Tag Archives: 2010 Olympics

Ebb and Flow of the Olympics

We’re nearing the end of the Olympics and this is partly what it’s been like on the streets: traffic has been far better than normal. There are fewer cars, even if going away from the downtown core, so either everyone is at the Olympics or they left town. Which means I’m not looking forward to Monday morning traffic, which will be heavy and chaotic.

This lack of car traffic has all translated into a feast of famine aspect for many merchandisers and restaurants in the city. There are so many people in the downtown core that even the street food vendors are making thousands to tens of thousands a day, and the restaurants have constant lines. Olympic related merchandise is selling but little else. Yet if you’re in the food and drink business you are truly making a killing.

On Commercial Drive near where I live, it’s a different story. On Tuesday night I walked up the street to have a drink at one of my regular spots, The Libra Room. I passed the Latin Quarter and thought it was closed. Not a soul inside except one person at the bar watching a TV screen, and he was most likely staff. A couple of the Italian restaurants were equally void of life. Only the Charlatan, a sports bar with several large screens, was busy because of the Olympic sports. The Libra Room had a few people but they were way down on patrons and I’ve never seen the owner looking so unhappy.

What this means in the long run is that there are a few places and people making a true killing downtown and business has gone down everywhere else. In total revenue for the city, it is probably higher than normal but not as high as one might think. And yet, everyone who has been going downtown says that it’s crazy but it’s fun and the energy is so positive. Some people have just gone to people-watch.

Although I hate crowds I was planning on going down tomorrow night but I’ve now injured myself at the gym so it might not be possible. And should I manage it, one friend lives downtown so we can take refuge when it gets too cold or wet or crowded.

This is also the end of February. Two years ago, come March, I started this blog and have tried to write five days a week except for when I was on holidays. I think it might be possible to run out of opinion on things but I’m not there yet. However, even though some of these pieces have less research than they would if I was employed to write them, they still take time. I will be cutting back to writing three times a week as of March, hopefully giving me more time to write on other things, such as my novel or short stories.

With that note, Aberrant Dreams is relaunching with hopefully fewer of the time snags that caught them last go round. I will be back editing as senior fantasy editor. If you want to check out the site (still developing but submissions can be sent in) then go here http://aberrantdreams.com/content/ and read the guidelines. It’s hard to run any kind of magazine these days and Joe Dickerson and Lonny Harper have been trying it without any sponsors so it’s out of pocket for them to pay people. Some day I’d like to run my magazine as well but that will take some $$ first.

So in the meantime, go enjoy the last of the Olympics any way you want, whether that’s staying far away, just checking stats on the computer or going into the throng. And here’s to all the amazing athletes who have competed, whether they won or not. They’re still the best in the world and have dedicated time and energy to their achievements and sports. Go World!

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VANOC, RCMP and the Olympics

Okay, another update. I didn’t post for the last two days because yes, I’ve ventured into Olympic land, only because friends came up from the US and I wanted to see them. Wednesday I braved driving downtown. Yes, driving, not busing, walking or other. One friend works for city parking and he said the parkades downtown are nearly empty because no one is driving.

Well, “no one” isn’t quite true but I left New Westminster around 4:30 pm, took the highway to E. 1 Ave., then turned down Clark Dr. to Pender St. I took Pender to downtown (already knowing which streets were closed) to Gastown but anticipating Gastown’s usual traffic jam I turned up to Hastings St. In retrospect I should have gone through Gastown to Richards. On Hastings I had about four blocks to go to Hastings and it took about 20 minutes, or about four lights to get through each light. Yes, there was traffic there but there was nothing to do but just endure. And true enough the parkade was empty.

I met my friends at the Kingston Pub on Richards St. and yes there were people but I seriously didn’t look around at anything else. The Kingston’s alcohol seems to be in the normal range but they had an ahi tun caeser salad for $19. That is overkill. I did get a serving of calamari for $10, which would have been quite fine but the batter wasn’t cooked all the way through, but they were crazy busy.

On Thursday I spent the day with my friends on Granville Island (where they are charging for parking, with a 2-hour limit, where normally it’s free parking). There was a huge Francophone pavilion but we didn’t go in, but we wandered into one studio to see a video broken glass show that was short and interesting. Bridges Restaurant is the Swiss House but there was a line-up even for a drink (the Swiss-Canada hockey game was about to start) so we didn’t get in there. We got into the Atlantic Provinces show (we say Maritimes) because a friend was working the show. Music with some tales of the musicians’ homes and slide shows behind. It was very good and fun. I wished there’d been room to dance as Maritime music always has you toe tapping. Basically there were line-ups for everything and I hate line-ups so a lot of patience is needed to get into any of the houses. But it is a free cultural Olympiad (some of it) and that’s kinda cool, fun and informative all at once.

Now I’ve been looking at the results for the Olympic games online but have not been able to get any so-called channel (CTV) to actually show what’s supposedly being broadcast live.And I have not gone to see the Olympic cauldron for which VANOC has received huge criticism for putting it (and everything else) behind huge chainlink fences so that people couldn’t see or take pictures. They’ve now cut holes and moved the fence in but it’s typical of the VANOC heavy handedness and the blocking of lanes (which they somehow didn’t have to do in Salt Lake City). And I’m not venturing to Whistler where you need a permit to drive (or do it after 6 pm) or have to take a bus that yes, you must also buy a ticket for.

