Robocall Rally – Winnipeg

This blog was created as my writing blog. I realize that some people don’t like when a writer has an agenda, especially a political one. If you’re one of those people, you’re probably not my target audience, so full disclaimer: I will be posting political stuff on this blog and I will *not* apologize for it.

Today was a day of action for Canadians to protest electoral fraud. Across Canada, we marched, waving flags, and holding signs.

In Winnipeg, around three hundred people, including myself, met at River and Osbourne, where Kevin Lamoureux, MP for Winnipeg North, and former MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis gave speeches, calling for the Conservative Government to conduct full independent investigations into the robocall scandals. A petition was signed, and we marched to the office of the Winnipeg South Centre MP, Joyce Bateman.

The office was closed, and no one has been able to contact Mrs. Bateman. It’s like she didn’t want to hear what we had to say. </sarcasm>

It was not entirely unexpected. Obviously she has no defense, or she would have had something to say to us. Instead, we made do by singing O Canada outside her abandoned office.

The Conservative Government has refused to fully investigate the Robocalls. They’ve pointed the finger at the Liberals, demanded that the Liberals release their phone records (which they did) but then refused to release their own. What kind of person does that if they’re not a bunch guilty bastards? If they’re not behind it, let them clear themselves! But they won’t. The only reason anyone could possibly have refusing to release their own records, refusing to investigate, is if they have something to hide.

That’s the end of the story. They want to pass laws that allow police unlawful search and seizure rights – they want to be able to spy on our internet usage, and they want mandatory minimums for blue collar crime. Lets see some mandatory minimums for electoral fraud!

I am disgusted with our government and ashamed of it. It doesn’t even matter who was behind  the voter suppression calls, they happened, and the Government is responsible for finding out who threatened our democracy, punish them, and correct it by, at the very least, calling by-elections. But they won’t because they’re happy with the results and they know damn well, they’ve pulled so much BS in the last year that they would likely lose their majority.

This is the sort of thing that we send observers into developing countries to prevent. This is what Canada has fallen to. The only way we’re going to get rid of the Harper Government is if we march into parliament hill and drag them out of their offices kicking and screaming, because they’ll just lie and cheat their way out of anything else.

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Robocalls: Biggest Election scandal in Canadian History

Once again I have that surreal feeling of being in the midst of history in the making. The short version, for those who have not been following Canadian politics: In the last election, the one where the Conservatives (for the Americans reading, that’s basically our version of the Republicans) won their majority government (again, for the non-Canadians, that’s when one party has more than half of the seats in parliament, which means more than half the votes on any bill they want to pass so that they can do whatever they want, and oh have they been doing their darnest to hang themselves), calls were made from a call centre of some sort telling voters their polling station had changed, and directing them to an incorrect polling location.

The number of ridings this occured in has so far been quoted as thiry-four. That’s thirty-four ridings where the voting may have been affected by this, and many of those ridings were won by under 100 votes. A lot of those were won by the Conservatives. The Conservatives won their majority by 10 seats. Enough ridings were affected to call into question the legitimacy of their majority, and even the legitimacy of their win, especially since they did not get a majority of votes, only a majority of seats, but due to our first past the post voting system, their representation in parliament is disproportionate to the number of votes they got.

The NDP member of parliament, Pat Martin said “The most fundamental freedom that we enjoy as citizens in a democracy is the right to vote in a federal election, free and fair and without interference.” And he’d right. The definition of democracy is the government is voted in fairly, with all citizens given equal right to vote. This kind of tampering with the electoral system is supposed to be something that happens in third world countries, not in Canada. The UN is talking about Canada losing it’s status as a country who can provide independent elections observers, because of our own corrupt, illegitimate government. Canada could go onto watch lists of countries with corrupt and illegitimate governments.

And the Conservative’s response? They would love to be able to just push it under the rug, and they’re trying. The company that apparently was hired to make the calls is threatening to sue Pat Martin for implying they did anything wrong, and trying to force him to state publicly that there’s no evidence of wrongdoing by them or the person (who they refuse to name) who hired them to make these calls.

This all blows me away. I feel again like I’m living in a world of science fiction, some futuristic world where everything has gone to shit. This is supposed to be things I write about, not what’s going on around me. It’s humbling to be witness to all this as I revise a novel about a country trying to overthrow a Monarchy and install a Democracy. My riding was one of the initial group reported to have been part of this electoral fraud. It’s also inspiration – fodder for a sequel as my Avalines set out to conduct an election and people who want to take power do everything they can to take advantage of their budding Democracy.

