Which Way London? #Ldnont

In a recent opinion piece on the London Free Press site mentioned London is halfway between Toronto and Detroit. I think the person was trying to sell that as London’s selling point as justification for better rail service at the expense of local rapid transit. I disagree about delaying rapid transit but agree London needs better travel to areas beyond the city’s bubble.

London is halfway between Detroit and Toronto, and I don’t mean geographically but halfway between decay and success. Detroit used to have a world leading trolley focused transit system which was profitable. The rolling stock would still be running today if it hadn’t been destroyed in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake. Detroit nationalized the profitable private system then converted it to buses as part of a car focused transportation system. Toronto about the same time built a subway line and extended streetcar/trolley service with abandoned rolling stock from Cleveland or Cincinnati. Which is the more successful city today, Detroit or Toronto?

Toronto loves cars as much as Detroit or London yet recognizes that it can no longer afford to focus solely on cars for transportation. It is estimated the Greater Toronto Area, Canada’s main economic engine, loses $11 billion annually in lost productivity due to cars being congested. Toronto alone loses $3.3 billion in productivity because of its inadequate transportation networks. As younger generations reject the car for more efficient and cost effective transportation methods it will be the GTA and Hamilton that will attract people and not cities building wider roads or second class alternatives.

London’s current choice is bus rapid transit focusing on the centre of the city only. It is a flawed plan, an incomplete plan, a plan with many problems. Having seens some of the city and LTC’s supporting documents it is the information that is missing that sticks out. Metreolinx has some in depth studies showing how expensive the status quo or further automotive infrastructure could cost billions more. London makes vague statements about progress and attracting investment but I’ve yet to see anything with the opportunity costs of doing nothing or the justification for the plan as is. Even the two websites show how far behind London is, if you can get to LTC’s website.

London lives in its own little world, it is unable to learn from other cities mistakes or successes. The danger is London, or as I’m beginning to call it Ditherville, will not survive without bold transportation reforms and an end to the automotive monopoly in transportation. The disconnected walking paths, cycle routes, poor transit to anywhere not the downtown all leave London rather unlivable outside a few downtown areas. These disconnects are costing London, most likely far more than the cost of fixing them.

How much is the car costing London in lost productivity, as a barrier to employment participation, in increased policing costs, in health care costs, environmental damage, and lost investment opportunities? As the rapid transits argue London residents are paying for better transit, just not their own. Many other communities are looking to take the money if London doesn’t spend it. I agree with the “Not Yet” person in the opinion piece that London does need to connect beyond city limits. Which would be pointless if most people can’t get to where those connections are made.

London needs a grid transit system, with two rapid transit corridors north/south, and another two east/west. It needs to spread the transit system to all areas of the city and plan for future integration with a regional system like Metreolinx and the possibility of high speed rail, which won’t stop for buses. It needs to work with the rest of the province to have a single smart card paying system that works on any Ontario, and possibly any Canadian, transit system. It needs cycle and walking network that extends beyond city limits and is accessible from any point in the city. It needs to slow investments in auto infrastructure until the other systems catch up in funding.

How does London compete in a world where economics is shifting back to Asia? Can London survive using the status quo? Nothing says London has to be anything but farm fields and ruins in a century. Working against the rest of the region, province or country will certainly make London like Detroit or cities that require trowels to see. While we’re waiting for lights to change or travelling at 60km/h in our horseless buggies the rest of the world is getting places at 200-500km/h. We still haven’t separated bulk, fast freight, and passenger service to dedicated tracks, slowing all of them down. But at least we have a six lane highway to Detroit and Toronto, that’ll compete with China’s 20,000+km of high speed rail.


Targeted Sanctions #Cdnpoli #sanctiontrump

With the announcement today that Ivanka Trump is to receive security clearance, office space, and unprecedented access in the White House I feel it is time to revisit my idea on Twitter that the Trump administration warrants Canadian sanctions. Not being a lawyer I might be wrong but my understanding is international law gives Donald J Trump himself immunity. That immunity does not extend to his family nor any of his business interests, nor to his cabinet and their business interests. Canada already has the Special Economic Measures Act to lay sanctions.

Broad sanctions will hurt Canada and vulnerable Americans and not really be noticed by the Trump administration. Targeting the Trump family, Trump business empire, and those of the Trump administration who are poised to use their position for personal gain would be far more effective. Current Sanctions by Canada are for questionable election results, oligarchical seizure of public assets, denial of Human Rights, and destruction of essential services.

