Saturday, April 26, 2008
Don't panic, but food prices are rising. Turns out that oil becoming an inelastic commodity, collapsing fish stocks, climate change affecting crop growth, and increased demand for food in China and India as they grow richer makes food more expensive! Who could have foreseen this happening? Oh, right, lots of people.
Speaking of oil becoming an inelastic commodity, gas prices are going to skyrocket this summer and continue climbing for the foreseeable future. You ask how this could happen. WELL MAYBE BECAUSE OIL IS A FINITE RESOURCE.
The Blue Jays have no lost 5 straight and 8 out of their last 10 games. They are now sitting in last place in the AL East. Now they can still turn the season around to a certain extent but at best it will be another .500 season and now better than 3rd place. This will be something like 15 years without making the playoffs.
But there are good reasons for the continuous string of frustrating seasons. GM J.P. Ricciardi came to Toronto with a strategy for building a winner but after now in his 7th season, he has long abandoned that strategy and there appears to be no replacement. Last season broken down discount pitchers were brought in and they all were gone before long; replaced by decent young arms from the farm. The hitters were deemed good enough so when the hitting failed the batting coach was the fall guy. But at least the defense was good. So this season, hustling Reed Johnson was sent packing with his excellent glove and replaced with a fading Shannon Stewart who is a defensive liability. Stewart is hitting .229 and Johnson is hitting a sizzling .331 for the Cubs. The dazzling John Macdonald was parked on the bench in favour of an only adequate David Eckstein.
Adding to the muddle is the Frank Thomas mess. Last weekend they announced that Frank Thomas—the team's best slugger, #18 on baseball's all-time home run list and a surefire first-ballot hall-of-famer—was no longer their everyday designated hitter. Twenty-four hours later, after Thomas predictably raised a stink over the issue, he was given his walking papers. Oh do they have a replacement for their #4 hitter? No.
Demoting Thomas—let alone getting rid of him—was a strange move. The slugger's early-season "woes" were well-documented in the local media, which frequently cited his .167 batting average. We've got two problems with this. One, batting average is an overrated and outmoded statistic; two, Thomas had a whopping sixty at-bats when he was benched, which isn't even close to being a big enough sample size to justify the Blue Jays' actions. The logical verdict, then, is that the team simply wanted to jettison Frank Thomas—or, more accurately, Thomas and his hefty contract. If Thomas had reached 376 plate appearances for the club this season (which would've been likely), the Blue Jays would've owed him $10-million next year. Clearly, they thought $10-million for a forty-year-old slugger was excessive...which is fine, except it doesn't explain why they offered him all that money in the first place.
So if anyone can figure out how J.P. is going to overtake the Red Sox and Yankees, please fill me in. I have no clue.
Holy Crap! Subways, streetcars and buses were being taken out of service late Friday night after the TTC workers union overwhelmingly rejected a tentative contract settlement reached last Sunday.
The Globe and Mail broke the news at 10:22 p.m., reporting that service would stop at midnight, and pointing to the union's chaotic Wednesday meeting as the beginning of the TTC's end.
So you may ask what happened to the 48 hour notice we were promised.
Bob Kinnear, president of TTC employees' union (Local 113, of the Amalgamated Transit Union) said in the union's release that: "We have assessed the situation and decided that we will not expose our members to the dangers of assaults from angry and irrational members of the public....The reports from our members of increases in threats and abuse from passengers last weekend, after we gave our original 48-hours' notice, has left us no choice but to withdraw our services immediately. We have a legal responsibility to protect the safety of our members and so does the TTC."
Friday, April 25, 2008
The recent revelation by Toronto Police of an interview with PAul Bernardo two years ago is chilling. The sadistic rapist and serial killer suggests that he is rehabilitated and plans to apply for parole under the "faint hope" provisions of the Criminal Code that permit convicted murderers to ask for earlier parole eligibility than the mandatory 25 years they must serve in prison before seeking release.
The Criminal Code was amended in 1997, partly as a result of Bernardo's crimes, to prohibit multiple killers from applying under the faint hope provisions. The amendments are not retroactive and Bernardo can apply because he has been in prison for more than 15 years, since his arrest in February 1993.
"If I decide to step away from the hatred of it all I'm going to spend the rest of my life in prison and die even though I am rehabilitated," said Bernardo. "I'm going to throw it to a jury of my peers, throw it to the Canadian people. You know I can't change the past, you know all I can do is change myself and I tried to do that, I tried to do the right thing before Karla [Homolka, his former wife] was let go."
The thought of Bernardo walking free is shocking and revolting, It can never happen.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
At Advertising is Good For You: 20 names of actual portable toilet companies.
- Happy Can Portable Toilets, Atlanta, GA
- Drop Zone Portable Service Inc., Frankfort, Ill.
- Blackmas Best Seat In The House Inc., Bradley, Ill.
- Plop Jon Inc., Port Saint Lucie, Fla.
- A.S.A.P. Port-A-Pots Inc., Hampstead, Md.