Another aspect of the whole Olympics is the SECURITY, which doncha know does not include taking care of the violent anarchists. That falls to the city’s police force and is not included in the budget. But there’s the tale of a guy who is a doctoral student and works at a local hospital in one of the labs. He decided to be part of the Olympics and was interviewed to be a guard. He got his uniform, was accredited and worked two shifts. When he showed up for his third shift his security card didn’t work. In between the accrediting and working and the nonworking card he’d been called and questioned by the RCMP, that bastion of moral righteousness and law.

It’s not that he’s a protester. It’s not that he belongs to any subversive organizations. It’s not that he has any criminal record. It’s because he works with a nonviolent protester of the Olympics, a professor by the name of Chris Shaw. He works with the guy but doesn’t really know him and was in fact a supporter of the Olympics and did not believe in Chris Shaw’s point of view. But it seems even if this man who had already passed all the testing to be security for the Olympics did not pass the RCMP’s scrutiny because of working in the same lab as a nonviolent protester.

This is typical of the ineptitude and misplaced scrutiny of the RCMP. Of course, any time the media asks for the RCMP to comment they say they can’t because of privacy concerns. Those privacy concerns are really only for themselves because the media has usually already talked with the person on the other end. And if the RCMP actually used this tight of a scrutiny of their own members we might not have a man tasered to death at the Vancouver airport, or a man shot in the back of the head while in a holding cell. The RCMP used to be reliable, balance and upheld the law. They are so tarnished now they may as well get rid of the brass buttons on their red serge. They continue to pull the “Homeland Security” fiascos that George Bush would be proud of, while at the same time doing nothing to stop the anarchists who did smash store windows and injure city police. Between VANOC and the RCMP it’s amazing that we’re not all being questioned and ticketed.

So while you’re here enjoying Canada’s open hospitality (why is it that I almost wrote hostility) make sure you’re squeaky clean. And if you’re not, don a black hood and the RCMP won’t be able to see you. It’s just to bad the sports and arts of the Olympics are constantly overshadowed but the idiocy of ineptitude of the various arrogant and money grabbing Olympic committees.

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Indian Olympic Team Snubs Charity

India has a small Olympic contingent in the 2010 Olympics. Although India sports a warm climate, there are mountains in the country but not a lot of winter so it makes sense that there might only be three winter athletes. It also makes sense that although India has over a billion people and a sixth of the world’s population that there might still be a lot of poverty.

It doesn’t make sense that three athletes representing their country should not even be given matching outfits for the opening ceremonies. The Indian government spent about the equivalent of $2000 for each of the eight team members, which is not a lot for the length of the Olympics. I don’t think the government is that poor but I’m not an economist.  But here’s something else that doesn’t make sense. On arrival of the eight members (including the three athletes) in Canada the local Indo-Canadian community found out about Team India’s plight. A local Indo-Canadian businessman chipped in, and had suits made up, and the community raised $8,000 for expenses through a local radio host.

Before that, luge athlete and flag bearer Shiva Keshavan was given about $9,700 by a group of lawyers so that he could get a new sled. The Indian government has put out a statement saying they did supply uniforms (which were supposedly mismatched) and some money, as well as giving Shiva $2o,000 the year before for his training. I don’t know how $20,000 translates in India compared to cost of living and other expenditures but it probably goes farther than here, but how far?

It’s unclear whether the outfits were done in time for the opening ceremonies but most likely were. However Keshavan was not wearing the outfit. And it seems that the $8,000 raised by the Indo-Canadian community has been turned down by Team India (after Keshavan said they were grateful) with the comment that they will not accept charity and are embarrassed.

I think it’s time to leave egos at the door. Olympic athletes don’t just compete for themselves but for their countries. A country is made up of individuals and it’s obvious that the Indo-Canadian community here cared enough to want to help. They wanted their athletes to look good and do well and win for all of them.

And on top of that, Keshavan accepted money from the government of India as well as from the lawyers. In fact, almost all Olympic athletes accept charity, or donations to further their training, whether from governments, organizations, benefactors or other commercial donors. How does the Indian team (which member has his knickers in a twist over this?) decide that this is not acceptable? If they’re embarrassed by their government’s lack of funding, the damage has already been done. They should be grateful that their fellow country men and women are wishing to participate in their own way and help out.

If a country is poor and people chip in I think that just shows more of a team spirit to those who are happy to be behind a team, to support them and cheer them on and do a little bit in any way they can because they are not the athletes. It should be country’s pride in helping, not embarrassment in accepting.

And what will the overabundance of Team India’s pride get them in the end? Probably nothing, including no support from the local Indo-Canadian community and no medals because they didn’t accept what was needed. Team India, take some humility here and use your pride in your athletics, and be happy that some people were willing to help.

