2016-10-28

From J.M. Coetzee's Diary Of A Bad Year (2007), a title which may as well apply to this one, with a passage that has a special significance for this one:

As during the time of kings it would have been naïve to think that the king's firstborn son would be the fittest to rule, so in our time it is naïve to think that the democratically elected ruler will be the fittest. The rule of succession is not a formula for identifying the best ruler, it is a formula for conferring legitimacy on someone or other and thus forestalling civic conflict. The electorate — the demos — believes that its task is to choose the best man, but in truth its task is much simpler: to anoint a man (vox populi vox dei), it does not matter whom. Counting ballots may seem to be a means of finding which is the true (that is, the loudest) vox populi; but the power of the ballot-count formula, like the power of the formula of the firstborn male, lies in the fact that it is objective, unambiguous, outside the field of political contestation. The toss of a coin would be equally objective, equally unambiguous, equally incontestable, and could therefore equally well be claimed (as it has been claimed) to represent vox dei. We do not choose our rulers by the toss of a coin — tossing coins is associated with the low-status activity of gambling — but who would dare to claim that the world would be in a worse state than it is if rulers had from the beginning of time been chosen by that method?

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2016-10-24

Dear Team:

Thank you for the concerned messages. Obviously, I am a little overwhelmed this morning. I will try to reply to each of you as soon as I am able. In the meantime, I wanted to send out a group update as soon as possible.

Yes. That was me on national television this morning. No. I am not hurt. Well, at least not mortally. I am told that all of the bullets passed through without rupturing any major organs. I am also told that I will be discharged from the hospital shortly and make a full recovery.

No. I had no idea that the golf course where I run in the morning was being used by the president to practice for his upcoming charity event; nor was I aware that he would be out practicing so early in the morning; nor, as you can imagine, was I aware that his security detail includes an exceptionally cautious sniper team.

On the advice of my doctor, I will be working from home for the rest of the day. However, I will not be in on Friday: the president has invited me to be his special guest at the game.

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2016-10-23

Here's Mathew Ingram of Forbes taking the lingering suggestion that newspapers could have survived the digital era by holding forth on print to task:

In other words, print newspapers had already been in gradual decline for a decade before the consumer Internet came along, a decline driven primarily by radio and television news.

All the Internet did was accelerate and enlarge that drop, by siphoning away the attention of newspaper readers, and then the advertising revenue they depended on for their livelihood. In a little over a decade, the newspaper industry had lost $45 billion in ad revenue.

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2016-10-22

The Ottawa Citizen's Kady O'Malley suggests that Trudeau's comments earlier this week about not following through on electoral reform could be a calculated move:

By stressing the need for support without articulating precisely how that support would be measured, Trudeau may well be serving notice to the two most emphatically pro-electoral reform parties at the table. And in the absence of a compromise, he may well deem it a stalemate, and either drop the idea entirely, at least for this term, or give in to the Conservative demand, and give the electorate the final say by holding a referendum.

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2016-10-21

Here's one of my favourite passages from Ammon Shea's Bad English: A History of Linguistic Aggravation (2014):

The first recorded use to date of OMG is from 1917, and reads in full "I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis — O.M.G (Oh! My God!) — Shower it on the Admiralty!" The citation comes from a letter by one John Arbuthnot Fisher, who happens to have been the admiral in charge of the British navy (a position know as first sea lord), and was written to Winston Churchill, staunch defender of both the English people and their language. One can hardly make the case that this use of OMG represents the decline of the English language and civilization. What of other such initialed specimens?

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2016-10-20

Apparently Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reconsidering his pledge to make the election which brought him to power the last one held under the present electoral system. That may be difficult to spin but it is ultimately the right call. Electoral reform has the potential to improve our politics but it is hardly the panacea that it is made out to be.

First, no one has convincingly demonstrated that the electoral system is the source of what ails parliament. It is, at best, a symptom. So, too, are the party monopolies over leadership decisions and selection. Except that is a much easier issue to address and it does not involve suddenly upending a proven and functioning system.