Donald Trump’s recent actions against democratic governance, Human Rights, public assets, denial of service, and fostering fear in minority groups should worry us. If they were committed by a leader in the developing world we would not hesitate to call on international sanctions. When African leaders are elected under suspicion or blatant fraud we slap sanctions on within days or weeks. With the suspicion of Russian involvement of in November’s results it would be hypocrisy of Canada not to sanction the United States regime as we would any African, South American, or Asian regime.

When North Korea or Iran sabre rattles and threatens to use weapons of mass destruction we don’t try to foster friendship and engagement we tighten the sanctions. When Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe pitted “veterans” against farmers and farm labourers to steal land we didn’t open trade negotiations to secure our market we sanctioned. How is Trump’s forcing through pipelines on Native lands, targeting of minorities, and threats of war with North Korea any different?

With the disturbing ties between the Trump administration and the Russian Federation’s government and ruling oligarchy we could call targeted sanctions as an extension of our current Russian sanctions. Those sanctions are in part due to the Russian annexation of Crimea and the proxy war in Ukraine. The call for NATO nations to spend more money while stating that the alliance is no longer relevant and that the United States wouldn’t come to members’ aid threatens security and may foster an international crises. The calls to end sanctions on Russia without Russia changing its support for its proxy wars or returning Crimea will embolden the expansion of Vladimir Putin’s empire.

It is Canada’s interests to sanction the Trump administration, as it will embolden resistance to Trump and roll back of some terrible policies. Millions of Americans have lost healthcare access and we Canadians can expect greater fraud in our systems as a result. Refugee bans have a greater number of people risking their lives to come to Canada and American minority groups might end up joining them. The removal of restrictions on small arms may foster more violence on American streets that spills into Canada. Already the unchecked hate and threats against minorities has spread north and cost Canadian lives. Tariffs on Mexico will hurt Canadian jobs dependant on supplying or being supplied by Mexican industry.

It is ultimately up to Americans to decide Trump’s fate, and by extension their own. Do they wait until America is a battleground or do they move quickly for a peaceful transition? Sanctions on the Trump regime can starve that regime of resources and distance support from people and organizations that are vulnerable to sanctions being imposed. Targeted sanctions may cost a few Canadian jobs, but doing nothing may cost many Canadian lives. Which is easier to replace, a lost job or a lost life?

The announcement today that Ivanka Trump is to be her father’s chief and most trusted advisor reminds me of Stalin and his daughter. By the end even Stalin’s favourite daughter wasn’t trusted by a paranoid dictator that had seized unchecked power. The Trump administration is working to removes checks on executive power and turn the United States into the Trump family’s personal property. Maybe sanctions on Ms Trump will convince her to reign her father in before she to is cut out of the decisions.

My Shift epiphany #Ldnont

Laying in bed Saturday morning it dawned on me, the London bus rapid transit plan has nothing to do with growing a vibrant 21st Century city. Shift, like all major political decisions in the past seven decades is about BabyBoomers. Once I realized that I learnt to accept the very flawed plan as it currently is.

No generation in history has or will have the automotive usage patterns of the BabyBoomer. The bulk of Canada’s wealth is held in the hands of BabyBoomers, as is the bulk of the private automobiles. We still build automotive infrastructure thinking the average BabyBoomer just turned 16 and has the Dad’s car keys. The reality is within ten years BabyBoomers start turning 80 and must start having driving tests every two years. Even before 80 doctors can revoke licences if the patient is deemed a driving danger.

The bulk of the BabyBoomer generation are hitting retirement age in greater numbers. They are already downsizing homes and going with hassle free condos which in London will supposedly be along the BRT line, at least that is the plan. This explains to me why the routes are where they are. Two major hospitals and two major malls are within the core of the plan. Translation, convenience to medical appointments and a place to walk when the sidewalks are icy.

So now that I realize the aging Boomer is the focus of the plan my only complaint is the blatant dishonesty on what/who it is for. Selling Shift as a progressive plan to make the London of tomorrow is false, if it were then connecting Fanshawe/Western students to courses on the other campus the route would stick to Oxford and not meander through the downtown. If it were for the growing tech industry it would connect to the airport so the tech companies could connect with the world of customers. If it were for lower income London it wouldn’t focus on a few areas that gentrification will make for the affluent only.

The LTC in the last while has made progress on correcting some silly routes and making improvements on hours of service. There are still areas of London, mainly lower income, that have poor or no service. Most of the industrial areas are not serviced at all, including the areas the city is spending to attract new industry to.

