31 January 2010

Scoring for Asperger Syndrome

I've a thing about the psychiatric industry's propensity to keep narrowing what it means to be normal by virtue of forever expanding the number of mental disorders any one of us might have. I've written quite a bit about that on this blog.

That said, I just did this test, designed by psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen et al. It appeared in their paper "The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger Syndrome/High Functioning Autism, Males and Females, Scientists and Mathematicians," Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 31:5-17. You can search for the original paper here.

According to the test site "autistic-like responses will show poor social skill, attention switching, communication and imagination, and an exaggerated attention to detail. In other words, geekiness. You scored 41."

So I consult the ranking immediately below this explanation and learn this: "Scores over 32 are generally taken to indicate Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism, with more than 34 an 'extreme' score."

Now we have me explained!

This gal has Asperger Syndrome! She's an 'extreme' 'high-functioning' autistic. And here I thought she was just weird and have said as much too many times to remember.

All levity aside, it's kind of reassuring, if true. I've always struggled with situations that most people take as a matter of course.

ETA: Tried the test again, thinking maybe I'd erred somewhere along the line. Score was higher. Guess that clinches it, huh? No wonder I adore and feel so much affinity with the character Temperance Brennan of Bones fame!

Recommend this post

economicus ridiculous: First month, 2000 visits?

When Daphne and I began our new blog, economicus ridiculous, we didn't expect much by way of response. We supposed that, given the blog's topic - tips, tricks and tales regarding life in the poverty well -, there'd not be much interest.

While WE knew this kind of personal clearly is political, we expected that economicus ridiculous couldn't possibly match, let alone surpass the welcome Challenging the Commonplace received; it couldn't possibly achieve our popular political blog's numbers. And while we hoped for it, we didn't expect to influence people's thinking about poverty or about the people who live with poverty daily.

Well, slap me silly with a feather! We were wrong!

As I write this, economicus ridiculous looks likely to close its first month with 2,000 visits. Here I'd been hoping that by month's end, we'd have reached 20 per day or 500 for January.

We can probably thank the reputation that Challenging the Commonplace has built for part of this unexpected and welcome surprise. But there's more to it than that.

I've received communication from students who study the social determinants of health, with a particular focus on poverty. The first told me in a telephone call (thanks to SkypeOut) that I'd helped change her thinking. She'd learned things in that one phone call that her years of study had never taught. Which is no surprise to Daphne and I. For years, we've offered to talk to students in the classroom; no academic has taken us up on it.

Another student picked up on a point Daphne and I stressed throughout our work with WISE: The best thing people living the life can do for themselves is raise their voices, loud and clear. This student is contacting women in poverty in her home country, referring them to economicus ridiculous and encouraging them to follow our example.

If you haven't yet visited our new blog, we ask that you do and that you help spread the word.

Recommend this post

Jacque Demers: Liberal or Conservative Senator?

Quick question: Is it possible for a senator to cross the floor?

According to one report, Jacque Demers would have preferred being on the Liberal side of the Senate. But the Liberals never asked him; Stephen Harper did.

So are there any Senate rules preventing him from moving to a friendlier, more humanitarian clime?

Recommend this post

30 January 2010

Cheeks Red from Slap in Face

CBC has shown how NOT to reward loyalty. I wrote the following over at Scott's place, in response to CBC's new licensing policy - better named 'gag order' on Canadians at large.

Among the ironies for me: The linking policy on this blog and our others has been to hunt for - even WAIT FOR - CBC (or indy) articles on news items that have come up in the queue, rather than to write posts linking to Canwest Media or CTV.

In other words, we have been doing our level best to support our public broadcaster and independent media by sending people to their sites, not to the sites of their private competitors.

Our faces are red, from the slap across both cheeks.

CANADIAN copyright laws apply in this country. That includes the fair use policy I quoted yesterday in another article pertaining to copyright.

To the publicly-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and to any other media corporation serving in Canada that might entertain such notions: Don't try importing U.S. copyright law over here. You'll get a battle you'll wish you'd never provoked.

Recommend this post

29 January 2010

One-Line and All-Copy-Paste Posts

I've said this in tweets more than once and I'll say it again here:

I really, REALLY dislike one-line blog posts that say nothing, such as "You should read this" - without telling me why; or provide only a link, e.g., "Go." - again without saying why; or are composed entirely of the writing of others, except to introduce it with something like "Jane Doe writes..." Too many posts like that - there are bloggers who 'write' these posts almost exclusively to their blog - and I don't visit that blog again.

It's bad form for so much content to be copy/paste, even if linked. It's no more fair to news organizations to re-use their work in that way than it is to swipe the work of other bloggers to build up your own readership.

Have Daphne and I written one-liners or posts almost entirely of others' work? You betcha.

But that's not our modus operandi on this or our other blogs. Moreover, in the case of virtually a full post of copy/paste, it is done with permission of the original authors. With one-liners, the content makes their brevity self-explanatory.

There's nothing wrong with using excerpts, subject to appropriate acknowledgement such as linking. One of my favourite bloggers uses excerpts extensively, together with connecting-the-dots prose. The latter makes the post the blogger's own and tells a compelling tale.

Perhaps some bloggers are unaware that what they do is annoying and off-putting and in the case of extensive copy/paste, more than likely a violation of copyright laws. However, there are bloggers whose backgrounds suggest they should know better.

NB: On fair dealing in copyright law: "In deciding whether copying is fair dealing, the courts have determined that the relevant factors to be considered include the length of the excerpts used, the relative importance and quality of the excerpts used, and whether a copy is made for academic or commercial purposes. Fair dealing usually involves copying only a reasonable portion of a work."

