Category Archives: politics

Alberta Politics: Does the Wild Rose Have Bigger Thorns

I grew up in Alberta in a dyed true blue Conservative family. We voted Conservative, we thought Conservative. Like religion, we followed our parents. My brother, the eldest, was a young Conservative and became a member of parliament and minister under Peter Lougheed. He was considered a red Tory, a more liberal thinking Conservative. Alberta was so Conservative that Albertans could barely even recognize that other parties existed. I like to refer to Alberta politics and the way people vote as the lemmings of Alberta; they’ll follow their leader unthinkingly into water or the abyss.

politics, Wid Rose party, Progressive Conservative party, Alberta, Alison Redford

Alison Redford, leader of the Progressive Conservatives. Image from vollman.blogspot.com

After high school I went to art college and I guess you can say that artists are rarely conservative thinkers. Art is often about challenging boundaries, whether one’s own or society’s. Nice and pretty art has its place but it doesn’t say much. Art is often political. Just ask those who have been incarcerated over time for their writing or paintings or performances. But that’s another post.

Alberta’s politics run to the Conservative party both provincially and federally. They’re predictable. BC is not. We’re known as a swing province. If we’re not happy, we’ll vote the other way but for a long time we’ve been a more liberal or left wing province. That’s why the Liberals under Gordon Campbell came into power, because they pretended to be Liberals when they were as conservative as Alberta’s Klein government or more. In fact, I always suspected that Klein and Campbell were political bed buddies. Campbell certainly looked at what Klein did, then streamlined it and ignored the people. Christy Clark, who has not yet been voted in by the populace, is more of a Liberal but who knows by how much. BC might be a Liberal province but it’s been a combination on the federal level. And there is no guarantee we will stay that way and hardly likely. We’ve been NDP, Social Credit and Liberal. We’re more link monkeys on the vine, swinging this way and that.

Wild Rose party, politics, Alberta. right wing parties, Conservatives, Danielle Smith

But back to the lemmings next door. In my family, as disillusionment grew and politics shifted my family all moved away from being Conservative. Like the province I live in I have voted Conservative, Liberal and NDP. My other family members vote different ways and even my once fully entrenched Tory brother had to finally declare he was becoming Liberal. Why? Because Prime Minister Harper’s Conservative party has become dictatorial and so far right wing that homophobia and religious ideals are coloring the politics, and unlike the US, Canadians don’t like to mix church and state. Harper barely hides it but as I’ve said, if you’re not white and not Christian and something happens to you in another country, you’re going to be SOL for government intervention. Harper hails from Alberta, rare in itself for a prime minister.

We call Alberta Little Texas, known for oil, cattle ranching and rednecks. The KKK has a stronghold there. It’s part of the Bible Belt, a strip that runs into the US and known for ultra-conservatism, right wing, religious views. But Alberta does have pockets of other…somewhat. In a way it was surprising to see the rise of the Wildrose Alliance to challenge the Conservative party’s 40-year rule. I didn’t pay a lot of attention but when the media said the Wildrose was right of the Conservatives a friend asked, “What, is it Attila the Hun?” There is something right of this? Wow. But then Alberta was the birthplace of the federal Reform party (or Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance party as they were known until it was pointed out it spelled CCRAP) which was a right wing answer to the federal Conservatives. The Reform party was absorbed back into the Conservative party and that’s when Harper and his ilk gained power. There have been accusations that the Wildrose party emulates attitudes that were found in the Reform party, such as homophobia, racism and narrow views about the rights of a woman to her own body.

Is it the truth? I suppose at least partially. It’s definitely what the media picked up on in the campaign that saw Alison Redford’s Conservatives back in power. But the Wildrose party did get seats and the polls predicted they’d win. Maybe the lemmings were frightened by change or maybe they feared Attila over Caesar but the Wildrose was definitely a thorn in Redford’s side. I guess from my perspective, (obviously biased and no longer immersed in that province’s politics) the biggest surprise is that such a conservative province actually has two female leaders.

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Traveling in Europe: Den Haag

Europe 2011: Den Haag

Known as The Hague to us Westerners, I prefer the Dutch version of Den Haag. While staying in Delft, I decided to go to Den Haag, thinking I’d need to catch a train but from my B&B in Delft it was an easy 20-minute tram ride. Very convenient. The weather, for late September, was off and on rainy but overall very nice and warm. I arrived close enough to the Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch parliament to walk around the central area.

