Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pathetic pleas for Polanski

So, the forces of justice finally caught up with Roman Polanski in Switzerland, 30-plus years after he enticed a 13-year-old girl to Jack Nicholson's house, drugged her, took obscene photographs of her, repeatedly raped and sodomized her. After his lawyers got the charges reduced in return for a guilty plea, he got cold feet and took it on the lam for France to escape a trial.

And now many of his famous friends are pleading for mercy, suggesting he get a free pass for, uh, being Roman Polanski, and for having done it all so long ago.

Too many celebs already think the rules of civilized behaviour, let alone the laws, apply only to others. Turning a blind eye here would be outrageous.

Shame on all who want to set this asshole free, including the French government, Poland's Foreign Minister, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, The Huffington Post, and Whoopi Goldberg. Had it been their daughter, would any of these be so forgiving?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another perspective: Canada

From Worldmapper, a map of Canada based on population density:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sand and hands make art

This unusual, moving and transitory work of art speaks for itself.

Friday, September 25, 2009

This week's episode in the human comedy

It's a funny old world:
• In Polk County, Florida, police raid the home of Michael Defalco, a man with an extensive arrest record. They're on the hunt for drugs and weapons. They find a large screen Wii video game set-up. To the cops' embarrassment, Defalco's hidden security camera records them playing his Wii Bowling for nine hours, at the taxpayers' expense.

• In Cairns, Australia, police are called to a disturbance at the corner of Shields and Abbott streets to find Adam Michael Kelly, 25, dry-humping a parking meter and yelling out: "Yeah baby, you know you want it." In his defence, his lawyer notes that Kelly is celebrating the end of the football season.

• In London, England, men are having their eyebrows plucked, threaded and waxed, all part of a trend to "eyebrow-shaping." that started with guyliner. Debenhams department store plans to hold men-only "guybrow" nights, and says 40 percent of its brow bar clients are male.

• Also in London, Selfridges department store is responding to "soaring" male demand for pantyhose by introducing a line of "mantyhose." To quote Sir Winston Churchill, "...the new view must come, the world must roll forward."

• In Shreveport, Louisiana, a man impersonating a police officer is arrested after pulling over the mayor.

• In Halifax, Nova Scotia, lobster fisherman calling the federal government for information on a stimulus program (no, really!) are greeted by a sultry voice saying, "Hey there hot stuff, I've been waiting for your call...Are you ready for some tantalizing fun?" Turns out the number published on the Fisheries Department website is that of a phone sex service.

• In East Naples, Florida, James Lowe, 59, is hanging out in front of a coin-operated laundry while his pants were being washed inside, all of which he explains to Sheriff's deputies who notice he is naked below the waist.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What a twerp learned from an S.O.B.

We are sometimes asked, as I was recently, to recall a favourite teacher, and to cast our minds back in the warm glow of memory to recapture the formative wisdom imparted by the beloved mentor.

But lessons are sometimes learned in odd places from strange men. Such a man was one Mr. R, who "taught" Grade 9 Shop in my 1950's high school.

The reader should have in mind that this was a very different time, a time in which mastering the QWERTY keyboard was thought to be of value only to the stenographic gender, the personal computer being three decades away from conception.

It was a time when a skilled trade enabled a man to be a decent "provider," and Mr. R was charged with the responsibility of helping us take the first small steps down the road to becoming tinsmiths, carpenters, mechanics, and machinists. Or at least to give us a working knowledge of the tools and machines we would encounter in the factories and on the farms. He took this very seriously.

For many of us, the world of work would, of course, require very different skills, but none of that could be known then.

Mr. R was a hard boiled old bastard who had no use for those who lacked an aptitude for the manual arts. Unfortunately, that described me pretty well. My incompetence with the lathes, soldering irons, bandsaws, planers, metal benders, and so on were a major disappointment to him, and he disparaged my inadequacies every day, at great length and in a very loud voice.

He frequently demanded to know why I couldn't be more like star pupil Bob, who was effortlessly producing ingenious engineering marvels while I couldn't turn out a simple sugar scoop, a question that begs an answer to this day.

Well, you get the idea. His distress was no more acute than my embarrassment. We couldn't wait to be rid of each other. He agreed to give me a passing grade. I agreed to stay away from power tools.

