Media

Logic Wasted on Bullies

By Jason Leach
Published April 13, 2009

A recent letter to the editor of our wonderful, daily newspaper tries to use a bit of logic in voicing displeasure over an editorial cartoon with no purpose other than to take a shot at Councillor Brian McHattie (Ward 1).

'McHattie's Utopia', by Graeme MacKay, published April 8, 2009 in the Hamilton Spectator (Image Credit: MacKay Cartoons)
'McHattie's Utopia', by Graeme MacKay, published April 8, 2009 in the Hamilton Spectator (Image Credit: MacKay Cartoons)

Yes, that would be the same councillor who saved the Lister Block, tried to save City Hall, got on board with light rail while many other councillors had no clue what it was, and has personally led the charge to follow up on Hamilton's One Big Idea to fill this industrial town with trees, among his many progressive initiatives.

One of life's simplest lessons can be learned by listening to how someone articulates their opposition to an idea or thought that they don't like. Folks who enjoy dialogue and discussion and are open-minded to the logic of those whose ideas may not match up with theirs can usually be found participating in such discussions and offering their opposing view in a respectful manner.

Those who have nothing good to share and have nothing to add to a discussion usually resort to name-calling and personal insults.

While I can appreciate the efforts of this letter writer to inject some common sense into this discussion, his efforts would be better spent elsewhere. Discourse and respectful discussion is a two-way street. It simply won't work with someone who can only respond with insults and schoolyard bullying.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By C. Erl (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2009 at 13:19:06

I totally agree...the problem is, just like with most aspects of the traditional Hamilton elite, The Spec just doesn't understand this whole idea of our city having a progressive councillor.

The only way to familiarize this city's original ruling class with progress is to have more and more progressive city councillors fill City Hall. Next year's our big chance!!!

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By LL (registered) - website | Posted April 13, 2009 at 22:43:22

Ludicrous. McHattie is the least authoritarian of the councillors. If the Spec helped McHattie communicate his actual vision of a good city, instead of slandering him, Hamilton would be a lot better off.

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By Ilya (registered) | Posted April 15, 2009 at 14:15:42

I did not see this cartoon until today. Such a shame. The question is what will we do about it. I went to the presentation by the Chairperson of the Guelph Civic league (put on by MixedMedia) and was truely excited about the concept of a councilor score card. I feel this is especially important in the run up to elections.

For those who did not attend the concept was wonderfully simple: - a survey was sent out to Guelphites. - from the survey they identified 18 core values to those living in Guelph. - they then scored the councilors based on their voting records with either a 1 or a 0. 1 indicated the councilor had voted with the identified value. 0 indicated the opposite.

The result was almost a wholesale change voted into council and a level of accountability which this City could use.

I hope we are able to get beyond the presentation and get a working group together. I'm not an organizer, but want to move beyond enthusiasm to something real. I'm in.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 15, 2009 at 16:04:00

I was at the same presentation. You've given a good summary, the only thing I would add is that in addition to scoring and publicizing councillors' voting records, they also put on a big push to increase voter turn out. Voter ignorance and apathy is the main culprit for our current malaise.

I too hope something comes out of this. Even if you're not an organizer, consider talking to the board of your neighbourhood association. The GCL is an umbrella group of neighbourhood associations and citizens' groups. If we can get our neighbourhood associations talking to each other, it might be a catalyst. I'm working on mine.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2009 at 21:30:00

Jason >> Yes, that would be the same councillor who saved the Lister Block, tried to save City Hall, got on board with light rail while many other councillors had no clue what it was, and has personally led the charge to follow up on Hamilton's One Big Idea to fill this industrial town with trees, among his many progressive initiatives.

Only in a evil world can someone who steals other people's hard earned wages be considered a hero. Check your allegiance Jason, you don't want to be serving the "wrong" government when that time comes.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 15, 2009 at 21:34:17

Only in an evil mind can a hero be considered someone who steals other people's hard earned wages.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 15, 2009 at 21:54:00

Highwater, the money McHattie doles out is not his own, nor has it been given to him voluntarily. He spends money given to him through the threat of violence and that is the truth. If you don't believe me, abolish jail time for tax evasion and see how much money government leaders actually get entrusted with.

