Quotulatiousness

August 17, 2017

Safe injection sites go rogue … to save lives

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the National Post, Chris Selley wonders why the federal government has been so slow to come around to accepting the overall harm reduction offered by legal safe injection sites:

I suspect this generation of policymakers, and the previous one especially, will struggle to explain to their grandchildren just what on earth they thought they were doing about opioid addiction. I don’t mean the likes of Donald Trump, who seems to think a get-tough policing approach — a “war on drugs,” perhaps — might get the job done. I mean smart, reasonably compassionate Canadians, by no means all conservatives, whose worries about safe injection sites in particular look bizarre even today, when people are still using them.

“It’ll attract rubadubs” — as if Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside was a middle-class utopia before Insite set up shop. “There’ll be needles in the streets” — more than if the safe injection site weren’t there, you mean? And, of course: “Addicts should go to treatment instead” — as if people haven’t been trying and failing to get and stay clean this whole time; as if the alternative, on a day to day basis, might be not waking up the next morning to go get treatment.

To its credit, the Liberal government in Ottawa has loosened the regulatory reins. There are nine approved “supervised consumption sites” up and running across the country: five on the Lower Mainland, one in Kamloops, and three in Montreal. Six more, in Victoria, Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, are approved and awaiting inspections. An additional 10 are in the approval process; four in Edmonton applied more than three months ago; one in Ottawa has been in the works, officially, since February.

This looks like progress, and to a great extent it is. But on Sunday, a group of activists in Toronto implicitly asked another trenchant question: why does it take so bloody long to set up a supervised injection site? Why are we waiting? It’s just clean needles, chairs and tables, overdose treatment medication, a nurse and a phone.

January 16, 2017

QotD: The process of de facto legalization of marijuana in Vancouver

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Law, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Despite the fact that I don’t smoke pot — because if I do I will be asleep in approximately three minutes — I have long advocated complete legalization. Largely for libertarian reasons but also because the criminal law is essentially unenforceable. But the medical marijuana regulatory scheme interests me as a grand example of government getting something entirely wrong.

The original medical marijuana regulations allowed people to buy from a single supplier or grow their own or designate a grower. While the system was far from perfect, and found to be unconstitutional, it had the advantage of regulating with a very light hand. But, oh Heavens, there was “leakage”. Medical pot was not always only used by medical users. Yikes.

So Health Canada came up with a regulatory scheme which was going to licence grower/distributors and put the users and their growers out of business. Enter Big Green and a bunch of promoters who sold shares in publicly listed companies based on the new regulations. The promoters made a lot of money using a simple story: there were 45,000 medical pot users in Canada (projected to grow to 450,000 users in a decade) who each used about 3 grams a day and who would have no choice but to pay between $8 and $15 a gram for their “medicine”. You do the math.

To my not very great surprise, people used to paying $0 to $5.00 a gram did not rush to sign up. And, very quickly, at least in Vancouver, pot shops – for registered users only of course – began to spring up. Becoming a registered user was not tough. As the 5th Estate guy discovered, telling a naturopath a charming story about stress and sleep disturbance over Skype gets you your registration. At which point you are free to buy. (I note the 5th Estate did not ask the pot shop owners where they were getting their pot – which is a rather good question because it is certainly not from the licenced growers as they are not allowed to sell except by mail order.)

As anyone who has lived in Vancouver knows, the Vancouver Police Department has better things to do than bust dispensaries. Plus, given the injunction halting enforcement of the Health Canada regs, it is not obvious what they would bust the dispensaries for that would have a chance of getting past the Crown. But even if they did bust the dispensary and even if the Crown brought charges, it is pretty difficult to see how a judge could find a person guilty who was selling to a registered user.

The problem is that the boffins at Health Canada have not quite figured out that their regulations are assuming a world which does not exist. First, they assume that people want to smoke “legal pot”. That might be true if police forces were in the habit of kicking down doors to arrest people smoking pot at home but, I fear, that hasn’t happened in years. (It may occasionally occur as a means of harassment but the probable cause issue is usually sufficient to kick the charges.)

