Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Are you getting what you pay for when you order a specialty coffee?  

A month or so back, I wrote a post about some American cheese manufacturers that have been using wood pulp — its technical name is “cellulose” - as filler for shredded Parmesan  Cheese.

As the price of food grows, unscrupulous distributors and manufacturers have been tampering with the ingredients to increase profits.  Producers substitute other products and try and pass them off as the genuine thing.  Horse meat has been found in mince meat in products ranging from from burgers to frozen lasagna. There have been cases of diluted olive oil and the list grows.

With a coffee shortage on the horizon,  increasing prices and supply challenges, coffee fraud has become a real issue.  Coffee is becoming an increasingly common target for food counterfeiters. There are mislabeling issues,and some blends are being diluted with cheaper ground beans that have been bulked up with cheap, low quality filler ingredients

The Washington Post says  enterprising coffee traders might be replacing Arabica beans with Robusta beans to increase profits. 

It used to be coffee was coffee, but we have become coffee snob. We like specialty coffees and seem willing to pay for our preferred tastes, but how do we know that we are getting what we pay for? Coffee is so complex – with over 1000 individual chemicals in every cup!

Italian researchers have come to the rescue of the amante del café  and hipsters among us. . They invented a new  process that could be used to tell the percentage of each species of bean in blends. 

That should ensure you get more bang for your bean and reduce coffee fraud.  


"I will be cross-examined, up before the public again with efforts to confuse me, trick me and this sort of thing. It’s a mental battle and emotional battle all over again” 

– 70 year old retired professional, Mount Cashel Alleged Abuse Survivor previously

The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s will be in court next week fighting 60 claimants of physical and sexual abuse who claim they were abused by the Christian Brothers from the 1940’s to the late 1960’s at the Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John's.

Yea, I know, wasn’t this all settled in the 1990’s?  Apparently not, the New York-based Christian Brothers Institute Inc. went bankrupt in 2011, leaving the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. John’s to pay for the orders sins. The corporation says it was not involved in the operation of the orphanage, however the survivors disagree.

The courts offer an adversarial remedy, the further pain inflicted on survivors seems not to be a real concern - there are bigger issues at play than 60 people's ruined lifes.

The result is a test case where four alleged victims will be forced to go to court to be re-victimized by recalling, reliving and enduring vigorous cross examinations by aggressive defense lawyers determined to undermine and destroy their credibility - to create doubt.

While only four alleged victims will face the brutality of the court system, hundreds of other victims of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy will be forced to deal with demons that did not go away. 

They will be reminded of their suffering through daily media accounts of the trial. Men will be dragged before the cameras to rehash their anger with the church. They will accuse the church of being only concerned about it’s financial well being as opposed to the needs of  these poor lambs that were slaughtered by the white collared Sheppard’s of God.

After the revelations of the 1990's can there be any doubt about the sadistic sexual and physical abuse that occurred at this institution that was covered-up by the Justice System for decades.  Surely, there has to be another way.

Males, both as children and as adults, can be victims and survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault. Sexual abuse is not just a women’s issue. The burden of coming forward  to report is not a women's issue. The impact of sexual abuse is not just a women’s issue. 

It is a societal issue.   It is estimated that the majority of sexual assaults against males and females (88%) are not reported to police. 

These abused men suffered  emotionally, suffered depression, suffered from Post traumatic Stress Disorder and many contemplated and attempted suicide.

They were extremely ashamed of what had happened, feeling guilty as if it were their fault and feeling unworthy of anyone’s love. Some turned to negative coping strategies like disassociation, alcohol and drug, and sexual promiscuity

Should a caring, loving church force these alleged victims to walk the gauntlet, again?

Mount Cashel, The Presentation nuns – they are all Roman Catholic entities, the public does not see the legally defined differences.

All they see is the church protecting it’s perceived wealth at the expense of those abused by clergy.

The church, not the Christian brothers is on trial. The official  church has been shown to have been complicit in the past when it came to the abuse of boys in it’s parishes. They cut deals, ignored the abuse and moved the perpetrators around to abuse new victims. 

Even if they are not “legally responsible”, the Church has a moral imperative to settle with these men. Perhaps Rome itself needs to step in.

This trial has the potential to undo decades of compassion and healing. Those that have returned to the church will once again have their faith challenged.  

