April 02, 2019 22:46 +0000  |  Politics United Kingdom 0

Stephen started a conversation with me over a private Twitter chat the other day and I wanted to share it here (with his permission of course). I think it provides a pretty good snapshot not just of what the hell is going on over here, but also of how I feel about all of this mess at this time in my life.

This isn't a verbatim copy/paste, as I've tried to fix grammar, spelling, and message sequence where appropriate.

Third loss???? WTF is going on over there?

It's what you get when you put a few hundred people in the House who consider their own careers (and personal interests) above the country and its citizens.

  • The people were idiots and voted to leave (barely)
  • The new PM decides that 51% is a mandate and does her best to get a smooth exit
  • She spends 2 years fighting with her own party and not consulting the opposition about what sort of deal the UK wants, then goes to Brussels where she's treated as the UK deserved to be treated: a 2nd-rate country based on a tiny island off the coast of a massive economy, suffering from delusions of empire.
  • She returns with the best possible deal she was ever going to get (considering that she wasn't interested in doing anything the opposition wanted)
  • That deal is rejected by the opposition (duh)
  • It's also rejected by most of her own party because she's surrounded herself with disaster capitalists, hard brexiters, and a few remainers.
  • The deal won't pass
  • The alternatives won't pass
  • The default is no-deal
  • No deal means we are seriously fucked: food shortages, blockades, population exchanges... the whole thing. The House is playing with fire and doesn't give two shits who gets burned.

Ah but the house voted against no deal lol

Yep looks like you're fucked


Yeah don't remind me. Honestly, I was happy to have this country go up in flames, but now that I've got a kid here (who still doesn't have a passport (we're waiting on the government) I can't conceive of a way to get us out -- smoothly or otherwise.

To give you a rough Idea, I plotted on Google Maps the other day, the route to Dover on foot -- assuming I'd have to walk it to GTFO of this country. It's 37 hours straight walking for the record.

Do you absolutely need a passport? I can cross to the US with Everett without him having a passport

That's insane, why would you do that?

The UK isn't in Schengen, so it's full passport controls to enter & exit the UK.

That is zombie apocoplyse like talk.

My point re passports is only that I need a passport to get to the US but the kid doesn't because of age. Mind you that is by land.... not by air, and you are on an island... so yea....

I am honestly this concerned.

Food shortages mean looting and rioting. The Brits are not prepared for this in the slightest.

Oh and then there's the mass currency devaluation and liquidity controls that'll likely come in as well.

I figure if I can get to Dover, I can walk through the tunnel (assuming the trains are offline due to no-deal.

Say you get the passport, what would you do? You're tied economically to the UK.

OK that was nuts

What you just said

We're not really tied, no. Christina has a good job, and I have a good skill. I can work anywhere I want, and Christina can find work given her reputation. I'm not worried about us economically, aside from the savings I have in pouds.

I know you are mobile but I was thinking about Christina - academic jobs are not falling out of trees, but if you think you could then cool.

why not move your savings to Euros and Cdn?

BEFORE Brexit?

I've been doing that, but we don't want to move everything just in case.

But I do have more here than I should. I keep putting it off whenever good news comes across the wire. It makes me think that I won't need to move it.

There was good news? It's been one shit show after the other.

It's incredible that things have fallen that much over there.

It depends on how this all plays out. With each rejection, we move closer both to no-deal *and* to repeal of Article 50. The hope is that as all the alternatives fall away: general election, 2nd referrendum, different deal... you're left with only 2 options: no-deal, and no-leave. The ECJ has already ruled that the UK can unilaterally repeal Article 50 at any point until they actually leave so... it could go either way.

They say that you're supposed to judge risk not just on the odds, but on the outcome of the alternatives. If one option is "Zombie Apocalypse" bad, and the other is "ok so we don't starve", then the rational thing to do is plan for the apocalpyse.

Really? The UK can just walk away from this without the EU's permission? Hmmmm the problem now is the deadline, there is not enough time for a referendum and/or election.

So yeah, that's what's happening over here. I hope your day is better.

November 16, 2016 18:59 +0000  |  Politics The United States 2

The outcome of the US presidential election was easily predicted. I say this because I was sure Trump would win as far back as May of this year. There seems to be a great many people still entirely surprised by the outcome though, so I thought I'd write down my reasoning.

