Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Price of Paranoia

Since 9/11, societies in general [Western countries in particular] have become more and more focused on security and safety issues. One might argue that is a healthy, normal, and laudable reaction to certain events that occurred around that time. I would argue the opposite, that it is a sick, bizarre, and laughable reaction to isolated and extremely rare events. Worst of all, our responses to these "threats" is costing us severely in many ways, and is taking priority over problems that are more important, urgent, and easier to solve.

Examples? Sure, I'll give you some examples.

1. Air travel/border crossings - I don't travel to or through the States anymore [four times in the last eight years], even though I live right across the St. Clair River from Michigan. The ridiculous requirements [especially in the States] to try and eliminate the 0.0000001% of incidents that happen due to terrorist attacks/hijackings are intrusive, cost billions in extra manpower and technology, and slow down/stop the free flow of goods and people.
COST - untold billions of dollars in time , manpower, and technology to uncover a threat that is really not there.
- secure cockpit doors, pilot training, and competent police force investigations.
Inspiring Event - 9/11. Not that Oklahoma thing. Right wing white guys did that so it is a fluke and does not count.......I guess.

2. Drinking water - When I was growing up drinking water from a tap was normal behaviour. Now, it is the height of risk taking. Bottled water? Are you kidding me? Well, at least they are not drinking Coke or Pepsi.
COST - billions of consumer dollars not to mention the environmental cost of all the plastic bottles that litter our landscape and must be recycled.
Solution -
proper water treatment facilities with trained personnel manning them.
Inspiring Event - Walkerton [in Canada] and I am sure others around the world.

3. Child Predators - You can accuse me of minimizing the real threat and its impact [which is devastating to say the least] but I am focusing on the threat from "strangers" who lurk in our neighbourhoods in trench coats. The real threat, well over 90% of these assaults, are from people already known by the children and parents. Parents, and society in general, have overreacted by virtually locking kids into their yards or homes, wasting legal/police resources on senseless investigations and prosecutions, and a special shout out to the media for raising a hub-ub for every incident they can find. If only they were as diligent investigating or publicizing the more serious, but less lurid, crimes of our governments and corporations.
COST- a generation of fat, lazy, socially isolated children, who will inherit our stupid fear of anyone strange/unknown. The dollar cost due to wasted justice system and media resources when they could actually be doing something worthwhile to society.
- background checks on coaches, teachers, etc. and some reasonable "training" for parents and children on predator awareness. Also, encourage children to actually play in parks in groups without adult supervision. The adults are the problem.
Inspiring event - I can't put my finger on a specific event, but there was a TV movie back in the seventies or so that seemed to catalyze this whole fiasco. For most people, probably a local occurrence.

4. Marijuana - You can almost include the whole war on drugs, but specifically the criminalization of weed is wasting legal resources on a potential gold mine for the government [re:taxes]. It is also destroying the lives of users who arrested and jailed for nothing worse than personal recreation [an oversimplification, I know, but that is my opinion].
COST- billions of manhours in the legal system, billions of dollars in prison costs, and hundreds of thousands of wasted lives of normally law abiding citizens. Not to mention the potential tax bonanza for our governments and the jobs that could be created in supporting this new industry.
- legalize it and regulate it.
Inspiring event - who knows? A cabal of crotchety old men [led by Nixon] who could not get laid in college? Just a guess.

The other hidden cost in all of these paranoias, and more that I could name, is our loss of civil liberties. In each of these cases the government and corporations justify intruding even farther into our lives. Whether it is monitoring phone conversations, internet usage, affiliations, ID cards, increase in police powers to search and seize citizens going about their normal lives, they are slowly inching [faster than that really] our society into a totalitarian state all in the name of making us safe and secure.

NOTE: This is my first post in eighteen months. I was inspired by the colossal waste of money that my Canadian government is spending to host the G8 and G20 summits. Most of it being justified to keep the leaders [a real rogues gallery of fools, dictators, and jackasses] safe and secure.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Futility for the Holidays: The Detroit Lions

