tax canada

February 22, 2009

I’ve always thought that the Government of Canada should provide taxpayers with free personal tax preparation software. This incentive may help many people prepare their own returns without having to buy software for this mandated activity. Yes, I’m aware that paper preparation is always an option (and I suggest that people use paper preparation to at least understand the tax system) – but come on, this is the 21st century right?

Unfortunately the government has not done this, but I’ve recently found out about StudioTax. StudioTax offers their software free of charge for personal tax preparation. They are certified for NETFILE by the Canada Revenue Agency. In return for using their software, StudioTax is asking you to tell others about it. If you like the program, you can also donate some money for future development. I haven’t used StudioTax yet, but I plan to this year.

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Hear and see authentic West-African drum music – a rarity in Toronto for most of the year. The show is on February 27, 10 pm at Teranga Restaurant (159 Augusta Ave). It’s part of Toronto’s Black History Month celebrations. I’ve heard these guys play – you haven’t heard the jembe until you hear African professionals play.

Taste raw milk cheeses and hear talks from both sides of the raw milk cheese debate. It’s tonight (6 PM, February 18) at the Bata shoe museum. Raw milk cheeses are legal in Canada as long as they have been aged at least 60 days – which is longer than the life-span of nasty germs.

A Canadian cable company is applying to the CRTC for the right to broadcast Al-Jazeera English. Although controversial, the station should be allowed in Canada – you may not agree with all their views, but that should be possible in a free society. In addition, since the station is already available on the Internet, the discussion is essentially moot.

Al-Jazeera is reviled by some and exalted by others – sometimes due to the person’s viewpoint, sometimes because the coverage shows the other side of the story, and sometimes due to purposely inaccurate accusations – like the accusation of affiliation with Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Many feel that their coverage of the war in Gaza may be their debut (in the west) as a legitimate and balanced news station. Gideon Levy from Israel’s Haaretz newspaper has praise for Al-Jazeera English and especially forAyman Mohyeldin – the war correspondent from Al-Jazeera.

With the likes of Avi Lewis, Ayman Mohyeldin, and Tony Burman in their ranks, Al-Jazeera is primed to reach Canadian audiences who have the ability to dissect their news and form individual opinion. Others will continue to suppress fact, speech and opinion by using fear.

My obsession with tasers peaked when I saw a video of an UCLA student being repeatedly tasered by campus police for not following their orders. The student was in the library without identification (<sarcasm>apparently a just cause for using extreme force</sarcasm>) and was in the process of voluntarily leaving when confronted by campus police. It took me several hours to calm down enough to be able to sleep that night.

These officers adamantly asserted their power over this individual (probably because they were trained to) though he was not a threat. When the individual slumped to the floor in non-violent resistance, he was warned to “get up” and was tasered several times when he did not comply. The alternative was clear – the officers could have easily picked up the student and carried him out.

There are several examples of unnecessary force captured by cell phone video cameras – who ever thought that this would prove to be one of the few avenues that the public has against corrupt authority. Go to YouTube and search for “taser”. Besides the drunk fools who taser each other (and themselves) in fun, there are multiple videos of brutal force by security officers who believe that the public has extremely limited rights.

Here is another example of a student at a John Kerry rally who got tasered for asking the wrong question. John Kerry, to his credit, wanted to answer the question, but couldn’t over the victim’s screams.

RCMP taser policy

February 13, 2009

The new policy is news in the right direction – no matter what it was motivated from. The RCMP now admits that the taser is a lethal weapon, and that officers may only use the weapon “to ensure officer or public safety” and the use must be “reasonable” in circumstances where otherwise a firearm would be used. I haven’t read the actual policy, but I believe that ambiguous language must be replaced if the RCMP truly want to increase public trust.

tasers

February 13, 2009

I originally started this note in December 2008 when I watched (and was outraged by) a video from an UCLA student’s cell phone. I decided to publish it after yesterday’s announcement by the RCMP on their new policy on taser use.

I cannot agree with tasers – mostly because we have no idea what they do to humans in the short and long term – but also because of recent deaths from them. Proponents say that they are safer for the public than guns. I may agree if law enforcement used them with similar frequency and propriety as they use guns. Since they think that tasers are less lethal, officers seem more apt to use them even in cases where diplomacy might have been more appropriate.

To add to the uncertainty, tasers may produce more than the specified current as reported on CBC Radio’s The Current. Yet, the manufacturer continues to recommend that the devices not be tested for output current. It’s time that taser manufacturers treat complaints with due respect, especially when public safety is at risk and massive evidence points to the contrary.