My Tim Hortons Morning Posts Most Recent

Written by Harold McNeill on January 20th, 2012. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts


 More Tim Horton’s Timbits

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Dear Reader,

Many Canadians consider a Tim Horton’s morning coffee to be one the five main food groups.  Yours truly is one of those individuals. I am now at the age where I feel slightly anxious whenever someone, even inadvertently, has the nerve to sit at my favourite table where I usually enjoy my morning cuppa and paper read if none of the other regulars happen to show up.

Each week I will add a few short posts about articles of local, national and international interest, as well as other miscellaneous items that have piqued my interest.  It seems there is never a shortage of items upon which I might wish to pass judgment.

Warning: The contents of this post do not reflect the views of my good wife, who sometimes jerks my chain just in time to modify a post she thinks might offend.  Since Lynn has engrossed herself full time with her travel consulting work, I am now running without the luxury of an Editor and Copy Reader. Any spelling errors and rough grammatical structure you encounter will most certainly be the product of my own hand.

I try to proof and correct but that is never easy when looking at ones own writing which is considered to be without fault and universally interesting. Bear with me, I am trying to overcome my shortcomings but the list is so long it will take years. If you wish to jerk my chain (occasionally!), that is fine.

Harold McNeill
Victoria, British Columbia

Travels from the end of March through April have taken me away from writing posts in this section. Hopefully, by the end of May, things will be back to normal.

June: It seems that other stories and spring/summer commitments will keep me busy until next fall.  Perhaps at that time I will return to regular posts in this section.

September 2012

September 30, 2012  Privacy on Facebook

In recent weeks, there have been many posts on Facebook and other social media sites about privacy. By definition, these sites are public. People post notes and pictures about themselves that lets everyone take a peek into their personal and private lives. What they had for breakfast, how they slept last night (sometimes even with whom), trouble going to the bathroom, a nasty little sore in a tender area, are just a few of the intimate details that periodically appear.

When in doubt about privacy of messages via FB and it’s personal,just catch the person for a coffee or pick up the phone and call. The only worry then is whether someone is tapping your phone or the phone of the person you are calling (e.g. police, CSIS, or, for those in the US, the FBI, Homeland Security, etc.).

Now, you may think I am kidding, but during my years of conducting legal wire taps as part of various investigations we intercepted many phone calls from private, law abiding citizens, who just happened to be talking to someone whose phone was being tapped and with whom they were in a ‘personal’ or ‘business’ relationship.

In other instances, we installed ‘sound and video’ taps in offices and homes.  These taps provided some interesting background.

You may have watched one of several Utube clips on ‘sting operations’ that caught some politician, government official or business person in a compromising position. When individuals later learned of the taps and could hear or see the information (even if they were totally innocent of any crime and were just caught in a suspicious circumstance) they were left in a vulnerable position which could range from mild embarrassment to having a lot of explaining to do with significant others (eg. spouses).

While the advanced technology of the world today has not totally obviated privacy, it is true that everything you do, from using Goggle to interacting on social media, to purchasing on line products, etc., place information about you in a more or less public space, a space to which government and business as well as well as their extensions, have easy access. If you have ever been in the public eye and, often, even if not, just Goggle yourself (I said ‘Goggle”) along with various aspects of your life (e.g. occupation), you might be surprised at how much is posted in the public domain on the Google index.

If you are not certain what you say is free and clear of negative statements about someone or something (e.g. good juicy gossip), or gives away aspects of your personal life and finances, stay clear of FB messages, email and your phone. Better yet, install a sound proofed ‘safe room’ in your home and have it periodically swept for bugs.  The chances of someone picking up your discussion will be limited.  If you are still concerned, buy a cabin in the bush, cut off all communication and become a hermit. With no contact to the outside world you might gain a greater degree of privacy.

On the other hand, do as I do – don’t give it a second thought, there is really nothing much to worry about. Just get on with life and stop worrying.

September 13, 2012

THIS COMMENT WAS FIRST POSTED TO FACEBOOK.

The following commment is making the rounds on Facebook:

Should welfare recipients be randomly drug tested to continue to receive benefits?” — a large number of people (perhaps millions) have clicked ‘LIKE’ or commented “YES”.

I ask: Should alcohol and tobacco abusers who suffer debiliting disease related to their addictions, be made to pay their own medical costs?

Should those who fail to wear seatbelts or helmets, and who suffer a major injury that may (could) have been prevented, be made to pay medical care costs?

How about the obese, or those participating in dangerous sports (say rodeo riders, extreme sports), or those who fail to exercise, or those guilty of dangerous driving and seriously injure themselves? This could be made into a very long list.

