bjarvis: (Default)
The initial shock of the election results has largely faded for me, so now it's time to take some action on limiting the coming damage.

The GOP has attempted for years to remove all federal spending for women's health. To counter this, I've been donating monthly to Planned Parenthood, and you can too!
https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/

The young are most vulnerable, lacking adult legal status to own their own lives and lacking resources to protect themselves from the whims of the powerful. I'm donating to Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders (SMYAL) in DC.
http://www.smyal.org/

There are going to be a lot of hungry people in the coming years. Please donate food, money or your time to your local food bank. In my area, it's the Capital Area Food Bank.
https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/

The president-elect is a self-proclaimed sexual predator. Please donate to the rape crisis support line/support center in your area. In the DC area, I'm donating to the DC Rape Crisis Center.
http://dcrcc.org

The white supremicist & alt-right hate campaigns which supported the new administration need to be watched carefully. I'm donating to the Southern Poverty Law Center to monitor and report on hate crimes.
https://www.splcenter.org/

The GOP's track record of voter suppression should not go unchallenged. Hate crimes must be prosecuted, existing laws & regulations need to be followed, conflicts of interest should be exposed and corruption needs to be shown for what it is. I'm donating to the ACLU to fund court actions to preserve the Constitution.
https://www.aclu.org/

Mourn for the future as long as you need, but taking action will help you as you help others.
bjarvis: (Default)
This morning is the day after the US elections. I voted for Hillary; she lost fairly, and Donald Trump won. We can argue about voter suppression attempts, gerrymandering of districts, and the validity or not of the electoral college but in the end, Trump is the president-elect and the Republicans have control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

I'm disappointed my prefered slate of candidates did not win, but I've been voting for 30 years in various contests and am accustomed to winning some and losing others. That's not a problem.

For the first time, however, I am genuinely fearful of the outcome of an election. Never before has someone so blatantly campaigned on demonizing portions of the population for not being the correct religion, for not being white enough, for not being personally loyal enough, for not being straight enough, for not being male enough --and won. And never has someone campaigned with plans with of how he's going to deal with those people who do not meet his standards --and won. I don't remember another candidate for the presidency who bragged about being a sexual predator --and won. The man endorsed by the KKK has won the most important election in the most powerful nation on the planet.

And now this man will be in the White House, backed & protected by the power of the executive branch of the US federal government. The House and Senate are of his own party and will be only too happy to fulfill his whims --he did win an election so he has the mandate-- and the Supreme Court will soon be stacked with like-minded men rubber stamped by his friends in the Senate. There will be no checks & balances.

I fear what will happen to my friends & relatives on disability or retired with Social Security, those who get their medical care via Medicare or via the Affordable Care Act, and for my LGBT friends whose marriages are a specific target of the new administration. My own employment prospects may go very dark if various trade agreements are dissolved and trade wars are encouraged. My retirement plans are on indefinite hold until we see whether a recession results, and whether my savings will survive.

Until today, I had no particular reason to fear the future. Now I do.
bjarvis: (Default)
Why did I vote for Hillary in the early polls in Maryland? The easiest answer goes back to Ronald Reagan: Are you better off now than you were eight years ago? And my answer is a resounding yes. At this moment, I'm healthier, stronger, wealthier, and generally happier than I've ever been in my life. The economy is doing well, my employment & income are stable, my basic human needs are well covered, LGBT rights are stronger than ever before, and I see no significant threats to my wellbeing on the horizon. Of course, not all of these can be linked back to the president or politics in general and none are perfect, but if Hillary represents a continuation of the bulk of Obama's policies, I'm all in favour. More of the same, please! I don't want this particular train of progress to stall or rewind.

Apart from obvious self-interest, I think Hillary has an amazing resume. Her past political experience shows she can be a shrewd operator, a dignified representative, a forceful advocate and a balanced negotiator as needed by the situation. True, not every decision was a good one and lord knows she's made some mistakes, but that's the price one pays for actually doing something instead of being a passive by-stander. Show me a perfect track record and I'll show you an under-performer who can't handle risks or leadership. "To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing."

