Issachar's Musings

Putting my ideas online where I have to defend or change them.

June 27th, 2010

Corporate Fatcat is keepin teh bonusI had a strange experience on Friday. I spent the afternoon being wined and dined at Quail’s Gate by Rogers ostensibly as a thank you for our business.  Yes, for an afternoon I was a corporate fatcat being entertained as a “business expense” which I assume was tax deductible for Rogers.

Now, before I go any farther I want to make a couple of things clear.  First of all, I’m not trying disparage Rogers.  I find their service comparable to Bell and Telus.  I don’t have a company phone, but I don’t find my Bell service to be particularly different from Rogers.   There’s a few downright anti-customer moves that all the cell companies do, (coughIncomingTextChargescough), but those are different issues.  Wining and dining clients is unfortunately part of business and I don’t want to pick on Rogers in particular.  Secondly, I don’t want to pick on Quail’s Gate.  Their food is delicious although well beyond my price range.  I’m not their target market though, and not every business needs to be aimed at me.

I do want to talk about the practice of entertaining clients as a “business expense”.  As fun as the afternoon was, it really comes down to the fact that Rogers spent a large sum of money feeding us expensive food, expensive wine, expensive water and getting us a private wine tasting and tour.  It was fun but it doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of Rogers service.  Rogers is making a clear attempt to influence the decision maker in another company with factors that benefit the decision maker personally rather than the company they’re working for.

Perversely I think the exercise has the opposite effect on me than Rogers intended.  I feel a sleazy when people try to bribe me and I don’t want to feel like that.  While Bell might also try to bribe me, they haven’t yet done so.  I would feel more comfortable doing business with Bell than Rogers at this point for that reason.

It might work on most people, but why on earth is are these things tax deductible business expenses?

March 19th, 2010

I find it faintly amusing when people can’t seem to grasp the fact that there is more than one version of “religious”. Sometimes I suspect that it’s rooted in anti-religious bigotry and boneheaded ignorance, but I can’t really prove it. Antonia Zerbisias’ piece in the star today isn’t particularly bad, but it’s a good sample of the problem.

Basically, she doesn’t like the Conservative’s position on maternal health care for the upcoming G8 summit. The Conservatives have been contradicting themselves, but that doesn’t really matter for this issue. Ms. Zerbisias claims that Mr. Harper is motivated by religious beliefs in the initial policy that they wouldn’t include contraception.

Quote: “This is just a Trojan horse for your religious beliefs.”   Wow. That’s scary stuff!

Except for one small detail.  Stephen Harper isn’t a Roman Catholic. He’s an evangelical Christian and a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance church. They don’t oppose contraception.

So to buy Ms. Zerbisias’ argument you have to swallow the fallacy that all those “Christian types” are the same. It works if you’re just bigoted against Christians or religious people in general, or just plain uninformed, but the argument just doesn’t hold water.

The fact is that the issue is a lot more nuanced than the “Harper’s a misogynist” crowd wants to recognize.  Muddying the issue by lumping abortion in with family planning as Ms. Zerbisias makes the problem worse not better.

March 19th, 2010

I foolishly left my new blog open to comments from users who weren’t logged in when I installed WordPress.  As a result I ended up with over 6,000 comments on this post from spammers.  Apparently they have tools to automate the process of entering a name and an e-mail address which doesn’t really surprise me.  Spammers are annoying cretins, but one SQL query deleted them all.

So as a consequence I’m now requiring people to log in before they comment.  Of course I don’t actually have anyone commenting on my blog anymore, but a year without posts will do that.  I could have forced some kind of captcha system, but I find those irritating.

I’m managing logins with Google FriendConnect as well as WordPress accounts.  You don’t actually need an account with Google to log in with FriendConnect, any OpenID login will do.  As a bonus, Google FriendConnect has a few social networking features.  (All optional I believe.)

Out of curiosity, is there anyone reading this who doesn’t like FriendConnect?

