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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.

Friday 23 August 2013

Vladimir Putin Reads WAKATA

The Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the official government newspaper, published the presidential decree Friday, listing an array of measures tightening security in the Olympic host city, including the ban on public assemblies. All "gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets" that are not part of the Olympics or the Paralympics will be prohibited in Sochi from Jan. 7 to March 21, the decree said.

First, there was Martin Goldfarb.  Then came Stephen Harper.  I have a sneaking suspicion Bob Rae might have paid me a visit.  But this trumps 'em all.

The day after I post on the inevitability of LGBTQ protests in Sochi and how bad it'll be for Putin, he puts out a notice that protests are banned.  Yay for me, I've influenced Russian policy!  (It's at least a possibility - I have had 206 hits from Russia so far this week.  That's gotta count for something.)

Alas, even if I have inspired Putin to action, the poor fellow seems to have missed the meat of my advice - stifling dissent isn't going to work.  Not in a forum like the Olympics.  They'll never be able to screen out all protesters, nor scare everyone into submission.  With celebrity interest in the event there will inevitably be people of global profile poking the bear over gay rights and doing so in a public way, making Putin look like the tyrannical stick-in-the-mud he is.

How he'll respond to that communications crisis will be interesting, but even more important will be the international community's response to him.  We've had a lot of vague protests from Western governments against an increasing number of volatile, civilian-threatening situations in the world, but that's been about it.  Should, say, American or Canadian citizens are mistreated while defending human rights in Russia, they (and the IOC) are going to have to show some sterner stuff.  Their constituents will demand nothing less.

The simplest way for the West to head-off any difficult scenario around the Olympics would be to push for them to instead be held in Vancouver.  Russia would definitely respond to such a slight, though - and it wouldn't do anything to address the root cause of the conflict.  

The best long-term solution would be for Putin to have a Damascus moment, quit being a thug and start showing some true leadership by rescinding the law and promoting equality for all Russians.

If he keeps on reading WAKATA, I'm sure he'll find something to help him along his way.

Starship Canada


It's always been a good vision - ambitious, yes, but something we can strive towards.  At our best, it's an ideal Canada can embody.

And while we're on the topic of media metaphors and the resurgence of scifi - it turns out that Justin Trudeau is a Trek fan.  This makes total sense, given that his idea of Canada that also sees diversity as a strength and believes honesty, integrity and the willingness to take risk as attributes that promote innovation.

Of course, J. J. Abrams' Star Wars will be coming out in 2015 - the same year that Canada next goes to the polls.  We all remember who the bad guy was in Star Wars - the Phantom Menace, the fellow who operated behind the curtains as much as possible.  The Emperor delighted in pitting citizens against each other and undermining the fabric of the Republic, all in the name of fostering a safe and secure society.

Wonder whether Harper is more of a Star Trek or Star Wars fan?


The Conservative Party of Canada Declares Rob Ford Unfit to Govern

There are two pieces to MacKay's statement :

- Leaders should be setting the example for all those they wish to lead.  
- Breaking the law when you're an elected official?  Not cool.

That would seem to imply that actions like offering to help people get prescription drugs illegally (often known as trafficking), driving while using a cell phone/reading a newspaper, illegally tinting windows, abusing 911, issuing threats to security personnel and reporters, soliciting donations from stakeholders using official resources and public drunkeness would disqualify someone as the kind of leader MacKay and the Conservative Party of Canada would support.  

Bullies in power: Rob Ford, Stephen Harper and the politics of smearing and intimidation
Of course, MacKay wasn't referring to Rob Ford and his litany of law-breaking, poor-example-setting ways.  McKay was referring to Justin Trudeau's admission of pot-smoking.  I switched the names to make a point.  If the Tories believe Trudeau is unfit to govern because he smoked pot, one would think the same would apply to Ford and his suite of sins.

But that isn't the case, is it?