Jay Currie, “Gone to Pot”, Jay Currie, 2015-06-15.

December 15, 2015

Asthma and the “Hygiene Hypothesis”

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

An older report at the BBC News website discusses recent research into childhood asthma:

Being exposed to “good bacteria” early in life could prevent asthma developing, say Canadian scientists.

The team, reporting in Science Translational Medicine, were analysing the billions of bugs that naturally call the human body home.

Their analysis of 319 children showed they were at higher risk of asthma if four types of bacteria were missing.

Experts said the “right bugs at the right time” could be the best way of preventing allergies and asthma.

In the body, bacteria, fungi and viruses outnumber human cells 10 to one, and this “microbiome” is thought to have a huge impact on health.

The team, at the University of British Columbia and the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, compared the microbiome at three months and at one year with asthma risk at the age of three.

Children lacking four types of bacteria – Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella, and Rothia (Flvr) – at three months were at high risk of developing asthma at the age of three, based on wheeze and skin allergy tests.

The same effect was not noticed in the microbiome of one-year-olds, suggesting that the first few months of life are crucial.

Further experiments showed that giving the bacterial cocktail to previously germ-free mice reduced inflammation in the airways of their pups.

One of the researchers, Dr Stuart Turvey, said: “Our longer-term vision would be that children in early life could be supplemented with Flvr to look to prevent the ultimate development of asthma

“I want to emphasise that we are not ready for that yet, we know very little about these bacteria, [but] our ultimate vision of the future would be to prevent this disease.”

November 19, 2015

“Changing Canada’s copyright term … means two decades where zero historical work enters the public domain”

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

There may be good parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, but there are emphatically bad parts, as Jesse Schooff describes in the particular case of the arbitrary extension of copyright in Canada from fifty years to seventy years:

One of the TPP areas of scope which is critical to discuss is the section on copyright. At this point, several notable bloggers* have covered the TPP’s copyright extension provisions in great detail. But what do those provisions mean for you? Let’s bring it down to the ground. For example: folks in my demographic seem to love seeing old-timey photos of their city. Here in Vancouver, exploring our retro-downtown through old photographs of various eras is practically an official pastime.

A quality source of such photo collections is a city’s municipal archives. Traditionally, an archives’ mandate is to store physical objects and documents, which include the physical “analog” photos taken during most of the 20th century. “Great!” someone might say, “the archives can just digitize those photos and put them up on their website, right?”

Let’s ignore the fact that the solution my strawperson proposes has a host of logistical issues attached, not the least of which is the thousands of work-hours required to digitize physical materials. Our focus is copyright — just because the archives has the original, physical photo in their collection doesn’t mean that they own the rights to it.

You have to remember that our newfangled, internet-enabled society is relatively new. When I was a child, if a person wanted to see a historical photo from a city archives, they would actually have to physically GO to said archives and ask an archivist to retrieve the appropriate fonds containing the photo. Journalists and other professionals likely did this regularly, but for the most part, the public at large didn’t usually head down to a municipal building and ask an archivist to search through their collection just to look at a few old photos.

Today, things are much different. If a municipal archives has digitized a significant portion of, say, their collection of 19th and 20th century historical photos, then those photos can be curated online; made accessible to the public at large for everyone to access, learn from, and enjoy!

[…]

Some of the photos, we’ll call them “Group A”, were explicitly released into the public domain by the photographer, so those are okay to use. Another bunch, “Group B”, are photos whose photographer died more than fifty years ago (1965 and before); any copyright on these photos is expired. Some “Group C” photos were commissioned by a businesses, or the rights were specifically sold to a corporation, which means that the archives will have to get permission or pay a fee to make them available online. Most frustrating is the big “Group D”, whose authorship/ownership is sadly ambiguous, for various reasons**. It would be risky for the archives to include the Group D photos in their collection, since they might be violating the copyright of the original author.

