Thursday, September 30, 2010

Politics, Idiocy & Rob Ford

‘All politicians are idiots, business leaders are necessarily better’ is an over-the-top statement.

And the idea that a lazy or slow bureaucracy wastes money needs a closer look.

Politicians face far more public scrutiny than any business leader; it’s simply in the job description. Sure, a CEO must answer to shareholders but the CEO is really only accountable to them and not a broader public at large, nor are they denied ridiculous bonuses for great failure (see large banks in the US).

Also, ‘wasted money’ or a ‘lazy/slow’ bureaucracy is tied to increased measures of accountability. Ministers of the Crown are politically responsible for their own decisions and the actions of anyone within their ministry (ie. Ministry of the Environment, Finance, etc.). A majority of wasted money or fiscal scandal occurs within the lower ranks of the department (manager, director, street-level bureaucrat) and yet, quite rightly, the Minister is still accountable to the public at election time. With the public demanding more accountability and ministers fearing for their elect-ability, layers and layers of checks, audits, and sign offs are set in place slowing government work to a halt.

It’s a ‘Catch 22,’ with increased accountability comes increased ‘red-tape’ resulting in the perception of a slow, “lazy” bureaucracy.

Municipalities are not spared the same increased accountability and red tape.

And it’s not like Toronto can spend their way out of a slow bureaucracy (if you even believe it to be true), cities face already constrained budgets and cuts, like Rob Ford proposes (ie. $230 million lost revenue), will only make that problem worse.

Cities really can only collect from property taxes and user/registration fees. Cities depend heavily on the province for money. That’s why I would support a mayor that works well with the province outright.

Talk about “wasted money,” it took 5-years and the closure of many business put out by the installation of streetcar tracks on St. Clair Avenue and Ford wants to get rid of streetcars! That’s a waste.

Even if Rob Ford manages to win the election, he needs the support of council for any of his ideas. One of them is fire half of the council, I’m sure that’ll pass unanimously (*cough*). His agenda will not be well received resulting in legislative gridlock and, in the meantime, the city will rot.

I truly believe that a big part of the anger that Toronto has lies within an ignorance we all have towards the realities facing the public service. Politicians like Ford capitalize on this by applying business standards to government and drilling into the differences. Comparing public organizations by the same set of standards as private ones prevents us from getting most from our public institutions. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sarah Thomson Drops Out, Supports Smitherman

Newsflash: Sarah Thomson drops out of race to support George Smitherman.

This is really no surprise. George Smitherman, according to polls, is a seemingly distant second place trailing Rob Ford. However, if you take voter turnout and those polled who are absolutely certain who they will vote for into consideration, you find that Smitherman is actually a close second place.

Update: The poll that I was referring to shows a tightening of the gap "where it counts: with those committed to voting." 

Ford (28%) & Smitherman (23%) 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thai Censorship

Austrailian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) show "Foreign Correspondent" broadcast feature on the controversial nature of Thai politics and the role of the monarchy. In Thailand, any negative or critical coverage of the King would certainly land any journalist, foreign or domestic, in jail for a very long time. After visiting Thailand, warnings were very explicit especially within travel advisories posted to DFAIT's website..
"It is a criminal offence in Thailand to make any derogatory or insulting comments about the King or other members of the Royal family. Any person making such comments is liable to arrest and prosecution." 
- Laws & Customs, Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade
So, under threat of prosecution and imprisonment, the film was incredibly difficult to produce. In fact, the journalists involved operated "without any involvement of the ABC Bureau in Bangkok or the full knowledge of any Thai national" as it might risk compromising both the story and/or the future of ABC's presence in Thailand.

The video could not be posted to ABC's website, so it was leaked to Wikileaks.

Here is the link: ABC Foreign Correspondent video report on Thailand

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Update: FIFA investigates abuse of DPRK players

Surprising, no. (see my previous post)

FIFA is opening an investigation into the abuse of players from the North Korean World Cup soccer team for their losses in the World Cup tournament. At first glance, it may seem like a ridiculous notion that an international soccer agency would be able to glean any information from the communist country's tight control of it's image and secrets (that include widespread abuse of citizens). North Korea, for many international aid agencies, is a black hole of information on the well-being of it's people. Nevertheless, if FIFA were to uncover anything that might give the organization cause to ban North Korea from playing in future events that would be a moral victory, in some sense. The bigger issue at hand is that any time you exclude or punish the DPRK, you provide ammunition for the ruling party's propaganda machine to further convince it's people that the world is against them.

FIFA opens inquiry into alleged abuse of North Korea's World Cup team (Globe & Mail)

Monday, August 2, 2010

On finding adventure

Life is full of adventures, if you choose to challenge yourself.

Rob Lilwall definitely challenged himself beyond what would normally be considered sane. 
"In September 2004 I began this journey by flying with my bicycle as far away from home as I could think of: to the Far Eastern side of Siberia. My intention was to cycle back to England via the most interesting route I could find. As it turned out, I took a detour to Australia and was on the road for over three years, cycling 30,000 miles through 28 countries, and catching 16 boats to cross the various stretches of water along the way."
He wrote a book about his 3 year journey. Buy @ Amazon.

Here is a video of only one part of his trip:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Red Shirt Protests

Thailand is a ticking time bomb of political tensity.

