Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fun with Fractions: Cabinet Shuffle Edition

Previous: 7/31=23%
Current: 11/38=29%

Stephen Harper: “Okay, I’ll add more women to my cabinet, but only if I can add almost as many more dudes.”

Had he kept to his previous cabinet size and appointed women instead of men:


Believe it or not, my beef isn’t with Harper on this one (well, not completely). He’s not the one out there trumpeting the increased representation of women in his cabinet. He and his party are very open about their stance on women’s equality, which is that they don’t give a flying prairie oyster about it.

But at the very least, maybe media outlets could do a little math (gasp!) to put things into context. Pretty please?


Stupid arguments against electoral reform - Part II - "It's too complicated"

Okay, straight up – BC-STV is more complicated than first-past-the-post. There’s rankings, and transfers, and mathematical equations, oh my! But my issue is with the argument that this automatically makes BC-STV a less desirable electoral system.

It’s based on the premise that simple is always preferable to complicated. Now, simplicity may be a virtue when it comes to some things (the instructions that come with IKEA furniture), but it may not be the best course of action in other cases (“Cancer, eh? Chemotherapy is awfully complicated. Here, have a milkshake.”)

The fact is, there are plenty of times in life where we opt for complicated over simple because it gives us better results. It may be something as important as cancer treatments, or as simple as what’s for dinner (“Hmm, pasta with pesto and sautéed vegetables? Naw, I’ll just eat flour out of the bag.”)

But Floyd, some people might say, simple might not always preferable to complicated in every circumstance, but it is when it comes to electoral systems.

And to them, I say – well, why stop at first-past-the-post, then? There are, after all, even simpler systems out there, and by that logic, they are better. After all, with first-past-the-post, there are multiple names on the ballot – wouldn’t it be simpler to just have one? Or, keep the multiple names, but skip the whole “counting” part.

Again, it comes back to the same point – it’s not what’s simpler or more complicated, but what gets the best results. So if someone tells me, “The best results are declining voter turnout, governments elected by less than 40% of voters, millions of people feeling their votes are wasted”, then I tell them I guess they’ll want to stick with first-past-the-post.

But, when someone tells me, “I’m not voting for BC-STV, it’s too complicated!”, my only response is, “I’m voting for BC-STV because first-past-the-post is too simple to produce truly democratic results that accurately reflect the diversity of the electorate.”

And then I direct them to this cartoon which explains BC-STV. Simply.

Related Posts:

Stupid arguments against electoral reform - Part I

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From the Archives - October Rocks

In honour of my favourite month - a blast from my blogging past.

October Rocks

UPDATE - thanks to Scooter for the heads-up on the current weather conditions in O-town.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Laws of Traffic vs. the Laws of Physics

As I subtly alluded to in a previous post, one of the many things that I am still readjusting to upon my return to Vic City is the complete and utter faith pedestrians have here in the reflexes, attention span and general good-nature of drivers.

Living downtown means I don't do a lot of driving, which is probably a good thing, because years of living in O-town means that I am simply not used to pedestrians taking their lives into their own hands like this. Maybe it's the close proximity to Montreal (where, according to a recent study of my own anecdotal data and third-hand horror stories, being hit by a car while on the sidewalk is the second-leading cause of death, behind only choking on a frozen Joe Louis). Maybe it's the fact that crosswalks were obscured for half the year. Maybe it's the fact that nobody walked anywhere (which was certainly true based on my three years of living in the 'burbs, where DD and I were often the ONLY pedestrians, especially in the ginormous strip mall which was, in all fairness, actually three strip malls in a row, but still, people, do you really need to drive 150m from the Loblaws to the Wal-Mart? Do you? Really? You do? Yeah? ...okay, then.)

And certainly, my few brief months in France left me no more trusting in the driver-pedestrian relationship, either. (Although it did leave me a few pounds heavier and with a good appreciation of grocery store wine and unpasteurized cheeses, so we'll call that one a win.)

