Refugees, and Saudi Arabia

There is a circulating eMail which points to a page on You can find that page here. The page claims that Saudi Arabia has 100,000 air-conditioned tents and has taken in zero refugees. This is correct.

The page then claims Saudi Arabia should use those tents for refugees. This is nonsense. The tents are used during Hajj, which as I understand it, is for a few weeks every year. A pilgrimage to Mecca is a one-time requirement of any Muslim who can do it once in their lifetime. The numbers involved are very large.

I’ll bet the tents aren’t air-conditioned twelve months of the year, just during Hajj.

If refugees were allowed to fill these tents, when Hajj comes around, where will they be displaced to? And, after months of refugees living there, will the tents be as neat as after a few days’ use by pilgrims?

For a comparison, the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto covers some 192 acres and is in full use for about two weeks of every year. By the logic above, should we put refugees there? I think not. There is considerable planning before the exhibition opens; apparently it pulls about $80 million into Ontario each year. We need that space.

Finally, it is useful to understand Saudi Arabia’s attitude to foreign workers. They are some 31% of the population. They are not allowed to become citizens. Fewer than 3% stay six years. They do jobs the Saudis can’t or don’t want to do. It started with oil technicians; added workers, mostly male; then women mostly in service industries, as maids, for example.

Here you will find the above information, and the following fascinating quote:

The results of the 2004 census indicates that only about 15 per cent of foreign workers are in the skilled category, with the remainder mostly working in agriculture, cleaning and domestic service. Country of origin has been an important factor in determining foreign workers’ occupational roles in Saudi Arabia. Saudi businesses have traditionally adopted an ethnically defined hierarchical organisation. For example, a recent academic study of a Danish manufacturing company’s Saudi subsidiary noted that a manager had to be European, a supervisor had to be Egyptian, Filipino employees often had technical roles, and Indians, the lowest in the hierarchy, worked in production. Foreign workers’ presence in Saudi Arabia tends to be transitory: only 3% remain in the country for more than six years.

My point here is that the Saudis have a challenge controlling their own country. Therefore foreign workers are kept in constant turnover. Thus they do not form communities, and cannot challenge the status quo.

Refugees have no place in the Saudi plan. Don’t expect them to take any.

Constructed of Magic, by Louis Alan Swartz

This is a copy of a review I posted on

A wide-ranging collection of poems, on many subjects

five stars

Star counts are hard, especially in a work of some ninety-three poems presented in groups on various themes. So, as always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later. Let’s get to Swartz’s work.

From the first poem, Death, you will be ambushed by Swartz’s philosophy, which continues in the larger poem Some Things I Want to Show you. The belief system is exposed poem by poem, for example in Where’s the Fire Bud? we find this: “Then suddenly and quietly /The fire came and sat /Down next to me, /So bright and strong /Even the cop could see.”

Mortality is everywhere in Swartz, and lack of fear of it. For an example of this, turn to Visit from a Fatal Friend.

There are metaphysical puzzles, as in Walking from the Garden to the Forest. It is impossible to give an insight into this complex poem with a simple quote.

Some poems are simple exposures of pure pleasure, as Boston Winter in Love, which is very nice.

Conversely there are tough situations, as in Making the Bed, in which we find this: “I would give up /Everything I have /For five genuine minutes /With my daughter” and later this: “I’d burn this bed /And all four thousand /Six hundred and forty six /Square feet of this house /Just to spend five minutes /Really talking to my husband.”

This is followed by the even more frightening poem, Making the Bed Thirty Years Later, which ends thus: “Be polite at my funeral. /Leave the skeletons at home in the closet. /And enjoy the expensive catered food at the reception.”

For a surprise point of view, turn to the masterpiece Making Dinner, which ends with “How could Mommy be other than forever?”

For a final comment on mortality (or the lack of it) turn to Oriental Poppies and Irises.

Star counts are hard. These poems are not all of the same appeal to me, and your mileage may vary. However, the favourites noted above moved me, and in this large collection there will surely be favourites of yours too. My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. This is a wide-ranging collection. For the reader going through the volume as I did, I think you will find enough to agree that five stars are warranted. Recommended, for sure.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

A Scary Page from MacLeans Magazine.

Here is the hotlink.

I was made aware of this by Don Tyrrell, whom I thank for this and other pointers.

I will content myself with a very small quote from the Macleans’ article. You should read the whole thing. Here goes:

Meanwhile, as actual information vanishes, it’s being replaced by mythologizing historical narratives. As stations monitoring climate change close in the Arctic, historic missions in the North, notably, the Franklin expedition, are celebrated; at a time when veterans’-services offices have been closed and StatsCan no longer tracks military personnel, or wages and salaries of veterans, soldiers who fought historic wars are memorialized, with $28 million spent on the anniversary of the War of 1812, in one example.

This is one of the more misleading tactics, imho, of the Harper government. We close Arctic stations but clog the news with the Franklin expedition’s discovery. We close veterans’ service offices and stop tracking them, but spend $28 million on a war anniversary.

The government thereby intends to appear concerned: about the Arctic; about veterans. But they are not: they are using taxpayer’s money to advertise themselves.

Go and read the article. The first word of this page is a hotlink.

