Tag Archives: politics

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The Uighurs and China

I suspect there will be many more stories about the Uighurs and their relation with China in the months to come. If you want to know more about them and the reason for the conflict, I found this was a useful piece: The Uighurs and the Chinese state: A long history of discord – BBC News.

 

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Inequality is a fundamental problem over many centuries


At least, according to this:  700 years of Western inequality, in one chart – Vox

The chart shows the percentage of wealth owned by the top 10% since 1300. There are only two times it takes a major drop: during the Black Death in the 14th century and during World War II in the 20th century.

If true, it means that wealth concentration will continue unless another major catastrophe occurs (pandemic? global warming?).

There is lots to debate in all this. The numbers themselves are debatable (i.e. just how accurate and representative are they?)  As well, there is an argument to be made that it doesn’t matter how inequally distributed wealth is  if generally life for the 90% is good. But the Vox piece argues that such inequality leads to political instability and other problem, and that a good life for the majority isn’t enough.

Read the piece and consider it for yourself.

 

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Discrimination in design can come in two forms


Discrimination in design comes in two forms. One is through direct action. When you see benches designed to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them, that’s one example. Many more examples can be found in this ProPublica piece: Discrimination by Design — ProPublica.

Ignorance is the second way discrimination can occur in design. Just this week Twitter rolled out an audio feature that is inaccessible for deaf people. No one at twitter set out to discriminate against deaf people. The designers at Twitter just didn’t take them into account. (Apparently Twitter doesn’t have an accessibility review team for their software updates, which is bad for a technology company as large as they are.)

Keep in mind both forms when you see something that seems designed to discriminate against certain people. It may be intentional, or it may be an omission. Either way, steps should be taken to eliminate that discrimination.

(More on twitter’s audio tweets, here.)

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Canadian Protesters: know your rights with this one page sheet

The Canadian Civil Liberties association has a nice one page sheet of them, here.

Some ways to tackle inequality if you are an introvert

If you are an introvert and shy away from using your voice or your presence to address inequality, there are still a number of things you can do to improve things. Here’s a starter list for you to consider.

1. Contribute money. Money is power, and giving money to groups that work to combat inequality is a straightforward way to shift power to those having less of it.

2. Vote for candidates working to reduce inequality.

3. Decline positions that reinforce inequality. Do you belong to some organization that fosters inequality? Consider resigning or asking the leaders of the organization to better balance the group so it is more equal.

4. Educate yourself. Find good sources that deal with the inequalities you see and will give you better insight into the problems and how they can be solved.

5. Amplify voices dealing with inequality. If you can, help share the voices of people trying to address inequality so others can hear them.

6. Address your elected officials. Besides voting, you can prod your elected officials to do more to address inequality. Most elected officials are interested to hear what you say and even for an introvert it is not that hard to speak up to them.

7. Educate others. This may be harder for you, but consider ways you can share what you have learned and try and find ways to communicate to others existing inequalities and how they might be addressed.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it will start you on your way to help push back against the inequality you see in the world.

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Do Authoritarian or Democratic Countries Handle Pandemics Better?

There’s already been some pundits claiming autocratic countries have been handling the pandemic better than democratic countries.  This piece on the website for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues differently. It’s worth reading, but a key part of the piece is this:

Despite attempts by politicians to use the crisis to tout their favored political model, the record so far does not show a strong correlation between efficacy and regime type. While some autocracies have performed well, like Singapore, others have done very poorly, like Iran. Similarly, some democracies have stumbled, like Italy and the United States, while others have performed admirably, like South Korea and Taiwan. The disease has not yet ravaged developing countries, making it impossible to include poorer autocracies and democracies in the comparison.

Keep this in mind, especially afterwards, when writers and authorities argue that we need more controls on people to fight future pandemics.

Thinking about the Iowa caucus

After last night’s debacle at the Iowa caucus for the Democrats, there are going to be many hot takes published on what should change. I suspect many of them will be bad. The following is pretty good, I think.

Something should change, though. That was an embarrassing disaster.

— Read on http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/1/31/21087017/iowa-caucus-democratic-primary-2020

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The effectiveness of Bernie Sanders

Whatever else you think of Sanders and his politics, if you think he is ineffective, then I recommend these two pieces:

  1. Vox.com
  2. Politfact.com

I used to wonder if he was effective, but not anymore. Based on those piece, I think he has been effective, and if anything, very effective in certain years.