I’m not sure how interested I would have been in the Binnenhof’s interior but as it was there were no tours that day.

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The Binnenhof neogothic fountain

There was a lovely and ornately wrought iron and gilt fountain and the details on the buildings, some of the dating to the 15th century. Mauritshuis was close by and I took it in. Here is where you would see Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring among others. In fact the building was full of paintings in various rooms. Once the home of Prince John-Maurice, there are four major rooms on two floors and each has a fireplace and paintings on all walls, There are works by Holbein, Potter, Brueghal, Rembrandt, Steen , Hals and many others. Of course in all the best galleries you can’t take pictures so you absorb as much as you can and hope you can retain some of it. The benefit of seeing the actual painting as opposed to a picture in a book is that you can appreciate how the light actually works with the paint, as well as its thickness, the texture and the details. The Dutch were masters of shipping and masters of the painted canvas in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Besides wandering around the Binnenhof’s courtyard, staring at the buildings and going to Mauritshuis, I had time to go to the Prison Gate (just) called Gevangenpoort. This is the jail, which was in use for over 400 years before it became a museum in the 1400s. It was dark and thick-walled, and thick barred. I couldn’t use a flash and the tour was in Dutch so I only gleaned a bit. Though the guide was willing to answer some of my questions in English I didn’t want to ask during his descriptions in case I asked

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The Binnenhof and the Court Pond

for something he had just said. It seems that there were different types of torture and only some of it was actually considered torture. This was done in the lower cells, where as the room depicted in my pictures was for those who were either to be executed or have information extricated from them. There was a gallery of art too so it was a rather full day of paintings.

This took up my day in The Hague and I went back to Delft for dinner and to wander along the pretty canals. So in truth I saw a very small section of Den Haag, which only took up a few blocks. Still, that was rather enough for one day.

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How I Almost Became a Prostitute

prostitution, welfare, poverty, unemployment

Creative Commons: Diego3336 Flickr

The Occupy Movement has got me thinking about we, the little people, those who drudge out our days to pay the bills, with very little extra and sometimes having to choose if it will be getting a tooth fixed or getting tires on the car. How voiceless are we in how things run? Well, we vote in our representatives, if we vote, but many of us know that you can’t represent all of the people all of the time. In fact, most political systems break down after one-two hundred people. We have no true democracy and while we all have a vote we are definitely not heard nor represented equally.

One example of being the voiceless 99% was when I ran up against bureaucracy while trying to be trained in a presumably more lucrative position. I had a three-month full-time course in an apprenticeship program to be a script supervisor in the movie industry (that’s overall continuity and more). Apprenticeship programs were paid for by the government so I had no course costs. However, I couldn’t really work during that time. All of the other people in the course (around 16) had either a spouse to support them or they could get unemployment. I couldn’t because I’d been freelancing for years, where the federal government doesn’t let you pay into unemployment insurance. My freelance income just paid my monthly bills; hence why I was taking this course.

I had very little saved money but as a freelance copyeditor there were two publishers in New York for which I would edit one to two manuscripts a month for them. With one from each of them I would have just enough money to get by while I finished the course.

Three months doesn’t seem a long time but halfway through the first month, the first publisher changed their focus and went into videos. The second publisher went into receivership at the end of that month. Suddenly I had two months to go and no money. I scraped through the second month but December was coming and I had no way to pay rent, let alone buy much food. I instituted the end-of-the-world diet. I didn’t buy any food at all and used up the stores in my place. In a way it was interesting to see how long could I survive on fresh produce, then frozen foods, then canned and dried goods.

But I still couldn’t pay the rent. So I went to Welfare. Now I had once before in my early 20s been on welfare when the economy dived, I couldn’t find work and times were dire (and I had roommates). It was no fun whatsoever, and slim pickings. So here I went, down to the office, filling in forms galore to see if I could get $300 to pay my rent (my rent was more but that was what I needed to pay the rent). It turns out, because I had about $3,000 in retirement savings plans I was not allowed even $300 that I said I would repay. Instead, the brilliant of our government is to have you use up al of your retirement savings now so that when you hit old age, you can go live under a bridge, become ill and run up more costs for the government.