But, perspectives change, and the lessons learned from frustration, failure, and pain stick forever. I realize that, through no fault of his own, Mr. R taught my 13-year-old self quite a bit.

I learned that:
• Training needs to be combined with aptitude.
• Respect can only be earned.
• Go with your strengths and things usually work out.
• Case hardening apparently is different from tempering.
• Some pricks should never be allowed to teach children.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The four stages of a man's life

This photograph came my way, and I wanted to share it with you. As with much original work that arrives via the internet, I do not know the name of the artist who has given us this succinct message.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Americans love big breasts, Chinese love big feet

The Chinese are crazy for those big feet, chicken feet that is.

"Big chicken feet result from the American preference for white chicken meat. A bird bred for big breasts is necessarily bred to have big, strong feet and legs," says poultry economist Paul W. Aho in a New York Times article.

The plump feet are virtually worthless on this side of the Pacific, but are considered a delicacy in China and sell for 60 - 80 cents per pound.

The Chinese are threatening to levy import taxes on the feet in a tit-for-tat tariff spat with the Yanks, but producers are optimistic that Chinese consumers will vote with their feet, pressuring officials to keep the treat's trade ticking.

No home should be without one

GeezerOnline is proud to introduce a new service, GeezerOnLoan. Now you too can have an old fart cluttering up your place, even if you don't have one of your own.

Take him along on family outings for a running commentary on the crime of paving over good farmland for shopping malls, the killing off of proper hardware stores, and the inferior quality of today's fall fairs. You'll find your trips will go much slower.

He'll point out that automobiles are now made mostly from plastic, and that television sets used to come in handsome wood cabinets. He'll tell you how hard it has become to find a good fedora or decent old cheese, and that global warming is a crock because summers are way cooler than they used to be, and that ice cream cones used to cost a dime, and that things were better when moms stayed at home.

He'll complain about having to buy a package of 10 screws when only one is needed, and about the parks looking like crap since they outlawed weed spray.

He'll tell you that deodorant causes Alzheimers, and that aspirin is better than those new fangled pain relievers, and that everyone should have a good set of tools.

That kind of thing.

So, if you're interested, tell us how much you'll want to take him off our hands. And watch for our upcoming launch of GeezerOnViagra.

Monday, September 21, 2009

On being a Somebody

They don't warn you about the steady erosion of self-importance to the point where it can pretty much disappear the day after you retire.

We enter the world as the most significant event in our parents' lives, revered by grandparents, doted upon as the centre of their world, showered with praise for the most trivial achievements. By the time we are self-aware toddlers, we are at 10 on the Somebody Index (SI).

By high school graduation, we are invulnerable, and filled with delusions of future success. We know that our generation has invented both music and sex, and we will live forever. SI level 9.

College graduation has us convinced that we know absolutely everything worth knowing, and that the world is lucky to be benefiting from our presence. We're anxious for older folk to just get out of the way so we can show them how things should be done. SI level 8.

By 30-something, we've taken some hits, made some mistakes, watched others zoom by us on the career track. But we still see ourselves as up-and-comers. SI level 6.

By 40 something, it begins to dawn that many of those youthful dreams are not to be realized. We're aware the clock is ticking, but we're also at the top of our game, the seasoned pros who know all the tricks. Retail clerks and flight attendants start calling us "sir" or "ma'am," and we realize others are seeing us differently than we see ourselves. SI level 4.

At around 5o, checkout girls start calling us "sweetie," and it dawns that we are way past sex object status, having become just an object. SI level 2.

By 65, we have no importance at all, other than to a shrinking circle of family and close friends. We have been forced to accept humility. We are expected to putter, and not to interfere with those doing serious work. SI level 0.5.

I describe this as "Former Somebody" status and, for many, it's not an easy adjustment. I once had a conversation with a recently retired, previously famous, Chicago surgeon. He lamented that, whereas he had been treated like God before retirement, he had become "just another old fart" in his Florida retirement community. An extreme example of most senior citizens' stories.

I've concluded that the only defence against going sub-zero on the SI Index is to keep contributing in whatever ways we can, for as long as we can. Volunteering in our communities, small acts of kindness, advocating for a cause, playing an active role in the lives of children, being a good listener, offering comfort. Having a positive connection to the lives of others recharges our sense of self-worth, and it's in our own minds that the Somebody Index mostly resides..

