Canadian politics, Rob Ford, Uncategorized

The Press Releases Begin to Fly…

The following just arrived in my inbox. The battle lines are being drawn…

Friends,

This is a sad day for the City of Toronto. As a Torontonian, and as a City Councillor for more than 20 years, it pains me to see the City of Toronto in the situation we currently face, and to see Council and the City of Toronto cast in this light on national television.

It is very unfortunate that the City and its residents have once again been thrown into such a state of uncertainty.

The Mayor of Toronto has a profound credibility problem. He is going to have to face Torontonians, and Council.

Our City deserves better.

Sincerely,

Councillor Joe Mihevc

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Canadian politics, general silliness, justice, law, Lying douchebags, Past indiscretions biting you in the ass, Rob Ford, Self-righteous asshole, The Centre of the Universe

The Ford Follies

As most people in the free world are by now aware, the Mayor of our beloved T’ranna, Rob (Are You Gonna Finish That?) Ford has been bullying his way through scandal after potential scandal on pure bluster and the careful construction of a facade of fiscal responsibility. While I will admit he has had some positive financial effect on the expenditures of the city, a few – shall we say, cracks – have now begun showing in his facade.

In fact, police are now in possession of a video which purports to show the Pilsbury Dough Mayor smoking crack – a video that was the subject of a crackstarter Kickstarter campaign to raise money to purchase said video from certain unscrupulous types. Which, it must be said, seem to be Mayor Ford’s preferred choice of constituents.

This promises to be the most horrible Halloween the Ford family has ever seen. Seriously, there’s being a bit shady, then there is participating in criminal activity and associating with known criminals, as the evidence purports to show. Mayor Ford is an oaf and a bully and is poised to make Toronto even more of a laughingstock than it already is to the rest of the country.

He needs to resign immediately, but he won’t unless he is forced, because he is determined to retain power in his sweaty, pudgy hands by any means necessary. Soon, he’ll come out swinging, because despite his repeated “No comment” in the past few days, he doesn’t have the intelligence or sophistication to rein himself in for long. Soon the attacks will begin and the implications of a conspiracy against him will be made (The Toronto Star made me do it!); what will not happen is his taking responsibility for anything that has or will happen. Like any common thug, he will resort to bluster to obscure the truth.

Despite his limited but significant successes as Mayor, he deserves none of the support he currently enjoys. For such a big man, he’s an awfully small man – too small to be Mayor of Canada’s biggest city.

Image

As your Mayor, I feel strongly that… Wait, is that crack? 

Addendum: Oh boy, the fun has already started! 

Uncategorized

The most important question(s) of the day:

Will Rob Ford’s crack smoking video knock Mike Duffy’s expense scandal off the top of the wires?  Which story is worse for the Conservative establishment?  How’s that convention going, anyway?

Conservatives, labour, unions

Right to work… for less

As the Conservative Party of Canada skulks from Ottawa to the friendlier confines of their heartland for their party convention, right to work legislation is going to be one of the top items for discussion.

At its core, right to work legislation allows workers in unionized workplaces to opt out of union membership and paying union dues. It is promoted as freeing employees from the 50, 80, or 100 bucks they are “forced” to pay per month to their union, but it’s real intent is obvious: to starve the union of members and cash.

At the risk of sounding like a cliche from a Billy Bragg song, the power of a union is the power manifest in organizing workers together as a bargaining collective. Both union membership and union funds are necessary for workers to be reasonably represented. Workers negotiating as a group have greater power, which offsets the greater economic power of the employer.  Union dues, in turn, are needed for strike benefits, legal representation, contract negotiators, etc., as well as for union administration and staffing. It is a far from ideal system, but balanced adversity is manifested in other aspects of governance and jurisprudence and at least to this point is not the worst way to operate.

Union membership has been on a general decline in Canada for decades, a trend which would be worse if not for the union membership of the public sector where, as of 2012, membership is about 75% versus 17% in the private sector. The Conservative plan is nothing less than an attempt to further hasten the erosion of union protection for workers in Canada and it must be stopped. In future posts, I will look in greater detail what “right to work” has in store for us if implemented. (Hint, it’s not hard to find out; a variety of Republican-governed states are already experimenting for us.)

Lighter Things, Stephen Harper

Happy Halloween

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Happy Halloween. Or Solstice. Or whatever it is that you call Free Candy Day. For those of you who still haven’t decided on a costume yet I offer this simple, easy to throw together suggestion.  You probably don’t have enough time to make the Death Star accessory  for this year though.

military

The Door’s Over There. It’s The One Under The Green Bus

If Mike Duffy can hang on for a little over one more year he’ll qualify for a senate pension. He may well have to resign before he’s charged with fraud but if he times it right a monthly cheque from the government will be secure and he can reacquaint himself with that place he’s supposed to be a senator from. If he and the Conservative party had been a little more stringent in their views on expense accounts then that pesky legal issue  wouldn’t have been a problem and his reward for being a CPC shill would have been a pension that, while it may not keep all the wolves from the door, will at least thin out the pack a bit.  Of course, as a Senator’s time in office grows so does his pension. Eventually that wolf pack will go find someone else to trouble.