About three years ago, an academic wrote a book in which huge portions of Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health were used. I'd been advised he'd violated my copyright, despite his acknowledgement of the source. It was particularly galling given the people who were behind the WISE book - 21 women in poverty. This is another case in which ownership matters.

Recommend this post

Bill Runciman Meets Kettle

Couldn't have said this better myself. Let me repeat Bill Runciman's words, with appropriate edits:

"Canadians are fed up with unelected [Conservative] senators doing [Harper]'s dirty work"

Well said, sir! You've your lines well-rehearsed I see.

Recommend this post

28 January 2010

Stephen Harper, Get da Muzzle!

Stevie, baby, you're losing control. Another reason for prorogation has risen to the airwaves, thanks to your Conservative fellow, MP Ron Cannan. In case you've forgotten, I should remind you that Mr. Cannan purportedly represents the constituents of Kelowna-Lake Country.

For Mr. Cannan,

prorogation is an opportunity for the Conservative government to concentrate on the economy by implementing the next phase of its economic stimulus program and prepare a new budget. If parliament was in session then the opposition parties could vote non-confidence and force an election before those tasks are complete.

"That's what we don't want," said Cannan.

So like the Harper prorogation of Dec 04/08, the one that took place 12 months later, on Dec 30/09, was to avoid a motion of non-confidence by the opposition parties. In other words, it was to avoid the normal functions of a Parliamentary democracy.

Recommend this post

27 January 2010

National Post: Not "mainstream"

In National Post writer's own words:

The Liberals, on the other hand, can still count on their constituent groups to help out. That old network came to life, as if on cue, in the past few weeks. One such group is the mainstream media.

Guess the National Post no longer sees itself as mainstream. What took it so long?

Recommend this post

Apple iPad vs. MS Courier

So it's all over the news today that Apple has finally come out with the much-hyped iPad. Was anticipating this with my usual excitement.

I LOVE gadgets. Not that I HAVE many, but one can dream, right? I also love my Mac Mini, having switched from using Windoze PCs when my last one bleeped its last blip in July 2007. So there was much anticipation and I expected to drool all over my keyboard when I saw pictures and videos of the thing.

Didn't happen.

As an e-book reader, which is what I'd use the iPad for primarily, the device is very nice. But why pay such an exorbitant price for simply an e-book reader and one whose battery life is only ten hours between charges? The charge on my Sony Pocket Edition reader lasts many, many times that. Also, as an e-book reader, the iPad is larger than I'd like and the display, while good for video viewing is harder on the eyes for reading. (It doesn't use e-ink technology.)

For mobility, the iPad also is nice - but the device doesn't come with a camera, which is strange.

Compare the iPad to the rumoured Courier, a concept being developed (?) by Microsoft. If this device were to have a Linux-based OS then Courier would be my preference.

For more information about the iPad, go to Gizmodo's home page. Today their site features articles on each of the major features of the new Apple device.

ETA: Biggest problem with new iPad? It's use of DRM.

Recommend this post

Wait For It

Am betting this site will be taken down by Harper tech-troops, as soon as the order comes down from on high. So prepare your Documents folder for a new cache file!

Hat off to Dave Eaves who writes today of this "most dangerous website in Canada."

Recommend this post

26 January 2010

Olympics, Security & Freedom of Expression

For those who don't use Twitter, there are some gems you may be missing. Here's one, from David Eby, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association:

@Dave_Eby: BCCLA thanks Transit police 4 quickly correcting Olympic handout that equated free speech with crime http://ow.ly/10JID

The BCCLA has been very busy lately, as has Eby's former home, the Pivot Legal Society. They can't be everywhere. It's therefore vital that everyone be on the alert for rights infringements or possible infringements, like the person who brought to the BCCLA's attention the transit issue referred to in Eby's tweet.

Recommend this post

UPDATE: Housing contradictions in BC, "the best place on earth"

Unfortunately, a sad predictable follow-up regarding Pivot Legal's "red tent" campaign to help homeless. Reasons given by City of Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang are ludicrous and insulting. See italicized below.


Headline: Micro-lofts promise Vancouver renters a break.

The fine print: "The new lofts in the building are expected to rent for about $675 to $750 per month, making them suitable for anyone earning over $25,000 a year, but out of reach of their former residents, many of whom were on social assistance."

Doesn't that make you feel good? That certain Vancouver renters will be getting "a break" - at the expense of  others, those our society deems of lesser, and less deserving, status?

Before you get all warm and fuzzy inside, juxtapose that news with this: 'Red Tent' Campaign Planned for Homeless during Olympics.

Pivot Legal Society "plans to team with local shelters to get bright red tents - emblazoned with 'Housing is a Right' and 'End Homelessness Now!' - into the hands of Vancouver's homeless."

In the event the group is denied permission by the City of Vancouver to do this, they are prepared to mount legal action.

"As a matter of constitutional and administrative law the City cannot have a blanket prohibition on any tenting in public places," says Pivot representative John Richardson.

ETA: Vancouver is likely to deny Pivot the right to give (well, I think it should be a right) red tents to homeless people during the Olympics.

Read that article. The reasons stated by Councillor Jang, a member of Vision Vancouver, the lead party on Council, are ludicrous and insulting to homeless people. For example, "We can’t support this campaign as it's currently set out. It’s primarily because of health and safety concerns.”

To which I am compelled to ask: Whose health and safety?

No wonder that, when compared to 272 cities around the world, Vancouver ranks number one in terms of unaffordable housing. It gets 9.3 on the Metropolitan Market Median Multiple. Any number that is 5.1 or higher is described by the Frontier for Public Policy as "severely unaffordable" and according to them Vancouver's number is "unprecedented in modern history."

Victoria is the proud occupant of the number two position, at 7.9.