So already, knowing and managing the tangle of copyright laws is a huge part of curating these event photos. Hang on, because the TPP is here to make it even worse.

It’s been long-known that the United States is very set on a worldwide-standard copyright term of seventy years from the death of the author. Sadly, such a provision made it into the TPP. Worse still, a release by New Zealand’s government indicates that this change could be retroactive, meaning that those photos in my hypothetical “Group B” would be yanked out of the public domain and put back under copyright.

June 28, 2015

The obsession with “rape culture”

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At sp!ked, Ella Whelan talks about Canadian reporter Lauren Southern’s public dissent from one of the main talking points of the feminist movement:

Southern had previously sparked debate by posting a picture online of her holding up a sign that explained why she didn’t ‘need feminism’ – a response to a popular feminist selfie campaign. Following this up a year later with a video entitled ‘Why I am not a feminist’, she called out feminism as a ‘faux form of equality under a gender-biased word’. In Southern’s report on the Vancouver SlutWalk, she explained that she had attended the rally to ‘challenge the fearmongering feminist narrative about men, women and violence’. It is this ‘rape culture’ narrative, she tells me, which is really trivialising rape. ‘Women are going to equate things that aren’t rape with rape because they interpret guys whistling at them as rape culture’, she says. ‘The misuse of the word [rape] is very dangerous because it allows for false accusations.’

Southern sees feminists’ obsession with ‘rape culture’ as a languishing in female weakness. ‘I’ve always thought that the main feminist issue was empowering women, in real terms; telling women to go out there, get the job, do what you want, not run around screaming “trigger warning” and crying.’ Her assessment of contemporary feminism is astute. Following her visit to the rally in Vancouver, Southern received a barrage of messages from self-proclaimed radical feminists who told her ‘they were vomiting all night because they were so triggered’ by what she had done. That’s right, these women felt physically sick just because someone disagreed with them.

This bizarre prizing of weakness on the part of contemporary feminists is, Southern explains, down to their refusal to engage in debate on a regular basis. ‘It’s not hard what they do. They go on to a street where everyone agrees with them, wearing their underwear, and get to show off for a day… They don’t surround themselves with people who disagree with them.’ This refusal to engage in debate was evident at the protest itself, with Southern having to climb up on to a plinth to avoid her sign being covered up by angry protesters.

So where does this desire to portray weakness as a strength come from? Southern puts it down to an institutionalised victim culture in Western universities: ‘Academia is obsessed with feminism. You’ve got a protective narrative which screams “rape culture” at the slightest thing and students just eat it up. Whether that’s because they want good grades or not, this stuff doesn’t get challenged.’ As a result, she says, sexism becomes a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. ‘If you’re told that you’re a victim as you grow up, you’re going to have a confirmation bias when you’re not hired for a job but a man is. You’ll hear sexism in your head’, she says.

May 7, 2015

Vancouver – where “happiness” doesn’t co-relate with “quality of life”

Filed under: Cancon, China, Economics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Reducing the realities of life in a given city to a quick numerical value or data point on a chart requires you to ignore subtleties and local influences. Last month, Mark Collins linked to this article by Terry Glavin on what the “quality of life” numbers for Vancouver actually conceal:

If the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual top 10 world cities rankings are what you’ve been relying on, you probably weren’t surprised last month when the global human resources outfit Mercer tagged Vancouver on its Quality of Living index as the best city in North America. But you might have been surprised this week when Statistics Canada released a study showing that, by a variety of indices, Vancouverites are the unhappiest people in Canada, falling dead last among the residents of 33 cities across the country.

We like to think of Lotusland’s grand metropolis as a place where people ski, sail, ride their bikes, swim, and hike though lush rainforests, all in the same day. But StatsCan’s annual survey of median household income in Canadian cities routinely puts Vancouver close to the bottom of the heap on that same list of 33 cities, and in January the Demographia International research institute ranked Vancouver second to last in a global survey of 378 cities on its Housing Affordability Survey.

