Metroblog

A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

24 January 2006


Oh Well


And we have another minority government. All for the best considering who's leading it.

Anyway, this great statesman won by an even slimmer margin than his predecessors, so he'd better have something spectacular planned if he wants to be more than a one-term PM. This all depends on what devil deal he's willing to make with the Bloc Quebecois.

The BQ and Conservatives may not look as though they have much in common on the surface, but if one looks deeper there are parallels. They're both known for a certain "unreconstructed" element, which expresses itself in racism and bitter suspicion of anything that looks community-driven (such as welfare, the medical plan, trade unions). They're both regional parties: the BQ for well, you know, and the Conservatives representing mostly Alberta.

But there's hope. Before the election, the BQ didn't seem willing to work with anybody. Here's to the continuation of a proud tradition.

I tried, by the way, to align that picture to the centre, but it would only align hard right. And is it my imagination, or does that salute look familiar?

If we can keep him from dragging us into various US enterprises (Iraq, the Facile--I mean Missile--Defence, and PATRIOT Act domestic espionage) we might make it through this next five years okay.

But don't put away your voter registration cards just yet. Harper's predecessors lasted nine months with a bigger minority than he has.







21 January 2006

Maybe I'll Be Washing My Hair


Or burping my Tupperware, or stacking my books alphabetically by size and number of letters in the name of the author's hometown.

But no, I guess I'll have to vote anyway.

For this is where I stand. From the most balanced and reasonable of perspectives the Liberals have fallen victim to the Gomery Inquiry and associated sleaze, despite most of the major players having long since vanished over the horizon. This is largely the work of Paul Martin, a man with little charisma, and a tendency to look guilty and desperate at the best of times. His campaign has been a shambles, tending towards fear-mongering and pleading.

The Conservatives have tried to keep a lot of their candidates out of the limelight--one is forced to wonder if this is because they might be unreconstructed Reform candidates. Stephen Harper has the bland uncharisma of a loaf of bread, and has introduced both far-right-wing politics and seriously nasty campaigning to Canada. I'd love to thank him appropriately, but the stores are out of feathers and the Albertans are busy squeezing oil from the tar.

The NDP--well, Jack Layton is sounding somewhat reasonable with his "Vote for us just this once, we won't let you down" campaign, but it's not exactly inspiring. Nor is the vision of the NDP. Like the Conservatives, I find their platform a little less than what I'd hoped for, and a good deal more like I fear.

The Green Party. My conscience would probably drop my "X" here. But in my riding I'd have a much better chance with the NDP if I want to deny the Conservatives the seat. Last election the Cons won by a mere one hundred or so votes.

The others: Christian Heritage Party? We fortunately seem to have no candidate this year. Marxist-Leninist? It's sometimes known as Communist Party II (or I, depending on when you joined and the year they split). And our two independents just don't show up on the radar. One of them's a one-plank-platform law-and-order campaigner and that's all I know.

So, given that we appear to be in for a minority Conservative government, how should I make best use of my vote? Vote my heart, content in providing both moral and financial support to my party of choice? Or should I strategize, and vote with someone I believe can beat the person(s) I don't want representing me?

More on this anon.







19 January 2006

Does Anyone Else Find This as Scary as I Do?


Stephen Harper made remarks a day and two ago that signal to me the type of government he wishes to put in place here.

He was attempting to clarify why socially liberal Canadians should vote for him, even if this risks putting in a majority Conservative government, which would of course have the power to legislate without needing to compromise. On Tuesday he said that such a government would be restrained by the civil service, the Senate, and the courts. Frightening enough on its own.

But then:
Harper was asked by reporters to clarify his remarks from Tuesday that a Tory majority wouldn't wield power unfettered because of the Liberal-dominated Senate, and a civil service and judiciary that have been put in place by the Liberals.

"We have no alternative but to accept the checks; they're part of our system," Harper said in Toronto.

Judges, even though they are appointed by the government, are "independent, there's no doubt about that," he said.