Not only is there no such thing as a free  lunch but there’s no help for the self-employed. I’d have to be a full-on welfare recipient, unable to work and possibly dealing with addictions to get the money. So what could I do? I had no money to pay my bills, my car payment, my rent or for food. I was trying to finish the course and not drop it. I was desperate and seriously thought of prostitution as the only way I could make ends meet. I had no job, no recourse. I determined where I could stand; I wasn’t far from the area where they stand, I could dress badly and where little. I could charge…something. Maybe I could be a call girl, have them pick me up, place an ad in the paper. I imagined scenarios in cars and back alleys. And…I just couldn’t do it.

Lucky for me I had good friends and family. Without ask, people sent me money and my landlords gave me a half month’s rent as a Christmas gift. I bought no one a present that year, but somehow I made it through. And no help to a bureaucratic government that sees everyone on welfare as a welfare bum and if they’re not, then they will be by the time they’re completely destitute and degraded.  It was humiliating.

I can see why the 99% (through really it’s probably 20%) are complaining about the 1%. Government and corporations, more than individuals, are the 1%. And we hear over and over again of the plights of the common people, denied this or that, dying in the streets, succumbing to illness, being humiliated because they just don’t have a voice made of money. Do I trust my government? No. And it’s too bad but I need to see more faith in helping humanity first. In the meantime I remain wary.

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Occupy…What?

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Focused Capture: Creative Commons

Many cities have seen the Occupy movement taking up residence for the last month or two. When it started I was in Europe and had no clue what was going on. I wasn’t reading news while traveling. One friend posted that, hey while you were gone the Occupy movement started. I asked, Occupy what? I never got an explanation.

In the weeks since I’ve been back I’ve listened to the news and I know kind of what’s on the mind of the Occupy movement, or what was once the goal. It was to show that the voice of the little people should be heard and that we’re tired of letting the 1%, the rich corporations (really, more than individuals) run everything without us having a say and without them having to pay. I came across this site that lists some of the movement’s concerns much more clearly than I’ve heard through the media, which is sometimes out for sensationalism and not out for facts.

But… but, we’re in this era of constant protest, where every large event has the anarchistic element for anarchy’s sake. Or arguing for argument’s sake and playing devil’s advocate. I’m more than a little skeptical when a tent city goes up on the art gallery’s lawn and people light a fire in direct antagonism to the fire marshal’s order of no fires, and then they call it a sacred fire. Oh, if we bring in religion and spirituality they don’t dare interfere with our fire. Haven’t we seen this before? Sacred how? What rites and rituals are going on and for how long?

The hockey game brought on riots in Vancouver, and why? Because anarchistic yahoos wanted a good time and to give it to “the man.” The riots in England; because government is bad, yeah, real bad and we’re gonna do this because they can’t stop us. That’s what some of the interviewees have said. I feel like it’s more of “here we go again.” A small vocal, possibly violent group of anarchists gather to be a thorn in the foot of government. And–they deflate any real protests that get eaten by the hungry media monster that loves conflict.

But… but, I know there are those idealists, the pure hearts who believe they’re fomenting change, that they’re being effective as they vote at their general assemblies to do this or that. But they have no central voice, no true leader and therefore the message gets lost in the noise. And yes, I agree that we don’t have enough voice in what goes on. And this lead to me being in a hard situation once when I needed welfare and was denied it because of silly rules. So what happens, we have a few people who entrench themselves downtown but theh message of Occupy for 99% gets lost and then these people are the 1% as well; just a different 1%. And I guess I’m just cynical enough to believe that the message won’t get across and won’t change anything.

Yet, maybe some of these people will tr to get into politics and one things is for sure: if you’re American you need to be a millionaire to run in US politics, but that’s not true here. Some of the best ways to foment change is from the inside. But then do you become the beast you’re fighting? Possibly, but I just don’t feel Occupy with actually last long. It’s more like a nasty wart on the ass of the corporations. But soon it will be excised and forgotten about.

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Traveling in India: Bribes and Baksheesh

India’s massive corruption in government has come to a head with Anna Hazare’s hunger strike. However, corruption is not exclusive to India, nor is it new in that country. But India may have made it a fine art.

When I traveled to India, lo these many years ago, I was aware of the bribery (or baksheesh as they call it) before I went. However, due to an ingenuous blend of naiveté and stubbornness I managed not to pay a single rupee. I probably extended my waiting, boredom and frustration but I made it through with the limited funds I had. Mostly, I imagine they left tourists alone who might not know the system or understand what one had to do. There are only two incidences that I think involved a try for a bribe.

