Archive for December 7th, 2008

Odetta gone at 77

December 7, 2008

Odetta, one of the great voices of our time died earlier this month.

I first heard her voice on ‘Rawhide’, Max Feguson‘s CBC radio show during the mid-1950s. Feguson, always in character as his host, old Rawhide, featured an eclectic variety of music and performers and Odetta was only one of many talents that he showcased.

One thing that has always stayed in my memory was one Christmas season when Ferguson played a recording of Odetta singing Silent Night. It was a gorgeous rendition of the old Christmas carol. The following week he received a letter, which he read on air, from a woman complaining about playing that most holy of carols sung by ‘that woman’. The letter writer never said just what it was that offended her, but I could only assume that it was because because Odetta was a black woman and somehow that should have disqualified her from singing Silent Night, or at least having it played on the airwaves.

What I do remember is Ferguson sounding uncomfortable and embarrassed, not by being taken to task for his song selection, but by the abysmal ignorance of the woman writing the letter.

Because of the genre of her music, Odetta never became a household name. But that really isn’t important. She left an amazing legacy and it is unlikely that we will ever again hear a voice with her power, emotion and soul.

Indeed, in my opinion, she truly deserves the title of First Lady of Soul.


The high price of flatulance

December 7, 2008

This proposal is so stupid that one would expect that it must be coming from Britain. But no, it is emanating from the U.S. federal government, or more specifically their Environmental Protection Agency.

In a bizarre proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA is suggesting a tax on cows and pigs and other agricultural animals that belch and flatulate and thus add to greenhouse gas emissions.

It would require farms or ranches with more than 25 dairy cows, 50 beef cattle or 200 hogs to pay an annual fee of about $175 for each dairy cow, $87.50 per head of beef cattle and $20 for each hog.

The executive vice president of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Ken Hamilton, estimated the fee would cost owners of a modest-sized cattle ranch $30,000 to $40,000 a year. He said he has talked to a number of livestock owners about the proposals, and “all have said if the fees were carried out, it would bankrupt them.”

Sparks said Wednesday he’s worried the fee could be extended to chickens and other farm animals and cause more meat to be imported.

It is difficult for me to read the EPA proposal without thinking that there must be an agent provocateur for the animal-rights movement within the EPA.

Whether they have their fingers in the mix or not, the AR people are certainly in favour of the proposal.

“It makes perfect sense if you are looking for ways to cut down on meat consumption and recoup environmental losses,” said Bruce Friedrich, a spokesman in Washington for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“We certainly support making factory farms pay their fair share,” he said.

It would no doubt advance the AR agenda against meat by driving up the cost of meat to the consumer.

It is hard to believe that a proposal like this could ever be written into law. But sillier things have been pushed forward by bureaucracies and have found their way into legislation. The danger is that it is so silly, should it somehow proceed, the public (other than those directly affected) won’t pay any attention  to the threat, thinking that no one would be stupid enough to pass it into legislation.

That has been proven on numerous occasions to be a fallacy.

Whether or not the EPA has “taken a position” on this proposal , it needs to be killed. Not just filed away for another day, but removed from their computers, hard copies shredded, and the person(s) who came up with the idea reverted back to fetching coffee for the rational policy makers.

To solve a problem – ban something

December 7, 2008

Whenever we hear a politician, such as Toronto’s Mayor David Miller, going into his spiel about banning guns we immediately assume that he and others like him are working on a personal anti-gun philosophy. That is certainly true with many of them and may be true in Miller’s case as well. But when you look at the track record of all too many politicians, you begin to see a pattern of legislating bans in order to send a message to gullible voters that they are actively doing something to solve some – either real or perceived – problem.

They have done, and continue to do it with guns, they keep talking about it with knives, and now it has been demonstrated once again by the Manitoba provincial government which is drawing up regulations to restrict the sale of bear spray.

Why? Because it has been used – I suspect mostly in the major centers like Winnipeg – in criminal activities .

So true to past history, it is the legitimate business and the legitimate user that pays the price for the misuse of a product by criminals.

The regulation will apply to all animal repellents that contain the active ingredient capsaicin including pepper spray, bear spray and dog spray. As of Jan. 1, all vendors will be required to:
· be licensed by the provincial government,
· keep accurate sales records and submit these documents to government on an annual basis,
· limit public access to these products, and
· pay a $50 annual licence fee.

I see nothing there that will stop criminals from obtaining the product. I do see something that will give the government a scapegoat when pepper spray continues to be used by criminals on top of added costs and increased paperwork to businesses.

The police have now been given the option of going after honest citizens – at least those that were honest citizens before the government’s new regulations – rather than the more difficult business of  actually apprehending career criminals.

And what will be the consequences to individuals and business?

Fines will be handed out for the following violations:
· selling animal repellents containing capsaicin without a licence;
· failing to comply with licence requirements (for example, storage, display, etc.); and
· failing to maintain appropriate records.
Fines for individuals will be $278 and $2,324 for incorporated entities. For more serious offences, prosecution may result in higher fines and/or jail time.

Regulations that will most certainly bring crime in Manitoba to its knees.

But in all seriousness, will these new, more stringent regulations inhibit the use of bear spray by criminals? According to this article, the police seem to think so.

“I truly believe that this regulation will make a difference and we will see a dramatic drop in the use of animal repellents for illegal purposes,” said police Supt. Gord Schumacher.

In the past two years, officers have responded to more than 700 bear-spray incidents, said Schumacher. He calls the restrictions a good first step and would like to see additional measures considered.

But then maybe not, as he considers the regulations to be just a “good first step”. Now where have we heard that phrase before?

Obviously Supt. Schumacher is not completely convinced the proposed regulation will really do the job, but he is happy to accept it now and add to it later. Again, a familiar scenario.

Will Manitoba’s new regulations drastically reduce the criminal use of pepper spray? That can be answered with another question.

Has the federal gun laws reduced the criminal use of firearms? Not according to Canadian crime statistics and the Federal Firearms Act is far more invasive and punitive. It is highly unlikely that Manitoba’s bear spray regulation will be any more successful.

The question is: Why would they expect the bear spray regulation to stop criminals from buying the product through the use of false ID, through the internet, from out of the province, or simply stealing it?

The answer is, if they have thought about it at all, that they know it won’t work, but they have no real solution to solving a crime problem. At least nothing as cheap and easy as writing up a new piece of legislation or a new regulation.