For all of the noise made about how untrustworthy she is, all I can say is that the accusations are being made by those whom I deem to be even more untrustworthy. Years of investigations by people who have dedicated their lives & careers to attacking her still haven't found the evidence they are convinced exists somewhere. So many of the stories are clearly fakes, distributed among the true believers in her being Satan incarnate: she isn't dying, she isn't sick, she isn't hosting drunked orgies, she doesn't have a half-dozen love children, she isn't having a lesbian affair, she isn't hosting satanic rituals, she isn't high on drugs, etc., etc.. She's simply a good target for conspiracy theorists who profit from selling tabloid fiction to the tinfoil hats. ProTip: If you have a stack of assumptions, dig for years for the evidence to confirm them and come up with nothing, perhaps your assumptions are wrong.

She is a woman, which in the eyes of many is enough to disqualify her for elected office, not to mention employment anywhere or even treatment as an equal. By contrast, I think it's high time a woman was elected into office. I checked the constitution: there is no requirement of a penis for the office of president, although there are some people who clearly think otherwise.

I could go on about how horrible Trump is, but it's not enough to vote against someone. I would vastly prefer to vote for a candidate than against their opponent. It's not good enough to simply give my vote to the least evil among evil people: if that was my choice, I'd skip that particular question on the ballot or write in another person if there is an option. This election however, I chosen to affirmatively vote for Hillary.

On Trump, I've only talked to a few of his supporters as my area is highly Democratic. Most of them complain about how horrible Hillary is, and how they're loyal Republicans, but few every speak openly of their love of Trump. They seem to be voting against a candidate rather than in support of their own. I have no patience for those who blindly vote their party without regard to the candidates. This isn't a sports team you may love in good times & bad with no consequence: the choices on the ballot will affect the future of everyone and requires consideration of the candidates more than the party.

Those who did voice support for Trump loved his anger, his promise to destroy convention, his blather, his ego and his unpredictability. These may be fine on reality television, but I absolutely do not want that in a manager let alone a president. I can see this as being attractive to voters who perceive themselves as having nothing left to lose: it's a roll of the dice which can't make things worse but have a chance at making something different and perhaps a faint hope of something better. I disagree: I think Trump can make things much worse for everyone, including himself. I would much prefer to fix the things which are broken than throw out everything, good & bad, to begin again from scratch. There is much wrong with the country, but there is also a great deal which is working well and should be preserved.

My vote was cast last week and we are mercifully in the final days of the election campaign. In my dreams, Hillary wins the White House, and the Democrats take both the House and the Senate. Trump concedes graciously, then the lame duck session of Congress proceeds to work on the stalled legislation & appointments in compliance with the declared will of the people, including the Supreme Court nominee on hold.

More likely, Clinton takes the White House, Dems take the Senate, Republicans keep the House, and Trump concedes grudgingly as a sop to history even as his ego urges him to scorch the earth with wrath about stolen & rigged voting. (FFS, Donald, just read the prepared speech on the teleprompter as written then step away from the microphone!) There is noise already that the Republicans will do all they can to block all judicial appointments forever until a Repubican regains the White House, but I hope no one actually thinks this is a good idea or sensible policy. I also hope that a Democratic majority in the Senate will push these appointments along the pipeline to conclusion.

We'll see how it all shakes out next Tuesday evening.

Don't Care

Oct. 11th, 2012 10:30 am
bjarvis: (Default)
Doping on the professional bicycle race circuit à la Lance Armstrong is in the media again, as though it's somehow news or a revelation. Don't care: I've written off nearly all sports as being immersed in doping anyway. And I refuse to invest any of my emotions in any event in which I cannot affect the outcome.

We learned today that the panda cub who died at the National Zoo suffered from complications due to immature lungs. Don't care. The cub is still dead. Millions of critters --and humans-- die every day: the only difference is that this one critter was cute and had its own marketing campaign. I should be sad because a PR department tells me I should? Please.

Locally, the Nationals baseball team has made it into the finals. Really don't care, except to the point that the games are screwing up local traffic patterns. It's very nice for the team owners and their employees, but for the rest of us? Whether they win or lose, I'm no better or worse off.

I know this sounds very sad & depressing, perhaps even angry, but really it's just an expression of disappointment. Why, why, why are these stories dominating our news cycle? Seriously, are any of us any better off for this news? What are we as individuals able to do with any of this new information? What exactly can we do differently which would either improve or correct any of these situations?

Maybe if I was a vet at the National Zoo, I could use the panda necropsy information to help the next cub, but I'm not and I can't. Perhaps if I had a friendship or professional relationship with a major sports figure, I could urge him/her to resist or stop doping before events, but I don't. Of what use is a news item when it can only be productively used by a handful of people out of the seven billion on the planet?