 

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What the smart socialists are wearing these days…


Is socialist slogans spelled out in pinstripe! Interesting. For more on this, see:  Socialist pinstripe: the secret message stitched into Jeremy Corbyn’s new suit | Politics | The Guardian

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How would proportional representation have shaped Canada’s recent election’s results

This is really good work done by CBC on the recent Canadian election:  How would proportional representation have shaped this election’s results? | CBC/Radio-Canada

Anyone interested in moving passed First Past the Post should read this.

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The thing I think about when I think about the Clintons

Is this piece by Josh Marshall: The Joy and the Drama | Talking Points Memo

It perfectly captures the essence of Bill and Hillary Clinton as political figures. And it rightly contrasts them to the essence of Barack Obama.

 

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Strategic Voting in Canada – some thoughts

First off, there are sites like this one that claim to help you if you want to decrease the chances of a more right wing politician winng election in a specific riding: Strategic Voting 2019 Canadian Federal Election | don’t make a statement, make a difference.

You can use the site that way. But I’d argue you can use it another way. If you want to vote non-strategically, you can look at the site to see who is likely to win and then use that to vote for the party you prefer (assuming you are considering more than one). If you are unsure whether or not to vote NDP or Green, you might choose to vote Green and boost their vote count if you are pretty certain the NDP is going to win. Likewise, if you are a right of centre voter and you think there is either a strong chance or no chance the Conservatives will win, then you may feel more strongly to vote for the Conservatives.

Of course you don’t have to do any of those things. You can vote for your preferred party. You can vote for your preferred candidate. You can cast a protest vote for a more extreme party knowing it is unlikely they won’t win but as a way to indicate your displeasure.  Vote how you think best. It is your vote, and you can use your vote to participate in the electoral process the best way you know how.

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The greatest thing Obama did

Is the one thing about the Obama legacy that can’t be repealed. Namely this:

There is no mystery about Barack Obama’s greatest presidential achievement: He stopped the Great Recession from becoming the second Great Depression.

Obama did many important things, Obamacare being the obvious. As someone who had seen many failed attempts at achieving this, to see him team with Pelosi and others to achieve this was astounding.

That said, there would have been nothing accomplished by Obama if the US spiralled into a second Great Depression, dragging down the world economy with it. I continue to see criticism of the actions taken by his team then, especially among progressives. They argue that more should have been done. You can google “Obama terrible” and find pieces like this.

Time will tell, but so far Obama is holding up as anything but terrible. I predict he will rise in Presidential standing in the future. Meanwhile, the world is in much better shape due to the actions he took in the early stages of his presidency to avert worldwide economic disaster.

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A good profile on Jimmy Carter, who is 95 years young today


This recent piece in the Washington Post is a reminder what a good man and what an under appreciated President that Jimmy Carter was: The un-celebrity president: Jimmy Carter shuns riches, lives modestly in his Georgia hometown – The Washington Post.

He was dealt a bad hand a number of times, but he achieved greatness too. His greatest deed may have been to allow the United States to transition from the debacle that was the Nixon Presidency.  Like Obama with the Great Recession, he saved the country from those that would harm it.

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Thinking about how topics of interest change


I was thinking about how topics of interest change when I came across this link I had saved since 2016: Should we have intervened in Syria? I don’t know – and neither do most armchair generals.

Back when Obama was president, whether or not the US should intervene in Syria was a hot topic. Articles like this struggled with whether or not something should be done about it. It was hard not to think about, both because it was terrible and because there was alot of media devoted to it.

Then Trump became President. Suddenly everything shifted. Terrible things went on in Syria, but it was no longer a topic of interest in much of North America.  I confess I barely know what is going on there now.

It’s a good reminder to me how much of what I think about is driven by who ever can get information in front of you. And it’s also a reminder of why disinformation campaigns will get stronger and stronger.

I don’t know what the answer is. I just know I have to constantly remind myself that just because it appears something is important or unimportant, my ability to assess that is shaped very much by others. There may be topics I spend a lot of time thinking about and researching. But most of the time, and for most people, that is not possible.

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How well did the current Canadian government keep it’s promises?


Pretty well, according to this: Did Trudeau keep his 2015 election promises? Mostly, a new analysis finds | National Post. 