When I left the tribal state of Meghalaya, I had to make sure I had a transit paper or visa that showed I was allowed in the state, where foreigners could only enter with a special permit. Because I was traveling into Assam, the neighboring state, I needed to show I was allowed to travel between states. The border was closed at the time because the Khasis and Assamese were fighting with each other (they’re traditional tribal enemies). It was a very long, hot and thirsty bus ride to the Assam airport and then, typical of Indian time, a three-hour wait for the late plane.

I’d probably been sitting there two hours when three men came rushing over, in three different colored suit jackets asking to see my passport. At first I was confused because there was nothing that indicated that they were official in any capacity. And for all I know two of them might not have been. Then I was taken into a back office where they pored over my passport and the papers and wrote everything out, in painstakingly slooooow handwriting. I believe they were trying to intimidate or scare me into paying but I wasn’t sure so I just sat there and let the guy write out everything. After all, I had time to kill until the plane arrived.

The second time was as I was returning from Nepal into India, where you must go through a double border check. Due to the fact that Indians will give you directions even if they don’t know the right directions, I had been told to wait for my connecting bus from the border town of Gorakhpur (near enough to be a major outpost) at the wrong spot and therefore missed it. This meant that I had to take a later bus not meant for tourists. So I was the only white person and only woman on the bus that drove off into the dark of night. Everything was fine and I was sleeping when the bus was pulled over and two men in nondescript jackets boarded and demanded to see my documents and what was in my bag. Note that in India (at least the areas I was in) men and women do not touch in public at all. This doesn’t mean they won’t try to sneak a fondle at a tourist’s expense but it means that a male border inspector won’t search a woman.

I showed them my papers and one bag and then they said, get off the bus. It was not just dark outside but pitch black, barely any lights to indicate a city and nothing but fields around. So I asked them to get my pack off the roof (where bags were stored) and which direction was the closest city. All I could think to do so late at night was walk. They looked at me and said, “What are you doing? Get back on the bus.” So I did, wondering if they had wanted me to pay baksheesh but too bewildered to know it.

The saddest example of seeing what bribery was doing to India, was when I was in Shillong, Meghalaya. I was talking to these bright young men, some in university. They were already defeated because they said that there was little chance of getting a good job without paying baksheesh. They saw no future for themselves and it was such a waste of brilliant minds. Now this was before Microsoft and the IT industry started outsourcing so maybe it got a bit better, but obviously one of the biggest epidemics in a country 1 billion strong, is the rampant bribery that still affects them.

For a bit of fun, here is an artist’s image of Baksheesh Boy.

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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

The massacre in Norway is in some ways not new. Unfortunately, it’s a common enough scenario; yet another example of the endemic problem of judgment, racism or bigotry that infects this planet. Granted, there are people of unstable or extreme personality types such as narcissists who believe only they matter, or sociopaths who don’t really care about anything but their own gratification. I don’t know the statistics but I’m betting half of all massacres, multiple murders and suicide pacts are from unstable personalities. Religious temperament is probably responsible for the other half.

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Creative Commons: co_exist_by_c3b4

If we rule out that all religious beliefs make you a little crazy or that racism is only practiced by nutjobs, then we have to believe that people have extreme views and sane minds. But what’s at the basis of all the bigotry and hate crimes?

It’s a belief that someone is “other.” I am green and you are purple. Therefore you are different, not like me, maybe an alien and I can’t trust you. Or: You believe the flying spaghetti monster is god and I believe in Cthulhu. Therefore you are evil and should be shot down for spreading spaghetti monster worship, which is wrong. This I believe.

These examples are all about judgment and belief. A belief that I am better, my way of seeing the world is right and yours is wrong for some reason. I believe I am more favored by god but somehow you’re not or bringing in the wrong god. But what does it offend? Our sensibilities?

I may not like you walking around and showing your plumber’s crack. I may believe your religion of wearing orange cones on your head is goofy. I might see you eating cucumbers as a sign of true evil or that when you sing you are opening a hole to the world of darkness. But no matter what I BELIEVE, what really matters is, are you hurting me?

I mean tangible hurt, not some imagined slight to your soul or psyche. To me this is what it all gets down to and what we should remember. I might not like it, but is it hurting me or do I still have my freedom of movement and thought? I believe, like or worship this. Does it hurt anyone? No. Then I can do it. I can marry the rock in my garden, make sweet love to a chocolate croissant or worship the almighty slug. I might be seen as deranged but I’m not dangerous.