I do listen to news, economic and literature news items. Perhaps I can't affect earthquakes in Pakistan where thousands are killed, but I can send money to help. News that interest rates have risen or fallen is key information for the 100 million people in the US alone with mortgages, even more with bank accounts. Literature doesn't reach as many people as it once did, but still most of the planet can get their hands on a book --at least more can read than can nurse a panda cub to health.

This planet is one grand experiment in human policy. For every social ill we experience, multiple areas around the globe are experimenting with different approaches to its resolution. The best news I could ever hope to watch or listen to would be a cross-comparison of how different countries are tackling the same problem. There is no problem we face today which hasn't already been faced by others: why are we so hesitant to look at what has worked or not before diving in with our homemade solutions? This not-invented-here mentality has killed insular countries as often it has insular companies. We ignore the experiences of others at our own peril.

During the depths of the Obamacare debates two years ago, we nearly got there with a comparison between the healthcare systems of the US, Canada, Britain and France, but it wasn't well done and was dropped all too quickly. I want more like that on how to tackle poverty, financial imbalances, the drug trade, prostitution, hunger and more. Instead, we get Honey Boo Boo and Shark Week.

In my ideal world, I'd like every media producer to wake up tomorrow morning with these questions front and center: Is this really the best material I can possibly produce? Is this really what I want to be remembered for? Would I want my child to be watching this?

One can hope.
bjarvis: (Default)
The most concise commentary I've read yet about the insanity of certain christians calling mormons a cult (from Crooks & Liars):

It's perfectly acceptable to believe that the crucified, human son of an ill-conceived deity resurrects after a three-day dirt-nap, physically flies up to heaven, and Voltrons up with his dad and some ghosty fella to make a Holy Trinitron. But if you believe that the same human son takes a little North American detour after magically coming back to life, and hangs out with some Jewish native Americans, before heading to dad's gated community in the clouds...that strains credulity.
bjarvis: (Default)
Today, I received an unusual bit of spam in my mailbox: a political treatise from the People First Republic Party of Ontario.

I'll start by saying I have absolutely no idea how they got my email address or why they're sending this stuff to me. I haven't lived or been an eligible voter in Ontario since 1996.

Anyway, it's a surprisingly coherent if factually flawed xenophobic anti-tax anti-union diatribe. The easiest clue that someone is off their meds is the odd capitalization: We cannot let the Global Elites in the name of Globalization continue to destroy our individual sovereign rights and freedoms and our constitutional Provincial and Federal governance systems. [...] These Foreign Legal Entities need to destroy our Traditional Canadian Rule of Law and revert to the centuries old Feudal tyranny governance systems where the Ruling Class could put them above the Rule of Law and do whatever they want, to whomever they want at any time.

Seriously, this is the style of writing one generally expects of cult leaders and/or rural Montana survivalists. I admit to having a great deal of difficulty taking the content seriously simply because the style is so overwrought as to be laughable.

Looking into their party platform, they're in favour of:
  • school vouchers for kindergarten through one's first college diploma or university degree;
  • province-wide student exams and a return to the A thru D grading system;
  • vague complaints about truth suppression "deliberately and willfully hidden and or distorted by Powerful Interests" concerning environmental & health concerns, including the dangers of wind farms, vaccines and flouridation;
  • complaints about "Global Elites" controlling our lives as evidenced by "CODEX, NAFTA, CETA, UN, IMF, WTO, GREEN ENERGY ACT, HST, OHIP HEALTH TAX, the WTO Toronto nonsense, the Raw Milk issues and The Fantino criminal matter" which they propose to fix by electing a sheriff in each riding in Ontario to be the senior law enforcement official and requiring US-style grand juries to approval all criminal charges;
  • direct election of the Premier, the Chief Justice of Ontario, all judges, all sheriffs, all Crown Prosecutors, a Chief Financial Officer, a Chief Elections Officer and an Ontario Ombudsman;
  • equal funding & scientific footing for allopathic, traditional and holistic health remedies;
  • expanding the provincial health plan to include dental care (Hey, I can get behind that one!);
  • vague hand-waving about the evils of corporations, urging legislation to ensure corporations are not treated as individuals and are subservient to sovereign individuals;
  • selling off all crown corporations;
  • provincial revenues to be frozen at 2007 levels and rolled back 5% annually for four years;
  • capping interest and financial fees;
  • a mechanism for citizen-drafted legislation to be presented in parliament;
  • a recall mechanism to fire MPPs;
  • referenda to approve any deficit spending;


I checked into some of the attachments and referenced websites. There's lots of stuff that would do a conspiracy theorist proud: we're oppressed by Rothschild bankers, being killed by modern medicine, need to return to the gold standard, believe that global warming is a scam, etc.. It was good for a chuckle.