Would YOU want to live in a society where people are thrown in a pit because they are on welfare and use drugs, are mentally ill or have made other life style choices that could end up costing everyone?

The post of Facebook picked up a large number of comments indicating people did not support the original statements on Facebook.  It is gratifying to see that many friends feel the same way.

You may provide a comment on your belief at the foot of this post. Please refer to title and date.

Harold

September 4, 2012 Vive le Canada!

Interesting election results in Quebec this morning, although that tragic shooting certainly threw a pall over things at the PQ celebration.

THIS POST MOVED TO A FULL EDITORIAL:  LINK HERE

July/August 2012 Posts

On holidays for most of the last month and a bit and little time while enroute to focus on current events, so will kick off with a recent tragic event.

August 8, 2012
Mass Shootings in Oak Creek, WS., Sikh Temple and in Aurora, CA. Theatre)

White Supremcist, Wade PageThese two events were truly tragic, but can you imagine what might have been the media, government and government agency (specifically Homeland Security) response if the conditions been slightly different? For instance, if the killer’s had been of Muslim origin and attacked a Christian facility or those poor people in the theatre, crying ‘death to the infidels’   It would have been bedlam in the US as the “war on terrorism” would be pushed again to “Defcon 4”.

Photo (Web):  Wade Page has a long history in the White Supremcist movement and had formed a skinhead band, End Apathy, whose song lyrics promoted hatred against all minorities. With the ease of coming by guns and his history of hatred, he seemed destined to become a multiple murderer

As it stands, a white supremacist (at the Sikh Temple), and Christian Extremists (in the US) in pevious cases, get an almost free pass when it comes to media attention and government scrutiny of their organizations and outrageous acts. It’s as if a sizeable portion of the population actually support the ideals of these groups.

The Aurora school shooting, on the other hand, was slightly different as the killer was a middle aged mentally ill man, and that point was made loud and clear. That most certainly would not have been the case had the man was a middle aged, mentally ill, Muslim. Mentally Unstable, Scott A. Smith

Photo (web): Scott A. Smith, it seems, was a person whose metal deterioration was never addressed in a meaningful manner, much as this case in many similar situations. Canada and the US both pay scant attention to the challenges faced by the mentally ill as we seen to have a ‘wait until they do something serious, then lock em up and throw away the key’ attitude prevails. No doubt this is what will happen to Scott.

I’m not suggesting for a moment the United States should react to these recent incidents with the same paranoid ferocity as they have done in cases defined as “terrorist” related, namely perpetrated by a person of Muslim origin, it’s just that ‘terrorism’ is a manufactured reality that gives the US and Canada and much of the world a visible enemy. These groups and individuals deserve no more, and no less, attention that any other tragic criminal event such as the Mass Killing in Norway, by a white supremcist. Doing otherwise only plays into the hands of the extremists and we will continue to be pushed down the slippery slope of blatant racism.

Post Script: August 9, 2012

A friend, Anne Skelcher, made a FB re-post of a quote this morning (August 9) that hits to the nub of the issue:

“I was gonna post something this morning that would tell you the difference between Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims but I realized that you don’t need to know anything about somebody’s religion to know that you should’nt shoot them.”

The author might better have completed the quote by adding Christians and Jews in the wording, otherwise it tends to suggest that only Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims are responsible for shooting other people.

Harold

May/June 2012 Posts

A Victory for the Poor, June 29, 2012

I was stunned to read this morning that the United States Supreme Court has upheld the United Health Reform Bill.  The bill, the Affordable Health Care Act, provides a greater opportunity for many not having reasonable access to health care, to now gain that access. This includes:

40% of Hispanics and the 18-25 demographic;
30% of those earning less than $36,000 per year;
20% of Blacks and the 26-64 demographic.

In general, the US has a private, for profit, health care system that works well for those who can afford the service, but almost entirely excludes lower income and minorities from reasonable access to quality care.  Even many within the middle class can be bankrupted if they should encounter a serious health problem that requires extended treatment. The system, however, works extremely well for the service providers (private clinics, hospitals and insurance companies) who can pick and choose the ‘best bets’ for a strong return on health care investment dollars.

The United States, one of the richest and most highly developed, democratic countries in the world, that has never provided equal access to health care for their citizens.

In Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England as well as most of central Europe as well as many other countries, Universal Health Care is considered to be the bedrock of democracy.  While universal health care programs have been maintained in the majority of these highly developed countries, attacks on the system by private enterprise seeking to gain a foothold into what they must perceive to be an extremely lucrative business opportunity, is never ending.

Each month in Canada some new group is touting the breaking up of the public health system in order to provide room for “pay for service” clinics and hospitals for those whose income or financial backing would enable them to buy their way past a waiting list.