Second, a critical mass of the interest groups, members of the public, journalists, and even sitting MPs involved in the reform debate do not sufficiently understand the present system let alone parliament itself. Everyone seems more interested in advocating for the reform scheme that would most immediately benefit their side rather than the one which will ensure democratic integrity.

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2016-10-19

Here's Jaime Watt in the Toronto Star on the lack of public interest in the respective CPC and NDP leadership races:

Both leadership contests are struggling from similar deficiencies — a dearth of well-known talent, a closed and exclusive electoral process, and a lack of substantive policy alternatives that challenge the status quo.

A weak opposition is not a good thing.

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2016-10-17

Dear Team:

As promised, here is the late-afternoon update to your talking point packages from this morning for tonight's door-to-door voter outreach drive. While the media continue to pursue this latest round of baseless allegations, we are aiming to take back control of the narrative on the ground one voter at a time. Please distribute to your teams and keep an eye out for further updates every hour.

Updated Talking Points

  • Our candidate is not now, nor has he ever been, "one of the lizard people" — do not validate this premise when challenged by prospective voters; instead, deflect by asking whether we can truly trust his opponent when he claims to have been on the Space Station for the entirety of the mission. Just because there is no flight log of a secret meeting with an alien delegation does not mean it did not not happen.
  • NASA have confirmed that the purported anomalous bird migration patterns just prior to appearances by our candidate are inconclusive — what they have not confirmed is the whereabouts of his opponent for the entire duration of his mission on the Space Station.
  • We now have over twenty forensic photography experts who have testified to the fact that the green smudges under our candidates eyes at his last rally were a trick of light from a nearby neon fast food sign — do not discuss with voters; refer to expert testimony. 
  • Our national campaign manager did not resign this morning. His request for leave has been graciously granted by our candidate.Nor is he missing; rather, he is spending more time with his family. At their remote summer home. Deflect questions about his sudden departure by insinuating that the only way our opponent could fund operations with so many volunteers is through illegal campaign contributions.
  • The national unemployment rate remains at a steady 8% — thanks, in large part, to our candidate's predecessor, The President. Our plan is a targeted 1% quarterly reduction leading to full employment. When our candidate encouraged a voter to "get a job" during an unscripted encounter this morning, he was merely expressing enthusiasm for his unprecedented and comprehensive plan.
  • Remember what our candidate always says: If there isn't a treasure map on the back of the Constitution then what is on the back of the Constitution? The voters have a right to know.

Thank you and hang in there, it's going to be a long night — 

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2016-10-14

Following up on the reference earlier in the week, here's a passage from the lengthy digression on simulations in Iain M. Banks' final "Culture" book, The Hydrogen Sonata (2012):

Whether these simulated beings were really really alive, and how justified it was to create entire populations of virtual creatures just for your own convenience under any circumstances, and whether or not — if/once you had done so — you were sort of duty-bound to be honest with your creations at some point and straight out tell them that they weren't really real, and existed at the whim of another order of beings altogether — one with its metaphorical finger hovering over an Off switch capable of utterly and instantly obliterating their entire universe... well, these were all matters which by general and even relieved consent were best left to philosophers. As was the ever-vexing question, How do we know we're not in a simulation?
There were sound, seemingly base-reality metamathematically convincing and inescapable reasons for believing that all concerned in this ongoing debate about simulational ethics were genuinely at the most basic level of reality, the one that definitely wasn't running as a virtual construct on somebody else's substrate, but — if these mooted super-beings had been quite extraordinarily clever and devious — such seemingly reliable and reassuring signs might all just be part of the illusion.

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2016-10-12

Yesterday, the UPI reported on a new study that rejects one of the most cherished myths about the "baby boom" generation: that they don't work any harder than subsequent generations.

Interestingly, the report goes on to suggest: "A new analysis of generational differences suggests such narratives are just that and little more — narratives with limited basis in reality." Is that so? Well, keep that in mind over the next few weeks as you see another round of articles blaming Millennials for everything.

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