It is getting late though as I write this so I'm going to now hit the "spam" button on my mail program and call it a night.
bjarvis: (Default)
Last week, Standard & Poors downgraded the US' credit rating from AAA to AA+. There has been much wringing of hands about how S&P got it wrong, how they had a $2 trillion math error and such. Math errors aside, I think they got it right.

S&P downgraded the US because of its political unwillingness to address its deficit and debt issues, not its theoretical ability or inability to pay. The US has the financial ability to maintain its accumulated debt. Please remember though that the months-long political farce on the debt ceiling issue wasn't even about the future: it was about whether Congress was going to allow itself to borrow the money to cover the spending Congress itself previously authorized. If ever there was a demonstration of administrative immaturity, incompetence and childishness, this was it.

Credit worthiness is about the likelihood of a lender being repaid the money they lent. In my lifetime, there was never any question the US would pay its legal obligations. That doubt has now been introduced, gone mainstream and even made into a political platform within the very institutions which are supposed to safeguard that credit worthiness. How could the US not be downgraded at least a notch?

In my humble opinion, the US doesn't have a spending problem: it has an income problem. We're already paying the lowest income taxes since the 1950s, especially if one is very wealthy: religious fervor in reducing taxes even lower and thus creating an even larger deficit isn't the answer. Signing ideological pledges to avert a primary run-off demonstrates a further lack of maturity.

I'm optimistic in an odd way though: this latest circus demonstrates clearly that the US is not a reliable trading partner and that it's time for a major shake-up on how we do international trade & finance. Since World War II, the US has been the big gorilla at the international table; these days, not only has the gorilla been decidedly disinterested in anything but grooming itself, it's actively flinging its feces at others. Change is necessary.

The US can't cut its budget to prosperity: if it is very, very lucky, additional cuts may only cause a mild recession. Closing tax loopholes and possibly higher rates on extreme incomes will help balance the budget; economic growth can close the gap too. Personally, I'm OK with letting the Bush tax cuts expire, even though I've profited from it over the years they've been in place. I'm willing to give up my mortgage tax credit too --or at least capping it. All I ask is that any expense cutting be done evenly: no blanket exclusions for the military or supposed non-entitlement programs.

If we're unwilling to deal with this in a sane & balanced approach, there are two other options: stay the course which leads to death by a thousand paper cuts, or allow inflation to rise to whittle away at the pile of debt. The inflation option is discussed in market circles every 15 years or so, usually by conspiracy theorists and wingnuts. It's the economic equivalent of destroying the country in order to save it, but as we rule out saner choices with Norquist loyalty oaths and Jesus-told-me-no-new-taxes faith-based pseudo-economics, using this kind of napalm becomes the last option on the table.

Ambivalent

May. 2nd, 2011 09:25 am
bjarvis: (backspace)
I'm feeling a bit ambivalent about the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

He was a vile human being; I have no problem with justifying his death.

That said, I feel no happiness in it either. Killing this one person won't end the wars, won't bring back the several thousand people he had killed, won't rebuild the towers and won't restore our treasuries. Killing bin Laden was like euthanizing a rabid wolf: it's a thing one must do for the sake of the greater community.

I'm also concerned. Making a martyr of him may bring a whole new level of escalation in terrorism, at least in the short term. Perhaps the heart has been torn out of al Qaeda, or perhaps we've spent all this time & energy tracking down one person when another person(s) is standing by to take his place and rebuilt the organization. If so, we're no further ahead.

And I'm saddened by our own failures in the West. In so many ways, bin Laden already won: he demonstrated we were more vulnerable than we thought, he made us gut our own constitutions and abandon our own rights & freedoms, he got us to bankrupt our governments and he turned us on ourselves, fearing our own shadows, accusing our next door neighbors of sedition for not being white anglo christians and wasting our time & resources on wild goose chases. I'm sure we can't --or won't-- change back to what we were now that he's dead.

