It seems like every bit of media coverage I hear or see involving a Chinese official has that official essentially saying that the country they’re dealing with or talking about will do as China says if it knows what’s good for it. The threats are thinly veiled, and the tone is generally on the arrogant side.
Whether it’s the Two Michaels (or the 121 other Canadians in Chinese detention, if anyone’s counting), Huawei and 5G, Hong Kong, COVID, trade talks, state-owned business, or just generally giving the PRC the respect that the PRC feels it deserves, I’m not seeing anything where China is taking anything less than a militant do-as-your-told-or-you’ll-regret-it tone.
On one level, I sort of understand the posturing. The US spent a long time being the only superpower, and it’s kind of fallen down on the job without someone else to match politic wits with. China is stepping in to fill the void left by the Soviet Union, and it’s being as belligerent as it feels it can get away with. Of course, India isn’t far behind, and Russia still remembers. There may come a time in the not-so-distant future when we live in a multi-superpower world.
This isn’t the same world I grew up in. The Cold War isn’t dangling nuclear armageddon over our heads every day. At a high level, the world isn’t as dangerous a place as it used to be looking at the shape of the geopolitical landscape. But drop below the cloud deck and it’s weird, getting weirder all the time. China seems like it’s making a bid to be a superpower, maybe THE superpower, and doesn’t seem to care what the rest of the world thinks about how it goes about it. That could wind up making it an isolated superpower.
Is that a recipe for a new cold war?
And how will that look?
I watch politics and I follow it at a number of levels, from global down to local. I’m not making any claims at being an expert on any of those levels, but I know when something bothers me. China’s behaviour in the last couple of years is worrying to me, looking like a slide back into totalitarianism after flirting with mere authoritarianism for a few decades. I don’t think that can be a good thing.
While we watch what develops, stay safe and be well, everyone.by
So it’s no secret my politics lean to the Left.
It’s also no secret that we have a government in Ontario that leans pretty hard to the Right. Not as far as one or two of the other provincial governments in Canada and certainly not as far as significant portions of the US these days, but definitely farther than normal for Ontario.
You probably won’t be surprised that doesn’t make me happy.
It’s frequently said that in a parliamentary system, governments don’t get voted in so much as they get voted out.
Before the last election, Ontario, on balance, was unhappy with the performance of the Liberal Party who had, to be fair, had too long a run of power in the province without adequate opposition. That’s why we have a Conservative government now. Not because we thought they were going to do a better job, but because enough people were sick of the Liberals and the Conservative leader looked like he could not-Liberal harder than the NDP Leader. That’s all.
Collectively, due to a broken electoral system, we handed them a majority. 40% of the popular vote on a 57% turnout to give them 61% of the seats in the Legislature. Things never add up in a two-party system with more than two parties in it, but that’s something for another post.
Under the auspices of that not-Liberal leader, the Conservatives immediately rolled back a whole bunch of things that were designed to help people rather than business, cut budgets to every social program they could see, congratulated themselves on how good they were at government, and told the rest of us to stop whining and suck it up.
And long came COVID.
Initially, I was pleasantly surprised that the crisis turned Doug Ford into something like a human being and one trying to drag the rest of his party along with him. Now, I think that was as much because he had a personal stake in things (his mother-in-law) as it was trying to step up after the realization he had to do more than just not be Kathleen Wynne for the rest of his term and coast through to re-election based on that.
Yes, his government has followed health guidelines as they’ve received them, but slowly dragging their heels and only really enforcing things when they think they really have to.
Then there’s the constant politicization. Lots of variations on, “I inherited this, but the buck stops here.” He’s still blaming everyone else for everything that’s wrong. And he’s including people who aren’t part of the political process, too. Union leaders and unnamed Medical Officers of Health (who “know who they are”) to pick two. We get it. You don’t think it’s your fault. Shut up about whose fault you think it is and get stuff done.
