Stupid Constituional Tricks

Jack Layton's cute little motion to force the government to call an election for February sounds pragmatic and reasonable -- and clearly no politician wants to be on the campaign trail during the Christmas Holidays. Various other groups don't want it then either, and it's often painted that the Canadian public in general doesn't either, but I wonder. It might be good for the politicians to feel the pain of their retail employee-constituents who find the last 50 days the most hectic of the whole year.

Constitutional Monarchy's like Canada are governed by a combination of written and traditional rules and one of these for minority governments (as Canada currently has) is that government can dissolve parliament for specific dates and/or hand specific dates to the opposition at which the opposition can pull the trigger. But the opposition can not dissolve parliament at a particular date, much though it might like to do.

Jack Layton, whose stellar record as a city councillor in Toronto speaks for itself, still needs to go back to elementary school when it comes to running national politics. His scheme is the kind of pragmatic, creative one that there is room for at the civic level. But a country can't go changing these procedures at the whim of an albeit intelligent, creative group of people. A federal government, even one that does not have a parliamentary majority, is still about stability and the one power that the governing party in the minority has is this: choosing when a the next possible election date will be. It's a game of "I aim, you fire", but the neophyte leader of the NDP will just have to get used to it.
Will "King George" be content to be "Prince George"?

Or, more importantly, will his followers, in loyalty to the idea of a civil society in Liberia allow their allegations of fraud and pressuring to be investigated and adjudicated, be content with the result and move on? Now, after the election is the moment of truth. What does Liberia want? More civil war or rebuilding?

Western democratic institutions took a long time to build and included civil wars like those that have happened in the 20th and 21st centuries in lands where democracy has not yet taken root. The English story is held to have begun with the Magna Carta in 1215 and can be said to have become almost impossible to reverse after the reign of Queen Anne, five centuries later: She was the last monarch to over-rule the English Parliament. Subsequent monarchs had the titular right to do so but did not. If Elizabeth II or her successors were to do so, it would spark a constitutional crisis.

I applaud the restrained and conciliatory tone I have heard Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf extend to Mr. Weah and his supporters. Winners do not usually share much power with losers, but in view of Mr. Weah's first round polling numbers and the energy of Mr Weah's supporters on the street, pragmatism and commitment to a peaceful future for Liberia will drive her to seek Mr. Weah's support in rebuilding that shattered country. Now the test of the maturity of Mr. Weah and his supporters come: will they bury their differences until the next election and reciprocate?

Show yourselves adults on this score please, for your own sakes and for those of your children.


Ah, Bliss but not yet Heaven

A local co-op radio station is rebroadcasting the BBC world service in the mornings. Ah the sweet sound of news that's not just from my country, my province, my valley, or worst of all my neighbours' favourite celebrities. <ugh>

And it was there that I heard the news that with 75% of the ballots counted, Mrs. Johnston-Sirleaf is leading 58% to 42% in the vote counting in Liberia. Unfortunately Mr. Weah's party is filing a complaint that the Electoral Commission prejudiced the process against him. I hope Mr. Dyer's thoughts that it would take the soccer star to keep the poor masses from revolting in the painful period of reconstruction Liberia needs to undergo prove false but from my own friends' opinions and those of Mr. Peabody now of Pennsylvania, I have reason to hope that this will be for the best.

Peace be to those streets as well.

One of the listener comments I heard on the BBC this morning made me stop and think. Some chap was objecting to the war in Iraq on the grounds that there is no cause worth dying for. I think it would be more advisable to object on the grounds that there is no cause worth killing for. Since killing only breeds more killing (ask the residents of any war zone, from Northern Ireland to the WestBank/Gaza to Darfur), the less often we insist on resorting to killing in settling disputes and differences, the less often others will have us in the crosshairs -- and if they've already taken aim, we would die with clearer consciences.

Do you want to make your part of the earth a little more paradisical? (and who does not?) Start by looking at the things in your hands. If you are using them as instruments of violence against other people, lay them down and do not take them up again until you can be clear on what their appropriate targets and uses are.


Things changing...