A better idea would be to ask God for the resources you need, not the rulers of this world.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 15, 2009 at 23:14:21

Dear God,

Please give me the resources I need to resist the temptation to respond to anymore of A Smith's absurd posts.

Amen.

Say, you were right. That was a better idea. I feel better already.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2009 at 00:58:50

I pray that God will send Ryan a fancy new LRT so we can finally bring Hamilton's taxes down. Amen.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 16, 2009 at 08:26:52

Hallelujah!

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted April 16, 2009 at 13:36:32

The cartoon is acurately portraying the CULT that environmentalism has become.

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By Kalev (registered) | Posted April 18, 2009 at 09:47:21

Capitalist, If dedicating one's self to making the world a better place for our children can be considered a cult, then I would be proud to be a part of it.

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By BJacket (anonymous) | Posted April 18, 2009 at 12:33:48

Lighten up, people, it's a cartoon. Brian McHattie's a big boy and he can handle the ridicule. Too bad his fan club can't.

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 19, 2009 at 10:53:32

Everyone knows it's a cartoon, but the fact is, there are serious issues that council gets wrong on a regular basis. This isn't just some joe blow putting up a cartoon on a street pole or his own personal website. It's our daily paper. Hamilton city council provides no shortage of cartoon material, but instead we get a cartoon with no substance that is just a personal shot at someone. We all know the Spec's biases such as parading around the character in the front cover story yesterday who insists on maintaining a toxic, dangerous property that all parents will need to be sure their pets and kids stay away from just so he can avoid 'one dandelion'. Our society has gotten to this point?? A dandelion and a suburban 'picture lawn' is more important than human health?? I simply don't get it. Manicured lawns are one of the stupidest things I've ever heard of. Adding cancer-causing toxins to ones lifestyle in order to maintain such a lawn is even more insane.

Don't worry about McHattie or his 'fan club'. Residents in this part of the city are not only able to endure being 'looked down' upon by folks in other parts of town, but we actually enjoy it and revel in the fact that our area isn't like many others in Greater Hamilton.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 19, 2009 at 14:40:59

Jason >> Our society has gotten to this point?? A dandelion and a suburban 'picture lawn' is more important than human health?

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear."

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By jason (registered) | Posted April 19, 2009 at 16:33:22

I realize I'm feeding a troll, but please explain to me - how does that verse encourage us to allow our kids to play with cancer-causing chemicals??

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By Chris A (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 11:19:44

Yeah the plastic shopping bag ban. Absolutely ridiculous, what a typical all show no go feel good puff of smoke. Don't enhance the "blue box" or increase what will be recycled no that's too much like real work requiring actual thought and partnership with private enterprise. Citizens do not elect councilors because they need more authority figures in their lives placing all the burden of recycling on their backs. Council is attempting to use bylaws to do the impossible. Clear plastic bags, what nonsense an excuse for someone to decide if the cracked jar inside is an excuse to place a samrmy OOPS sticker and leave one full bag curbside for my next one full bag pick up. I don't control the packaging or content of any product I buy. I can wring my hands all I want but I have more to be concerned about then agonizing over the disposition of every purchase at the end of its use. Governments do have control over packaging, content and more. If it is sold in this city province or country it should be able to be recycled or disposed of in same (with obvious exceptions like chemicals etc.). Leaving citizens stuck with garbage is not the solution. Our politicians at all levels must make this a priority, no one else can. We are still using a temporary measure like blue box when what is needed is separation equipment for recyclable items numbering in the hundreds not the paltry stagnant few we have now. Here is a clue for every politician out there especially city council. The easier you help to make recycling the more people will recycle. Work on that not punitive and annoying OOPS stickers. I have been stickered for no apparent reason more than once and placed the supposed offending article prominently the next week when someone picks it up who either knew it was permitted or who was not concerned with filling a quota. I have also had bags stickered as too heavy when they were only 60% of the allowable weight. To make matters even worse the garbage truck does not even have a scale, so it has to be someone's guess or possibly the filling of a quota. The blue box needs to be a marked recyclable can, filled with unsorted unwashed recyclables. The key here being unwashed as we currently have hundreds of thousands of people with no where to store cans bottles and food related recyclable materials who must wash these items to avoid odour and pests. All these items when they are processed for recycling are cleaned as if they had never been cleaned to avoid the possibility of contamination. Therefore every drop of water and minute of time spent by the householder in pre treating these items is wasted. The waste in water resource alone is staggering. These things are just the obvious easily corrected issues I would have expected to have been addressed 20 years ago. Maybe 10 years from now all levels of government will do what is required of them instead of making the average citizen responsible for their short sightedness.