When Rob Ford misbehaves, he's demonstrating that he's one of the people - everyone texts while driving and has a few pops while out at events and we want leaders that behave the way we do.  Even when it involves breaking the law, like driving under the influence.  

The same applies to any Conservative who breaks election laws, attempts to bribe a dying man, puts out blatantly false information, cheats on their spouses, etc, etc.  We see Tories defending Tories for all kinds of infractions, up to and including breaking the law, only changing their tune if it looks like their polling will suffer.  The cognitive dissonance is staggering.

There are no surprises here.  Politics - especially the hyper-cynical Stephen Harper variety - isn't about setting an example.  It's about winning at all costs.  Team Harper could care less what Trudeau does, as long as it provides them ammunition to push the Opposition down and stay in power.  People like MacKay know they are hypocrites and simply don't care, so long as they get away with it.  

Once upon a time, Stephen Harper declared transparency as vital to a properly functioning democracy. He was going to be all about open accountability.  Not only is his party anything but transparent - they are gleefully attacking someone who is actually walking the walk.

On both points - leading by example and upholding the law of the land - the Tories are fumbling, intentionally, even as they cast stones at their Opposition.  Despite their theoretical, but not practical support of religion, one would think they'd be familiar with the universal Golden Rule.  

That's clearly not the case.

The big problem Team Harper faces is that increasingly, Canadians are starting to connect the dots between what people say and what they do.  We don't like being treated as chumps and collectively are starting to call out those who try to do so.  Currently, the CPC has no tools in their box to handle this emerging trend.

I'd suggest the Conservative Party start practicing what they preach; after all, it's the role of leaders to set the example.

A Distant Sadness Keeps Drawing Closer

A distant and familiar sadness calls to us
As if carried on the wind, like burning sand
Brothers and sisters, away, you endure
Stranded on our own land
A memory etched into souls and skin
Leaves a scar that never heals
Our family is strong, but scattered
Across the stars and fields
We will not abandon you
We will not forget you
We will return for you

Om, we contemplate the glory of Light illuminating
The three worlds
Love, radiant illumination, and divine grace
Of Universal Intelligence
We pray for the divine light
To waken our Consciousness

Wander, my friends!

Thursday 22 August 2013

5 Skills Every Workplace Leader Needs [INFOGRAPHIC] (Arwen Petty)

5 Skills Every Workplace Leader Needs [INFOGRAPHIC]

Arwen Petty
byArwen Pretty

There’s a decent amount of debate over what constitutes the “best” kind of leader in a given working environment nowadays. Cut-and-dry tactics that once made sense in hierarchal business structures mean less and less for modern teams, keeping us curious about what it really takes to develop universally-applicable leadership skills.

We want our leaders to be accountable but not take credit for us, enthusiastic but not annoying, exceptionally knowledgeable but personable. Basically, they have to be able step into a highbrow meeting with the board of directors and turn right around and participate in Thirsty Thursday’s chat about new music apps. Plus, we demand almost preternatural expertise and creativity from them when it comes to things like collaboration, innovation, motivation, and all the other -’tions. So what’s necessary to get people to actually be leaders, instead of just carrying the title?

Some companies throw it all to the wind and skip the manager thing altogether; others make a very bad habit of promoting people into leadership roles based on seniority rather than aptitude. Whatever your strategy, it’s pretty hard to argue with the five necessary leadership skills laid out in this lovely infographic from New England College. Check it out and ask the question: do you have true leaders cultivating success and harmony in your company, or have you set yourself up for trouble?

5 Skills Every Workplace Leader Needs

Success Will Come and Go, But Integrity is Forever (Amy Rees Anderson)

Above all else - to thine own self be true.
If I could teach only one value to live by, it would be this: Success will come and go, but integrity is forever. Integrity means doing the right thing at all times and in all circumstances, whether or not anyone is watching. It takes having the courage to do the right thing, no matter what the consequences will be. Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity.