Well, telus and the union have reached a second tentative agreement. It's not clear what's changed -- it sounds like there's more money, but not more job security, so will it pass? Is it enough sweeter to convince 24 more people to change to "yes" than will have changed to "no" since the 30th of October? The results will be in via mail-in vote by November 16th. The contract is for five years from November 17th.

And then there's federal politics. I honestly didn't believe that the NDP would bring down the government this fall, but it looks like the last day sitting for this government will be late next week.

Both of these stories are visible right now, here.

Tomorrow, Liberia votes. So do a bunch of places in the US, too, right?


Telus Lockout Losing Traction

Telus, which was formed from combining the old "monopoly" telecoms, Alberta Government Telephone and BC Telephone has been on strike for some time now, and on my drive to work, I pass three of their plants. Actually, the workers were locked out. The issues are mostly "flexibility", as far as Telus is concerned and freedom from worries over off-shoring as far as the union, TWU is concerned.

A couple of weeks ago, The Vancouver Sun, the most news-y local paper, ran a story that there was a tentative agreement. Only the pickets never came down, so I wondered if I had been dreaming. Finally, this week, I find out that the agreement was put to a vote and lost by a really narrow margin. From the Union's website, "Of the 9027 votes cast, 4487 – 49.7% – voted yes and 4540 – 50.3% – voted no."

Late this week, most of the overpasses I drove under on my way to work had Telus workers holding protest banners against Telus' on-going actions. The largest site I drive by was a little emptier than usual, but I knew where some of the strikers were that morning. I had seen them.

I feel for these folks. It's not that long ago they were a crown-corporation monopoly but the communications boom of the 90s happened and now Telus has to deliver, not to Cabinet (two cabinets, actually) but to shareholders. And they don't understand that most of the other workers in the market they serve have never enjoyed the kind of pensions and job security they enjoyed before the 90s -- I've never had them. They're dedicated to their picket line, but this is a fight that Telus can wait them out on, I'm afraid.

On the other hand, a call-in radio comment I heard, from someone who had switched their high-speed internet from Telus to Shaw and was so thankful to be "dealing with a non-Union company" seemed wrong-headed in another direction. The Winnipeg General Strike was only 86 years ago. The need for unions in the coal mines of southwestern Alberta was a hot issue then, too. Since then, unions have often been more interested in gathering more and more power without much concern for the welfare of the worker, but it would be a shame if the protection for the little guys that unions have provided disappeared with the willing and eager acceptance of other little guys.

I can't help comparing this strike with the hockey strike that resulted in no 2004/05 NHL hockey season. At the beginning, the players didn't want to accept a $54 million per team salary cap. The hiatus in play has led to a depression of their market value and they've had to accept a cap of $39 million. At this point, it looks to me like the longer the Telus workers are out, the less value they'll be to their employer. I suspect they need to cut their losses now, settle and get back to work. There're Christmas presents to buy, not to mention meals, clothes, heat and electricity.


The National Blood-letting -- November 2005

So, the latest chapter in the sponsorship scandal in Canada has gotten to a public milestone: the preliminary Gomery report. Since most of this testimony was conducted live on television (sort of like the OJ Simpson trial), there aren't a whole lot of surprises here. The surprises came six to twenty months ago as lurid tales of suitcases full of money, implications of mob connections, outrageous commissions for little or no work followed by kickbacks to civil servants who allocated the work, and significant portions of the commissions ending up in the coffers of the ruling Liberal Party, all wrapped up in end-justifies-the-means excuses: the Separatists nearly broke up our country -- we just had to do something to save Canada.

(None of this is news to my Canadian readers)

So all we have now that we didn't before, are Judge Gomery's notes, laid out in an orderly fashion showing how money flowed from here to there and back -- ultimately the facts and allegations go like this:

  • Money flowed from the federal government of Canada into ad agencies (and other "structural companies" like Canada Post and VIA)

  • The purpose of the money was ostensibly to "raise the profile of Canada" in Québec after the nearly-won sovereignty referendum of 1995.

  • Firms receiving the money/advertising contracts were hand-picked, not chosen through any kind of bidding process.