I have never understood why those with ample funding do not just travel to a private clinic or hospital in the United States and have the treatment or operation. They would be welcomed with open arms if they had deep pockets.  Why do they perceive it necessary to break up the public health car system in Canada when that service is so readily available to the rich in the United States?  Perhaps even for the well healed Canadians, the cost of the accessing service in the US is just too high? Or, perhaps they think a US style system in Canada would cut some of the travel costs?

The decision on Health Care by the US Supreme Court follows closely on that courts decision to strike down the majority of those draconian Arizona laws that targeted Hispanics and other minorities.  It seemed unlikely the US Supreme Court, a court that is now generally considered to be dominated by right leaning judges, would vote to overturn Arizona laws and uphold the Health Care Bill. It speaks well for the leadership of the Chief Justice John Roberts (a Republican) and other Supreme Court members, that they had gone against an expectation they would follow political lines in these matters.

Mr. Romney and the Republicans, a group tends to be white, Christian, socially conservative and economic libertarian with close ties to large corporations(e.g. Wall Street) as well as small business, will hardly be doing cartwheels in the hallways following these decisions which largely support President Obama and the Democrats.

It is my sincere hope the Conservatives in Ottawa will pay attention to these results, as it seems they have been following far to closely in the footsteps of the US Republicans in matters such as Law Reform, and a dozen other items that would most certainly be near and dear to heart of Mr. Romney and the Republican Party.

The moment private enterprise becomes involved in providing a service that is largely paid for by tax dollars (e.g. health care, health care insurance, police, fire, ambulance, military supply and services, prisions, etc.), that private enterprise group has guaranteed source of taxpayer money from which they can continue to squeeze every last drop.

Harold

Wearing your Bike Helment    June 25, 2012

A lot of publicity over the past two weeks about the bicycle helmet laws.  Thirty years of policing and 50 years of riding a bicycle, much during a time when helmets were not required (now no smart remarks about falling on my head to often), demonstrated to me that helmets make good sense. I still bike everyday and while I have never taken a bad spill (knock on wood – my head), it makes feel just a tad more protected should I take that fall. I feel the same way about wearing my seat belt.  No big deal, just put it on in case that remote chance of an accident does occur.

Granted, on my bike, I could get smushed by a car and end up looking like the above cyclist, however the larger number of head injuries are the result of a fall without being otherwise injured.  Wearing a helmet when you hit the pavement or rock, sure helps keep the noggan intact.

For those civil libertarians among us, suck it up, there are many more invasive infrigements of our civil liberties than being told you must wear a helmet or seatbelt.  Save your arguments for something worthwhile.

Harold

June 20, 2012   Ban on Noisy Motocyles

Now who would have believed that the two largest cities in good old Conservative Alberta, would finally roll out a law banning noisy motor cycles.   Last summer our family was seated along the main drag in Kamloops trying to enjoy lunch in the warm spring sun.  Every few minutes a motorcycle would blast away on a green light and the sound would echo for blocks. Why is this allowed?  I do not suppose it would take the police long to round up a motor vehicle on which the muffler made less than half that amount of noise.

Cartoon: Kamloops biker demonstrates his new sound system.  This looks a lot like the sound system Sean used to have in the trunk of his Bimmer, a system that everyone could hear for eight or ten blocks.

Perhaps the lead taken by Edmonton and Calgary will filter across the border into British Columbia and other provinces.

Link here about how Calgary Police are handing the situation.

Link here about an Edmonton woman complaining about the new law.  

Harold

Bill C-39 Passes    June 19, 2012

BILL-C38 passed last night after the opposition exhausted the last possible route that could be taken to bring this matter to public attention.  While it may seem childish that such steps must be taken, it is, unfortunately, a part of our parliamentary system.  The fact that the Conservatives (and Liberals in another time) have used their majority to make changes to laws of the land they preferred not to discuss, is not flattering of our system.

Cartoon: From the Province Newspaper, Dan Murphy, June 19, 2012 (Link Here)

In any event, good for Elizabeth May and others for at least making the effort. The one good thing that comes from the Conservatives use of these tactics on several recent bills, is that it draws more and more public attention to the naked abuse of power and the attempt by that party to change as many fundamentals as possible while they continue to hold a majority. Debate of these items would not serve them well as a good portion of their own party membership stand at odds with the directions that have been taken in recent months by the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

On the positive side, this may just be the catalyst that draws together a full 65% of Canadians (plus an additional percentage of Conservatives themselves) who do not support a vision of the country promoted since the Conservatives gained a majority. If we in the 65% + do not pull together and if the Liberals and NDP do not get their ‘s… together’ in the next two years, the vote could again split and a narrow group of Conservatives lead by Harper, would again be gifted with a second strong majority. Eight years of a solid Conservative majority and we will slowly become more and more like a Republican United States.

