Monthly Archives: April 2011

Start hobbies later in life, just like Winston Churchill

You have important things to do? So did Churchill. You might not be very good at it? I don’t think Churchill thought that he was either. You are too old? Churchill was over 40 when he started, and as far as I know, did not stop (though he did take breaks from it from time to time.) Regardless, the lesson is: you are not too old to start, you are not too busy either, and you will find it rewarding, regardless of how good you are. Just like Churchill.
If Churchill could do it, so could you.
Churchill as an Painter « Iconic Photos

Some thoughts on the upcoming Canadian elections

It is interesting to hear talk of unnecessary elections. Regardless of your beliefs or whom you support, I find this very discouraging. But it got me thinking, and here are some random (and half baked) thoughts on this:
First off, this is notion of an unnecessary election is an antidemocratic statement. Elections are the result of key political participants playing by the rules, and if the government or the opposition has it within their power to cause an election to be held, it is necessary. I can’t understand the thinking behind complaining about having to the means to exercise their democratic rights.
Elections are a right of the people of Canada, and it is a right we should cherish. People around the world are dying to exert their right to elect their government, and dying to prevent others from trying to take that right away from them. And why are they dying? Because their governments are terrible. Whatever else you think of your government, it does not compare to the oppressiveness of such governments. The biggest hardship we Canadian share is having to put up with alot of political communications and having to take less than an hour to go vote. I try to be understanding of people complaints, but this is hard to distinguish from whining. I think people who do whine about it need to revisit their context.
You may agree with that, but state that this election is unwanted by the Canadian people. If the election at this time is unwanted (as opposed to unnecessary), then we shall see the expected results. Parties that call for elections when they are not wanted are punished in the vote for calling one. If it is truly unnecessary, Stephen Harper and the Conservatives should do well and go on to form a majority. So if people want the Conservatives to continue to govern, then this election will bode well for them and help them get the majority they want.
In terms of the cost, if people want to have a system like the United States, they can demand from Parliament that this change occur. I find that ironic, since if anything, the United States has more elections than Canada and they vote for many more positions than Canadians do and likely it will cost more and people will have to vote more. If people feel having to vote more is a problem, then the U.S. may not be the answer to the problem. (I realize this is a debate that can go back and forth. My point is that there is no easy and obvious way to minimize the cost of elections.)
I strongly recall that when both the Conservatives under Mulroney and then the Liberals under Chretien had consecutive majorities, there was much complaining about the damage each one was doing and lots of people wishing they could undo this somehow. Indeed, there was fear of the Liberals gaining a permanent majority and that somehow we needed to change the rules to prevent that from happening. There was talk of banning first past the post and going to a different system. So now the complaint is too many minority governments. It is hard not to think that people will complain whatever the outcome.
If the left of center voters of Canada split the vote and the Conservatives win a majority, there will be alot of talk of getting rid of first past the post. In my opinion, anyone who complains about too many elections should like first past the post, since it is more likely to produce majorities. Representational voting is more likely to produce seats for smaller parties, which will end up resulting in more minorities and more coalitions and more elections.
The Conservatives have had two minority governments over 5 years. If they win another minority government and go another three years, that will mean they we have had three elections in 8 years. However, if instead of minorities, the conservatives had won majorities, it would likely be the case we would have had 2 elections in 8 years. So in effect we have had 1 more election if the conservatives win another minority, using that math. If they win a minority and govern for two years, then over the last 20 years, we will have had seven elections. If we had all majorities with four year terms each over those last 20 years, then we would have had five elections vs seven. So that is two more elections over 20 years. So 1 more election over 8 years or 2 more elections over 20 years. I don’t see how this is alot more. Would people like less? Would people wanted more of Brian Mulroney? Would they have wanted him to have 7 years terms perhaps? What about Jean Chretien? Or Trudeau?
Now my bias is I like minority governments, and I like them being on a short leash. I like voting, and I like hearing what they have to say. I like politics to be dynamic, and I like it when people think they can overthrow the government peacefully if only they work very hard. I like it when politicians have to humble themselves and go out for the vote. People who want to be autocrats should go run their companies, not countries.
The government is not the Conservatives (or the Liberals or anyone else). It is our government. We elect Members of Parliament, who belong to parties that can form a majority, either directly or through the result of a coalition. That majority can ask the Governor General to form the government and it will be up to the him to decide what to do.
Like I said, half-baked. But it stirs me up when people talk about the need to have less participation in our democracy, not less.

Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week?

Sounds crazy, yes? If anything, it’s a strong argument for doing some form of exercise everyday, even if it is a short brisk walk or skipping the elevators and escalators and taking the stairs. I think you should do more than that, but in the meantime, check out:
Can You Get Fit in Six Minutes a Week? –

What should you do this Easter weekend? How about start memorizing poetry?

As this essays argues in The Case for Memorizing Poetry, there are lots of benefits to it. And before you write the idea off, consider these two mythbusters:

Myth No. 1: Poetry is painful to memorize. It is not at all painful. Just do a line or two a day.

Myth No. 2: There isn’t enough room in your memory to store a lot of poetry. Bad analogy. Memory is a muscle, not a quart jar.

A good and cheap way to improve your life. Shakespearean actors do it all the time. Why not you?

Michael Ignatieff, current Liberal leader of Canada, on torture

Sadly, not categorically against it, at least not in 2006. I don’t think he has changed his opinion either. Closer to September 11, 2001, this would have made him popular. Also very sad.

See If torture works… « Prospect Magazine

A beautiful way to recycle maps and other old paper

Can be seen here (from the great blog, Thought for Food)

How Obama will pivot off the GOP preoccupation with the national debt

Can likely be seen in this chart:

No doubt the Republicans will argue it another way, but if you are Obama, I am guessing he is going to argue for dropping the Bush tax cuts for people making over $250K, adding some sort of surtax for the Affordable Care Act, and try to shut down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For more on this, and the graph, see: The 3-Word Phrase That Signals Obama’s Intentions on Taxes – Joshua Green – Politics – The Atlantic