From CBC

Say what, Mr. Harper? If you get elected the only thing that'll hold you in check is the judiciary?

What exactly about your plans do you think Canadians might dislike so much that they have to rely on the courts to stop you?

The only thing more pathetic than the current Liberal campaign (splashing about and making noise like a drowning man, and for much the same reason) is the idea that through apathy and default, we might get the Conservatives. For the love of whatever beard-in-the-sky you believe in, vote on Monday.

If we're really lucky, maybe we'll get the Marijuana Party. They make a lot more sense than either Martin or Harper, and at least we'd have the proper perspective to appreciate it all.







17 January 2006

Sigh


Well I had to address the question sometime, and 3:30 AM is as good a time as any.

My lungs woke me, following a bout of rapid sneezing. Now I'm just waiting for the Advair to open the pipes again.

The question I refer to is of course: Who do I vote for? I mean, I have to vote for someone, right?

Do I have to? Well no. But the alternative is irresponsible--even spoiling my ballot isn't a valid choice unless I really don't give a crap what sort of country my Canada is going to be.

Of course, if I do give a crap, I'm quite likely to be disappointed. The governing Liberal Party has been dogged by corruption, scandal, and a ruthless desire to stay in power that has laid bare the greed and lust in Parliament.

The New Democratic party is non-viable as a government, and in any case hasn't a hope in hell of forming one, since they can't capture even 30% of the votes.

The Bloc Quebecois isn't running in my riding, and in any case is a morally bankrupt single-issue party whose purpose is not to actually achieve sovereign independence for Quebec, but rather to have a tantrum until Ottawa hands over more money--Transfer payments (the Canadian government's way of sharing out revenue) are proportionally higher to Quebec than to any other province.

That's the main parties. There are others; my own top favourite is the Green Party, which is at least a sincere and earnest political machine. So why not vote for the greens and be done with it?

Ah, well that's where the strategy comes in. Y'see, Canada is running a 50%-plus-one-wins-all system, known as "first past the post" or FPTP. And although I used to wholeheartedly support changing this to some form of single transferrable vote (STV) system, I have changed my mind.

STV systems are notorious for giving up minority governments, and upon viewing the political hornswoggling, pre-campaigning and disgraceful maneuvering that Paul Martin's Liberals had to go through to cling to power in the last Parliament, I've decided that the cruder system is likely more effective. If it produces more majority governments, then I'm okay with that.

Not that I necessarily want one of those either. Some of the folks who want power in this country scare the hell out of me. It says something that in a happy and mostly contented country people are ready to turf a not-terribly-bad government in favour of a right-wing idealogue (Disclaimer--you know my biases Watson, apply them).

Which is where strategic voting comes in. I can vote for one of my favourites, knowing that I may just be casting an ineffective vote that will in the end go down with my candidate. Or I can ponder and plan to hold my nose and vote for someone I think will have a chance of defeating the person I don't want elected. But the one thing I cannot do is sit on the sidelines.

I have a responsibility to vote, as do all of us. If you're reading this and saying "well I don't vote because (insert namby-pamby excuse here)" then kindly go get stuffed. I'm wasting my time talking to you. If you don't voice your opinion by voting, things will only get worse. Hell, they may get worse anyway. But if we're standing around together and you're bitching about the government in this country, and I ask you if you voted in the last election, you only get to continue bitching if you answer with a clear, firm "yes". Otherwise hold your tongue.

At the moment I have three clear options:

1) Vote for my favourite party.
Advantage: the sunny feeling of having properly exercised my democratic franchise, the outside chance that my candidate may win, and the possibility that in a minority government my opinion, voiced through the narrow margins of victory, will be telegraphed to the federal party leaders and thus the government. Disadvantages: the possibility that I may accidentally contribute to a majority government from the wrong party by failing to support a strong candidate into opposition, along with the commensurate but independent risk of "wasting" my ballot and not having my opinions count for anything at all.