There were two primary factors in Trump's taking of the White House. I'll deal with the minor reason first.


It's still easier for most people to vote for a black man than it is for a white woman. The reasons for this are long and horrible, but this reality hasn't changed much in the last few thousand years. A woman may have a better chance now of winning an election, but sexism continues to stack the deck against every female candidate in most of the world.

It's a real problem, but I don't think it's nearly enough to explain why Clinton lost in an election that was the Left's for the taking.

The Establishment

Trump didn't win this election, Clinton lost it because she couldn't convince people to show up. Take a look at this chart showing the voter turnout over the last few elections (credit to dinoignacio via reddit). Trump rode the coattails of the Republican base who vote red regardless of the candidate, but the Left barely represented, begging the question: why not?

To answer this you need only look at the Bernie Sanders campaign. Here was a candidate who called for an end to money in politics, real socialised medicine, a focus on the environment, and on returning industry to the country. His focus on the future appealed to young people, his record on social policy encouraged the base, and his rhetoric on taking care of people hit hardest resonated with everyone who has been hurting over the last few years.

That last group is what matters because that last group is HUGE.

The truth is that in most Western nations, the US included, austerity and the right-wing have been at war with the working class for decades. In countries without an adequate social safety net (like the US), it's entirely common to have a household with two working parents and two children, and still not have enough to make ends meet. For those families just squeaking by, they live in fear of one of them losing their job, at which point they are literally homeless.

These people are angry, and they're scared, and the best that the Left could drum up was a woman whose dynastic name practically begs the spectre of corruption and hereditary rule. Clinton is the embodiment of "politics as usual" handed to a nation of people desperate for change.

At his core, Obama wasn't much different from Clinton in the ideals that capitalism somehow equals freedom, but importantly on the surface Obama was inspirational: the first black president, a Democrat who talks like a Kennedy. That man could have read the phone book to the public and the world would still have fallen in love with him.

But after eight years with him at the helm, the people are still scared and angry. They've barely survived a banking crisis that crippled the planet and saw not one rich white banker convicted. There are riots on the streets spurred by cops with military hardware murdering cvilians. They're still living paycheque to paycheque and the only explanation they're getting is from the Orange Beast on the right who is insisting that the immigrants are to blame for everything.

This was a hard sell, but the American people were ripe for a real shift in policy. So what did the Democratic party do? They sabotaged the Sanders campaign and assumed that fear of the damage Trump could do would be enough to get the plebs to vote blue.

The people are tired, angry, and scared. They want an end to corruption, to a government that doesn't understand or even hear their plight. They were told repeatedly by that establishment that a vote for Trump would be insane, that it would burn everything down. The trouble is, that's what the people want. The people want a revolution. They want to see muderous cops and "banksters" behind bars, they want an end to foreign wars, and they want coprorations out of politics.

This is a failure of the Left to give the people what they want. The left could have run an inspirational candidate, one who wanted the same thing 70% of Americans wanted. This was the opportunity to capture the White House, the Senate, Congress, and the Supreme Court for that revolutionary vision of the future.

But the Democrats wanted another Clinton.

That's why they got Trump.

October 06, 2015 17:02 +0000  |  Canada Democracy Environment Green Party NDP Politics 0

A dear friend asked me over Twitter today why I think she should vote Green and not NDP. I started with 140 characters, then switched to a direct message, and then I wanted formatting... So I wrote a blog post.

So Theresa, this is a short, but reasonably complete list of the reasons I couldn't bring myself to vote NDP this election. Which is a pity really. I'd like to live in a world where a party like the Greens didn't need to exist because the mainstream parties actually did the Right Thing.

...but they don't do the right thing, and they shouldn't be rewarded for that.


The Tar Sands

If there is one fact that should be obvious to anyone who claims to know anything about climate change, it's that the carbon reserves that we have in Northern Alberta need to stay in the ground. The NDP are against Keystone XL and Northern Gateway, but they do support Energy East. So, either the NDP don't believe the millions of scientists who have stated that this stuff has to stay in the ground, or they're pretending to support the oil sector in an effort to get votes.

Either way, the NDP position is suspect and speaks to either their scientific literacy or their authenticity. I'll let you decide which is more egregious.