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Vancouver and the Olympics

Well, I wasn’t really going to post much more on the Olympics. After all, they’ve started and no matter how much I dislike the amount of money spent, they’re in full swing. And it’s time for the athletes to shine.

I won’t be going to any of the paid venues because I can’t afford them. I’m not a big fan of crowds but there’s still a chance I can take in one of the many free events going on. It’s a bit odd on how quiet the media was about these until just a few days before. One or two newspapers listed them but I heard little on the radio, my main form of news.

Grey skies and flowers in Feb.

In the transportation end of things VANOC stressed (with many signs on the major thoroughfares) to take alternative forms of transportation for the Olympics. Walk, bike or transit the signs said. Then the “buts” began. But, said John Furlong, try not take transit when people are trying to get to their time-sensitive venues. He somehow missed that people had time-sensitive jobs and not all of us get free time to watch the Olympics. You can bike but don’t use transit at the same time because, although people are normally allowed to take their bikes normally, they can’t during the Olympics. Oh and you can walk, but don’t expect to actually get to where you’re going. Areas are cordoned off  without even a walkway through.

A friend of mine tried to get to the Arts Club Theatre to see a play a week ago, before the Olympics started. She gave herself plenty of time and took the SkyTrain. When she got off she went to take one of the small boats to Granville Island but the route was blocked off. She called Arts Club who would not change her ticket to another time and gave her a long circuitous route, involving a lot of walking, two buses and a shuttle to get to Granville Island. She never made it and found out later that Arts Club neglected to mention the train running from where she was, at Science World, right to Granville Island.

However, that said, extra SkyTrains and buses have been running, and another friend reports that her sister (visiting from Scotland) has made it on time to every venue in under an hour. VANOC seems to be doing a good job in having extra vehicles, as long as you can take transit under their terms. Don’t count on anything else and don’t count on taxis. In regards to other traffic around the lower mainland, it’s been the same as always or lighter and I’ve not had to deal with any changes, but then I’m avoiding downtown.

I live near one of the practice rinks. A few weeks ago they started cordoning off the rink from the gym, school and other facilities. I work out at the gym and was made aware well in advance of the upcoming inconvenience. They put up large concrete barricades and started erecting the chainlink fence. It’s not just a single fence but the outer fence is around six feet and the inner fence is 8-10 feet high. Thankfully, there is no razor wire at the top or slavering dogs running about. It was uglier until they put up the blue green branding tarps that’s part of the official Olympics look. I have to say this, the colors are nice and the blue and green must represent the greenery of BC, available all year round in the grass here in Vancouver, and the blue of the ocean (certainly not the sky, which is often grey in winter). And a bit of white.

Cameras clustered like grapes.

I wasn’t too happy to see Stalag 2010 going in and I still think it’s overkill. There are two security checkpoints around the rink, but not where the vehicles drive in. There is a third one for the official vehicles. But what I find even more ridiculous is the overkill of the spyeyes. These cameras are in clusters of three, plus a few other individual ones, plus the people in the three security booths, plus the guys in the parking lot, plus the person checking people’s passes, all behind the blue-green fence. And this is only a practice rink for something, hockey I would presume. Yikes!

Now as to the Olympics. Yes, I’ve seen some on TV. I watched some of the opening ceremonies and from what I saw they did look spectacular. Nicely done and I loved all the First Nations dancers and the giant drum. The speculation over the final torch bearer probably met everyone’s expectations with five bearers (Rick Hansen bringing the torch to the four: Nancy Greene, Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash, Catriona LeMay Doan), and eight Canadian greats bringing in the Olympic flag (Donald Sutherland, Anne Murray, Romeo Dallaire, Betty Fox representing Terry Fox, Bobby Orr, Jacques Villeneuve, Julie Payette, Barbara Ann Scott).  But I didn’t watch it all. Still it does look world class.

The sports proceed apace and so do the protests. It is the right of every person to protest or not and do so peacefully. Unfortunately black robed and hooded thugs who care nothing about either the Olympics or the protestors’ legitimate concerns joined the crowds to cause violence and general anarchy, and put eight police in hospital the first night. I do not condone this nor support it in any way and those people should be arrested and locked up. They hurt everything, from the Olympics to the protestors to the police who are just doing their jobs. It’s one reason why I worry about going downtown and getting caught in some thug’s idea of a good time.

I hope the Olympics go well, I hope the athletes do fantastic and I hope the next venues to do the Olympics don’t feel the need to do one  upmanship and increase the ludicrous spending.

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Kangaroo Kontroversy

Now we’re truly getting down to what the Olympics are all about. The Australian athletes have hung a two-storey flag of the boxing kangaroo outside their residence in the Olympic village. The Olympic village in Vancouver is, like every other Olympic venue, cordoned off and protected by security enough to sink the Bismarck. The only people who might actually get into this “village” are the athletes, reporters, security goons and other bigwigs of Olympic importance. But it is where all the athletes, with their dreams and aspirations are housed. So it makes sense that everyone wants to show team and national spirit.

