Balloonland

stuff gets examined.

Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Entropy in Action

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Our family car is so full of reusable grocery bags, we have trouble putting anything in it.

Written by balloonhed

July 10, 2011 at 10:54 am

Seriously Bummed out by the Federal Election

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I haven’t been posting because I was bummed out by how seriously wrong the recent CDN federal election went. As well as the expectation I work for a living instead of sitting around having cool thoughts, drawing pictures, playing with the kids, and sitting in the sun. I’ll try and get over it.

Written by balloonhed

May 11, 2011 at 9:59 am

Posted in Current Events

Capitalists and other Pillagers

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In Canada, Centre-Left parties tend to build and create when they’re in power (if permitted), and when the Conservatives take power, they harvest what’s been left behind. Like Capitalists and other pillagers do in the real world. This used to be an “OK” system when the Conservatives were the odd choice in a landscape of Liberal leadership, but “Harper’s Conservatives” are not really “Canada’s Conservatives” – they’re a new hybrid derived from the Western Reform party assuming the empty hulk of the Progressive Conservatives,  and strong corporate (oil)/ultra-rich libertarian influences. We can only hope that once Harper is out of the scene, a more moderate Conservative party returns.

Harper likes to talk about Canada being an island of responsibility in a world of economic strife, thanks to the stability of our banking system. Was this system created by Harper, or by a conservative government? A historical Conservative party may have contributed to it, but definitely not Harper – despite his frantic squirming to stay in power, he ultimately sees the perfect world as being the situation in the US – low government regulation on everything financial, with the institutions being allowed to call their own shots.  Harper and Canada are fortunate that he wasn’t in power long enough or had  total power (i.e., a majority) to do what he’d like before 2008 came along – we’d be in the same boat as everyone else, and Harper would not have the glittery medal of being the leader of a nation that sailed through the crisis relatively unscathed with the sudden status of expert on world economics and everyone else looking for our secret.  “Harper’s Conservatives” and their rule had nothing at all to do with the Canadian banking system, aside from being Canadian in the first place.

Written by balloonhed

April 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

A Nation of Bullying Victims

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So,  apparently Stephen Harper continues to be in power with the votes of 40% (or less) of Canadians. The rest of us are too divided or disillusioned to vote cohesively, or even turn out.

This seems like a classic bullying scenario – a bunch of people cowering, afraid to draw attention to themselves as a smaller, more active minority parades around crowing. We’re afraid of Harper’s dead gaze and his lame insisting that the nation will be a charred hulk without him. We’re concerned the alternatives aren’t as “competent” has him. In the end, though, we could easily take him and all his cronies if we stood up and banded together.

So You Don’t Respect Iggy – Who Cares?

Being unwilling to back a challenger to a bully is also another form of bullied behaviour.  The bully scares me, I don’t want to risk anything. You go ahead and challenge him, I’ll be on board when you succeed.

What does it matter if you respect him? Respect for politicians is a passing thing anyhow – look how poor Obama has fallen. Voters, not having to make the decisions or take the risks themselves, are fickle and quick to blame.  Being disliked and disrespected is an occupational hazard for politicians that I’m sure they fully take into account when they  step up to the job.

Furthermore Iggy and Layton, or even Duceppe,  will hardly get enough power to manifest any massive negative effects if they turn out to be incompetent or dangerous.  At best (worst) it would be a minority government that had to kowtow to other interests. The winner would have a term to win your respect and belief in his/her competence.

There will never be a “perfect” candidate. That’s the nature of politics and politicians – politicians are individuals who have certain abilities that allow them to come up with compromises that aren’t totally abhorrent to everyone involved.

You Need to Vote

You might think you’re being clever not voting to protest what you think is a bad system or a bland selection  of choices. You’re only impressing yourself, because while you sit there patting yourself on the back, everyone else is deciding how everything around you will function. Change is unlikely to happen if the people demanding the change have decided not to answer any questions about it.

Vote Splitting – Just Don’t Do It

Harper’s biased, non-representative rule of our nation has tilted the playing field. The nation has slid further to the right than ever before, and it’s likely no one is aware of the full implications.  Canada’s true nature as a leftist nation is reflected in the constant  comments that “the Canadian Progressive Conservatives would’ve been seen as Democrats in the United States,” and the variety of left-leaning parties that continue to get support.