  • More money was paid than value received by the federal government and some of the money was paid in kickbacks to certain civil servants, especially Chuck Guité

  • The most visible result of the money at the time was big "Canada" signs showing up at all kinds of festivals, conferences, conventions and shows in Québec between 1995 and 2001.

  • The firms receiving the contracts were typically run by Liberals, who as well as having paid kick-backs to civil servants, also contributed significant percentages of their fees to the Liberal Party of Canada.

  • Sheila Fraser, our Auditor-General (sort of like the GAO in the US gave some hints of the problem in 2002 and a full-blown report of her findings.

The end result seems to be a big fizzle. The Liberal Party of Canada
* is exposed as the most venal in the country
* is perceived in Québec as having tried to buy Québec's loyalty in the late 90s (outrage, votes for the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois follow -- no version in English)
* is viewed as being shrewd operators who were only trying to save the country in Ontario and by half the folks east of there, and
* is viewed as reprehensible and bereft of the moral authority to govern: scoundrels who ought to be drummed out of office by most of those living west of Ontario -- except for urbanites who are scared to vote for anyone else.

Quite likely we will have another federal election (what I called a "National Shout" last time) in the next six weeks to three months and I don't see the result being significantly different than it was 16 months ago. As I stated earlier here, I still don't have a real, viable place to park my vote and anyway, I live in a riding where a toothpick could run for a particular party and win, so my vote doesn't mean very much.

Do I sound cynical and disillusioned? I'm afraid so. But hey -- my kids aren't going hungry, we have no shortage of food, fuel or potable water out here in BC and I have the freedom to complain about this kind of thing out loud when it happens. Life's not all that bad, on balance, really. But I wonder how long this kind of meretricious behaviour in our political leaders can go on before all those other things are threatened.

Is that a real Canadian?

Has a tourist ever come through your town, with Canadian flags plastered over his or her luggage and you wondered, "Is that really a Canadian?" Saying "eh?" at the end of ordinary statements has become so stereotypical that you may be fooled initially.

One of the things I want to do here, is help to give little hints to help you figure out who is a Canadian and who is an impostor.

Really Canadian #1: Most Canadians (at least Anglophones) will not pronounce "roof" so that the "oo" rhymes with "hoof" or "book". On the contrary so that it rhymes with "blue" or "scooby doo". French Canadians will pronounce it "twa" or "twat" -- at least when they're speaking French.


All the best, but not just to King George

Gwynne Dyer's latest commentary focuses on Liberia, a place where I have some friends. At first I thought it referred to King George II of America. When I saw instead that it was about George Weah in Liberia, I was curious to hear the opinion of another outsider (besides me) on the situation there.

It happens that Mr. Dyer disagrees with my friends' political opinion (he's Liberian, she's white, born in Canada -- they are working in Johnson-Sirleaf's campaign) but I'm sure he and they (and I as well) would agree that it would be a good thing for Liberia to escape from the cycle of violence it has been trapped in for the last few years.

Until next Tuesday...


Irish news!

Just off today's Five-Seven-Live and here on RTÉ's web-site.... One of the Protestant paramilitary groups has announced the beginning of decommissioning their weapons. I'm not from Ireland, so I'm not sure how influential the LVF is among all the Protestant paramilitaries, but one less weapon on any street is one less means to maim and bereave. Cause for rejoicing, even on a small scale.


Dissing raised to fine art

I never expected the movie debut of Dukes of Hazzard to be a culturally enriching experience for anyone -- and I wasn't planning to see it. But if you want to hear it dissed in the most delicious fashion, you've gotta listen to the linked item. Mr. Turan, without having seen the movie, I am sure you must have told it like it is... Not that your review will hurt the movie's gate receipts, I'll bet. And if does, it won't hurt them anywhere near as much as your review (from laughter) hurt my sides.


Pot Activist, Marc Emery, to be extradited to the US

On a story like this I find myself very conflicted, which is probably surprising given my very conservative lifestyle and views.

