Writing: an introductory thought

Richard Ketchum taught me creative writing. One thing I remember was his suggestions for starting any work: Include as many of the following as early as you can naturally do it:

  • time of day
  • weather and season
  • geographic location
  • distances

to which I added:

  • point of view.

Ketchum said we could learn to write in any form we chose. I mostly chose poetry.


I’d like to share with you the opening lines of a song by Harry Chapin:

it was raining hard in Frisco
I needed one more fare to make my night
a lady up ahead waved to flag me down
she got in at the light

Note that you don’t even need the title (Taxi) to know exactly what’s going on here.


Poverty Reduction: Ontario (Wynne) versus Toronto (Tory)

Here you will find an article describing the next set of ‘moves’ planned in Toronto.

I think this betrays the usual ‘progress’ we see under our current mayor. The plan is to spend a lot of time discussing what might be done over the next twenty years.

Here’s a quote from that web page, emphasis mine:

It is part of a series of panel discussions the city’s anti-poverty advocate, Councillor Joe Mihevc, hopes will generate bold ideas “to set the stagefor the next phase of Toronto’s 20-year poverty reduction strategy, approved by city council in 2015.

So, in more than two years, the city strategy has hatched a plan to spend time creating a strategy. Vintage Toronto Council, Vintage John Tory: photo ops and not much substance.

In contrast,

Here you will find an article describing what our Premier, Kathleen Wynne, is actually doing about poverty.

Here’s a quote from that web page:

Participants must be:

  • 18 to 64 years old for the duration of the pilot.
  • living in one of the selected test regions for the past at least 12 months or longer (and still live there):
    • Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County
    • Thunder Bay, along with the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge, Township of Shuniah, Municipality of Neebing, Township of Conmee, Township of O’Connor, Township of Gillies
    • Lindsay
  • living on a low income (under $34,000 per year if you’re single or under $48,000 per year if you’re a couple)

This pilot is already running and may be expanded. I don’t remember Wynne holding a lot of consultation. The tricky bits were deciding on the dollar numbers to use as thresholds, caps, and clawbacks.

How come Toronto doesn’t offer to co-fund an expansion to here?

Now for the dumber questions.

Suppose Doug Ford became leader of the Provincial Progressive Conservatives. (He did.) Suppose he becomes premier of Ontario. (He could.)

Which thing to you think he will do first?

  • Drive all the progressives out of the party?
  • Cancel the provincial guaranteed income program?
  • Speed up the discussions on poverty in Toronto?

I’m betting on: close to success in the first bullet, gerrymandering to un-fund the second bullet, and pointing out that the Scarborough Subway needs money more than the poor, who often don’t vote.

Is that cynical enough? That’s the final dumb question.

Trump’s Deficit

Donald Trump is complaining about constant USA trade deficits. This is a valid concern. If you check countries, you’ll find that Germany’s trade surplus is greater than that of the EU overall. The USA has always had a deficit overall, as has Canada.

Why are there trade deficits? Clearly, the USA as a whole buys more (in dollar terms) than it sells. How did this happen?

The book, Information Feudalism, is mentioned in the References pages of this website. I leave you to navigate there at your leisure. I will summarize a few points from that book.

  • The USTR and the DOHA round of trade negotiations focused on making copyright and patent rights enforced all over the world.
  • A company like Apple (no special reason to pick them, but I have the figures we need in mind) can sell an item for $3x and keep $2x of that for itself. Patent licensees build the product, acquire the necessary components and materials, pay their workers and various bills, on the remaining $x.
  • The jobs to do this are in the countries where the patents etc are licensed.
  • One third of the gross price goes to those same countries. This money may not come back to the USA as purchases.
  • Two thirds of the gross price comes back to the US parent, assuming they don’t launder or tax evade (not a good conclusion overall, eh?).
  • What does come back goes to the elites: Company executives, board members, stock option holders, and shareholders. It does not come back to the man in the street.
  • It is entirely possible for a company to decide where to license a patent and thus where to manufacture or assemble a product. American companies do not choose to do this in the USA if it can be done cheaper elsewhere. Hong Kong and Bangladesh, Japan and Korea, etc etc. There are few patriotic decisions made in board rooms.

The president who campaigned on cleaning up the swamp has a White House team composed pretty much entirely of swamp denizens and swam owners. They want their constant flows of income. Those flows are based on free trade and patent and copyright protection.

Therefore the USA will always have a trade imbalance.

Do you think the POTUS can override corporate self-interest? Did he try to buy this with his (imho disastrous) corporate tax cuts? Will anyone bought stay bought?


U Turn in Montreal (or, a Tale of Two Cities)

Those of us who are unhappy in Toronto should google ‘Montreal corruption.’ Either their media are much more savvy, or our politicians are not quite as venal.

However, weird things do happen in Montreal, similar to Toronto’s undying one-stop subway to Scarborough, known to be much more expensive and much less useful than the paid for LRT (which would have been running by now, if we didn’t have our Mayor and city council manoeuvering.)

There is a road that crosses Mount Royal. It isn’t particularly straight, it was I think recovered from some rail route. (Steel rail trains with few locomotives have serious limitations in climbable slopes, so the route is chosen watching slope as well as length.)

A cyclist was (regrettably) killed on this road by an illegal U-turning motor vehicle. What do you think Montreal’s proposed solution is?

To close the road at the middle to all but buses. What will that do?

Make everyone U-turn.

In Toronto we put up signs against turns. In Montreal they just close the way forward.

There is one additional similarity between our two cities: in Toronto, the subway debate and Metrolinx stations etc etc are based on ignoring planning decisions. Instead we have delays delays delays.

It appears that Montreal will now endure some sort of ‘consultation process.’ Then the road will be closed anyway.

Dumb question?

Want to bet that I’m wrong here?

At least in heaven there’s food

Bashar Assad is killing his own people. The Russian five-hour-daily cease-fire for humanitarian aid and civilian exit is just hot air.

(The advice given to the Honduran Contras attacking Nicaragua was, go for soft targets. Markets, schools, and hospitals. This ‘strategy’ is a gift of Richard Nixon and Oliver North. It is now standard practice.)

The Syrian regime is bombing hospitals, homes, whatever in Eastern Ghouta.

You can google the title phrase of this post. Or you can click here and scroll down to the ‘disturbing’ video.