And speaking of the United States, in this year of 2012, what would be a good choice for bi-centennial story line or debate would be the question: “What if the United States had won the war of 1812? What would Canada look today?”

Having just returned from three day visit to Seattle, and having travelled into some of the outer areas of the south city, is a reminder of stark differences that exist between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ in the United States. One young professional (a Mexican American) with whom I struck up a conversation at the bus stop, said he and his wife where looking to move to Canada for these very reasons – the middle class is slowly fading in the US as more people drop into poverty where they are left without a home, without health care, without basics of life — without hope for the future.

You would be hard pressed to travel into any part of any city or town in Canada and find such large area’s as economically depressed as can be easily found in Seattle or, for that matter, in almost every city or town in the United States.

US society has become far more divided along economic lines than has Canada but we in Canada will need to exercise extreme caution to prevent the same thing happening here. That caution includes working together to reign in the compulsions of that nasty little ultra-conservative streak that also runs within our veins.

Harold

Who are the parents of Gays and Lesbians?

May 1, 2012. This billboard, borrowed from a repost by Gilles Arprin, makes a good point.  Come to think of it, I do not recall hearing of a gay or lesbian couple having conceived a gay or lesbian baby?  Logically, it must follow that straight couples are the ones responsible for the conceptions.

That being the case does it not logically follow that parents who hold a belief that gays and lesbians will ‘burn in hell’ must, themselves, have parented many of those persons.  How difficult it must be for those parents to eventually tell their child or children they are eternally damned?

I expect there must be a good number far right Republicans (including some highly placed party officials)as well as the many in the Tea Party in the US, faced with having this extremely difficult task.

In Canada, while only a small minority on the fringe support such beliefs, it is an area in which the vast majority need to remain vigiant as a minority of social conservatives works to bring these divisive subjects to the forefront as they have in the United States.

LINK to March 2012 Posts 

Link to February 2012 Posts

March 17, 2012   Rogers Communications: Deceptive Business Practice

Rogers is a big company, do they need to stoop to such
shoddy business practices?

Call Centre in Ohio

May 1, 2012 UPDATE: I spoke to a Rogers Outlet representative I know and he confirmed the following marketing practice is commonplace…

March 17, 2012 Comment

A few days back I was nearly caught short during a Rogers Communications Customer Satisfaction Survey being conducted by a Call Centre in Ohio. Although I don’t usually take these calls near dinner, I was in a bubbly mood so decided to let the woman ask away.

After a few questions about my degree of satisfaction with Rogers, she went on to ask if it was OK to check and see if any savings could be found in our account. Why not? She then spent considerable time (20 minutes or so) and I was feeling bad for taking up so much of her time trying to find so little in savings. She stated: “no problem, Rogers is here to provide you with the best service we can” or words to that effect.

We finally settled on $4.00 or $5.00 saving (combined both phones in our family plan) and the deal was struck.  Not quite, I was passed along to the ‘call clincher’ (Mike, I believe) who went over the details. We had almost finished when he said something that piqued my interest (about the ‘contract’). On probing, I found by accepting the “deal” my contract was being extended to 36 months. This was never explicitly mentioned at any point in either conversation and I was not told until I point blank asked the question.

I explained that I was very sensitive about again being ‘locked in’ as I was burned on a 36 month contract with another carrier and did not well served on my original Rogers three year “deal”.  Then the bomb shell.  I thought I was currently on a “month to month” plan but the supervisor told me ‘no”, I had locked to a “36 month” plan some 18 months earlier.  I knew immediately what had happened – it was a similar call I received Rogers some 18 months back.

Was I livid? You bet. I asked how much to cancel the contract for both phones immediately. The answer:  “$700 per phone”. Unbelievable! The whole purpose of this 30 minute call became crystal clear, it was to have me make a slight change in the contract with the goal of locking us into a further 36 months. Such a deceptive process for a major company dedicated to providing top notch service.

Customer Service in Vancouver, BC

After numerous tries, I was able to contact a Rogers Representative (Desmond) in Vancouver, who as much as stated the Call Centre should have more clearly stated the purpose of the call, but, unfortunately, there nothing much he could do.

Over the course of our conversation, I even suggested that he might do a little something (like clear off that existing contract that was obtained by a very devious means) as s show of good faith. He said he could not do tha, but he could offer me a couple of 10 cent LD perks. So much for customer service.

If you have had a similar call from Rogers, please let me know as  I will be sending a written complaint to Rogers and the CRTC in addition to making this post.