I do not smoke tobacco (never have), let alone pot. I only rarely drink alocohol (at age 42, I think I've had some alcohol about five times in my life, never more than a sip of beer, never more than a small glass of wine). I have seen pot destroy -- either itself or as the entry drug for other, harder substances -- many friends and some relatives, so that I am not a big supporter of pot rights either in theory or in practice.

On the other hand, some of the stories of those who find medical marijuana absolutely necessary to stay functional in the face of debilitating and life-ending diseases (the segment from 02:00 to 03:37 of the program here is one of the most heart-wrenching ones I've ever heard -- but less so than another story I can no longer locate. Does Angel Raich suffer from any striking credibility gap?). Does something displaying this kind of potential, even anecdotally, to alleviate debilitating symptoms deserve the kind of enforcement regime that exists in Canada? even more, the one that exists in the US?

On the other hand, should a scofflaw like Marc Emery be allowed to go parading about thumb firmly stuck on his nose at the law indefinitely? And, if his actions are not counter to Canadian law, should he go unpunished for flouting US law or fail to face extradition for supplying, not just medical users but also organized crime and hordes of under-functional pot-heads (made so by their ongoing use of pot) with the supplies that maintain their ability to break US law?

I have to do some research here for the following question: Were the Bronfmanns, Reichmanns and other liquour manufacturers ever similarly subjected to attempted extraditions to the US while the Prohibition laws in the US and Canada were divergent?

As a follow-on, I would ask, are there no parallels between the Prohibition debates then and those surrounding marijuana now? To me it seems self-evident that there is a high level of parallelism between the two questions and that ultimately, as much as anything, to get organized crime out of the marijuana supply chain, it will become a public safety necessity for government to get as intimately involved in the production and distribution of marijuana as they are today in the production and distribution of tobacco products and alcohol.

To me, speaking chemically, there is no difference between tobacco, booze and pot. They are all somewhat mind- or mood-altering; they all have some negative health impacts; they are all used recreationally and only tobacco, the most life-threatening of the three has never been outlawed, and hence has never been intertwined with organized crime. Doesn't anyone else see something wrong with this picture? Outlaw all three of them, or let them be legal and tax the bejeebies out of them, as is being done with tobacco and booze. Let's be consistent here.

All that said, Marc Emery's mistake, the one that removes all sympathy for his cause from me, is the fact that he made no efforts to keep his trade within Canadian borders. For him to have ignored what the standards are on the other side of the 49th, to have done anything but ignore all requests from potential customers from the US put him well within the DEA cross-hairs and if, in an American court he gets 10 years to life of hard time in an American Federal prison, that was the risk he took and he should be willing to survive the ordeal.

I say this, as much as anything else, from a Christian point of view where my fellow believers contravene their local laws in their countries of birth by possessing Bibles, talking about Jesus, or even by the very act of themselves having converted to Christianity. They know the risks and they accept them -- and if I lived there, so would I. From the outside, I appeal to their governments to desist from harassing my brothers and sisters in Christ but my appeal is for them to change their laws, not merely to release them apart from that change. (Are you listening People's Republic of China? Myanmar? Saudi Arabia? North Korea?)

On top of this, let me add my initial reaction with regard to Canadian sovereignty and Canadian authorities choosing to allow Mr. Emery's "rendering" to a country where penalties for marijuana trade are harsher. I already feel that Canada's very existence is at risk, especially with regard to having a separate legal code or an independant foreign policy, so my first reaction was, "How dare they!" However, a lot of these feelings evaporated when I heard the contents of the indictments against Mr. Emery, that they mostly had to do with trade into the US. Marc carried on business in the US which under US law was illegal. It would have been more productive to his cause in the Canadian national debate for him to be arrested in Canada and have his case tried before a Canadian court. His own folly or excessive idealism led him to a place where that will not happen. For his sake, I hope there are people who will be willing to visit him in Leavenworth, or San Quentin, or whatever life-suspension home a US court will consign him to.


Towards a Christian Socialism

I am a frustrated voter.