How did the National Post determine this?

The Trudeau government’s result is based on a platform-monitoring tool called the “Polimetre,” which is managed by Universite Laval’s Centre for Public Policy Analysis.

The same group also assessed the previous government lead by Harper and found he mostly kept his too.

I think this is encouraging. Regardless of what you think of any government, it’s important that what they promise aligns to a strong degree as to what they do. This builds trust in government and the process of how governments are elected.

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Assessing the Speaker of the UK House of Commons, John Bercow


This is a good piece: How bad is Bercow? – UnHerd.

Bercow is a controversial figure, and as you can guess, many think he is a bad thing. But the UnHerd piece looks back over numerous Speakers of the House of Commons and gives a kinder assessment. Given that we are going to be reading alot about the House due to Brexit, it might be a good time to become better aware of the man and the role.

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On Fred Perry, fashion writing, and the Guardian


Here are two pieces on the association of Fred Perry and political fashion.. This one, Why does the far right love Fred Perry? Mainstream fashion is its new camouflage | by Cynthia Miller-Idriss in The Guardian and this one, Fred Perry, Proud Boys, and the Semiotics of Fashion.

The first one superficially touches on how the political right adopts certain clothing to wear as a uniform. The second goes deep into the history of clothing to signify membership within social groups.

If you read the first one, you’d get the impression that some good PR could shift the negative associations of the far right with Fred Perry. After reading the second one, you may realize it would be much harder to do than that. The associations go deep.

Sadly, many of the pieces I read in the Guardian are like that. They are a good jumping off point, but if you want to better understand a subject, you need to go elsewhere.

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The case for unions


German Lopez from Vox makes it, here: America needs more unions – Vox.

As for me, many unions fall under the idea of countervailing power, which I am a strong proponent for. The countervailing power aspect is important.  The worst unions are not that.

 

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The U.S. Supreme Court is not what you think


There was much concern from progressives when Gorsuch and then Kavanaugh joined the U.S. Supreme Court. It was believed by myself and others that the court was going to vote 5-4 in lock step on every option, with the 5 conservative judges routinely beating the four liberal ones.

If you are progressive, it is still a concern. But as these two pieces show, the Supremes vote more independently than you or I might think:

  1. The Supreme Court’s Biggest Decisions in 2019 – The New York Times
  2. The Supreme Court Might Have Three Swing Justices Now | FiveThirtyEight

This is not to say it is entire unpredictable how they will vote on matters before them. The liberal and conservative labels are convenient and often useful, but there’s much more to consider than just that when trying to determine how they will vote. Read the two pieces and see if they change your mind.

(Photo by Claire Anderson via unsplash.com)

Some thoughts on leftists calling for radical measures on climate change

I see that leftists are calling for radical measures to fight climate change. I have a few issues with this:

  1. You have to be careful for what you wish for. When they talk about radical measures, they are likely thinking that the line of what is radical is where they get to draw it. I don’t think this is true. To me, radical is things like geoengineering. Or nuclear proliferation. Leftists should not assume they get to draw the line as to what radical is. And leftists should not be surprised if they don’t like what they ask for.
  2. Some of this seems to be a way to score points against centrists and rightists. It may be true that centrists and rightists have bad solutions. They are not bad solutions because they are associated with anyone of a certain political stripe. They are bad because they may not be enough.

Everyone involved with dealing with climate change should

  1. work very hard to promote new and better ideas and solutions for climate change
  2. be as persuasive as possible, especially for those more moderate than themselves
  3. be very humble when it comes to thinking you know what is right

Obviously this is not the easy a thing to solve by any stretch, and the tradeoffs are significant. Worse still, the solutions involve humans and all their flaws as well as science and technology still in development.

I personally believe it is too late already and that:

  1. there is going to be global devastation with many coastal cities being destroyed over the next 20 years, despite any advances in policies or technology.
  2. there is going to be such severe weather in the next two decades that global warming and climate change will be the main political topic affecting everything, and there will be a surge in advances in response to this.
  3. there will be feedback in terms of population decreases, new technologies, new policies, and planetary unknowns. This feedback will result in climate change stabilizing.
  4. there will be positive gains to be had from global warming and climate change but that they will not be known for sometime.

Thanks for reading this. Feel free to disagree. Just not on twitter, or I will block you.

