2016-08-21

The National Post's Andrew Coyne is right to observe widespread misconceptions about one of the alternative voting systems that Canada is currently considering: proportional representation. However, his criticism may as well apply to ignorance of the first past the post (the present system) and how parliament functions in general. So, no: proportional representation wouldn't turn Canada into a "dystopian hellhole" but we gain nothing by switching systems if we don't address the root of the problem.

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2016-08-20

Last week, Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger became the first woman appointed to the cabinet position of House Leader. It is curious, for all of our talk of a more inclusive and balanced Commons, that it has taken this long for a woman to receive such a formative posting. Still, I like what the appointment says about improving parliament: that the answer to a better parliament lies in an application of willpower and not deliverance from some lofty reform scheme.

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2016-08-19

Here is Christopher Hitchens from his essay, "The Wilde Side," in Unacknowledged Legislation (2000):

There is a revenge that the bores and the bullies and the bigots exact on those who are too witty. Wilde cold never hope to escape the judgement of the pompous and the hypocritical, because he could not help teasing them.

That revenge in Wild's case, as Hitch recounts, was especially awful. Let us always remember that we can't leave it to the witty to tease the "pompous and the hypocritical" alone — keeping "the bores and the bullies and the bigots" down is a collective responsibility.

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2016-08-15

Dear Team:

I might be late this morning as I am currently trapped in my garage, hostage to an increasingly violent dispute between two or more groups of unsettled woodland creatures. I am not quite certain. It's difficult to see anything. I think they blocked up the car windows...

I think I have some peanuts in the backseat and might be able to broker some sort of peace agreement with their respective leadership.

If I don't make it in, you are not to let Dylan lead the presentation unsupervised this afternoon. But you can't tell him that. You know how he gets.

I have to go. I think I just lost a tire —

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2016-08-12

In Other Words runs on Fridays. It highlights a quote or a passage from something I have read in passing, quite recently, or keep coming back to again and again.

 

Here is Roxane Gay from the conclusion to her essay, "How We All Lose," in Bad Feminist (2014):

We have to be more interested in making things better than just being right, or interesting, or funny.

While she is speaking specifically about the "...limited ways in which we talk, write, and think about gender...", I keep returning to this line in a broader context. So much of our daily interaction with one another revolves around serving one of more of these three things. We forget or neglect to be more interested in making things better. This is, for me, why engaging on social media can often feel so futile. We work best together when we avoid races to the bottom.

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2016-08-11

Last week found Canada's national broadcaster vaguely advocating sedition as something of a neighbourly favour to our friends in the United States. Canadians, as it happens, overwhelmingly support the Democratic presidential candidate and could easily swing the election were we to throw in as the 51st state. Strange forays into speculative fiction from the newsroom aside, we're nice but we're not that nice.

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2016-08-10

The Washington Post's Stuart Rothenberg wants to call the 2016 US Presidential Election, as of yesterday, in favour of the Democratic candidate. The Republican candidate, he notes (citing an apparently steady trend in recent polling), "needs a miracle" to win.

That's probably true. But that's the problem: there's a lot of time until August and he just might get one. Even if it's just derived from a false sense of security that comes of writing him off too early. Plus, there's a broader trend of lying to pollsters at work here. Anything could happen.

To paraphrase President Obama two weeks ago at the Democratic National Convention: Don't call it. Vote.

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2016-08-08

Dear Team runs on Mondays. It is one part short story, one part Far Side vignette, and one part that "I'm not coming in to work today and you can't make me" email you fantasize about sending your coworkers every Monday but just can't work up the courage to send.

 

Dear Team:

I will not be work today. After rescuing the Prince of Nigeria from a minor financial entanglement via email on Friday evening, I have accepted his sudden yet charming proposal of marriage. I spent the weekend setting up a joint chequing account and negotiating a partial refund on my apartment security deposit. My flight for Abuja leaves in an hour. I nominate Daisy to replace me on the social committee.

Hugs and kisses —

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2016-08-07

The third installment of the "DC Extended Universe" premiered last week and, apparently, everyone is disappointed — pitchforks and torches disappointed. Again. Since the same thing happened with each of the previous movies.

Except they were not actually terrible. They were just different. Which, I think, is the problem: fans do not want different. They want faithful canonical perfection — or, rather, their own specific take on that faithful canonical perfection, since you are not likely to find any two fans who agree on everything let alone most things.

This seems to be why everyone is in apparent agreement that all three movies are bad without any subsequent agreement as to why they are bad. See: criticism v. complaining.

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2016-08-06

When did pollsters become credible again? They failed to predict the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, the UK general election in early 2015, the Canadian federal election in late 2015, and the "Brexit" vote two months ago.

Not only did they fail to predict the outcome of any of these events but their assumptions, especially in the case of the Brexit vote, had a significant influence on the outcome. It is entirely plausible that Britons would not have been so casual about voting were the perception of a narrow "stay" victory not so pervasive.

Now that both parties in the US have concluded their respective national conventions, pollsters are attempting to ascertain whether either candidate now has any discernible lead over the other. Apparently both candidates enjoyed a noticeable lead following their own convention, as is generally expected, but have fallen back to more or less equal footing this week. As one poll observes: "The reasons behind the shift were unclear."

Right. So why are we listening to them?

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2016-08-03

The National Post's Tristin Hopper put together a comprehensive defence of Canada's longstanding and much maligned electoral system, first past the post, last week. He's right: it does keep out the extremists. Meanwhile, Parliament's Special Committee on Electoral Reform (EREE) is adrift, giving voice to all manner of reform proposals, and we seem to have lost the plot, again.

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2016-08-02

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau randomly unveiled a new process for selecting judges for the Supreme Court of Canada today. In his own words, Trudeau argued that "...the process used to appoint Supreme Court justices is opaque, outdated, and in need of overhaul." Instead, the process will be now turned over to an "independent and non-partisan advisory board" to be helmed by a former prime minister, no less.

Trudeau concluded by saying that: "The appointment of a Supreme Court justice is one of the most important decisions a prime minister makes. It is time we made that decision together."

That is, the prime minister reserves the right to appoint (as entitled) but has decided to make the conversation and process public. This is a perfect example of how any perceived "democratic deficit" can be addressed through tone and approach rather than some trendy or skewed reform. Keep that in mind next time someone tells you that the "system" is broken.

Of course, what makes this announcement most remarkable is the complete lack of any political or public pressure. Say what you will about this government but you should at least be able to agree that we could do with more of this sort of thing.

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