Now, let me be clear - it's not that I dispute the legal right-of-way of pedestrians. It's just that I put my faith in the laws of physics over the laws of traffic. The latter gives pedestrians right of way. The former allows me to predict the winner when "metallic structure moving at high velocity" takes on "soft, fleshy object". And this certainly dictates how I pedestrianate...pedestriage...pedest...walk around.

And, again, I do quite a bit of this. And Vic City has crosswalks EVERYWHERE. And when I come to one, I continue to be amazed at the consistency with which even three lanes of traffic will all come to halt when I approach the street. Quite honestly, it freaks me the hell out. How did they know I wanted to cross the street before I even made it to the crosswalk? Who are these people? WHY YOU WATCHING ME?????

So, it's been an adjustment from both sides. Yet even as I continue to get back into the "pedestrians ARE going to step out right in front of you, so you better start braking as soon as you see one, just in case" style of driving, I hope I never slip into that category of pedestrian. After all, I remain a soft, fleshy object.

At least until I save up enough for that custom-made titanium exoskeleton. Then it's jaywalk city, my friends.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stupid arguments against electoral reform - Part I

We in Soviet Canuckistan like to act all shocked and dismayed at the flawed U.S. system, shaking our heads sadly at the poor dears who, in 2008, elected a president who earned 47.9% of the popular vote, compared to his opponent's 48.4%. Many's the person (my person included) who has sadly and smugly sighed that the U.S. isn't a real democracy.

Well, the joke's on us, and has been on us a long time. At least Bush got 48% of the American people to vote for him. Our current Prime Minister was supported by just over a third of Canadian voters - 37.6% - with voter turnout at an all-time low.

And in all fairness to the man in blue, he's not the only PM to win this way - in fact, he's the norm, not the exception. In 2000, Jean Chrétien earned 3% more of the popular than Stevie this time around, but this gave him his third majority government. Go back to 1951 - 41.4% of the vote meant a majority of seats for Mackenzie King - although his own wasn't among them, having lost in the riding of Prince Albert (shout out to my peeps in P.A.!).

Now, maybe this doesn't bother some people...but it pisses me right the hell off. Like a lot of people, it strikes me as fundamentally undemocratic that the preferences of voters get so distorted through our system. And, on a more basic, kindergarten-esque level - it's just damn unfair.

Now 57% might be enough to elect a a government, but not enough to change the way we elect that government. But here's the thing - in just under seven months, the people of Beautiful British Columbia are getting another crack at changing the way our electoral system works.

I'm going to come right out and say it - I want this. I want it so bad that not only can I taste it, I have entire imaginary meals out of proportional representation topped off with a collaborative politics dessert, and topped with a tall, refreshing glass of increased voter engagement. Mmmm...democraticalicious...

But - and this astonishes and angers me - there's voter turnout sinking like a stone, antagonistic partisan politics that take the 'us vs. them' mentality to new heights of middle school cliqueness, (if middle schoolers took out ads trashing about each other on national TV), with so many orphan voters and wasted votes - and some people are absolutely fine with this. The chance for change is coming soon and they're not going to take it.

After thinking about it a bit (specifically, the time between performances on So You Think You Can Dance Canada), I came to a conclusion about the best, and easiest way, for me explain why electoral reform is so awesome that it makes my heart develop many boners. I'm going to start adding to the list of reasons I've heard against electoral reform, and take each of them, one at a time, out into the back alley, and kick its teeth in.

And by that, I mean, I'm going to carefully and thoroughly examine it for validity, soundness and accuracy...

And then kick its teeth in.

But not until after So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

There's some terms out there that get so horribly misused I almost want to take out restraining orders on their behalf against the general population. Political correctness, for one (poor dear) Begs the question, for another. And unique, that which is one-of-a-kind, without equal, endlessly saddled with useless superlatives...listen, people, something is either unique or it's not. Your friend is not VERY unique. Your idea is not REALLY unique. Your band's sound is not SORTA unique. And your child is not TOTALLY unique - she's unique, sure, but just like EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON IN THE FRAKKIN' WORLD, and I don't care how well she finger paints.