Since I was born in Windsor, Ontario [across the river from Detroit, Michigan] I have been a Detroit sports fan all my life [with the notable exception of hockey, where my loyalty lies with (sigh) the Toronto Maple Leafs].
Since 1966 [when I became an active sports fan] the Lions have veered between a marginal playoff team and contenders for an early pick in the NFL draft. Unfortunately, more often the latter than the former. They have never been thought of as a serious Super Bowl team. This year they are on the brink of seizing the title of "The Worst NFL Team of All Time". They are one loss away from a perfect oh and sixteen record. The last game is in Green Bay against the less than stellar Packers. The Lions have not won in Green Bay in seventeen years.
Thinking about this team and these turbulent times, shows how crucial good management can be for the success of any enterprise or government. The Lions have an owner [William Clay Ford]who is deeply loyal to his managers, but is a terrible judge of people. He is also not very bright or passionate about his teams on field success. The former GM, Matt Millen, seemed to be a younger version of the owner. He was louder and more passionate about what he was doing. He just did not know how to select good football people, either coaches or players. His last coach, Rod Marinelli, is the worst of the worst. He is utterly out of his depth as a head football coach. He is loyal to his assistants and players [that are loyal to him], no matter how poorly they perform, and is utterly inflexible in his approach and planning. If you can, imagine what George W. Bush would be like as a head coach of an NFL team. I happened to listen to a Detroit sports radio show and the discussion was whether Marinelli should be fired. A caller made a great case that he should be kept on until they WON a game. Yes, until he actually won a game. This was about half way through the season and this caller wanted Marinelli to be the coach of record if the 2008 Detroit Lions went 0-16. This view became pretty common in the Detroit area. Now that we are at 0-15 this will most likely be Rod Marinelli's last game as a head coach. Unless, Mr. Ford does the unthinkable [for others] and retains Marinelli. Part of me hopes he does. That will make it possible for me to finally give up on this team and find a franchise that actually cares about winning.
A week or so ago, I became somewhat optimistic that things would change with the Lions in 2009. New GM, new coach, new staff, first pick in the draft, and a good housecleaning might actually point the way to a better future. Now, I'm not so sure. The owner will always be the same and the franchise will never change while he is still the leader.
I will probably watch the last game this Sunday. I hope they win, but a win will be no cause for celebration. The celebration will be in the off season, if changes are made.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Democracy in Action and the Pundits Recoil

So, it takes the biggest political crisis of my lifetime [born 1957] for the corporate media and their mercenary mouthpieces to display their true colours. The last four days or so I have been watching and reading various Canadian media regarding the potential replacement of the Cons with the Coalition. I won't bore you with the reasons for this upheaval, but a few story lines have been actively promoted by our free press:

1. Mr. Harper, with some help from a couple of his sleazier acolytes [Flaherty], is without a doubt the cause of this whole mess.
2. Mr. Harper and the Cons are still the best choice to effectively govern Canada. Nevermind that they refuse to do anything regarding an economic stimulus package until it is too late.
3. Mr. Dion is not fit to be PM. He was 'rejected' by the public at the last election. Nevermind that in our system we don't elect the PM or that the Liberals finished second in number of seats, or that the Cons are not a majority.
4. The NDP are socialists and will turn this country into a socialist country. Nevermind that we are a socialist country already and so is all of Europe and a lot of the rest of the world.
5. The Bloc will be calling the shots and will destroy Canada. Nevermind that they will not take part in the government and have only pledged to vote for it for eighteen months or so. And see below from a Globe and Mail forum with Globe editorial board editor[Dec. 2, 2008];

Richard Stanczak from Corunna, Ontario Canada writes: Mr. Geiger, there has been much bashing of the potential support of the coalition by the Bloc in the media. Some of the imagery used, by the Globe and Mail in particular, is outright fear mongering. The Bloc MPs have been elected by Canadian citizens who felt they were the best representatives to serve their interests. I believe they are required to take an oath of office which [must] require allegiance to the country and its institutions. My question is, why is the media so bent on attacking the Bloc MPs and assigning the worse possible motives for their support of the coalition? Do you not think it is possible that they see their constituents in trouble and are trying to act in their best interests? Would you not expect all MPs, no matter what party, to act that way?
John Geiger: Perhaps. But at the end of the day the Bloc MPs are committed to the destruction of Canada. We cannot escape that fact, nor can we gloss over it. Mr. Duceppe is an effective politician, and he clearly satisfies some constituency within Quebec, but lets not pretend that he has the interests of the country at heart. He is not the man we should turn to as the saviour of Canada. He sincerely believes he has the interests of Quebec at heart. That is where the matter ends.

Indeed. Uhh, first off the Bloc wants to separate Canada through the democratic process. You know, by voting. That hardly merits the term, 'destruction of Canada'. Second, Mr. Geiger displays his uncanny ability to read minds, specifically Mr. Duceppe's. And lastly, he is not the saviour of Canada. He is not even in the government. He is only voting with the coalition. Mr. Geiger and the rest of the media horde seem to think that Mr. Duceppe is the real leader of this coalition. Why do they think that? Don't expect an answer.

The Globe and Mail, CTV, Rex Murphy of CBC, Andrew Coyne of MacLeans, and many others have been in full howl over the unfairness, the stupidity, the illegal, and the undemocratic nature of this coalition. It appears that their option of choice is to allow Mr. Harper to have another go at it. Presumably chastened by his brush with political suicide. Although they refuse to come out and say this. They heap such scorn on the coalition without offerring an alternative, that one can only surmise that they think Mr. Harper, a kinder gentler Harper, will behave and govern Canada responsibly.