2) Vote for the big machine that has a shot at actually forming government. This means choosing either the Liberal or Conservative candidate in my riding. Adantage: far more likely odds of my choice forming the government. Disadvantages: a) the idea that the Liberals won't get the hint, won't recognize how disgusted I have become with them and b) the odds that the country might get highjacked by the current US Chief Executive(because a vote for Stephen Harper is, so far as I can tell, a vote for GWB).

3) Spoil my ballot--not valid for reasons above. Or throw my vote out the window by picking some loony fringe party such as the Christian Heritage group, who want to turn Canada into a theocracy such as the US is becoming.

As I write this, I realize that I'm pissed at Stephend Harper not only for being the small, venial, overweeningly ambitious, disingenuous creep I think he is but for, by being a grasping, power-hungry, zealot, forcing me to go to the polls three years early.

And I'm pissed off at Paul Martin not only for being the small, venial, unambitious, gutless creep I think he is but for, by virtue of being a weak man with the moral character and intestinal fortitude of cardboard, forcing me to go to the polls three years early.

My next couple of posts will cover "Voting and How to Cope With Having to do It Again Only Eighteen Months After Having to do It Last Time" and "The Parties: Everything a Responsible Voter Needs to Know About Who's Running, How They Want to Screw [Up] the Country, and Why You Should/n't Let Them." If I get all that done, I'll add a post on who I'm leaning toward and why.

Right now I'm signing off and going back to bed. And if you're up late reading this, so should you be too.







16 January 2006

As I Said Just a Post Ago


I love the fact that a Taiwanese research group has created green pigs. Still, in the interests of safety, I feel it might be best if these porkers stayed in the lab rather than the lunchbox. After all, we have no idea what sorts of genetic manipulation were entailed. All those proteins in a row, how'd those people make them glow? Did they cross them with a dog? Did they cross them with a frog? I will not eat them here or there, I will not eat them anywhere.

Pending the results of further research and the creation of green eggs.







15 January 2006

Dead Puppies and Other Great Ideas

The SO and I were driving around the other day, and we passed a Petcetera store. I had recently read of the fluorescent green pigs bred by a researcher in Taiwan. This gave me an idea.

How many pets are purchased around Christmas or birthday times, only to be cruelly abandoned once they outgrow the cuteness of kittenhood, puppyhood, or even baby-walrushood?

Lots, so saith SAVE. I can hardly imagine the misery of those animals, taken in, briefly loved; only to be thrown away when they no longer fit in the rent-controlled apartment, or into their owners' lives.

So why not breed puppies and kittens genetically engineered to die at one year old? They'd stay cute and adorable, then at the scheduled time they'd pass quietly on and you could have a bit of a cry and then go and get another cute, fuzzy thing.

I forsee terrific marketing opportunities: why not a puppy that changes colour as it approaches its expiry date? It would start out green, like a young leaf, see? Then it would progress through yellow to red, darkening to purple and finally black--an entirely respectful and appropriate shade for what comes next. Or kittens with little expiry dates tattooed into their ears.

When I explained this idea to the SO she told me I was deeply sick.

Personally, I'd like to see a genetically engineered dwarf elephant crossed with a Chameleon and a parrot. I'd train it to sit still, concealed in park shrubbery, until one of these professional dog-walkers with a hundred dogs and a fluorescent vest wobbled by. Then I'd get it to leap out of its hiding place and yell "sic 'im!"

Y'Wanna See Something Sick?

There are people starving in Africa. The United States has been taken over by radical right-wingers and Canada looks set to follow. These are dark days indeed.

Yet instead of applying their ingenuity to the improvement of the lot of humankind, somewhere out there an engineer is pushing his brain through a creative process which leads to a toaster with a built-in radio like this:

I'd be less disturbed if this thing reminded me less of my old Red Dwarf
pal Talkie Toaster. Pics here and here (the second one is the rebuilt first one, following an unfortunate accident with a garbage disposal).

