Friday, March 30, 2012

American penny opponents point to Canada as a coin-eliminating ‘trail-blazer’

"WASHINGTON—News that Canada is doing away with the penny has renewed debate in the United States about whether it’s time to rid itself, too, of a piece of currency once described by an esteemed American publication as “horrid and useless.”

Canada came in for high praise Friday from a U.S. advocacy group called Citizens for Retiring the Penny, with its motto “Isn’t it annoying?”

“If Canada can do it, why can’t we?” asked Aaron R. Priven on the group’s Facebook page.

“Bravo!” added another. “Canada has done the right thing. Hopefully the U.S. will soon follow.”
The idea of eliminating the penny, stamped with the noble profile of revered former president Abraham Lincoln, has been a topic of debate for years in the United States, where it costs 2.4 cents to produce the coin.

Why do pennies exist?” writer David Owen asked in a New Yorker piece in 2008 that called for the coin’s elimination and lauded Canada for taking a modern approach to eliminating bothersome pieces of currency, including one- and two-dollar bills.

On Friday, he had nothing but praise for Canada for once again taking the leap.

“Canada is and has been a trail-blazer, and was out early on a number of fronts, including eliminating the one-dollar bill, switching to different, cheaper metals — things that Americans have been reluctant to do,” Owen said in an interview.

“I don’t know if Americans will ever come around on it. There’s a sentimental attachment to the penny .... We probably won’t be done with them until we’re done using cash in general, when people start using their phones to pay for things.”

The Obama administration has toyed with the idea of using cheaper materials to make both the penny and the nickel. Currently, the penny is composed chiefly of zinc with a thin copper coating.

Barack Obama went much further when he was campaigning for president four years ago.
We have been trying to eliminate the penny for quite some time — it always comes back,” Obama said. “I need to find out who is lobbying to keep the penny.”

The debate even earned its way into an episode of the political TV drama “The West Wing” in 2001, when Sam Seaborn, the character played by Rob Lowe, took up the cause.  The only coin-operated machines that accept pennies anymore, Seaborn said, are “those coin-wrapping machines people buy to get rid of pennies.”

But in a country with a passion for its historical artifacts, eliminating the coins outright is considered a political hot potato.

Two separate bills calling for the demise of the penny, tabled in 2002 and 2006 by Republican congressman Jim Kolbe, failed to advance in the House of Representatives.

The American zinc lobby has been a major opponent to any suggestions that the penny be eliminated, just as nickel lobbyists have fought efforts by the U.S. Treasury for years to remove nickel from the nickel. Another advocacy group, this one called Americans for Common Cents, passionately defends the penny.

“Eliminating the penny is a losing proposition because it will result in rounding to the nearest nickel and higher prices for America’s working families,” a statement on the group’s website reads.

“This increased cost to consumers will be felt in everything from the grocery store to the gas pump. Pennies add up to millions of dollars every year for charities across the country. Simply put, the penny plays an important role in our everyday lives and in our nation’s economy.”
Owen scoffed at one of those arguments.

“This idea that you’ll be ripped off by merchants somehow, that they’ll charge a few cents more without the penny — it’s not the case. Most merchants are happy to round in your favour; they just don’t want to deal with the penny anymore.”

But he acknowledges Americans have diehard attachments to pieces of currency other countries have long since done away with, noting the lack of love given to the America’s version of the loonie.

“One problem here, in addition to the fact that some Americans think dollar coins are a Commie plot, is that they’re so close in size to quarters. So they’re not widely in circulation, and when people get them, they tend to hold onto them as though they’re collectors items,” he said.

“There just doesn’t seem to be a rational response to currency changes in this country like you see in other places.”

Per Toronto Star

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In Canada We Take Care Of Our Sluts

“In 1892, a federal law was passed into the Criminal Code making it illegal to sell or advertise birth control in Canada, even though many women at the time were risking their physical and mental health because of almost annual pregnancies. Dangerous backstreet abortions were commonplace.

Elizabeth Bagshaw, one of Canada’s first female doctors, championed the notion that women should have the right to prevent pregnancy. She established Canada’s first family planning clinic in Hamilton, Ontario in 1932, although it was illegal to do so and despite intense criticism from the medical and religious communities.

50 years ago contraception was fully legalized in Canada.

“Today in Canada, thanks to a public health care system, any woman can access birth control pills through a prescription from their nurse or doctor. The cost is low ($25-$30/month), and many corporate insurance plans will cover the majority, if not all, of that cost.” See "In Canada We Take Care Of Our Sluts".

In the US recently a Georgetown student (Sandra Fluke) attempted to explain to a congressional panel why birth control should be covered by health insurance and/or affordable. In a country where free speech is constitutionally protected, she was initially barred from the (all male) Republican controlled panel.

Rush Limbaugh, the extreme right wing radio host, must think we still live in the 1950s. He called women who use birth control “sluts”. He said that if women want contraception covered by health insurance, then everyone is paying for her contraception, so she is being paid to have sex. If she is being paid to have sex then she is a slut. So, a women is a slut because she wants to take good care of her health. Simply neanderthal thought process here.

What is a man called who uses Viagra if said prescription is covered through his health insurance plan?

Not all women use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. Sometimes there is another medical reason. Sandra Fluke has a friend who suffers from painful uterine cysts and she cannot afford the birth control pills that would ease her suffering.

"Republicans are attempting to interfere with a woman’s right to prevent pregnancy and take care of their health". Making contraception unavailable or unaffordable will jeopardize woman’s health and result in more abortions. Surely contraception is a better alternative to abortion.

"Access to birth control and contraception is about public health. Public health policy is only effective when we have the freedom to make healthy choices, and affordable access to medication and health care".