And the false shock at the condition of long-term care facilities in Ontario irritates me. That the system was overcrowded and underfunded should not have been a surprise. He would have had reports. He must have known something because he actually split the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care into two ministries. And the current inspection regime, the one his government instituted, is risk-based. Things aren’t a problem until they’re a problem. Not enough inspections were being done when his government took over, so the solution was to do no inspections until someone officially complained.
He keeps making threats, and mainly empty ones, about how people will be sorry if they don’t do what he wants them to do. Right, why work with the Feds and other relevant parties to figure out why things aren’t working. Sheesh, even just set out some expectations.
The testing regime which has been a complete flop anywhere having a serious outbreak because no one seems to actually be watching it or caring how many tests get done or where.
The 27% hike in the standard hydro rate we had at the beginning of June.
The wasted extended March break where the province came up with nothing to help teachers and students finish the year even though they knew they wouldn’t be sending kids back to school at the end of that three weeks.
The quietly moving on their political agenda anyway even though we have this wonderful climate of difficulty in accountability.
Okay, time to stop ranting.
Overall, I think the Premier has provided inconsistent messaging, regularly contradicting the ministers and experts he brings out to speak at things, and generally not taking the lead on things. Not only is Ontario lagging behind other provinces on measures and recovery, up until the last week it’s been catching up to Quebec which has a whole different set of problems and idiots in power.
To me, it feels like he’s skating by on the bare minimum to be perceived as competent and it’s mostly working for him. He seems to say enough of the right words, and it’s good that he’s more or less getting along with the Federal government, but is he actually doing a good job?
That’s a hard question to answer until I remember that the bar for good government is currently being set by Trump.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.by
I don’t usually blog twice in one day but I’m getting more political as I get older and honestly forgot the CPC English-language debate was tonight. If you have no interest in Canadian politics, this will bore you. You might want to pick a different post to read.
For those of you who are left, keeping in mind that I’m not a conservative in any sense of the word, quick thoughts on the Conservative Leadership debate tonight:
- There’s three hours of my life I’ll never get back, counting the post-debate scrums.
- No one was able to answer a question directly. They all wanted to tell me why the Liberals suck but not what they’d do to be better. They all wanted to tell me how inclusive they wanted to be but not how they’d go about that.
- MacKay. Plain vanilla. Boring. No substance. No style. No answers. Same old, same old. Trying to project a Prime Ministerial air but has zero chance of becoming Prime Minister. More concerned about party unity than being drawn out by the attacks of O’Toole. Not a bad thing, but not really telling us how he’ll do anything or do better than the Liberal government we currently have.
- O’Toole. Freezer burnt vanilla. Not really different than McKay and angry about it. Overtly courting Lewis’ supporters by walking a little closer to the line of social conservatism wherever he felt he could get away with it and just vaguely agreeing with her when he couldn’t. Attacking MacKay at every opportunity to prove he’s different but not fooling anyone.
- Lewis. Frightening, but that’s partly my concern about social conservatives in power in general as they tend to want to force everyone to conform what they see as proper behaviour and penalize anyone who doesn’t. She will likely get to play kingmaker in some fashion. Since she has the bulk of the social conservatives behind her so that should be concerning.
- Sloan. Should be running for leadership of the Republican Party of Canada. Yes, we actually have one of those. Too much sucking up to Trump. Sees himself as a disruptor in the same vein as Trump. Drags the debate further to the right. Way too much dog whistling. Crackpot conspiracy nut and antivaxxer. Scary that he could actually get elected in the first place. Scarier that he’s actually managed to hold onto enough support to stay in this race.
- To some degree, they all seem to be true believers in the morally bankrupt eyes on the cash register, screw the people, the country and the environment outlook of the Harper policies. Those days are over. Some large portion of the CPC hasn’t figured that out yet. It will cost them.
Again, remember I’m not a conservative. At this time, it seems impossible I’ll ever be able to vote Conservative. You should assume I have a left leaning bias because I do, and I don’t like any of these potentials.