British Columbia: the greatest place on earth to live. If you can afford it.

ETA: Given the City of Vancouver hasn't denied Pivot YET, homeless activists should raise a ruckus to make sure the city doesn't deny them. Likely it won't help, but it's better than not trying.

Recommend this post

25 January 2010

Party Proposals on Prorogation

Am pleased to see both the New Democrat and Liberal parties responding to Canadians' expressed dissent regarding prorogation, and I agree with Devin Johnston that the recommendations of both parties require more work.

For example, "consent of the House," per the Liberal proposals, or "a vote of the Commons," as mentioned in the NDP proposals, must be defined and not be based on a simple majority vote of MPs. For one thing, in the case of a 'majority' government, votes from opposition MPs would not be required. Yet with our single member plurality voting system, IF we get a 'majority' government it is almost always (certainly in recent decades) on the basis of less than 40 percent of the popular vote. Thus the 'consent of the House' or, the same thing, 'a vote of the Commons' becomes meaningless.

Until our voting system is reformed to one of proportional representation, a simple majority vote of MPs will not reflect the backing of a majority of Canadian voters. Fix the voting system and that problem disappears. Until then, consent of the House/a vote of the Commons should require a super-majority vote of MPs that sums to at least a simple majority representation of the popular vote.

Recommend this post

24 January 2010

Don't Get Conned by Con Commenters

Wasting our resources on Harper supporters and their media shills plays precisely into their hands. DON'T DO IT.

We needn't be concerned about Harper Conservatives commenting or blogging about the rallies, trying to downplay their significance. Over 25,000 Canadians stood up and made our opinions known yesterday and we represent only the tip of the iceberg of Canadian discontent.

There aren't enough Harper supporters left to match our numbers. So chill. Don't waste your energy trying to reason with those for whom reason is antithetical to their Harper idolatry. Apply it instead to action to reform our democratic institutions and processes.

Recommend this post

23 January 2010

Report Update (now with pics): Duncan CAPP Rally

Daphne and I stayed for the full two hours, yours truly leaving stiff, bent over and sore. BUT it was worth it.

Little ole Duncan had 35 to 40 people show up, all told, with the group being at least 25 strong throughout. Duncan lies between Nanaimo and Victoria on Vancouver Island. The city itself, a total of one square mile, has a population of 5,000; together with the surrounding area, which includes a lot of farmland, the population is 78,000.

I don't recall seeing a single person at the rally who was less than middle age. [ETA: I recall now there was one little girl, but she and her dad couldn't stay long.] Most of us were seniors, from late 50s to very elderly. In other words, PEOPLE WHO VOTE.

Some of us stood on the overpass and waved at motorists as they whizzed by; others held up or stood by signs along the Trans Canada Highway, encouraging drivers to honk.

And honk people did. And waved. And high-fived.

We got WAY more positive responses than negative ones; and lots of them. Certain desperate naysayers went by in both directions to make sure we got their one-finger message; one enterprising driver caused a series of backfires, also in both directions. But for each negative response, we got at least eight positive ones. That really cheered us and made any discomfort worth it.

The pictures below were captured by Daphne - click thumbnails for larger view. There were people also along both sides of the TCH and facing each direction on the overpass. Happy faces, all.

We also got good media coverage. Shall follow-up with that when it comes out too.


Recommend this post

Haiti and the CAPP Rallies

I came across a tweet this morning that I've had a hard time wrapping my head around.

How could any Canadian suppose that participating in a CAPP rally today would in any way signify the diminished importance of the Haiti disaster?

To me, the very extent of the disaster bespeaks how vital it is that Canadians protest the actions of government. The prior treatment of Haiti by Canada (not to mention the very real possibility of further exploitation) provides more reason, not less, for raising our voices against the erosion of our democracy.

Recommend this post

22 January 2010


... if you need encouragement to attend a rally tomorrow as part of Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament. The Globe lists not just the 36 bills that were killed due to prorogation but also the time spent and now wasted, preparing and debating them.

Wherever you are, there's probably a rally near you. If there isn't and you can't get to a rally further away, make your own banner and go stand on a corner. It likely won't be long before others join you.

Recommend this post

Ownership of a Movement Matters

Over at DAMMIT JANET!, there's a discussion about whether the NDP's Jack Layton, or any other politician, is wrong to call the grassroots movement against prorogation "our" movement; that is, the movement of the NDP.

From the point of view of a population sector that is left consistently unheard and certainly unrecognized, let me say that ownership matters. Particularly when it involves the disenfranchised. Appropriating a grassroots movement for partisan purposes is like researchers who appropriate the knowledge of the poor or other marginalized persons for the purposes of producing books and adding another line to their curriculum vitae.

The grassroots movement of Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament is bringing Canadians together like never before. We come from all party affiliations - and none. Many of us have voted ever since we became eligible, others aren't old enough to vote. More of us have turned away from the polls in disgust with the options presented on the ballot, and with a party and voting system that skews the results and leaves us unrepresented.

That Jack Layton should suggest this grassroots movement is "the New Democrat movement" leaves me stunned. YES, members and supporters of the NDP are welcome to join this GRASSROOTS movement. As are Liberal, Green, Bloc Quebecois and Conservative supporters. But let no political leader suggest this movement is theirs.

Recommend this post

Duncan CAPP Rally

Daphne and I will be there. The Cowichan Valley can be a hotbed of activism, so I suspect we'll be joined by many others.

The organizers of the Victoria rally, which we would have attended if the Duncan one hadn't happened, suggest people wear whatever colours and regalia they like.

What a great idea! If people do that, it will show how diverse our group is.

As for me, I'll be wearing a Palestinian scarf and if there were one of these left, that too.

I don't have a banner and hope some enterprising individuals will think to bring spare ones along.

