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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.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Heroes Belong to All of Us

DC is a for-profit company.  They exist to make money.  Why should they do something that doesn't serve that purpose?  Why should any of us do things that don't serve our direct interest?  If there's no immediate ROI, if there's risk and the potential that our efforts may not succeed, what's the point?
But there's more to being a human being that self-interest.  Our ability to be more than the sum of our parts, together, is core to what makes us human.  It can be very hard to do, though - in a world that often seems petty, self-interested and cruel, it's can be a frightening thing to be the first one to think and do differently.  There's always the chance no one will follow, and then you're out there alone.
Superman is a trademark, but the idea behind him is as old as story telling.  Superman is the adult in the room, the strength to carry us when we're weak, the shield at the front that gives us all courage to move forward. 
Superman inspires - that's what heroes do best.
Poor Jeffrey Baldwin is an unconventional hero; he saved no lives and fought no wars, expect perhaps the one that was his short life.  For a moment, though, despite everything that he endured, in spite of the hardship that was all he knew, Jeffrey Baldwin was Superman.
And thanks to the heroic efforts of Todd Boyce, he will remain Superman.
That's it - the big secret, the thing left in the box, the piece of the puzzle we simply need to raise our gaze to see.
Heroes aren't brands to be bought into; heroism is human aspiration we crave, reach out for with tentative hands but, when the light shines bright enough, we embrace.
We need heroes - that's why we create them.

I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.


Friday 17 October 2014

Terri Chu: What Leadership Is

"Great things are accomplished by great people who share a common goal.  One thing for certain is I’m surrounded by great people." - Terri Chu
Far too many people think politics is about picking fights - getting folks mad at a candidate or party so that they'll react against.  But that's not leadership.
Leaders point the way forward and inspire others to move in the same direction. 
I just received an email from Terri Chu, the candidate I'm supporting for Ward 20 Councilor.  The quote above was the closing sentence.  There was no specific cause for it - she just wanted to express gratitude to her team and send a bit of positive energy our way as we head into the last act of the campaign.
Things like this matter.  Leadership matters.
This is the sort of thing Terri just does, because she believes it matters - that the people on her team and in her community matter. 
I've worked with some pretty amazing leaders in my time; Terri is one of my favourites.  I don't say this because I'm supporting her for Council; it works the other way around.  Terri Chu has my support because she's a leader I believe in.
That's why I'm proud to be part of her team and am looking forward to seeing her on Council. 

Terri Chu is the kind of leader Toronto deserves.


It's unfortunate the extra didn't have the discipline or respect for the film he's working on to hold his tongue, but how responsible is ILX-10 or for that matter IGN for publishing this?
Clearly, a bit of film gossip isn't as damaging as the hacking and release of a celebrity's personal pictures, but it's hardly as relevant to the public as WikiLeaks (or Shield/Hydra's info dump which copied it).
Integrity, folks - of the system, of the product, and of self.  It kinda matters.


Thursday 16 October 2014

Weathering the Storm Together

Kinsella's piece talks about political leaders; it makes sense, as that's his playground.  I'm sure we can all think of moments and individuals - even if never new their names - who reached out a hand to help a stranger in a moment of crisis.
I've never seen TTC operators better than in times of crisis.  Instead of feeling miserable at a mundane job, they feel empowered as conduits for community action - and are recognized as such.  I can remember the last big blackout in Toronto, everyone turned to whoever they could find in uniform for updates, direction, confidence.
There are big storms on the horizon - ebola could get bad.  ISIS is one of many overseas crises that are really bad already.  Then we get into infrastructure problems here, unpruned trees, leaves blown onto roads where they blog drains, etc., etc.
Forget the whole self-interest-is-the-only-interest nonsense; when we look out for ourselves only, we fail collectively.  When we work together, we transcend - and only then can we rise above.
Money in a bank account means little in a crisis.   Fancy titles mean little in a crisis.  What matters when things get ugly is leadership.
As the storm edges closer, we're going to start recognizing leadership from quarters we haven't been looking for it.

