Search This Blog

CCE in brief

My photo
Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Indentured Servitude is NOT an Employment Strategy

Expect to see messaging like this crop up if Team Harper goes ahead with their plan to promote indentured servitude of foreign workers.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley made the break specific this week when she announced that Ottawa will now let employers pay temporary foreign workers less than Canadians.

Are the Conservatives really that blind to the consequence of their actions, or are they so callous as to want to piss off Canadians against foreigners so that they'll be more likely to vote with their gut for extremist Parties?

This is what Capitalism does in the Global Village - wages don't go up, they trickle down to whoever will take less pay. In this case it's foreign workers - the same foreign workers that Tim Hudak railed against during the last provincial election. I can tell you from reactions at many doors, people are just frustrated and angry enough to believe that message.

By encouraging indentured servitude and telling Canadians to take lower-paying jobs or else, the Harper Tories are piling on the kindling. Tensions are already on the rise in Canada; this is going to make it a hell of a lot worse. With the dollar rising (thanks partly to Harper's push on Alberta Oil) the cost of living isn't going down - yet Jim Flaherty thinks Canadians should work for less or be left with nothing? I have images of the Grapes of Wrath in my head.

Those who had and now find themselves without will look for scapegoats - that's human nature. The Hard Right politicians and would-bes in this country (Wild Rose, I'm looking at you) will make it clear who they think is the problem - urban, special interest groups, foreigners. It's wedge politics at its worst and could lead to social collapse.

Harper used to wax on about trouble lapping at our shores; now, he's doing a hell of a job to foster them right here at home.

Friday 27 April 2012

Believe What You Think...

An interesting piece on how increasing analytical thinking decreases intuitive belief:

And yet, intuition is still seen as serving a useful purpose:

Though we can believe what we think, we don't think what we believe.
What are we to make of this?

Stephen Harper's Choice: To Boldly Go or To Cower Behind?

Thursday 26 April 2012

An Argument for a Runner-Up Senate

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has committed to Senate reform.  There are not a few Canadians who feel a Senate no longer serves any purpose and should be gotten rid of entirely; their main argument is that an unelected body does not represent the will of Canadians, which the Prime Minister would seem to agree with.

At the same time, Canada is grappling with a democratic deficit - voter turnout is trending down and, as the electoral watering hole shrinks, the politics that covets those votes is getting nastier.  Part of the problem here is the nature of our first-past-the-post system; how many voters can legitimately claim that their votes make no difference in the forming of government?  The majority of Canadians who voted did not vote for the Harper Conservatives, to say nothing of those who didn't vote at all.  This isn't a trend that will encourage voter turnout.

There have been suggestions of alternative electoral systems we could employ to fix the imbalance between votes cast and results, with a Mixed Member Proportional System frequently being cited as an option.

I think we're making this challenge more complicated than it needs to be, because we're looking at Senate reform and electoral reform as separate entities.  Ultimately, we have one voter - why not take the best of what we have and tailor it to better represent that voter's choices?

A Runner Up Senate

What if, instead of appointed Senators or separately elected Senators, the Red Chamber were filled with Runner-Up Candidates of general elections from individual ridings across the country? 

We could set a fixed number of Senate seats per province/territory; the runner-up candidates with the highest aggregate vote-counts would then end up not in the House of Commons, but in the Senate.  Sober second thought would still be in place and would more accurately represent the will of Canadians as expressed by their votes.

I see this as positive in a couple of ways - one, it would validate voting for those who feel their voice is lost in the first-past-the-post system.  It could also help reduce the partisan nastiness that is increasing in our system, particularly at the local level.  Knowing you might have to work with your riding-level opponents in Ottawa and that they might have a say in the positions you put forward might reduce the chicanery that is all too common in political brinkmanship.

Yes, there's a risk of such a move leading to more hyper-sensitive political in-fighting, positioning and gridlock, but if the right relationships are built between candidates on the ground, I think this would be far less of a problem.  Again, it's about empowering the individual representatives to represent the views they were elected on but also the interests of their constituents.  In addition, it's really more of a risk to the Parties that try to play games; as Robocalls is proving, the more complicated you make your opaque voter manipulation schemes, the harder they are to carry through to completion without getting burned in the process.