I oppose the proliferation of weapons, especially of Space-, Nuclear-, Biological- and depleted Uranium-based ones as well as other long-term and wide-spread effect weapons such as cluster bombs, butterfly bombs and land mines. I also oppose aligning Canada's foreign and defense policy with that of the US. Don't get me wrong: I like Americans. But I deeply distrust their government, their foreign policy and especially their military. The policy choices of these three have often tended, at least since 1945 or so, to be consistently foolish, more than occasionally criminally so.

I believe that responsibility for the social welfare of a country's poorest, weakest and most victimized citizens rests with that country's citizenry, morally so for its Christian believers, but also, at least to some extent with the government of that country. To that end, I support a progressive taxation system which would be used to fund broad and generous programs to maintain a reasonable level of health, safety, education, protection and empowerment for all.

On the other hand, I believe that there are some objective standards of right and wrong, which political parties who would so far agree with me are willing to treat as relative, negotiable, discardable or even barbaric. My commitment to a Christian philosophy convinces me of the moral correctness of insisting on the one hand of preferring or insisting on the use of fair-trade goods, individually and collective making a smaller consumption footprint, and striving for dependence on renewable-energy-sources just as surely as it convinces me that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.

[As an aside: I am not convinced that a government should legislate all the points that I consider part of an objective moral code (theft and murder are clearly proscribable by all; alcohol use was unenforceable and I'm not sure cannabis use will be in the long-term, either) but to call something a marriage that does not contain the basic paradox of a life-long commitment across gender lines seems too much like the intentional weakening of one of the foundation-stones of civilized society for me to roll over and accept.]

Where are the others of like mind with me? How can we forge an alliance committed to these portions of agendas present on the right and on the left but from a committed, wholistic-Christian moral philosophy, one that denounces for instance, a belief that "Fill the earth and subdue it" was a divine mandate for anything other than the responsible husbanding of our world? If nothing else had convinced me that politics contains at best only provisional answers to the problems facing humanity, and in my case, more-specifically, the population of Canada, the lack of this political alternative certainly did.

Are there any others of you out there? Is it reasonable to hope that there can be a political movement that works towards a "Christian Socialist" agenda?


So BC STV failed

Just shy of the 60% mark, but definitely winning out in most ridings, there is no mandate that the provincial government move ahead with STV -- but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't or that they won't.

I'll admit I wasn't always a booster, but by the time the vote came around, I really believed in it. And if you got there, too, perhaps you're wondering what next? Well I have a suggestion. Here's a letter I'm going to write to my newly re-elected MLA, Mr. Rich Coleman, Fort Langley-Aldergrove. I suggest you write something like it to your MLA. The more of our voices they hear, the more likely they are to pass it.

Failing that, I think there's a good chance that it could be written up as a ballot initiative. The bar for passing an initiative is bother lower and higher. 10% of all the voters in every riding need to sign a petition -- that's the higher part. And then the initiative needs to pass by 50% + 1 across the whole province. That's the lower part.

Norman Spector, Dave Barrett, Christy Clark and other such elitists said they thought the STV was a foolish idea, foolishly arrived at and foolishly presented to the people for a vote and to some extent I agree with them: after spending so much to arrive at it, why was so little spent on informing the public on the choice either way? Indeed nothing, to me, showed the value of the proposal more than the diversity on other points of political doctrine among those who agreed in support of or in opposition to BC STV. Still, I think that it's time for us, the Great Unwashed electorate, the Secret People (who have not spoken yet -- though we may not be of the same nationality as those whom Mr. Chesterton once referred to) to show that we didn't just like it enough to vote for it once, but to sign for it and to vote for it again.

So if you write a letter like the following to your MLA and he or she takes no notice, be on the look-out. That doorbell may be someone coming around with a petition (maybe me!) asking for you to join the 10% of the voters in your riding to sign up to put forward a ballot initiative. We'll get our STV yet -- and a much more honourable end it is than the one that Levesque and Parizeau forwarded unsuccessfully in Québec before us.

