Friday, 11 August 2017

Libertarians

The thing about Libertarians -- and those of libertarian leanings, the free-marketeers -- is they so frequently turn out to be utter hypocrites.
The Canadian Taxpayer Federation exists as a collection of cranks who absolutely believe that all Government spending is waste and hold as a sacred tenet that private enterprise will somehow not do as it always does, which is, to screw people out of money. (Remember, it's intellectually dishonest sewer from which Mr. Harper, the spendthrift who managed to obliterate a surplus and saddle us with massive deficit, bubbled up.)
So the excuse is 'but it's not illegal'. No, Mr Anti-Government, it's not. But according to you, it's immoral and should be.
Fildebrandt apologizes for Airbnb sublet income, takes leave from UCP finance critic role

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Cognitive Dissonance Run Rampant

Today in cognitive dissonance:
The front page of "24 Hours Toronto" (a free rag published by Postmedia - a conglomerate that foments support for libertarian, "free-market" economics and white-bigot-right-wing ideology) has the headline:
SHOW US THE MONEY! Wounded soldiers aren't happy PM settled with Khadr while vets fight in court over benefits.
Cognitive dissonance Aspect #1:
The accompanying photo is of two legless men in uniforms. *British* uniforms.
This is the same idiotic super-patriot crap that I unfriend people for passing along. You know, those maudlin photo messages featuring emotional pleas or slogans to 'support our troops' (which completely twisted the original message around 180 degrees from anti-war protest into pro-war jingoism) with pictures of foreign -- usually U.S. -- soldiers.
It's a gross insult to our own vets and our own soldiers. It's ignorant and instantly devalues whatever argument you were about to make right there. 'Support Canadian veterans', but do not even have the good grace to use Canadians in the imagery? Be thankful all I can do is unfriend you, because what I'd LIKE to do is stuff you into a bottle & drop you off the coast of Labrador. Same with these jingoistic war-shills at Postmedia.
Cognitive Dissonance Aspect #2:
It is currently fashionable to falsely contrast the Khadr payout to veterans non-payouts, triggering a sense of gross injustice and unfairness. So who are we upset at? The Liberals and Trudeau!
Why? Well because... it turns out, they are the ones holding the bag. No, I'm not happy about the $10m payout. (If that actually was the amount paid out. Remember we don't actually KNOW that is the amount. It's just the number "someone" leaked to the news media.) But I'm going to put the blame where it belongs.
So who is really at fault? Harper and the Conservatives.
So why isn't everyone who feels this is unfair upset at Harper and the current Conservative caucus, many of whom were part of the government that colluded in the torture of Khadr while he was imprisoned without trial for a crime he was not accused of until years after his imprisonment. The same Conservatives who spent many tens of millions of dollars losing case after case in courts of law and who were on track to lose the $20m lawsuit that the Liberals cut short. The Conservatives who claim to be all about law and order and who not only broke the actual law, but violated their own purported moral values. The Conservatives who changed the laws and rules to strip those wounded and damaged veterans of their financial support, even as they made jingoistic, flag-waving, maudlin gestures like naming part of Highway 401 "the Highway of Heroes" &c. &c. The Conservatives who figured out how to cut a number of service personnel who served in Afghanistan from ALL support by changing the rules and cutting their tours short so they got nothing.
Those Conservatives.
The Conservatives that people who are angry about the Khadr payout like to quote.
Now, Trudeau's Liberals could gain a lot of brownie points by straightening the whole veterans benefits mess out and fixing it, and the fact that they don't is totally on them. But the cognitive dissonance comes from those at fault encouraging criticism of and anger at those not at fault.
Cognitive Dissonance Aspect #3:
We are the good guys because we do good things and therfore everything we do must be good, even if they are bad things, because we are the Good Guys who do good things.
Corollary: It's OK to do bad things to Bad Guys because we are Good Guys and don't really need to live up to our own standards when dealing with people who have very bad behaviour (according to us). And we know they are Bad Guys. Because they do bad things. Or think bad things. So it's OK to treat them badly, we are still the Good Guys.
I'm getting really, really heartily sick of this idiotic tautology that is, I'm sure, part of the cause of so much PTSD in our veterans, who have to deal with the betrayal of their ideals by the same people who enthusiastically put them in harms way.
They (the Taliban) are bad people who follow an arbitrary subset of tenets drawn purportedly from their religion and apply those rules injudiciously and capriciously against everyone who pisses them off.
We are supposed to have a constructed rule of law that applies to all those who are born here and all who become citizens. We have a system of courts and evidentiary rules and what is admissible and why, to avoid injudiciousness and capriciousness, to the extent possible. (We still have a long ways to go. Quite a long ways, actually, but we are getting more refined and better with each passing generation.)
If we are good, then let's act like it, consistently, especially when it's hard. It's what people with honour and integrity do. That means sometimes having to treat contemptible people with more respect than we feel they deserve, and that's a bitter pill, but in the end it's good medicine for the soul.
Or just publicly admit that we are bigoted, religionist racists who love arbitrary vengeance with all the reflexiveness of a pre-teen.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Happy Canada Day. 150.