A tilted playing field is not the time to start splitting leftist hairs. You will be voting for Harper if you insist on voting for a leftist party with no hope of winning when there is a left or left-centre party in your riding that has a better chance of of preventing a Harper victory. Voting for long shots is something you can do when we’re back at an even keel.  Vote swap. Give money instead of a vote to your preferred party. The time will come.

http://catch22campaign.ca/

http://www.votepair.ca/

Written by balloonhed

April 20, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Place du Portage and the Civil Service

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Spiffys Hull

Place du Portage I to III – the grand, butt-littered and otherwise unused entry staircases, panoramic weed-cracked roof gardens, planters filled with old Tim cups – a grand vision in Federal office space that apparently didn’t take into account everyone will be entering from the bus-stop and parking garage entrances, or that only exiled smokers will actually use the outdoor areas regularly and everyone else will be sitting around the Tim’s. Our very own crumbling historical Parthenon, with smokers instead of grazing goats.

For those of you that are unfamiliar, Place du Portage phase I to III is part of a series of monolithic GoC office buildings built in the late 60’s and early 70’s on the Hull side of the Ottawa river. They stand like impassive monsters amongst the quaint working-class small-townish row houses and aged beat down commercial buildings that largely make up Hull. Huge tracts of these little natives were torn up to build the monsters, and the survivors, including the post-apocalyptic EB Eddy paper mill, now get to sit around them and mock. Building the monsters was necessary from the standpoint of the government, to house the huge numbers of civil servants scattered through the Ottawa area. It also conveniently allowed the crushing of dozens of little eyesores in Hull and the once-shantytown of LeBreton Flats on the Ottawa side. The Peace Tower could now been seen surrounded by towers of bureaucracy and vistas of green grass instead of factory chimneys and ugly brick row houses. A Utilitarian decision flavoured with vanity.

Each of the building types in this story reflect an economic and government background that saw their development. The row houses and shantytowns represent an earlier time, when government didn’t take much interest in the conditions of the working classes and the poor, who were expected to make due as best they could under conditions imposed by their employers, primarily the lumber and railway industries. By the 70’s, the federal government had taken an active role in the affairs of common people and the employers they worked for, and required places to put all the people managing this participation – the buildings of the working poor were bulldozed to make way for offices.

The civil service and the buildings it inhabits represent the standard of living Canadians have come to enjoy and expect. We can mock it for its “career loafers” with union-protected rights, and I am personally jealous of them, but they manifest our standard of living. They also contribute significantly to the economy – the thousands of rock-solid secure careers in the Ottawa area are reflected in ever-rising house prices and quality of services in the region. The civil service also has many needs that must be fulfilled by external sources, a huge contribution to the livelihood of many companies and individuals, nationally and internationally.

It is easy to forgot what one is getting from something that’s a fixture with obvious and huge appetites and an effect on the world that isn’t always positive. It’s also likely that something as gigantic as the civil service may not be adapting to the times as well as it should, which is kind of a given seeing it’s a Bureaucracy. We to remember its root purpose and not go hacking away at it without thought, especially under the influence of people who may not see the purpose of a government as providing stability and safety to all citizens. If we forget the value and succumb to a passing notion, we may find ourselves once again building shanties for the working poor who survive as best they can under uncaring and unregulated governments and employers.

Written by balloonhed

April 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Conservative Thought (Again)

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This is the main part of a posting I made in November 2010. I re-post it now as I think it pertains to Canada’s current federal election.

It constantly troubles me that conservative parties in Canada and the United States generally get strong support from those at the lower end of the economic scale, people who really have the least in common with the forces directing these parties. They are able to do this, I think, by beating the drum of protecting Sameness – traditional cultural values that are often highly valued by working class people. This blog article examines this.

(It was also one of my most well-received and read postings, and only a fool would resist such an obvious opportunity to repost. )

Political or cultural conservatism is, by definition, the desire to keep “things” as they are, or return to an earlier time, where “things” were generally perceived as “better.”  “Better” in this case meaning “easier for me to understand (i.e., “simpler”) and succeed within the confines of,” the “me” in this case generally being someone from a group that would’ve benefited from said earlier, better times.

In Canada and the USA, this is usually a desire to return to a nice Christian, gun-totin’ heterosexual male-dominated past (say the 50’s or 60’s) which are generally portrayed as “good.”  Please remember that in collective and cultural memories like anything else, history (and memories) that are generally widely available were created by the victors. The past that’s being invoked in conservatism is that of its beneficiaries, which were typically speaking were white males with some money, and their immediate associates.