But I also want an effective opposition to hold whoever is in power to account. I don’t think any of this group can do any better than the outgoing Andrew Scheer. It seems likely to me that MacKay is going to stay the front runner, but if he doesn’t win on the first vote, it’s not going to be easy for him.
I kind of wish Rona Ambrose was still around. She might have had a chance. Not at my vote, mind you, but to hold the Liberals to a minority next time.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.by
This was original drafted before COVID19 really took off outside China. I’ve left it, but as each days passes it becomes ever more apparent that politics are still being played. The only real difference at this point is that there being lives at stick is much more open and obvious.
But that’s not where I’m going with this.
Politics are a part of everything. As long as there are people, there will be politics because no two people see things the same way. In ever-larger groups, politics are important to ensure that everyone gets a voice, but in ever-larger groups issues get ever more complicated and it becomes harder and harder to be well informed on any significant part of what society is trying to accomplish.
And left to its own devices, almost ever type of society is going to be destructive if its citizens don’t take an active interest.
My own personal outlook used to summarize in three words: people over profits. And while I still feel that way, even in the society I exist in, it’s become more and more apparent to me that I’m oversimplifying things.
I read a lot and I research a lot on odd things and I’ve recently taken a number of sociopolitical surveys that consistently put me on the left-hand side of the spectrum and leaning away authoritarianism but not too far towards libertarianism. I tend to resist labels a bit as a lot of them come with baggage that doesn’t apply. (The phrase Libertarian Socialist, for example, comes with something for everyone to hate but doesn’t really describe either a Libertarian or a Socialist.) So let’s just say that I’m left-leaning thinker who has a preference for relevant, competent government.
To blow that up a little: we are all responsible for the consequences of our actions but have the social responsibility to act for the common good as much as we are able, and the state’s job is to shut up and listen, regulating only as necessary for the protection of its members and to sustain and improve the world in order to make it possible to continue to allow for the improvement of the lives of those members.
That’s a lot more than three words, but it also gets a lot closer to the truth of things as I see them: we’re all in this together and if we like the world we live on, we need to look out for each other and work to make sure we can continue living on it.
Be well, everyone.by
So the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris partly burned down. Historical significance, cultural significance, religious significance, architectural significance, etc. Yes, it is kind of sad this beautiful historic landmark, whatever other things be culturally or philosophically impacted, has been gutted, but there are arguments to be made on a variety of points.
First, I will not argue that it’s not a cultural treasure, because it is. If I were to visit Paris, the Cathedral would certainly have been on my list of things to see, at least from the outside. Very much not at issue.
Things that are at issue are people’s reactions. I don’t just mean the religious reactions, because some of those are as predictable as they are disingenuous. I wondered how long it would take for the pictures a service of some cross that survived fire for people to start justifying how God was great and how do not believe in him now. The cross being used for that, and it only took a few hours, is made of solid gold, which melts somewhere around 1100°, and the wood fire burning in the funeral was probably only 700 or 800 degrees at best. Not to mention that there’s a whole lot of stonework and actual woodwork that’s completely untouched, including pews in the same room. And candles right behind it. Anyway, my question for every situation, is why did God or down the church just save one cross? What point is he making? Why not not burn the landmark church down?
No, I’m more concerned prioritization of things over people by Western society, and in this case, I’m particularly centering of the rich. It took less than 24 hours after the fire was out for half a dozen billionaires to pop out of the woodwork and, collectively, offer the equivalent of something like 1.2 billion dollars to restore the church. Many people’s initial reactions, and I’m including most the media in this, was wow, how incredibly generous of these ultra-rich people to give up big chunks of their personal fortune to restore this national treasure. Isn’t that awesome?
My initial reaction, you might guess, is a little bit different. And I’m not the only one having it.
Disregard for a moment that the Cathedral is actually owned by the French government, because it’s not owned by the Catholic Church, let’s pretend there’s no one responsible for maintaining the church and it’s just burned down with the same relative significance. And now the same half dozen billionaires step forward and offer hundreds of millions of dollars each to fund the restoration of the ancient building.