Please feel free to repost the link if you wish.  The type of call I received is likely repeated many times across the Rogers Network every day.

This item is also posted in the Editorial Section of the blog.

Harold
March, 2012

Note: One further point about the calls – each was preceded with warning “this call is being recorded for training purposes”.  Really? I bet it was being recorded so they could show that somewhere in that 30 minutes exchanged of words, the customer (me) was given some kind of statement about ‘the new contract period’ being the purpose of the call.  I doubt it, but if it was stated, it was well covered in other words.

March 16, 2012   Halal or Kosher Meat, New York Dressed Turkey, No Meat on Friday and other Sacred Cows. Another Kafuffle…

A furor has erupted in the Quebec National Assembly over whether meat should be labelled as “Halal” killed.  The issue was not raised as a means to help Islamists remain true to their belief, it was being raised so that others would not ‘unwittingly consume meat slaughtered according to an Islamic rite.”  (National Post, link in footer)

Almost every belief system have food restrictions, a few of which is listed the title. Do those restrictions hurt others who do not subscribe to a particular belief? Of course not. Simple respect for others suggests we let some things pass without comment.

Some might not like the way a few animals are killed (I could never “New York” kill a turkey, or “Halal” kill a cow), but dad killed his pigs quickly by cutting their throats or stunned cows by hitting them in the head with a sledge hammer. For old horses, he shot them and the ground them into mink feed. It was a way of life. I did not like to watch, but I loved the food (bacon, ham, roast, steaks, etc.). Before their death, dad treated each animal with loving care and each had plenty of food, water, shelter and dry beds in which to sleep. Those animals lead a far better life than many (most) that are scheduled for the slaughter house today.

If people suggest animals slaughtered for human consumption should only be killed by some special means, I suggest they take a little time to travel to cattle feed lot (several near Kamloops) or a pig farm in Alberta, or a poultry farm in the Fraser Valley.

Photo (from web): The feedlots in Kamloops are not this large, but just imagine cattle up their knees in much an manure as they were in Kamloops. I have several pictures but cannot locate at the moment.

Many of the animals and birds in the commercial operations are being raised for many months, sometimes years, in abysmal conditions. Being killed by whatever means that is quick, is likely a blessing as it will put a quick end to lifetime of misery. Most of us do not worry much about this as the steak and other cuts in the meat department is nicely wrapped.

Make no mistake, this whole kafuffle is about intolerance (more to the point ‘racism’) not about a chunk of meat that came from an animal being killed in a certain way.

Reference: National Post: Speak French, hold the halal. Ignorance and intolerance drive Quebec food flap.

 

March 15, 2012   “Who Watches the Watchmen?”  The passing of Bill C10, the Crime Omnibus Bill

Father Raymond DeSouza and I are seldom on the same page with many of our opinions, however this morning we share a common concern regarding Bill C-10 which has now become law.  I have often editorialized on the subject in other post so will not expand further at this point beyond quoting the final three paragraphs of Father DeSouza’s article:

“Therein perhaps lies an answer. The Conservative government, while quick to see bureaucratic abuses of power in the gun registry, the wheat board, and the refugee claims system, seems unable to imagine that the bureaucracy that wears gowns and carries guns is, despite how much we esteem it, still an instrument of the bureaucratic state.

There really isn’t very much “omni” in the omnibus crime bill. It’s about one thing — harsher punishments. It does nothing to alleviate the disgusting pre-trial (pre-trial!) conditions of remand that prevail in too many jails. It does nothing to mitigate the crisis in legal aid. It does nothing to lessen the likelihood of wrongful convictions. As Chief McFee notes, it does nothing for prevention.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards themselves? Who watches the watchmen? That’s the ancient maxim. The crime bill shows that those guarding the guards are not on duty.” 

For the full DeSouza article: LINK HERE

Montreal Gazette article provides an excellent outline of how Quebec is working to temper the effects of the crime bill:  LINK HERE

Full Comment on Bill C-10:  Crime and Punishment

Comments: March 1 as well as many comment in February and full articles in the Editorial Section. Link to February 2012 Posts

Plus several editiorials on the erosion of our Civil Liberties. Go to February 29 for comments and links in the footer of that post.

March 14, 2012  Afghanistan: A few burned Koran’s, a crazed murder on a rampage and it will all come to an ignominious end.

With Canada nearly gone and the United States preparing to beat a hasty retreat, what has been accomplished?  Thousands upon thousands of innocent Afghans killed, hundreds of dedicated, caring Canadian, US and soldiers from other countries having given their lives for a worthwhile, yet hopeless cause – it is all for naught.  The history of the English, Russians and others who have attempted to tame that wild land known as Afghanistan is one filled with heartbreak, with each invasion a miserable, costly failure.