150 years since the Act of Confederation came into force.
Although I have to say, I preferred when I was young and there was a lot less flag-waving jingoism and extravagant, noisy celebrating, and a lot more quiet excellence. It is 150 years since four colonies became one Confederated Dominion, and our history has not been anything like as pristine as I was taught, but I do believe the basic idea of Confederation is a worthy one. But we have a long way to go, still, before we can be truly a united country for all those who live here.
So lets maybe celebrate the idea of what we should be, a nation that protects and supports all its people, that draws on our differences to produce a better result than is ever found in an echo-chamber of agreeable voices. Let us rededicate ourselves to an expanded awareness of multi-nationalism that is at the foundation of this nation, once referring only to French and English, but which now must refer to people from many different cultures, some here since the first humans arrived, others lately arriving from distressed places abroad. Let us celebrate our differences, always very careful of never crossing that fine line between lauding our own cultural background and denigrating another. We have failed to do this in the past, so we must strive to succeed in the future.
I read history and the most creative, the most stable societies, managed to have diversity without divisiveness. They produced the finest art and developed the finest ideas. That is the sort of society I wish to live in.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Suprise Votes

    Why do I seem to be the only person not surprised by the recent votes in the past couple of years?
    After the Brexit vote, the pundits and talking heads on TV were "shocked" at the outcome. (A very much overused word, I think). After Mr. Trump was elected, a goodly number of people went into a state of near apoplectic rage, and are displaying behaviour of disappointed children, looking for every excuse they can think of, find, or tease out to try and, I don't know, discredit the election? Call a do-over? Pretend it didn't count? Blame a foreign government for trying to do pretty much what the U.S. government has done to everyone else's electoral process for the past 70+ years? Not that the Russians (and before that the Soviets) and Chinese haven't been trying to influence U.S. elections during all this period, it's what great powers do, but suddenly everyone on the losing side seems to think it made a difference this time, because that is a great way of ignoring the blatant corruption on display by the losing side who presented the electorate with a candidate they did not want who represented a status quo they could no longer tolerate.
    Now, after the "shocking" election result in Britain, Ms. Theresa May went from leading a majority Party in Parliament to a minority government and none of the people being interviewed or presented in the various news media, people presented as experts, people who are supposed to be learned on the subject, people whose job is to know much more about this than I do, I who am sitting on the other side of the world, who has time for only passing read-up on occasional news stories, I am not surprised and they are.
    Are these people so locked into their offices, so narrowly focused on their topic that they never look up and look around and see the patterns forming? Is that it? They cannot see the landscape of the forest for the close examination of the bark of the nearest tree?
    Maybe they need to start looking around at the way the world is unfolding and then they wouldn't be so surprised all the time.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Electoral Reform