Sorry, but once again, my response is going to be a fairly hardy screw you.
And it’s pretty simple reasoning. Probably the same reason that those same billionaires are so rich, whether they got that way themselves inherited from previous generations. Screw you.
Do we need to expand on that?
I’ll start by assuming they were all billionaires before the Cathedral burned down, which seems fairly safe and likely won’t make an ass out of either of us.
What is the homeless rate in France? Do all French citizens have equal access to healthcare? Are there people in France who go to bed hungry at night?
But no, let’s applaud these individuals for stepping forward to restore something that’s actually owned by the government and will get tax dollars for the years-long restoration project.
Now, let’s extend that to every other Western country, just to begin with. What’s the homeless rate in the United States? Does everyone in Germany have equal and unfettered access to healthcare? Are there people who go to bed hungry in Canada?
There are ultra-rich people in every country. And people in that class step forward with like crap this all the time, saving the physical representations of our cultural heritage.
Most of the rest of us struggling in some fashion for at least some of the time over at least some aspect of our lives. That group of people, those billionaires, the ultra-rich, will never know what an actual struggle is, to be concerned about meeting the bills next month, covering debt payments, paying for groceries this week, keeping tjhe electricity on. Worry about how much time they have to take off of work when their child is born because paid parental benefits are poverty level or worse.
I ordinarily hate sweeping generalizations, and before I get too far down the rabbit hole making this one, I’m going to point out that not everyone in this particular socioeconomic class is a giant douche bag. Bill Gates springs to mind. Richard Branson, Andrew Lloyd Weber. Check out any reference to the Giving Pledge.
But if it’s a struggle to come up with even a dozen examples of people using their giant fortunes to actually do good in the world, and half a dozen complete unknown billionaires spring up overnight to try to look good in front of the camera by donating to restore a cultural landmark, what does that say about the most financially advantaged class of people in our society?
You’ll note I haven’t yet suggested we look at any of the less developed parts of the world.
Reminding everyone that I don’t believe in separating the art from the artist. To make my politics completely clear once again, I am far more concerned about people than profits or things. I think we all should be.
Be well, everyone.by
by So this started as something someone asked me via PM on Facebook. Apparently, I’m a balanced and reasonable guy. I’d debate that some days.
But I’m always happy to discuss or debate any topic, as long as both sides are willing to be reasonable and actually discuss or debate and listen to each other. The idea of topics being off limits for polite company has, in my opinion, made for a lot of unnecessary division and partisanship in our society.
Please recognize that everything that follows is just that: my opinion. I do a lot of reading and I consume a lot of media to build and adjust and refine my opinions, but I can’t, and don’t try, to look at every possible source. Your mileage may vary. So…
Let’s leave the Clinton/Trump debate aside. I would have preferred her in the Whitehouse over him, but I would have far preferred almost anyone in the Whitehouse over him. He seems to me to be the logical conclusion of the essential self-centered, instant gratification, power for its own sake, screw everyone but me culture that seems to be trying to take over south of the border for the last few decades. Granting that she comes with a great deal of Clinton political baggage, she at least appears to fall on the side of valuing people as more than just tools to her own personal gratification, an idea which he doesn’t even pay lip service to.
But that election is long over and if its fallout will go on for at least a generation now, the fallout needs to be dealt with.
Kavanaugh is a problem himself, but he’s also a symptom of a much larger issue.
After this paragraph, I’m going to completely leave aside the multiple, and credible, allegations of sexual assault and poor behaviour from his high school and college years, which, in light of his refusal to even consider that he could ever have done anything untoward and lack of feeling for anyone who has been a victim, should disqualify him from any public office, and focus more on his professional qualifications and the process by which he got there.
Let’s be clear: he’s not qualified to be there. Aside from clearly lying under oath (and not just as part of the recent proceedings) and publicly displaying a temperament that doesn’t seem suitable to being a judge in the first place, he’s shown a tremendous political bias in his professional history, has shown a willingness on camera to dodge questions more effectively than most politicians, seems to believe that any action taken against him is part of the Clinton revenge conspiracy, and most of the jobs he’s held in his legal career haven’t had much or any of the scholarly components usually considered critical for the Supreme Court. A variety of legal professionals, some highly placed, and organizations hold that he isn’t qualified to be there.