- Ameri-Can Engineering, Argos, Ind.
- Bobby's Pottys, Joppa, Md.
- Johnny On The Spot Inc., Old Bridge, N.J.
- LepreCAN Portable Restrooms, Chicago
- Loader-Up, Inc., Sarasota, Fla.
- Mister Bob's Portable Toilets, Vero Beach, Fla.
- Royal Throne, Washington, D.C.
- Tanks Alot, Tomball, Tex.
- Pee Pee Inc, Roseville, Mich.
- Wizards of Ooze Ltd., Anacortes, Wash.
- Oui Oui Enterprises Ltd., Chicago
- Gotta Go Potties, Tobyhanna, Pa.
- UrinBiz.com, Chicago
- Willy Make It? Oregon City, Oregon
- Doodie Calls, New Orleans
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
On June 7, 2007, police interviewed Paul Bernardo at Kingston Penitentiary and asked him about Elizabeth Bain. The transcript was published in the Toronto Star:
Police: Um, did you kill Elizabeth Bain on June 19, 1990?
Bernardo: Well that's a loaded question. I mean, are we going to go back and go through the time sequence of what happened in my life. I mean I could just give a yes or no answer. But you know, there are a lot of issues about that.
Bernardo: You know, Karla's and my role. Who did what, when, why – you guys, you know, go down there to get a polygraph to get to see if she's telling the truth. Why didn't they do it in the first place? ... why would he make a deal with someone and not give them a polygraph? It's incomprehensible. You know, because ... my file says her version and it's a lie. ... I'm not making frivolous points here. And now, you're asking me, after Peel Regional says I'm lying about this and now you're saying I'm lying about my profile. ... and now you're saying hey, did you kill this person? I mean if you're saying I'm lying here, here and here. I could say no, I didn't, but, I mean you already said I'm lying here with the Peel. You say ...
Police: I'm not saying anything about who's lying. I'm simply ...
Bernardo: And I've given you directions to go to find the truth and no one has done that.
Police: Right. And again I've told you that I've done the investigation from what information you've told me and ... I've been able to verify in my mind where you've told me the truth. So if Peel Region is lying about you or someone else is lying about you, I have no control over that or (inaudible).
Bernardo: It goes right to credibility.
Police: Well, absolutely. ... I hope to be able to go through some timelines here and identify where you were, what you were doing specifically in relation to this case.
Bernardo: Anyways, I know I'm giving you guys a hard time but I mean really. I'm a human being. When you guys do all these things, I've gotta. I'll try to give you a little bit more but. Anyways the answer to that is no. But the 800-pound gorilla in a room – that's life-25 sentence, you know. It really comes down to credibility.
Bernardo: And not only credibility but then again timelines, what Karla's and my roles were respectively and this and that – the answer is no to that question.
Police: Did you have anything to do with her disappearance?
Police: Did you know Elizabeth Bain?
Bernardo: Not that I know of.
Police: Had you ever met her?
Bernardo: I'm going to answer that one with I don't remember. Because if I did, I don't remember. I know an ex-girlfriend, which I can think – but I don't know.
A Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2007 overturned a murder conviction in another case ruling that post-hypnosis evidence should be inadmissible because it was unreliable. It seems that two out of three key witnesses in the Baltovich case recalled key events in the first trial through hypnosis. The current trial judge ruled this evidence to also be admissable which left the Crown with little remaining evidence to use in the new trial. In the first trial the prosecution had no forensic evidence pointing to Baltovich and relied on proving he had motive and opportunity and that his behaviour after Bain's disappearance indicated guilt. Now they didn't even have that. So he walked.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Thieves stole a truck containing about $11,000 worth of broccoli from a parking lot near the 427 on the weekend. Police are warning residents to keep their delicious vegetables under lock and key, and to keep an eye out for some healthy, but gassy, bandits. Well we know it wasn't former U.S. President George Bush. He hated broccoli.
The question is whether this scandal will resonate with voters. The previous controversies made headlines for a few days but quickly faded from the minds of voters. An author claimed former MP
Chuck Cadman had been offered a $1 million insurance policy before he died if he would return to caucus for a crucial vote. The Liberals quickly dropped the issue after a week or so.
The government became embroiled in a heated confrontation with nuclear regulators over the Chalk River plant. Eventually a senior nuclear official was fired and the Conservatives are accused of being bullies. But that too died quickly.
The government sought an extension of the military mission in Afghanastan which was opposed by all opposition parties. However, the government hammered out a compromise that was accepted by the Liberals.
The Conservatives introduced immigration reforms that would significantly change current practice where all applicants are treated equally. The Liberals ferociously attack the plan then vote in favour.
It seems no issue or controversy is enough to motivate the Liberals to defeat the Conservatives. Likely because after an initial drop in popularity, the government quickly recovers. The other reason is Liberal leader Stephane Dion is just so weak he couldn't possibly win an election. And the voters know it too.