The longer the commute, the lower the commuter’s productivity. Routing commuters from the suburbs through a central point of failure in a downtown intersection built for horses will lower the productivity and health of London. The focus of the city and LTC on the downtown focus appears to be coming at the expense of satellite areas of the city. Many London commuters will have to use automobiles, especially poorer people in the ignored areas or people who work in industrial areas. The long commutes or unhealthy means of commuting make London unattractive to investment, and Shift is doing nothing to correct this.

Shift is best viewed as a boon for the serviced area and the affluent seniors most likely to be able to downsize to the serviced area. Shift is itself left vulnerable to reactionary politics that will make BRT lanes into HOV lanes and then freeze funding so LTC is forced to cannibalise satellite routes to keep BRT running. If someone has seen concrete guarantees to keep this from happening please show them to me.

Some research to consider:


A tale of two customer service experiences

Some people colour to relax or geocache but I prefer Lego. I have a casual collection of Lego Star Wars Minifigures and discovered noticed awhile ago the Rey figure had a cracked torso. I filled the web form at the Lego site and the replacement arrived today. I’ve made to purchases from their site directly and both experiences have been positive. The most recent order included free shipping at CDN$35 and a free poly bag Lego set, a police helicopter with a police woman. The replacement part came with an apology letter saying the quality control people were notified.

Lego allows me to use PayPal and won’t allow me to click on items that are out of stock. BattleFront, the company that makes the Flames of War miniatures game I play does not allow PayPal so I have to go through a local store. If I could order direct free shipping doesn’t happen until US$100(CDN$140) and there is no guarantee that what ordered is available. Almost everything on my order through a local store was out of stock and so the order was cancelled as what was in stock wasn’t enough for the free shipping. I cancelled the order and have no plans of making another.

The really extraordinary thing is this past weekend BattleFront launched version four of the Flames of War rules. Customers were supposed to trade the version three book for a pair of free version four books. As far as I know no one in South Western Ontario has access to these new rules except through bootleg PDFs. When I mentioned it to Battle Front on their forums they implied I had the wrong information about why my local store didn’t receive any books.

The BattleFront representative then said stores got good shipping deals at USD$300 and a small box was only USD$30 shipping. The claim of stores getting free shipping was refuted by a store owner responding saying USD$300 was $10 shipping and not free, if the stock was available to fill the order. The store owner was saying the stock problems were so bad they may have to drop BattleFront products.

So one company apologizes and says we have a department to keep this from happening, and the second company suggests customers don’t have all the facts and their policies are reasonable. Reading the BattleFront forums as often as I do I see stock problems and customer complaints almost weekly. The new editions to the line up were apparently shipped with incorrect items. Plenty of other posts about backorders, lost orders, and damaged orders.

I guess both companies could be used as examples of customer relations in some business program. I certainly wouldn’t invest in BattleFront if I money too, it strikes me as a company committing suicide. In fact I’m really hesitant of ever buying from them again.


Sanctuary Spaces #ldnont

A recent petition circulating around Farcebook got me angry. The petition calls for London Ontario Canada to not become a sanctuary city to illegal immigrants escaping the USA and elsewhere. A headline on the Montreal Gazette site mentioned Montreal couldn’t afford to be a sanctuary city and council shouldn’t have voted unanimously in favour of becoming one. The arguments of financial burden, our own people first, they’re all terrorists, and others are repeated widely and all sound hollow and heartless to me.

I get that people don’t want “those people” coming here draining our resources and maybe committing a crime. These people have been so programed to be paranoid that hard data will not overcome their blatant cowardness. Yet these same people are supporting the very systems that have created the migrant and refugee crises. They support companies and governments that are fueling corruption, exploitation, environmental destruction, armed conflict, trafficing, and ethnic cleansing.

Think about it, is buying stuff cheaper so important you would see entire populations exploited for their labour, resources, or simply destroyed to make way for others? Are a few short term jobs in dying industries so important that measures should be taken to deny good jobs to others in Mexico, Southern Asia, and Africa? What if high wage jobs in the BRICS and MINTS are the only way the Canadian economy could survive the century?

If you don’t want these people sneaking in, risking their lives and enriching criminals in the process, are you willing support the economies people are fleeing from? Are you going to put pressure to limit the arms trade so conflicts are starved of resources? Will you vote for politicians with a peace centred foreign policy? Will you demand an increase in our own military resources so we can deploy forces to help monitor and end these conflicts?

It easy to protest the move to sanctuary space, be short sighted and unempathic to those suffering. Maybe those who are opposed to sanctuary spaces have never need one. Never been in a domestic abuse situation, chased by bullies from school, had their homeland torn apart by a proxy war, been targeted for being a minority, and so on. If which ever group you belong to was criminalized, demonized, targeted, or forced to flee wouldn’t you want to seek sanctuary?