At a higher level, Kavanaugh is the culmination of a decades long campaign on the far right of the American political and religious spectrums to gather power into a very few hands to make sure that all of the decision making is done in favour of those who are straight, white, christian, and male (currently something less than 25% of the US population, but somehow a majority in US politics at every level).
At this point, past the blocking of the previous government’s nomination process to steal it after the election, past the manipulated Senate rules to force the process to be resolved quickly, past the investigation that didn’t talk to either the accuser or the accused, past the 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh-related records sealed by the Whitehouse so that no one could read them unless they were hand selected by the Republican party, we’re left with the realization that the current Senate wouldn’t recognize an unbiased process if it shook them by the collective throat because it wouldn’t give them the result they want: control of the Supreme Court to roll back every advancement in rights for everyone who isn’t them to pre-1960s standards.
But something that’s almost as disturbing to me, I’ve found through learning about the process and what’s behind it south of the border, I realize I know practically nothing about the Canadian Supreme Court. Something I’ve only just begun to address by going to the Court’s website this morning, for the first time ever, to at least learn the names of the current sitting Justices.
More disturbing, I see the beginnings of the current political situation in the US trying to establish itself in Ontario.
Again, all opinions expressed here are mine. I am continually evolving. But my opinion on Kavanaugh appears to continually evolve in a direction that he shouldn’t be there and that the process putting him there should never have come to pass.
Be well, everyone.
by It is time to turn some of my creative energy to satire. I’ve dabbled in it here and there, but never for long and never seriously. There’s nothing wrong with the bit of slacktivism I’ve been doing, sharing memes sizes trying to stir people up here and there and starting or participating in online conversations as I see the need. But I need more, and I feel like, at this point, I have developed a bit of a talent for writing. If the satire only amuses me, that’s fine. If it only preaches to a small choir, that’s fine too. In either of those cases, it’s probably not worth a tremendous amount of time. But if just one person, or more than one person, or whole bunch of people gets irritated at something I satirize, maybe we can actually get some new discussion started about the things that are wrong with our society. At the moment, by our society, I primarily mean Ontario and the bigoted premier we seem to have elected and who seems to want to run the province if it were his own sandbox and with 19th century policies.
I feel like I want to start by taking my cue from Piet Hein, one of my favorite poets, famous for short, stabby verses in at least two languages, and starting during World War II. I’m not suggesting Ontario is currently like Nazi occupied Denmark in the early 1940s, but, to my eyes, much as south of the border, there are flavors of it in the wind.
Not in my Ontario.
However, I also have to recognize that live in the Internet age, and probably there are no underground newspapers are going to be willing to publish said satirical poetry. At least nothing with significant distribution. There is, however, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. And I can certainly find unflattering pictures of my targets in the huge public archives and attach my short, stabbing versus to them.
And so I will.
Be well, everyone.by
Everyone likes being right, right
Usually, that’s the case. This morning, I’m less happy about it, at least in one specific instance.
This week, on apparently a variety of news media, our still-new provincial government followed through on a campaign promise that almost no one thought it would keep. In spite of everything, in spite of all the evidence that it was good for people, good for the economy, and good for the job market, the Ontario Progressive Conservative party appears to still disagree with the idea that raising the minimum wage was a good thing. And they disagree to the point where the minimum wage increase that was scheduled for January 1 of next year, just a little more than three months away, will not be happening. It is canceled.
Oh, there’s no legislation yet, but they’ve specifically announced the intent to “fix” the Liberal law that was making it happen.
I’ve had this argument gently with a number of people at work, but no one thought this government would shoot themselves in the foot. I have, mostly, being careful, particularly in business-related settings, to couch this in potential terms. What if? Still, they did make the promise to do it. I wonder if they’ll follow through.