Dear Mr. Coleman,

I am writing to ask you and your party to introduce the BC STV plan as conceived by the Citizens Assembly, despite the fact that the referendum may not have reached its 60% threshold. Most of the people in your riding wanted it and though the bar for a mandated passage was set appropriately high, it would be shutting your ears against the desires of your constituents not to send it through the BC Legislature anyways.

If it does not get introduced and passed, it may yet become a ballot initiative and become law through other means. I commit myself to pursuing such ends and encouraging my friends, neighbours and relatives to do the same. This is a time for your party to show some leadership. Don't wait for us to bring about a ballot initiative. Introduce, pass and proclaim a bill instituting BC STV as the the way BC will elect its Legislature from now on. Either way, your electorate will remember whose interests you pursued now: ours or those of the Liberal Party. And either way, you can be sure, that later, when STV passes we will know how to reward you appropriately.


Arthur N. Klassen
xxx xxxx
xxxxxx, BC Vxx xxx
(address redacted)


Belinda Stronach, the latest Liberal

In response, I sent the following to letters@cbc.ca:
Why am I not surprised? Martin is only doing in Ontario what he was already doing, with more success than failure out here in BC. Welcome to the circle of the excessively ambitious, Ms. Stronach! You should have held out for more than Ms. Stewart's old gibbet.
So the fall of the government isn't quite so certain.


What's "Linux"? What's "Open Source"? What's "Free Software"?

There's a growing document describing the history of open source here. If you want to understand those sorts of things better, take a look. The chapters are short and readable and expose the details of the culture quite well -- especially at the price!


Response to kuro5hin article against Intelligent Design

Earlier today, slashdot posted this article regarding an OpEd piece on kuro5hin. What followed was an incredible storm of comments, counter-comments, accusations and counter-accusations. I couldn't resist adding my €0.02 worth under the subject line, "2000 fundamentalists and counting", thus:

I have read the article and I wish to make two criticisms of it. Then I wish to point out the absolute lack of well-reasoned dialogue on this point.

1. benna writes:

The premise of Intelligent Design is that the universe is so unimaginably complex and perfect that it must have been created by an intelligent designer.
Anyone catch the "gotcha"? What ID proponent is going to say that the universe is so "unimaginably... perfect"? This is a classic but cloaked "argumentum ad hominem - abusive": make ID'ers look like extremists so it's "obvious" to everyone that they're stupid before they even look at what is actually being said.

2. benna also cites a lack of ID articles in peer-reviewed journals as evidence that nobody in the "real" scientific community believes in ID.

This is a trifle circular. The tools used by those who oppose theistic explanations for the world (including ID) include belittling, caricaturizing, marginalizing, black-listing, not to mention monopolizing money and prestige to the exclusion of all other options from serious consideration. Faced with the scientistic forces arrayed against these bodies of ideas, is it any wonder that nobody who wants to be taken seriously later will give articles with an ID point of view serious attention? This is less about ideas "winning or losing" in the scientific marketplace and more about ideas being sand-bagged and informally kept from being heard in that marketplace.

If you don't believe this possible, look at what happened in a slightly different field to Immanuel Velikovsky when what he said didn't line up with accepted scientific orthodoxy in the fields Worlds in Collision and Ages in Chaos speak to -- whether or not you accept the contents of his books as reasonable alternative explanations.

As to my subject line: it seems that very few people can make a dispassionate, deal-with-the-facts comment on this subject either in favour of or in opposition to Intelligent Design. It struck me that there are more than one kind of fundamentalism and many slashdotters who would sooner die than be called fundamentalists merely suffer from fundamentalism in a different direction.


More on BC's proposed STV electoral reform

When it first came out, I thought it looked like a great idea. Later, after discussing it with some people I thought it wasn't such a great idea. Now, I'm leaning again to thinking it is a better system than what we currently have but I'm not sure that it's the best we could do.

I understand that some people in Ireland want to get rid of it but every time that comes to a ballot measure it gets put up against a re-run of FPTP (our current system) and people don't want to go back there.

