Sunday, October 28, 2012


If you're not interested in a political rant scroll on down till you get to the Runmeter graphs. There is a cat photo to reward readers who make it to the bottom. This got long.

When people talk of honour these days, the safe thing thing to do is get a firm grip on your wallet. There doesn't seem to be much anymore. It's intimately linked to respect, and there's precious little of that too.

One of the things that turns me off most pro sports is the trash talking. Here are grossly overpaid semi-literate behemoths spouting nonsense about the opposing side. The media lap it up, and talk about "The Big Game" when all it is, is a game. The results of which are essentially meaningless in any real world context.

But something happens when you trash talk your opponent. It becomes much easier to remove their face and treat them as a non-entity. I think this is the fundamental reason why the NHL was suffering such a rash of vicious assaults on ice. When you don't respect your opponent, anything goes to get an edge. When the regulatory body doesn't do anything, and you have a buffoon like Don Cherry vomiting his "rock-em sock-em" bullshit, it's no wonder it continues.

It's simple enough to make it stop in sports.  The 2005 Bertuzzi sucker punch to Moore? If that's the first time, a fine of a year's salary seems appropriate. The team can play him if they like, after he pays the fine. The second time, a year's suspension and being fined two year's salary. Third time, is out of the game, forever. These fines of a few thousand dollars and a couple game suspension are chicken-shit to millionaires. Do it to everybody that offends, and soon you'll have a clean game again. If you can prove a coach sent someone out to get someone, fire the coach, and ban him from ever working in the sport again. Any sport.

Now to politics, the real blood sport, where the decisions actually matter to real people. Politicians are some of the most driven people in society. They want to win, very badly. There are any number of reasons, and some of those have been of professional interest to both mental therapists and the justice system. It's well known that politicians have only a loose association with the truth even at the best of times, but until recently they at least seemed to respect that there was an objective truth out there to be used as the basis for spin. Even if they tried to hide it.

Recently we are seeing a couple trends that have me very disturbed, more on them below:

  • Harper trying to destroy the Liberal Party, rather than just defeat it electorally.
  • Harper centralizing power in the Prime Minister's Office, and gagging everyone else.
  • The Republican war on science in general, and women in particular.
  • The dysfunctional Canadian House of Commons, and the American Congress.
In our system of politics it is completely reasonable to seek to defeat your opponents. That's how to take power and govern, after all. But our system is built around having a loyal opposition, one that seeks to make the government produce the facts to back up it's legislative agenda, to ensure that alternate ideas are brought forth, to debate the various ideas so that the voters can judge which party is best representing the interests of the country and citizens, and lastly to provide an alternative government.

There is a line between a vigorous, even passionate exchange of ideas between respected opponents, and the recent evasive and mocking responses to a disrespected, even despised opponent that is merely trying to carry out it's role. The Harper government is so far past that line that it probably doesn't even recognize the existence of it, let alone the legitimacy of it's basis.

The problem is that eventually the Harper government will lose power, and deservedly so. But they seek to keep power by destroying the only party they see as able to take power. Their calculus is that if they destroy the party of the middle, there will be only them, and the party perceived as the left wing fruit loops that Canadians will never trust with government. This leaves Canadian democracy weaker.

Such a strategy reveals the weakness and venality of the Conservative mindset. In their lucid moments they know that most Canadians do not share their corporatist, hard right, half baked policies. Given a real choice they would be voted out of power and they know it. Rather than move to the centre and revise their policies, they choose to destroy the alternative party. 

There is another force that does that. Recently the Taliban demonstrated that they are afraid of a barely teenaged girl holding a book that she can read by herself. They are so afraid of her that they sent a gunman to shoot her in the head, and fortunately he botched the job. This may be the spark that triggers Pakistan to clean up the tolerated jihadists in their midst. It sends the clearest message possible about what extreme religionists want. These ones happen to be Islamic, but in America it's the Christians. 