Carbon Tax vs. Cap and Trade

The NDP has taken a cap/trade position (to the exclusion of a carbon tax) against the advice of every prominent environmentalist and economist. This is quite clearly done for political reasons, to separate themselves from the Liberals and Greens who favour a carbon tax.

This wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for the fact that every reputable environmentalist group will tell you that a carbon tax is the best way to affect the change needed, and that cap/trade is a market non-solution. In other words, the NDP is choosing its platform based on what it thinks will win them power over what is right for the country. You may sense a theme developing.

The Senate

Their position on the senate is untenable, impractical, and dishonest. Ignoring for the moment that almost all of the countries on the planet with a single governing house are what you and I might refer to as banana republics, an upper house is a crucial check on the power of the lower house, and in a parliamentary system like ours that vests so much power in the hands of a single person, the prime minister, this is a Very Bad Idea.

On top of that, abolition is quite impossible as it would require support for all of the provinces and every constitutional lawyer in the country will tell you that there's no way you'll ever get everyone on board with abolition.

No one is saying that the Senate shouldn't be reformed, but the NDP position of abolition is not good policy. Once again, they're writing policy based on what they think will play better with the public (abolition is much easier to grasp than reform), as opposed to what would be good for the country.

Proportional Representation

After the 2011 election, the NDP, who had been talking about electoral reform months earlier, suddenly came out in favour of first past the post. I distinctly remember listening to CBC's The House, where the NDP MP steadfastly supported FPTP with the typical platitudes of "it's worked for the country for so long" etc. etc. None of this is surprising since it was first-past-the-post that gave them that "orange wave" in Québec.

Then, just last year, they showed up late to the party on electoral reform and did a big blitz where they told everyone that if elected, they'd "make this Canada's last unfair election". Then, as they rose in the polls, all of that rhetoric evaporated, and now their issues page makes absolutely no mention of it.

The Consortium Debate

Thomas Mulcair started this campaign saying he'd gladly debate anywhere, any time, and he's finishing it having backed out of the one debate that was guaranteed to have the most viewers out of the entire Election.

You can't claim to want to lead the country if you're going to run away from debates with your opponents. It doesn't matter that Stephen Harper refused to participate. In fact, Mulcair's refusal simply puts him in bad company, with arguably Canada's worst Prime Minister in history.

The Consortium Debate could have been an opportunity to reach more than 10 million people (as opposed to the paltry 1.5 from the Maclean's Debate) and publicly shame Stephen Harper for abdicating his responsibility to the democratic process. Instead, through his actions, Mulcair legitimised Harper's position and drastically limited the level of political discourse in Canada.

This reason alone would be enough to keep me from the NDP.

Wrap Up

I want to make it clear that I still think that the NDP are better than the Liberals and Conservatives, but I also think that they've fallen far, far from their roots as the sensible socialist alternative. They've become a party of pragmatists, shifting their principles toward whatever they think will win them votes, and for me this is an unforgivable sin.

If you want to lead my country, I expect you to have ideals and principles underlying your positions, policy that's supported by those principles, and a leader that stands behind them. The CCF was that kind of party, Tommy Douglas, Elizabeth May and Jeremy Corbyn are that kind of leader, and voters can smell the stench of an impostor. They smell it on Thomas Mulcair, and they certainly smell it on Justin Trudeau.

I voted Green because they're still the party of principle out there. They take sometimes unpopular positions that are vested in principles as stated by the party members. I don't agree with all of these positions, but I can live with what I see as bad policy if it means that I can trust the party to follow through with everything they say they represent:

  • They called for a carbon tax more than a decade ago, when the science was in but the public was strongly against it. They've never wavered on this.
  • They've always opposed the tar sands because it's bad policy to support an industry that's trying to kill everyone on the planet.
  • They routinely call for order and respect in the House of Commons.
  • They support the reduction of powers of the Prime Minister, because we shouldn't be electing de-facto dictators, and for the increase in power of MPs so that they can do the work of local representation.
  • Their leader is an accomplished lawyer, parliamentarian and diplomat, dedicated to her role as MP and advocate for a safe environment.

I also think that their position on the senate is silly and impractical, and that their opposition to GMOs is anti-science and idiotic, but as it's clear that neither of these are priorities in the party, I'm unconcerned given their positions on real issues that actually matter.

