Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Fatal Weakness of the United States Constitution Bill of Rights

Americans love their Constitution and beloved Bill of Rights. However it has one fatal weakness in that it's provisions are unrestricted without the requirement that such rights as freedom of assembly and speech and the right to bear arms be exercised responsibly. This leads to the inability to restrict hate speech including the desecration of funerals by lunatics claiming to be acting on behalf of god, as well as the inability to prevent the unfettered ownership and use of weapons, including the use of military assault weapons to kill innocent children.

What the American Bill of Rights needs is a "reasonable limits clause", such as is provided in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

1.The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

An Atheist Celebrates a Secular Christmas in a Multicultural Canada

So why would a non-Christian celebrate Christmas.

Well first of all from a religious point of view Jesus Christ is not just the Christian Messiah but also considered to be an important prophet amongst both Muslims and Jews so there is no reason they cannot celebrate his birth, while not recognizing him as the Messiah.

From a non-religious point of view there is a lot of controversy over whether Jesus Christ really existed, but even as a fictional character the types of values he represented are very humanistic and often in conflict with the views of religious authorities in his and our time.

But religion is not the main reason for Canadians to celebrate the Christmas holiday season, that has expanded to encompass both Hanukkah and other religious holidays that occur at this time (depending on the seasonal calendars of various religions) not to mention Festivus.

Christmas holiday celebrations are part of our Canadian heritage, being brought over by early settlers and added to and adapted by newer immigrants. But what makes Christmas really Canadian is it's role as a celebration of winter, and the choice of a date near the Winter Solstice (when the actual birthdate of Jesus Christ is uncertain) is not coincidental as the Christians timed their celebration to coincide with existing seasonal celebrations. Christmas is also a celebration of family and a time to think and care about the less fortunate.

While this is a time of giving it unfortunately also includes the Holy Trinity of Capitalist Excess - Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Day/Week.

This is also the time when Christian zealots, who claim Canada is a Christian country, carry on about the "War on Christmas", as if somehow the overwhelming attention paid to Christmas isn't enough. What there really is, is a "War on Diversity" by these zealots that get outraged whenever anybody refers to "seasons greetings" or "the holidays" as a means of including those celebrating other holidays at this time of year, as they see any recognition of the diversity of our society as an attack on Christmas.

While Canada may have been a "Christian country" at one time, it was not originally a Christian country (pre-Euoropean settlement) and is not now a Christian country but a secular society with freedom of religion and a diversity of religious and non-religious people.

Christmas is part of Canadian history and cultural traditions and it can belong to and be celebrated by all of us as a religious or secular celebration according to our own choice.

Previously on the Fifth Column:

Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings

Have A Holly Jolly Season of Cultural Diversity

Monday, 10 December 2012

Rogers and Me: Father Corporation Knows Best in Mister Rogers Neighbourhood

I prefer to deal with companies using email because it allows me to carefully ask questions and carefully consider the answers before asking follow-up question, as well as providing a written record of the information received.

I was quite surprised to find that Rogers Communications, which considers itself to be the best Internet service in the country, does not provide a means for customers to communicate with them via e-mail.

I searched Rogers website looking for an e-mail address for customers to ask questions about upgrading our analog cable TV service to digital and could not find any. The only place that had any sort of form for submitting questions to get an email response was here - https://www.rogers.com/web/content/contactus - and the closest form was for for Cable Media Relations, hardly the place for customer information requests.

I then queried the @RogersHelps Twitter account and was told first that Rogers didn't answer customer questions by email and then a further response referred me back to the same place on the website so I submitted the questions with no answer after a week, and none expected.

I am aware that Rogers has telephone and live chat help available and I know some customers prefer that. However, as stated above, I prefer to use e-mail to deal with companies I do business with.