  I attended a meeting on Electoral Reform held by my local MP recently. I was very impressed with my fellow citizens comments, the calibre of discussion and the wide range of views represented. The Liberals promised electoral reform and to my great pleasure, they have actually moved on this issue. They created a committee to review electoral reform and decide on a different voting system than the one we currently use. This fills me with gladness, because one of the great frustrations of my life is that my choices are almost never represented and we are in a time when we will very much need a system of representation that really does include everyone, especially those on the fringe
  Opponents of change insist that the system we have 'may have flaws' but we need to be very careful about making changes and so should wait and take our time. Well, firstly, we've been discussing this issue for 70 years and have had at least a dozen commissions, and we take our time, an election happens, a new Party takes power and nothing gets changed. This is how they want to prevent any change because opponents mostly constitute those who will never again hold power under a pluralistic system, because they are too ideological and they have hitherto refused to co-operate with anyone on anything. Moreover, the current system was devised in 13th Century England, long before political parties were even conceived, with the intent to have locally pre-eminent citizens represent approximately 5000 people for every member of Parliament, and it is entirely possible for 5000 people to actually know who they were choosing to send to represent them. Whereas, a typical constituency now has upwards of 50,000 people, so it is virtually impossible for my representative to be known to all of us first hand. So people vote by Party affiliation. It is only reasonable that if people vote by Parties, we should have a new system that reflects that reality. 
  Opponents of change argue that the system functions well and is stable, but this is demonstrably false. It is stable only over the short term, but our current system was never designed with the idea of Parties in mind, and so we keep lurching from one Party to the other back and forth, each Party imposing very different laws and supporting very different policies. This means that governments undo what previous governments put in place which has all the stability of a two-year-old learning to walk. Policies reverse themselves by government and there is only continuity in the tacit agreement that the only way to manage an economy is through the ever-increasing use of fossil fuels and consequent emission of CO2 into the atmosphere when it is long past time to be cutting back. In almost all nations with pluralistic systems designed around Party affiliation as a central premise, government policies are far less variable from election to election and policies and laws change less over time. They are far more stable than our system has been. As for functioning well, we choose individuals to represent us, but choose those individuals by Party affiliation. Once elected, these 'individuals' are, in actuality, submissive to the discipline of the Party leaders. The vagaries of our current system means one party can garner the votes of about one third of the nation, concentrated properly, which leads to a majority of seats in the house and consequently, due to Party discipline, a very small group of people wield 100% of the political power. We have seen the consequences of this in the recent Harper government, which, unlike previous governments who were careful to keep the appearance and form of pluralistic political dialogue, discarded all pretense of consultation or co-operation and imposed their radical ideological fantasies on the nation with almost unprecedented vigour. This is exactly why we need to prevent this sort of abuse of power in the future. Mr. Harper was  a pretty good government, when he was held in the vise of a minority government, but appalling when in majority, i.e. total, power.
   Opponents of change argue that a new ballot is too complex for the average voter, but given the ability of ordinary citizens in so very many other countries to figure out how to work a ballot with proportional representation in various forms,  the argument then is simply a disdainful dismissal of the average citizen and betrays the contempt in which they are held by those who benefit from the current system. Moreover pluralistic voting methods have already been successfully used, at the municipal level in Canada, and were only eliminated by those who benefit from the largest-minority First-Past-The-Post voting system that we have to use now.
   Opponents of change argue that it must be brought in by referendum, which is laughable. The irony of demanding popular support to bring in a voting system to reflect popular support is rich. So is the notion that we need permission from a majority to have a system to encourage and recognize minority viewpoints. Opponents say we must, because they know well that referendums do not work. Most people are not policy wonks and have no interest in exploring the exquisite complexities of voting systems. They are not thoroughly familiar with the potential consequences,  or the need, for any given change and so, when confronted with a choice between known versus and unknown, but not facing a crisis, people invariably choose as all biological creatures do: they choose to stay with the familiar rather than change to the unfamiliar. McGuinty used this non-action masterfully, in Ontario, with the 2007 Referendum. The government assured the referendum would fail by spending less money it total on the entire process, viz., organizing committee meetings, supporting research, developing options, and advertising, than a typical fast-food corporation spends hawking its wares in one evening on prime-time TV. They further assured it would fail by asking a loaded question, designed to lead the ignorant to choose 'no change', thus guaranteeing failure while still pretending to do something. Furthermore, no significant yet necessary change was ever enacted via referendum. Women did not get the vote by referendum, nor did aboriginals. Homosexuality was not made legal, nor was death for murder enacted by referendum. David Milgaard would never have been freed, but been killed for a crime he did not commit.
   If I were to arrange a new system, I would base it on Mixed Member Proportional, that is, a mix of Members elected to represent a particular electoral district, and extra members appointed by Party affiliation to produce a Parliament that is proportional by Party. But for the selection of the Member, I would use Alternate Vote, whereby all candidates are ranked from first choice to last, which assures that, while whoever becomes elected may not be the first choice of more than a minority, which is the case now, the eventual winner will be the second or third choice of the majority, and someone most are comfortable with. Or possibly combine this with larger, multi-member districts via Single Transferable Vote, but still with the option to top up via Party choice. 

   My rationale for this is simply that, given the scale and magnitude of the electorate, people vote by Party, so that must be a component. But the benefit of having a particular person, or very small group of people associated with my locality ensures that there is someone paying attention to how the proposed government policies and laws are going to affect people in my area, and someone whose job is to address government-related issues of immediate concern to me.
   We very much need a system of representation that really does include everyone, especially those on the fringe. We are long past due, being one of only three OECD countries to still use this outmoded system of electing representatives. It is no longer appropriate for the size of the populace, and is no longer appropriate to select leadership we will very much need as we face increasingly difficult predicaments of climate change and energy reduction during 21st Century.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Trump Card

