Saturday, April 23, 2011

Starting to get a bit interesting

Just two weeks ago, it looked as though Jack Layton might be fighting his last campaign.  There's still a week to go, but safe to say that yes, this is getting a bit interesting.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

The end of Canadian politics as we know it?

This might be the end of Canadian politics as we know it. The NDP are polling (not just an off poll, but numerous polls) putting them above the 20% mark nationally, and into the 30-35% range in Quebec. Today, an Ipsos Reid poll is showing Jack Layton's NDP at 24%, behind Stephen Harper's Conservatives at 43%. This places the NDP above the Liberals who come in at 21%.

In Quebec, yesterday's Ekos poll puts the NDP at over 31% and Gilles Duceppe's Bloc Quebecois at just under 24%.

The fact that the NDP is even on the map in Quebec, when only a few weeks ago Thomas Mulcair (the NDP's first MP elected in a general election, they previously had one elected in a by-election) is amazing.

What's far more amazing, is that if this continues, the NDP could be winning a dozen seats or even more. It's almost unspeakable.

Add to that their strong showing in BC, where they are in a tight three-way, and some indications of growing support in the prairies and the Atlantic provinces, and the NDP might be in contention for the top spot soon.

If these numbers hold, or improve for the NDP...the dream of the CCF and its successor party could finally be realized, and that is to replace the Liberals...much as the Labour party replaced the British Liberal party on that side of the Atlantic.

The logjam could be over, and Canadian politics as we know it, could be forever changed.

See also:

Matt Gurney: A strong NDP is bad for the Liberals, but might be good for Canada | Full Comment | National Post

Saturday, April 16, 2011

2011 Canadian Election Debates

I finally just got done watching the entirety of the 2011 Canadian Election debates, in both French and English.  Ignatieff looked a bit week in the English debate, but a little better in the French debate.  Harper, by simply surviving, did alright in both, but the two who were really interesting to watch were Layton and Duceppe, especially the latter.  Duceppe is a very well spoken politician who approaches things with a level of frankness that the others don't dare.

It's clear, especially between Duceppe, Harper, and Layton that those three have done this more than a few times, and are like old buddies.  Ignatieff stood out at times like the odd guy out.  The parts where Duceppe and Layton reminisced about the near coalition with Harper in 2004 were especially like watching a couple of the guys sit back and talk about the good ole days when they were all friends over a glass of beer.  Anyway, I encourage everyone to watch them.  A source for that would be, but I'm sure you can find it elsewhere.

Interesting to note also, that normally in Canada, the highest rated programs pull in just over a million viewers.  The English debate pulled in over four million viewers!  That puts it up to the level of the Stanley Cup or the Vancouver Olympics.  Yep, Canadians really do take their politics seriously.

The debate is not only informative, but it's just damned fun watching our politicians actually drop the spin from time, to time, and just talk directly.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reverse Robin Hood Syndrome

Inflammatory image aside, does anyone else think that it's a bit ridiculous to give money to Japan?  I mean, this is one of the richest nations in the world.  Now, I know that the Japanese economy has been overtaken by China, placing Japan in the third largest position, but in terms of quality of life, Japan's is much, much better than China's.  So, the overall GDP is not so relevant here.  I'm really not insensitive to how much it sucks that Japan had a big earthquake, a tsunami and a small nuclear disaster.  I know this sets them back a lot, but Japan has a huge tax base, and the ability to borrow vast sums of money to rebuild.  They have the technological know-how, and the educated workforce.
     Yet, here they are receiving foreign aid from countries like Thailand!  Thailand has villages where people do not have acess to proper drinking water.  Ok, I think everyone in Thailand has water, but waterborne diseases are still a problem.  And, though everyone has food here, many people can't afford enough food.  Many, many people here have diets that are short on meat and vegetables...not to mention palm oil with the recent shortages.  But, take a walk around The Mall Bankapi, or any of the Central Department Stores, and what do you see?  Thailand for Japan signs everywhere.