I remember hearing of King Zog of Albania inviting Jews into the mostly Muslim kingdom while the rest of Europe was anti-Semitic or indifferent to Jewish plight under the Third Reich. Even Canada was turning Jews away in the Thirties but Albania opened the borders, actively sought to bring them and protected them during Nazi occupation. Canada was on the wrong side of history in the Thirties, now we should be the example and not the accessory to genocide. Rescue in Albania article.

Another thing to remember is when we keep some of these refugees out of our society it feeds the anti-west narrative of the groups forcing many of them to flee. The lack of compassion we show could haunt us in the form of terrorist attacks. We know it doesn’t have to be an immigrant who threatens us, it may well be a domestic terrorist either inspired by the perverters of Islam or emboldened by a global environment of xenophobia and intolerance.


Crowdsourcing Solutions

So I’ve been feeling low, slow, hyper distracted, disoriented, and unmotivated for the last few months. Concentration is almost impossible for more than a few minutes, to the point I’ve stopped being able to read a complete paragraph before moving to another activity. It can take an hour to read a short article. I’ve had untreated concussions in the past and I have ADHD, either or both may be causing this.

Last fall I was sent back into the social services merry go round to find work or be threatened with refusal of Ontario Works. So far the results are the same as every time before: I need university degree/s to get a job I’m capable of doing, or I need to find a way to be paid to write, or I need a complete rewrite of my DNA and brain chemistry to do the jobs available. I have no clue on how to get any of those things done.

Certain assumptions in our society have been long held and are counterproductive; everyone is able to sell, everyone is able to drive a car, and everyone is able to use the phone. I can not do any of those things and have no desire to. My confidence was shattered at a very early age and will never recover. I go into complete shutdown and panic mode with phone calls and many times all social actions shuts me down or sends me into a panic. Add to the fact I can not absorb/learn anything unless I see it written or diagramed and phones become a major problem. I cannot return to a phone call to see what was said and I instantly forgot because my memory is so bad. With my sensitive hearing I find loud noises difficult so I shut my hearing off when people shout or make noise.

So how does someone like me deal with a society that only uses a phone? I can’t get a doctor’s appointment without calling, or get help from my caseworker without calling, everything seems to be phone only. Why do people only want me to use my disabilities and not my abilities? In many cases it seems my abilities should be allowed to perish in favour of me conforming to some sort of mid Twentieth Century ideal.

I’d go back to McMaster to finish a history degree in a heartbeat but I would have to find a way to go into enough debt to pay tuition, living expenses and everything. I cannot work and study as I will burn out to quickly. Dealing with people drains me to nothing very quickly. Getting work alone isn’t very easy as my work experience is almost nil, scattered over my adult life in small chunks of time, and I have no references. Of course it is all my fault though, I wasn’t getting myself out there and pulling my socks up, or showing initiative, I should stop being lazy stupid and immature. I should just take anything regardless if it will send me into a deep depression.

The only things I feel productive doing are writing and researching. Ideas are what I’m drawn too, as is creativity. Our one size fits none society would rather discard people than adapt to the changing world. The economic centre of gravity is shifting back to Asia and the Silk Roads. Sticking rigidly to archaic work ethics and Nineteen-Fifties job descriptions will kill our economy faster than jobs moving to the BRIC or MINT countries. The us versus them approach won’t stop the jobs moving away, just stop us getting different to support those rising economies.

To keep up with the change we will need a cradle to grave education system that is fully funded publicly, like our health care system. Stop treating education as a luxury reserved for the lucky enough to get loans or rich enough to not need loans. We get so blase about education but we forget there are people willing to get killed for it. After all education is better for economic stimulus than a much higher expenditure in roads.

So how do I monetize my creativity, ideas, and writing ability? I know I need practice, a portfolio of work, advocates who can sell me, and a bunch of luck but I’ve no clue on where to get it. I have looked at the writing unions/guilds’ sights but they require a contract or being published. I’ve thought about self publishing what I’m writing but I have to have the money first and someone to edit what’s finished. This blog’s donation button was added but might not be working. I know, it’s the internet version of panhandling.

The person I’m working with at the latest program I’ve been sent to suggested volunteering to get experience. I would need something without phones, humans, and working with my hands. I’ve tried in the past to do social or phones but it gets harder every time. I don’t want people making phone calls for me, I want the ability to do things over email.

Writing this has been somewhat cathartic, or the Oscar Peterson I’ve been listening too has. I should go get some red wine, but I’m feeling to agoraphobic to go out right now. Had far too much social time already this week.