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By insanity (anonymous) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 12:53:42

The plastic bag ban is just as ridiculous as the plastic water bottle ban. That's the quick and easy feel-good reaction that will not impact on the overall health and well-being of our planet. Energies should focus on educating, enhancing and enforcing recycling, not by compiling a list of banned substances.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted April 23, 2009 at 15:45:24

Insanity..care to come on a tour of the dump with me? I'll take you around and show you that it's not as stupid as you think.

I'm not a fan of bans in general but idiots who purchase bottled water (we're talking the little bottles) apparently don't understand that 80% of bottled water is directly from municipal sources nor do they see that the water we have in Hamilton is "high quality H2O". If a person feels the necessity to not use the tap water, then by all means buy one of those water cooler things and do it that way. Water bottles are a huge source of litter.

And as far as the plastic bags...what the heck happened to the paper bags? And what's wrong with paying 99 cents for a bag that'll last longer than you? It's not that hard especially when you realize that at 5 cents a bag it only takes 20 bags to get your money back.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 23, 2009 at 16:07:50

Well said, Frank.

People are notoriously bad at universalizing individual actions.

It won't make a difference if I pick just one flower from the Bruce Trail. It won't make a difference if I drop just one wrapper on the ground. It won't make a difference if I throw just one bottle into the garbage.

What people can't seem to figure out is that "just one" action multiplied millions of times can be devastating. Scale any activity up high enough and it can have world-changing consequences.

Who could have imagined back in the 1920s that if enough people sprayed chlorofluorocarbons into the air, it would destroy the ozone layer in an expanding hole over the Antarctic?

Who would have guessed, at the dawn of the petroleum age, that humans could ever burn enough hydrocarbons to set the global atmosphere on a trajectory toward runaway warming?

Sometimes, "educating" strategies aren't enough. My inclination is to prefer the use of incentives to drive consumer behaviour (e.g. through a tax on plastic bottles and bags to make them less economical), but I'm not going to dismiss the idea of a ban out of hand.

When the stakes are high enough, we need to do whatever is most effective and not prejudice ourselves against a given proposal.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 23, 2009 at 22:12:01

Frank >> Water bottles are a huge source of litter

If the government got out of the business of running landfills, garbage wouldn't be a problem. Like everything else they operate governments create shortages because they don't attach a price to the service they provide. Whether it's free health care, free roads or free landfills, if the government charged people for the services they used, demand would go down and supply would increase.

In the case of garbage, people would begin looking for goods with as little packaging as possible and the government could use the increased revenue to invest in technology to store waste as efficiently as possible. Instead, by not charging people for a service they need, the government stores waste inefficiently and then has to create across the board limits on the amount of waste one can make. Therefore if your a large family, too bad, you're screwed. However, if your a single homeowner, you end up with a garbage limit above your needs.

>> set the global atmosphere on a trajectory toward runaway warming?

Have you been outside recently?

>> My inclination is to prefer the use of incentives to drive consumer behaviour (e.g. through a tax on plastic bottles and bags to make them less economical)

Abolish free garbage pick up and start charging people per bag and the garbage problem will go away.