Forcing our politicians to view collaboration as part of their long game can only benefit Canadian politics and our national democracy.  That's my view, anyway.  I'd love to hear yours.

Confidence Vs. Competence

There are two kinds of success – personal dominance and actual accomplishment.  It’s great to be top dog, I guess, but what’s the point if you don’t do anything with your position?
Society has to start internalizing this question; what do we really want to support, confidence or competence?  The two don’t always come in tandem.  If you want to support achievement, you have to re-evaluate motivation.

Danielle Smith Puts a Limit on Free Speech

So, Danielle Smith is all about free speech, but when put under the gun, she wants context before speaking herself.

Not going to criticize her on that - I agree with the idea of thinking about consequences before you speak.  The question is, what kinds of consequences are you focused on?  If you believe in the validity of what you have to say, you should be willing to speak truth to power and say it regardless of the impact on personal fortunes.  Yes, people mince words, but if the goal of both parties is understanding, you just need to take the time to ensure you've gotten your message across. 

When you step into the realm of understanding, though, you're forced to drop the "them-against-us" mentality and understand those you want to reach, so you can reach them effectively.  It's a matter of putting the Public Good before personal interest, which can be hard to do.  Do it enough, your starting point will eventually become more pro-social; if we all thought things through, thoroughly, before acting, the world wold be a different place.

But Ms. Smith can tell that to her candidate-elect.

RELATED:  "Our words completely undermined our intentions and went further to harm the world we're trying to have a positive impact on…As a young startup, we learned a lot today and are better people and a better company for it."

ALSO RELATED: The Internet makes the world smaller but also more complicated. People think differently.

I've been around the world and I can tell you, there is no such thing as common sense.  Cultural, geographic, demographic, etc. realities change everything.  Assuming everyone thinks the same way you do is like assuming everyone speaks American.  Becoming conscious of our internal limitations is the only way we can overcome them and move forward.

China's Gender Tragedy

Why would anyone want to abort a girl?  A couple of reasons; boys are seen as more effective on the farm, boys can carry on the family name, etc.  If you’re focus is direct personal interest, there might be some logic to the practice.

But then, you end up with a tragedy of the commons.  How many of those preferred boys won’t get to carry on the family line because there simply aren’t enough girls to marry?  What happens when you have a growing number of frustrated boys, with the majority of the frustrated having less resource and opportunity access than their peers?  Putting the wants of the individual ahead of the public good invariably leads to short-sighted action.

Like natural resource extraction without consideration for the environment, like negative attacks that limit voter participation, like ignoring the health needs of the poor and getting upset when an epidemic spreads, we simply can’t afford to not think ahead.  Thinking ahead invariably means planning, cooperation, consideration for others.  Pro-social behaviour, in other words.

Altruism is really just selfishness with a bit of foresight.  It works better for us if we accept this idea, consciously.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Political Delusion – What Tim Hudak, Adam Carroll and John Wright Have In Common (UPDATE)

Three stories jumped out at me from today’s Toronto Star:

Despite having lost the recent provincial election everyone assumed was his for the taking, despite his slipping support in the polls, Hudak is sticking to his defiance.  Ask him to take ownership of his Party’s floundering fortunes and he says this:

McGuinty is Premier of a minority government in the province of Ontario – it’s his duty to work with the other Parties and find middle-ground solutions that reflect the will of the electorate.  That’s how Parliament works.

Now, compare Hudak’s stance with that of his Federal cousin Dean del Mastro.  “I’m proud that my party, the Conservative party, has maintained a high ethical standard.”  One could quibble over the meaning of the word “ethical” but I’m pretty sure we can agree that lying to the people who elected you leans in the unethical direction.  Just for one example.

Then, there’s the fellow to whom del Mastro was directing his remarks, Adam Carroll.  Carroll, the mind behind Vikileaks, says he has no regrets, either.  Worth noting – Carroll justifies his personal attack with reactionary language;  “I felt compelled to urgently bring public attention to the threat that Bill c-30 would impose on our rights and our privacy.”  Bring to the public attention, threat – sounds like an argument I’ve heard before.

