Meme Engine "Canada"

RSS

What I've been thinking about...

philosophy bites: Michael Ignatieff on Political Theory and Political Practice

Hmmm, look what I stumbled across while downloading this week’s podcasts.  Canadians: yes, it is that Michael Ignatieff.  It will be interesting to hear someone I “know” from his public life speak on this academic program.

Canada Post Ceasing Home Mail Delivery

Just some news to fill in my non-Canadian followers out there… here in Canada, the mail service announced back in December that it would cease home delivery of non-parcel mail within 5 years.

Those who’ve been following for a while probably know that this is of personal import to me.  At the least, I should expect some deep job cuts right up the middle of my line of work.  In fact, part of the community where I live is one of the first being converted to the new mail super-boxes.  The carriers I work with are already worrying and speculating about how many of them will have work to do once this becomes a reality this coming Fall.

For reasons I’ll go into some other post, my family and I will be ok personally.  But it still makes me sad.

This is the end of the neighborhood letter-carrier.  It may seem antiquated, but I’ve been living it, and can tell you it’s a real thing.  You really do feel part of the neighborhood.  You really do watch out for the kids and dogs, and whatever else you know belongs on your patch of streets.  And you really do provide a little conversation, and a well-meaning watchful eye for some older and more isolated residents that may not have that many people in their lives.

The writing may just be on the wall for this change… though many people I know blame the company (“Canada Post” is an arms’ length corporation owned by the Canadian Government).  I reserve judgement as to whether this is really the way things must be, but some of my distaste was summed up best by a guest on the radio-show Q: (paraphrasing)

"We’re cancelling home delivery because it’s not profitable?  Is road maintenance profitable?  How about Medicare?  I mean, maybe The Mail shouldn’t be compared to Medicare, but… I’ve always thought that Canada was a country good at walking in the middle.  We care about profit, but we know it isn’t everything.  Well, maybe we’ve strayed from that balance when we decide we can’t deliver mail to the homes of seniors and the disabled because it’s not profitable

In theory, the company and the job I’ve loved could still have a full future, but if I had to bet, I’d bet this is the beginning of a slippery slope to R.I.P. Canada Post.  Sad.

My Political Solution

That link about a non-deterministic electoral system got me thinking about politics, particularly elections.  Unlike some of the topics I discuss, I wouldn’t claim any special insight or even a great degree of knowledge here.  It’s just a personal reaction to being a fairly ordinary voter in Canada.

Though the article had an intriguing idea about changing the electoral structure, I think a shift in content might be more effective in my country.  I actually feel that doing away with the party system all together might be a better solution.

It would certainly eliminate a lot of ammunition used for unfair biases.  I tend to lean left of centre when I vote, but I hate it when friends of mine demonize the other parties and their candidates.  I can really hate a political or economic policy, but I usually believe that it’s proponents either have good intentions or - at worst - are making bad decision due to human weakness as opposed to ill will.

I think voting for individuals would eliminate so much prejudgement about those individuals that it’s a worthwhile change just for this.  It may also spark more political interest.  One can make a very cursory decision about “which party” to vote for just based on a historical sketch, but choosing “which individual” out of (for ex) three candidates with no apparent party affiliations, requires one to inquire how the three candidates might feel about certain issues.

Biases would still be possible of course, based on name, appearance, or whatever, but I think the increase in objectivity of voters would be tremendous.

There would be adjustments implementing this in the Canadian system - our Prime Minister couldn’t simply be the leader of the most represented party!  But this seems solvable in various ways.  More critical might be the sneaky issue of funding, and worrying that only the rich can afford to run a campaign, but for the advantages, I think it would be worth investigating solutions to this issue as well.

So, for it’s merits, what do people think of doing away with a “Party System”?  Does anyone know of other countries where this is actually how things work?

Whenever we notice an instance when history was swayed by accident, we also notice the latitude we have to shape the future.