The boxing kangaroo is not the flag for Australia the country but it is the flag for their sporting attitude and has officially been that symbol since 1983 (Oh and belongs to the Australian Olympic Committee–aren’t they all part of the Olympic “family”?). On top of that the boxing kangaroo was supposedly used on fighter planes in the second world war. Just google it and you’ll see the examples. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has deemed it too commercial and have told the Australians to take their flag down. Too commercial. What’s wrong, IOC, are you afraid someone might buy an Australian? It’s not like it’s advertising beer or mitts; it’s advertising Australia’s competitive spirit.

But the IOC has proven that its main purpose is not to promote sports and fun and national competition. Its main purpose is to make tons and tons of money and get big advertising sponsors. It also shows there is no sense of humor whatsoever in the suits and ties gobbling up the money. Where does that money go? Good question.

They don’t pay the athletes, nor the hosting cities. Every city that bids on being an Olympic venue also pays a pretty stiff registration fee that they do not get back. But the money must go somewhere. Well, looking at the IOC’s role and mission this may give us a clue as to where the money goes.

The IOC’s role is to:

  1. Encourage and support the promotion of ethics in sport as well as education of youth through sport and to dedicate its efforts to ensuring that, in sport, the spirit of fair play prevails and violence is banned;
  2. Encourage and support the organization, development and coordination of sport and sports competitions;
  3. Ensure the regular celebration of the Olympic Games; Make that properly branded & trademarked celebration only.
  4. Cooperate with the competent public or private organizations and authorities in the endeavor to place sport at the service of humanity and thereby to promote peace; Organizations like Visa, MacDonalds, Coca-Cola. Yay peace!
  5. Take action in order to strengthen the unity and to protect the independence of the Olympic Movement; The Olympic Movement: is that like a political thing or a just a bodily evacuation?
  6. Act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement; So what does that mean in regards to protestors.
  7. Encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women; Except where inconvenient like those darn female ski jumpers who don’t get to jump.
  8. Lead the fight against doping in sport;
  9. Encourage and support measures protecting the health of athletes;
  10. Oppose any political or commercial abuse of sport and athletes; Get that kangaroo flag down, sports. Get that kangaroo flag down.
  11. Encourage and support the efforts of sports organizations and public authorities to provide for the social and professional future of athletes;
  12. Encourage and support the development of sport for all; But you can’t watch it unless you have a $100 or more for each ticket. So that should be for all wealthy people.
  13. Encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly; Do you know how many shiny white vans and trucks I’ve seen with the Olympic logo on the roads? Wouldn’t it be better to use old ones in good repair instead of adding more cars to the environment?
  14. Promote a positive legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries; But we’ll ignore the fact that only one Olympic host city has ever made money. What’s the legacy: more taxes.
  15. Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education;
  16. Encourage and support the activities of the International Olympic Academy (IOA) and other institutions which dedicate themselves to Olympic education.

I really hope the Australians keep the flag up the whole time and that other countries add their eagle (US), bulldog (UK), beaver (Canada), etc. to the mix. And I really hope that kangaroo has a middle finger for the IOC’s arrogance and commercial greed.

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VANOC Police State?

Well, Vancouver, are we about to be a police state? Will we feel more protected or more repressed with the beginning of the Olympics? The one billion dollar budget (that somehow the provincial government forgot to include when they were selling BC on this venture) for security means we’ll have such a plethora of police and guards that criminals are bound to take a vacation elsewhere.

A police state is defined as the “government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life” of the people. It’s hard to know in advance how our social life will be affected because two weeks before they start road closures (yes, 12 days before the Olympics) we still don’t know what roads will be closed. You’d think that they might at least let us know this in advance because it will inconvenience people. And of course road closures do curtail social aspects in certain areas and affect the economic realities of businesses in these zones. And let’s see, political life. Well, Stephen Harper has decided to prorogue parliament on another whim, saying it’s to get the budget in order. Errr, excuse me, but that’s what working every day as a politician is about, not taking a vacation from the hard questions. But let’s just cease any government until after the Olympics. I’m not sure Canada will have much difference from Beijing on repression.

Interestingly, this morning CBC interviewed the person who had been in charge of the Salt Lake City Olympics security. He said police were in bright jackets so you always knew where they were. When asked about how he handled road closures he said he didn’t know because they only closed a couple of roads around the site. Unlike Vancouver, where routes into the downtown core will be closed completely, and other areas around the city will be blocked or narrowed to one lane. Anywhere where an athlete might go, might practice or might compete, will have numerous restrictions. Of course with no map yet of what areas this will be we, the simple citizens who live and work here will be left with a bewildering maze to maneuver last minute.

Oh and Translink and VANOC spoke the other day urging people to not take transit between 2 and 7 pm  so that people could get to their “time-sensitve venues.” So what are people supposed to do with those time-sensitive things called jobs? Signs put up at various intersections are already spouting to bike, walk or take transit for the 2010 Olympics. So which is it, VANOC? Do you want us to take transit but only when it won’t inconvenience all those people paying big bucks for tickets?

