers and eliminate coca crops.
NO surprise there either. The whole "War on Drugs" has been a colossal failure in terms of its stated objectives, but it has been one of the major pillars of imposing ever more draconian restrictions on liberty and civil rights - just as the war on terror has been.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

McCain’s biggest mistake?

CNN have already closed the comments on Cafferty's blog. But I could not resist reusing one of my favourite quotes from Manny Shinwell here if not there

Cafferty wrote of McCain
"he quickly became his own worst enemy"

which of course needs the response

"Not while I'm alive he isn't!"

In all seriousness, he did produce a good concession speech. But of course the yahoos in the audience let him - and Republican Party - down. Maybe that was the big mistake. Playing to the worst elements of the ill educated, ill mannered and uncouth.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Ottawa plans to shake up duty-free shops

I must admit I was unaware of the byzantine rules that beset land border duty free shops - which are different from airports apparently.

The article says the idea is to make them "more consumer friendly" but that is not the case. Canada offers very little consumer protection compared to other places, and one of the weakest areas is labelling. For a start "duty free" means nothing of the sort. If the goods sold in these shops really did pay no government levies of any kind than they would be much cheaper. But of course governments have a monopoly in liquor wholesaling. The price for booze in a Canadian "duty free" shop may look a bit cheaper than a Canadian liquor store but that does not mean that government has forgone much revenue.

The proposed inbound duty free at airports is not so innovative either. London's Heathrow has had this for years.

What would be really good is if the stuff we can buy on the way to visit our friends and relatives really was local. All kinds of imported stuff is labelled as though it was of Canadian origin but that is simply not true in many cases. For instance, Chilean wine is bottled here and labelled Canada

For a long time I have wanted to take BC wines to my family in England - but all they had in the YVR store was Ontario wine. I do not know if they have ever responded to all the complaints I made since they never replied to me and I gave up going into the duty free at YVR. The variety of things I can buy outside the airport is much better and the prices not so different.

The best protection consumers have here is being market savvy and shopping around. Do not expect any government in Canada to care about you.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Sunday distractions

Nothing serious - just the fruits of some idle surfing.

Richmond's sister city is Wakayama in Japan. Which is fine, but I think we should have more contact with all the other Richmonds in the world - and there are plenty.

This piece of news comes from Richmond in South West London. TfL are finally going to do something about the computer screens in the stations there which have been misdirecting passengers for years. This comes from Your Local Guardian which I doubt has anything to do with the national paper who certainly would never go for the creepy animated hand in the heading, which I suppose is to celebrate Hallowe'en.

The other story comes from Dallas and advises that you may actually be able to carry a bottle of liquid through airport security soon. I have never thought that this "threat" was actually very credible - and the idea that you could start mixing up chemicals to make bombs on a crowded plane and NOT draw attention top yourself is highly improbable. And of course we will have to wait until everytbody buys new machines - which is what is, I think, really driving this nonsense. That and the fact that people who are scared are less likely to question authority.