Just be a somebody to someone.

Friday, September 18, 2009

This week's episode in the human comedy

More stuff you couldn't make up:
• In the air over Europe, the English language announcement on an Aer Lingus Dublin-Paris flight advises that some turbulence lies ahead. French-speaking passengers are inadvertently told to prepare for an emergency landing. Panic ensues.

• In Britain, researchers find that men tell twice as many lies as women, including "No, your bum doesn't look big in that," and "I didn't have that much to drink." Women's top 10 lies include "Oh, this isn't new, I've had it ages," and "No, I didn't throw it away ."

• In Winona, Minnesota, Lucas Charles Wilcox, 19, discovers that a knowledge of local history can be important when he allegedly shouts vulgarities at the police, and is charged under an 1887 city code banning profanity in public. It carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

• In Malaysia, a 107-year-old Malaysian woman thinks the thrill has gone for her 37-year-old husband, and she should know --- he is her 22nd mate. She thinks number 23 may be the charm.

• In Hangzhou, China, Chen Li wants to go home. The bus driver is dawdling instead of starting his shift. Chen Li takes the wheel and drives off, following the regular route, picking up and dropping off passengers until she arrives at her destination.

• In the Netherlands, Kitty-Madison not only has gender identity issues, but species confusion as well. Born a boy, he/she feels compelled to be a mermaid.

• In France, a teenager falls asleep on a railroad track after a drinking spree at a music festival. Passed out, he is unaware of, and uninjured by, the train that passes over him. In fact he flips the bird to rescuers before rolling over and going back to sleep.

• In the U.S., a Duke University study indicates that just seeing a wholesome item on the menu is good enough to satisfy diners' desire to eat healthy, and to then give themselves permission to go ahead and order the french fries.
Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When are WE going to get over it?

Former President Jimmy Carter isn't the only person who thinks many of the vicious attacks on President Obama are racial. This editorial was written by Andrew M. Manis, a white associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia, and appeared in the Macon Telegraph. While the writer's focus was on the United States, we Canadians should not be unduly smug, as many here harbour bigoted beliefs, too.

When Are WE Going to Get Over It?

For much of the last forty years, ever since America "fixed" its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, "When are African Americans finally going to get over it? Now I want to ask: "When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?

Recent reports that "Election Spurs Hundreds' of Race Threats, Crimes" should frighten and infuriate every one of us. Having grown up in "Bombingham," Alabama in the 1960s, I remember overhearing an avalanche of comments about what many white classmates and their parents wanted to do to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Eventually, as you may recall, in all three cases, someone decided to do more than "talk the talk."

Since our recent presidential election, to our eternal shame we are once again hearing the same reprehensible talk I remember from my boyhood.

We white people have controlled political life in the disunited colonies and United States for some 400 years on this continent. Conservative whites have been in power 28 of the last 40 years. Even during the eight Clinton years, conservatives in Congress blocked most of his agenda and pulled him to the right. Yet never in that period did I read any headlines suggesting that anyone was calling for the assassinations of presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, or either of the Bushes. Criticize them, yes. Call for their impeachment, perhaps. But there were no bounties on their heads. And even when someone did try to kill Ronald Reagan, the perpetrator was non-political mental case who wanted merely to impress Jody Foster.

But elect a liberal who happens to be Black and we're back in the sixties again. At this point in our history, we should be proud that we've proven what conservatives are always saying -- that in America anything is possible, EVEN electing a black man as president. But instead we now hear that school children from Maine to California are talking about wanting to "assassinate Obama."

Fighting the urge to throw up, I can only ask, "How long?" How long before we white people realize we can't make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us? How long until we white people can - once and for all - get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color? How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior? How long before we white people get over our bitter resentments about being demoted to the status of equality with non-whites?

How long before we get over our expectations that we should be at the head of the line merely because of our white skin? How long until we white people end our silence and call out our peers when they share the latest racist jokes in the privacy of our white-only conversations?

I believe in free speech, but how long until we white people start making racist loudmouths as socially uncomfortable as we do flag burners? How long until we white people will stop insisting that blacks exercise personal responsibility, build strong families, educate themselves enough to edit the Harvard Law Review, and work hard enough to become President of the United States, only to threaten to assassinate them when they do?