And now what? Now that bin Laden is dead, what will this do to the military operations in Afghanistan? How will this affect our relations with the middle east? Will this have a lasting impact on our relations with the muslim world?

Ambivalent

May. 2nd, 2011 09:25 am
bjarvis: (backspace)
I'm feeling a bit ambivalent about the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

He was a vile human being; I have no problem with justifying his death.

That said, I feel no happiness in it either. Killing this one person won't end the wars, won't bring back the several thousand people he had killed, won't rebuild the towers and won't restore our treasuries. Killing bin Laden was like euthanizing a rabid wolf: it's a thing one must do for the sake of the greater community.

I'm also concerned. Making a martyr of him may bring a whole new level of escalation in terrorism, at least in the short term. Perhaps the heart has been torn out of al Qaeda, or perhaps we've spent all this time & energy tracking down one person when another person(s) is standing by to take his place and rebuilt the organization. If so, we're no further ahead.

And I'm saddened by our own failures in the West. In so many ways, bin Laden already won: he demonstrated we were more vulnerable than we thought, he made us gut our own constitutions and abandon our own rights & freedoms, he got us to bankrupt our governments and he turned us on ourselves, fearing our own shadows, accusing our next door neighbors of sedition for not being white anglo christians and wasting our time & resources on wild goose chases. I'm sure we can't --or won't-- change back to what we were now that he's dead.

And now what? Now that bin Laden is dead, what will this do to the military operations in Afghanistan? How will this affect our relations with the middle east? Will this have a lasting impact on our relations with the muslim world?

Dear Canada

Nov. 2nd, 2010 12:24 pm
bjarvis: (Parliament back)
Dear Canada:

I can't tell you how much I miss your elections. I've been living in Maryland for nearly 15 years now and have seen multiple election cycles so I think I've accumulated enough data points here to offer some comparisons.

Election campaigns in Canada are mercifully brief: they last anywhere from 21 to 42 days, tops. That nicely contains the insanity of the season into a compact portion of the calendar. If we can survive six weeks, we're in the clear for another four years or so.

Not so in America. Political advertising is now a 24/7/365 permanent blather. Sure, there are lulls in the battle in the 72 hours immediately following a major election but it picks up gradually again until it reaches full shriek for the three months leading up to election day.

And while Canada has had some whack jobs of would-be politicians, 99% got filtered out before ever being able to run for office and most of the last 1% were rightfully rejected by the public at the ballot box. A few nuts slipped through, of course --there's no denying that. What would we have done without the parliamentary psychodrama of, say, Helena Guergis?

Still, it seems Americans require their politicians to be insane. I don't mean just amusingly eccentric like British Columbia's Amor de Cosmos. I mean utterly completely bat-shit freaking nuts. The more out-of-touch-with-reality, the better it seems. Folks like Christine O'Donnell and Sharon Angle. It's like someone went trolling through the isolation wards of psychiatric hospitals, found the most delusional patient, took them off their meds and put them on the hustings with clean clothes and an unlimited checkbook.

No one has ever accused Canadian politicians (or runners-up) of being especially honest. Lord knows, there isn't enough space in this journal for all of the whoppers which have escaped the lips of the Dominion's political class. Remember the late 1980s when the NDP went on about how NAFTA meant America would begin draining the great lakes? Hasn't happened. I checked: the great lakes are still there.

Still, Canucks can't hold a candle to American politicians. Death panels! The gov't is coming for your guns! Your marriage is under threat! The president isn't an American! The president is Muslim! No, seriously: grandma may not be shovel-ready but facts definitely seem to be. Even a $600 million fine for health care fraud isn't a barrier to the governorship of Florida for Rick Scott or hiring undocumented workers while complaining about undocumented workers for California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.

The thing I've loved best about Canadians and their political representatives is this: they're not afraid to be smart. In fact, the political parties frequently default to selecting an intellectually gifted leader, the man or woman who happened to be the smartest one (or nearly so) in the room. I want to vote for a person who is smarter than me, more aware than me, and more knowledgeable than me. I want a person representing me and making decisions affecting the country who is better qualified than I am for the role. Alas, most of these brilliant folks couldn't charm their way out of a paper bag --I'm looking at you, Stephane Dion-- but I'd rather take a risk on smart-but-unlikely-to-win than dumb-as-a-rock-but-electable. I want thoughtful solutions, not a smooth voice with telegenic hair. At the very least, I want them to be able to list all ten provinces and three territories.

