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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.

Thursday 6 June 2013

The #LawrenceHeights Headline You Won't See Tomorrow:

Thursday, June 6 2013
LAWRENCE HEIGHTS -  The students, staff and parents of Flemington Public School were joined by a special guest at this evening's Shine Bright Like a Diamond Talent Night.  The Raptors' mascot set the crowd on fire with a dazzling entrance and spirited contribution to the post-show Awards of Merit presentation.  One of the students turned the tables on the Raptor, surprising the mascot with a back flip of his own.  This led to a crowd-pleasing Raptor-Vs-Student dance-off.
The performing students played to a packed house of family, friends and supporters, wowing the audience with songs, dances and even a magic show.  Each performance was encouraged by the crowd with enthusiastic claps and shouts of support.  The Gangnam Style routine brought everyone to their feet, a perfect blending of audience and performers.  This, folks, was community done right.
Not that this support was mere charity - some true gems took to the stage, showing off remarkable physical and vocal discipline.  Asked what training they'd received to craft their fantastic singing voices, a set of twin sisters replied "we just love singing so we practise all the time."  One participant kept the crowd entertained through some technical difficulties with an improv stand-up routine (you can never go wrong with egg jokes).
Encouraged by the support and inspired by the visit of a Toronto celebrity, these talented students beamed as they left the school, adding "rock star" to their list of potential career paths.
You won't read this story in any paper, but it did happen and it was magical.  I'm no performance critic, but I know talent when I see it - there were some real diamonds in the rough on that stage, needing only a little polish and a bit of encouragement to shine to their maximum potential.
There are probably countless positive stories of this sort playing out in communities like Lawrence Heights, Rexdale and St. Jamestown every day that never hit the news stands.  Instead, Toronto only sees these neighbourhoods through the lens of body bags and police tape.
It doesn't have to be that way.  These kids and their accomplishments can be promoted by local papers, radio stations and through social media platforms like Twitter.  There's a funny thing that happens when you reinforce the positive - it sparks even more positive behaviour as those being recognized enjoy that powerful feeling you get when admired for what you can do, not discounted for who you are seen as.
There's nothing I would like more than to see this headline become a reality one day, with some of these talented kids being the celebrities setting home-community crowds on fire.
It can happen.  It should happen.  I encourage any media folk who read this piece to reach out to these communities and be part of making sure it does happen:

The Lawrence Heights Inter-Organization Network

Positive Change

Flemington Public School


Tuesday 4 June 2013

The Boiling Frog of Canadian Politics

It's not that we have a short memory - rather, we have been inoculated against scandal by hyper-partisan political rhetoric in a world where the sky has yet to fall. 
In Israel, people are actively engaged in their politics.  The fact that they literally are surrounded by people who'd like to see them gone may have something to do with that.
In Canada, the last major threat to our national security came 200 years ago.  Our politicians struggle to out-vilify one another, creating a sense of unease that increasingly Canadians aren't buying in to.  Montreal massacres and Eaton Centre shootings aside, we feel safe.  Until we are actually, clearly threatened from within or without, the frog will continue to boil.

Trudeau Feeds the Meme Machine

Monday 3 June 2013

Andrew Coyne: Conservative government’s culture of expediency behind its multiplying scandals (Andrew Coyne)

Or, to summarize: go fast, go alone, but go far, move forward together.

Tuesday had a whiff of revolution about it. A Question Period that actually produced real questions! The Senate internal economy committee, meeting in public! For the first time in who knows how long, there was a sense that somewhere, someone in Ottawa might be held to account for their actions.
Don’t get too excited. We are a long way from true accountability. Question Period can be a useful instrument, particularly as it seems to be one of the few means of getting anyone to go on the record nowadays. But its ability to get at the truth remains distinctly limited, even when led by as skilled an interrogator as Tom Mulcair.
As for that committee hearing, for all the revelations it contained — the expression “triple-dipping” appears to have been invented to describe what Mike Duffy was up to — it raised as many questions. Why did the committee only catch these now, and not before, when it signed off on a much more, shall we say, discreet accounting of his misdeeds? Indeed, it appears he was caught, time and again, by Senate staff, who disallowed many of his claims — yet no penalty followed, nor were any flags raised. Why not?
And of course, where was Mike? It is absurd enough that the same committee that whitewashed the original report on Duffy’s expenses should have been entrusted with its revision, but for Duffy, after demanding a public inquiry into himself, not to show up for the occasion — well, it’s either chutzpah or its opposite.
Neither should too much importance be attached to the committee’s decision to refer the whole business to the RCMP. The force does not actually have to wait for an invitation from a Senate committee to investigate matters of alleged fraud. The suspicion lingers that, at least on the government side, senators were only too happy to be able to say “it’s with the police now, I can’t comment,” much as, in the Commons, the ethics commissioner’s investigation has served as a convenient excuse for ministers to evade questions.
If I sound skeptical that much will come of either, I’m not the only one. In the last week we have heard from a former senior RCMP inspector expressing doubts that the force has sufficient independence from its political masters to investigate this thoroughly and impartially — which should be a shocking charge, but sadly isn’t — as well as a warning from the ethics commissioner herself not to expect too much of her inquiry, given her narrow terms of reference.
In addition, we have had complaints from three separate legal or regulatory bodies — the CRTC, Elections Canada and the Federal Court — over the Conservatives’ refusal to co-operate with, or indeed outright obstruction of, their investigations into various robocall abuses. The most serious of these, it has now been established, would have required access to the Conservatives’ closely guarded voter database. Yet in the face of what would appear, in the best case, to be a massive breach of security, the Conservatives have not only taken no action to find those responsible, but have done their best to frustrate others from doing so.
Which may suggest the real stakes here. The government’s multiplying, metastasizing scandals — from Duffy’s improper expense claims to the efforts, apparently coordinated between the Prime Minister’s Office and senior Tory Senators, to cover these up, to the robocalls affair, to the arrest on charges of fraud and money laundering of Arthur Porter, the prime minister’s choice for chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Committee — are not, in my view, wholly unrelated. Rather, they stem from a culture that has taken root among the Conservative hierarchy — a culture of expediency.
People don’t make ethical choices in isolation. They take their cues from those around and above them
People don’t make ethical choices in isolation. They take their cues from those around and above them. Maybe Duffy’s expense padding had its roots in the Senate’s historically lax culture: indeed, given the absence of controls on senators’ expenses, it would be astonishing if only a couple of senators had succumbed to the temptation this presented.
But the efforts to cover this up, like the obstruction of the robocalls investigation or the curious lack of due diligence in the Porter appointment, are suggestive of something else: a habit of looking the other way at bad behaviour, if not actually encouraging it; and, when it is brought to light, of denying, and minimizing, and explaining it away.
This isn’t about a few senators padding their expense accounts, or criminal acts on the part of one or two individuals, or even what the prime minister knew when. It’s the whole moral code of this government that’s in question. This isn’t just a problem, something to be fixed: it’s existential.
Whatever the various official investigations may or may not turn up, questions about the government’s character are now deeply planted in the public mind, in a way it shows no sign of being able to deal with, or even comprehending.
Indeed, if you want to know how a government gets into this kind of mess, you’ve only to look at how it tries to get out of it. The government persist in thinking this can all be treated as a matter of spin and bluster, much as it has dealt with most problems.
But you can’t spin your way out of something you spun yourself into. If you are generally perceived as devious and duplicitous, more deviousness and duplicity are not going to help. Only transparency and honesty can. But, as I’ve said before, if that were what this government were about, we wouldn’t be here.
Postmedia News