-

Jaron Lanier from “You are not a Gadget”

This may need some context…

Lanier is talking about decisions made by happenstance that have just stuck, and become the norm.  Think things like “driving on the right-hand side”, or “alcohol and tobacco are legal but cannabis is not”, etc.  Lanier’s most interesting examples are in the designs and user interfaces we use online.

For example, why is so much internet activity anonymous by default?

Most likely, this was the easiest to implement in the earliest days of the internet.  If, in those days, somebody had decided to attach viewable IP addresses (or ID of some kind) to every addition of content, then that mode of conduct may have been inherited in the World Wide Web, and it’s massively popular sites.

The point is, we should notice it was a choice that could have gone either way, and ask the question “which way is better?”  We may still have “latitude” to change the norm in the future.

(PS - If you’d rather think outside tech and design, I can think of examples from Canadian Politics that seem arbitrary… why represent by region instead of by popular vote?  Why are health and education provincial issues as opposed to national ones?  Why have “Political Parties” instead of just individual politicians?  These questions might have answers, but we still have to remember to ask.)

StudioTax

I’ve used StudioTax to file my taxes in Canada for many years now.  It’s free, downloadable, and endorsed by CRA.  They suggest a donation after you finish, and some years I have, and some not with no consequence either way.

Canadians - save yourself money, and use this free tax-prep software! (Just remember, it’s basically a calculator, you still have to use your brain if you want the best outcome).

Stompin' Tom Connors - A Eulogy

Though I don’t like to throw around the words “Icon”, or “Legend”, both could fairly be applied to Tom Connors, a Canadian Legend who passed away earlier this week.

Q’s Jian Ghomeshi does an admirable job explaining why he’s worthy.

Image Atlas

An image search engine with a global perspective. Image Atlas takes the search terms you type in, then (after translating to many different languages) it returns the top images for different countries around the globe.

Above are some results from “animal”.

But I can’t stop trying different searches… it is really fascinating.  Some stock-images seem the same all over the world:

  • cat, house, robot, beach

…but some searches seem like they might tell you something:

  • beauty, art, virtue, evil, education…

If you’re brave, I dare you to type in the name of your own country.

Go check it out!

mashkwi:

“Tim Horton’s next exit… and every one after that”
LOL So fucking true. 

Hmmm, a subset of the stereotypes about Canadians that just happen to be true.

mashkwi:

“Tim Horton’s next exit… and every one after that”

LOL So fucking true. 

Hmmm, a subset of the stereotypes about Canadians that just happen to be true.

(Source: keep--your--head--up--high)

Humans Invented Money

It’s easy to forget that Capitalism and money are a human invention.  To my culture, and that of most people reading this, money was part of the background of my childhood, and its assumptions tend to fade into the background.  It’s good to step back every now and then and examine your own background assumptions.

Consider this: In Canada, we are facing a time of anxiety.  Cuts are being made, jobs are being lost, and whole branches of the workforce (manufacturing etc) are facing the possibility that their skills are obsolete.  People who need food and shelter cannot find work.

At the same time, there is no end of work to be done that could benefit the public.  Infrastructure, community outreach, or teaching to name a few.  Data gathering for academic research, to name one that requires no specific skill (only time).  This is not even considering all the jobs that could be done better using more labour intensive methods.  Farming and food production comes to mind.  Education, and Health care are fields in which the workers are always overworked.

So, we have two problems:

  1. A large workforce that cannot find work.
  2. Many jobs that need doing

If only there were some natural solution to these problems.

Of course, the financial system is the impediment.  A human invention, that prevents the most natural of solutions to such wide-reaching problems.

On The Other Hand…

Capitalism in general has certainly gotten us this far.  We must give credit.  I don’t know anything about how to produce my own food, or how to build a house, and yet, I’m able to eat foods from all over the world, and live in an extraordinarily complicated and convenient house.  Nobody engineered this situation just for me, it simply emerged as the result of many different sorts of tradespeople and importers all trying to make money.