As a subject of the United States, I follow the "elections" with some fascination. Choices have been degrading over the course of my lifetime and what passes for political discussion in the U.S. has followed the typical path of most empires, degrading into a polarized contest between two different parties at least one of whom refuses utterly to work with the other. That is how empires die. The Mamelukes, the Byzantines, Rome... all fall into a period when the leadership would rather tear each other apart in quest of absolute power than realize that they have much more in common with each other than not and consequently fall prey to internal or external forces that tear it apart.
I came across this item the other day, which illustrates exactly the situation and the problem: An Open Letter to My Friends Who Support Donald Trump
The current situation is that the Democratic Party, through disheartening fraud managed to secure the nomination of their preferred puppet candidate in their quest to implement a program that, prima facie, supports and improves lives of poor working classes, but which, in fact, merely supports the status quo. A status quo that has, over the past 30 years, pretty much destroyed the working class, the source of their wealth and power and alienated the internal proletariat, turning them into apathetic, passive  cynics at best, angry, betrayed enemies at worst, so eager for something other than the status quo that they will turn to the first enticing demagogue who appears on the horizon. And at the final state of dysfunction in Empires, a demagogue always appears to try and restore people to some time when they felt optimistic.
Enter Donald J. Trump, possibly the least qualified popular figure ever to vie for the crown oval office.
While neither Hillary nor Donald can alter the deeper course of decline of the American empire in its final days, there is a definite difference in how the process unfolds and I'd much prefer to have the Democrats desperately trying to fix the status quo than the kind of radical change this man represents. I know the American people are in about the same mental place as the people of 1780s France, or in the Weimar Republic, or the Kingdom of Italy, or the Russian Empire but it is possible to move from empire to post-empire without the cataclysm of social disintegration that Trump & the Republican Party will assuredly follow.
He has whipped up an increasingly large mob of angry supporters which will probably carry him into the the White House. But after that, he will have to deal with the reality that angry mobs who crush your enemies are not known settling down to make rational decisions about serious issues.
Unfortunately, Trump will likely become President, because of the way he is running his campaign, versus the way Clinton has been running hers.
He peppers his scrambled rants with grandiose feel-good statements that he will 'improve' things and plays on false-memories of some vague glorious past when America, for all its faults, was still full of optimism and drive, before the banksters, mainstream economists, professional politicians, and other fraudsters started eroding those hopes from the daily lives of most Americans.
Clinton is constantly being attacked by enemies who implicitly understand Goebbels dictum about saying something loudly and repeatedly until it becomes truth, and isn't apparently offering a grand vision. Mr. Hopey-changey pretty much destroyed the worth of that line of credibility when he utterly failed to make any meaningful course-correction in policy foreign or domestic and she hasn't come up with anything to match it. Yet. Most of her supporters are trying to rely on the failing strategy of scaring voters with 'he's awful' as their main argument and that is definitely not working. Moreover, the disaster of the scandal of the corrupt nomination process has pretty much alienated most of the support that might have made all the difference. Betrayal is harsh and I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of Bernie Supporters out there who right now want to see the whole mess go up in flames.
If Trump becomes President that will probably happen sooner rather than later.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Summer of our Discontent

   This is shaping up to be a very violent summer in North America, more violent than most. Many grievances are coming to a head, the habit of pushing problems off until 'later' has finally caught up with those in power.
   The Brexit vote is being decryed by the political and cultural elite as the result of giving ignorant racists the vote, but this is disingenuous, because every time one of those working class people observes that their standard of living has not risen in the past 30 years, and for a significant fraction it has declined, jobs have either disappeared or become scraps to fight over and then questions the wisdom of bringing in more unemployed immigrants, they are instantly labelled and dismissed as racists by the people whose policies created the immigration flow problem in the first place. The people who have profited mightily from the off-shoring of jobs and undercutting of the working classes.

   The failure of the powers that be to enforce their stated mandate of equal treatment to people who are obviously different, their tacit acceptance of bigotry in the ranks of the police and other front-line employees of the state is now reflected with the "Idle no More" movement, and the "Black Lives Matter" [too] movement and their increasing frustration at the failure of the status quo to address this issue.
  There are some important pieces, notably this one: http://www.vox.com/2015/5/28/8661977/race-police-officer about the damage done by not vigourously enforcing standards of behaviour. Bad behaviour corrupts by discouraging good behaviour. After all, if someone can do something obviously bad and get away with it, what is my incentive to hold up my own standards? Furthermore, those at the very top have been behaving very badly for decades now and the internal proletariat are losing any incentive to maintain the social order.
   What happens next is chaotic, violent, and oftentimes destroys the political entity.
   So the Republicans are about to nominate a racist, misogynistic demagogue and his corporate-lacky as their candidates for POTUS. The Democrates are presenting a representative of the status quo for their choice, a status-quo that is failing most Americans. Across the world, 50 years of U.S. meddling in other nations affairs has created a backlash of frustrated, raging young people who have wrapped themselves in the righteousness of pseudo-religion and who are wreaking terror and havoc across Eurasia.
   This is becoming an exceptionally violent summer and the heat has just started.