On that note, I shall go back to my revisions and hope the governor general exercises his right to call an election.

Utopias part 2 – Culture

Back to this;

Culture is what makes a society work – it is the society working. From how we settle differences to how we celebrate happiness – the way we do the things that humans need to do in order to live together.

There’s two poles of culture types – introverted, and extroverted. Introverted cultures value the individual, whereas extroverted cultures value the group, and conformity to the group. Western cultures are typically introverted, and Eastern, extroverted. It seems that an extroverted culture would be a more sustainable model, but does the demand for conformity stand in the way of the happiness that makes a utopia a utopia?

So whatever cultural elements go into the utopia, is there a combination – a system, that can satisfy both the need for individuals to be able to follow their dreams and be themselves, without that interfering with the sustainability of the system?

In Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, the main character says that our system, capitalism, communism, monarchy, what not, would work, if only humans would be better than they have ever been in their entire existence. And it’s true – if everyone was just nice to one another, and the people in power had the interests of their people at heart, rather than taking advantage of those below them, nearly any system in use right now would work.

Where to look for a model that would work?

Well, anthropologists have looked at the question, and they’ve surveyed people in different cutures.  If you ask the average person in western society if they’re happy with their lives, the average person will laugh at you. But, anthropologists asked this same question of people living in tribal settings, and overall, they answer yes, they are happy with their lives.

These are people in villages that often don’t have anything resembling modern luxuries; but anyone who’s thought about it knows that it’s not luxuries that make people happy. The truth is that humans have many needs, and these tribal cultures have evolved organically over hundreds and thousands of years, in the same way Darwin’s finches evolved specialized beak shapes. It’s not something that can be imposed on a people, the way a king’s law can be, and this natural evolution can only happen when people themselves have a say in how they live.

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups, they say. Well, tribal societies were not large groups – not by today’s standards. A typical tribe’s population was far less than the average person’s facebook friends list. While one voice railing at an injustice in the population of say, a small city, let alone a modern country, doesn’t get heard. But one voice calling for justice and change among the average population of a tribe (about a hundred to a hundred and fifty people – twenty five to thirty families) is a voice that matters.

A tribe’s population is adaptable, it changes with the needs of it’s people. Modern governments are not adaptable. Besides the bureaucratic red tape and corporate manipulation standing in the way of change for the better, there is the fundamental requirement of centralized government that the rules be the same for everyone, regardless of their circumstances or environment, and a rule that works for one community may not work for another, and neither group has any power to change it.

These small, autonomous communities are weak, though, and easily driven off their land and resources. Another tribe moves in, and imposes their laws on the other people, and nations are born. And eventually we come to this, and wonder what went wrong. A utopia of small autonomous tribes would be easily conquered, and that, of course does nothing for sustainability.

I don’t know if it’s possible for such a thing to exist for any length of time, but I’d still like to think it is. In any case, I’m not going to be so arrogant as to claim it’s impossible, just because I can’t see a way myself.

The Royal Fool, Jon Stewart Owns Jim Cramer

This is old, but Jon Stewart had Jim Cramer on the Daily Show. It was epic.

It’s interesting to see, when the “real” news networks are muzzled and failing to report accurately and without bias, the Royal Fool of America feels the duty to become a voice of truth. It’s not supposed to be his job. It’s almost tragic when he says, “So maybe we could remove the “financial expert” and In Cramer We Trust and get back to the fundamentals in reporting, as well, and I can go back to making fart noises and funny faces.”

Is it because only the King’s Fool is allowed to tell the truth? He’s untouchable, because he’s comedy, this isn’t real reporting. He can say what he wants, and no one takes him seriously.

But that was Jim’s mistake – thinking, he’s on the Daily Show, he’s going to be made fun of, that’s ok, Jon Stewart makes everyone look stupid. He wasn’t prepared to have an utter fool made out of him when Jon went deadly serious, and asked the questions that Jim had no good answers to. He’s trying to be his childish self, and Jon makes a fool of him just by asking real questions.

For more of Jim’s childishness, watch him pounding pastry on the Martha Stewart show. At about 2:30, Martha tells him to pretend it’s Jon Stewart.