The space between that and Harper's bullying and disrespect for the opposing parties and for Parliament itself is smaller than one would think. Harper seeks to become an absolute dictator, keeping only the trappings of democracy that don't unduly inconvenience him. That leads to the historical example of "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" When democratic tools are removed or fail us, there are people who will then take the only remaining step. Sic semper tyrannis. 

Words fail me when it comes to expressing my opinion of some of the American Republican candidates and their public statements about such things as slavery, rape, abortion, reproductive health, and choice. Speaking factually, their ideas are medieval, and I thought we had got beyond that. What baffles me, completely and totally baffles me, is why any woman would vote for the Republican candidates. 

Yes, you might disagree with what Obama has done during his term in office. Personally, I disagree with much of it, but then, nobody expected the stupid, mindless, bullheaded refusal to compromise from the Republican party. I think it's dumb to hang him with the poor economic performance of the USA over his time in office, as if he has the magic keys to make it all better but chooses not to use it because of, of, of some shadowy organization telling him what to do. Or something. There are the obstructionists in Congress, and a bunch of thieving bankers that also need to be wearing the horns.

So even if your first thought is to blame Obama and vote him out, which is a well respected position to hold for incumbents, you have to look at the alternatives. And in the American system there really is only one alternative. A party of old white men who are rich even by millionaire standards, who don't just want to roll back what women and minorities gained in recent decades. They want to roll back to the mid-1800's, undoing the New Deal, and probably the 13th Amendment. They want to create a new Gilded Age, even more gilded than the recent heyday of bloated corporate bonuses and excessive executive compensation. George Carlin, RIP, had it right. "They own this fucking place. It's a big club and you ain't in it."

Google Jon Hubbard's comments about slavery. "...the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise."Or Todd Akin's comments about rape. Seriously, these idiots will get votes? Who would vote for someone that believes that?

When a Republican was president, any comments that didn't support his war or any of his policies were considered treasonous. They actually said so. Then when a Democrat, and GASP! a black man became president, they took any and every measure to prevent him from getting anything done, and made it clear they disrespected him personally. Where else would the birther movement come from? They have lessened the legitimacy and respect for the office of president for the next incumbent, and the one after that, regardless of party.

The problem is that when a Republican becomes president again, as one will sooner or later, they have lowered the bar to the personal attacks that will then make it difficult or impossible for that president to accomplish anything. Which might be a good thing, if that prevents the medieval extremists in his party from enacting their hateful agenda. But on the larger economic front, it's a bad thing, because the USA is one of the largest elements in the global economy and the rest of us badly need the USA to get it's shit together.

In spite of what is now mainstream Republican thought, government needs to exist. There is a role for it in providing essential services, and acting as an overall referee. One can legitimately argue about the scope of government activities, how much is budgeted for services, how many people ought to provide those services, and how the necessary funds are raised. It is mind-bogglingly stupid to argue that government doesn't have any role at all, and point to examples where legislative intransigence have cut taxes so there isn't money to provide government services, as evidence of a failure of government itself.

Right now, in spite of the gun nuts, North American society is the safest and best place to live that has ever been created by humans. Science and liberal government policies in many areas are what created that society, in spite of the opposition of entrenched and wealthy interests. Now those interests are seeking to roll back those gains. Harper gags scientists. (And ministers, and civil servants, and anyone else that he thinks might disagree with him.) American politicians, especially Republicans, denigrate science itself, seeking to replace it with Creationism, and a system of magic that will somehow restore "America's exceptional place in the world."

In Canada, Harper, despite his historic revulsion of omnibus bills, has passed one, and put forward another. He's discovered that they are a great place to hide nasty surprises to the rest of us, that turn out to be gifts to his corporate masters. Like removing the appellation of "navigable" from most of Canada's waterways. By doing this, it changes the oversight that happens to said waterways. Which means that pipeline companies don't have to pay as much attention to pipelines going under or over rivers. Which means we will be reading more about pipeline spills in rivers. There's probably shit in those bills that nobody has discovered yet.