So everyone needs to take a deep breath and in that moment of judgment and hate boiling up in your guts, just step back and ask: Is he/she hurting anyone? If not. Then leave them alone to live their lives as they please. After all, it’s what you would want people to give you.

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Play Review: Yippies in Love

yippies, hippies, Vancouver riots, Vancouver history, sit in, be in, property damage

Bob Sarti's "Yippies in Love" at the Cultch until July 3rd

The play Yippies in Love had its preview on Wednesday, June 22 at the Cultch, Vancouver’s east-side theater and “Culture Lab.” On until July 3rd, perhaps it would have been better named “Yippies in Confusion.” Done by Theatre in the Raw, this low budget musical had a minimalist set, which didn’t bother me as a play is more about the dialogue and the story. With a few black blocks, a tickle trunk of props, two coat racks of costumes and a screen that showed old footage of the Yippie culture, we kept our attention on the actors.

Yippies, it turns out, were revolutionary hippies. They didn’t just believe in peace and love but in rabble rousing, provoking and marching on the US embassy and Oakalla prison. They had about a two-year heyday in Vancouver’s early 70s culture, which saw police heavy handedly beating and arresting dozens of people. This was something I didn’t know about my city’s tarnished past and the play was enlightening in this aspect.

The confusion in this play happens on several levels and I confess that sometimes I just don’t get musicals. Is it a comedy musical, or a drama musical or perhaps just a venue for songs? I don’t think producer/director Jay Hamburger or composer Bill Sample knew themselves. It felt as if the tone of the Yippie values might be too serious or radical for the audience so they softened the views with songs. The songs, with lyrics by playwright Bob Sarti, were derivative, with some being of the 50s, others with tones of “Crocodile Rock” or other hits of the past. But they didn’t  have the feel of the ideals of the era being portrayed. How did  a song more suited to Grease fit into provocateurs in the 70s? The music was executed well, and the songs “Reach Out and Touch” and “It’s So Hard” were the best, while others like the incredibly goofy dancing marijuana joints singing “Dancin’ Doobies” seemed gratuitous without much substance.

Costumes pretty much amounted to someone going through people’s closets or thrift stores and getting what sort of, maybe, not always looked like 60s/70s era clothing and a few props like jackets or police hats. Makeup looked like it was left up to the actors, which meant none for the men. Now it’s a small venue so you can see their faces but one of the men (possibly Bing Jensen though the actor doesn’t match the picture in the program book) was much older than the rest of the cast who are playing people in their 20s. Though he had the deeper voice used in the music (baritone?) he was as white as a sheet, seemed to react to every hat placed on his head with red splotching, and for having such a deep voice he was hardly heard. Some makeup would have made him look like he wasn’t half dead. While he seemed animated enough he was also expressionless and a bit wooden for much of the play. The other actors (Emily Rowed,  Rebecca Shoichet) were competent and sung well but the material wasn’t something where they could shine. Danielle St. Pierre (Julie) has done a fair amount of theater and she was the strength of the piece. Steve Maddock (Andy) was good though I felt he overacted a bit.

We have to remember that this play is called Yippies in Love but even that was confusing. While Andy seems to love Julie all she wants is a special friend and the play ends with everyone going their separate ways, leaving you with the thought that they raised a little hell but accomplished nothing but living on welfare and tossing bricks through bank windows. Not much love there. Sarti says all the actions are based on true facts, and the play meanders from “be-in” to housemate chatting, to smoking pot,  to a trial, to sort of running for mayor. Perhaps this wandering very well exemplifies the way of the yippie but it only seemed to highlight the overall reactionary and militant actions of this group. This was also a little unfortunate in timing, one week after the riots that happened during the Stanley Cup finals. So, when the Yippies invade Blaine and throw bricks through a bank window it was hard to get into their exhilaration.

After the play concluded and the cast took their bows (Vancouverites will clap for nearly anything) they sang a rap song about doing it from the bottom or some such, encouraging radical protests from the grass-roots perspective. They named a lot of different social protest groups in Vancouver including Black Box. These yahoos were responsible for trying to cause riots during the Olympics and marching down the street, wearing black hoods with their faces covered. Such protests don’t actually further a cause but just cause anarchy for anarchy’s sake. This romantic romp through Vancouver’s past anarchic protesters got across the point of how pointless it all is. Maybe that’s the message. If so, it succeeded.