Photo (Web) Demonstrators burn US Flag after the burning of the Koran.

Pulling the troops after all these years of hard fighting will have no more lasting effect than that left after pulling one’s finger from a bucket of water. Nothing.

Women and girls will continue to be brutalized and every person that does not tow the party line will be killed in a system that is controlled by religious zealots wherein the lords of war and repression control the country. While it is desperately unfair the Afghan people should be left to suffer under these brutal despots who use religion to justify every brutal action, not one outside nation over the past 2000 years has been able to change that condition.

Change, if it is to come, must first be demonstrated in dramatic fashion by the people who live under a repressive régime and who are willing to die for their freedom as they have done in Libya and Egypt and are presently trying to do in Syria and other nations of the world. Perhaps the point will come when the Syrians will have reached a critical mass where others can move in help but clearly that point has not yet been reached as there are still G7 nations unwilling to assist.

The United States should well understand the principle of the need for the people to rise against oppression, for they fought that very war against the British and, in the last century, joined the rest of the world in helping to defeat a brutal Nazi regime, then an expansionist Japan, after much of the world rose in rebellion against the tryanny being spread by those nations and their allies.

Thank goodness the current US President understands the lessons of history, or the US would now be mired in an endless war in Libya, Egypt, Syria and, perhaps, an even more widespread conflagration in the Middle East. Whenever the US has tried to unilaterally force the will of their country upon the world without first waiting for others around the world to take the lead, has ended in dismal failure has it did in Viet Nam and a dozen other locations over the past century.

Every caring country needs to be prepared for war, intervention and peackeeping, but war must be the very last resort and it must be lead by the countries under threat.

Note on the cost of Viet Nam War: 2 million Asian lives lost, 58,000 American lives lost, $220 billion spend, 10 million Americans air-lifted to Viet Nam by commercial aircraft, 5,000 helicopters lost, 6.5 million tons of bombs dropped. The war was lost.

March 12, 2012  BC Hydro Smart Meters Program: Email to BC Hydro

Dear B.C. Hydro,

I have been anxiously awaiting the installation of the new ‘smart meter’ for over two months.

A few weeks back, a representative from a contract company came around but looked at the meter box and said he could not install because he did not have a tool to take the cover off the meter box (it had a small glass cover).  He said a BC Hydro employee would have to do the job.

A few weeks after that, a BC Hyrdo employee came around but he said he was to big to crawl under the deck to replace and, besides, he did not have a tool to take the cover over off the box.  He left and said someone would be in touch.  I have heard nothing even though I phoned a couple of times to see if they had a smaller man.

Now in my early seventies, I am 6’0″, 200 lbs., and suffering from a few stiff joints. I crawled under the deck with a small screwdriver in hand, gently pryed the cover off the meter box and set it aside to assist BC Hyrdro with the challenging task.

Without becoming too sarcastic, and in the face of much criticism about the ‘smart meter’ program, perhaps my meter will not get installed because no one is smart enough to figure out how to do the job.

If you send over a supervisor (by appointment), I can crawl under the deck and replace the meter under his or her watchful eye.

Regards,
Harold McNeill

March 10, 2012   Very few Timbits this week as I have been working on other posts to assist Lynn with her Travel Destination Folder.

Over the next couple of weeks as we prepare to leave for Eastern Europe, Timbits may be in short supply unless there is some issue that really jerks my chain.  Cheers,  Harold

March 7, 2012   The Wheels continue to fall off the Missing Women’s Inquiry

As reported on January 26 Timbits, and in various posts concerning the lawyerly shield being built around the police, being a difficult challenge to handle, is again demonstrated this week. While I have no doubt Wally Opel, the Inquiry Commissioner, is a good and honourable man, he has been given an impossible task.

With dozens of laywers representing Vancouver PD, the RCMP and individual police officers, it will be impossible to crack the protective shield that surrounds the police and their agencies.  Many public inquiries in the past that attempted to investigate why the police, in instances such as Missing Women’s case, seemed unable or unwilling to have done better job, have met with the same fate.

Today, Robyn Gervais, one of the few lawyers representing interests of the Missing Women and the Aboriginal Community, quit in disgust. Having followed this inquiry from the beginning, I cannot imagine how that young woman, a rather new and inexperienced lawyer, could be expected to break through the shell of 25-30 highly experienced lawyers that have been hired to protect the system.