When it comes time to vote in this election, who would you rather support, a party that stands by what it says, or a party that has demonstrated that their ideology and even their science will bend to pragmatism?

September 03, 2015 08:27 +0000  |  Canada Politics 3

The body of a child, washed up on a Turkish beach

I'm posting the image here for all to see. If this bothers you, good. This is exactly the sort of thing that should bother you. Your reaction proves that you are a good person, capable of empathy.

If you're anything like me, feelings of grief and sadness were followed, after some wallowing, by a deep sense of helplessness and anger. This image, and the issues behind it are terrible -- what can I do about it?

The honest answer is that I don't know. No one thing, no ten things I can think of doing would even begin to solve the problem of finding these people a safe place to live.

The problem at this juncture, from what I understand, is two-sided: political will on the receiving end, and in some cases (at least for that of Turkey), an unwillingness to be decent human beings when it comes to the treatment of refugees. In other words, the problem is political: people need to get out of Syria and the rest of us won't let them. Instead we're collectively sitting idly by while bodies wash up on beaches.

It seems to me that the solution to all of this is to remind everyone of our collective capacity for empathy. If our cowardly leaders won't move on this issue it can only be out of a lack of empathy, and they therefore should be replaced. This is why I'm posting this photo: because we need to be upset about this.

This is a solvable problem. The number of refugees coming out of Syria are great, but manageable: 7million. If Europe alone were to accept all of them tomorrow, this would represent a mere 2% increase in population, and there's no reason that Europe alone should have to bear the strain of such an influx. The United Nations has asked Canada to accept 10,000, and I can only assume that other countries have had similar numbers asked of them.

It's time to make our voices heard on this issue and step up to help. We're a human community after all and that is a dead child on a beach.

May 26, 2015 17:27 +0000  |  Canada Politics 2

Canada's Senate has been getting a lot of flack lately from the suspended/disgraced former senators like Conservatives Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin to most recently, moves by the Senate to block/amend/rewrite the Reform Act, a bill I personally think is long overdue.

Every party has a different idea of what to do with the Red Chamber. The Greens want to reform it by electing senators, the Liberals simply kicked all Liberal senators out of their caucus, the Conservatives want to elect them, but aren't interested in actually going through the process of getting provincial approval, and the NDP wants to outright abolish the Senate -- though they've been unsurprisingly silent on exactly how they'd do that in the face of a constitution that guarantees the Senate's existence.

How it Works Right Now

For those of you who don't know, this is how the Senate currently works in relation to your vote:

  1. You vote for a candidate to represent your riding in the House of Commons.
  2. The winner in your riding goes to Ottawa to represent you, and whichever party holds a plurality of votes after an election forms government, with the leader of that party given the role of Prime Minister.
  3. The government does it's thing until one day a Senate seat becomes available by way of only five options:
    • A senator dies
    • A senator reaches the age of 65
    • A senator leaves the Senate of their own volition
    • A senator is kicked out of the Senate
    • The House of Commons votes to increase the size of the Senate
  4. When this happens, the Prime Minister can put anyone (s)he wants into that Senate seat. Typically these are "friends of the party", or just friends of the Prime Minister.
  5. That senator sits in the Senate and votes on bills coming from the House of Commons until they die, reach 65, leave, or are kicked out.

When Party A is elected, the Prime Minister appoints 10 senators over the course of her term. When her party is ousted by Party B, the new party now has to contend with people in the Senate who might oppose anything too extreme, since they're from a different party. This is what is lovingly referred to as "sober second thought".

What the Parties are Suggesting

On the face of it, the Senate seems like an insane tool for democratic governance, and I won't deny the fact that there's a lot of room for improvement, but I want to go on record saying that I think the positions of all the major parties are deeply flawed here, and in the case of every party, self-serving:

  • The Green Party want a proportionally elected senate. Given that the current system currently offers the Greens exactly 0 seats, elections make sense for them. Additionally, proportional elections serve the Greens well because their vote is spread wide across the country.
  • The Liberals kicked the sitting Liberal senators out of caucus, but know that this was more about optics than anything else. These senators are still loyal to the party, to the ideals of the party. They lose nothing, and nothing is gained for anyone but Liberals.
  • The Conservatives want an elected senate, which fits with their mantra of "more responsible government". The only problem is that their own actions over the last decade have shown that they use the electoral process to reduce voter turnout and drive up wedge politics, and then strong-arm the political process to get their way. In a fully elected system, there'd be nothing in the Prime Minister's way to do everything (s)he wants.
  • The NDP want to abolish the senate, a move that works for them since they've never had a seat in there anyway. Given the nature of our constitution, it's also a pipe dream that they can market as something the public can easily comprehend and support. It does nothing at all to ensure appropriate checks on power in our system.