Capitalism, as a guiding force on human cooperation, has certainly had some successes.  Of course, this is from the point of view of a city-living Canadian.  I suspect the gains are less tangible from other vantages.

Is there some way we can enjoy the benefits without the shortcomings?

ilovecharts:

How Old Is Your Government?
Respect your elders?

This is interesting.  In Canada, we are always hearing about our “aging population”, and this chart appears to bear that out.  But what’s really interesting is that there seems to be a (visible) correllation between younger populations and older cabinet ministers.  I wonder if voter turnout (broken down by age) plays into this somehow.

ilovecharts:

How Old Is Your Government?

Respect your elders?

This is interesting.  In Canada, we are always hearing about our “aging population”, and this chart appears to bear that out.  But what’s really interesting is that there seems to be a (visible) correllation between younger populations and older cabinet ministers.  I wonder if voter turnout (broken down by age) plays into this somehow.

A Note of Caution For Canadian Students

During the six month “Grace Period” before you are required to begin paying off your student loan, you are charged interest on the full amount.

This grace period likely puts a lot of money in the Government’s hands.  I’m all for a government with money, but perhaps nickel-and-diming new graduates is a poor choice.

wifeofwrath:

Meanwhile, in Ottawa…. “Jeremy Brown ‏@ThatJBrown 
@dgardner @kady A new twist on a classic sign http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-MD2kTsplr6c/TzQOji0d4vI/AAAAAAAABVg/tkLvoHYQnUs/s1600/Poster1.jpg”I don’t think I’ve ever love scientists this much, and I’ve had my fair share of proto-geologists.

wifeofwrath:

A new twist on a classic sign http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-MD2kTsplr6c/TzQOji0d4vI/AAAAAAAABVg/tkLvoHYQnUs/s1600/Poster1.jpg

I don’t think I’ve ever love scientists this much, and I’ve had my fair share of proto-geologists.

Canada's PM Stephen Harper faces revolt by scientists: Scientists to march through Ottawa in white lab coats in protest at cuts to research and environmental damage

makeanewbeginning:

“The Harper government is the most environmentally hostile one we have ever had in Canada. Harper pulled Canada out of the Kyoto protocol, gutted the Fisheries Act (our strongest freshwater protection law), and hollowed out our environmental assessment legislation, making it easier for extractive industries to get licences to exploit,” said Maude Barlow, a former UN advisor on water and chair of the Council of Canadians. “It is heartlessly shutting down a programme that costs very little to run given the incredible benefits it brings, in order to silence the voices who speak for water.”

canadanomic:

The 59 Cents Campaign

This week the Harper Government’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenny announced that Canada would no longer be paying for the health care of refugees.

A group of students from the Canadian School of Peacebuilding at the Canadian Mennonite University have started a 59 cents campaign, which they say is the cost to every Canadian to restore health care benefits to refugees every year.

All you have to do to take part in the campaign is send 59 cents to the following address:

Send your mail (postage is free) to: 
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada, Office of P.M.
80 Wellington St.
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

makeanewbeginning:

Environmental crisis? We have a democratic crisis

Bill C-38 is now law. After a marathon (22 hour plus) parliamentary session and quashing the more than 800 proposed amendments, sleepy MPs passed the 425-page omnibus budget bill.

Every proposed amendment was defeated, rendering weeks of committee hearings, parliamentary debate and expert witnesses as useless exercises in faux democratic policy making.

Bill C-38 is an oil baron’s dream come true. It’s the largest environmental bill ever adopted in Canada and it does not strengthen any aspect of environmental protection. It radically weakens the laws used to protect our natural environment, including exempting projects from environmental assessment, limiting the time provided for public and expert input into environmentally sensitive projects and removing habitat protection from the Fisheries Act. That prompted even two former Conservative fisheries ministers to publicly oppose the bill.

Read more clicking on the link.

(Source: monchuinne)