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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 19 December 2014

Sounds Like a Hero to Me

Depression is toxic - it eats at a person's soul, but can also make them particularly uncomfortable to be around.  Many of the "energy vampires" out there battle with depression or anxiety, which absolutely can be contagious.
We're taught and encouraged to avoid people who are a drain on us (at the same time we're told this mental health thing has to be addressed).  Ha didn't follow this advice and, through persistence, patience and positive reinforcement, helped a vampire become a contributer.
If that's not an act of heroism, I don't know what is.

Thursday 18 December 2014

Graphically Open

It's so much easier to understand how amazing this stuff is when you map it out like this, isn't it?

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This and That

A couple of things that are sticking out for me today:
US Torture:
Dick Cheney is confident they did the right thing and would do it again.  He's not willing to entertain opposition to that perspective.  As one of history's actors, it's the job of others to understand that he is right and they aren't bright.
What has the cost of the War On Terror been to the US Economy?  What ROI have they received from their investment?
It's not about money, it's not about safety or whatnot, because if it was they'd be using methods that were more effective and as a result, landing on practices that had better outcomes.  But they aren't.
Putin and the Bear:
He's firmly in control of the country and gosh, people love him.  When things go wrong, it's not his fault - it's someone else's fault.  The story is whatever he wants it to be, right?  He's the boss and people are happy with letting him be the boss.
You Don't Know What You Don't Know
I'm a former Queen's Park staffer.  I've been involved in the appointment process.  And I had no idea there was a law against this - I'm still not 100% clear what the law actually states, but then I'm not compelled to spend the time looking it up, either.
Political staff aren't trained on this stuff, nor, would I imagine, are Party staff.  Are Members?  If so, by who?  Do they get a test to make sure the knowledge registered?  I'm sure Party lawyers have knowledge of such matters, but what of it?
Cronyism is an established part of politics and has been in perpetuity.  Does offering a leadership opponent a Cabinet post if they drop out fit into this legal framework?  How about offering internships or jobs to the kids of big funders? 
Big picture - who isn't guilty of playing politics in politics? 
And don't get all indignant about this.  Most voters don't know and don't care about how nomination process work, or laws get passed, or the actual rules of accountability in Parliament. 
Ignorance is bliss, right?   We pay experts so that we don't have to worry about the minutiae.  Or at least, we pay people we're confident are experts to take care of the details for us.
If they're confident, then they're likely to have a firm hand on the rudder, be in control.  Not waver or waffle in their positions.
I'm sensing something akin to a cycle here, but I'm sure it's all in my sociology-committing head.  Otherwise, the folk like Cheney and Putin would have recognized and responded to it accordingly - right?

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Know Thyself.

I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us.


Fear the Zombie apocalypse, you become that which you fear.  The enemy is your teacher.

When you fail to understand this, you fail to understand yourself, and your foe.  Then, you're lost.

Why History's Actors Need to Study History

“Physical abuse or other degrading treatment was rejected not only because it is wrong, but because it has historically proven to be ineffective.”

Until the aggressively competent get it into their heads that social gravity applies to them as much as everyone else, this cycle of stupid mistakes will continue.

Has Nick Gone Nice?

This is what Nick Kouvalis is saying today.  And here's what he said November 5th, 2010:
In the new version, Tory was out anyway - Kouvalis was just playing games to make sure that was true.
In the original version, he cleverly boxed Tory out of the race.  If that's folklore, it's folklore he created.
I'm less fussed about the fact that he's changing gears - all people do that, all the time.  New positions are regularly defined as refinements of old ones (floor-crossing being my favourite example).  We want to see ourselves in different lights at different points of our lives and can/do interpret the past in ways that are convenient for our present (if not our future, but that's why we have cognitive dissonance and confabulation in the first place).
Kouvalis could be reinterpreting his past for public consumption alone - that's what spinsters do - but it's possible he's trying to convince himself as well.
What would make me think that?
While he still comes off as supremely confident in this interview, his wording borders less on arrogance than we've seen in the past.  Additionally, he's less belligerent and more proactive.
There may have been faked calls and other shenanigans in this campaign - I've no doubt there was.  What's more interesting is the fact that Kouvalis isn't talking about those things; in fact, this is the most policy-oriented interview he's done that I've read.
People age and mature.  They are influenced by the company they keep, and clearly Tory runs a completely different ship than Rob Ford did.  At the same time, some tigers never change their stripes, but recognize the benefit of appearing as though they did.
The variant of Nick Kouvalis we see in this interview is not the same one we're used to.  Whether maturity, context or an ability to read the landscape and know what's going to work in one's interest for the foreseeable future, this says something.


#StreetMirrorTO: A Perspective Art Project

There was the Nestle Bra Cam, with it's twist at the end.  There was 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman.  Both providing revealing insight into how we look at the world around us.

It's a subject I think about all the time.  What do people communicate to each other with their body language - and what impact does that have?

We all know the expression "don't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes" - what if you could spend a couple of hours seeing the world through their eyes?  Would that change your point of view?

It occurs to me this would make an interesting art project (not one I have bandwidth to lead right now, so feel free to crib this idea): fitting people from different perspectives with cameras and creating a snapshot of how the world looks at them.

My first thought was to see the world through the eyes of a homeless person, which not surprising, has already been done elsewhere.

It'd be fascinating to do a comparative analysis between genders, ethnicities, ages as well. 

If it could be done in a way that was non-exploitative, it'd be interesting to see the world from the eyes of someone with mental illness.  I suspect we'd see more correlation between erratic behaviour and external shunning than is comfortable to imagine.