On top of that, we have had lessons by way of radio (and I can presume TV but I don’t watch it) on how to behave. Be nice to visitors, they say. Duh. Hello, VANOC, you’re dealing with Canadians and we are supposed to be polite by nature. Maybe not perfectly polite and we’ll be less so after we deal with delays in transit and road closures (and believe me, there is enough road rage/aggressive driving already). In fact, I’ve changed doctor’s appointments and moved them back so that I don’t have to go downtown during the Olympics. I’m not even sure I could get down there, let alone that it wouldn’t take four hours.

So the VANOC thought police are trying to bring us into line, make us behave, line up where we should and stay away if we interfere with their game. We will only be able to protest in set areas. We’ll see how that goes. I just wish all the ridiculous overkill in security (far more than heads of state even get) was not deterring from the actual Olympic feats of the athletes. As it is, I won’t be able to afford to go, I probably would not be able to drive up to Whistler without using some VANOC sanctioned vehicle, and I’ll be paying, along with everyone else for a long time.

This could have been cheaper if it wasn’t taken to olympic proportions. These people aren’t gods and nor is VANOC god. I really hope that we can survive this without feeling that we’ve been scrutinized in every direction. On that note, I haven’t heard from the VANOC thought police yet but because I’ve been protesting here I’m sure that I’m on their radar as some sort of subversive. I protest with words but VANOC would prefer even that to be repressed. Sorry, folks, but I find little to be shiny happy about with this. To the athletes, I hope you have a marvellous competition and that you’re treated well. You should be; we’re being told to greet you on bended knee.

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Why Protest the Olympics

There are people out there wondering why anyone would protest the Olympics while others are happy to protest anything for the sake of protest and anti-disestablismentarianism. Recently as the torch relay began in Victoria, pre-emptive strikes were taken by the organizers to ferry the torch bearers in a van around protestors. According to other media reports the protestors and police both met their mandate without violence or arrests.

Yet these torch bearers were cosseted away so that the protestors couldn’t protest the relay. Now I don’t know what exactly this group of protestors were trying to raise their voices against in regards to the Olympics but the last I remember (despite the changes to human rights laws that Harper has been making) Canada was a fairly free country with the right to freedom of speech. That means that if we disagree with our government and politics, or if we agree, we are allowed to voice our opinions.

BC MLA Harry Bloy would rather we have a totalitarian state in which everyone is a shiny happy person loving all that the government does. And if not, well then, off with their heads. He in fact stated the following: “People who protest the Winter Olympics are nothing more than terrorists with limited intellect…” Wow. So now we have one of the new catch phrases in our modern vernacular, right after George Bush’s overused hyperbole of “axis of evil”  and the “war on terror” with using “terrorist” for anyone who does something I don’t like.

Here’s how I see the whole Olympics thing. The Olympic sports are a great thing. Having the top athletes compete against other countries in something that isn’t blood and violence is something that should be encouraged. Extolling the best in the world in athletics is a memorable moment and people who excel whether as brain surgeons, ballet dancers, runners or engineers should be acknowledged and cheered for their excellence and skill. I applaud that.

What I do not applaud is the Olympic committee (both internationally and VANOC) which makes their rules over those jurisdictions civic, provincial and federal. What I do not believe in is spending millions, promising the taxpayers all the time that the Olympics won’t run overbudget nor will our taxes be raised (can anyone say HST) to pay for this fanfare…and all the time we know they are going to go overbudget. What I do not support is millions of dollars spent for fancy buildings, some of which are only temporary, while people are losing jobs, and lives, because of healthcare cuts. What I protest is a million dollars worth of free tickets for politicians when nothing has been mentioned on what people who don’t have a $100 for a ticket can see.

I think these are worthy things to protest. Not the sports themselves, nor the athletes. I protest attitudes and security of a greater level than that of visiting heads of state even seem to get. I protest to the fact that anyone who has a problem with so much money gone to frivolity is deemed a terrorist by an arrogant politician who has no clue what it’s like to be underprivileged. I protest to a lowbrow attitude that anyone who dislikes the Liberal government’s brazen disregard for people in real straights (and taking forever to even give paramedics a contract) is considered of low intellect. Mr. Bloy, let’s you and I go take an IQ test and see who comes out on top.

I also protest people who protest anything just for the sake of being contrary, but I don’t believe this is the case with many of the protesters. They want people to know that not everyone is happy with the money being thrown at the Olympics, and when has an Olympics event ever made money for the hosting city? Isn’t it only once in recent memory? It would be better to say that I don’t protest the Olympics but that I protest VANOC and the International Olympics Committee, and I’ll continue to as long as we see unfairness and inequality happening even with this.

http://www.bclocalnews.com/greater_vancouver/burnabynewsleader/news/68785952.html

Addendum: Feb. 14–In light of the fact that this is now getting even more attention, although I wrote it several months ago, I’m going to add to it, to clarify. And to comment to the comments below.

I’m a little amazed that the commenter below equates spending tons of money with fun, joy-filled lives and spending no money with a boring, joyless life. There is quite a range in between no money and some money. Not to mention that, guess what, you can actually have fun and not be bored by spending little to no money. But I’m not going to list activities for you here. Spending far overbudget on the Olympics does not necessarily lead to joy. Did you see anywhere in my post where I said this or that we should spend no money? Nope. What I protest is the overspending and VANOC/IOC’s attitude.