Alas, an IQ above room temperature is frequently a disqualifier for American public office. If you can perform addition or read the US constitution, you will be branded an "elite" or "intellectual." Whereas you, my fellow Canadian, might think this a supreme compliment, it's a profound slur here in the land of the free, etc.. Rand Paul gives himself professional certifications he couldn't earn properly, Joe Miller uses thugs to control needling members of the press, Christine O'Donnell didn't know there was a constitutional separation of church & state, Sarah Palin thinks seeing a country makes her qualified to negotiate treaties with it, and so on.

There isn't much good news to offer from the US at the moment, but there are some tidbits. With a little luck, the loonies won't take the Senate even if they grab the House of Reps. The White House isn't up for another two years. Many of those who thought they could buy political office with their personal millions and/or billions seem to be on the road to failure. If nothing else, the extreme campaigning will go dormant for 48-72 hours, giving us all a much-needed break.

And then it will start all over again.

Dear Canada

Nov. 2nd, 2010 12:24 pm
bjarvis: (Parliament back)
Dear Canada:

I can't tell you how much I miss your elections. I've been living in Maryland for nearly 15 years now and have seen multiple election cycles so I think I've accumulated enough data points here to offer some comparisons.

Election campaigns in Canada are mercifully brief: they last anywhere from 21 to 42 days, tops. That nicely contains the insanity of the season into a compact portion of the calendar. If we can survive six weeks, we're in the clear for another four years or so.

Not so in America. Political advertising is now a 24/7/365 permanent blather. Sure, there are lulls in the battle in the 72 hours immediately following a major election but it picks up gradually again until it reaches full shriek for the three months leading up to election day.

And while Canada has had some whack jobs of would-be politicians, 99% got filtered out before ever being able to run for office and most of the last 1% were rightfully rejected by the public at the ballot box. A few nuts slipped through, of course --there's no denying that. What would we have done without the parliamentary psychodrama of, say, Helena Guergis?

Still, it seems Americans require their politicians to be insane. I don't mean just amusingly eccentric like British Columbia's Amor de Cosmos. I mean utterly completely bat-shit freaking nuts. The more out-of-touch-with-reality, the better it seems. Folks like Christine O'Donnell and Sharon Angle. It's like someone went trolling through the isolation wards of psychiatric hospitals, found the most delusional patient, took them off their meds and put them on the hustings with clean clothes and an unlimited checkbook.

No one has ever accused Canadian politicians (or runners-up) of being especially honest. Lord knows, there isn't enough space in this journal for all of the whoppers which have escaped the lips of the Dominion's political class. Remember the late 1980s when the NDP went on about how NAFTA meant America would begin draining the great lakes? Hasn't happened. I checked: the great lakes are still there.

Still, Canucks can't hold a candle to American politicians. Death panels! The gov't is coming for your guns! Your marriage is under threat! The president isn't an American! The president is Muslim! No, seriously: grandma may not be shovel-ready but facts definitely seem to be. Even a $600 million fine for health care fraud isn't a barrier to the governorship of Florida for Rick Scott or hiring undocumented workers while complaining about undocumented workers for California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman.

The thing I've loved best about Canadians and their political representatives is this: they're not afraid to be smart. In fact, the political parties frequently default to selecting an intellectually gifted leader, the man or woman who happened to be the smartest one (or nearly so) in the room. I want to vote for a person who is smarter than me, more aware than me, and more knowledgeable than me. I want a person representing me and making decisions affecting the country who is better qualified than I am for the role. Alas, most of these brilliant folks couldn't charm their way out of a paper bag --I'm looking at you, Stephane Dion-- but I'd rather take a risk on smart-but-unlikely-to-win than dumb-as-a-rock-but-electable. I want thoughtful solutions, not a smooth voice with telegenic hair. At the very least, I want them to be able to list all ten provinces and three territories.

Alas, an IQ above room temperature is frequently a disqualifier for American public office. If you can perform addition or read the US constitution, you will be branded an "elite" or "intellectual." Whereas you, my fellow Canadian, might think this a supreme compliment, it's a profound slur here in the land of the free, etc.. Rand Paul gives himself professional certifications he couldn't earn properly, Joe Miller uses thugs to control needling members of the press, Christine O'Donnell didn't know there was a constitutional separation of church & state, Sarah Palin thinks seeing a country makes her qualified to negotiate treaties with it, and so on.