Recommend this post

BC Agencies Defraud Government, Don't Help Poor

If you live in BC, you may have followed the story of WCG International HR Solutions based in Tucson Arizona. The company ran the JobWave program which was intended to help people on welfare find regular employment and the Triumph employment program for people with disabilities.

The [Human and Social Development] office in Prince George raised questions about why WCG International HR Solution's office in the city had already billed the ministry for intake for clients it later described as "intake no-shows."


The investigators identified $2,800 in overbillings. Also, of the eight intakes they looked at from January and February last year, just one was done within the 21-days allowed under WCG's contract with the government.

The problems went beyond overbilling the government and they aren't restricted to WCG.

I’ve been with Triumph for five months and they have done the sum total of NOTHING. I get one phone call a month where I have to tell the girl I am number ____. It’s always somebody new. The office has always moved. She never knows what’s going on. And her biggest question is: “When’s good for you next month?

That's a quote from the story of Lucy (p76), from the 2005 book Policies of Exclusion, Poverty & Health: Stories from the front. If you click the link, you can listen to her story via podcast.

There are also major issues with Community Futures. When that federal community economic development agency was privatized, it morphed into FutureCorp, which is aptly named. The story of Anna is typical of the experience (p17f, in the book) of people seeking help who are consistently getting caught in a maze not of their own making.

These women were desperate to find work, desperate to forge a new future for themselves and their families. All they met was intransigence or indifference.

Unfortunately, Lucy's and Anna's stories can be duplicated countless times. These agencies that purportedly exist to help the poor seem more to be helping themselves to government money.

Recommend this post

21 January 2010

Ignatieff on Powers of Prime Minister

3:49 Michael Ignatieff: "We need a Prime Minister who accepts and welcomes the fact that his or her power is limited by Parliament, by independent regulators and by independent institutions like the courts."

And therein lies the rub. Stephen Harper has shown that the power of the Prime Minister ISN'T limited by Parliament or the other agencies mentioned in Iggy's response.

In answer to a follow-up question, Ignatieff wrote: "As a great writer once said, rules are for people with no character. Meaning, that you need to legislate when you cant trust the people who hold power. My view is that we dont need to legislate limits on prorogation. We just need to return to the basic understanding that used to limit prerogative power, namely that you dont use it to duck tough questions in parliament and you dont use it to duck a confidence vote. harper used it this way and it was wrong, and Canadians are telling him dont ever do that again."

So it's just 'trust me'? You're a man of character?

Yea, right. Had you been Prime Minister when Dubya was putting together his 'coalition of the willing' in 2003, you'd have sent Canadian troops to attack Iraq. How did CHARACTER help you then?

To hell with you, Michael Ignatieff. I keep hoping and hoping for change, but if there's any change at all, it always favours the status quo. Predictably, of course, my question never saw the light of day. I am now officially depressed.

Recommend this post

UPDATE 2: Michael Ignatieff's Facebook Townhall

[Re-worded my question... Which never saw the light of day except here. Predictable and depressing that is.]

Here is was my question for Michael Ignatieff.

Question: "Creative, inexpensive - even cheap - shelter for permanent housing, using new design techniques and materials could quickly and substantially reduce Canada's homeless numbers and permit more choice for people of low income. These designs exist now and are part of the tiny house movement, yet such solutions are blocked, time and again, due to outdated municipal laws. Do the Liberals have a federal housing strategy and if so, how does it encourage municipalities to be more inclusive and more open to alternative housing options?"

According to Ignatieff's Facebook page, people are supposed to RSVP at a specified site. Tried that. Canna see how I'm to RSVP. What am I missing?

ETA: OK, worked out the RSVP thingie. My NoScript extension on Firefox needed tweaking.

Recommend this post

20 January 2010

Jack Layton and the NDP

Good for you. I'd begun to despair being able to say that.

Not only are you showing the Official Opposition how to be the Official Opposition, you're giving disgruntled Canadians a concrete proposal to consider regarding prorogation.

Not that you're likely to get support from Michael Ignatieff's Liberals. Ignatieff doesn't strike me as someone who likes being reined in, so I don't expect him to support your proposal. He is "yet to be convinced" on issues concerning democratic reform, like fixing our voting system; and he's already on record for saying he would use prorogation as intended, just not as Stephen Harper has done. Not necessarily a problem, except he made no mention of legislation to ensure that.

As for what the Official Opposition appears to be doing - chatting up students across the country and holding a "Thinkers Conference" - like every conference, forum and town hall I've ever been to (about two dozen conferences alone), people will do a lot of nattering and, perhaps, thinking. Nothing else will result ... except more opportunities for nattering and thinking.

You, on the other hand, are proposing ACTION.

Good. More please.

Recommend this post

Harper Government Doesn't Govern for You

Did you know that, that the Harper government, CANADA's government, isn't here to govern for you?

James Bow caught something in Tony Clement's comments about elites and "chattering classes" that I'd not noticed. Here's Clement:

"I know [Harper's use of prorogation] is a big issue with the Ottawa media elite and some of the elites in our country, but I got to tell you if reaction in my constituency is any indication, I've had maybe three dozen emails. It may not be what the chattering classes want, but we're not here to govern on behalf of the chattering classes."

Consider these numbers:

  • 42 percent of Canadians are members of Facebook.
  • 75 percent of Canadians were eligible to vote on October 2008.
  • 207,000 people are members of the Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament.
  • Approximately 156,000 members of CAPP are eligible voters.
  • 156,000 distributes 506 voters to each of the 308 federal ridings.

I don't have the numbers but I suspect that, in the last few elections, several ridings were decided by less than 500 votes.