Utopias part 1 – Sustainability

NaNoWriMo is coming up, and my idea for this year centers around a Utopia. It’s not something I’ve done before, but it’s something I’ve thought about a lot. I think the reason I haven’t done it before is because it feels like such an ambitious thing – how vain to put forward what one single mind believes would be a perfect world? How many people have come up with their own picture of a world where everyone would be happy and live in harmony, and been scoffed at because they hadn’t taken one this or that into consideration?

There are a few things a Utopia must be. First, it must be sustainable – what good it a utopia with an expiration date?

Which means sustainable on an ecological level. Which means two things – first, respecting the environment, in some way. Not necessarily revering it as untouchable, but on the other hand, biological diversity is unarguably important. Just think of what would happen to the world if common wheat suddenly stopped growing due to a disease. Lucky thing we can switch to other varieties.

The other thing sustainability means is population control. Whatever plenty there is, a population will grow until it exceeds the capacity of it’s environment, then the population with crash due to famine. It’s a fact. And in case anyone wants to argue that people aren’t animals, we can overcome that, well maybe we are, maybe we’re not – maybe we are in fact capable of defeating our instincts as individuals, but as a whole the above has been true over and over and over throughout history. One might also argue that the areas of the world where the population is growing are the areas of the world where there is not enough resources, however, if the people do not have enough food to fuel their population exansion, what is it that they are eating? Rocks? Sand? This is where the “global economy” comes in – economics of an area are no longer isolated, food is shipped in from other countries, in aid donations, which is only exacerbating the population problem, sustaining the population at an unsustainable level. But that’s another point I’ll have to save for another post.

There are many forms of population control – war being one, famine being another. Obviously those are not the sort of things one would expect to see in a utopia, however. The form existing in China, now, might be viable, but could people be happy with it? Can humans be happy with their reproduction restricted? Keeping in mind that the order of priority in an animals instincts is first survival, and second, reproduction, and all else after those two.

But then look at the countries where the population is declining. Studies show that population growth is inversely related to education of women. If you had an isolated society, where people in general were educated to a sufficient level, would that exert enough of a population controlling influence to keep the population at a sustainable level? Maybe. One major reason for first world people to not have children is lack of resources, which would not be an issue in a Utopia. The reasons for not having children, however, are diverse, from couples just wanting to enjoy their lives unsaddled with children, people having difficulty finding someone two settle down with, health being too poor to bear or look after children, concerns over hereditary diseases, or even not believing that one would make a good parent. In any case, such a society would likely not need to be as severely restrictive of reproduction as China.

Hmm, this is getting long – may need multiple posts. I will get back to this.

Occupy Winnipeg: My first brush with activism

Yesterday I attended the first general assembly of the 99% in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I was one of those people walking up the street in between the people with signs decrying corporate greed. It was really cool. And with the subject material I write about, it only makes sense that I should be there to stand up for what I believe in. I only wish I could stay out there through the night with those guys, but I’m working, and if I was there, then I couldn’t be writing, and since that’s where my talent lies, that’s my form of protest.

The first thing I noticed was, having come expecting police to be around, was that there weren’t any. There was a cruiser parked a little ways away, but we think that might have been a speed trap. Not that Winnipeg is known for violent protests (the Winnipeg General Strike notwithstanding.) The group was very clear that it was intended to be a peaceful and sober event.

Trevor Semotok gave a rousing speech on the steps of the Legislature building. I have a video, but it’s taking a while to edit out the shakiness from my shivering, I’ll get it up later. (ETA – video working now, no more giving people motion sickness.) There was also a First Nations contingient, and their “Princess of the North” was an amazingly powerful speaker.

One neat thing I learned about is the Human Mic. Apparently on Wall Street, they’ve outlawed voice amplification, so they can’t use PA’s to get the voices heard. Instead, they’ve come up with the Human Mic. One person, the speaker, when they have something to say, shouts “mic check!” and everyone who can hear them, shouts “mic check!” back, and they keep calling and responding until everyone who can hear the speaker is paying attention. Then the speaker starts their message, keeping it to 2-4 words at a time, and after each 2-4 words, the crowd of participants repeats their words, so that the words can be heard beyond how far one person’s voice could reach.

It was quite powerful, because not only is it a substitute for a PA, it also results in the participants saying out loud – shouting out loud, the message. Speaking something out loud is a powerful thing, psychologically. I’m stealing the idea and putting it in a novel. 😛

We marched downtown and held our first General Assembly of the 99% of Occupy Winnipeg. There was lots of use of Human Mic, and cars driving by honked in solidarity when they saw our signs. The buses were good and loud, but the cement truck took the cake for horns.