Perhaps I am being stubborn and should just trust that the big corporation knows best how I should communicate with them but I believe that companies should let their customers choose which way to communicate with them, as long as it is reasonable and normal, which of course email is, in fact being the norm with most companies. Twitter on the other hand may be trendy and an effective way for customers to get a corporations attention but it is not an effective medium for seriously asking and answering complex questions.

These are the questions we are trying to get an answer to from Rogers.

The first question is about the PVR purchase and rental options. We noticed a rent to own option of $15 a month for 36 months which was appealing because by renting we do not have to buy a PVR outright that only works with Rogers if we want to change TV providers but yet if we are happy with the service after 36 months we own the PVR and have no more rental payments. However we also noticed a $25 rental option without purchase after 36 months. Why would anyone opt to pay more to get less. My best guess is that the $15 rent to own option is really not a rent to own option but simply a financing option and we are committed to keep paying for 36 months no matter what. Can you tell us what the differences between the $25 rental forever option and the $15 rent to own after 36 months option are.

Oh, and does the $500 PVR come with the recommended HDMI cable, or is that extra.

We understand there is a $50 installation charge. Is it possible to do the install ourselves by picking up the necessary outlet signal splitter and digital boxes at one of your stores, or having them delivered to us.

Also is it possible to connect TVs to the additional outlets without a digital box and get the basic analog channels on it.

Also if it is possible can I indicate all this during the online ordering process.

So we are left considering our options as to whether to just do as we are told by Rogers, who obviously believes they, not their customers, knows best, or simply seek out a different Television Service Provider who has more respect for their customers.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Stop Signs as Yield Signs for Cyclists - Ontario Cycling Strategy and The Idaho Experience

The following, based on a previous blog post, was submitted to the Ontario Cycling Strategy public consultation process.

Stop Signs as Yield Signs For Cyclists - The Idaho Experience

I am proposing that as part of the Ontario Cycling Strategy the Highway Traffic Act be amended to adopt the policy that has worked successfully in Idaho, and that is allowing cyclists to treat Stop signs as Yield signs.

There are already some differences in how the Highway Traffic Act applies to motor vehicles and bicycles, such as the requirement that bicyclists stay to the right and allow motor vehicles to pass, unless it is dangerous to do so. I would like to suggest another difference be implemented and that is the Idaho practice of allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs.

The main difference between a bicycle and a motor vehicle is that a bicycle is human powered - having to stop means losing momentum and having to rebuild it again when starting up. This can be particularly frustrating on a hill. The other big difference of course is that a bicyclists is not in a metal cage and thus has a much clearer view all around him than someone in a car. And the biggest difference is that a bicycle is much less dangerous than an automobile.

Experience indicates that allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs is safe. As cyclist are going slower to start off with they can easily slow down and check for oncoming traffic without coming to a full stop. The complete stop is what causes the most significant momentum problem. Slowing down enough to check for oncoming traffic allows one to continue, if safe, while conserving considerable human energy.

This policy and legislative change would require a public education policy so that cyclists would know what is expected of them, and motorists would understand the reasoning behind the new Highway Traffic Act provision. Cyclists at the moment realize they could be charged no matter what speed they go through a stop sign. I would expect this new approach would lead to many cyclists being more cautious at stop signs than they now are.

The Idaho legislation states:

IDAHO STATUTES TITLE 49 MOTOR VEHICLES CHAPTER 7

PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLES 49-720. STOPPING -- TURN AND STOP SIGNALS. (1) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping.

Source, Idaho Statutes: http://legislature.idaho.gov/idstat/Title49/T49CH7SECT49-720.htm

More information on the Idaho legislation and experience can be found here:

Toronto Star Article: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/675301

Bicycling blog: http://bicycling.com/blogs/roadrights/2009/07/28/a-stop-sign-solution/

Bicycle law blog: http://www.bicyclelaw.com/blog/index.cfm/2009/3/7/Origins-of-Idahos-Stop-as-Yield-Law

Bicycle Civil Liberties Union: http://www.bclu.org/stops.html