Tony Clement supposes that the people against Harper's ill use of prorogation are members of the elite and chattering classes. The Facebook numbers are indicators only of the extent of Canadians' anger against the erosion of our democracy and our Parliamentary system. If our system can be abused in this way, something is terribly wrong.

Despite the numbers above, Clement states that his government isn't "here to govern on behalf of the chattering classes" - of which he deems anyone who is against prorogation to be a member. Which means Clement doesn't think that a MINIMUM 506 voters in each of 308 federal ridings are anything to worry about. Silly man!

More numbers to think about.

[Cross-posted at NADER]

Recommend this post

18 January 2010

Sad News

This little fellow was killed by a hit and run driver.

I do wonder if they got the gender right. Casper looks to have been a calico. Isn't that a female trait?

Recommend this post

17 January 2010

And so it starts...

Canada to take lead building 'New Haiti', so The Sun headline reads. That rings all kinds of alarms for me.

[R]epresentatives from Haiti, the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay will gather in Montreal Jan. 25 to reassess pressing needs and to develop a long-term plan for rebuilding Haiti. The news comes after an hour-long telephone conference with [Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon's] international counterparts dubbed "Friends of Haiti".... Cannon said Harper will play a leading diplomatic role in the long-term reconstruction plans and wants to continue robust rebuilding efforts after the spotlight leaves the crisis.

"The prime minister is fully engaged in helping Haiti," he said.

Cannon noted that Haiti is Canada's second largest aid recipient country behind Afghanistan and that the two countries share close ties.

Yes, and Canada is doing so well in Afghanistan, isn't it? As has Haiti, being the second largest aid recipient of Canadian dollars.

Strange how that works, don't you think? Money on 'development' or what I prefer to call, foreign intervention, results in more death, more misery, more poverty, and less freedom and liberty.

Recommend this post

200,000 Canadians

That's how many of us have signed up to the Facebook group Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament as of 4:32 PM PST. What a milestone! Now let's get out to those rallies on January 23rd!!

In the event you need to be encouraged:

Recommend this post

16 January 2010

Women Need to Learn to Act Like Jerks

Came across this post, thanks to a tweet from @bcbusiness. Here's a sample:

[W]omen in general, and the women whose educations I am responsible for in particular, ... aren't just bad at behaving like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks. They are bad at behaving like self-promoting narcissists, anti-social obsessives, or pompous blowhards, even a little bit, even temporarily, even when it would be in their best interests to do so. Whatever bad things you can say about those behaviors, you can't say they are underrepresented among people who have changed the world.


Now I don't know what to do about this problem. (The essence of a rant, in fact, is that the ranter has no idea how to fix the thing being ranted about.) What I do know is this: it would be good if more women see interesting opportunities that they might not be qualified for, opportunities which they might in fact fuck up if they try to take them on, and then try to take them on. It would be good if more women got in the habit of raising their hands and saying "I can do that. Sign me up. My work is awesome," no matter how many people that behavior upsets.

I recommend reading the whole thing.

I've bluffed my way through some situations. Not only was the exercise fun but the result was gratifying and the bluffing at times challenged me to live up to my own hype. It was win-win all round with no one the loser. Some women, on the other hand, appear to have taken things too far. Cheryl Gallant comes to mind.

ETA: Seems like a lot of people want to read that article. Shirky's server is acting up. Keep trying; his post is worth it.

Recommend this post

Who the Hell is Blake Richards?

Why is Conservative MP Blake Richards junking up my mailbox with Conservative propaganda, paid for by taxpayers?

How can he claim the Conservative Government "is working" and "delivering tough new action on crime"?

How can Richards sleep at night when he knows that Stephen Harper, in proroguing Parliament, killed the very crime bills that would have addressed the issues listed in his rag sheet?

Recommend this post

15 January 2010

Haiti and Disaster Capitalism

Watch for it, warns Naomi Klein. She reads a post from the US Heritage Foundation website that gives us a glimpse, evidence that already the vultures are circling.

Recommend this post

Carolyn Bennett Offers to Distribute Letter

Fair Vote Canada sent out two strongly-worded letters this week, one to Stephen Harper, the other to the leaders of the Liberal, New Democrat and Green parties.

I received a tweet from Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett yesterday, after I went offline. She offered to distribute the letter for opposition parties to her fellow MPs.

Will any New Democrat MP come forward to do the same? What about an MP in the Conservative party?

Fair Vote Canada responded to Bennett's offer within an hour of my contact. No doubt, they'll respond with equal promptness to like offers from other parties.

Recommend this post

14 January 2010

Oh, the Irony! or Mr. Ignatieff, are you convinced yet?

Time to resurrect another post, this one from October 2008:

What on earth are we to do?

How can we persuade Canadians to vote for us?

Where, oh, where have we gone wrong?

So cry the Martinite backroom boys who, come to think of it, didn't do so well with Paul Martin either.

Similar hand-wringing is portrayed here.

Scott Reid, who was director of communications for former prime minister Paul Martin, said the Liberals are actually doing worse than the polls show.

The problem is that Liberal support among those likeliest to vote is soft, while Tory support is strong.

"We've got to really start to pay attention to committed voters," he said Wednesday. "The sad truth of our democracy at this moment in time is that 60 per cent of people tend to vote, particularly when cynicism is running as high as it is with respect to the prospect of an election. So how are we doing among the committed voters, those who say they are likely to vote? Those numbers are even tougher for us. And that has got to change before we get to a ballot box."

Mr. Reid said the party needs to figure out a strategy to "identify a coalition of voters that allows it a victory."

Here's a thought...

How about the Liberal Party of Canada offering something to attract MORE PEOPLE TO THE BALLOT BOX?

How about a meaningful policy to dump our single member plurality voting system in favour of a multi-member system that delivers proportional representation?