The politicians are still saying it will go nowhere though. That nothing will come of all of the protesting. That we’ll just give up and go home and submit to the policy changes that will crush the spirit out of us. The legislation undermining collective bargaining the federal government is laying down on unions, the new free trade agreement that will make NAFTA look like it was environmentally friendly and pro small business, and the abolishing of the Canadian Wheat Board that will have food prices that are already rising, skyrocket, and put small farmers out of business. They say there’s nothing we can do.

There’s an air of desperation in all of this. It’s like we know if we give up now, that’ll be it. We’re putting everything we’ve got into it now, and if we don’t succeed in forcing change now, we’ll have nothing left. I think that’s why, in some places, it’s getting violent. That’s the next step, if things don’t change. The movement is worldwide, and the demands are the same all over.

Politicians criticize our lack of a specific message. The problem with trying to put a specific message to this movement is that how can we pick just one can of BS out of all the cans that have been shoved down our throats? They want to make us choose just one thing, when any one thing is one of the many straws that broke the camel’s back. If protesting specific things made a difference, they would have heard the people every time they protested in the past. It’s too late for that now. They’ve proved that they don’t care what we, as citizens, want. Our government doesn’t represent us. It’s time for revolution. 

Peter S. Beagle vs Granada Media

I have been following the Peter S. Beagle vs Granada Media story for a number of years, since I realized the movie was based on a book and read it when I was about seventeen. It’s finally over, says Connor Cochrane, the man who has been helping Peter through all of this and getting his carreer back on track. His most recent newsletter gave details on how it all happened:

“All along, Peter and Connor had known that Granada Media was a subsidiary of a much bigger company — a huge European media conglomerate called ITV. What Connor noticed was that ITV had recently gotten a new CEO, a man named Adam Crozier, who came in from outside the company and had a mandate to pretty much completely clean house: get rid of things that weren’t working, make marginal properties more profitable, etc. To put it bluntly, this new CEO had no reason to cover up for anyone’s past bad judgment or mistakes and every incentive to make good new business happen. So, after some internal discussion, Connor sent a letter directly to Adam Crozier himself. The person at ITV who was tasked with responding was the company’s Group Legal Director and Corporate Secretary, Andrew Garard. Andrew really took the situation seriously. He dug in, did his research, met with Peter and Connor and Richard Mooney in New York City last November, and ultimately came to the conclusion that we were was right — (a) Peter wasn’t getting his due, and (b) if we stopped fighting and started working together, The Last Unicorn could be even more successful than it already was. Settlement details were worked out at a second meeting, this time in Los Angeles, and finally, last August, the settlement paperwork was signed.”

I’m glad things worked out for him. What makes me sad is that for things to work out, what had to happen is some corporate power decided not to be a dick.

The ultimate resolution to the conflict was not the law was upheld (it was, but that’s hardly even matters in the system anymore) it was the people with the boatloads of money stopped manipulating the law to make the little people’s lives miserable. Which means there’s nothing at all stopping this from happening again.

I commend Andrew Gerard for his moral behavior. But this should never have gone on so long that it took a management change to resolve. His predecessors should have been forced to uphold their contract years ago. This doesn’t set precedence in law for corporations to be held accountable for greed and unlawful actions.

This is exactly what the Occupy Wall Street movement is about. Protesting corporate greed, and the way our political systems force the poor and the working class to follow the law, but not corporations, because corporations, when their actions are challenged, will throw so many lawyers at it that will manipulate the system to drag things out so long that no one but another corporation has the money to follow it through.

I’m dealing with the same thing with my husband’s insurance company. He’s been sick and unable to work for three years, but because it’s a Syndrome that has long been marginalized, and some doctors (who all work for the insurance companies) will still claim that it’s psychosomatic (all in his head). While he has a medical diagnosis, and no medical professional involved can understand why he’s being denied the insurance money he’s owed, the insurance company is making us take them to court for it. It’s immoral and illegal, but they’re doing it anyway, because they have so much money they can get away with it, and they don’t want to pay up. They’re hoping we’ll just give up. Now they’re offering us a fraction of what they owe us, and we’re so tired of dealing with it, it’s tempting to take it. Tempting to take the scraps and run away with our tails between our legs. But we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it.

*sigh* We need a revolution.