How long before we starting "living out the true meaning" of our creeds, both civil and religious, that all men and women are created equal and that "red and yellow, black and white" all are precious in God's sight?

Until this past November 4, I didn't believe this country would ever elect an African American to the presidency. I still don't believe I'll live long enough to see us white people get over our racism problem. But here's my three-point plan: First, everyday that Barack Obama lives in the White House that Black Slaves Built, I'm going to pray that God (and the Secret Service) will protect him and his family from us white people.

Second, I'm going to report to the FBI any white person I overhear saying, in seriousness or in jest, anything of a threatening nature about President Obama. Third, I'm going to pray to live long enough to see America surprise the world once again, when white people can "in spirit and in truth" sing of our damnable color prejudice, "We HAVE overcome."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Nine secrets to happiness

1. Dumb down. Try to know as little as possible about as much as possible. You will never be nominated to be president of your condo association, asked to manage your mother-in-law's stock portfolio, or expected to explain the benefits of NAFTA. No pressure.

2. Don't worry. Forget all that climate change stuff. You'll be dead before the polar bears. Earthquakes, mudslides, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, blackouts, terrorism, fires, explosions, pandemics --- what are the chances? Why burden your mind with all that?

3. Avoid curiosity. Why wonder whether there is a God, or life after death? Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Who cares? Indifference is so calming. You'll sleep like a baby.

4. Ignore facts. Have the courage of your convictions. Stubbornly cling to your ideas despite all evidence against them. Ignorance is bliss.

5. Lower your expectations. You will have absolutely no disappointment because success and achievement aren't in your cosmos, so neither are failures.

6. Always choose instant gratification. To hell with the future. Thrift is for pessimists. Why wait? Why fuss about retirement and other stuff that may never happen? Why be one of those shmoes sweating out the overtime? A trip to Rio is much more fun. It'll all work out.

7. Avoid relationships. They mean you have to sometimes sacrifice your happiness to that of others. Why would you do that? In fact, avoid people all together. Nothing good comes from being involved with them. They only cause pain and suffering, and hit you up for handouts.

8. Only do things you're good at. If you try something and you're no good at it, drop it right away. Cut and run. Get outa Dodge! Why struggle to learn something new? Your self esteem is too important for that.

9. Be self-centered. This is one of the most powerful keys to happiness. You have limited time and resources. Why waste them helping others and making them happy? Don't be a sucker!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Will dotty oldsters cause a financial train wreck?

Here's something else to keep you awake nights.

Dementia “explodes” after age 60, doubling every five years. By 85, about 50 percent of people have "substantial cognitive impairment." That includes dementia and other mental deficiencies that get in the way of managing one's own financial affairs.

This would only matter to geezers and their heirs if it weren't for the fact that this group has a helluva lot of money, and therefore a potentially huge impact on financial markets.

Some heavy-duty researchers are publishing a report that outlines a range of possible approaches, including “gentle nudges to steer older participants into the proper investments," and "regulating financial products like dietary supplements."

I can testify that this is a serious problem, based on my own experience with aging family members, but no one likes the prospect of handing their financial decisions over to someone else, particularly an investments manager who may put his/her own best interests ahead of the client's. Equally unpopular are government regulations that limit individuals' flexibility.

Stay tuned as this issue heats up in Geezerland over the next 10 years.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Recessionary Rolls is no runt


It's so tiresome, all this recession nonsense, but one must avoid appearing imprudent, mustn't one?

You wouldn't call it meager, modest, petite or puny, but it may be just the thing if you've had to release the chauffeur from your employ. The new, more restrained, Rolls-Royce Ghost, suitable for those who may now be driving themselves into the city, is still a considerable presence, weighing two and a half tons, and powered by a 563 horsepower V12 engine.

Sir must have his comforts, too, beginning with a 600 watt, 10-channel audio system with 16 speakers, umbrellas hidden in the door jambs, self-righting "RR" hubcaps, picnic tables, lamb's wool carpets, and an automatically retracting Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament --- altogether satisfactory value at around $300,000, considering that the more substantial Phantom is on offer for $500,000.

Friday, September 11, 2009

You can't make this stuff up!