Personally, I don't think we can take that chance. Toss Mr. Harper and his fellow trolls into the opposition for a spell. I don't think the coalition can do any worse.

UPDATE: I am starting to hear a lot of talk about Mr. Harper resigning, and maybe taking Flaherty with him, if the coalition will allow the Cons to stay as the government.

Great, just what Canada needs. An Albertan Putin pulling the strings of his appointed puppet.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Obama and the 46.4% Problem

My early prediction for the US election was McCain over Obama in a squeaker. Possibly closer than the 2000 election. Why? I did not feel that a significant portion of Americans could get over Obama's 'uniqueness' to cast a vote for him. I mean, he was different from any previous president. His name was strange, unAmerican even. Uhh, alright already. Enough whites would not vote for him because he is not white.
But they did. Why? Enough Americans, especially white Americans, realized that their country was in dire straits. You name it, its a disaster:economy, deficit, two wars, environment, education system, justice system, competent government, constitutional freedoms, foreign relations, etc.
The Bush/Cheney/Republican managed to screw up everything they touched in eight years. Now, the electorate had a look at who they were going to trust to get them out of this horrendous mess and by the landslide margin of six per cent of the voting population chose Obama.
Think about that for a second or a minute. After a disastrously incompetent campaign [I hope I don't have to list all the blunders here] with a national joke for a VP, defending the worst President in US history, and including some of the most poorly timed news events possible, McCain still received 46.4% of the popular vote. FORTY-SIX POINT FOUR PER CENT!
And this while running against a candidate who may be one of the finest speakers in presidential history, running a very well organized, very well financed, relatively fault free campaign. Who is also the leader of the 'majority' party. Who also received a huge number of high level endorsements from all across the political spectrum including numerous Republicans. Still FORTY-SIX POINT FOUR PER CENT of Americans decided the old, crooked, lying, angry, Republican, dumb white guy who championed the same policies that got them into the two wars and financial crisis was the right guy to lead the country out of this mess.

If that doesn't scare the hell out of all Americans [and the world] , it should.

Enough Americans put aside their fears and prejudices to give their country a chance. I hope Americans, especially Democrats, don't become complacent and think that everything has changed. They have a lot of work ahead of them to defeat the forces of ignorance, who unfortunately will be heard from very shortly [2010 if not sooner].

Best wishes to Barack Obama and the people of the United States.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

November 2008 Update

Its been awhile since I last posted, and strangely, during a time when elections were held in Canada and the US that I followed quite closely. Frankly, I did not write because I was depressed and dreaded the outcomes that I believed were about to occur. In short:

Canada- we had an election about nothing. It was very unlikely anything would change. The accomplishments of this election? Stephane Dion was thrashed as the Liberal leader, the Greens got some much needed airtime and a few hundred thousand more votes, and Harper was further exposed as an opportunistic Bush lite clone. Some people are upset about the waste of energy, money, and time on this election about nothing [philosophically I believe that any practice of our democratic rights is worthwhile], which probably led to the embarrassingly low turnout.
Oh, in case you missed it, NOTHING CHANGED.

US- this was the one I was dreading. Americans were presented with a choice between their past [that would be McCain] and their future[that one]. I fully expected the outstanding qualities of Barack Obama to get buried by an avalanche of sleaze and racism and the US would sink ever lower towards a third world style society: ie. disappearing middle class, tremendously wealthy elite, unbelieveable poverty, increasingly ignorant and uneducated citizenry, and a growing military and police state.
Oh, in case you missed it, SOMETHING CHANGED.

I'll post more about the American election later.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Timeless [and Timely] Video

The great, and in this video very young, Elvis Costello with one of my favourites, "Whats so Funny About Peace, Love, and Understanding?".

This video was made in Vancouver, where else but in BC would you see those carved poles?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Smartest Thing George Carlin Ever Said

Carlin on ignorance: Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.
YouTube - George Carlin-some people are stupid
WARNING: The above video is full of some of the seven words you can't say on TV. Some might find it offensive. I am not sure why, because it is very funny.

The genius of George Carlin was to identify and then encapsulate in a punch line some of the greatest truths of history.

This comment really hits home for me because it is one of the primary reasons for the mess the world seems to be sinking into. The intellectual laziness of people, and the willingness to accept whatever is fed us by the media, governments, and yes, the internet has allowed the worst type of people to flourish and important issues to be trivialized.

Reminds me of the words of another well known observer of the human condition and Irish descendant;

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

The last line of this first stanza sums it up perfectly.