There isn't much good news to offer from the US at the moment, but there are some tidbits. With a little luck, the loonies won't take the Senate even if they grab the House of Reps. The White House isn't up for another two years. Many of those who thought they could buy political office with their personal millions and/or billions seem to be on the road to failure. If nothing else, the extreme campaigning will go dormant for 48-72 hours, giving us all a much-needed break.

And then it will start all over again.

How Many?

Dec. 23rd, 2009 04:44 pm
bjarvis: (CBC)
According to this CBC report, the population of Canada as of October 1 was 33,873,400.

I have a lot more xmas cards to write.

How Many?

Dec. 23rd, 2009 04:44 pm
bjarvis: (CBC)
According to this CBC report, the population of Canada as of October 1 was 33,873,400.

I have a lot more xmas cards to write.
bjarvis: (CBC)
Toronto city councillor Kyle Rae has decided against running again for city councillor. Click for the full CBC article.

I met him first when he was director of the 519 Community Center years ago and attended a couple of his campaign rallies when he first ran for city office. I'm very curious what he's decided to do next: I can't imagine him simply retiring completely.
bjarvis: (CBC)
Toronto city councillor Kyle Rae has decided against running again for city councillor. Click for the full CBC article.

I met him first when he was director of the 519 Community Center years ago and attended a couple of his campaign rallies when he first ran for city office. I'm very curious what he's decided to do next: I can't imagine him simply retiring completely.

Uh Oh!

Sep. 25th, 2009 10:23 am
bjarvis: (Canada by satellite)
It has been announced the G20 summit for 2010 will be hosted in Canada alongside the G10 summit already scheduled for the end of June, 2010, in the Muskoka area of central Ontario.

Ouch.

Yes, I think there's value in having a number of national leaders meet in person to discuss issues, even if all the agreements are pre-negotiated by their staff weeks in advance of the event. Anything mechanism which facilitates or forces communication is a Good Thing, IMHO.

But when I think of the amount of violence and vandalism which follows these conferences wherever they go, I can only pity the residents whose property is going to be damaged or destroyed. The city will have enormous security-related expenses in the weeks prior and following the event and will have the impact of rerouted traffic, blocked roads & airports for the transport of VIPs and much more.

I imagine every mayor of a hosting city upon hearing his/her location has been selected thinks Fantastic!, followed very quickly by OMG!

It's a wonder to me that the G20 leaders don't select a city in the most police-state-like member to host their meetings, just to escape the bother of protesters, anarchists and riots.

Uh Oh!

Sep. 25th, 2009 10:23 am
bjarvis: (Canada by satellite)
It has been announced the G20 summit for 2010 will be hosted in Canada alongside the G10 summit already scheduled for the end of June, 2010, in the Muskoka area of central Ontario.

Ouch.

Yes, I think there's value in having a number of national leaders meet in person to discuss issues, even if all the agreements are pre-negotiated by their staff weeks in advance of the event. Anything mechanism which facilitates or forces communication is a Good Thing, IMHO.

But when I think of the amount of violence and vandalism which follows these conferences wherever they go, I can only pity the residents whose property is going to be damaged or destroyed. The city will have enormous security-related expenses in the weeks prior and following the event and will have the impact of rerouted traffic, blocked roads & airports for the transport of VIPs and much more.

I imagine every mayor of a hosting city upon hearing his/her location has been selected thinks Fantastic!, followed very quickly by OMG!

It's a wonder to me that the G20 leaders don't select a city in the most police-state-like member to host their meetings, just to escape the bother of protesters, anarchists and riots.
bjarvis: (US Capitol)
I find presidential inaugurations somewhat bewildering. Perhaps it's because I'm not American. I haven't been immersed in awe and deference for the White House since birth. Cheering national institutions comes naturally to most Americans; it's part of the culture. I don't any problem with this except that there is inevitable muddling between symbols and the object itself, between offices and their occupants.

Perhaps it's because I'm Canadian: the idea of investing such huge expectations into a prime minister is perfectly laughable. I'm from a country small enough that I've had the chance to shake hands with many of the men (and one woman) who have been or aspired to be prime minister and I know first hand that they are flesh & blood, mortal, limited, with all the faults to which our merely human minds, souls and body are heir. Culturally, we know the PMs we like and hate are not very different from ourselves. Politically, we know the PM is merely the first among equals, only slightly above other Parliamentarians, provincial premiers and other elected officials. The US president speaks from a podium elevated above the nation, surrounded by security details and the symbols of office; a prime minister speaks from a step-stool from which he can be easily brushed aside by an elderly great-grandmother with a walker.