It's ridiculous.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spurring growth with tax cuts is like burning the house to kill the rats.

This article in today's Globe and Mail has Jim Flaherty referring to his "comfort zone" of low taxes without rationalizing why given that he admits that tax cuts are simply being held by companies.  When the economy is weak, why would people, or corporations just spend the tax cuts on upgrading?  Wouldn't it make more sense to hoard that money until things improve, thereby defeating the very point of stimulus tax cuts?

Former Chief Economist at the World Bank, and economic advisor to Bill Clinton, Joseph Stiglitz outlines in his book "Freefall" just how much so this is the case.  It doesn't make any sense to cut taxes to spur growth logically, and the numbers confirm that.

It should be pretty obvious that tax cuts to spur the economy is akin to burning down the house to kill the rats...or something like that.  That analogy is mine...which is probably why it sucks.  

2011 Canadian Election May Bring in a Majority Government

After 8 years since the retirement of Jean Chretien, and three minority parliaments, Canadians are tired of minority governments.  I'm not saying that I'm tired of them, but many people are.  So, if that's true then I would say that there is a very strong possibility of a large bleeding of support from the Bloc Quebecois, the Greens but especially the NDP. That movement would benefit the Liberals most, but much of the soft, mushy centre could very well rally around the Conservatives.

The Liberals have introduced a platform that is reasonably affordable, but does have some old style big government Liberal ideas.  Among the ideas is more money for students, which if I were living in Canada...that might just be enough.

Anyway, I don't feel like talking too much about the Liberal platform right now, but Michael Ignatieff is correct that many Canadians want to see some vision, which is not exactly Harper's strong point.

Stephen Harper won in 2006 because he wasn't Paul Martin or any Liberal even remotely connected to the sponsorship scandal, or Jean Chretien.  He won again in 2008 because he wasn't Stephan Dion and didn't come across as weak.  He has stayed in power through prorogation, through cooperation with the smaller parties on some issues, and with the Liberals on others as well as through a fair deal of fear mongering.

Harper hasn't been a great Prime Minister, but in a way he fulfilled the same role as Joe Clark and a host of other Tory Prime Ministers.  He's certainly not a John A. McDonald, a John Diefenbaker, or a Brian Mulroney in that they were visionaries, but more of a placeholder putting a bit of a check on Liberal domination.

Anyway, I think there is a very good chance that the Liberal platform, fatigue with Harper's divide and conquer, go for the vital organs strategy, and fatigue with a constant state of election rhetoric and minority government in general, could lead Michael Ignatieff to become the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cultural Transmission

Cultural Transmission is a word that slipped out of my mouth while speaking with Dr. David Norman of Birmingham University. I didn't noticed that I said it until he pointed it out. I'm not writing this only to brag, but I think I revealed a bit about how I actually view culture. It's not necessarily pathogenic, but it can be opportunistic.

Think about that bacteria...Staph something or other. It's on all of our skin. It provides a lot of protection against harmful bacteria therefore according to my high school level of biology, we can call the relationship between that bacteria and humans mutualistic. However, under certain circumstances this staph can act as a factor in illness as it's benefits can also provide benefits to actual pathogens.

Is culture the same way? Does it inject itself like a virus? Or, does it grow and spread like bacterium? In which way does it spread? When is the transmission of culture a disease, and when is it beneficial?

Interesting questions. I think I have Dr. Piboon Puriveth to thank for this line of thinking.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I actually just want to rant about my anger management issues caused from my recent stop in smoking. That's right...I started smoking when I was 22, I think it was...and now I'm It's been about ten years, give or take a year. And, not only smoking, but smoking fairly heavily...about a pack and a half to two packs a day on average. Somedays I got a little far into the third pack, but usually I cut it off at a single pack. Okay, so making logical arguments is also something that I"m finding difficult.