How about making the votes of all those who visit the ballot box count? Instead of what it is now, like 27 percent of eligible voters electing a party to a minority or false majority and getting a Prime Minister NONE of us - or, effectively, only 38,548 of us - had the opportunity to vote for?

Guess not.

(Don't you just love the straw man arguments of the status quo?)

NB: As Ed Broadbent said recently on a September 2009 CPAC/Macleans discussion on democracy, until the Liberals or Conservatives back proportional representation, it won't happen. And that means, I ain't holdin' my breath. (H/t to nbcdipper for prodding my memory.)

Recommend this post

Politicos, Media: Stop Telling Canadians What We Care About

Politicians and certain media conglomerates are in the habit of telling Canadians what we care about. Not only do they busy themselves telling us what issues we do care about, they also tell us what we don't care about: process.

Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament and the tens of thousands of volunteers from across Canada who have been and continue to be involved in campaigns for democratic and electoral reform would disagree on both scores.

Process matters. In fact, it appears to matter more to us - at least to 1 out of every 160 of us - than any given issue.

Issues, after all, are ephemeral. Deal with one, or don't, and it's on to the next issue. Flavours of the month are like that.

So why is the consistent message from politicos and their media friends that process isn't something Canadians care about? Might it be that addressing the processes of democracy isn't considered, in their eyes, to be in their own interests?

Recommend this post

Strongly-Worded Letters to PM, Opposition Leaders

On January 12, Fair Vote Canada sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and another to the leaders of the Liberal, New Democrat and Green parties. I've not seen such strong words from this organization before.

From the letter to Stephen Harper:

You have granted yourself and your party two unsupervised months to correct course...

Your party represents fewer than 40 per cent of Canadian voters. You can’t square that minority support, and the unilateral shutdown of Parliament, with any reasonable concept of legitimate and representative democratic government.

I do not accuse you of violating democracy itself only because the Canadian political system as it stands is intrinsically undemocratic. If you are leading a party of democrats, then surely it is time for you to abandon the shamocracy and make the House of Commons democratic.

And from the letter to the opposition leaders:

There is no sign that elimination of the democratic deficit in the House of Commons is on Stephen Harper’s agenda. It should be on yours...

At present the House of Commons embodies and projects a series of ridiculous untruths. Judging from the current “representation” most Quebecois want to quit the federation; most Canadians are reluctant to elect women; there are no Conservative supporters in Vancouver, Montreal or Toronto; there are no Liberal supporters in Alberta. There are no New Democrat supporters in Saskatchewan and remarkably few elsewhere, and no Green supporters anywhere in Canada...

Each of you should now be asking: does my party really want democratic representation for all Canadians, and what will my party risk or sacrifice, now, to achieve it?

I look forward to your individual written replies – and to your unequivocal commitments to seize the moment and do what is needed to make the House of Commons democratic.

I urge Canadians to read the letters in full.

It's long past time that individuals and organizations promoting democracy took their gloves off. By the tone of these letters, it sounds like Fair Vote Canada has taken the lead, in addition to the 1 out of every 160 Canadians who are members of Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament.

Recommend this post

Barriers: Tele-communicating

On economicus ridiculous I've published a three-part post on barriers related to tele-communicating with government organizations, non-profits and online and local merchants; in other words, with just about anybody who works in an organizational environment.

From Part 1

With decision made and my new life without a phone, I could have done without unfair restrictions by Canada's telecom giants - aided and abetted by our federal government - on the use of VOIP technologies. And I could have done without certain assumptions and out-dated practices maintained by government and private organizations. Except for these issues, I was sailing quite happily in the unmapped bay of my virtual unmapped island.

I hope you will visit economicus ridiculous to read more.

Recommend this post

13 January 2010

About Those Consultations with Canadians

Among Stephen Harper's desperate excuses reasons for proroguing Parliament is the desire to "consult with Canadians" about Canada's financial state and what to do about it.

Stevie's good buddy Tony Clement has shrugged off Canadians against proroguing Parliament (CAPP) as elites or, more picturesquely, members of the "chattering classes." It would appear that people who DISCUSS concerns or ASK QUESTIONS or otherwise TALK TO ONE ANOTHER are chatterers.

One out of every 200 175 172 166 164 Canadians is a member of the CAPP Facebook group. Are they among the Canadians to be consulted?

Recommend this post

Cheryl Gallant, You Disgust Me

This is a sample of the kind of government Canadians have now, one whose MPs consistently lie, slander and stoke fear. I assume this letter from Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant, which appears today in The Daily Observer, was also sent to her constituents by mail and hence was paid for by taxpayers.

Note IN ONE SENTENCE ALONE the following:

  1. The unfair characterization of the Bloc and the CANADIANS who support Quebec sovereignty. Supporting Quebec sovereignty is a far cry from being "dedicated to the destruction of Canada." (I support the separation of Vancouver Island from BC and/or the separation of BC from Canada; in neither case does that mean I am "dedicated to the destruction" of BC or Canada.)
  2. The suggestion that "the worst global economic recession since the Second World War" is equivalent to the worst economic recession since the Second World War for us, for Canada. For us, the recession of the 80s was much worse.
  3. The suggestion that to prorogue Parliament is merely to "adjourn" it.

Further down in the letter, note the slandering of Ujjal Dosanjh, a Liberal MP who is respected by members and supporters of all parties and by this non-partisan. Dosanjh never "accused members of the Canadian Armed Forces of war crimes." He instead expressed his deep concern that the ACTIONS/NON-ACTIONS OF THIS GOVERNMENT made Canada's military personnel in Afghanistan vulnerable to such accusation by the International Criminal Court. Gallant knows this; she was there, or so she claims.