An exercise . . .

The “good past” invoked by North American conservative thinking actually was good if you were (effects from multiple qualifications provide cumulative benefits)

  • White
  • Male
  • Wealthy
  • Christian
  • Adult

This same “good past” was not so hot if you were (again, multiple qualifications give cumulative negative results)

  • Non-white
  • Non-Christian
  • Non-male
  • Non-Adult
  • Non-WASP
  • Non-Dominant-Christian-Sect-of-Your-Location
  • Black
  • Hispanic
  • Asian
  • Handicapped
  • Not heterosexual
  • Not married
  • Poor

Based on this breakdown, of course things were “better” and “simpler”, because, assuming you score well (i.e., only from the first list) the odds were stacked in your favour, and society happily allowed the wide-open slagging of anyone that scored on the second list. People with their heads stuck in the “past is better” equation who would’ve scored well naturally will see the world’s current parameters as confusing and difficult, and naturally will seek to prevent any further changes that make it more difficult for their narrow slice of humanity to succeed and understand.

The “good past” is an easy bell to ring when you’re trying to drum up a following.  That’s why it’s so commonly used by less than unscrupulous individuals or groups seeking something. Corporations and business interests like it, for instance, especially in the ‘states – A corporation can draw upon its long-ago claim that it was started by an individual using only good old American values, blah blah blah, or that it provides old-fashioned value, employs people or traditional ethics, you know the drill.

Which brings me back to my favourite definition of Right-wing vs Left-wing thinking.

When addressing societal problems, Right-Wing (Conservative) thinking thinks of the answer first, then develops the question to go with it. Left Wing thinking (tries) to develop a question that includes the interests of everyone involved, and never gets an answer.

The macro-answer Conservative thinkers are working with, whether the question focuses on justice, economics, human rights, or whatever, is “apply the standards of yesterday to the problems of today.”

I suppose I can understand why the “good past” is so seductive to many – it appears to be such a clean and understandable story, with lots of firmly closed plotlines and happy(ish) endings, compared to what they find themselves embroiled in now. But it’s old news, and old information can never truly apply to a new and evolving situation.

Written by balloonhed

April 11, 2011 at 10:29 am

You Need to Vote, Especially if you Like to Complain.

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If you’re a Canadian, you have to vote in the coming federal election. Vote for the Conservatives if you have to – it makes my skin crawl and draws your character and good judgment into question,  but hopefully I don’t know you.

If you don’t vote, you’ve lost you right to complain about anything that can be remotely connected to the economy or government on any level. In other words, you can complain about things like the wart on your foot (but not about how long it takes to see a doctor, the expense of filling the prescription), your crabby aging parent (but not about difficulties in getting them care or housing) or your interpersonal relationships, as long as the anecdotes you bring up do not involve differences in politics, trouble getting jobs, or interpretations of your personal rights.

If you’re very wealthy or a major player in a large corporation and vote conservative, you shouldn’t have anything to complain about that matters, beyond the anoying protesters you have to fight your way through to get to work, or how long it take to get the newst luxury car delivered to your local dealer.

If you’re not wealthy and vote conservative, you need to stop reading the Sun, starting actually looking into current events, and stop believing stuff just because it was told to you by someone very loudly.  You also need to acknowledge that you, too, could possibly be someone needing social services or medical care some day, and that you’re not likely to become one of the ultra-rich who doesn’t need government provided things like roads, police, or education.

If you are an individual of any lefty or humanist stripe, or you enjoy Canadian social infrastructure as it has existed for the last little while, you, as far as I’m concerned, are a major part of the problem that has culminated in repeated governments under Mr. Harper.  You may not care for the “other choices” – I myself have lost faith in Mr. Layton due to his emphasis on wheeling and dealing, famous to my mind for bringing down Mr. Martin and enabling Harpo in the first place – but they’re a vast improvement such an obvious enemy of things you apparently believe yourself to support. Your not voting brings pretty much anything you manage to fire off (including “Good Morning”) into question. You lose any credentials regarding lefty or humanist leanings, and reduce yourself to almost a non-intelligent  parasite status when it comes to the benefits of Canadian society – just drifting through it, not contributing anything.

You may not be voting because you think your vote will be wasted voting with your beliefs for someone who cannot possibly win. Please visit the the Vote Pair website, where you can register to swap your vote with someone else, hopefully making the whole thing a little more effective for you.

Written by balloonhed

April 10, 2011 at 10:34 am