The fact is, Carroll embarrassed his Party, gave fuel to the Conservatives and poured gas on Canada’s growing political cynicism.  But he stuck to his guns, right?  Perhaps Tim Hudak should give him a call and congratulate Carroll for not throwing his principles overboard.

All three of these gentlemen display similar personality ticks, at least in their public persona; single-minded, reactionary, aggressive, message-track reliant and unwilling to consider the possibility that shared, compromised solutions might be better than their lone gunslinger approach.  Righteousness, after all, needs no justification. 

They all do their Parties harm with their intransigence – but why?  Why can’t they recognize this?

Last story:

That’s a logical thing to say.  It also happens to be empirically wrong.  From stock-pickers to pollster prognosticators, there is very little precedent for a track-record of continued success.  Given the variables involved – and how poorly we understand them – this shouldn’t really come as a surprise.  Yet, we still spend oodles of cash on things like polling, fortune telling and stock-picking, without there being an abundance of hard data supporting them.

Why?  Much of the beliefs we hold to be true are true only in our own cognition.  In essence, we delude ourselves to fill in knowledge gaps and err, in uncertainty, on the side of confidence.  Note Wright's careful, Kouvalis-like use of language; the poll was superficial, and therefore does nothing to detract from his reputation.  It's a variant on the same message track Hudak is using.

That’s the play the Hudaks, Carrolls and Wrights of the world are making.  It’s the advice we give people going for first dates or job interviews – just sound confident.  It’s also why we have an asymmetrical social system that overly rewards those who sound and look good, whether confidence is matched by skill or not.

We are, frankly, a delusional people.  That’s not a bad thing – it’s a starting point.  Knowing this, we can start moving towards consciousness.

Another example of fixedness of thought causing problems for those who speak before they process...

AND I can't resist adding Dick Morris to my list!

UPDATE 21 Feb 14: I think the delusion runs very deep.  It looks like Kevin Spacey agrees with me...

Monday 23 April 2012

A Social Illness: The Crime of Being Sick

Recently, I was hit by a car.  I was very lucky in that I bounced back.  Even then, the challenges I face in trying to get myself back to full functionality are not slight.  The fact that the guy who hit me got off without any repercussions didn't help any.  Worse - this fella belittled a police officer during the process of the investigation.  The driver, Ryan Bornstein (not his real name, but the name he gave me), is a lawyer - knowing the rules, he knows how to skirt them.  He broke the law, lied about it, lied about his name and is facing zero legal repercussions.  It doesn't occur to him that there should be any; for Mr. Pseudonym, the very concept of responsibility doesn't enter the picture. 

Now, magnify that sentiment a million fold. 

As a society, we aren't making much of an effort to encourage responsibility on the part of the empowered; the 1%, as it were.  The prevailing logic asks us - why should we?  Those at the top were successful.  It's everyone else that needs to step up their game.  To the victor go the spoils, etc.  Don't whine if you lose, just play dirtier next time.  The 1% certainly feel that it's the poor and the disenfranchised that own all the responsibility for their lot in life.  The failures of the 99% are due to their own incompetence, sloth, short-sightedness or a lack of moral fortitude.  The idea of disability through physical illness hardly registers; most people refuse to acknowledge the idea of mental illness as a problem.

Well, Mr. Bornstein is hardly the quickest bunny in the forest.  By seeking to immediately and fully abdicate responsibility, he's opened himself up to a host of challenges in the court of public opinion.  Of course, that's an outcome you risk when you underestimate your opponent.

Here's my question back to those folk who either see themselves as social puppet masters or completely removed from the goings on of the rest of society; if success comes through toughness and toughness implies the ability to get ahead at the expense of others, does that not imply there will always be those who are left behind?  The bear's going to get someone, right?

It sure will.  This is reality the supposed rain makers of the world seem blind to.  When you see yourself as history's actors, after all, you get to make reality up as you go, right?  You can always trade in your production crews.  What these players don't ask themselves is, how long does 'always' tend to last?

If you look at history - pick your revolution, pick Civil Rights or Apartheid or the rise of Fascism and the entirely justified and forceful response to it - you see that the answer is, "not as long as you might think."