If you’re not sure what I’m talking about read my recent post about the IOC’s attitudes towards Australia’s athletes hanging the boxing kangaroo flag in the Oympic village, or my post of Feb. 9th in regards to overkill on the budget. Here are a few more examples of the wastage of money better spent.

I know someone who was hired to get the communications village built up at Whistler for the various media. A temporary structure, it was already behind schedule and he was the second or third person hired to oversee it. Meetings in Madrid and other parts of Europe and a command to get it done, no matter the cost. He was also replaced by yet another person. Who knows how many to this date but you can bet money was wasted replacing person after person as some used the prestige of having an Olympics contract to push them into a better job, or the ones in charge let people go so they could maneuver in who they wanted.

Here’s another example. Campbell bragged this week of the $450 million spent on sports as part of the Oympics while at the same time his government has cut the arts funding budget for BC from $47 million to $3 million in just two years (that’s over 90% cut which no other area has experienced so drastically). Arts, like all the ones seen at the Olympic opening ceremonies. It’s not wrong to support sports but it is wrong to slash and get rid of arts and then demonize and pit artists against children saying if we give money to the arts we cannot give chidren a school lunch program. Even $47 million is pretty small peanut next to what’s been spent on sports or the Olympics over all. Oddly they didn’t pit the athletes against the children.

I talk to people in this city worried about the raise in taxes that will come (and has in several ways already) because of the Olympics. They worry about their children suffering under the debt that we will still be paying off twenty plus years from now. Yes, the Olympics cost money. That’s a given. But there could have been much more of a middle ground and I for one never believed the glosses that  came out in the beginning where they (politicians of course) promised us that we would not see a hike in our taxes to pay for this and that it wouldn’t run overbudget. Oddly enough, to the commenter below, because of spending all this money we could very well be leading boring and joyless lives for years to come because of the tax burden that we will be shouldering. Next time you choose a book over a movie or a walk in nature over dining in an expensive restaurant, tell me if you’re having a boring and joyless time.

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Freedom of Speech:Shhh, They’re Listening

Freedom of Speech. It’s a big thing in democratic countries and we hold it like a torch to indicate how different we are from the regimes, the dictatorships and any place that silences writers by putting them in prisons, house arrest or just killing them. The pen is mightier than the sword and it’s been feared by conquerors for a long time. And of course, those who win are those who write the history books.

But North America: Canada and the US, we’re different. We truly have freedom of speech. A person can get on any bandwagon and scream their beliefs and they won’t be stopped. Of course they won’t. Not where the media will see it anyways.

Conquering nations, or just those in power that manage to vanquish the foe, like to show how good and just they were for doing so. This attitude extends down the line to foe being interpreted as famine, poverty, unemployment, deficits–you name it. Any trouble that a government faces becomes the foe or the need to do some PR and impress the voters with how good you are and how right and just your cause is.

So, freedom of speech. Do we really have it? No. It’s selective, even in these democratic countries.

Years ago I was in New York City, staying with a friend. Desert Storm had just happened and the troops were coming home. There were giant yellow ribbons around some buildings as well as on fences and trees. Two interesting incidences about the smothering of anti-war/Desert Storm protests became evident. In NY even the cop cars seem to be banged up and have graffiti. There’s is graffiti and slogans everywhere. When someone spray painted numerous bus stop shelters with an indelible ink on the glass with anti war statements NY made an unprecedented move.

The slogans were removed in 24 hours and if they could not be cleaned from the glass, well the glass was replaced. There was no way that the ticker tape parade was going to be affected by people protesting what they felt was wrong about US troops in other countries. A minor thing, perhaps, and could be chalked up to city maintenance but my friend said nothing like that had caused such wholesale cleansing before.

He also lived near a park (I no longer remember the name of it) known for having demonstrations of different types. The police had set tape around the perimeter, with other obstacles, effectively blocking any access to the park before or during the arrival of the troops. No demonstration in a designated area and in fact no freedom of speech. Muffling of dissenters is what happened in the great democratic nation of the US. Don’t go against the government.

Is Canada any better? No. We like to pretend we’re calmer, more polite, more peaceful but the 2010 Winter Olympics is coming to town. Our fair city of Vancouver has changed some existing bylaws. These bylaws will in effect give the city engineer the right to make up bylaws on the fly. “I don’t like the anti-Olympic sign in your window: I can make a bylaw, invade your home, remove your sign and arrest you.” In fact, that’s part of the bylaw already, giving people only 24-hour’s notice before being invaded or having signs, posters and whatnot confiscated.

Of course, the city councillors say it’s for protecting people. Because we know what nasty papercuts you get from pamphlets and anti-Olympics posters. There has already been a case of a woman being tailed and questioned outside of her classroom because she just happens to know and anti-Olympics protestor. And like she said, this has caused her to be against the Olympics, a reverse of what the Olympics gestapo are probably hoping for: shiny happy people ecstatic that their tax dollars are going to something they can’t afford and having their rights infringed upon.