Well, guess what? Our premier is an arrogant little sheet stain who refuses to let reality interfere with his beliefs.
I don’t know why this should surprise anyone, since he was clearly planning to ignore the rule of law by invoking the notwithstanding clause so he could have his way with Toronto City Council and screw over the people who hadn’t cooperated with him and his brother back in his councilman days.
But seriously, someone needs to remind Mr. Ford that the P in PC stands for Progressive.
Although, I suppose you could argue things mathematically. The PC party of Ontario has made tremendous amounts of progress since it took office. Really, it has.
It’s just all negative progress.
To switch back to English, I suppose that makes them the Regressive Conservatives, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, whether they voted for them or not.
Welcome to the new Ontario, where if you’re a rich white guy, you’ll do okay. Everyone else is fucked.by
by So, online and offline, and more than once each, I’ve been told that I’m getting too political. I also, apparently, though no specific examples have been given to me, occasionally offend someone.
I find the statement more interesting, but they both should be addressed in some way.
As to the ‘too political’, With the government we currently have in the province I live in, the attempted rising of the alt-right in my country, the cover ups, the social issues facing our society and the steadfast refusal of some people to accept some other people as human beings in their own right, I am probably only going to get worse from that of point you, and louder at the same time.
For the second point. if something I post or say offends you, I am, honestly, unlikely to be terribly concerned about that. The act of being offended on its own has very little weight in my eyes and it shouldn’t in yours, either. If you’re offended by something I say or post and want to have a discussion about it, that’s awesome. At least, it’s awesome so long as your intent is to actually have a discussion. I’m happy to engage with opinions backed up by logic and real information. If the extent of your argument is personal attacks and whining, I’m unlikely to take you seriously.
If you’re not interested in discussion, and the extent of the engagement you want to have is you offended me and demand apology, you should probably not bother because you’re not going to get one. You may get a response clarifying the intent of what I said earlier, but you are very, very unlikely to get that apology. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you won’t.
If your interest in social media is primarily funny memes, cat pictures, and so on, then enjoy it. I like those things to, and I share a few here and there, particularly Star Trek related ones, but, believe it or not, there is more to life than pictures and funny memes, even if they are Star Trek related. Enjoy your distractions. I like them too. But recognize they’re a distraction and that our society has pretty serious issues, and those issues are worth discussing or standing against.
“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.” (Juvenal, approx. 100 CE)
It probably sounds much better in the original Latin poetic form, but it still strikes true and 1900 years later.
Bread and circuses. Keep the people fed and entertained and you can do whatever you want. We even have leaders who don’t think the bread is necessary and who are circuses, who think that because they’ve gathered to themselves some small amount of support or power that they can do what they want and force us to follow along.
There are people who agree with them, or who let themselves be convinced by the bread and circuses, but sadly for them, fortunately for the rest of us, we still live in a free and open society. As individuals, as people, we have the ability, and even the obligation, to speak out against those distractions and against what we see as wrong.
I have plenty of strong opinions:
People matter more than money.
Might dos not make right.
Fact and opinion are not equal.
Your preconceived biases don’t count as facts.
The science matters.
The world would be a better place without most of the religions currently in it.
Feel free to argue any or all of those, but you’ll need to back up with something more than just, “I don’t like what you said; it offends me.” You are free to not like anything I say or do, and I’m free to not worry over much about it. If I’m getting too political for you, you should probably snooze me, unfollow me, or even so far as to unfriend me.
I don’t post things with the intent to offend, I post with the intent to have share awareness and conversations. That I get surprisingly little conversation is unfortunate, but another symptom of our society, which is is flawed and broken in many ways.
But I firmly believe the overall trend is upward and that things will get better, but only if we are willing to talk to each other rather than yell at each other, and actually work to make things better. There are a lot of things I’m angry at in our society, and I don’t believe I’m the only one. Stay angry, but channel it into something productive. Talk to people.
Be well, everyone.by