Recommend this post

12 January 2010

Olympics: For Athleticism or Athletic Equipment?

The Olympics would appear to be no longer about athleticism or finding the best of the best in a sport. At least, not with respect to certain sports.

Take snowboarding for an example. The base of the board Canada's athletes will use during the Games "cuts friction by 15 to 20 per cent compared to commercially available products" or so claims the creator. Other changes to the snowboarders' equipment have already enhanced the athletes' performances.

Then there is the project Top Secret, described as a "five-year, $8-million technological arms race unprecedented in Canadian sport history."

Researchers across the country have been breaking down the science of winter sport, looking for any edge in training, human performance and equipment. “To date, we’ve completed 55 projects, using 17 different universities and institutions,” says Todd Allinger, the Vancouver-based biomechanist who manages the program. “I think it’s been very successful."

Now I am no athlete, but I do know a thing or two about fairness. Common sense tells me that if you want to assess the relative merits of athletic performance, then all athletes in a sport should use the same equipment. If they don't, then at the level of Olympians where fractions of seconds can mean the difference between the gold medal and tenth place, the competition becomes about the equipment.

So is Canada spending billions upon billions of dollars for a winter Olympics for sports equipment and the manufacturers who make it? It looks increasingly like it to me.

Recommend this post

11 January 2010

Fantastic Video in Support Jan 23 Rally

Recommend this post

OMG! She's Just A Janitor!

OMG! A janitor that does other than clean up after people! This one writes books! Lots of them! The books are published! People buy these books! Academics are astounded!!

When the University of Victoria's bookstore hosted a display honouring writers employed by the university, the most prolific scribe was - wait for it - a janitor.

Yes, a lowly janitor writes books.

"It is," said bookstore staffer Jennifer Cameron, "quite amazing."

What is amazing is the stigma attached to people who work in the 'service' sector. For some reason it is thought that if you choose to work at a physically demanding job you couldn't possibly be smart enough to write a book.

Recommend this post

09 January 2010

Numbers to Make You Ill

Did YOU vote for Stephen Harper to be Prime Minister of Canada? In theory, no one did. But in practice, given Canada's democratic system that elevates parties to the detriment of voters' interests and preferences, that's what a few rare number of us did do:

Total votes in the riding of Calgary-Southwest on October 14, 2008: 52,996
Total votes cast for Stephen Harper: 38,548
Total votes cast in the general election: 13,834,294
Total number of people eligible to vote: 23,677,639 

Because Stephen Harper is leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, he ipso facto became the Prime Minister of the country; which means...

On October 14, 2008, 1 out of every 359 voters determined who would be Canada's next Prime Minister. Worse, that's 1 out of every 614 registered voters. How warm and fuzzy those rare few people must feel, to have chosen who would dictatorially preside over us all!

Some more numbers:

Voter turnout in Calgary-Southwest: 58.4 percent
Voter turnout in the general election: 58.8 percent

Voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian history.

Does anyone wonder why?

Don't blame non-voters. That is the typical knee-jerk reaction to such numbers.

There's no reason to think that voting patterns among non-voters would be dissimilar to those among voters. That is, there's no reason to suppose that the percentages of votes by party and hence votes to individual party candidates, wouldn't break down as they do now. It would still be the case that with our multiple political parties the results of elections under our antiquated single member plurality voting system would not fairly represent the choices of the electorate.

That's one reason why people are turning away in droves from the polls on election day. They may not be able to articulate it as the reason, but they know deep in their guts that something is terribly wrong.

[Cross-posted at NADER]

Recommend this post

126,000 and Still Growing

Someone has suggested that the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament group should be aiming for 350,000 members. That would be one percent of the population. I suggest the more relevant figure to politicians is 23,401,064, the number of registered voters as of October 2008. At our current numbers, CAPP is already at 0.54 percent.

By the way, that CBC article reporting on October 2008's record low turnout has relevance in its own right. Canada needs democratic reform, big time. That includes, but is not limited to, reform of our voting system. Let's throw to the trash heap our antiquated single member plurality system and replace it with one of proportional representation that distributes fairness to the greatest number of voters.

Recommend this post

08 January 2010


Cats in their cradles. Here are some new photos of the two furry companions, Kiltie and Brodie. (Click thumbnails for larger view.)

We have a new/old blue house too; acquired, like the red one, free through the local freecycle place. Alas, the human hasn't been fast enough with the camera to catch a critter in it.

Recommend this post


... Stephen Harper doing something smart, in response to Canadians' rejection of his rogue move. It would begin by his acknowledging that rejection and honouring it by reversing his prorogue decision. It would require his appealing to the Governor General to bring back Parliament 'early' - that is, January 25th instead of March 2nd.

For Harper to manage the acute anxiety associated with such action - i.e., from suspending his dictatorial style and swallowing his own, self-inflated ego -, he would, during the course of his acknowledging, honouring, reversing and appealing, also engage in denying, rejecting, blaming and lying. In other words, he would deny and reject any responsibility for the situation. Instead, he would blame the opposition and "left wing groups" (such as women) for purportedly lying to and misleading the Canadian public about his actions.

I can imagine such a scenario. I can imagine the Official Opposition, once again, being out-manoeuvred. And I hope I'm wrong.

Recommend this post

07 January 2010

I Support the HST - P2

... but, as I wrote previously, I don't support the way our Liberal government foisted its particular brand of the HST onto British Columbians.

Now my support for the HST is supported by the typically NDP-friendly Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, to whit:

the central result [of our analysis] - that the tax credits and tax cuts have the effect of offsetting the impact of the increased HST revenue for low-income and moderate-income families and of moderating the impact for other families - holds.