Vancouver’s median household income in 2014 was $66,400, while the city’s median home price was 10.6 times higher: $704,800. Only Hong Kong fared worse, and just barely. Hong Kong also tops Vancouver, again only barely, as the property investment bolt-hole most favoured by Mainland China’s loot-laden millionaires. For years, we’ve been instructed to pretend that this is somehow mere coincidence. You can’t get away with talking to Hong Kongers like that, but Vancouverites take it sitting down.

In happier places like Saguenay, Sudbury and Thunder Bay, there’s manufacturing, dairy farming, forestry and mining, and there’s a high degree of neighborliness and civility. But Vancouverites make most of their money from increases in the real estate value of whatever property they might be lucky to own. This tends to skew any real sense of hometown belonging, and nothing quite so rattles the cages as loose talk about the elaborate, federally-sanctioned swindle that has been keeping the bubble inflated all these years.

September 16, 2013

Speed Kills … Your Pocketbook

Filed under: Cancon, Law — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:06

Does speed really kill? Sometimes, yes, but when the speed limits are set artificially low, and enforcement is targeted to those areas where the limit is far below traffic speed, then all the speed kills campaign does is keep drivers complacent about paying fines that don’t improve safety.

In this video, I investigate the culture and science surrounding speed enforcement in BC, coupled with my trademark Simpsons, Supertroopers, and Family Guy references.

May 20, 2013

Counterfeit $100 bills now in circulation, despite all the anti-counterfeiting features

Filed under: Cancon, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:44

The new polymer bills were touted as having very hard to counterfeit features, and people apparently believed what they were told — because they haven’t been bothering to check the new bills:

Less than two years ago, the head of the RCMP said Canada’s new polymer bank notes would go a long way in deterring the threat of counterfeiting.

Just last month, the Bank of Canada announced the notes’ sophisticated transparency and holography made them “the most secure bank note series ever issued” by the institution.

Too bad somebody forgot to tell criminals in British Columbia.

Mounties and municipal police in Metro Vancouver are warning the public that several of the fake $100 bills have been detected in the region over the past few weeks.

The fanfare about the security features on the bills, may be part of the problem, said RCMP Sgt. Duncan Pound.

“Because the polymer series’ notes are so secure … there’s almost an overconfidence among retailers and the public in terms of when you sort of see the strip, the polymer looking materials, everybody says ‘oh, this one’s going to be good because you know it’s impossible to counterfeit,'” he said.

“So people don’t actually check it.”

December 21, 2012

The funny side of the sex trade

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:36

In the National Post, David Granirer talks about a stand-up comedy therapy program he runs to help people suffering from mental illness find ways to cope with their issues. He also ran the program for women in the sex trade and provides a few jokes from a recent performance by members of the program:

* “I’ve been in detox. While I was there I took a lifeskills course. They taught me how to shop, how to manage money, and how to pay my dealer on time so he’ll keep fronting me drugs.”

* “When you’re selling drugs on the street everyone wants to trade clothes for drugs. You can get a $200 pair of jeans for a $10 rock. Why would you go to Winners after that?”

[. . .]

* “When I first started in sex trade, a friend and I went down to the stroll and I get into a car with 2 guys. At first I thought it was kinky that they were into handcuffs, but then I found out they were cops.”

* “But the sex trade is a business like any other. If a john can’t pay I turn it over to my collection agency – 2 guys with baseball bats.”

* “As a sex trade worker you have to be a psychologist. The only difference is a psychologist’s clients don’t ask to be peed on.”