But as much as the use and abuse of such terms tickles my grouchy bone, at least they're ACTUAL terms. Unlike certain other terms which are totally, completely, and without question MADE-UP because actual language doesn't reflect the fantasy world their users have concocted in their head. Sincethese terms have no fixed meaning, sincethey do not refer to an actual, specific thing, they are little better than fancy swears, multi-syllabic slurs that signify an excess of opinion in comparison to actual knowledge. (...don't look at me like that!)

However, as most of these are politically-loaded (the terms that one makes up when one cracks one's knee against that stupid support under one's dining room table for the UMPTEENTH time notwithstanding) the one tiny silver lining on the vomit cloud is that their use, while telling you nothing about the subject in question, tells you plenty about the speaker.

For example: "Partial-birth abortion." means "I somehow believe that women who want abortions wait until the last possible second. Why? I don't know. Maybe pregnancy is really fun? Maybe they just didn't notice? Maybe they were too busy washing their hair and talking about boys? Maybe they want the largest possible fetus to sacrifice to the secret cabal of aborto-feminists that runs the world so that now men have fewer rights than women, even though all the legal, financial and economic evidence points to the opposite? How am I supposed to know? Bitches be crazy."

"Slut." Sars at Tomato Nation says this better than I ever could.

And the one that is currently a hot topic in Vic City,, due to recent events:

"Judicial Activism", which means "I don't like this ruling, but I don't have the basic legal knowledge or intellectual standards to try and understand the judge's decision, therefore I am going to make a values-based argument against what I see as the outcome of that decision - that people are setting up a tent city in Beacon Hill Park - and fan the divisive flames of manufactured outrage, rather than dispute what is essentially a narrow legal decision that a municipal by-law forbidding the erection of temporary shelter in public parks when a)sleeping in public parks is not illegal and b)there is a vast and recognized shortage of shelter beds, violates section seven of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees life, liberty, and security of the person. Because that would take, uh, effort. And brains. And a desire to be constructive and help solve a difficult, frustrating and tragic problem, rather than complaining that liberal elites and smelly street people are ganging up on me like a bunch of meanies."

FYI, Michael Smyth. Pass it on to your buddy Ian, too...maybe he'll calm down if he knows those "softheaded liberal activists" exist only in his mind...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

We'll always have Lansdowne Park

Oh, Stephane (whose name is spelled with an accent, I know, but I am too lazy to figure out how to provide one). You may not remember me (In fact you probably don't). It was almost 10 years ago now, and hundreds of young women (and men) just like me have come and gone. I, a lowly House of Commons Page, and you, the nebbish yet persistant Quebec lieutenant in Chretien's cabinet who kept me up all night...

...with the Opposition's filibustering of your much-maligned Clarity Act.

Oh, my dear, the memories from all those months around the House. Remember that time when you were on the MP team that played the pages, and we won? That was totally sweet. I scored the first goal and wrote a poem about it that was read into the record and then Peter MacKay, who was totally the handsomest (as in: "only handsome") MP asked me for a copy and...No, no, this is about you. You, who are equally at ease at the head of a federal party as you are hustling along the pitch in your matching green jersey and shorts. Well, maybe not equally.

Now, I wouldn't say this about just any leader of Canadian federal political party but...I like you. I really, truly, like a friend. Well, acquaintance. Well, person who brought you water before your speeches...a couple of times. (And beat you at soccer). But that's not the point! The point is - why am I saying this? Why now, after so many years? Because you dear, sweet, ridiculously intelligent's over. It's really, truly finally over. Who ever thought you'd make it as far as you did? But you just couldn't win over the hearts of Canadians from that tall, dark and sorta-handsome-but-those-dead-eyes-and-that-cold-smile-are-too-freaky-for-him-to-really-pull-it-off man. It's not you, it's them.

Well, it's sorta you.