March 7th, 2010

We’re finally getting the same kind of plastic bills that Australians use, and it’s about time!  Paper bills wear out quickly which is why we’ve been getting larger denominations of coins recently.  There was even talk about a $5 coin.  As a guy who doesn’t likes to use cash and doesn’t like to carry a man-purse around with me, coins are simply a pain.  On the other hand, we were simply wasting money by using paper bills for lower denominations.  The plastic currency is simply better.  It saves money like using coins, but without the hassle of having to carry around a small bag all the time.

Now all we need to do is get rid of the penny and have all transactions rounded to the nearest nickel.  And to the naysayers who might complain that it will raise prices, we always round off the amount due for almost every purchase we make.  Calculations of sales tax will almost always give you fractions of pennies and the price of gasoline is actually quoted in tenths of pennies.

Plastic money is the best news I’ve read on the internet all weekend.

March 6th, 2010

I missed it at the time, but The Globe and Mail published an opinion piece about a group of people that are upset about the hunting of spirit bears.  Given how rare they are I’d be upset too, except for the small detail that no one is hunting spirit bears.  Hunting spirit bears is illegal.  So what’s the issue?

The issue is that we allow people to hunt black bears which are not in any way endangered.  Spirit bears are of course really ordinary black bears except that they have an expressed recessive gene that makes their fut white.  So approximately 1 in 10 black bears carries the recessive gene without expressing it.  If two of these bears were to get together over some fresh salmon and some Barry White, we might get another spirit bear.  So the man quote in the article, Doug Neasloss, thinks the black bear hunt should be ended.

Ridiculous.

Assuming you don’t drive the population too low, hunting black bears and not spirit bears actually increases the survivability of spirit bears.  White fur now makes bears effectively bullet proof which you might say is a strong advantage in natural selection.

As a further irony, Mr. Neasloss’ eco-tours are making black bears more comfortable with humans and making them easier to hunt.  Not good…

February 10th, 2010

Canadians are not a racist people.  While all countries have bigots in them, the vast bulk of Canadians don’t make decisions on the basis of other people’s race.  We’ve got the occasional white supremacist mother drawing swastikas on her seven year old’s arm before she hands them a pbj sandwich and sends them to class and more than a few anti-Semites equating Israel with Nazi Germany while pretending they’re just opposing Zionism, but for the most part Canadians don’t traffic in racism.

Our so-called “human rights” commissions notwithstanding, Canadians treasure our freedom of speech and so we accept that it requires us to allow the occasional crank to peddle holocaust denial or make nasty jokes about whichever racial group they blame for their inadequacies.

But we also have legal racism.  The latest incident has been an aboriginal band government’s decision to evict twenty-six people from their homes because of the colour of their skin.  Plainly put, they’re not the right race, so they’re not welcome.  Or rather, they’re not welcome according to the aboriginal government.  The spouses and common-law partners of the “undesirables” certainly aren’t happy about their loved ones being cast out for “having the wrong blood”, but they don’t control the government.  Indeed, what kind of statement is the band making to those women about the legitimacy of those relationships when they use the coercive power of a government to break up their home.  Bluntly it looks a lot like the attitude you’d see from segregationists in the early days of the civil rights movement.  They weren’t fans of miscegenation either.

So what can be done about this?

Probably nothing.  The sad truth is that we tolerate this kind of racism.  I think it’s partly because it doesn’t affect most of us.  We feel sorry for the woman whose spouse gets evicted because “they don’t like his kind”, but we won’t think about her at all in a few months.  The other factor is that this kind of racism is tolerated all over the western world.  As I wrote earlier, the EU’s hypocritical ban on seal products has a little racist exception for some if your skin is the right colour and your product fits a European stereotype of what your culture should be using seals for.  We accept this kind of racism as normal.

We should not accept this as normal.  While we can’t erase it overnight, we need to see it for what it is and call it by it’s true names.  Racism and bigotry.

February 7th, 2010

As I’m sure everyone knows, the EU hates the seal hunt. They despise it so much they’ve banned all seal products from entering the EU because they think it’s cruel. This from a land that allows people to torment bulls for sport in an arena.