Thinking Outside the Partisan Box with @GHoakz + @ZPaikin

Zach Paikin and Greta Hoaken.
Full confession - I consider both Zach and Greta to be friends (though one of them still owes me a non-coffee). 
The first time I had a serious chat with Zach, we ended up talking philosophy, politics and occupational mental health - in about four different languages.  I consider myself a polyglot, but Zach's facility with language (right down to regional accents) is awesome to behold.
I've got a particular soft spot for Greta.  I first met her on the last Ontario Liberal Leadership race, where we both were part of Team GK.  17 at the time, she first walked into the campaign office with wide eyes and a bright smile, dressed in a school uniform.  It didn't take me long to realize that behind those bright eyes was a burning intellect, a passion for positive change and a wicked organizational mind.  It wasn't 'til later that I learned she'd been an entrepreneur since she was 13.
Both Zach and Greta are part of a growing movement that doesn't see gaining power through the existing system as the only means to effect change; they see the as-is system as part of the problem to be addressed.  You can see this movement reflected in organizations like Samara, civic engagement groups like Why Should I Care and of course, all things Open Government.
I love the fact that they're willing to challenge the status quo and present an idea that transcends partisan politics.  I would argue, however, that they need to dig a bit deeper to discern the core problem and then work out from there towards a viable solution.
A couple of key quotes that stood out to me:
- centralization around party leaders has made it less evident to the public what potential prime ministers wish to do with power.
- a theoretical Liberal prime minister would have a tough time explaining to his caucus why he was putting a handful of Tories and New Democrats in cabinet in place of some of his fellow Grits.
- A theoretical Liberal prime minister would have a tough time explaining to his caucus why he was putting a handful of Tories and New Democrats in cabinet in place of some of his fellow Grits.
- establishing a coalition-government norm would reaffirm the fact that we elect Parliaments, and not governments, in this country.
The role of Parliament is to hold government to account on the people's behalf - such has been the case since Magna Carta.  Government is the Crown and the Crown's Ministers.  It's not part of our constitution that Ministers need to be selected from among elected Members of Parliament; that's convention, not law.  The Party system evolved as a way to ensure broader interest groups had sufficient voice for their collective concerns to impact policy.
Understanding where we came from helps in seeing why things have gone so screwy.
When politicians elected to represent specific, geographic constituencies become subservient to the interests of political parties as a means to ensure support in their riding, but also to build the brand necessary to get "promoted" from the Parliamentarian side to the Crown's side - who is serving who?
As Samara's MP exit interviews demonstrated, Parliamentarians don't know who they're supposed to answer to or even have a clear sense of what their role is.
While I commend the idea of increasing the plurality of voices and views at the decision-making top, I wonder if opening up all Parliamentarians to compete for higher position would make them more, not less subjective to centralized power (the PM and the PMO).  From a real-world perspective, if I'm the guy/gal making choices about who's in cabinet from a broader range of players and I know that "getting the promotion" is a key motivator for MPs, I'm playing them off one another to get more of what I want across the board.
That's the opposite direction of where we need Parliament to be heading. 
Knowing how clever and committed Greta and Zach are to strengthening our system of democracy, I would encourage them to turn their energies towards Open Government, participatory budgeting, etc.  Also, the emerging field of workplace culture change is worth considering; the House of Commons is all-too-often a toxic environment that hinders rather than supports the development of shared solutions as we focus on stopping what we don't like rather than collaboratively creating things we do like.
That, and civic engagement.  Perhaps the best thing that bright, engaged and thoughtful leaders like Greta and Zach can do is share their passion, networks and understanding of the system with other Canadians of all rank and file.
The kind of structural change we need isn't going to be flowed from top to bottom; it's got to be grown from the bottom up.


Wednesday 15 October 2014

Incompetence, Greed, Neglect, Dishonesty: The Association Game

Somehow, this story sounds familiar.  What does it remind me of?
Oh yeah, this:
What went wrong in Bangladesh?  Incompetence, greed, neglect, dishonesty.
But at the time, it wasn't framed that way.  Instead, bold, profit-minded entrepreneurs were focusing on the production and delivery of low-cost goods demanded by the market.
Greed is good, remember?  We are supposed to applaud business-minded individuals who add value to the economy and not ask so many questions about the back-end.  Regulations are deterrents to entrepreneurialism, not essential frameworks for the safety of individuals.
I mean, this is the real world, right?  People have to learn to fight for what they want.  All the workers in that factory (or in the mall) should have proactively known there was a problem and withheld their labour/dollars until such time as the space was corrected.
Clearly, none of this is the fault of the businesses involved.  Policy makers can only deliver what the people want, right?  It's the way the economy works; governments can support whatever adds value to the economy in good conscience.
It's worth adding that there are a lot of non-City apartment complexes in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas that are falling apart; owners get around having to do repairs by switching ownership before the city-mandated repair dates post-ownership come up.  This way, they get profit without having to worry about stuff like safety or responsibility.

Then, there are all these new condos being built for demand, not durability.
Except this is a problem Council knows exists.
When you know a problem exists, have clear examples of what happens when the problem isn't addressed and the responsibility to do something about it - but don't - that's not incompetence or neglect, its criminal.

Leading by Example: Political Responsibility

How many people are upset with politics-as-usual?