Gleaned from the news this week:

• It will not be a criminal offence to be smelly in Honolulu. City council turned down a proposal to fine "unreasonably smelly" people up to $500, eject them from transit buses, and/or give them a 6-month jail term.

• Girls are born afraid of spiders, studies show.

• Looking for an alternative to aggressive rush hour driving, the police in London, Ontario, are recommending that drivers carry a flat spare tire in their cars to support lying to the boss about the reason for their being late to arrive for work.

• A history buff in Pennsylvania accidentally fired a 1-kilogram cannonball into his neighbour's house. The shot smashed through a window and a wall before landing in a closet.

• Miyuki, wife of new Japanese prime minister Yukio Hatoyama, was abducted by aliens as she slept one night 20 years ago, and rode on a triangular-shaped UFO to Venus. She says, "It was a very beautiful place, and it was very green."

• Researchers at Keele University in England have discovered that swearing relieves pain.

• A new gizmo charges your iPod while you pedal your bike.

• Kids' IM conversations are being sold to market-research companies so that businesses can refine their marketing messages to children.

• Two sub-teen Australian girls, trapped in a storm drain, asked for help on Facebook using their cellphone, rather than dialing the Oz equivalent of 9-1-1.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Drama queens explained

Seemingly without provocation, someone picks a fight. Someone else sees themselves as the target of a dark conspiracy where none exists. An innocent remark is interpreted as romantic obsession. A feud persists for years after the original slight has faded from memory. Just a sign that things have become a bit too humdrum?

Derek Sivers recounts Kurt Vonnegut's explanation of people's need for drama in their lives.

Vonnegut said, “People have been hearing fantastic stories since time began. The problem is, they think life is supposed to be like the stories."

Typically, our lives are relatively uneventful --- some good days, some not so good, nothing particularly heroic or disastrous.

“But because we grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs! So people pretend there is drama where there is none,” said Vonnegut.

Check out Sivers' blog for more on this from the great American novelist, including his sketched plotline graphs.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Zap and it's gone. Yep, everything.

Coming Subtraction: The Day The Earth Stood Still

Back in the 1950's, they called it "radioflash." By the 1980's, scientists were hypothesizing about its effects. Then it just fell out of the public consciousness. Now it's back, and they're having a conference about it, in Niagara Falls.

It's the dreaded Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP).

The idea is that a big enough burst of electromagnetic radiation will fry everything electronic --- a big problem in 1989, a bigger problem in 1999, a HUGE problem in 2009 when almost all information is stored and transfered electronically.

We're not just talking about Twitter being down for a day. Consider what the future might be like if all bits and bytes, from your personal financial records (i.e. your stocks and bank account) to the software that controls the Pentagon's weaponry, were vaporized. Period.

In this scenario, key infrastructure components such as electric power, telecommunications, transportation, banking and finance, food and water would be knocked out.

Some heavy thinkers believe that this is a realistic scenario, if terrorists or rogue states were to get their hands on an EMP weapon.

Here's the video:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

10 tests for geezerhood

• You keep a collection of empty margarine tubs (assorted sizes) in case you might need to mix some paint.

• You buy one of those wall cabinets with the little drawers to store screws, bolts, washers and stuff.

• You begin using shoetrees.

• You launder your golf cap.

• You top up the tank when the gas price drops, even though the gauge reads 3/4 full.

• You go nowhere without gas pills.

• You buy a Tilley hat, and actually wear it, in public.

• You start collecting barbeque recipes.

• You plan your diet around fibre.

• You can't go to the hardware store for three things without a list, but you can remember the name and position of every player on the NHL team you rooted for when you were 12.

How'd you do?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Fiji sent packing. Queen not amused.

Oh my God! Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth. Geez, who saw that coming?

In fact, who knew that Fiji was even a member of the Commonwealth, or that the Commonwealth suspends countries, or even that the Commonwealth had a staff to do this sort of thing? By the way, what in hell does the Commonwealth actually do these days? Other than suspending members, that is.

I vaguely recollect that the Commonwealth was sort of British Empire "lite," a kind of rebranding thing after empires became unfashionable, the colonials got delusions of grandeur, and self-government became trendy. I know they have games, but I assumed that otherwise they were an irrelevant vestige of former glory, like the Loyal Orange Lodge.