For further details link to Lawyer quits women’s inquiry

March 3, 2012   Russian Connection to the Conservative Robocall Scandal

I had not realized until opening the Glode and Mail on the week-end the connection between the upcoming Russian election and the Robocall scandal that spread across Canada before the last election.  Following that it did not take a lot research to find an article that helped to connect the dots. See the Toronto Edition of (La Presse Canadienne:

It seems that it was a brother of Vladimir Poutine (French for Putin) one Pierrre Poutine, who helped implement the Robocall system in Guelph as an attempt to influence the election outcome. The system soon spread across the country and, given the election results, it appears to have helped to tip the balance in favour of the Conservatives.

Cartoon (La Presse Canadienne. Toronto): Le cabinet du premier ministre a nié lundi que Stephen Harper puisse affronter Vladimir Poutine sur une patinoire L’arctique. (translation below) 

From reports coming in from Russia, it seems the same skillful and manipulative hands will assist in helping Vladimir coast to victory in the upcoming Presidential elections.

As is the case in Canada, Vladimir has insisted everything in the Russian election is above board and that any interference with or manipulation of the electoral system, was not arranged by him or any of his party supporters.  I think it is only fair to take him at his word and we should just let the matter drop as did the Democrat’s in Florida during the 2000 election that ended up giving Bush and the Republicans an election win. You might remember the case of those ‘dimpled ballots’.

We can now only hope that in the upcoming faceoff between Harper and Poutine over Arctic issues, that Harper will not drop the puck.  Perhaps having helped Poutine with a few election issues will tip the rink in Harper’s favour.

Le Presse Translation: “The cabinet of the prime minister has denied Monday that Stephen Harper will face Vladimir Putin on an ice-rink in the Arctic.

March 2, 2012    Southeast Asia: A Magical Journey

Once having shed the shackles of a ‘modern-day’ twenty-year war that included carpet bombing, agent orange, a testing ground for a whole new arsenal of US Military weapons and during which up to 2.5 million civilians, 315,000 Vietnamese, Cambodians and others, along with 60,000 US Military personnel were killed, it is hard to imagine these were the same countries we so easily visit today.

As with the amazing transformation of Europe in the decades following the devastation created during World War II, Southeast Asia has realized a similar transformation in the decades following the Viet Nam War which officially ended on April 29th, 1975, when that last Air America helicopter plucked a final load of desperate individuals from the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon (photo left).

In researching this travel article, I again came to realize just how many vastly different places there are to travel around the globe and how the people, cultures, landscapes and architecture creates new beauty at every turn.

That we in Canada have escaped being ground zero in a full scale war is more than sufficient reason to pause and give thanks.

Join the full story of Southeast Asia in the McNeill Life Stories Travelogue, join at:  Southeast Asia: A Magical Journey

March 1, 2012 Hugo, a movie well worth attending

On the recommendation of friends Garth and Esther Dunn, Lynn and I trotted out for our semi-regular Friday Night Dinner and Movie Date but instead of Friday we headed out Thursday to the Academy Award Winner Hugo.

The movie did not disappoint as the mixture of fantasy, reality, young, old, love, tragedy and the evolution of life, was juxtaposed with award winning sound, cinematography and visual effects that left us captivated from the opening scenes to the very end of the 127 minute production.

The only part we both still have trouble adjusting to is the 3D effects, although in this movie I think most would appreciate the stunning visual impact.

From a book Hugo Cabret, four thumbs up (with Garth and Esther that makes eight) to Marten Scorsese (another hit), Asa Butterfield (photo above) and Chloe Moretz (two kids in their early teens facing off against adults), Ben Kingsley (a convincing old man who felt his life’s work had been lost in a sea of change), Sacha Cohen (actually very well acted by Cohen who is cast in a more serious and touching role) as well as a host of others.  Oscar wins: Cinematography, Art Direction, Sound Direction, Sound Mix, and Visual Effects.

We would be very interested in hearing what a child, say the age of our Grandson Grayson (5), might think of this movie. We think he might be at the same time scared and captivated. With this post you already now know what one older guy (yes, that would be me – move over Ben Kingsley), as well as three youngsters in the throes of their tumultuous 50s think.

March 1, 2012  10:30 am – Will ‘mandatory minimum’ sentences help educate low level drug users and small time criminals? A former Correctional Services Minister from Ontario says “yes”.

I just listened to a CBC Radio Morning discussion featuring Robert Sampson, a former Ontario Conservative Correctional Services Minister and Eric Sterling, spokesperson for LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). The men were debating whether Mandatory Minimums for being proposed for certain ‘victimless’ crimes in Canada were necessary. In online posts some have taken exception to an ‘outsider’ speaking on a Canadian judicial issue.

Sterling strongly advised Canada to rethink whether mandatory minimum legislation was needed for low level offences. His rationale was based on the disastrous results experienced by the USA in the three decades since his country began walking down that path in the late 1970s.