Now, lets compare that to how the government treats the members of it’s armed forces. It’s a reasonable pension, if they let you stick around to get it. Which they are apparently not all that willing to do if they can help it, according to the Globe and Mail. And it’s not just the two guys in the Globe’s article. Stories of DND and Veteran’s affairs screwing over it’s wounded and injured members are available by the job lot. The telling bit is the quote from Mike Blais near the end of the story. He puts the blame for pushing out mentally or physically damaged servicemen on National Defence Headquarters and their drive to make the party in power happy with how much money they can save, and he’s right. The Generals that run the show have always had an unseemly anxiousness to be patted on the head by the PM for saving a few dollars. So it comes as no surprise to me that they if they see a chance to save a few bucks on the pension plan they’ll take it.  And I’m a former serviceman myself. I believe that you should be able to do what is frequently a very physically demanding job and if you can’t, it’s time to find something else to do.  Now that I’ve said all that, I also believe that if the job that the government tells you that you have to be willing to die to have breaks you, at any point in your service, then they owe you a lot more than a serviceman’s lapel pin and writing  you off as a bad investment.

christians, Conservatives, creationism, culture, education, evolution, media, politics, racism, religion, religious right, Republicans, Things We Should Know, Uncategorized

It’s Not the End of the World

His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget, whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again, and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself — that was the ultimate subtlety; consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.

-George Orwell, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”

To those of you thoughtful (or at least conscious) enough to recognize the process described above, you probably have asked the same question I have: How do people who, for the most part, seem outwardly rational and functioning members of society, believe some of the political or religious ideology that has been spoon-fed to them? Many of the ideas espoused by extremists of all stripes are demonstrably false, so how can people go on believing them?

As far back as 1956, behavioural scientists have published studies dealing with this question – that year, Leon Festinger published When Prophecy Fails, a book that described the reactions of individuals faced with the by now quite common phenomenon of the world continuing on without ending. The individuals were members of an apocalyptic cult who had given away all of their belongings and waited upon the figurative mountaintop for the end of the world, which never came. How did these people deal with the fact that their beliefs, and the actions that followed their beliefs, had been proven unequivocally incorrect? Surprisingly, the cult members’ beliefs intensified, and they began proselytizing even more fervently.

This phenomenon was described by Festinger and his co-investigators as a type of cognitive dissonance, which occurs under specific circumstances:

1. The belief must be held with deep conviction and be relevant to the believer’s actions or behavior.

2. The belief must have produced actions that are difficult to undo.

3. The belief must be sufficiently specific and concerned with the real world such that it can be clearly disconfirmed.

4. The disconfirmatory evidence must be recognized by the believer.

5. The believer must have social support from other believers.

So to create the increased fervor, the members of the group must actually recognize that the evidence is against them. The social support of the other believers is crucial to the continuance of faith in what has clearly been disproven.

So, let’s apply this to those that myself and other authors here on the ‘Kog often find ourselves at odds with: Tea Partiers, religious fanatics, Conservatives, conservatives (note size of ‘c’), climate/evolution/science deniers, racists, alt med zealots, and so on. Our frustration in large part comes not from the fact that people have a particular belief; that’s their right in a democracy and none of us would have it any other way. The frustration arises (for me, at least) from the individuals’ dogged adherence to beliefs and customs that have been clearly shown through evidence to be non-productive, simply false, or even patently absurd – no amount of discussion or clarification will budge them from their metaphoric hilltops. As long as they have the security of knowing that others share their beliefs, they can cover themselves in that fact as with a warm blanket and weather any storms we may visit upon them.

Kinda makes you think, don’t it? Considering this over the past few days, I have recognized my own tendency to dig my heels in and push when encountering opposition; recognized also my quite literal anger at people who refuse to change their minds despite whatever evidence I may bring to bear. I have realized that I will quite clearly never change their minds or cause them to alter their behaviour one bit, just as their arguments won’t change me in the least. Engaging with the zealot on his own terms requires you to become a zealot, to attack the individual and react emotionally to the ‘ignorance’ you must crusade against. I have personally seen this in myself, and walked away grumbling from my computer, my day ruined by my ideological opposite number who has drawn me into reacting emotionally.

But, no more – evidence is evidence, and truth is truth despite some people’s objections to it. Some acts are just and some are unjust, and some ideologies deserve the time and energy that can be committed to teaching and learning different perspectives… And some, as much as my brain craves closure and victory, are not. The secret to creating and maintaining an online persona that carries some weight and the appearance of validity, as I see it, is recognizing the difference. Some people cannot and will not be convinced, so wasting the effort to try is folly. So, I shall no longer feed the trolls. I expect my blood pressure will be better overall as a result.

If you are so motivated, I’d love to hear some discussion of your experiences in the comments. I want this to be the start of a great conversation, not the end.