A Complaint to the WordPress Support Team

WordPress makes it easy for a non-HTML person to handle a website.

I have been forced to use HTML in one specific case, to point forward to another spot in the same web page. I do this in a very dumb manner which makes it easy for me to copy/paste/modify and create a new instance of this. So I only had to get this right once.

So, other than that, I never need to know HTML.

I am a retired data processing professional. I have written code in .bat files, 8088 assembler, turbo pascal, Fortran, basic (various dialects), /360 JCL, /360 assembler, Cobol, FCL (3600 controller language), REXX, SmallTalk, PL/I, plus a private language developed by CIBC called GDF.

I don’t want to code anymore; I don’t want to debug language syntax anymore. I want a simple tool to maintain my website.

WordPress has been that.

With one glaring exception.

When one makes a hotlink to another page, the dialogue box that comes up has a few fields to enter. One is a check box for ‘open in a new page.’ No problem there. Another is for the URL you want the link to go to; naturally this is a cut&paste from another browser window’s top line. No problem there. The last is text you want to show up in mouse over.

This last one stopped working. If you used this in the past, it worked perfectly. Your original text became blue, acted as a hotlink, and mouse over showed what you’d added.

Now, if you use this, it does NOT create mouse over information; instead it replaces your ‘blue’ hotlink text.

I reported this as a bug and was told, eventually, that the bug was a duplicate. So, foolishly, I waited for a fix.

No fix. So I tracked down the earlier bug of which mine was ‘duplicate’. Amazing.

This bug was created deliberately by the WordPress support team because they didn’t think one should be using mouse over text. Still the dialogue box implies you can do it, but you can’t.

There is a workaround. Go into HTML editing mode. Your hotlink will appear approximately like this:

<a href=

where the url follows the href.

change this to be

<a title=”your flyover text” href=

that is, insert title=”your flyover text” (space required) between <a and href=

No thanks to the WordPress team on this one. Sorry guys, but I am really disappointed that you turned off a useful facet of the WordPress editor.

Cat Lady, by Mary M. Schmidt

This is essentially the same as the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads.

Light verse, entertaining, and suitable for intelligent children as well as adults.

four stars

There are, on thirty-one pages, connected verses of (almost always) eight lines each, with rhyme scheme AABBCCDD. As always, Google anything you don’t know. Apparently Strega is an Italian liqueur, for example.

It is a mythic story, beginning with the cat lady and her cats, and segueing into the tale of Cardinal Mezzaluna, who summons the cat lady to a private audience. This leads to a mythic journey that reminds me of The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

It is a strange tale of love frustrated and yet resolved, of duty and honour. Now for the star count.

Star counts are hard. I try to be consistent. My personal guidelines, when doing any review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. This is an unusual genre for me to review, so your rating may be higher than mine: four stars, and definitely recommended.

Please, no Olympics for Toronto

If you have a look at this page, you’ll see that Quebec took decades to pay off its 1976 Olympics stadium. They had a special (hated) tobacco tax.

It costs $100K just to write a letter of intent. Then it’s another $500K to actually submit a bid. Then the host city is on the hook for very large amounts of construction debt, mostly building huge facilities which we don’t currently have, for the simple reason that there aren’t enough fans to justify them.

I could have tagged this as a ‘person of interest’ blog entry in that our waffling mayor, John Tory, has yet to decide which ‘decision’ will be the easiest to live with. I call this ‘bleadership’ or, perhaps, ‘bleatership’. This is the same mayor who will not re-open the Scarborough  subway / light rail issue despite many proofs that the light rail is actually better and serves more people.

Cynically, the subway goes through a lighter-density, single-family homes area, one of wealthier citizens who have time and resources to lobby and attend fundraising events.

The Olympics will benefit construction companies, hotels, and restaurants.

Given the short time frame (mid-September?) I’ll bet Tory hedges his bets and spends the $100K on our behalf.

Comments, anyone? As always, give WordPress your real eMail. Nobody but me will ever see it.

On Fairer Taxes

Justin Trudeau has broken away from the standard ‘balanced budget, austerity, tax cuts for the rich’ with the suggestion of increasing taxes for the higher income earners, and decreasing taxes for the middle class.

May I cynically note that his ‘middle class’ seems to include $100K to $200K earners. While these are the votes one wants to get, the influential people who attend party dinners and make party donations, they are not those most in need of tax breaks.

I propose the following alternative:

  • Treat all income as income. This includes housing supplements.
  • Tax no income below (or near) the poverty line. This would depend on family size, obviously.
  • Cut all tax cuts for the rich. This includes income splitting, renovation partial deduction, sports equipment deductions. These latter deductions only work if you have the money up front for the expense – tax cuts for the rich.
  • Tax above the poverty line with progressive taxes. A higher tax bracket for very high incomes is totally reasonable.
  • Tax corporations, and dump their tax escapes.
  • Tax idle money held by corporations.
  • Tax cash movement transactions by corporations. Exception: repatriation of profits that become taxable in Canada.

Comments, anyone? Remember to include your real eMail address when responding here.

If you’re waiting for the dumb questions, here are a few:

  • How many of us will suggest something like all or part of the above, when candidates knock on our doors?
  • How many reporters will admit agreement to any part of the above?
  • Do we get the government we deserve?