Sampson, who was the architect of the Ontario ill-fated venture into privately run prisons, defended the proposed legislation as being (rough quote) “the path towards giving low level offenders a sufficiently long (mandatory) sentence that would enable them to complete their Grade 12 education or a trade such as carpentry…”   Sampson felt short sentences and probation did not provide any opportunity to retrain and redirect offenders.

Photo: Make no mistake, a mandatory minimum sentence means prison (period). It is not a free ride to a High School Diploma or trade certification. Besides, I do not think Law and Order enthusiasts would stand for tax dollars being used to buy text books or the tools needed to teach a trade, nor the other services needed in order to help move prisoners toward the chances of a better life. Better to maintain a philosophy of ‘lock’em up, keep’em in longer and forget’em!’ 

Having listed to Mr. Sampson for 20 minutes as he sought to justify the legislation, it was as if he had lived his entire life inside a cardboard box, never read a book, never looked at a statistic and never set foot inside a minimum or maximum security prison.

For his part, Eric Sterling barely had to say anything to justify his warning to Canada, as all he had to do was let Mr. Sampson founder around attempting to justify the legislation as being progressive and forward thinking. Sampson’s statements could not help but leave those who were listening stunned by his lack of knowledge, not only about the effects the prison system has (particularly on young), but also his absolute belief that prison is a fine way to educate, retrain and nurture recalcitrant young people away from a life of crime. If Sampson is an example of the thinking in Ottawa on this subject, we are all in serious trouble.   

Over my thirty years of policing I went inside many prisons to interview inmates and, in my view, it is not a place that rehabilitates in any way, shape or form.  I truly thought the Conservatives, facing such a strong outpouring of public opposition to aspects of the Bill C-10, would have backed off at least a bit. As this Bill now comes closer to final approval, I am no longer so confident that will happen. Oh well, as I have stated in other posts, ” ‘give’em’ enough rope…”

Link to February 2012 Posts

February 29, 2012   Bill S-7, another Dangerous Bill to amend the Criminal Code, is back on the table

2012 Update to the Martin Niemoller quote below: “Since 2001, they began to chip away at civil liberties by makng changes aimed at ‘certain’ minorities in our society…I didn’t speak out because I was not one of those minorities.”

Over the past few days the ‘Robocall’ incident has dominated the news. Today, the National Post devoted a full 2.5 pages to the subject as they worked to play down the story suggesting it was all a tempest in a teapot. A few days earlier the same paper devoted only a few column inches on page 5, about the Conservatives resurrecting Bill S-7. I do not recall any radio or TV reports on the S-7 subject.  What then is Bill S-7 and why do I, a retired police officer, express concern?

In short, S-7 is a “Terrorism” related Bill that amends the Criminal Code, Canada Evidence Act and the Security Information Act in a manner that extinguishes many long standing rights held by Canadians.  The bill was first passed in 2001 after the World Trade Centre attacks as an “Emergency Measure”.

It expired (as was intended by Parliament when first passed) in 2007. The Conservatives attempted to resurrect the Bill during their minority years, but were soundly pushed back by an opposition that felt any perceived need had long since passed. The opposition no longer holds the ability to push back. Only the media and public now hold that power.

The Bill on the table provides, among other things, for ‘secret’ hearings in which individuals could be forced to to answer questions even if they have not been charged with or committed an offence. Charges such as “attempting” to leave the country to attend a ‘terrorist’ camp could result in a 10 year jail term. Even ‘refusal’ to answer a question could lead to a year in jail. How words such as ‘terrorist’ might be defined is open to endless questions. What we do know is these things will now be defined in secret by police and courts. Hearings will be held in secret and ‘access to information’ will be virtually impossible.

For the many centuries, democracies have been refining the Rule of Law in a manner that balances the rights of an individuals  against unwarranted intrusions by the state.  In Canada the Criminal Code, Canada Evidence Act, other Statutes and Case Law have worked well as the mechanisms that provide the balance. Since 2001, many of those rights have been extinguished, all in the name of combating ‘terrorism’.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson had this to say: “Terrorism will continue to be a threat into the foersseable future. The government needs to provide law enforcement with the means to anticipate and respond effectively to terrorism.”

I ask the Justice Minister: “In Canada today to which acts of terrorism do you refer? Please name just one recent case you think is sufficient to extinguish the rights of Canadians as guaranteed under the Charter and as previously protected in the Criminal Code, Canada Evidence Act and related statutes.”

A short quote from early in the last World War speaking to the dangers of apathy towards what happens in the political realm. The words are as meaningful today as they were in the last century:

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  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.