Harper's actions are those of a bully who has not the least respect for Parliament or the people that elected him. He feels he has to sneak his legislation into law, probably because it cannot withstand an informed debate. Even worse is refusing to allow people to comment on the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. At the beginning of it, government ministers were speaking of "radical extremists" that were the only people opposing the pipeline, and of course, we didn't want to let radical extremists have a say in what was good for Canada did we?

Some of those radical extremists are First Nation people who are very concerned about what a pipeline rupture or tanker incident would do to the lands and waters they have lived on for uncounted generations. And naturally so. They have every right to be heard, and have their concerns addressed. To not do so is beyond disrespectful, it is contemptuous.

The reason for restricting comment is that the plan makes no sense and cannot withstand informed scrutiny. It's a short term response to a pipeline delay to our major market, the USA. If we built a pipeline so we could export to alternative markets we could get a better price for our petroleum products. So far so good. I've worked with pipeline failure statistics and know there are ways of mitigating pipeline failures. Part of it is a system of regulation that holds the builder and operator to the highest standards, because it's been adequately demonstrated they won't do it for themselves. I can cope with the pipeline part of it, even if it's transporting diluted bitumen which is far worse that oil for cleaning up.

It's the tanker part that really horrifies me. The Pacific North West is one of the worst coastlines in the world for extreme weather. Getting to Kitimat is a complicated course at the very best of times, and that doesn't happen often there. Whoever thought it was a good idea to run tankers to Kitimat needs to have their head examined.

Question Period in the Canadian House of Commons has always been the time and place for show boating, and trying to put your party in the best light. Every year the behaviour of MP's gets worse. Government MP's don't even pretend to answer the questions anymore. They just read the same script of the day, again and again. If it was the gong show, that gong would have rung long ago. If any employee in any other business in Canada behaved as those MP's behave, particularly the Conservative ones, they'd be fired, and rightly so. Why do we continue to employ them?

So what do we do? We need to rescue our democracy. We need to start making noise at elections, and at every other opportunity. For a while there was a movement called DisruptaCon, but I haven't heard from it lately. We need to be doing more of that. More importantly, we need to start laughing at politicians when they tell lies. How can you tell when that is? When they're talking is a good first approximation. There was a time during a minority government, when the Martin government persuaded a Conservative to cross the floor. They became a Cabinet Minister, of course. During the announcement they said the two had nothing to do with each other, and the tape ran just long enough for us to hear the media burst into laughter. That needs to happen more often.

We need to get involved in the local constituency associations. Having real people involved would prevent idiots like Rob Anders from staying in office. We need to confront the people and organizations that support elected officials that say anything to get elected, then go to Ottawa to kiss the PM's ass hoping for a Cabinet position.

As long as we put up with it, the shit will continue, I guarantee that.

Fitness stuff now. If all you came for was the political rant, you can scroll down for the comments.

Saturday was a quiet day. Sunday, as the sun was breaking free of the clouds of doom that had been oppressing us for a week, I finished my coffee and headed out for a run. 45 minutes, 7 K, running faster for a bit, then easy for a bit. The run is feeling really good lately. Even my recovery pace is quicker than steady pace not that long ago. My feet feel light and strong, and I can feel the interplay of my abs as my arms are working with my legs to drive forward. There are parts of the run today that were exhilarating! Or maybe that was the thrill of paying attention to my balance as I was crossing icy streets.  That last big spike was waiting for a light to change.

Once home I was on my bike pretty promptly. My reasoning for the run first was to do it with fresh legs, and a non sweaty body. 90 minute bike. Longish warmup to get my legs going around. Then 30 minutes at 170 watts or so. Then some higher speed spinning, then some higher powered spin, though for a short interval. Cool down and some stretching after.

During my ride Celina appointed herself as my cheerleader. She sat on the computer desk and yelled at me to go faster, harder. Or maybe it was to get off the bike and feed her.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE the pic of Celina!! Hee-hee!! So cute -- this made my day! :) :)


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