Canadian women take for granted the freedom to make these healthy choices. Women in the United States do not have that freedom.

This is a giant step backwards for the US.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Vacate Premises Before The Target People Showup

Ok, I just couldn’t resist this.

Zellers is Canada’s second largest chain of discount stores. Zellers was founded in 1931 for “thrifty Canadians”. They used to be good stores when I was a kid, but somehow they didn’t keep up with the times and are extremely dated now. Target is taking over several Zellers’ sites and converting them to Target stores.

Zellers stores are still open, but will begin closing in this Spring for their one year makeover into Target stores.

Zellers. Where the lowest price is the law, as is vacating the premises before the Target people show up.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Teenager Shot In Church Dies

19 year old Hannah Kelley.

Americans love their guns, there’s no doubt about that. It’s something I don’t understand. Americans who are in favour of guns say that they keep you safe, but I keep hearing about people who have been accidentally shot, or someone unhinged “going postal”.

This latest tragedy takes place in St. Petersburg, Florida. Investigators have said that on February 12th Moises Zambrana was showing his gun in a small closet to another church member interested in buying a firearm, when it accidentally went off and 19 year old Hannah was shot in the head. She died yesterday at Bayfront Medical Center. Very sad. Read more here.....

Read my other postings on gun violence here and here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

American Government Attempting To Dictate Rules To Canadian Banks

The U S Government, through the Volcker rule, is attempting to regular how Canadian banks do business both within Canada and with Canada’s other trading partners around the world.

The Volcker rule is named after former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, who was commissioned by the White House to come up with U.S. financial reforms.

The reforms aim to lower the exposure of banks holding personal and business cash deposits to the risks from speculative trading for their own profit, something known as proprietary trading.Those deposits, to a large extent, are insured by the U.S. taxpayers.

Risky bets by big global banks forced the U.S. government to bail out the American banking system in 2008.”

Someone should remind the Americans that Canada is not part of the U.S. If the American Government want rules about financial reforms that affect American banks that’s fine, but they should not include foreign banks.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ice Day - School is Cancelled

Photo courtesy

This photo shows what the roads looked like this morning. They were covered with ice and were very slick.

School buses were cancelled today, and the kids have exams. Fun! Not a snow day, but an ice day. There was a scramble to find out what was happening with the exam schedule, which will be shifted forward a day and the teacher training day next week will be cancelled. I’m glad that’s sorted out.

The temperature has been hovering around freezing, and what happens is you get a mix of sleet, ice, and a covering of snow on top to disguise the ice. This is what makes it so treacherous. Just give me snow, rather than all this ice. Kids can’t sled, not enough snow. I’ve fallen several times. Hint: don’t tread on a sidewalk that looks wet, it’s probably black ice.

This has been the weirdest winter. I know I’ve been gone a few years, but I’ve never seen grass in January. I thought last winter was really mild, but this year we have had hardly any snow.  In Autumn trees are shades of yellow and green, and hardly red and orange like they used to be. Climate change exists.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Secret Life of Books

This is what happens in bookstores when you are asleep. Thanks to Laura K of wmtc.

Clever video made by owners of Type Bookstore in Toronto. It took the owners 4 nights to make this video. If you listen, you can hear a typewriter in the music. Very clever.

I agree that there’s nothing like a real book. Electronic readers are ok, but I prefer the feel and look of a book.

I'm definitely visiting this bookstore next time I'm in Toronto.

Here is an interesting article about the video in The Torontoist.

"Making His Ode to Joy of Books

A Toronto ad man devotes over 50 hours of physical labour to bring the magic of books to life in a stop-motion viral sensation.

At a time of e-books and rising rent, Toronto is mourning the loss of independent bookstores. Book-lovers were in need of a miracle-maker like Sean Ohlenkamp to bring the city’s love of books back to life.Okay, Ohlenkamp may not actually be a magician or a protege of Dr. Frankenstein—in fact, he’s an associate creative director at the Lowe Roche advertising agency here in Toronto—but with the help of his camera, 15 to 20 volunteers, four nights of after-hours physical labour at Type Books in November, and months in the editing room, his stop-motion video titled The Joy of Books is the closest thing to movie magic we’ve seen in a while.

“From the moment the doors locked at 6 p.m. we started working, arranged and rearranged, shelved and re-shelved…it took about fifty-odd hours of heavy lifting,” Ohlenkamp told Torontoist. “The first night I was there until twelve or one putting all the books back, went home and slept for a few hours, and then came right back.”

Finally finished last weekend, Ohlenkamp uploaded the video to YouTube on Monday. In the scant two days since it has garnered nearly 27,500 views and the attention of the Washington Post, BoingBoing, the Spectator, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, and many others. Not to mention, lots and lots of love for books and independent bookstores everywhere.

“I feel amazing, it’s really nice because I’ve been a little desensitized to it,” he said. “It was a very private process, me staring at the screen over and over again and no one else seeing it. But putting it out there and seeing the very positive response renews my appreciation for the time that has gone into this.”

It was a combination of friends, students, and colleagues who donated their evenings to the project (they are all listed on the video’s YouTube description), committing anywhere from a few hours to a full night. But Ohlenkamp and his “very, very loving and forgiving” wife Lisa Blonder Ohlenkamp were there for the entire filming process. Ohlenkamp provided the vision, but it was a group labour of love: Tom Westin of Grayson Matthews Music + Sound composed the original score, and Blonder Ohlenkamp created the green crocheted monster named “Oog” (seen chasing salt and pepper shakers at around 1:00) as well as a clock (at 0:35).

Now that the project is finished, Ohlankamp admits he’s “done moving books for quite a while.” But he’s hopeful that the video can at least convince a few others to pick up one or two."