Who knows, perhaps if they find this blog, I’ll be tossed in the can before the Olympics. I’d rather they just deport me to Greece for a month. It’s hard to be for the Olympics when games start taking precedent over civil liberties. Can we say Beijing? Can we say Germany, 1936. I wonder if Gregor Robertson has been brainwashed or is wholesale for clamping down on people’s rights to protest. Oh and if you happen to be in a zone that’s close to any venue or anything the Olympics committee deems important, know that you won’t be able to get in or out the same way as usual, and you might not get any mail for the three weeks because they are removing paper boxes and mailboxes. That’s one great way to curtail freedom of speech, just remove anything that has words in it.

I’m waiting for our Olympic souvenirs. You know the ones. We’ll get them a week before the opening and they’ll have a spiffy logo on them. They’ll come free of charge but we’ll all be required to wear them throughout the Olympics: our own personal gags with a free gag law attached.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2009/10/09/bc-anti-olympic-sign-law-bccla.html

http://www.torontosun.com/sports/vancouver2010/2009/10/07/11334116.html

http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/Olympics2010/2009/07/21/newspapers-Olympic-bylaw/

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/vancouver/2009-09-17-protest-zones_N.htm

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There is No Harmonization to Campbell’s New Tax

Gordon Campbell’s two-faced Liberals want to bring in a tax that they say they had no idea about three months ago. If this is in fact true I’d have to say this party is pretty poor in long-term planning. Long-term planning that raised and then took off a half percent on our PST (2004). Poor planning in giving everyone a pre-election bribe of $100. Poor planning in the Olympics, embroiling our tax dollars into it, and then going, oh gosh it’s overbudget. I could have told them this three years ago.

Was ever a word so misused as to take two taxes and call it harmonization? GST, the government tax, covers many things but not food (unless you’re buying a bag of nachos or cookies because the government decided that was unnecessary. Oh and you can buy two cookies and pay GST but not if you buy six, unless it’s a bag, like a bulk thing. If you figure this out, let me know, but the feds have been taxing our food choices for a long time.) So GST hits many things.

And then there’s PST, the provinicial sales tax. It also hits some things but not always the same things as the GST. Some of the items usually exempt are books, children’s clothing and footwear, vitamins, dietary supplements and food for human consumption. But if you’re at a restaurant that food is charged GST because it’s a service, I think. It’s never made a lot of sense.  Here is a list of what is currently PST exempt (not a full list) but will possibly have the HST on them: PSTexemptions

One glib quote by the Tourism Minister was: “The HST is going to be good for all concerned, but there are going to be exceptions,” intoned B.C. Tourism Minister Kevin Krueger. (seattlepi.com) Hmm, good for all but there are exceptions, like every consumer out there. Basically you and me, unless you’re big business. And one minister said something like, all the provinces have done this HST, except that Alberta, NWT, Yukon and Nunavut have no provincial tax. Only New Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia have an HST. That is hardly all of the other provinces by far. And remember, we pay these taxes as we buy things and then when we do income tax we pay federal and provincial tax at that time as well.

Facebook already has over 100,000 members protesting the NO BC HST. A recent poll puts people opposing the HST at 87%. How does the government think this is fair when it’s not even an extra percent we’ll be paying on many items (which include such things as condo fees). It’s not even 5% more, the rate of the GST, which would be exorbitant. It’s 7%, which is more than double. Imagine going out for dinner and you know how a bill for $60 often has an extra $10 of tax on it? Well, that will be now an extra $20 in tax. Will I be going out as much? No. And the same will happen to many people. Or they’ll go out an pay less in tips because of the extra cost. This will of course impact the restaurant and entertainment industry, where people will then be laid off because business has slowed.

Those exempt school books and kids’s clothes? No more. It’s already a shame that we have tax on books and food in any form but you’ll probably not be buying a bag of chips when you’re paying 12% on the price of the bag. Because the government has given warning but not bothered to discuss this first, there is huge backlash. And really what is the reasoning for increasing our taxes by 7% on things? Deficit. Campbell screwed up.

I can’t even get into the fiasco of the Olympics and how so many things weren’t reported on and budgets were not revealed. How many aspects are costing waaay more than anticipated (because they didn’t want to shock the taxpayers)? The City of Vancouver raised the price of their city parking as a way to gather more revenue for their part of the Olympics. Campbell, well he’s not admitting he screwed up, but he’ll just charge us extra so he can pay off the Olympic deficit.

If you want to pay more, sit back and be harmonized. If not, then do everything you can. Complain, contact your MLA and MP. Writer letters. But if you think the protests and petitions will change the tune that Campbell is singing, think again. When he made massive cuts in his first reign, there were 40,000+ people who protested in person, and Campbell just continued scything through jobs. And lest people forget, he tore up union contracts of hospital workers, subsequently causing the cleanliness of hospitals to deteriorate more, and was found by the courts to be in the wrong, but that was years later, even if those people had to be compensated. He probably saved himself a few bucks doing that.

So, I’m just saying, Campbell is very close to all those dictators, who do what they want, trumping it up as “good for the people who don’t know what’s good for them”. And even if the people protest vehemently, it will make no difference. Just watch and see.