Anyway, there it is.  Have at it, folks.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Harper Logic

So, the plan is this - reduce research opportunities, pillory education at home, but sell citizenship to wealthy potential immigrants who have picked up education abroad.  And know how to find workaround to spend their money however they please.
If you're already a Canadian, you know, you gotta hustle.  If you can't, too bad, so sad.  We'll give your spot to someone who's made their money elsewhere, possibly off of saps like you.
That's bound to go over real well.

No Joy in Oilville

This is no biggie, Stephen Harper will tell us.  The information being provided misses the mark, or doesn't cover some aspect of his plan, or something.  At the end of the day, oil is too big to fail, right?
Harper has been involved with oil since his very first job.  He's a pretty obstinate (sorry, determined) fellow.  He's an economist, remember?  Plus he's the smartest guy in the room (that conveniently never includes Kathleen Wynne).  People just need to do what he tells them or go away. 
He knows exactly what he's doing, confident fellow that he is.
If people can't accept that, it's because they're looking at the wrong facts, or cherry picking the right ones.  Reduce the flow of useless data and that problem starts to go away, right?  The only story left is the one you're selling.  The only facts left are the ones you're using.
It's easy, right?  Keep your eye on the oil, that's all that matters.  Don't commit sociology by looking laterally or thinking ahead.
Harper has been politically successful, but he has bungled a whole host of files.  It's only by exploiting the fact that Canadians focus on the low-hanging fruit that he's kept from serious challenges to his competence.
He's probably assuming this is another one of those situations he's gotten so good at stick-handling; trot out a couple of Ministers for comments, or offer no comment at all.  Attack Trudeau, release some ads.  Move on.
Except, when it comes to the economy he has no other eggs and no other baskets.  He also has been stifling social sustainability, so if things go really sour, the safety net will fill up fast, and then people will start spilling over.
And those people are going to be pretty pissed.
Harper's once again at bat, telling us not to worry, he's got this.
Now, more than ever, it's us who must be asking:
What if he's wrong?

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.


You Can't Negotiate With Terrorists

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Terrorists are like zombies - they have no capacity for human empathy, they cannot be reasoned with, the only way to eliminate their kind is to exterminate them.
A similar thought process must surely have gone through the heads of these folks as they killed 172 children.  You can't work with these progressives, you can't convert 'em - the only way to wipe their scourge from the earth is to exterminate them.
Helps to start with the kids, as without kids a population will inevitably die off.
Which is the basic frame we're looking at here.  ISIS as an example, but not an exclusionary one, wants a clearly defined zone of influence within which they have absolute control.  Anyone who doesn't fit their prescription is a threat to be eliminated. 
Once a home base has been established, you can look towards expansion.
But saying one who terrorizes is a terrorist is like saying a corporate CEO who happens to have kids a mom - it's framing them as one thing, one simply-communicated frame of reference that doesn't provide a complete picture.
Are terrorists zombies?  Depends on your point of view, but I'd argue no - no more than partisans are, or followers of a religion, or any minority group.
They are human.  As such, they are complex creature that are part of a complex system.  They can only be understood as such. 
We get that conditions like asthma or cancer can have environmental causes; we're even recognizing that mental illnesses like depression and anxiety can have environmental causes.  At the same time, we recognize that those environments can be changed, that internal tools can be developed to remedy or avoid such illnesses.
Diabetes Type II is a massive social burden.  It's entirely avoidable.  The costs related to smoking are equally avoidable, but in both cases it's not enough to tell people "don't eat too much fat" or "stop smoking" because there are other factors involved. 
Through the rise of fields like behavioural economics and a deeper understanding of neurochemistry, policy makers and sales folk are finding better ways to work our internal hardwiring to produce the results they want, though invariably there's an element of design-thinking involved (designing products/services that actually work for us on a nearly intuitive level).
This is a bit like sociology, however, and involves a willingness to work with The Other.  That takes time.  If you feel that time is short or some threat is great, you need to get things done quickly, which leads to a my-way-or-the-highway proposition.
You're with us, or against us.  Pick your side and face the consequences, but we're moving ahead regardless.
You can't negotiate with terrorists - we don't want to negotiate with terrorists. 
Human beings, however, we can work with.  Heck, we can even find common ground with them.
But to accept others as human beings on par with yourself is to admit the atrocities they commit are ones you yourself are capable of.  And, perhaps, are already perpetrating against those you've conveniently identified as inhuman.
There's nothing new in this basic lesson but by God, it looks like we're going to have to learn it again.

Monday 15 December 2014

Behavioural Economics: Why Sense is Not Common

John Tory is a smart man, one who has received political communications training.  He gets the emotional context of communication and, in theory, knows how not to walk into PR pitfalls.
Yet he was surprised that people took offense to his comment about women needing to golf to get ahead.
Stephen Harper is, supposedly, a non-nonsense kind of guy - except he gets caught up in quagmires of nonsense all the time of the sort he could and should have seen coming.  Everything from Duffygate to the Veterans file to Dean del Mastro and the like are avoidable headaches.
I could go on and on about the smart, successful people who apparently have common sense in abundance and yet are blind to the obvious. 
Pointing out hypocrisy is easy; for some, it's even a cynically enjoyable process, though it invariably comes back to haunt us.
What's more interesting is why.  Why do executives on the public dollar act like executives on the private dollar?  Why does "proceed until apprehended" end up having selfish connotations in a eat-what-you-kill economic environment?
Behaviour is math.  When you understand the variables, you can predict the outcomes.  When you know where certain paths lead you and know why and how, you stand at least a chance of doing something about it.
But not if you're confident in your superiority.  When you think "I am smart, they are dumb" you blind yourself to the truth - that none of us are superior.
When you feel superior, you feel no need for introspection, nor for empathy; you think you can reshape the landscape to suit your interests, because you're that powerful.
Which is a recipe for failure. 
Know yourself; know your opponent; know the terrain.  It's an ancient lesson, yet one that is still commonly ignored.