This to me is about institutional abuse, the sick people who perverted justice, protected pedophiles from prosecution and a lack of compassion for the child victims.

Why do we continue to support the Church with our time, talent and treasure?

I am so angry. So disillusioned. So confused. So hurt.

Will it ever end?



Monday, March 28, 2016


And it begins....Newfoundland and Labrador's largest city council has been struggling to deal with the financial crisis that has gripped providers of public services across the province and much of Canada.

The council has been under attack from all fronts for not being prepared for the current downturn after unprecedented growth in the capital city. It is hard to find a business person, or a tax payer, who felt they were getting value for their taxes before the latest downturn, let alone today.

There is a general consensus that our councilors have not been good stewards with our taxes. Many feel that this current crisis is the result of incompetence, waste, poor planning and overspending over the generations. 

I am not one of those. 

Yes, I think there should have been a more conservative approach to growth projections. 

Yes, I think the cost of labor grew and associated pensions has made running the city unsustainable. 

Yes, I think the municipal government has got to get back to the basics like fire protection, police protection, municipal services and providing our seniors, working poor and most vulnerable affordable services.  

Costs have to be cut. It is time to decide what we can afford, what we can not afford and what compromises our society is willing to accept.

As the lowest and most local of the three levels of government in this country, municipalities have the least ability to generate revenue. They are really restricted to property and business taxes, plus some transfers from gas taxes and provincial transfers.

I often find myself saying that each of us shares responsibility for poor public policy, planning and decisions made by those we (if we even bother to vote) elect. 

We have the ability to question, sculpt and advocate public policy but the majority of us sit on our asses where we grumble, question or ignore public affairs until we are woken by that  freezing bucket of freezing cold water called reality. Than it is how did that happen and let's throw these bums out.

The fact of the matter is that revenues at city hall are much lower than projected. Those highly paid managers (That recently were sent packing) provided financial and planning advice that turned out to be wrong.  While the city was barely living within it's means - those means have dried up. What goes up must come down, expansion leads to contraction.

The huge contributor to the recent boom was the price of oil. While other industries faltered our reliance on black gold grew.  High oil prices meant for high salaries in St. John's and Alberta. Those high salaries in the private sector spilled over to the public sector - where a generation of restraint was erased with a 27% salary increase.  All of whom benefited from what I always felt were unnecessary and unsustainable tax breaks. 

Meanwhile, the size of our working poor increased along with their ability to enjoy the benefits of the boom times. The result was a huge divide between the haves and have nots. 

When I started this blog, one of my primary interests was the  high cost of food and energy in our province.  However, the monthly and annual inflation rates were not alarming because they did not reflect the real costs faced by average families because they look at a basket of prices. The cost of buying a big TV, or a car or a computer might have been lower but those are not necessities. 

Some folks had all kinds of money for recreation, renovations, new houses, boutiques, high end restaurants, new cars, fine art.  The NDP and social minded groups began to warn us about the growing fault lines between the rich and poor, the increase in homelessness and the inability of average families to absorb the increases in the prices of staples like milk, fruit, flour, hydro, oil and  vegetables. 

Many of us  - as individuals, and as governments, made hay while the sun shone. We lived like the good times would never end fueled on the assumption that oil prices would stay high, employment levels would remain high and the future was bright. 

As goes the price of oil, so goes our local government's ability to provide for our wishes and our needs. There is no reserve, there is no one coming to bail us out. We have to solve this riddle on our own.

No generation before us ever had it so good, for so long. This correction is going to hurt. People are leveraged to the hilt. Upward pressure on interest rates always had the potential to turn people's lives upside down, not having an income is going to put a lot of people underwater.

So before we get too angry with those we chose to lead us, not just facilitate our requests, for getting it wrong. They were not alone. Look in the mirror or around your street. The blame can be spread around.

The challenge for us as a society is how we meet the challenges ahead. Together we can weather the storm but the status quo much change. 

No longer can public servants be isolated from the reality faced by those of us that work in the private sector. 

Public sector benefit packages, salaries and the size of government must be reigned in. 

Services will need to be cut, taxes will have to be increased and we need to confront the demographic/geographic challenges that we so willingly ignored when we thought we were paying the bills.   

Brace for impact, the provincial government is up next! 

But lets be mature and honest about how we got here.