Anyway, poor old Fiji will not be playing in the Commonwealth Games; will not have "emblematic representation" at Commonwealth events; and will not receive Commonwealth technical assistance.

Cor blimey! You've buggered it, Fiji. You naff pillocks played fast and loose, and now you're being told to sod off.

The Queen has been informed.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A day at the fair

I went to The Ex yesterday. I don't know why. I just feel compelled every year at this time to visit the CNE. I've been doing that for 60 years, so I guess it's mostly nostalgia that keeps me going back. I expect the swallows feel this way about Capistrano.

There is no rational reason to go. The thing is on life support, and has been for many years, ever since it ceased being Canada's biggest fall fair and became a place to buy belts and socks. This year, even the merchants in the international market were obviously dejected by the trickle of disinterested fairgoers wandering past their booths. I predict there will be fewer of both next year.

Long gone are the days when car manufacturers rolled out their new models to great excitement at the Automotive Building, when the Better Living Centre dazzled us with the latest gizmos for the home, or when everyone took in the big stars and the Helldrivers at the grandstand show. The Percherons and the Morgans have left the Horse Palace. The agricultural competitions have pretty much disappeared. The Horticultural Building is fenced off, and apparently vacant. There are no more water-ski shows down by the lake. The sleezy old side shows have faded into history. The midway survives, but holds little interest for the grey-hairs who constitute most of the mid-week crowd.

The whole event needs to be completely reinvented, not just patched up to survive yet another year, but it seems that the bureaucrats have run out of ideas.

Maybe it's time to acknowledge that, at 131 years, she has lived long enough. Looks like it's time to issue a DNR order that allows the "grand old lady by the lake" to go quietly without suffering any more indignities.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Eating local is more complicated than it seems

The 100-mile diet is a trendy idea that has caught the imagination of many, and the concept of the locavore has become popular among those who care about the future of the planet. The problem is that it's not all that simple.

In a Now magazine article, Wayne Roberts has examined the way the food system works, and finds that calculating the true impact of our food purchasing decisions is difficult, perhaps impossible.

For example, "we think about miles travelled from farms to us and our forks," but that doesn't factor in "the distance from producer to retailer, ... from the fertilizer and pesticide factory to the farm, from the package factory to the food processor, and the miles travelled by empty trucks on their return trips after making these deliveries of fertilizer, pesticides, packaging and produce."

Get the idea? Wayne says there's more: "Add to this the miles travelled by the kitchen scraps to the landfill or green box composter, from the package recycling box to the recycling factory (often in Asia), and – usually the biggest energy load of all – the miles travelled by electricity to keep perishable food from spoiling in large freezers and refrigerators, many of them in supermarkets with doors open to warm air."

There are other issues too, such as the wellbeing of poor farmers in the southern hemisphere, and the impact of various means of transportation --- ships and trains are much more environmentally friendly than trucks and planes.

In fact, getting the actual food from farm to fork constitutes just 10-15% of the total food system's ecological impact.

Unless it comes from your own garden, of course.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lobbyists win, cellphone users lose. Again.

Reportedly under pressure from by Canada's wireless companies, Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement has killed off an online calculator designed to help consumers make sense of the cellphone industry's insanely complicated pricing plans.

Which Cell Plan? A Calculator had been developed by Industry Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs to provide consumers with a detailed list of suitable plans from Canadian providers, based on their cellphone use. Focus group reaction had been quite positive, and consumer groups were supportive.

But, as Michael Geist notes, "Despite months of preparation, thousands of dollars in taxpayer expense, the creation of an effective tool and the obvious benefits for lower-income Canadians, Clement nevertheless killed the project."

The Bell/Rogers/Telus oligopoly is hugely lucrative. According to Merrill Lynch, Canadians pay an average of US10¢ per minute while Americans pay US5¢ per minute, so "profit margins for Canadian wireless providers were among the highest in the developed world."

Consumer frustration is high. There is even an online petition to scrap regulator CRTC, which has been seen as having failed to promote true competition in the industry.

My prediction: This situation will be alleviated by new, long-awaited, competitors entering the market with lower, and simpler, pricing. That should force needed change on the three amigos.


Update: Later today it was announced that Canada's wireless providers have now committed to
Customer Service Excellence with a new Code of Conduct. Now do you see the kind of power I have?