The best thing Michaëlle Jean has done as Governor-General has done has been to promote the seal hunt.

For the record, the seal hunt is not cruel unless you think it’s always cruel to kill an animal for any reason no matter how humanely it’s done. Canada does not allow white pups, (the ones you see outdated pictures of), and all hunting must be done humanely.  The seal ban is pure hypocrisy.  Attacking foreigners is fine, but they won’t look at the board in their own eye.

Their exception for the Inuit is equally offensive.  The Inuit are rather annoyed that their ancient practice and food source is maligned as barbaric, but leave that aside for a moment.  The EU claims that they’re sensitively allowing an exception for the Inuit, but it’s an entirely racist exception.  The exception isn’t based how the seals are hunted, it’s based on the race of the hunter.  Two people can do exactly same thing and only one is granted an exception because of his race.  This is racism pure and simple.

Furthermore, the exception only applies if the Inuit keep their culture in the quaint little package from hundreds of years ago.  And even then they find it “bizarre”.  When Michaëlle Jean joined in a traditional ceremony to show support for Inuit culture, the European Union spokeswoman called it “too bizarre to acknowledge.” In any case, the Inuit only get that small exception to import for “traditional” uses.  All cultures grow, evolve, interact and trade with other cultures, but the Inuit seal hunt had better not if they want to keep in the good graces of the EU and maintain even that small racist exception they’ve been granted.

I thoroughly approve of the Canadian government serving seal meat to the G7 representatives and showcasing seal products.  I doubt it’s changed any minds though.  When Kent Driscoll, the Iqaluit-based reporter with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, directly asked the four EU finance ministers at a press conference if they’d be taking any information about sealing home they simply refused to answer the question even when prompted a second time Jim Prentice had to answer for them.

Arrogant hypocrites.

February 7th, 2010

I missed this on Friday, but the Globe and Mail’s Jane Taber wrote a piece asking if Ignatieff’s attempt to light up the abortion debate for a few political points will work.

It’s a good question.  Just because it’s an odious thing to do doesn’t mean it won’t work.  If they can convince even a small slice of the public that the Conservatives are planning on outlawing all abortions it will lock those people into voting anti-Conservative regardless of what actual Conservative policy is.

I hope very much that it won’t work and that has nothing to do with what I think of the Conservatives or abortions.  As I said on Thursday, Ignatieff is dead wrong about any consensus.  The only consensus we have on the subject is that as a country we don’t agree.  And I hope we also have a consensus that we don’t want to turn it into political leverage.  Historically, the Liberals and the Conservatives have welcomed pro-lifers and pro-choicers into their camps.  They recognized that beliefs about abortion were based on deeply held beliefs about when human life begins and as such the question was qualitatively different than a disagreement about tax law or how to best care for the poor.

This is the most disappointed I’ve been with Michael Ignatieff.  I thought the Liberals made a good choice with him.  I still do actually, but my respect for him has taken a serious blow.  A man who would be Prime Minister shouldn’t seek to divide a country for a bump in the polls.

February 6th, 2010

I’ve been told I don’t really rant, and even if I do it’s something I’d rather avoid.  So I’m changing my blog’s name.   It’s going to be “Issachar’s Musings” unless I come up with something better.  As always, I appreciate comments.

February 6th, 2010

Google announced this week that they’re not going to be supporting FTP for publishing on blogger anymore.  Apparently the option isn’t that popular and consumes a disproportionate amount of resources.  Unfortunately, I need it if I want to continue to use a separate web host and a private domain.  I could switch to Google hosting, but I’d rather not do that.

So I started looking at WordPress.  I think it will work fine, although I’m not happy with how it looks just yet.  I can customize any of the templates, but I don’t have a great starting point yet.  If anyone’s got any suggestions or opinions about how it looks, please let me know.

The old blogger posts are still there, but I haven’t gone through the trouble of trying to import them into WordPress because I don’t see any need to do that.  They’re still there, you can still comment on them and I can still edit them for now.  You can see the last few posts here and the archive is on the side bar.