I want to make the case that the senate is a good thing. That for all of its flaws, the purpose it serves is just too important to abandon (as the NDP would suggest) or politicise (as the others have stated).

Why Elections are a Bad Idea

The typical solution of "just elect them" is one that's already been tried and found wanting. For the test case, you need only look South to the United States where they elect:

  • A President
  • Congressmen
  • Senators
  • Judges
  • District Attorneys
  • Sheriffs
  • ...and many more

The result is a deeply polarised society, with judges and senators less concerned about their jobs than they are about getting re-elected. A sheriff's sex life, rather than their track record is made relevant to whether or not they can enforce the law. There is no concept of "sober second thought" because every time a congressman or senator votes on an issue, they have to worry about "how this will play with the voters".

This isn't to say that all elections are bad. They are after all a pillar of democracy. No, I'm arguing that just as an elected governing body is crucial to democracy, a sane political process also requires the existence of a body that is not beholden to the whims of the public. The public is fickle, emotional, and historically grossly uninformed. Purely elected bodies are measureably less stable, more erratic, and more polarising.

This was the idea behind Canada's Senate, and it's still a good one: a place where people can come together and debate, amend, approve, and reject bills passed by the elected House. It's a check on the power of the House, which is beholden only to the electorate.

If you introduce elections to this equation, you undermine the whole value of the senate: the lack of fear in decision making. Worrying about re-election means worrying about the whims of the short-term: anti-science, religious nutbaggery, and war-mongering. All of the emotionally-charged issues underlining every political action based on recent events, presented outside of the broader historical context. This is is a recipe of instability and a tyranny of short-term thinking.


If we shouldn't abolish the Senate, and we shouldn't elect it, then what alternatives do we have? I don't pretend to have all of the answers, but if someone were to make me Emperor for a Day, I might propose something like this:

  • Candidates for Senate seats are nominated by sitting members of the House of Commons
  • One nominee proposed per MP
  • Nominations are secret so party whips can't manipulate MPs.
  • Whenever a senate seat is made available, one is randomly selected from the list of 308 candidates.
  • Senate terms should be 20years to allow for long-term policy making, while allowing for gradual changes over time.
  • Violations of Senate rules (citing the Duffy and Wallin cases here) should be met with investigation and/or suspension and public trial if need be.

I'm curious about what others might think about this, and would invite other proposals -- anything to preserve the ideals of the Red Chamber while working to root out the cronyism we're currently saddled with.

One thing's for certain though, all of the major parties are making recommendations that are bad for the country in the long term, and unsurprisingly, they're all recommending policy that works best for them.

April 18, 2014 12:18 +0000  |  Canada Democracy Politics 0

Listening to CBC radio this morning, Evan Solomon interviewed a Conservative Party senator about the Fair Elections Act. He claimed support for the bill because while he'd received a number of form letters opposed to it, "not a single personal email" had crossed his desk.

Of course, upon hearing this, I did what I could to send him a personal email, but it turns out that it's rather difficult. He didn't list any contact info on the show, so I had to look him up on Wikipedia. From there, I went to his personal website, which was down, so I visited his official page on the Senate's site and sent him this:

Subject: You said you'd not received any personal emails so...

Here's one asking you to reconsider your position on the Fair Elections Act.

The vouching issue is a big problem, but to be honest, it's not my primary concern. I object to the act on the grounds of banning vouching alone as it will disenfranchise voters at a time where our elections are bordering losing their legitimacy, but personally I see the other facets of this bill as far more dangerous.

For me, the most disturbing part of the act are the changes to spending limits that create loopholes so big that that it effectively enables rich parties to dominate the electoral process. Poorer parties, like the NDP, Greens, Bloc, and Pirates, which represent the will of millions of Canadians will be eclipsed by the war chests amassed by the already dominant parties in our country. Canada's democratic process is already biased toward a two-party system, why would you work to deepen that problem?

Then there's the constraints on Elections Canada, a spiteful swipe by the Conservative party if ever there was one. Elections Canada needs the power to compel testimony in its effort to keep our elections fair, and the Conservative Party moves instead to curtail the powers of the Chief Electoral Officer and then goes even further to do something nobody wants: block them actually promoting voting.

There's a reason no one who knows what they're talking about supports this act: it's insane. You know that deep down most of these proposals were never made in earnest. The goal has always been to distract the public with the more glaring changes (vouching, stopping Elections Canada from promoting voting), so that the financial changes -- the long-term, most damaging ones -- can slip through on an amended bill.

You're an unelected senator, and this is why I love the Senate. You're in a position to vote to turn this bill out completely with absolutely no risk to your position. You know that this is a bad bill, you have to. Have the courage to stand up for future generations in this country that want fair elections. Turn this bill back with a recommendation to introduce real electoral reform: open accounting, a modern electoral process, any number of recommendations proposed by experts in this field.

You have a choice, here and now to do something right with your position. Please don't waste it.

This Fair Elections Act is probably the most damaging piece of legislation the Conservatives have ever put forward. If it succeeds as-is, it will permanently damage the legitimacy of every Canadian government from 2015 forward. If it's amended to include only a fraction of its current payload, it will simply cripple democracy across the country.

If you're reading this and you're Canadian, please take a few minutes to learn about the act and then write to a senator about why (s)he needs to fight this. It's important.

April 01, 2014 23:24 +0000  |  Free Software Politics 0

I had a bit of a revelation the other day. I realised that we live in an age where state power and secrecy is so fragile that governments are completely at a loss regarding what to do about it. All it takes is for one person with a conscience to copy a file and push it out onto the Internet and that's it: everyone can know the truth, and no one can stop it from circulating.

We've seen this at play with Wikileaks, and more recently with Edward Snowden, and the public world wide overwhelmingly supports the work of these individuals and organisations in bringing to light truths that need to be told. This amazing future we're living in, that allows us to practise journalism of conscience exists solely because of a concept we often refer to as the "Open Web", and it's under attack.

Mozilla screencap

Without getting too technical, there are concerted efforts by governments and corporations to break down the Open Web into more manageable chunks. Governments want a means to control what data gets distributed, copyright holders want a way to monitor what you share and with whom, ISPs want to turn the internet into a series of channels so that they can charge for so-called premium services, and then there's companies like Netflix that actively work to privatise the web itself, pushing for proprietary, closed standards.

Our Free and Open Internet is being attacked on all sides and no one has been a greater ally for the public good in this fight than Mozilla. Yes of course, The Pirate Bay has been a champion of our rights for years, and Google has our back... sometimes, but when it comes to a reputable, reasonable, non-profit voice in the one area that counts the most for this point in our evolution, Mozilla is it.

Mozilla's decision to promote Brendan Eich to CEO was not an endorsement of his politics, but it's still terrible for many reasons, not the least of which was the foreseeable backlash they had to have known they would face from the community who have come to love, trust, and promote Mozilla over the years. His presence in the Big Chair undermines all of that goodwill, and his unwillingness to seek some sort of reconciliation with the community only serves to damage relations further.

But this business of boycotting Mozilla, driving people away from a Free and Open Internet and into the hands of private and government interests, this is not good for anyone but Google, Apple, and the NSA. We need to prioritise the public good, over our distaste for one man's bigotry. We should condemn Mozilla's decision, but acknowledge that they're still our closest ally in the fight for a Free and Open Web.

Brendan Eich should be mocked publicly for being lost on the wrong side of history and Mozilla's board should question its decision to put at the helm of their company someone who has cost the company so much in the eyes of the public, but if we're going to continue fighting for an Open Web, we need to acknowledge who our friends are.

Hint: it's not Google.

July 06, 2011 17:57 +0000  |  Canada Politics 3

It's a strange thing being an expat, stranger still being a rather patriotic one. I manage to keep up on what's happening in Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Amsterdam thanks to the wonders of social networking and do what I can to facilitate a cultural exchange with those around me. My coworkers teach me about kibbeling, and I teach them how to properly make use of the word "eh".