Yes, but Rumi


 Yes, politicians get a harder time from the public and press that the average citizen.

They also get an easier time from the Justice system.  How many politicians have been pulled over for DUI, only to be let off with a slap on the wrist?  The average citizen can't even get out of a speeding ticket - there's clearly a bias at play.
Does this make politicians bad people?  To many, it does.  They are separate from the rest of us; thugs, immoral, scandalous.  A different note on the same chord as we view the really bad guys, those who equally commit acts that are vastly removed from what we see ourselves as capable of.
Yet invariably, there's someone out there who views us as The Other, too.  We are either all alien, or we're all the same.
In my experience, "fair" isn't something that is given to us; it's something we give to others.  We aren't willing to share with people we feel are lesser-thans, nor empower those we feel superior to.  But then they aren't particularly inspired to be prosocial, either.
Justice does not accept walls, glass or otherwise; that's how it binds us together.

Sunday 2 June 2013

The Digital Temple

- Judas, Jesus Christ Superstar
Business, Politics, even Charity spends oodles of money every year selling brands.  The goal is to ensure their message is read in every newspaper, heard on every radio, seen on every television; the PR folk want the message to resound throughout the entire Internet.
But what is the message?  Whatever the service, product or position, it almost invariably boils down to reminding or convincing people of why they need us.
Almost.  Not always. 
I'm pretty sure the founders of religions (like Christ or Mohamed), philosophies (like Lao-tzu or Rumi) or movements (Gandhi) didn't hold a lot of fundraisers.  As such, they weren't beholden to sponsors - just their visions.  This helped keep barriers from forming between those visions and the people who would follow them.

  - Cobb, Inception
A couple of things about ideas. 
The best ones tend to start free.  They inspire proactive action rather than incite reaction.  They also don't require a lot of PR.  The Golden Rule has popped up in every major religion, regardless of its origin not because of promotion, but because of its inherent power.
The same does not apply to manufactured coalitions of concepts slapped together with the hopes of appealing to manufactured constituencies.  Built on fabricated foundations, these policy packages are employed by Parties and rely heavily on extrinsic promotion. 

As is the case with genetics, while the packages spend time and energy selling themselves, ultimately it's the best ideas that carry on in the long-term.  This is why Political Parties, whatever their name brand, shift along the political spectrum depending on when and where they find themselves.  Their constituencies must adapt to modern contexts and therefore politics is ultimately the dog being wagged by the tail, whatever its practitioners convince themselves.
Inflexible brands are like flower pots; they either kill that which they attempt to contain through excessive restraint or break under the natural inclination to grow further.  This is why we eventually transplant individual flowers to collective gardens.  We don't leave gardens to grow wild - that just begs for cleansing brushfires that clean everything away, strong and weak.  Instead we ensure the health of each plant by also maintaining the well-being of the whole.
"Strength through unity" is a box, implying unity under one roof - something impossible with an expanding constituency.  Any variation on "us vs. them", to maintain a stable constituency of some kind, will inevitably exclude a majority to retain a minority.  The flower outgrows the pot.
Strength through diversity, on the other hand, isn't about borders - it's about adaptation.  The idea is to provide space and opportunity for each individual to reach their maximum potential in a collaborative setting, creating an evolving whole that is more than the sum of its constituent parts.
The church, after all, isn't a building - it's wherever godspeople are praying, sharing, collaborating.  That can be a patch of arable land in the Middle East or the Far East, along the Andean coast of South America or in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Increasingly, it's starting everywhere and connecting via the Internet.
Society has always had community hubs; these could be a home, a church, a market, a legislature.  Now we're finding these taking root online
And there's the rub; the best ideas don't sell themselves to grow their constituencies; it's growing constituencies that need adaptive ideas to make them whole.  Understanding is the place where diversity meets and innovation happens; when we all turn our individual strengthens in one direction, we can move mountains.