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Howard Schultz is running for President. Here’s something you might want to read about him….

If you are seriously considering Howard Schultz run for president, you should read this:   How Howard Schultz Left a Bitter Taste in Seattle’s Mouth – POLITICO Magazine

I think he doesn’t have a chance, although he could help the current President get reelected.  I thought that before, and I thought it even more after reading the piece in Politico. Here’s hoping he drops out.

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Beyond Twitter, or how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Mastered the Politics of Digital Intimacy using Instagram.

An interesting development. Ocasio-Cortez is using Instagram in a way that may bring on the new version of the fireside chat. For example:

A few days before Thanksgiving, newly elected New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went live on her Instagram feed to cook dinner and chat with her hundreds of thousands of followers. She took questions on topics ranging from the challenges of entering Congress, to the specifics of progressive policy goals like the newly dubbed #GreenNewDeal, to whatever else came up. She made mac-and-cheese in her Instant Pot. The next day she used Twitter to thank attendees of the Instagram Q&A, but if you’d missed it, too bad: Instagram Live Videos are only available after the fact if the account holder chooses to save a replay and make it public. The same is true with Instagram Stories, which by default vanish from the site after 24 hours, unless the user saves them as a “highlight.” Right now, Ocasio-Cortez has only five of her many stories saved at the top of her account. If you want to keep track of the congresswoman-elect, you’d better stay logged in.

It will be interesting to see how this form of communication develops. For more on this: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Mastered the Politics of Digital Intimacy – Pacific Standard

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The Disaster of Richard Nixon, and thinking about US presidents

A good book on something that people needs to be reminded of:  The Disaster of Richard Nixon | by Robert G. Kaiser | The New York Review of Books.

No matter how bad the current president is, longing for bad former presidents is nostalgia at its worst. It’s good that works like this are frequently published to remind us and give us perspective.

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Who is Jeremy Corbyn?


It’s odd but this piece by Andrew Sullivan on Jeremy Corbyn, Face of the New New Left does a better job of explaining the current head of Labour in the U.K. than many other pieces I’ve read. Knowing Sullivan, you may be skeptical, but there is plenty of objective detail here.

Corbyn’s time is coming. Read this to better understand him.

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Why does this not surprise me? Jacobin Accused of Reneging on Wage Deal

The owner of left-wing magazine Jacobin stiffs his workers for his play to take over other property.

In his bid to take over the historic British left-wing magazine, The Tribune, Jacobin publisher Bhaskar Sunkara is being accused of reneging on wage deal by employees of the paper, who kept the publication alive during struggling times. Tribune was once the home of such greats as George Orwell and has since become the leading publication associated with the influential Momentum faction within the Labor Party.

For the details, see this: Jacobin Accused of Reneging on Wage Deal in British Takeover of Tribune Magazine – Payday Report

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A good clear look at Antifa

Can be found here: Unite the Right rally: the counter-protesting group Antifa, explained – Vox.

It covers the things most people can agree with (opposing Nazis) and other things many people would disagree with (opposing liberalism).

Antifa is a term taking in many different groups, some very fringe, some violent.

Read this post before just assuming they are simply positive (or simply negative).

On gun control and the Overton Window

In reading this: Trump: “THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!” – Vox,  I’ve come to the conclusion that progressives in the U.S. are making a mistake by not looking to shift the Overton window, especially on the issue of gun control. If anything, they have an opportunity at this time to shift the Overton window immensely. Moreover, what they should recognize from watching Trump is that you can shift the Overton window in all sorts of ways with very little pushback. Progressives should line up and say that nothing moderate will ever work. That’s what Justice Stevens argues, and more progressives should line up with him and force the Overton window all the way over if they want to be successful. Moderation is not working and has rarely worked.

 

YouTube’s fight with its most extreme creators highlights the problem big IT has on it’s hands

Here’s a really good piece highlighting a big problem the Frightful Five / Big IT have right now with user generated content: YouTube’s messy fight with its most extreme creators – Vox.

Some background is in order. For years, content creators on Youtube (part of Google/Alphabet) have been jacking up the extremism in their videos to get more views. Extremism in all senses of the word, including political extremism. Some do it for Fame, but many do it for Fortune. This was going well for them until….