But don't let that keep you down. Take heart in your many friends - all of whom are now secretly vyying for your job - and enjoy your last stretch as leader. Go for broke in Question Period ("When will the Prime Minister answer the question - what do kittens taste like?"). Play some soccer. I'll even let you win this time.

Adventures in Lotus Land - Of Bottle Returns and Homelessness

Well, Double-Ds and I have been in town for over three months now, and it's been a mostly smooth transition for me back into the Vic City groove...with a few notable exceptions. Many of these have been fermenting in my brain, so expect later posts on them (if I'm not in jail because these freakin' pedestrians DO NOT LOOK BEFORE THEY STEP OUT INTO THE ROAD and with all of the elderly drivers here not to mention the ROWDY TEENAGERS and DRUNKS and PEOPLE WHO TALK ON THEIR PHONES do you really want to PUT YOUR LIFE INTO THE HANDS OF A COMPLETE STANGER'S REFLEXES although thankfully for you mine have been honed by non-stop Rock Band sessions which is seriously THE BEST GAME ON EARTH).

One area that makes us sorely miss O-Town (and Ontario in general) is liquor stores. In the big province, it's still a provincial crown corporation, and boy, is the LCBO a yuppies dream. Big spacious stores, attractive colour schemes, a gift section, free glossy magazine with recipes and pretty pictures. Together with the Beer Store (which is basically every beer-lover's fantasy - a building that's 1/4 open space and 3/4 fridge) they dot the Ontario landscape, beckoning to thirsty people with their size, cleanliness and consistent pricing which includes taxes right on the shelf tag.

A couple of years ago, Ontario also got on the bottle deposit bandwagon - for alcoholic beverages only. Now, this was actually a bit of a pain for the DD and I, because I, as a good little west-coaster, have been recycling since utero, and therefore needed no incentive to keep containers out of the garbage other than the feeling of satisfaction and smug superiority that comes with practicing the three Rs. Still, we dutifully stacked our empty booze holders in the garage, and packed them away with us to the beer store when we when to pick up our next case. There, we would wait in line to return the empty bottles and get the little ticket stub which was immediately put towards purchasing full bottles - thus completing the circle of life.

So it was a bit of a shock when we went to our yuppie wine store in downtown Vic City and, rather than a friendly greeting and recognition of our civic mindfulness, we were awkwardly given a flat and a wine crate and - I kid you not - asked to leave the store to sort them. Yes, leave the store, crouch over on the sidewalk, and rummage through our empties like (and if you are from this city, have been to this city, or know anything about this city then you know how this ends...) street people.

Because it seems that - in all my years away - recycling empties has gone from the noble task of suburbanites and high school sports teams to a dirty thing that only the pariahs of our beautiful city participate in. And, since it's now a task of the "undesirables", the business who must, poor dears, interact with these ruffians have NO OTHER CHOICE than to make the entire process as difficult and humiliating as possible.

And why not? This is, after all, the city which has bravely sought to tackle the tragic, complex and difficult question of homelessness, and the implicated issues of addiction and mental illness, by passing random by-laws which are so blatant and short-sighted as to fall short of being "band-aid" solution - these, my friends, are "little pieces of tissue that guys put on their face when they nick themselves while shaving" solutions. Like the genius one back when I was in high school which a bunch of us learned about while waiting for the crowd to disperse after watching New Year's Eve fireworks downtown and a couple of cops came up to us and told us to stop what we were doing (and we thought they were kidding so they had to repeat themselves that) sitting on the sidewalk was illegal. And, of course, the next big one which was famously struck down just this last week - the "Oh, you have no where to sleep and it's cold and raining? Screw you!" by-law.

Not that I have all the answers (well I do, but it involves people diverting resources for the good of their fellow citizens with noting but the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with being a decent human being in return, which makes me a socialiest/commie/terrorist bastard, I guess), but it's amazing what 2 minutes hunched over a cold sidewalk pawing empty bottles does the ol' empathy gland.

Nerve centre? Cortex? Empathy cortex...yeah, that sounds right.