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By Z Jones (registered) | Posted April 23, 2009 at 22:43:11

Can RTH start up a fund to raise money so we can send A Smith on a REAL economics course so his knowledge of economics isn't limited to some random neoliberal website? Markets are not a magic bullet.

"Whether it's free health care, free roads or free landfills, if the government charged people for the services they used, demand would go down and supply would increase."

Demand for health care would go down because lots of people would no longer be able to afford it. Which people? Only the ones who need health care the most. In America health care costs are the #1 cause of personal bankruptcy.

"In the case of garbage, people would begin looking for goods with as little packaging as possible and the government could use the increased revenue to invest in technology to store waste as efficiently as possible."

No they wouldn't. Garbage is a spillover (literally AND figuratively) - a cost that neither the sellers nor the buyers have to absorb personally. If people had to pay market prices to have their garbage taken care of, they would just dump it and the city would be filthy.

Go back and research what cities were like during the 19th century - they were filthy cesspools of human and animal waste and garbage. Municipal services like water, sewage treatment and garbage collection were started because markets failed to deal with them and cities were horrible places to live as a result.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 24, 2009 at 00:33:15

Incidentally, here's a photo I took a couple of weeks ago along the Waterfront Trail near Princess Point:

http://raisethehammer.org/images/bottles...

Beautiful, isn't it? :P

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 15:59:59

Ryan >> Incidentally, here's a photo I took a couple of weeks ago along the Waterfront Trail near Princess Point:

Damn government, can't they keep their property clean?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 27, 2009 at 16:02:59

I'm sure lower property tax rates would get rid of that unsightly litter.

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By Arby (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 16:05:09

^^ The RBG is not government property. :P

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 16:31:46

@Ryan - please don't tease the local wildlife.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2009 at 17:16:50

Arby, From the RBG annual report 2007...

FUNDERS
Royal Botanical Gardens is funded by the people of
Ontario through Ontario Ministry of Culture, City of
Hamilton, Regional Municipality of Halton, Royal
Botanical Gardens members, The Auxiliary of Royal
Botanical Gardens, and many corporations, foundations
and individuals.

In other words, without the government paying their bills, they would not exist. Therefore, they are "owned" by the government.

Ryan, If this land was owned by the private sector, empty bottles would not be allowed to accumulate like this scene. Furthermore, if this land was sold off to the private sector, the government would actually collect taxes on it. Instead, we have land that is abused by people who don't value it and a government that has no clue how to control it. Assuming the city won't sell this land off, perhaps a good start would be to charge visitors a small fee to enjoy Princess Point. This would help cover the costs of keeping it clean and would filter out the people who don't value it as a natural attraction.

As for lowering tax rates, it stimulated private investment in Boston and Portland and it would do the same here as well. Keep in mind that low tax rates doesn't mean low taxes, just that the government collects a smaller percentage of the overall economy. After enacting Prop 2 1/2, Boston's government saw its assessment base go from 147.67B to 991.7B an average increase of 8.6%, while revenues to the government went from 3.13B in 1985 to 10.99B in 2008, an average increase of 5.6%.

In Hamilton, where there is no cap on spending, tax revenues to the government increased an average of 4.74% from 2002 to 2008. In Boston, in this same time period, tax revenues went up an average of 5.4%. However, residential tax rates in Boston went down from 1.41% to 1.11% from 2002 to 2008, while they only dropped from 1.83% in 2002 to 1.645% in 2008.

Therefore, in the case of Boston, tax rates dropped by 21.3%, yet tax revenues went up by 37.3%. In Hamilton, tax rates dropped by 10.1%, but revenue only went up by 32.1%. If you use the residential tax rate and the tax levy you can also get a rough idea of the assessment growth. In the case of Hamilton, from 2002 to 2008, assessment growth was 46.8%. In the case of Boston, where spending is capped, assessment increased 74.1%, 58% higher than high taxed Hamilton.

That higher assessment growth (74.1% for Boston vs 46.8% for Hamilton) is why lower tax rates actually increase revenue to city coffers, rather than depletes it. By promoting much larger amounts of investment and demand for city properties, lower tax rates help everyone, both public and private interests.

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