I went with three other friends and two wanted to leave at the intermission. I wanted to stay so I could write a complete review. The other person was hoping for some closure. I’m being generous and would give Yippies in Love two peace signs out of five.

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Being a Major Minority

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Time and again I hear our provincial and federal governments, and the politicians on their campaign tirades, talk about more money for this and that, giving support to various groups. The most common is “We’re going to support and get more money for children and families.” It’s always families, as if you get a big reward for having children. Don’t get me wrong; I love children and they are born with potential that is only marred by life’s circumstances like location, status, family relations and everything else that molds us. Children should be very much cared for and loved and given every opportunity to become productive, worthwhile and happy adults.

But in a world burgeoning on overpopulation in many countries, with resources being stressed so far that I’m not sure I want to be a child a hundred years from now, I have to wonder about this constant campaigning to support families. “You’ve had one, two, five children; you obviously need support,” say the politicians. But really “you” chose to have those children. You should probably have figured out your budget first. Admittedly procreation is an overwhelming urge in all animals, one way that a species perpetuates and survives, and imperative even in humans. But studies of different animals have shown over time that an overcrowded population tends to bring in controls, not consciously but by nature. Some of these effects of overcrowding tend to be increased violence and disease. One study in rats (that a rat researcher told me of years ago) indicated that overpopulation increased the percentage of homosexuality. This study may or may not have been repeated but it would make a certain sense in population control.

So, in this world there are those who are parents, and those who are not; those single people or couples who, for one reason or another, do not have children are the other. When the government talks about giving support to those burdened families there is never talk about giving it to single people unless they’re young (teens/children) or very old. Being one of those childless and single people, I get a bit miffed. If one person in a couple loses their job, they still have the other person to help with everything from mortgage to food. If you’re a single person, you have nothing but the bridge to live under. Yes, sometimes families need help but controlling that procreation urge (and I speak of those having four, five, ten children) would keep lifestyles saner.

It’s like we’re the black sheep and the lepers combined. I guess someone out there thinks we live high on the hog, doing the singles nightlife constantly, buying the expensive drinks and cars and other toys. Sad to say, many of us struggle with paying unmanageable rents/mortgages while covering all those other costs of living, such as food and clothing and utilities. Families do far more activities than I do. When I hear that families get a break but I don’t because I’m invisible I wonder what sort of stigma the single person and the childless person has. We’re not contributing to overcrowding; we are contributing to society as much as anyone else so why are we not worthy? If things go very bad for me I’ll end up under a bridge, with no support and the government won’t help. I’ve been there in the past, and prostitution looked like it would have to be an option. Luckily I didn’t have to go that route. It makes me really wonder if I should just start popping out kids and be a welfare mom and get government support for families, since “family” is the magical word here.

Above picture courtesy of Uppity Woman blog.

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Skimming the Scum of Election Campaigns

Three days into the campaign for our fourth election in seven years, and I find I’m already getting aggravated. What happened to the time when political parties would actually campaign, saying what they would do and give the country? Now it’s not campaigning; it’s haranguing, attacking and generally low brow attitudes that would make the drunks in an alley brawl proud.

The government, run by the Conservative party, has brought Canada to an all-time low in being the first country in the commonwealth to be found in contempt of parliament (that includes England’s lengthy five or six centuries). I guess I shouldn’t expect any ethical attitudes but I’m sad to say I think all the parties have pulled off their gloves and are jumping into the mud. On Friday (the first day of campaigning) Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said that if you vote for any party other than the Liberals you’ll have more of the same, the contempt the Conservatives were charged with, which has brought around the new round of political campaigning. I find that insulting to paint everyone with the same brush and when it was clearly the Conservative government that did this to say other parties would is just low.


Creative Commons: theresalubowitz.com

Today I hear Harper going on about Ignatieff wanting to form a coalition government, which Ignatieff never said. In fact the ad to the right not only made aspersions that Ignatieff had made such a deal in the past when he wasn’t even party leader. The background picture shows three other people, but Harper is trying hard to convince , a) a coalition government is bad when in fact we’ve never had one and it couldn’t be as bad as the contemptuous Conservative government, b) that Ignatieff ever had anything to do with the first time around way back, and that, c) this is what Ignatieff plans now, when he has expressly said no. After all, to say the Liberals are going for a coalition government is admitting defeat at being a majority before the voting happens.