This jibes precisely with my experience of the BC government's 'revenue-neutral' carbon tax. While the tax needs improvement, certainly in terms of its impact on climate change measures, it has helped this low income household, not harmed it.

I expect similar experience with the HST, given the rebates I will be getting.

All of which leaves me wondering... Just who does the NDP, the party that holds itself up as champion of the poor, actually represent? And why is it working so hard to mislead the public, especially people of low income, about these taxes?

ETA: I realize that this CCPA report assesses specifically the Ontario HST program. However, the issues are similar enough to the BC situation to make the report also relevant here.

Recommend this post

Cons Down, Greens Up

Stephen Harper prorogues and the one who speaks up makes the greatest gain.

Might it be that the latest drop in Conservative polling support (-2.8 percent) together with the almost identical increase in Green support (+2.2 percent) is a result of a certain party leader speaking out quickly and forcefully about Stephen Harper's rogue move?

In contrast, the vapid, delayed or absent responses of other party leaders have failed to impress.

Recommend this post

06 January 2010

Full Body Scanning

If security at Canadian airports is already making exceptions for full body scanning, then what is the damn point?

"The scanners will not be used on minors and only on passengers selected for secondary screening, the federal government said Tuesday."

On secondary screening: The man who recently blew up his underwear had been passed through security without secondary screening.

On minors: Our federal government refuses to repatriate Omar Khadr who, at the time of his alleged offences, was 15. By refusing repatriation, Canada's government has effectively and without trial, found Khadr guilty of terrorism and murder. In the government's view, such a minor would entertain blowing up a plane.

The Harper government continues to expose itself as run by a bunch of idiots.

Recommend this post

05 January 2010

132 Political Scientists Call for Reform

Woot! Fair Vote Canada has just released a statement, signed by 132 political scientists. They are calling on the federal government to initiate a process to reform the federal electoral system by the end of five years.

The statement reads, in part:
We call on the Prime Minister and leaders of all parliamentary parties to set aside partisan interests and together support a substantive program to engage Canadians in a national discussion on: 1) fair voting principles – voter equality, proportional results and the formation of governments whose policies reflect the majority of voters, and 2) the various types of fair voting systems based on those principles.

We call on the government to engage experts, consult widely with citizens, and implement a Canadian version of a more proportional and fair voting system within the next five years.

This is not just a electoral issue in my view; it's one of justice. Under the present system, all voters are not accorded the same opportunity to be fairly represented.

Recommend this post

On Being a Patriot

An hour ago, Kevin Gaudet, CEO of the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation, sent the following Twitter update:

"I am ashamed Maude Barlow is Canadian. She may hate Harper but should love Canada."

Gaudet was responding to this article by Barlow, which appears today in The Globe and Mail. In essence, Barlow was criticizing Canada's failure to act on a number of issues, failures for which the Harper government is responsible. 

Gaudet took particular exception to this:
I am personally ashamed of my country as I travel internationally. [emphasis added]

Gaudet has a peculiar understanding of patriotism. In his view, to express shame for the actions or inactions of one's country is to be unpatriotic. But he's dead wrong.

As I responded back: "Shame is the emotional equivalent of taking responsibility." For someone to love one's country, per Gaudet's requirement for patriotic citizenship, one must never express shame for what one's country does. Such a concept of citizenship is empty of meaning.

Recommend this post

economicus ridiculous

Please don't forget the new blog created by Daphne and I, economicus ridiculous, a consumer advice blog with a twist. Latest posts: Silver Linings Savings Plan and Getting a Bank Account.

Help in getting word out about this new blog would be appreciated.

Recommend this post

04 January 2010

He Says It Not Only for Liberals

Jeff Jedras, that is, in his excellent commentary that appears in the National Post today.

Jedras expresses the frustration that many Liberals have been feeling, I suspect, as they've watched 'leader' Michael Ignatieff's initial modest flame fizzle to a mere ember. Simultaneously and perhaps unintentionally, Jedras also expresses the frustration felt by non-Liberals, since all Canadians are let down when the official leader of the Official Opposition fails to lead.

Where is the man's backbone? Where is his or his party's vision?

And don't tell me about that damn thinkers' conference! There's nothing like telling the few truly grassroots members your party has left that they don't qualify for your deep thought. Or, for that matter, the rest of us plebes.

Recommend this post

On 'Mock' Parliaments

It would appear that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and his minions "are not interested in mock Parliaments."

Good grief, sir! Why ever not?

Our Members of Parliament, elected to represent the people but who instead represent their parties' interests, make a mockery of Parliament as a matter of course.

Recommend this post

01 January 2010

Calling Vegan Wanna-bees !

For those of you who are wavering on whether to embrace a vegan diet this year, here's food for thought.
Change your life for the better and save the lives of animals in 2010 by pledging to be vegan!

What a great way to start the year!

Recommend this post

2010 and Space Exploration

Where's our moon colony? Where's our Mars colony? Where's our fully inhabitable space station - aka Babylon 5? Where's our exploration into the deeper reaches of the solar system and beyond? Why are we not reaching "where no human has gone before"?

Answer: A huge portion of money is being poured by the world's governments into the sinkhole of the military industrial complex.

The tax dollars of the most affluent societies pay for war, for killing, not for the advancement of science and technology that would benefit all. Think healthcare, education, a food distribution network that stamps out world hunger. These things are possible, but not when war and aggression is the typical answer to dissent.

Recommend this post

New Blog: economicus ridiculous

For 2010, Daphne and I have created a new blog, economicus ridiculous. We concluded it was time to separate our political writings from the everyday challenges we face living on the dirt cheap.

As the introduction to the new blog explains, economicus ridiculous is intended to be a 'consumer advice' blog, but one with a twist. Please check it out.

Recommend this post