So while I find the US inauguration process fascinating from an etiquette and protocol point of view --was I the only one more curious about the order of introductions of the dignitaries than Mr. Obama's inauguration speech?-- I find the cheering mobs and faces sobbing with joy somewhat bewildering.

This is the third such event since I moved to Washington DC. Of the three, today's inauguration is by far the largest, most elaborate and celebrated. I suspect this is because the prior two inaugurations were held under the cloud of electoral malfeasance if not outright fraud.

It doesn't hurt that the US is moving out from the shadow of an intellectually lacking, unimaginative, dullard of a president into the light of a man who at least thinks about consequences & costs and who considers facts which don't match his preferred and pre-programmed world view. After the last eight years, almost anyone would be heralded into office as an improvement.

I also think the dark national haze goes back further than Bush II, to the election of Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House of Representatives. To me, that's when the national mood began sliding from confidently building a better tomorrow for all into confidently acting with malice to anyone not white, wealthy, straight and Christian.

Still, despite the desire to be more hopeful and optimistic, I can't help but feel we're all investing too much into one man. There are limits on his office: he has influence but also constraints. He can persuade Congress to support him but he cannot force them. He can pull on the reins of power but he cannot singly remake the entirety of the US federal gov't in even a full four year term. He can talk with and cajole other nations, but he cannot move them by force, especially when the US' economic and political capital are at all-time lows. I wish it were otherwise, but the task is too big and the downward spiral of the past number of years has huge momentum.

Getting rid of the failed old guard is the first, most necessary part of the solution. At least now, there is the possibility of improvement.
bjarvis: (US Capitol)
I find presidential inaugurations somewhat bewildering. Perhaps it's because I'm not American. I haven't been immersed in awe and deference for the White House since birth. Cheering national institutions comes naturally to most Americans; it's part of the culture. I don't any problem with this except that there is inevitable muddling between symbols and the object itself, between offices and their occupants.

Perhaps it's because I'm Canadian: the idea of investing such huge expectations into a prime minister is perfectly laughable. I'm from a country small enough that I've had the chance to shake hands with many of the men (and one woman) who have been or aspired to be prime minister and I know first hand that they are flesh & blood, mortal, limited, with all the faults to which our merely human minds, souls and body are heir. Culturally, we know the PMs we like and hate are not very different from ourselves. Politically, we know the PM is merely the first among equals, only slightly above other Parliamentarians, provincial premiers and other elected officials. The US president speaks from a podium elevated above the nation, surrounded by security details and the symbols of office; a prime minister speaks from a step-stool from which he can be easily brushed aside by an elderly great-grandmother with a walker.

So while I find the US inauguration process fascinating from an etiquette and protocol point of view --was I the only one more curious about the order of introductions of the dignitaries than Mr. Obama's inauguration speech?-- I find the cheering mobs and faces sobbing with joy somewhat bewildering.

This is the third such event since I moved to Washington DC. Of the three, today's inauguration is by far the largest, most elaborate and celebrated. I suspect this is because the prior two inaugurations were held under the cloud of electoral malfeasance if not outright fraud.

It doesn't hurt that the US is moving out from the shadow of an intellectually lacking, unimaginative, dullard of a president into the light of a man who at least thinks about consequences & costs and who considers facts which don't match his preferred and pre-programmed world view. After the last eight years, almost anyone would be heralded into office as an improvement.

I also think the dark national haze goes back further than Bush II, to the election of Newt Gingrich as speaker of the House of Representatives. To me, that's when the national mood began sliding from confidently building a better tomorrow for all into confidently acting with malice to anyone not white, wealthy, straight and Christian.

Still, despite the desire to be more hopeful and optimistic, I can't help but feel we're all investing too much into one man. There are limits on his office: he has influence but also constraints. He can persuade Congress to support him but he cannot force them. He can pull on the reins of power but he cannot singly remake the entirety of the US federal gov't in even a full four year term. He can talk with and cajole other nations, but he cannot move them by force, especially when the US' economic and political capital are at all-time lows. I wish it were otherwise, but the task is too big and the downward spiral of the past number of years has huge momentum.

Getting rid of the failed old guard is the first, most necessary part of the solution. At least now, there is the possibility of improvement.

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