Jimmy Carter seems to take almost everything he’s told at face value — even in the Middle East, a wilderness of human deceit where nothing should be taken at face value.
So here we have Carter working on his own private diplomatic initiative in Syria — still the safe home of choice for many a harried terrorist. Carter met with Bashar Assad who assured Carter that they wanted peace with Israel “as soon as possible.”
Sure they do.
So what’s the holdup? Why, the United States and Israel, of course. Or so Carter was persuaded.
Carter also met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and — surprise! — found him to be a great guy as well. Not a fanatic at all, it turns out. Mashaal expressed appreciation to Carter for ignoring the world’s general condemnation of his organization. Mashaal called Carter a brave man.
The former president, in turn, assured the world that Hamas was prepared, under the right deal, to “accept the right of Israel to live as a neighbor next door in peace.”
The real problem, Carter indicated, was that the United States and Israel don’t want to talk to Hamas.
Within hours, Mashaal was undercutting this cheerful analysis of Hamas thinking. The organization, he said, would never recognize the Jewish state. And while Carter made a last-minute plea to Mashaal to halt rocket fire on Israel for a month, Hamas leaders made clear that they intended to do just the opposite by stepping up their attacks.And so Carter naively handed Hamas a propaganda victory, lending them some of his international prestige and receiving nothing in return.
An outpouring of Hab fans after their game-seven win over the Boston Bruins wrecked 16 police cruisers wrecked, including five that were set aflame. While 10 buildings and one civilian vehicle were also damaged, police acknowledged the bulk of the violence was directed at them. You just don't see that in Toronto.
Montreal has a history of bad behaviour following Canadiens victories. The last time the team won the Stanley Cup, in 1993, a riot errupted that damaged approximately 100 storefronts. That event had echoed the Habs' 1986 championship, which sent celebrants on a rampage down Ste-Catherine Street, causing $1-million in damage.
Below is a video of the ruckus last night.
Monday, April 21, 2008
The New York State Restaurant Association is still fighting a law that requires New York City chain restaurants to prominently display calorie information on all food and beverages, but the new rules go into effect today anyway, and some establishments – such as Starbucks, Subway, Chipotle, Auntie Anne’s, Jamba Juice and Chevys – are already complying.
Not playing ball are places like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Is it because, as the NYSRA argues, the new law violates their First Amendment rights? Or could their resistance have something to do with the fact that a restaurant like Taco Bell sells a Border Grande Taco Salad with Taco Beef which has 1,450 calories – almost 3/4 of the FDA’s recommended allowance of 2,000-calories per day.
The New York Post has an informative breakdown of some of the biggest high calorie items that fast food chains would just as soon keep to themselves. Any city restaurants with more than 15 locations nationwide now have six weeks to comply, after which they will be subject to fines of up to $2,000. In the meantime, the NYSRA is expected to appeal to a higher court.
The Health Department argues the new rules will prevent 150,000 New Yorkers from becoming obese and, over the next five years, they could save 30,000 people from developing diabetes and other health problems. And according to a Times editorial in favor of the rules, New Yorkers gained 10 million pounds over the last two years, disproportionately in poor and minority neighborhoods, where many of the 10 million chain-restaurant meals sold each month are consumed.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Bob Kinnear has announced that the TTC and its union have reached a tentative deal, allowing the TTC to continue service, as normal, for Monday. Kinnear, president of TTC employees' union (Local 113, of the Amalgamated Transit Union), will be recommending that the offer be ratified by the union's members over the next few days.
The union got most of what they asked for. As for TTC fares, expect them to go up later this year. So enjoy your commute Monday morning.
This just in from the WTF Department: Frank Thomas has been released by the Blue Jays. After benching him yesterday afternoon, the Jays handed The Big Hurt, his walking papers this morning. It was obvious that Thomas was not reacting very well to his benching and could have been a problem in the clubhouse.
Thomas' release is all about money. When he signed his two-year, $18 million deal with Toronto in 2006, it included a $10 million option for 2009 based on plate appearances. Frank was healthy last season and healthy so far this season, and was a lock to reach 376 plate appearances and guarantee that $10 million for next season.
The Jays will argue that the release is about production, not dollars. They have a point, although I'm not sure it's enough to convince me. Thomas is a notoriously slow starter. In 16 games, and 60 at-bats, Thomas was batting .167 with three home runs and 11 runs batted in. Eight of those ribbies came in the home-opening series against the Red Sox, when the Jays swept Boston out of town, large in part to Thomas. Other than that series, he's been a non-factor.
Thomas will be 40 years old on May 27. There have been rumours about his decline being permanent and age-induced. His bat speed has simply slowed down, and it's not coming back.
Still I'm not convinced the Jays did the right thing. Matt Stairs will be a good replacement but when The Big Hurt comes alive later this spring - look out! I wasn't crazy about picking Shannon Stewart over Reed Johnson. Stewart's batting .235 with only one extra base hit and four runs batted in. Johnson, on the other hand, is enjoying his new surroundings in Chicago, batting .349 with seven runs batted in.