How many people feel that it's a gotcha game played by self-serving folk who care more about how much copy they get than what they deliver for constituents?

Far too many.  This is why voter turnout is down, political disengagement is high and the public mood is stewing.
It's a bit of a chicken and egg problem, really - the more disengaged citizens become, the harder candidates need to sell.  The ones best able to cut through the data smog, unfortunately, are all-too-often the ones who abuse the system the most.
While I understand, begrudgingly, the need to message and sell to gain traction in politics, I am much less forgiving when it comes to candidates teaching their volunteers that this is the way the game should work.  That it's okay to bend the truth, skirt the rules and put the individual win ahead of the health of our democratic process.
I can remember one of the first campaigns I worked on where I was told complete untruths about an opposition candidate as a motivation tactic.  It got me upset to the point where I vented to friends about what I'd heard.  When I'd calmed down and did some homework, I realized that the line I'd been fed had no validity, at all.  But by then the damage had been done.
This is how escalation happens.  Impressionable young minds are given the wrong marching orders, find themselves in bitter contests without end and strangle civic discourse that much more.  It's why there's a reduced oxygen flow in our politics.
It's also why there's such demand for authenticity in our politicians these days.  We've learned to see the rhetoric as a reflection of the character of the speaker, not of those they are targeting.
Leaders have a responsibility to put the people and their communities before their wins.  It means teaching youth how the system is supposed to function and empowering them with the ideals to get it back on track.  It means leading by example.
When I see young people spouting divisive, manipulative rhetoric and smiling to themselves at their cleverness, knowing it'll earn a pat on the head from their candidate, I cringe.  That sort of damage is hard to undo.
We deserve better.  We demand better.
And thankfully, there are authentic leaders out there bold enough to deliver.


Tuesday 14 October 2014

The House We Build Together

MacGregor's dauntless belief in the humanizing effect of looking at the works of others, rather than endlessly at our own reflection caught in the mirror of time, could not be more timely as the fires of wounded nationalisms burn down the house of common culture.
Just that, I think.  It says what is needed.

On Endorsements: Leadership and Engagement in Ward 20

@TerriChu has helped develop one of the most important forums for dialogue in the City." - @TOAdamVaughan on @Ward20 candidate #topoli
Vaughan, a former journalist, former city councilor and current MP for Trinity Spadina believes that Terri Chu has helped develop one of the most important forums for political dialogue in Toronto. 
I'd quibble a bit with his wording - to me, Terri has founded and led the development of Why Should I Care.  She's strategically grown the operation, attracting more talent, top-billed speakers (who get nothing more than a potted plant as compensation) and is even launching spin-off events.
Where Vaughan and I clearly agree, though, is in our knowledge that Terri Chu is a leader who makes things happen.
WSIC's tagline is "get informed, get engaged and make a difference."  It's not about telling people what to believe, but empowering them with the knowledge they need to make informed choices.
Terri, through her WSIC work, personal interest, life and work experience is pretty damned informed, and getting more so every day.  She can dive into the weeds on wastewater infrastructure and watershed management with the pros; Terri can chat youth employment strategies and the impact of social stigmas, without sounding a tenth as jargon-y as I do.

Vaughan has opted not to outright endorse a candidate in this race, as is his choice.  When asked for an endorsement, Morgan Baskin similarly said she didn't want to appear functionally biased, as she will have to work with whoever joins council should she become mayor.  That's a noble position to take.
Instead, she approved a couple of quotes that underline her admiration for who Terri is and what Terri stands for:
"We need leaders like @TerriChu who understand that politics isn't about position, it's about people." - @MorganBaskinTO #ward20 #topoli
"@TerriChu is a proven community-builder who gets things done." - @MorganBaskinTO #Ward20 @UofT #topoli

Like Vaughan's quote, these aren't attempts to pressure Ward 20 voters to cast their vote one way or another; these are all endorsements of Terri Chu as the community leader she assuredly is.  They're tools to help voters get informed about the character and accomplishments of one of their candidates.
Vaughan hasn't asked for his quote not to be used, which is generally what someone who feels their words are being abused does.  Whatever people want to read in to that is their own business.
For those candidates who seem so really hung up on being seen as "the liberal" candidate, I might suggest that:
1) they recognize there are no parties at City Hall, and we want to keep it that way
2) instead of bitching about someone else's endorsement, why not ask for one yourself?  If you can't ask for support during an election, how could you ask for project support as a councilor?
3) a functional fixedness on your brand and flashy baubles implies all blood is flowing to the candidate, not to the community.  Leaders don't put themselves first - they put constituents first.
Leaders understand politics isn't about position, it's about people.