I will try to link this rant into some interesting political stuff. First, I wonder how many political decisions are made by unbalanced minds. Muammar Gaddafi flies to mind. Is his declaration of war on his own people due to he too quitting smoking? I doubt it, but's like my anger is just under the surface, all the time.

I flipped out at a good friend today because she does caffeine enemas. It's completely dumb because the only research that showed any reason to do it was done 80 years ago, and all the recent stuff cites risk of infection, risk of various imbalances, etc. Anyway, I am too muddled to recall clearly right now.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Advice for Dictators

Attention dictators:

First of all, don't try to shut down social media. It not only will not work, but it will make you look stupid and out of touch with reality.

Secondly, don't release criminals to create instability. No one is going to come back into your "loving" arms through this approach. They are just going to be angry about the crimes committed by these people and that will not aid you in your efforts to control every aspect of people's lives. If they believe your policies to be dumb, they will have trouble respecting you.

Thirdly, realize that the sun does not rise just because you did. Those two are not causal. Realize that if you act like you brought the sun up, people will think you are arrogant. You should try to at least appear to be humble...sort of like the tech savy, well dressed, slightly dishelved guy who never leaves the garage. That will earn you sympathy and will create the appearance that you spend all day working rather lounging around in your 19th century smoking jacket. Always appear in public carrying a few file folders. Always been seen with your fingers sliding along an ipad with a blackberry in your pocket.

Finally, try to allow people to do as they please under the blanket of your paternal care. This will create the impression that you create a safe place for people to live while you simply control the economy, the military and most other government functions. If you have to curtail a right or two, do so with a woeful look and a tear in the eye. Say things like, it can't be helped because "my children" have dissapointed me. People will think you are a bit nuts, but a kindly nuts.

Always be seen in sweaters and be seen with lots of kittens. But not cats. Cats will make you look too weird. Also, no major visible eccentrities like high heal shoes (assuming you are male...of course you're male) bouffant hair styles, flowerly frocks, or silly hats. Go for the earlier mentioned slightly nerdy, but in touch modern guy who has been working all day on some new research project.

Drive a regular car, but have a nice house that is fairly visible and seems to have little security. Inside of your house should have lots of security features. But, the outside of your house should make you look like a regular guy. If you've not been able to meet a female, hire a live in actor. Offer a good salary. Her real husband can always move in and pretend to be the gardener or something. That way no one will be surprised if they actually see her sleeping with him. Everyone knows from watching T.V that all women sleep with their gardeners.

Have a couple of big dogs outside. Take them for walks from time to time. If you have trouble with crowds, do a little Pierre Trudeau run with a big smile on your face. Like you are some sort of superstar. Hire a group of teenage girls to chase you around everywhere if you have to.
Back on the tech stuff. Convenietly be seen looking at interesting magazines, casually checking out MTV, or leave an iphone with lots of info that you know will leak out. Include lots of wholesome but somewhat cool pop music. Taylor Swift might be a bit far, but you get the idea. Also, make sure the books or other materials are news related, or something that makes you look like Joe Blow instead of Joe Blowyourheaddov.

When people shout at you when you are on your balcony, wave and smile. Take some pictures. If you occassionally here a bad line. Just look deeply hurt, and walk back inside. The next day, go to a religious place and be seen loudly asking a religious figure for help to save your horrible soul. Tell the world about your conversion. Go on a book tour. If worst comes to worst, go into rehab. Blame your years of abuse on your latent drug addiction. Appoint a temporary government, and then come back in when everyone forgets that you haven't actually gone nuts.
Whatever you do, don't look to arrogant and don't curtail rights. This will just backfire. Allow people to talk about you, and argue back point by point.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Back Again

Time to start updating this again. I'm back at the International Institute at Ramkhamhaeng University, and am also working as a high school social studies teacher in an English program in Thailand.

On this site, I'll post papers as I read them, share experiences from my hands on experience as a "street level bureaucrat" and talk about other things (related or otherwise) from time to time.