January 24, 2012

The Crazy Years: today’s exhibit, the $100 hot dog infused with 100-year-old cognac

Filed under: Cancon, Randomness — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:55

There are undoubtedly culinary discoveries yet to be made, some of which may well be amazingly tasty. Pulling together unlikely combinations is certainly one way to discover new and interesting flavours. This one, however, strikes me as being just a little bit crazy:

dougieDog Hot Dogs, a popular Vancouver eatery renowned for its creative all-natural hot dogs, has just added the Dragon Dog to its menu — with a price tag of $100. The hot dog features a foot-long bratwurst infused with hundred-year-old Louis XIII cognac, which costs over $2000 a bottle. Also on the dog, Kobe beef seared in olive and truffle oil and fresh lobster. A picante sauce (ingredients undisclosed) ties the flavors together for 12 inches of absolute culinary decadence.

“In designing this hot dog I wanted to come up with something super tasty and high-end that stays true to the traditional identity of the hot dog — a hot dog that any hot dog lover would enjoy,” explained dougieDOG proprietor and Chief Hot Dog Designer dougie luv.

I’m surprised the owner’s name isn’t C.M.O.T. Dibbler

October 20, 2011

Timer now started for how quickly Quebec forces Harper to override shipbuilding contract awards

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:08

The National Post editorial board has lots of nice things to say about the federal government’s attempt to take politics out of the huge shipbuilding contract process:

On Wednesday, the Tory government released its Solomonic decision regarding which shipyards will build $33-billion in new military and non-military vessels over the next two decades. The evaluation of bids for the largest government procurement contract since the Second World War was handled by senior bureaucrats, rather than cabinet ministers. Even the announcement of the winning contractors was made by Francois Guimont, the top civil servant from Public Works and Government Services, rather than his minister or the minister of National Defence, as would have been the case with past contracts of this magnitude.

Of course, that’s not to say there will be no political backlash from the decision. Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax will be given $25-billion to build new joint support ships, Canadian Surface Combatants — a sort of destroyer-frigate hybrid — and offshore patrol vessels capable of sailing off all three of Canada’s coasts — east, west and Arctic. Seaspan Marine of Vancouver will build science vessels for the Coast Guard and for the Fisheries department, plus icebreakers worth a total of $8-billion. That means Davie Shipyard in Levis, Que. was left without a major shipbuilding contract (though Davie is still eligible to bid on a further $2-billion contract to provide smaller government boats, such as Fisheries patrol vessels). It must have been tempting for the Tories to intervene in the contract-award process and toss Quebec a bigger bone. Their recent decision to expand the grasp of the official languages commissioner to several airlines, and their willingness to give new seats to Quebec in the House of Commons (despite the fact Quebec was not underrepresented there), just because Ontario, B.C. and Alberta were getting more, shows the Tories have become very concerned about their appeal to Quebec voters.

You can guarantee that many Quebec politicians will benefit for having yet another stick to beat the federal government with — this would be true in all scenarios except the one where the Quebec shipyard got both contracts. It would be an even better deal for the taxpayers (and perhaps even the Royal Canadian Navy) if the contracts hadn’t been restricted to Canadian shipyards: it wouldn’t fly politically, but it would almost certainly have been better bang for the billions of bucks.

July 12, 2011

An amusing copyright tale (for a change)

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 16:06

Jesse Brown has the most entertaining copyright story I’ve read in quite a while:

But some of the hooligans exposed on Youtube found a clever way to get the video removed—copyright claims. Under Youtube’s “Notice and Takedown” policy, all you need to do is claim you own the rights to a video and demand that it be removed, and Youtube will remove it. The video’s uploader will be informed of the allegation and then have a chance to challenge it.

But here’s the rub: in order to claim ownership of a video’s copyright, you have to identify yourself. And when Youtube informs the uploader that they’re being accused of a copyright violation, they have to tell them who their accuser is. So rioters are indirectly handing their names over to the very people who were trying to identify them.