But really, I can sort of get behind that one. The one that just blows my mind, the one which fits neatly into a massive open gulf in marketing is this one.

The Disney Corporation seems to feel they're missing out on the enormous number of Princess-obsessed girls aged four to ten who also want to buy a toaster. I mean, the thing even spits out toast with the unsinged image of a glass slipper on it.


Yeah the pics are rough--whaddaya want from a cell phone?

So I Can't Patent My Great Idea For A Princess Toaster

Or even a Princess Phone-remember them?

But speaking of toasters--I had a great idea for a snack food: the Donair sandwich: Basically it's a donair between two slices of bread. Or the Pizza Donair--a whole pizza rolled up in a huge pita.

Hey--where're ya goin'? You haven't heard about my caramel-watermelon-on-a-stick idea yet!







09 January 2006

And They Call This Justice?



So this is how it works:
About 1997 Robert Harrison was hired to cut down protected trees in Pacific Spirit Park. Harrison was a cocaine addict and claims to have been offered $5,000 for the job that he never actually recieved.

For his part in the deaths of 34 trees, Harrison received a conditional 9-month sentence, 18 months probation and 50 hours' community service.

His employer, who allegedy paid Harrison and two others to cut the trees, was Jacqui Cohen, owner of the Army & Navy store chain (nice place, I shop there myself). She paid $50,000. It seems as though she disliked the fact that her family mansion had dropped in value from $7.5 million to $5.9 million and decided to open up the view by clearing the obstructing trees. She told investigators that her home "just happened to be across the street" and denied knowledge of the cutting. Doubtless the fact that she was negotiating the sale of the property at the time didn't figure.

Cohen received no time, and the current value of her now-ex home is unknown. But I raise this story to make a point.

June Matheson, already a rich woman, also decided to improve the view from her home. She deliberately and with malice aforethought went to the US to purchase a poison with which to kill the trees. She bored holes in the trunks, poured in the poison, and went home, happy in the knowledge that her property value was climbing.

After an investigation costing the taxpayer many thousands of dollars, and an expensive prosecution her "punishment" is that same $50,000. Not even a fine, but a voluntary payment to the Parks Board, who admittedly have declared themselves satisfied.

My question is: Do you think the value of her home increased by more or less than 50K for having a view of English Bay?

So if you're a mansion-owner, $50 K solves all. If you happen to be a coke addict, you'll get a sentence and a (longer) record. Now if the value of your water-view home rises to $1.69 million from its former value, what percentage of that is 50 K?

Three percent. That's what it is. And remember, it's not a fine. It's $30 thou in "replacement cost" and a $20,000 donation to the Parks Board. There's no penalty here beyond the poor woman feeling badly about now having a home with no view.

So the logic is, if you need someone to commit a crime, hire a rich, old person. They clearly have nothing to lose.







07 January 2006

So Welcome to the New Year


And boy is it a mess so far, eh?

Latest headlines seem to indicate that Stephen Harper's Conservatives are leading the Liberals 33% to 31%, and that the New Democrats are following along with 17%.

Well, adding that up, we get 81%, which seems wrong. There's some 9% missing, no? So where do these figures come from?

Well, for a start there's the poll itself. The sample size was 1500. This means that if fifteen people were a)dishonest, b)confused, or c)loonies that the poll carries a 1% error.

{Disclaimer: I don't like the current incarnation of Conservatism in Canada, and I think one might need to be a),b) and c) to vote for 'em. But I tip my hat to the sincerity of some of 'em.}

But we need not even consider that idea, since the poll by its own admission has a margin of 2.5 percent. So 37½ people could be counted incorrectly through one reason or another.

Expand this to a nation of 35 million people. That might mean (assuming that some 30 million are old enough to vote) that three-quarters of a million people might be incorrectly assumed to be planning to vote for the Great Blue Hope.

I mean, let's consider the current composition of parliament. Of 308 seats the Liberals hold 133. Not a majority government, but close enough if they hold the support of a few other party members.