We live in a world where integrity isn’t talked about nearly enough. We live in a world where “the end justifies the means” has become an acceptable school of thought for far too many. Sales people overpromise and under deliver, all in the name of making their quota for the month. Applicants exaggerate in job interviews because they desperately need a job. CEOs overstate their projected earnings because they don’t want the board of directors to replace them.  Entrepreneurs overstate their pro formas because they want the highest valuation possible from an investor. Investors understate a company’s value in order to negotiate a lower valuation in a deal. Customer service representatives cover up a mistake they made because they are afraid the client will leave them. Employees call in “sick” because they don’t have any more paid time off when they actually just need to get their Christmas shopping done. The list could go on and on, and in each case the person committing the act of dishonesty told themselves they had a perfectly valid reason why the end result justified their lack of integrity. 
It may seem like people can gain power quickly and easily if they are willing to cut corners and act without the constraints of morality. Dishonesty may provide instant gratification in the moment but it will never last. I can think of several examples of people without integrity who are successful and who win without ever getting caught, which creates a false perception of the path to success that one should follow. After all, each person in the examples above could have gained the result they wanted in the moment, but unfortunately, that momentary result comes at an incredibly high price with far reaching consequences.  That person has lost their ability to be trusted as a person of integrity, which is the most valuable quality anyone can have in their life. Profit in dollars or power is temporary, but profit in a network of people who trust you as a person of integrity is forever.
Every one person who trusts you will spread the word of that trust to at least a few of their associates, and word of your character will spread like wildfire. The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured.  For entrepreneurs it means investors that are willing to trust them with their money. For employees it means a manager or a boss that is willing to trust them with additional responsibility and growth opportunities. For companies it means customers that trust giving them more and more business. For you it means having an army of people that are willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputation of integrity. Yes, the value of the trust others have in you goes beyond anything that can be measured because it brings along with it limitless opportunities and endless possibilities.
Contrast that with the person who cannot be trusted as a person of integrity.  Warren Buffet, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway said it best:, “In looking for people to hire, look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy.  And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will kill you.”  A person’s dishonesty will eventually catch up to them. It may not be today, and it may not be for many years, but you can rest assured that at some point there will always be a reckoning.
A word of advice to those who are striving for a reputation of integrity: Avoid those who are not trustworthy. Do not do business with them. Do not associate with them. Do not make excuses for them.  Do not allow yourself to get enticed into believing that “while they may be dishonest with others, they would never be dishonest with me.” If someone is dishonest in any aspect of his life you can be guaranteed that he will be dishonest in many aspects of his life. You cannot dismiss even those little acts of dishonesty, such as the person who takes two newspapers from the stand when they paid for only one. After all, if a person cannot be trusted in the simplest matters of honesty then how can they possibly be trusted to uphold lengthy and complex business contracts?
It is important to realize that others pay attention to those you have chosen to associate with, and they will inevitably judge your character by the character of your friends. Why is that?  It is best explained by a quote my father often says when he is reminding me to be careful of the company I am keeping:  “When you lie down with dogs you get fleas.” Inevitably we become more and more like the people we surround ourselves with day to day. If we surround ourselves with people who are dishonest and willing to cut corners to get ahead, then we’ll surely find ourselves following a pattern of first enduring their behavior, then accepting their behavior, and finally adopting their behavior. If you want to build a reputation as a person of integrity then surround yourself with people of integrity.
There is a plaque on the wall of my office which reads: “Do what is right, let the consequence follow.” It serves as a daily reminder that success will indeed come and go, but integrity is forever.
~Amy (for my daily blogs go to

UPDATED: Wrestling with Russia: There's Something Queer About the Sochi Olympics

It doesn't take a genius to see where this is headed.

The Olympics is an international event meant to unite the world in a spirit of friendly competition.  Everyone is equal regardless of where they come from or what they look like - it's all about skill.

International events like the Olympics draw international audiences.  People will stream into Sochi from all over the world, trying to take in the sports, go to the cool parties and just be present for something special.