Canada & the failing state next door #Cdnpoli

I recently listened to a podcast which mentioned Hitler being so egotistical that if he had nuclear weapons he would have used them to take most of the world with him when the Soviets were entering Berlin. We are not repeating the events of the Twentieth Century, Trumpism isn’t Nazism, Trump isn’t Hitler, even if they share many similarities. We have an egotistical figure with a personality cult and, despite losing the majority vote, the reigns of power. We also have democratic leaders who are weak, divided, and focused on internal minutiae. Not a good combination.

History shows how the United States has arrived at the present situation. I don’t mean the rise of tyrannical regimes in Europe or Asia during the Twentieth Century, but the domestic history of a nation dying by a thousand cuts. Eisenhower started the trend to gain “Christian” votes by bringing God into the government sphere, adding it to the currency and the Pledge of Allegiance. Kennedy’s administration started the corporate hold on politics, especially the defence sector Eisenhower warned about. Both Eisenhower and Kennedy angered the Jim Crow states with Federally enforced equality. Since the late 50s and early 60s the reactionary forces of America have been rolling back any progress made. At all levels in the US strategic cuts to education, media regulation and responsibility, corporate oversight, public debating forums, and social services have left the United States fractured and divided.

The last few decades the world has been bombarded by the American extremist media , Hollywood films, and by political movements, that government is always evil and a threat. Add the glorification of violence as conflict dispute, militarism, demonization of compromise and diplomacy, and the diminishing role of citizens in decision making. The simplified binary view of the world; “with us or against us”, “right or wrong”,  “Black or white”, and the dismissal of anyone who wants to explore third options or understand causes and effects. The political world doesn’t have switches to turn on or off, or lines to slide left or right on, it has a circle with democracy at the top and communist, anarchist, libertarian, corporatist, religious, racist, or protectionist paths to the tyranny at the bottom.

These threats to American democracy are not unique to the United States, despite American delusion they’re not exceptional. Many nations are failing to fight the divisive forces within. We hear that if we challenge the status quo we’ll lose our jobs, trade opportunities or our freedoms. Similarly the political “outsider” promises something better if we abandon the political system and blame/punish convenient scapegoats. Are we going to sacrifice our democracy, ethics, rights, and futures for a few lousy jobs? Has greed become our state religion?

Canada should not be putting trade relations, jobs, or anything ahead of basic human rights. Our long term interests, or even or national survival, are not served by being cosy with the Trump administration. Trump’s recent extra-constitutional moves to ban people from seven mainly Muslim countries, dismissing judicial decisions, the possibility of secret prisons and torture, and the sabre rattling with China should be enough for Canada to treat the United States as a rogue state. We have in the past sanctioned governments and individuals for less than what is happening in the US.

We Canadians can not allow a leader like Trump freedom to complete his agenda. At best Trump is a kleptocrat, at worst he is the next Stalin wannabe. Canada needs to sanction Trump and his inner circle and find any ethical means to stop Trump from purging the US government of anyone who would oppose him. Right now Trump is using Twitter and media jibes, but if he isn’t challenged and feels he has immunity will he go this far? If Senator McCain, for example, keeps challenging him will the Senator have a mysterious death? If assassinations happen will Canada just shrug and issue another impotent statement? If peaceful protests are branded riots and put down with lethal force will we still worry about a few jobs? Will the equipment used be made in Canada?

To prevent the Putin/Trump brand of governance, democracies need to be vigilant. Germany has already voiced concern about interference in upcoming elections and most likely France is monitoring things in their upcoming elections. The Conservative Party of Canada should ask for RCMP, CSIS, and CSE assistance to prevent hostile interference in the leadership race. The Trudeau government should immediately criminalize political donations that are not made by citizens eligible to vote in the political jurisdiction, those used to bypass the ban should be charged with money laundering. With the changes at the top of the US security system it won’t just be Russia we will have to worry about interfering with our next election and we should take steps to prevent any interference in future elections.

I am a pessimist, difficult to be anything else when reading the news, but at the moment I will trust Americans will save themselves from this descent into madness and tyranny. If they don’t, Canada should be ready for refugees escaping the third US civil war (yes third, the Civil Rights Movement is considered the second), or a US treating us like Czechoslovakia in 1938, or a US that makes North Korea look like a more open, accessible society. The Quebec City terrorist attack proves we need to monitor extremist groups here with far more vigilance and resources as the threat to Canadian Muslims is higher than any threat from Canadian Muslims.

Going forward Canadians need to reject all politicians who use the language of taxpayers, average Canadian, consumers, real Canadian, or anything that reduces us or divides us. This post is making the Facebook rounds: