Saturday, December 15, 2012

Too Many Goblins...

...Orcs, whatever. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. Otherwise, quite good.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Remembering the massacre

On December 6, 1989, I was on holiday in Arizona, spending a week by myself driving around the Navajo and Hopi reservations. I kept the car radio on a local Navajo station and I didn't understand much of it, but when I started to hear Montreal mentioned in newscasts I flipped to an English channel.

My first thought, given the general ignorance of Canada in the US, was that the news stories were mistaken. Back in 1989 there weren't a lot of these types of shootings, and there were certainly none in Canada. The idea of men being told to leave the room so the women could be lined up and shot, the idea of the shooter resenting educated women so much that he murdered female engineering students en masse, the idea that he could legally obtain the fire arm in Canada... it was all too much to comprehend. I didn't believe the story till I landed back in Toronto and saw the Canadian papers.

Women have come a long way since 1989: you could say that what Marc Lepine feared has come to pass. But let's not kid ourselves that women are equal yet. I don't want to make a long list so I'll mention just one small example of the real state of our world: Women's names don't appear in phone books. In most families, the man's name is listed but not the woman's. For single women, it's too dangerous to print more than an initial. We have a ways to go.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Leadership, leadership, leadership

I'm leaning towards Justin Trudeau for federal leader and Sandra Pupatello for Ontario provincial leader. But I don't claim to be engaged enough to make an informed decision this time. I argued for Bob Rae when he lost to Dion and then lost to Ignatieff and then lost to party politics. I think Dalton McGuinty was a great premier but all I ever hear in local media is that he sucks. Apparently my opinion doesn't go very far.

On the federal front, we keep putting someone up there, watch the Harper attack ads undermine their credibility, and then turf them out.

On the provincial front, it's hard to get excited about electing our version of Kim Campbell - someone who, according to reports, will fight an election that results in a drastic reduction in party support. The party's modus operandi is that whoever oversees a poor election will get turfed out (or forced to resign): what's the point of getting excited about that scenario?

If I thought our party would actually get behind a leader and help them succeed in the long term, I'd be more interested. As it is: meh.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The problem with Rob Ford's defence

Rob Ford says he didn't benefit from the conflict of interest that got him kicked out of office. He said last week, "I had nothing to gain and the city had nothing to lose". Later, a campaign ad was released on YouTube that pushed this message.

The problem is it's not true. Ford voted on a motion that would have made him reimburse $3,150 that he had improperly solicited. He had $3,150 to gain.

We in Waterloo know a lot about conflict of interest. Many councillors and mayors at the regional and municipal levels were unable to vote on the LRT because of possible conflicts of interest. Some, such as a councillor who sat out the vote because he works at the University of Waterloo, seem to have gone too far. Some, such as the regional chair whose kids own property on the route and who was active on the file until the final vote, seem to have not gone far enough. But an extraordinary amount of thought and scrutiny went into the decisions. Many councillors got advice from multiple lawyers before deciding. The local papers printed numerous articles on the topic.

You'd think that if a Waterloo city councillor making roughtly $25,000 a year could take conflict of interest seriously, the mayor of Toronto could.

Monday, December 03, 2012

A Keynesian Cliff

When we have a recession and there's a call for stimulus, a lot of people - especially on the right - dispute the effectiveness of Keynesian economics. People like Prime Minister Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty were so ideologically committed to small government that as we entered recession in 2008 they tried to cut spending... resulting in a threatened coalition and subsequent prorogation, with crisis averted only when Harper gave in to opposition demands to enact a stimulus package.

Throughout this recent recession, many on the right argued that deficit-cutting must be the priority. They didn't care that the IMF and central bank governors were calling in the strongest terms for stimulus. They disputed claims that stimulus causes the economy to grow, which reduces the deficit. They just wanted to cut.

Now we're facing the so-called fiscal cliff (Paul Krugman prefers the term "austerity bomb"): taxes will rise and spending will be cut on January 1 unless Obama and Congress can come to an agreement to stop it. The fiscal cliff is pure Keynesian economics: raising taxes and cutting spending will slow down the economy. But when it comes to the fiscal cliff, Keynesianism is suddenly acceptable. The same Stephen Harper who wanted to cut spending in 2008 is out giving speeches about the dangers of the fiscal cliff.