This, then is the crossroads we're at right now.  The disenfranchised, fueled by the connectivity of the Internet, are only going to live with feeling helpless for so long.  As their ranks swell with the formerly-successful who have been marginalized in our polarized times, those disenfranchised troops will sooner or later be rallied into taking action.  Maybe it will come at the polls; somehow, that doesn't seem likely.

Occupy has been dismissed as disorganized, having no clear objective and being largely a rallying point for those who don't want to make any efforts on their own behalf.  That may be partially the case, but no revolution begins as a fully-formed organization with clarity of purpose.  That all comes over time and generally gains momentum after hitting some kind of tipping point.

I would expect, in the not-too-far-distant future, that a spark will light off our social powder keg and incite a societal brush fire.  This could be a political scandal that is too egregious to ignore, but so far, such scandals have only proven to be kindling.  It will likely take something more dramatic to wake the sleeping beast.   It's happened before; it'll happen again.

We could avoid all this, of course, if we simply stop and think far enough ahead.  The long-term trend is encouraging in this regard; even as every new regime tries to rewrite history, more and more people have access to accurate versions of yesterday's mistakes.  With every bust, we do look a bit further down the road, but I don't think we have our eye on the destination quite yet.

There's only one way forward.  Disagree with me all you want; just don't blame the messenger for your own failure to heed the message.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Individual Right to Choose / Society's Responsibilty to Think Ahead

Oh, Lorrie...

Yes, the first quote is not a reference to the second.  Yet, they are in the exact same article.  Should a politician be allowed to raise eugenics as an issue today without reprimand?  What about segregation, which is what "firewall" could very easily amount to?  What about indentured servitude?  Where do we draw that line?  What are the risks if we don't?

It's not enough to say "there's no appetite for a debate on (insert contentious issue here)."  There was no appetite for genocide in 1930s Germany, either - only a bitterness against others and a need to come across as dominant.  Feelings can be manipulated and, when the manipulators continually get away with ignoring societal standards, they open the door to all kinds of abuses.  Somewhere, someone has to say "enough;" the successful perpetrators aren't going to regulate themselves.   

Along the same theme; a very common post-war response from these perpetrators is denial.

Another quote, again from the same article:

How many selection-of-the-fittest, Far Right (not Conservative, because Conservative is a much broader category) folk feel the courts have too much power?  How many of them are sceptical about immigration, think tough-on-crime is the way to go and don't believe in "social handouts?"

One last Goldstein quote:

Individual responsibility and personal feeling trumps all, I get it.  What about when that doesn't work?  Less public education means less educated people.  Less information gathering means less informed decisions.  Less central coordination?  That's proven to lead to unnecessary duplication, waste and missed opportunities.

Let's stick with education for a second, though.  Less educated people reproduce more - that's not speculation, but a lesson from history.  When you don't have facts, you rely on feelings, which rarely take into account such things as long-term costs.  That's one of the main reasons we bother to learn at all; so that we can avoid repeating mistakes.  Uneducated people tend to be more likely to experience poverty.

What do you think a lack of knowledge, a tendency to reproduce more and less easy access to birth control methods (and yes, abortion) leads to?

The more poor, uneducated people you have, the more poor, uneducated people you're going to end up with (keeping in mind that wealthy, educated people reproduce less).  Now, correlate poverty and crime rates.  Then, crime costs on the economy and the price of punishment and incarceration - both fiscally and, over time, socially.  Then look at natural resource dependence in places like Easter Island or Central America.  In fact, look at any failed civilization and you'll see short-term, resource-intensive and elite-centric policies at the root of the collapse - including the Soviet Union.  Where you see successes - like here in Canada - the reverse is true; more shared services, more planning, better education and a broader economic basket with a decent focus on production lead to better, lasting results for all.

The Far-Right, Two-Row Wampum conceptualizers seem to feel they can do it on their own and everyone should be left to their own devices, despite shared geography.  They appear to believe that helping others through centrally coordinated social services is too much like rewarding failure.

It's reactive, not proactive thinking - and it's doomed, time and again, to fail.

You can't consider the individual's right to choose without considering society's responsibility to think ahead.  Consider it a quality over quantity thing.

Maybe the proactive, liberal approach doesn't feel right to the Far Right - but that's the point, isn't it?  The best decisions aren't made based on gut-instinct alone, but are informed.

Those who fail to understand history, etc.