Oh and if you didn’t vote in the last election, no matter what you voted, then it’s your fault. With 50% voter turnout it could have changed things, or maybe not. But if you don’t vote you don’t have the right to complain because you didn’t try and do anything about it.

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Big Brother IS Watching, You and You and Me

George Orwell, like a fair number of science fiction  writers (Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, Dick and others), visualized some aspect of a future world, perhaps an alternate world but created a story nonetheless that had some essence of things to come.

As Wikipedia says: The novel has become famous for its portrayal of pervasive government surveillance and control, and government’s increasing encroachment on the rights of the individual. Since its publication, many of its terms and concepts, such as “Big Brother“, “doublethink“, and “Newspeak” have entered the popular vernacular.

Indeed, the phrase “Big Brother is watching” is synonymous with too much government control, or the totalitarianism that Orwell feared. After 9/11 and the right-wing paranoia of the Bush administration we saw the rise of Homeland Security, where people’s rights were taken away. Some disappeared into Guantanamo without anyone knowing where they went, without any legal aid or advice. Others, while flying through the US, were shipped off to other countries for torture, regardless of what their citizenship was.  The phrase “Homeland Security” is reminiscent of the Fatherland (Hitler’s Third Reich) and the Motherland (Communist Russia). Though these last two are examples of extreme right wing and extreme left wing governments, they both encompass a totalitarianism and the circumventing of the rights of the individual, for the greater good, for the country.

It used to be that a camera trained on you and watching your every move was considered an invasion of privacy. Many years ago, before Homeland Security, my boyfriend had a friend in Calgary that worked for the local telecommunications company (at that time AGT–Alberta Government Telephones). He could not say what he did but it involved hidden cameras trained onto the streets outside the buildings. Every war commander knows that the way to break the enemy, to overcome them, is to either hinder or monitor their communications.  So every wise nation protects its communications and every ambitious or suspicious nation spies on its perceived enemies and communicates what it sees.

There are numerous instances of spy planes and spies. We accept that that is what countries do. There are cameras on you at the border or at your bank machine, to protect you. There are cameras on the roads now, webcams we call them, that show us the line-up at ferries, or freeways, or intersections, or borders. These are all informative pictures that we can use to plan around daily obstacles. But that is not their main purpose. They are surveillance methods to watch and control people, and to identify someone should there have been an accident, a murder, an escape.

There are those that argue that we need the greater security. We need protection from the evil terrorist/mugger/alien/your favorite bad guy. And yes, we do need some form of security, but there comes a time when government or police forces are also watching too much and our individual freedom is curtailed. I would say there is not one person who has not committed a small crime or infringement, whether it’s lying, cheating, jaywalking, running a yellow light, or drinking too much. Which means, that we’re all human and if allowed our little indiscretions, will most likely not make the bigger ones.

When I worked for Nokia, there were cameras everywhere. Corporate espionage is high. However, with all those cameras in the halls and the reception area, they were not allowed to train cameras on our workspaces, nor in the bathrooms. I’m not sure what the exact law it but watching someone 24/7 is not allowed. The head of security also told us that though they viewed all video footage they could not report on such things as two people having sex in the office. This video footage was only for such crimes as theft and breaking and entering.

Sarnia, Ontario is upset over a US surveillance balloon that watches over the river. The company claims it can be used for disaster planning, and other situations that arise. However, the mayor of Sarnia says that when the balloon (with camera inside that can see for 5 miles) first went up the company said it was for Homeland Security, but now they sing another song and say it’s not trained on Sarnia and it’s just research.

Google Earth has already heard concerns about their filming of much of the world, down to vans with cameras driving on the streets. And that many of these cameras take a picture of everything on the street, including you getting into your car, coming and going, and in some cases right into your windows to see what you’re up to. Sure, they claim it’s inadvertent but the pictures of us are showing up everywhere, even if we eliminate You Tube.

The 2010 Olympics will see a gigantic increase in security forces in and around Vancouver. They will be putting up many more cameras than are already up, by government and private businesses. After the Athens Olympics all extra cameras were supposed to come down. Instead the police turned them into citizen surveillance systems. Hello, Big Brother. BC’s privacy commissioner has promised that we won’t have the same situation.

Taken from A Report on Camera Surveillance in Canada: “Despite the growth in CCTV, there is not convincing  research evidence that it aids in deterring, responding to and investigating crime.” That’s just one study but the Big Brother security folks want to sell cameras and keep their jobs and probably think we should live in a society that watches your every move and therefore you must behave. http://www.surveillanceproject.org/files/SCAN_Report_Phase1_Final_Jan_30_2009.pdf

There is a group counting the cameras in Greater Vancouver before the Olympics so that people can, in general be aware of how much surveillance there always is. But if you plan to come to the Olympics and actually venture anywhere public in Vancouver, you can bet that you’ll be filmed. In fact, there is probably not a street in any commercial area that doesn’t have one camera or another. It’s pretty impossible to remain invisible these days unless you’re in the boonies. Big Brother is here, and is watching all of us right now.  And maybe, just maybe, Big Brother likes to watch.

 

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