In March this year, 250 advertisers pulled back from YouTube after reports that ads were appearing on extremist content, including white supremacist videos. As a result, YouTube demonetized a wide range of political content, including videos that didn’t include hate speech but might still be considered controversial by advertisers. Creators called it “the adpocalypse” — they saw their incomes from YouTube evaporate without fully understanding what they’d done wrong or how to avoid demonetization in the future.

And this is the problem for Youtube and other platforms…how to maximize both traffic and profit. For a long time the formula was simple: more extreme videos = more traffic = more profit. Now they are hitting a wall, and advertisers and consumers are fed up.

The question big IT will be struggling with is: how to draw the line? In case you think the line is easy to draw, I recommend you watch the video by Carlos Maza of Vox. He makes a case that it is very difficult, even if at first glance it should be obvious what should be removed.

I don’t think there is a simple answer to this. If anything, it is going to be one of the major political debates of the first part of the 21st century, as global IT companies deal with national laws and policies.

It’s Time for You to Run for Office. Yes, you.


Great advice: It’s Time for You to Run for Office. 

Don’t see politicians that represent you or the groups you feel represent you? All the more reason to run.

Don’t get me wrong: running for office and doing the job while you are in office are both difficult things. But if you are the type of person who want to make a positive difference and you are also the type who likes a challenge, then what’s stopping you?

The worst ever president of the United States of America is…

…likely this guy: James Buchanan.

James Buchanan

And this piece makes the case for why he — and not the current guy — is the worst: No, Trump isn’t the worst president ever – Indivisible Movement – Medium. In a nutshell:

In order to wrest the title of worst president from Buchanan, a contemporary commander in chief would need to wreck the economy, revoke all human rights from an entire race, violate the constitutional separation of powers, and plunge the country into a ruinous civil war that kills nearly 2% of the US population.

With all the staggering incompetence and corruption of the 45th presidency, it may seem hard to believe anyone could be worst. I believe in time Trump will be in the bottom 5 presidents. But to wrestle the title of worst President ever, he still needs to do worse. Let’s hope he does not.

The comeuppance of Silicon Valley

It’s not in full decline, but Silicon Valley is on its heels these days, whether due to the practices at Uber or Facebook or Google or …well, the companies that belong there as a whole. Here’s three pieces that all touch on the some of the problems there, but really I could have put three dozen recent articles instead of just these three:

  1. There’s Blood In The Water In Silicon Valley
  2. Privilege and inequality in Silicon Valley – Tech Diversity Files – Medium
  3. Silicon Valley is confusing pseudo-science with innovation – The Verge

Everything I see tells me that they are not equipped to deal with the challenges on their own. If this is true, then expect these high tech companies to come in for a political bruising soon.

On the recent German election

Good news: Merkel won by moving to the center.

Bad news: AfD, a far right party, has surged and won seats.

This could either be a blip and AfD could fade after this election.

Or it could be the start of big and bad changes for Germany, Europe and the world.

For more on this, see this good piece: Angela Merkel wins 4th term as chancellor of Germany in Vox

Where is Facebook now and why should you care

Facebook and politics

John Lanchester manages in a review of a number of books to extensively pin down where Facebook is, here:

John Lanchester reviews ‘The Attention Merchants’ by Tim Wu, ‘Chaos Monkeys’ by Antonio García Martínez and ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ by Jonathan Taplin · LRB 17 August 2017

Here’s some reasons why you should care, even if don’t use Facebook

Facebook has an ability to influence politics in ways that no one understands, except possibly Facebook. I don’t imagine they are going to share that information readily. Politicians need to push back on Facebook and discover the extent of their influence.

My belief is that the strength and influence of social media like Facebook is going to decline in the next few years. That’s not anywhere certain at this point, though, and the power they have needs to be limited now.

On statues and awards and the naming of things

The Edmund Pettus Bridge
Statues and awards and the naming of things (schools, hospitals, museums) are about many things, but first they are about power. Those with political or organizational or financial power decide what names go on things, what statues and monuments go where, and who should get awards. Sometimes it is simple, and an award or a thing gets named after someone or something powerful as a direct result of their power. Other times it is subtle, and the award or the statue or the naming of a thing reflects the values of those with power.