As with other world-stage events - the Toronto G20 comes to mind - you're also going to get advocacy groups showing up, using the platform to raise their voice or to protest injustices like, I don't know, the suppression of LGBTQ people and allies in Russia.

Russia (though not Putin) has said everyone will be welcome to the Games and the IOC seems to be taking that assurance as enough.  Thing is, Russians are still going to be persecuted regardless of what happens to outsiders.  Russia may try to pull a North Korea (these people are our people - back off, International Community!) but if they think they can shut out all the potential rabble rousers around gay rights, they're delusional.

Sochi will be filled with Gay Rights activists.  There will be enough gay-friendly activity on display under the international spotlight that other people with a bent for human equality are going to get in on the game.  Without question, Russia's anti-gay law is going to be challenged to the max, putting the Russian government - ie, Putin - in a corner.  On top of this, you'll have the rabble-rousers, the carousers - and the anti-gay rights camp will be out in force, too.

Russia or the IOC could take a page out of Apple's playbook, play on this emerging social zeitgeist and pull a brand-building win out of doing the right thing.  Trouble  is, Putin is a bear-wrestling tough-guy who doesn't like to be challenged.  It'll be mighty tempting for him to enforce his reputation and bring down the hammer.  That would not be a pretty scene. 

The IOC, focused solely on their Games and brand, need to take a step back and make a thorough assessment of what to expect and what repercussions they are prepared to own - because, at the end of the day, the Olympics are their party, we're the guests. 

Or, they can decide there's nothing to be done to change what will come and stick their heads in the sand.  That's a conundrum for them to wrestle with.

UPDATE:  The scuffles started after anti-fay protesters tore a rainbow flag out of a woman's hands.  The St. Petersburg City Government had sanctioned they rally despite the Russian Government's June passage of a contentious law outlawing gay "propaganda." Gays in Russia have faced increasing pressure and threats of violence from homophobic vigilantes.

That scuffle has left us with this ionic image of the sort that comes to define the stories of our time; they are the ones that matter, because the folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't.  They kept going.  Because there were holding on to something...

With one of those iconic images that comes to define the stories of our times - the ones that matter.  Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't.  They kept going.  Because they were holding on to something-

The notion that ideas are bullet proof.

Deepak Chopra and Managing Political People

I gotta say, I disagree with Deepak Chopra.  Many difficult, abrasive, A-type personalities don't end up alone - they end up in positions of power.  They bully, belittle or ignore everyone that impedes them; the further up the ladder they go, the greater becomes the net of misery they cast.
It's certainly a common scenario in politics.  Folk can walk away from politics - and many non A-types do - but that doesn't change the fact of whose making policy, does it?
When you eliminate walking away as an option (closed society, there's nowhere else to go) and realize putting up with isn't sustainable (mental health crisis, anyone?) you're left with on alternative - change.
Change is possible, but it doesn't happen by one person forcing another, as is being attempted in places like Russia and Quebec.
There's only one path to sustainable, positive change - but we already know what that is, don't we?