For myself, I would have preferred a Mixed-Member proportional system -- leave the rural provincial ridings intact, use federal boundaries for the more urban areas and everyone votes twice: once for a local candidate and once for a list. I personally believe that the rural BCers who, at the constituent assembly asked that the proposed system be STV instead of MMP were, to some extent mistaken: their ostensible reason for choosing STV over MMP went something like this: "we want to know our candidate and not be voting for a slate". I think that with the STV system we're going to be voting on, their ridings will get so big that no group of people will know any one candidate enough that the "personal support" factor will be at all significant.

To me the biggest downside with STV is the way ridings will have to be consolidated to support it in the face of the rider on the constituent assembly's mandate: choose a new system with the same number of seats. This is probably less of an issue for really urban areas -- and maybe not much of an issue for the far-flung reaches, either. Some of the rural ridings are truly monstrous already.

But for me, in the Langley riding where I used to live, and the Fort Langley-Aldergrove riding where I now live, I can see local issues and local interests getting completely swamped in one direction or another, depending on how the consolidation takes place. Will these two ridings get lumped with three Surrey ridings? I can tell you that Langley's and Aldergrove's interests will not be well served in that case: those areas are far more urban and our voices will get lost in their shuffle. Or what if we're lumped in with Abbotsford and Chilliwack? That might be less disadvantageous but I wonder.

I think local issues everywhere but in the urban areas will be ill-served by this particular reform: MMP would have resulted in moderate riding consolidation that would have gotten no less granular than the federal ridings. But STV will result in there being about 15 or 20 ridings across the whole province. Think about it: your riding and up to four neighbouring ones will be consolidated. Is that what you want? Or your riding may be consolidated with others up to two or three ridings away from where you are. Is that what you want?

Still, I may be completely mistaken and STV is far better than what we have now: I'm going to vote "yes".

My only other concern is that it will be open to manipulation in ways that only the big political machines recognize yet. Gordon Gibson says that party politicians don't like STV: I suspect they're shamming but we'll only be able to find that out either way several elections AFTER we adopt STV.


Missing the message...

If there was a life message in John Paul II's papacy, in the sense that he was one of the biggest contributors to the fall of Communism, it was that authoritarian structures can not stand in the face of an ever-more-embraced truth. I believe that in many ways, the Catholic Church failed to understand that fact today.


Stop the Harp Seal Hysteria!

In response to this, I wrote them the following:

Unless you are a 100% organic vegetarian who grows all their own food, collects rainwater and distills it with solar energy and does entirely without the benefits of modern industrialized medicine, you have no moral high ground to oppose the harp seal hunt.

Just be quiet and go away, please. But I understand that that will take even more effort than it would to stop the hunt. So I wonder why I'm even bothering to send this. I don't know. Perhaps it's because I'm under the delusion that there may be a way to stop the mindless hysteria. I only wish.

These are not humans: they're seals! Okay, so they are extremely cute mammals. But once we realize that they are not humans -- unless of course we are complete vegans and all that as in the first paragraph, the issue shouldn't be how ugly their death looks but how long do they suffer and what will be the consequence if they are not hunted.

This last point is easy: they will over-run their habitat and cause all kinds of other problems.

As to how long they suffer, it's not significantly longer than the time a horse suffers when it gets shot as a form of euthanasia.

Oh, and there's also the factor of livelihood of the hunters, many of whom have no other source of income than this annual hunt. Unless you are willing to support them and their families, there's yet another reason why you should just be quiet and not criticize what you are reacting to emotionally -- not rationally at all.

I'm sorry, I'm trying to be respectful. I hope it worked but I have my doubts. Primarily emotional reactions which I have some reason to view as silly tend to bring out the pejorative in me.

In any event, please, you, respect my fellow Canadians and let them cull an otherwise over-abundant population, supply some folks with very warm coats and feed their families. You want "greater good"? There it is in plain sight if only you'd drop your placards long enough to see it.


Solution for puzzle of January 31 (longer than two weeks ago)



Headline Puzzle #2 -- solution to come in two weeks


Headline Puzzle rotate:

Solution for puzzle of January 17:


I don't know if anyone even tried to solve it, but I'll post another one a little later today.