The Conservatives (who should really find another name--the Progressive Conservatives of yore look as much like this Bush-lovin' bunch of puckered prunes as a bear looks like breakfast) hold 98.

The New Democratic Party, Canada's last vestige of the socialism that helped make this country the envy of the world holds just 18 seats, but in the last parliament they managed to swing a club out of all proportion to their popularity by giving or witholding their support as a voting bloc.

And that's it.

Oh--wait! No it isn't! You see, Quebecers get many things with their "sovereignty association" deal (the deal by which the ties that bind Canada in a federation stay loose when they cross the Ontario border), including a fourth party to vote for, coincidentally called the Bloc Quebedois. In the current parliament they hold 53 seats.

That's right--53. Population-wise that number of seats is no longer representative, but so be it, mm-hmm? Not bad for a one-trick pony.

So in Parliament, the Libs have 43% The Cons hold 32%, the NDP just under 6% and the Bloc 17% (The remaining 2% is accounted for by the four independant MPs and the two vacant seats). This doesn't match the poll at all.

Now this doesn't necessarily translate into voter support. But Ontario, with the greatest number of legislative seats (again, no longer proportionate to current population distribution) is traditional Liberal territory, so they could win Ontario and BC only and still keep the lead in Parliament.

By the by, I once voiced strong support for proportional representation and the idea of the single trasferrable vote system. Unfortunately, while I'm still into prop-rep, I'm coming away from the STV idea.

Y'see, it seems as though places with STV are prone to minority governments, and if the past eighteen months are any indication, a minority government can't do squat, especially if it tries to do anything unpopular. This is a recipe for bread-and-circus tossing parliaments without strength to do the unpleasant things such as wage wars, cut budgets, and settle unpleasant historical matters such as Chinese head taxes.

I said we'd look into the election platforms and promises of each party in more depth, but we'll start tomorrow. It's a long job.

My problem is raising any enthusiasm at all. The Liberals have had their hand deep into the cookie jar for too long, but the Conservatives would turn us into Little America, complete with Missile Defence Shield and a Department of Fatherland Insanity, no doubt. The NDP haven't got a rainmaker's chance in hell, and I don't have a Bloc-head running in my distinctly Anglophone riding.

I didn't want this election (which was foisted on us by the NDP's pouting at being told where to stick their demand to keep all healthcare 100% public and ban all else, and by Stephen Harper's growing desperation to be prime minister). But if I have to vote for someone I need to evaluate their positions.

Sigh.

Today's music is a tune called "Male Stripper" by a group called Man2Man.







03 January 2006

Happy New Year And All That.



How stupid can television get? Well until they come up with "All George Bush Jr., all the time!" here's my nominee:

The SO and I spent New Year's at her Mum's place this year--or technically last year I guess. We recovered on January first '06 by lounging on the sofa watching an eloquent classic: Bruce Lee's "Fists of Fury"--in which Lee, in 1930-something trashes a temple-school and in the process beats the crap out of a white dude with disco hair--worth seeing in itself.

There's nothing wrong with FOF, it's a classic of the genre (said genre being dubbed movies with terrific action which might as well have stayed in Chinese). FOF spawned at least two sequels, the third actually stars one "Bruce Li" in the title role. But also drawing on the show is "Fists of Legend", starring Jet Li. FOL follows FOF almost slavishly: Japanese occupation, Chinese student returns to his old temple school, takes on succession of bad guys in order to create good video game premise.

We were watching FOL on the "Spike" television network, who clearly value their shows in testosterone points rather than Neilsen points. Now I quite like Spike--it's one of the first places I ever saw Ed the Sock--a show with surprising soul in between happily overloaded bikini tops.

But oh boy did they blow it. In the middle of Jet Li's big battle with the biggest bad guy . . . you won't believe this . . . they cut to a ₤µ€λin' commercial!

They're so lucky I don't have cable at home--I would deliberately not watch them for weeks and weeks.