June 16, 2011

QotD: The tendency to riot among Canadians

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:44

Just as cities have to anticipate trouble, ordinary law-abiding folks who think a trip downtown to watch the fun have to accept that they won’t necessarily be protected from it, or from the police response. Ontario courts are still dealing with cases of people claiming their rights were trampeled when police reacted to the G20 violence by abandoning their own duties and discipline, and lashing out at anything that stumbled into their path. Hearings are being held to sort out what went wrong, and the force is struggling to retain some respect after doing its best to avoid being held accountable for its own indefensible actions. In other words, once the trouble starts, all bets are off, and anyone who thinks they’ll take the kiddies down for a peak, and will somehow be protected when things get out of hand, is deluding themselves.

There is something bizarre going on just beneath the surface of our supposedly decent and civilized society. Canada is prosperous and peaceful, and does as much or more than any country to preserve and protect the rights and opportunities of people fortunate enough to live here. There are certainly inequalities and injustices, but anyone who thinks they’ll find a society that tries harder to eliminate them, or is more concerned with trying to spread the benefits equally among all citizens, will have a lengthy search on their hands. It’s doubtful in any case that the dolts who ignited the trouble in Vancouver think that deeply, or have any purpose other than mindless mayhem. They deserve no sympathy, and should be treated by the law as harshly as allowed.

Kelly McParland, “Lessons to learn from dolts at a hockey game”, National Post, 2011-06-16

Welcome to Vancouver. Please ignore the rioters

Filed under: Cancon, Sports — Tags: , , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:02

Lord Stanley’s Cup won’t be coming back to Canada this year, but as Brian Hutchison points out, that’s only one of the losses sustained by Vancouver last night:

The season ends, and the worst does come to pass. Vancouver, you have lost. Twice. But the game hardly matters now, does it? The score? Who cares? As I write this, my eyes are stinging, my is throat sore, having breathed in some sort of dispersal chemical that police deployed — in desperation, and perhaps too late. There could be some residual effect from having inhaled acrid, toxic smoke from burning cars, exploding cars, destroyed by lunatics still running crazy on the city’s downtown streets.

Blood in our streets. I saw people on the ground, bleeding. Shattered glass everywhere. Police cars set alight. Major bridges are now closed, preventing public access into the downtown core. Transit is plugged up, there’s no way out. More police and fire crews are arriving, from the suburbs, but again, it seems too late.

And as I write this, the sun has just set. Vancouver, what a disgrace.

Update: A Tumblr page posting photos of the rioters and looters:

The National Post has more photos of the aftermath.

Update: Joey “Accordion Guy” deVilla points out that one of these riots is not like the others. Oh, and a commentary on the most famous photo of the riots (so far).

March 18, 2011

West coast earthquake zones

Filed under: Cancon, Environment, Pacific, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:44

According to an article in The Economist, the well-known San Andreas fault in California is not the most likely to cause an earthquake of the magnitude of last week’s quake in Japan. The most likely source is the Cascadia subduction zone:

wikimedia.org - Cascadia subduction zone The most likely megaquake on the West Coast would be much further north — in fact, 50 miles off the coast between Cape Mendocino in northern California and Vancouver Island in southern British Columbia. This 680-mile strip of seabed is home to the Cascadia subduction zone, where oceanic crust known as the Juan de Fuca plate is forced under the ancient North American plate that forms the continent. For much of its length, the two sides of this huge subduction zone are locked together, accumulating stresses that are capable of triggering megaquakes in excess of magnitude 9.0 when they eventually slip. As such, Cascadia is more than a match for anything off the coast of Japan.

What makes Cascadia such a monster is not just its length, but also the shallowness of the angle with which the encroaching tectonic plate dives under the continental mass. The descending plate has to travel 40 miles down the incline before it softens enough from the Earth’s internal heat to slide without accumulating further frictional stresses. Could the fault unzip from end to end and trigger a megaquake — along with the mother of all tsunamis? You bet. By one account, it has done so at least seven times over the past 3,500 years. Another study suggests there have been around 20 such events over the past 10,000 years. Whatever, the “return time” would seem to be within 200 to 600 years.

And the last time Cascadia let go? Just 311 years ago.

Cascadia subduction zone image from wikimedia.org.

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