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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 21 May 2015

Data Viz: Pork Mapping the Canadian Election 2015

Data journalism is becoming a staple of modern media, which is a good thing - data mapping is a great way to tell a story.

Take the mapped graph to the right, for example.  It presents export-based wealth creation in Toronto, but it could just as easily show federal spending.

Imagine a map of the country that featured every riding colour-coded to the party of their MP, and then layered on top of that bars of federal funding by program in one colour and next to that, relevant outcome indicators in another.

For example, let's say some regions haven't voted in a Conservative once during Harper's tenure. 

How much funding have they received for transit infrastructure?  How has that funding (or lack of funding) impacted other factors, like job creation?

Especially given that the Harper Government's new "Canada 150" community infrastructure grant is setting dramatically different rules for different parts of the country, it'd be interesting (and timely) to see a visualization of what pork barrel politics is doing to our country.

The Rape of Sansa

General SPOILER ALERT for all things GoT!
No, it was rape all right. It was rape, and we were meant to interpret it as rape.
Just as was the “fuck them ‘til they’re dead” scene from Craster’s House, although I don’t recall as much outrage when that happened. Of course, Craster’s daughters aren’t Sansa Stark any more than Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women are Jane Creba.
Game of Thrones has never shied away from brutality — rape, child abuse and murder, dismemberment, on and on it goes. It’s part of the show’s appeal (in the way horror films and car accidents appeal), which the showrunners no doubt capitalize on.
At the same time, there has never been any question about what kind of story they’re trying to tell or the nature of the world it’s grounded in. Westeros is an unjust, harsh, violent place where no one is safe and the weak are especially vulnerable.
Ros was always at risk in a way Cersei never was. Robert’s bastards andCraster’s daughters never had any filter between them and the brutality of the world. Remember Mycah? There was never going to be a trial, or justice, for him.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the rich and powerful are invulnerable. Yes, they’re at the mercy of court intrigue and plots from other houses, but those are all upper-class threats to worry about. They need never worry about ending up as Ros did, a trophy bolted to a wall.
People were sad about what happened to Ros, they were horrified at the baby slaughter and the Red Wedding, but they’ve gotten mad over the rape of Sansa. Mad to the point of walking away from a show that’s already been filled with rape and violent abuse of power from the very first episode.
To choose now to walk away — when it’s the nobleman’s daughter who is abused rather than a whore, a peasant or the child of incest — is an interesting statement, to say the least.
Except we know to expect horrible things to happen even to nobles in Westeros. In fact, that’s a motif that runs through the show. Jamie Lannister always had his family name, his gold and his highly-trained skill to defend him, until he ran into Locke. Brienne was lucky that Jamie saved her from rape, as Sansa was lucky the Hound saved her the first time. If they’d been on their own, their noble stock wouldn’t have mattered.
One of the very first characters to die on the show — Ser Waymar Royce — was a nobleman. The big hero of Season I, Ned Stark, lost his head when it was a bad play for all concerned. He has not been avenged; the death of the people who wronged him, where it’s come, has come for completely unrelated reasons.
I don’t feel any worse about the rape of Sansa than I do about any of the other atrocities that have happened on the show. Yes, she’s a major character, but even the lesser characters have been relatively well-developed and are no less deserving of our empathy.
Which is why I think there’s a lesson in this we should absorb and think about in the context of our own world.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

10 Points: Kinsella, Den Tandt and Trudeau

So sayeth Warren Kinsella in response to Michael Den Tandt's suggestion Trudeau get out a bit more (though with a caveat that he not make any more major gaffes).   

Kinsella's not wrong on his ten points - they certainly lay out the safest way to play the game.  It's a game he knows well.  To win at that game, which does seem to be their objective, Trudeau and his team would be well-served by following those commandments to the letter. 

Yet Den Tandt makes an excellent point, too:

As in, one who wouldn't play the typical Game of Seats to gain power, but was committed to changing the top-down, message-machine politics culture we have to one that focused on engagement and civic empowerment.  

That hasn't been what we've seen so far, with non-open open nominations and the like; my suspicion is the reason for this is that team Trudeau never fully internalized what their narrative meant, and therefore have never gone all-in.  They're still playing the same game as everyone else.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Here's where I land on Kinsella's points (and yeah, to read them all you'll have to click on the link above):

1 - Yes.  The "middle class" has become to Canadian politics what the "Third World" was to the cold war.  Machievelli said you could win the nobility or you could win the people, not both; well, democracies aren't princedoms.  Leaders unite nations; leave dividing and conquering to the other guys.

2 - Yes, with a caveat...

3 - ... that they not be small, imposed solutions, like a bag of goodies for the crowd.  This decide, sell, defend approach leads to piecemeal funding and fuels our growing structural problems; what's the point in funding hip and knee replacements without addressing diabetes?  Or Type II diabetes without addressing transit, or service access, or food deserts?

The real solution here is for team Trudeau to go back to their roots; the biggest idea they should have is how to change the way policy is created and citizens engaged.  They could start by reading Discuss, Decide, Do.

4 - a quibble, perhaps, but Trudeau shouldn't try to sound or look more mature; he should become more mature.  The same thing applies to the others, especially sweater-vest Harper.  Politics has taken "fake if 'til you make it" to extremes, leading to tone-deaf, cognitively dissonant politicians who act, and act badly.  

Instead of trying to look or sound like a mature leader, how's about working to become one?

5 - Agree.  Obama might be a complete rage horse, but he's also thoughtful, and geeky, and sometimes even witty.  By letting these genuine qualities bubble to the surface, those willing to give him a chance saw the human, not the role nor the actor.  Whether Trudeau has the right qualities within himself, I don't know, but if he doesn't - the people will find out eventually.  And nobody likes being sold a bill of goods.

6 - I disagree with the premise of this point.  The frame created revolves around selling the leader as demi-god.  It makes for easier, simplified sales, but is deeply anti-democratic.  Besides, a good leader sources good ideas anywhere, and fosters collaborations, and focus on supporting the people - never on themselves.

We don't have many of these around.

7 - Probably a good idea, unless it's a helluvan opportunity to pivot.

8 - culture eats strategy for breakfast.  Strategy is internal; culture is for everyone.  Talk about your culture far and wide; your foes will take it for strategy and drive themselves bonkers as they become conduits for your message and can't figure out how.

9 - same as point 1.  It takes all of us; why not get us talking, together?

10 - same as 8.  It goes back to Trudeau's far-distant beginning, really, and the discussion around values.  What are Trudeau's personal values?  What does he stand for/against?  If he stands for respectful dialogue and means it, he will consciously bet his words so as not to say things counter to his values (no cheap shots, etc).  When you have internalized what you stand for and against, rather than just paying lip-service to it, what you say will only ever represent who you are.  

Voila, my 10 bitcoins.  Keep in mind Kinsella gets the game-as-usual far better than I do; he gets paid big bucks for his expertise.  The people actually calling the shots are equally used to playing that way, although they once promised to think differently.

Do they truly believe change is necessary enough to change themselves?  Time will tell.