The thing is, as an expat, you start to feel like a sort of ambassador for your country and culture. Our traditions, geography, food... people ask me about these things and I do my best to represent Canada when they do. In my short time here, I've given crash courses on poutine, prorogue, and Parliament, explained numerous times that we don't all speak French, and painstakingly outlined our core differences from the Americans. It's an honour really, to serve in this role, but I find my enthusiasm for it is not as strong as it was only a few years ago. Canada is letting me down.

Our reputation abroad has been thrown away by our Glorious Leaders in the key areas of human health and climate change. Canada, a nation that at one time served in a role of moral leadership in these areas, is now being rightfully attacked by the international community for our abysmal track record.

We are being singled out as being the most damaging influence on the issue of climate change, worse than the United States, China, and India. Al Jazeera even did a recent story on our embarrassing track record. As if that wasn't enough, our duplicitous policy of banning the use of asbestos in Canada, while exporting the poison abroad is making headlines now... it's hard to proudly represent a country that you're just not proud of.

Canada is the nation that saved the world by inventing peace keeping. This, and acts like it earned a name for us in the international community as a fair, diplomatic voice, but as our attitude toward the world has changed, so has our reputation, and when we lost our seat on the UN Security Council, our Prime Minister openly stated that he really didn't care.

I've been told that I shouldn't worry about such things, that Canada is just like any other country: hypocritical and tainted with self interest. We "can't be Good about everything" is the thinking, but I disagree and see this as defeatist. If we accept the Canada that is destructive and disingenuous to our neighbours, then we'll never see the Canada we want. Instead, I must learn to be honest about who we are, and fight for who we should be... it's just that some days, it's so very difficult to be proud of my country and this makes me sad.

May 19, 2011 08:36 +0000  |  Economy Politics Technology 0

I just read a really fascinating article about a new technology called "distributed cryptocurrency" and its far-reaching implications into world economies and government policy. If you haven't heard of BitCoins yet (a form of cryptocurrency that's gaining popularity), it's basically an uncontrolled, untraceable currency that's presently being used as payment for services on some websites. The assumption is that at some point this currency will break into tangible goods (if it hasn't already) and then everything changes: taxation, welfare, markets, everything:

The author of the article, Rick Falkvinge, is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party. Far from a joke, the Pirates already have a small number of seats in the European Parliament and are gradually gaining support if for no other reason than that they actually understand concepts like peer-to-peer file sharing and distributed cryptocurrency. If you're curious at all about where we're headed, Falkvinge's blog is a good place to start.

April 29, 2011 12:07 +0000  |  Canada Democracy Politics 2

Disclaimer: I am very jetlagged. Please be patient with me.

Canadians, and more specifically the Canadian media have been perpetuating a myth about our electoral system for a while now and it's gotta stop. Newspapers and radio shows are guilty of it, as are party leaders of most stripes: they're treating our electoral process as if we live in the United States.

Here's how it is: We elect parliaments in Canada, not presidents. We elect representatives who sit in the House of Commons who then collectively determine who should speak for Canada: the Prime minister, the first among equals.

Most of us can't vote for Harper, Layton, Ignatieff, or May, but not a day goes by on this campaign that I don't hear some pundit talking about how Ignatieff will do X or Harper will do Y. Both Harper and Layton have been noted for talking like they will personally do something if elected, and though I haven't heard Ignatieff do the same, I wouldn't be surprised.

The fact that in practise, our political system does work as though we elect short-term tyrants doesn't negate the fact that that's not how this system is supposed to work. In fact, I would argue that since we cover campaigns as though it were some sort of horse race between presidential candidates leads not only to an excuse, but an expectation of tyranny once that leader ends up in the Prime Minister's role.

The second myth is that parliamentary elections can be "won" somehow. Jack Layton or Stephen Harper cannot "win" this election as the absurdity of that statement is twofold:(1) as we've already established, any one candidate can only win his or her riding, and (b) winning a minority of seats (or even a majority) does not mean that the remaining parties are somehow not part of our governing process. The House is the authority, not the governing party, and certainly not the Prime Minister.

Ignoring these two truths about our system of government leads to the devaluation of the role of our elected MPs and to support for arguments like Harper's opposition to a coalition. We should either take advantage of our parliamentary system, or simply drop it in favour of (in my opinion) less democratic presidential role. There's really no point on keeping up the premise of parliamentary democracy if people are going to continue to believe that the Prime Minister runs Canada.