When people want to tear down statues or rename things or revoke awards, there is an outcry. That outcry is because of a group fearing their loss of power. You won’t hear people talk of it in those terms: you will hear people talk about values instead. But the change is the result of a shift in power. History isn’t erased because something is renamed or revoked or torn down: anyone who wants to know the history can know it in other ways. And history isn’t changed by putting up more statues or naming things differently.

Of all the ways of understanding history, objects are the worst. They are a crude reminder that a history exists, and they are put in place by powers that be or powers that were. As a place changes, the statues should change, the awards should be redistributed, and the things should be renamed. And this will indeed happen, and it will happen due to the new people in power.

Some somewhat objective thoughts on the new Trudeaumania

Lots of chatter on this recently, Justin Trudeau: Canadian Prime Minister, Free World’s Best Hope? – Rolling Stone.

It’s good that the world thinks highly of our leaders, whomever they are. Canada is a significant nation in the world with the ability to influence other nations, and having a leader that is looked up to makes a positive difference.

As a Canadian citizen, I’m more interested in the substance than the PR. And I’m more interested in what the government is doing, not just the Prime Minister. I try to look at the government’s policies, competency in executing on those policies (either through legislation or direction to federal agencies), and how the government supports democracy (through actions to make our country more democratic) or hinders it (by making the country less democratic or by being corrupt).

That means I spend less and less time reading pieces like this, which are along the lines of “if you people were as smart as me you’d realize how bad Trudeau is” . Instead, I look to sites like this which track the government’s progress. For example, this site, TrudeauMeter, has ongoing ratings of the government. Other commentators, like John Ibbitson, provide periodic ratings: Video: Opinion: John Ibbitson rates the Trudeau government as Ottawa wraps up for the summer – The Globe and Mail. Finding sources of information you find comprehensive and objective are always your best bet.

If you don’t support the Liberal government’s policies, then I can see why you would not want the government in place.  Likewise there will be times when you do support the government’s policies but you feel the level of corruption or incompetence is so high you want to turn to a different group. If you are going to rate the Prime Minister and his government, those are good criteria to evaluate them on, not PR like the Rolling Stone magazine, or any other specific good or bad focus pieces on them. The government works for you, and if you are a good boss, you evaluate them mainly on the entirety of their efforts, not just things here and there.

Some other thoughts on Trudeau:

From what I can see so far, his government is starting off unsurprisingly: being successful over things the government has control over (like spending) and having less success over things that requires working with other groups. I suspect they will make no progress on electoral reform unless there is a major push from Canadians. Likewise, there are so many issues and problems with regards to Aboriginal peoples that any progress there will be modest, at best. I wish neither of them were true, but I am not optimistic on those fronts.

I suspect that as long as the economy is doing fine, the government does not appear corrupt or incompetent, and people aren’t tired of his government, then Trudeau and his team will be in power for some time to come. The first one, the economy, will be the one that is most likely to hit him. Corruption takes time to seep in (although major scandals can occur at any time and make the government appear corrupt), and government fatigue takes longer still. Whatever you thought of Chretien or Harper, that was true for them and I suspect it will be true for Trudeau as well.

I will continue to ignore articles that underestimate Trudeau (like the one above). He’s flashy and sometimes appears smarmy, but he’s smart, he has a good team, and politics is in his DNA.  If you oppose Trudeau, underestimating him only works to his advantage and not yours. In addition,  he is as much his mom’s son as his Dad’s. The combination makes him much more effective than his Dad could ever be. His Dad may have had a higher IQ than him, but he has a higher EQ than his Dad ever had and that will make him more challenging to defeat than people who approach politics intellectually realize.

Likewise, I will continue to ignore articles that compare Trudeau to Trump. There is little if anything to be gained by them. Trump is an anomaly. Almost any leader looks good in comparison to the 45th President of the United States.

I like Trudeau for alot of reasons.  That said, it doesn’t matter if I like him or not, anymore than it matters that you dislike him or not. What matters is his ability to do the job. He’s not an entertainer: he’s an elected official. When the next election comes, it won’t matter how good or bad Trudeau’s PR is. What matters is that in comparison to other politicians looking to lead the country, is the government he proposes to lead the best one for the job based on the criteria I have.  That’s the only thing that matters.

