Friday, May 29, 2009

Teen Rugby Manslaughter Conviction

Two years ago, at a rugby game in Mississauga, a fifteen-year-old boy died after a 'behind the play' incident with an opposing player.

The incident reminds me of two moments in all of my sports where my temper was flaring and I might have hurt someone.

The first was in a hockey game. Another player was doing something to irritate me, I don't recall what. I turned around to give him a little slash, and my stick got higher than I intended. It clipped him in the head. The play looked dirty, but I'd intended to get him in the arm. It wasn't a Chris Simon type Tomahawk full on swing, and even if the player wasn't wearing a helmet the worst he would have gotten was a bruise, but it goes to show how a slight act of aggression can go wrong.

The second incident occurred in front of the net in a ball hockey game. I was jostling for position and things got rough. I picked up the opposing player by the shorts. In that moment he was at my mercy. I could have pushed only a tiny bit and sent him crashing backwards onto his head. But I realized that. My intention to rough him up didn't include seriously hurting him, and I let go. After the game, he mentioned that he was terrified in that moment, off balance and in danger, and I'd relented and even helped him stay balanced.

I look upon this unfortunate rugby incident in both lights. It's a situation that occurs daily in sports, with the result 99.9999% of the time no major damage. There are a few nuts out there. Guys who don't have the self control to stop themselves when an opposing player is at their mercy. This young man could be one of those people. Then again, he could just be a guy who got caught up in a moment and the result caused a tragic death.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is South Africa following Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe declined gradually. It wasn't an overnight disintegration. Initially there was hope. They were economically powerful and a country with regional and international significance.

Then came signs. Issues that made people shake their heads: The Matabele tragedy; the mistreatment of white farmers; the quelling of opposition. Yet all the while, hope still held strong that the sound fundamentals of the country would keep it afloat.

Now it's a mess. Cholera, starvation, corruption, intimidation. The gradual incremental signs have snowballed until the breadbasket became a basket case.

Now, those same signs are growing more prevalent in South Africa.

Signs have been about for some time. One of the strongest early symbols of South African political degeneration came at the highest levels of government with Mbeki's ignorant early response to the AIDS pandemic.

Years later, Zuma took it to a new level with his alleged rape of an HIV infected family friend, and how he showered afterwards to protect himself against the virus.

But the scary signs continue in other ways.

A year ago, a xenophobic outburst saw 60 foreigners killed and numerous others raped, beaten and tortured. Yet there hasn't been a single arrest.

Recently, the Sowetan newspaper quoted opposition leader Ms Zille as saying: "Zuma is a self-confessed womaniser with deeply sexist views, who put all his wives at risk by having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman."

In response to this "true" statement, Ms Zille has been accused of being racist. The ANC Youth League (could this be scarily familiar to the Zimbabwe war veterans) then released a statement threatening to take militant action against Ms Zille if she continued to talk "hogwash".

The league said it was "disgusted by remarks attributed to the racist girl Helen Zille, who when failing to defend her stupid and sexist decision to appoint predominantly white males into her Cabinet, attacks the president".

While the words didn't come from Zuma himself, time will tell how he handles the criticism of a robust democracy. Opposition by nature criticizes the government for their shortcomings. Will Zuma accept the criticism and govern well? Or will he be more like Mugabe, squashing the opposition and becoming increasingly tyrannical?

Many people around the world have the same misgivings over President Zuma's record of sexual conduct. Even if he was innocent of rape, his polygamist attitudes and indifference toward AIDS was startling. The only good news is that it's too early to tell which path he will follow.

Time will tell. In the meantime, we'll do what we always do, keep hoping.

Reasons behind Canada's record deficit.

Fifty billion dollars equals about $1,500 per Canadian.

That's $6000 for a family of four.

So, why exactly is Canada going into such a huge deficit?

Here are three reasons.

The primary reason is lower taxes received due to capital losses replacing capital gains. If the average Canadian loses $5000 on the markets instead of making that much, that's a $10,000 loss to potential taxable income per Canadian.

A second reason is higher unemployment. More unemployment means more money paid out in EI benefits and less taken in.

The third contributing factor is poor taxation to compensate for the lower capital gains. The GST, instead of being dropped to 5%, should have been raised to 10% in order to shield us from out of control deficits. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out income taxes will be down significantly this year. Apparently, Canada's current government didn't figure this out.

While a hike to 10% GST would have been unpopular, in fact it would have reversed a promise of the the Conservatives, it would have been their smartest economic decision.

In the best of years, Canada ran a $15 billion dollar surplus. That was during record oil prices and huge revenues from the oil sands. More typically, a good year might be around $6 billion.

In other words, it will take either ten years of constant economic prosperity and the resulting budget surpluses to pay off the 2009 budget deficit. Either that, or it will take ten years of 10% GST.

Estimates vary, but a reliable number pegs Canada's Federal debt at around half a trillion dollars. So, if a good year yields a 6 billion dollar surplus, we're looking at 90 years worth of good budget surpluses before we can pay off our current debt.

The problem with debt is that it spirals. A point is reached where, even in a good year of taxation, all of the taxes go to servicing the interest on the debt.

In the US, their national debt sits at around 12 trillion dollars. That's $30,000 per US citizen, and $120,000 for a family of four.

If, at the modestly low interest rate of 2.5%, the average tax per household would be over $3000 just to service that debt. If interest rates go up to 5%, that doubles, etc.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Political Scandal Week and Flashing Lights Syndrome

I've got something important to do. I scuttle down the street, focused only on the task at hand, and, whoa, FLASHING LIGHTS!

What do they mean? Why are they there? I gotta check them out! What was that task I was doing again? Oh, never mind, FLASHING LIGHTS!

It's sometimes surprising how easily our attention is drawn away from important issues. This week, one political scandal is topping the next, but are some concocted in order to distract the attention of the masses from more serious issues.

A former PM, and a conservative at that, is under the corruption gun. There's something very fishy about Mulroney accepting wads of cash from an international shadester only months after he left office. I'm curious to know....

Holy crap, another Conservative is under the gun. Names are named, some prominent conservatives playing influence peddling games. Whoa, the conservatives are in for a bout of bad press just when the opposition has overtaken them in popularity.

BUT WAIT! A Super Hot Liberal MP mistreats her maids! CAT FIGHT, CAT FIGHT!

It's those flashing lights again, sucking the media into a distraction, and us, the population follows.

In reality, it's little more than a labour dispute between a prominent figure and her family's caregivers. But we better have a full parliamentary inquiry. Something has to distract the masses from the alleged corruption running through the party in power. What better to do that than throw in some sex appeal and blow it out of proportion?

Would we be as enthralled if the lower profile John Cannis was under the nanny gun? I think not.