It’s actually hard to find many images of the attack campaigns because most are verbal harangues or TV spots and I don’t watch TV. Thank the gods; otherwise this might become so irritating I wouldn’t vote. And that’s the point of this. If the politicians would all get of their high horses of arrogance and get back to actually campaigning.

Creative Commons: PointsofInformation.com

I don’t know if all the parties are slinging mud yet but I’m having little faith. The examples of the NDP, Conservative and Liberal images here are not all attack ads. Two are political cartoons. While lampooning is done by various papers the biased rhetoric of the parties disgust me so much that no wonder people aren’t voting. I will, because I believe you can’t complain unless you voted.

I’m beginning to think we should scour all the political parties and put in some new faces and fresh ideas but it doesn’t seem long before they all become jaded and join the giant sandbox. Of course you have to watch out for sandboxes because you never know what animal has used it as a toilet.

 

I’ve been trying to ad the links today but WordPress isn’t accepting them. Will try later.

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The Middle East: Liberation or Fundamentalism?

Daniel Wilson: How to Survive a Robot Army, Doubleday 2011

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is an appropriate quote for what is happening in the Middle East right now. With many years of being ruled by dictators, whether benevolent or not (Singapore is described as a benevolent dictatorship) the people of these countries have had the same leader for decades.

First Tunisia, then Egypt, now Libya. We didn’t hear much about Tunisia because the media doesn’t consider them important on the world stage, but Egypt, land of the pyramids, sheiks and oil is important and we heard about that. But more importantly, social media and the internet means everyone is hearing about the protests and uprisings, including those people living under such regimes. Egypt tried to shut them up, seizing cell phone companies and shutting them down and to no avail. Al-Gadaffi has tried to shut up the media by banning them from the country but pictures taken on cell phones and other devices have been uploaded to the internet. Whereas we live in an age when Big Brother seems to watch our every move and keep us under constant surveillance (not that far a step from a dictatorship) we also have the freedom of getting information out no matter how hard tyrants and dictators try to tamp it down.

It’s interesting that even the poorest people, living in cardboard or corrugated metal shacks, will have a TV or a cellphone. Suppression of the news is getting harder and harder to do for your local despot. However, suppression of the masses still continues, often with a heavy hand, cased in metal and wielding a big metal stick, which holds ammo. It is one reason the Egyptian revolt was successful, Mubarak refrained from plowing down his citizens. That and the army didn’t stick behind him. I can’t say how Tunisia played out because we didn’t hear much about that. Al-Gaddafi on the other hand, is clearly mad and willing to go down, taking as many people with him as possible. Hooray for maniacs.

But perhaps these dynastic rulers (such as Gaddafi’s over-forty years and the possible succession by a son) have striven in some way to keep their countries from falling into religious fervor and fundamentalism as bad and as crazed as other dictators. There are many who would argue for al-Gaddafi, as those against him but the problem with one permanent ruler is that people never get to voice their opinions or see their votes really matter. And yeah, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Gaddafi may suppress his people until they are nothing but corpses and that will not liberate Libya. It all depends on who controls the army in the end. I sometimes wonder what would happen here if we had a similar dictator, and Harper has been accused of a heavy hand here, and what our forces would do. Just as the Tienanmen Square uprising in China did not succeed because the government rolled tanks over the protesters and shot them dead. Perhaps these protests will only bring about change if the governments don’t massacre their people. Perhaps those who revolt will have to gain their own weapons.

So which will it be, as rebellions, their like not seen in centuries, sweeps through the Middle East? Will the people be liberated, have safer lives and see democracy (not by any means a perfect system) in their governments? Or will the despots of decades be replaced by religious fundamentalism that will have people cower in their homes and subjugate some groups? You can bet the first group to be subjugated will be women, if that happens. And if Gaddafi stays in power, well, he hates the West, Berbers and who knows what else. But he certainly loves virginal women as that is what his bodyguards are purported to be. Supposedly martyrs to the faith in Islam will be greeted by a host of virgins in heaven (What do the women get and who wants a virgin anyways?). It looks like Gaddafi’s getting his now.

We are living through a crux of change, but then there is usually change. How the protests in the Middle East play out remains to be seen, but I’m not yet sure we’ll see a society more balanced in some of the countries. And in others the bloodshed will be high and the dictatorships will continue.

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