More thoughts on "BC's Citizens Assembly recommends STV for plebiscite"

I'm not so sure now. After talking with friends and ruminating over the idea. A Citizen's Assembly has recommended an STV system for electing our unicameral legislature in BC, the vote to be held with the provincial government election in May. I'm having second thoughts about it. The concerns voiced from the northern representatives, that they wanted to "know their specific MLAs" doesn't wash now that I've thought further about it.

I would be happier if they had recommended a mixed-member-proportional system and I think it could have been done in such a way as to allow the "northerners" to "know their MLA" and more importantly, not to be rendered legislatively irrelevant by the far more populous south. Something along the following lines would have done the trick:

  1. Use the current federal riding boundaries as a basis.
  2. For ridings larger than some threshold size, split them in half (make the threshold large enough that this only happens for four or five über-rural ridings)
  3. Each voter ranks all the "riding" candidates and votes for one list ("proportional").
  4. "Riding" candidates are elected through STV as proposed.
  5. "List candidates" are sent to Victoria based on popular vote.
I think that would serve all sides better than what is going to be presented to the electorate in May.

The only remaining question is, will eventual "correction" of the system be easier if the current proposal passes now or if it is defeated? The $64,0000,000 question...


To understand all is to forgive all?

Today I understand a bit more why Dubya was so intent on taking Saddam down. I'm reading A Pretext for War (which, by the way, contains a fair bit of overlap with the later material in Body of Secrets) and Bamford's exposition of the plot against Bush Sr. and the rest of the Bush family when they came to Kuwait just after Clinton's inauguration made things a trifle clearer.

I understand now much better why he would be so motivated, and he has my sympathy though not my approval. Until now I was thinking it was no more than a little boy finishing what his Daddy started -- another honourable motive, but not a mature enough one for a national leader. And vengeance on someone who tried to kill your family is, at least in the eyes of most, also an honourable motive. My quibbles with that view aside, I submit that fulfillment of a personal vendetta should not be the animus behind the actions of any national leader.

In short, I can understand his actions, even forgive him as an individual for his actions and their reasons -- as far as that goes, to understand all is to forgive all. Still, I cannot exonerate those actions nor acclaim their reasons as valid.

26,000,000 people should not be made to pay for their tyrant's plans. Perhaps they will be better off in the end without Saddam at the helm. But democracy doesn't come by the barrel of the gun. It's a long slow process, a crop that needs to be sown -- and often re-sown many times -- that originally took centuries: like the time between the Magna Carta and the last time the British monarch over-rode the under-democratic House of Commons (Queen Anne, 18th century) -- that even took half a century with a much higher toll of blood in France. China's odyssey on that road is not yet done (farewell, Zhao, man before your time, such as you are never welcome in your own time).

But what about the post-colonial independence binge? There were some success stories there, but not very many. How many decades will it take before a government that looks democratic from the outside will take root in the Middle East? Military action hasn't brought that date nearer, and that you may tie to.


Someone's thinking clearly!

The Emperor's New Clothes -- The Emperor's New Mind -- now The Emperor's -- er, Pentagon's -- New Map (and sorry, Chapters, but you just didn't list it -- I tried to be a loyal Canadian but you thwarted me, here). The interview with Mr. Barnett on Morning Edition today is quite educational and worth a listen -- follow the first link. I've requested the book from my local library already -- okay, so I'm cheap! :)


Headline puzzle anyone? (I apologize -- the former version was wrong. Sorry, folks, still learning...)


Solution to be posted in this space, 31-Jan or so.


Blogger-blogging by e-mail

What a disappointment! I sent some mail to my blogger and the lag-time in getting here completely defeats the purpose of using such a feature. I guess I'll be logging in instead of e-mailing here. I sent a test-post to my blog (now deleted since its content was so VERY pithy -- not) by e-mail on the 10th of January but didn't make it to my blog until this morning, the 14th. Not a very useful feature, I'm afraid. Oh well. I said this blog thing was something I wanted to "test". This time the test failed. sigh...


What is the Meatrix?

Okay, so it's old, but someone posted it past me again and it was worth watching again. Grain of salt not included.