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a candidate right out of a Philip K Dick Novel

Melenchon hologram
In France, politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon plans to be in seven places at once using  something similar to a hologram. According to Le Parisien:

Strictly speaking, these are not holograms. Jean-Luc Mélenchon will be present in seven different places thanks to … an optical illusion discovered for the first time half a century ago by an Italian physicist

Virtual Mélenchon reminds me of the politician Yance in Philip K Dick’s novel, The Penultimate Truth. We may not be far off where we get virtual candidate that look like people but behind the scenes we have AI or some combination of AI and people.

For more on the technology, see the article in Le Parisien. For more on Dick’s novel, see Wikipedia. Read up now: I think we can expect to see more of this technology in use soon.

Is everything political? What is wrong about thinking that way?

Albert Camus, gagnant de prix Nobel, portrait en buste, posé au bureau, faisant face à gauche, cigarette de tabagisme.jpg

I was thinking this when reading this quote from Orwell: “The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.” The idea, implied by this quote, is that everything is political. This idea springs like a trap on people who want to escape from politics and focus on other areas of human concern, like arts or sports or science.

Is this trap avoidable? There is an argument, found here, Only a Game: The Activist’s Argument (Everything is Political), that says that saying “everything is political” renders it meaningless. It’s worthwhile reading the piece, but I don’t think the argument that the statement is meaningless holds true.

Instead, I would first accept it and I would expand the notion of “everything is political” to say that

  • everything is political
  • everything is scientific
  • everything is religious
  • everything is philosophical
  • everything is art

For if you can make the case that everything is political, you can also make the case that everything is scientific, religious, and so on. (In fact, you can extend this list to other areas of human thought and human interest.) But how can everything be all of those things at the same time? To see how that can be the case, that I would on refine the statements and replace “everything is” with “everything can be viewed from the lens of”, as in:

  • everything can be viewed from the lens of politics
  • everything can be viewed from the lens of science
  • everything can be viewed from the lens of religion
  • etc.

More than that, everything can be viewed from each of those lens at the same time. For example, if I go see a film about Alan Turing, I can view it from the lens of science and I can view it from the lens of politics or the lens of art. The film has political and artistic and scientific themes and ideas, and anyone watching it can view it from those differing viewpoints. You may not care to do so, but it is possible to do so.

Now take the above list and change it to read this way:

  • everything is only or mainly political
  • everything is only or mainly scientific
  • everything is only or mainly religious
  • everything is only or mainly philosophical
  • everything is only or mainly art

For some political activists, the phrases “everything is political” and “everything is only or mainly political” are practically the same. Likewise for scientists, artists, philosophers, etc. For me, and for many people, I think “everything is only or mainly” is a relatively weak notion. For example, if a crowd is watching a film, they may watch it through any or all of these lens, or none of them. If asked later if the film she made is mainly political, the director may agree that there is a political aspect to it, but the main themes and elements of the film could be religious and aesthetic or scientific. The film may have something to do with politics, but to see it only as or mainly as political is to miss out on the other aspects of the film.

What is true of a film is also true of our lives. Our lives, and the things that matter to us in our lives, can be seen through a political lens, and a religious lens, and many other lens we may pick up. However such lens provided a limited view. It is better to look at our lives and the lives of others as broadly as possible. We will see more that way. We will hopefully understand ourselves better. And we will acquire a view and a wisdom that those stuck to peering only through lens will never achieve.

(Image is not of Orwell but Albert Camus, which I felt to be more appropriate. Photograph by UPI –  image  from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3c08028.
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/93507512/ and Wikipedia)

Want to send a fax without a fax machine? Now you can!

How? By using: Free Fax • Free Internet Faxing. I haven’t used it, but you can send free faxes to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada, apparently.

If you are dealing with organizations that refuse email as a valid way to receive information and insist on a fax, this could save your day.

 

Eric Holder has a new role – defending California against the Trump Regime

The State of California has a new lawyer to represent it: Eric Holder. The New York Times has the details, here. A good piece, showcasing what we can expect from that State while Trump occupies the White House.

As an aside, I found it fascinating to see how Americans perceived Holder. For a number of Americans, they saw him and his Justice Department as inhibitor of liberty due to how his department cracked down on leaks, among other things. For African Americans, they likely saw him as a provider of liberty, as his DOJ went after those looking to restrict their voting rights.

I think both those activities reflected the wishes of his boss, as well as his own goals.

I think he will be formidable in the next four years as he and his law firm defends the interests of California. It will be interesting, for certain.