Michael Ignatieff Year-end CTV Question Period Interview Wordle, December 2010

The path to success can be derailed by clashes with difficult people, and even if the clash isn't disastrous, it can make your life very unpleasant. Everyone has a store of coping mechanisms that we resort to when we find ourselves in stressful situations. Difficult people force us to fall back on our coping mechanisms. Some of us placate, others confront. Some balk, others become aggressive. When these first-response tactics don't work, when a difficult person makes you tear your hair out in total frustration, you have to dig deeper into yourself and find a better strategy.
First of all, not every difficult person is the same. There are tyrants, curmudgeons, aggressors, the viciously competitive, and control freaks. A psychologist can outline how each beast might be tamed, but on a day-to-day basis, one can adopt a general approach that's the same. It's quite a simple strategy, actually, based on asking three questions.
1. Can I change the situation?
2. Do I have to put up with it instead?
3. Should I just walk away?
When you ask these questions in a rational frame of mind, you will be able to formulate a workable approach that is consistent and effective. Most people are prisoners of inconsistency. Think about the most difficult person in your life and how you have reacted to them over time. You'll probably find that you sometimes put up with them, sometimes try to get them to change, and other times simply want to stay away. In other words, three tactics have merged in a messy way. You wind up sending mixed messages, and that's never effective.
So let's consider each of the three questions in turn.
1. Can I change the situation?
Not all difficult people are beyond change, even though they are stubborn and stuck in their behavior. But there's a cardinal rule here that can't be ignored. No one changes unless he wants to. Difficult people rarely want to. If you have a close rapport with the person, you might find a moment when you can sit down and have a candid discussion about the things that frustrate you. But be prepared with an exit strategy, because if your difficult person winds up resenting you for poking your nose where it doesn't belong, trying to effect change can seriously backfire.
Your best chance of creating change occurs if the following things are present.
- You have a personal connection with the person.
- You have earned his respect.
- You've discreetly tested the waters and found her a bit open to change.
- You've received signals that he wants to change.
- You aren't afraid or intimidated.
- The two of you are fairly equal in power. If the difficult person is in a dominant position, such as being your boss, your status is too imbalanced.
A final caveat. Difficult people aren't going to change just to make you feel better. The worst chance of getting someone else to change occurs when you're so angry, frustrated, and fed up that you lose your composure and demand change.
2. Do I have to put up with it instead?
When you can't change a situation, only two options remain, either put up with it or walk away. Most of us aren't very effective in getting someone else to change, so we adapt in various ways. We are experts at putting up with things. Adaptation isn't bad per se; social life depends upon getting along with one another. It's a reasonable assumption that if you have difficult people in your life right now - and who doesn't? - you've learned to adapt. The real question is whether you are coping in a healthy or unhealthy way.
Look at the following lists and honestly ask yourself how well you are putting up with your difficult person.
- I keep quiet and let them have their way. It's not worth fighting over.
- I complain behind their backs.
- I shut down emotionally.
- I don't say what I really mean half the time, for fear of getting into trouble or losing control.
- I subtly signal my disapproval.
- I engage in endless arguments that no one wins.
- I have symptoms of stress (headache, knots in the stomach, insomnia, depression, and anxiety) but have decided to grin and bear it.
- I know i want to get out of this situation, but I keep convincing myself that I have to stick it out.
- I indulge in fantasies of revenge.
Healthy -
- I assess what works best for me and avoid what doesn't.
- I approach the difficult person as rationally as possible.
- I don't get into emotional drama with them.
- I make sure I am respected by them. I keep my dignity.
- I can see the insecurity that lies beneath the surface of their bad behavior.
- I don't dwell on their behavior. I don't complain behind their backs or lose sleep.
- I keep away from anyone who can't handle the situation, the perpetual complainers, gossips, and connivers.
- My interaction with the difficult person has no hidden agenda, like revenge. We are here for mutual benefit, not psychodrama.
- I know I can walk away whenever I have to, so I don't feel trapped.
- I can laugh behind this person's back. I'm not intimidated or afraid.
- I feel genuine respect and admiration for what's good in this person.
If your approach contains too many unhealthy ingredients, you shouldn't stick around. You're just rationalizing a hopeless situation. Your relationship with your difficult person isn't productive for either of you.
3. Should I just walk away?
Difficult people generally wind up alone, embattled, and bitter. They create too much stress, and one by one, everyone in their lives walks away. But it can take an agonizingly long time to make this decision. The problem is attachment. The abused wife who can't leave her violent husband, the worker who is afraid he can't find another job, the underling who serves as a doormat for his boss - in almost every instance their reason for staying is emotional. Life isn't meant to be clinically rational. Emotions are a rich part of our lives, and it's mature to take the bitter with the sweet - up to a point.
Too many people stick around when they shouldn't. The main exceptions are competitive types, who can't bear to be dominated or made to look bad. They instinctively run away from situations that hurt their self-image. The other main personality types - dependent and controlling - will put up with a bad situation for a long time, far beyond what's healthy. The point, in practical terms, is that you can't wait until you've resolved all your issues with a difficult spouse, boss, boyfriend, buddy, colleague, or employee. Vacillation doesn't make you a better or nicer person. You are treading water, hoping that the dreaded day will never come when you have to sever ties. The thought of separation causes you anxiety.
But as anxious as you feel, sometimes a rupture is the healthiest thing you can do. That’s the case if you have honestly confronted questions 1 and 2. If you know the difficult person isn't going to change, and if you've examined the unhealthy and healthy choices involved in putting up with them, you have a good foundation for making the right choice: Do I stay or do I walk? I'm not promising that your decision will feel nice. It probably won't. But it will be the right decision, the kind you will be able to look back on with a sigh of relief and recognition that moving on was healthy and productive.