Giving MPs more freedomLeaders engage with people; they don't preach to them.  That means dialogue.
Leadership also means acting upon the best interests of your constituents, when you have properly engaged with them and know what they need (first) and want (second) in the broader context of city planning. 
What they want is rarely a risqué headline.
Ward 20 doesn't need a representative that sees City Hall as a green room for a jump to another level of politics, nor a councilor whose greatest strength is the ability to draw attention to themselves.  Ward 20 needs a councilor who is committed to understanding local needs and acting on them, full stop.
It's not my place to tell anyone who to vote for, but I will say this - I believe Terri Chu is exactly the kind of leader we need more of, at every level.
But don't just take my word, nor Vaughan's, nor Baskins' - this is your choice, and it's an important one.
To learn more about why we believe in Terri Chu as a leader, visit her website here.  Ask her a question when you see her at your door, or at an event, or during a debate.  Then decide if the leadership qualities that inspire us are the ones you'd like to see in your next councilor.
Get informed, get engaged, then make your choice - Terri wouldn't want it any other way.

Terri Chu 4 Ward 20

Godzombies: What Ebola and ISIL Have in Common

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There is a terrifying disease multiplying rapidly and ravaging a foreign population.  We here, however, aren't immune - there is the ever-present risk of someone on our side of the pond being infected.
This applies just as equally to Ebola as it does to the violent ideology of ISIL.  They both are infectious, but only one is actively trying to decimate mankind.  The other does so because that's its nature.  Right?
There are policies and procedures in place designed to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases.  The problem with these procedures is that the involve containment; in a busy global economy, that's time people can't afford to lose.  Fast food pharmacy has been developed to help us get over illness quicker and get back on the line sooner.  Limitless growth, limitless consumption - that's the capitalist way.
What happens, though, when the democratic/capitalist system (and women's rights, religious tolerance and all the other trapping of civilization) are thrown aside?
ISIL's ideology is one of dominance, strength and conquest.  While they seek chemical and biological weapons to destroy their enemies, there's something of an implication in their lifestyle that they are hardier, purer, more godly than others - which suggests to me that they're buying into the concept of the superhuman ancestor and perhaps placing themselves in the role of superhuman descendants.
Enter one more factor - climate change.
Drought has been eyed as a causal factor in Syria's civil war.  Ice storms and hurricanes have smashed communities around the globe.  It's one thing to live without electricity (something Skyping terrorists haven't yet done, mind you) but it's another entirely to live without clean water.
Without clean water, people die, disease festers and bad things happen.  Without shared disease management strategies and collaboration over things like cures, it doesn't matter who the bad guy is - us and them will fall together.
Laissez-faire consumption is not enough to beat disease.  Virulent ideology is not enough to stop disease.  And whether it's a global flood or a shrinking of the water hole, us-vs-them isn't enough to build a sustainable society.
They are never the disease, merely a symptom of it - we are the cure.

Monday 13 October 2014

Open News and Warren Kinsella: The Rest of the Story

I missed this story over the weekend - too busy being grateful, I guess, about the things I have and the opportunities that keep revealing themselves around unexpected corners.
With experience as both a journalist and a political writer, Kinsella has a foundation in both these worlds and enough removal from each, I think, to see some of the emerging big picture.
As broadsheet journalism dies out, media outlets are having a harder time retaining their readers online while still making money.  There's no easy model in this, which means media organizations need to find places to cut to start to downsize to keep profits in line.
Often times, this is front-line reporters.  This means that remaining reporters have more to do, less time to do it in, etcetera.  Particularly when much of local political drama is emerging on Social Media platforms like Twitter, we have this odd phenomenon where tools like storify are being used as actual news content.
Which brings us to an interesting place.  The wealthy media are trying to maximize their profit by reducing costs and access.  Fewer journalists face increasing pressure to produce more.
Enter User Generated Content, UGC.  You find it on Twitter, in particular, but also on sites like yBao, Facebook, etc.  It's not uncommon for big populations to include twitter conversations on the side which is fine, but we're seeing an increasingly of civilian tweets making their way to mainstream media offerings.
If Big Media is mad about political parties being able to use their content for free - does that mean they're going to start paying their UGC-content producing audience as well?
Life's little ironies...

Whether on Twitter or via other formats, User Generated Content

Sunday 12 October 2014

Leaders Set the Example

Politics is all about rhetoric.  You expect candidates to undermine each other's ideas, whatever they believe personally.  It's how the game is played.

Leadership, however, is all about setting the example.  Leaders inspire others with their words and deeds. 

Case in point:

  1. I grew up on aFarm&when my grandfather was sick- it didn't matter the animals still needed to be feed I bring the Foundation of 24/7

  1. . gets why small businesses matter; started serving tables in family restaurant at 9 years old..