Brace Yerself!

Brace yourselves...

Consider it done!

If I ever join the cast of Kick-Ass, I'm calling myself "Captain Brace."

We totally did!  Um, did anyone notice?

It always does...

Face it - the Brits brace better.

Employers keep on using this word.  I do not think it means what they think it means...

That's one way to put it...

After all, if you comment on everything, you will surely be stopped-clock accurate on something

and of course:

In fairness, though, aggregates are all the rage these days...

The Folly of Pure Laine

Politics, if you haven't noticed yet, isn't about policy. 
There was a time where leaders had the stones to put forward visions and seek to inspire people to follow them, but that time isn't now.  Fearing the consequences of risking big ideas or simply lacking the creativity to devise them, Political Parties are focused on turning people against each other rather than unifying them behind a dream.
When the message is "only we can protect you from those who would harm you," people stop being introspective and start getting antsy about The Other.  Responsibility, collaborative solutions and positive actions slowly give way to bitterness, blame, recrimination and punishment.
That's what Jobbik is doing in Hungary.  It's what Golden Dawn is doing in Greece.  It is beyond disappointing that any Canadian politician would opt to play that game; yes, it works, but there are consequences to fostering divides along religious or cultural reasons.
If Sikhs are banned from wearing turbans and Muslim women are banned from wearing veils in government institutions, you have essentially banned those individuals from government institutions.  That means people who wear symbols of their faith cannot be doctors, judges, bureaucrats, politicians in Quebec.  It also means they can't use government services, either.
Well, there are Sikhs, Muslims Canadians of faith that do work for the government of Quebec - many of them would leave the province instead of giving up who they are, becoming religious refugees within Canada's very own borders.
Do you think less trained professionals in Quebec is suddenly going to empower non-religious Quebecers to fill those gaps?  Keep dreaming.  Service will decline, waiting lists will expand and the same people who are looking to take out frustrations on someone else will only get angrier.  Meanwhile, those folk in society who change will increasingly be stigmatized just as their lack of access to government services starts to take a toll on their well-being. 
If the same populist political track is kept up (or left unchallenged by other governments), the temptation to go one step further and flame the fires a bit more will consume other Parties.  The urge to force conformity upon those who hold fast to their beliefs will become stronger.
All in the name of creating a safe, secure society where everyone gets along because everyone is the same. 
There is very little I fear - difference is never a threat, always an opportunity.  The thing that does put a chill in my bones, though, is watching people blindly repeat mistakes of the past.
I hope we never see a time in Canadian history where an Orthodox Jewish man is forced to cut off his payot to fit in.  That would go against everything Canada is supposed to stand for. 
Especially at this volatile point in history where governments are persecuting citizens based on who they are, we have to be better than that.

We're Canada; if we don't lead by example - who will?


It's all over the place these days - have our leaders completely forgotten that power isn't an end, but a means?