The Red Shirts and Yellow Shirts were (and still are) in a tug-of-war, attempting to define what a defines a democratic state and a state's legitimacy in the eyes of its people. In late March 2010, while travelling through Thailand, Heather and I made time to visit the protests that were strangling the country.
In September of 2006, in a coup d'├ętat, a group of military leaders overthrew the government of Thaksin Shinawatra (who enjoyed the support of Red Shirts) and in doing so was successful in "abrogated the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court, detained and later removed several members of the government, declared martial law, and appointed one of the king's Privy Counselors... as the Prime Minister (ref.)." The overthrow was an effort to achieve a "brief intervention in order to restore peace, unity, and justice in the country." They claimed that "rampant corruption, malfeasance and widespread nepotism" had eroded legitimacy (ironic, isn't it?). In the following years, the junta called new elections and political control was assumed by the People's Power Party (PPP) in defeating The Democratic Party.
The National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), also known as Red Shirts, are composed of both rural and urban supporters. My understanding is that the Red Shirt campaign is comprised of what could be known as "the working class of Thailand." 
To sum up the situation (thank you, Wikipedia):
The UDD claims that Abhisit Vejjajiva's government took power 'illegitimately', backed by the Thai Army and the judiciary. It calls for the Thai Parliament to be dissolved so that a general re-election can be held. They accuse the country's elite — the military, judiciary, certain members of the Privy Council, and other unelected officials — of undermining democracy by interfering in politics.[1]
Our experience of the protests were limited because Heather and I were on vacation with a group of friends. Nevertheless, I wanted to learn more about the protests and who was involved. I asked one of our taxi drivers, "what is going on in the city? Protests?" He responded, although his english was rough, "Yes, protests. Tuk tuk, farmers, poor." It was only after our vacation that I learned of the sheer scale and intensity of the protests. At the time, I felt as though it was one of those times that I wish I were a foreign correspondent for an international news agency covering breaking news but alas I was on vacation and kept my journalistic tendencies to a minimum.

Update: Thai protest leaders warn of more troubleThai Divisions Shift to Voting Booth2,000 police deployed for by-election

Our photos from March 2010 (click here to see photos):

Friday, July 30, 2010

Biological Basis for Ideology

One's concern for order, high sensitivity for disgust, and overall conscientiousness combined with your level of empathy (measured completely separately) is strongly associated with political conservatism.  It blows my mind that new research is beginning to understand a biological basis for your ideology. Born a liberal? conservative? 

North Korean Soccer

It's a tough life for North Koreans, even if you play for the national soccer team.

After losing every game in the World Cup, the DPRK team has faced harsh criticism back home. According to article in the Telegraph UK, based on reports from Radio Free Asia and various South Korean media, the players were "forced onto a stage at the People's Palace of Culture and subjected to criticism from Pak Myong-chol, the sports minister, as 400 government officials, students and journalists watched."

A mild treatment compared to previous punishment for World Cup failure, the Chosun Ilbo (a South Korean newspaper) reported from a intelligence source that "in the past, North Korean athletes and coaches who performed badly were sent to prison camps." (Inside DPRK labour camps)

North Korean World Cup Soccer Team - #9 Jong Tae-se

Monday, July 12, 2010

Search Engine Interview

Back in the day, one of my favourite journalists, Jesse Brown, dared his podcast listeners to create a piece of ukulele music based on 'Search Engine.' Bored at the time, I took up his challenge and got on his show.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Playing in the park (with a camera)

Safety... is people not getting hurt.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A great quote

This "disposition to admire, almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition... is... the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral setiments."

- Adam Smith, economist and author

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Is this about torture or accountability?

After reading David Eaves post on Miliken's ruling on the release of detainee documents, I am left wondering what is this all about? Consider the vast coverage and evidence that has surfaced since February 2007, when the Globe and Mail first published allegations of abuse. Despite attempts by the government to suppress testimony and evidence during military investigation, there has been a sort of consensus amongst those in the field (Graeme Smith, Richard Colvin and General Walter Natynczyk) that torture and abuse in Afghan jails and prisons are practiced but not spoken about freely, at least not in Canada. So, is this whole debacle over the release of sensitive information about the existence of torture? Not really, as I pointed out, its happening. Or is it about the simply a matter of who knew what and when? Apparently. I don't think that there is a great deal of information that is particularly advantageous for the opposition parties. Ok, you proved that the Government had credible information about detainee torture. End result, Canada's international reputation is tarnished and opposition parties enjoy feeling superior for a news cycle. If there were any real benefit to this battle between Parliament and the Government, it is ' access to information' for making reasonable decisions on matters of foreign policy. In exercising their legitimate power over the current Government, Parliament is ensuring future that MPs can be adequately informed about what is going on-the-ground in Afghanistan. Much like the purpose of Parliamentary Budget Office, gaining access to confidential documents provides MPs important baseline information.

A Shift in the Common Understanding of Manliness

Edward Keenan wrote a fantastic article on 'dude culture' and how manliness used to mean something more than 'babes, beer and obscenity.'
"The male refusal to grow up is an accepted enough fact that it’s the basis for almost all our romantic comedies and television sitcoms and both chick-lit and the emerging field of dick-lit. And I’d suggest this is a crisis of a kind. A crisis of manliness." 
"It’s not as if men have dropped many of the old annoying characteristics of manhood. They are as competitive as ever, they are as lustful as ever, they still shun emotionalism and embrace codes and statistics and structures. It’s just that all the socially redeeming things that used to accompany those easy-to-spot external characteristics — things like a sense of honour and a feeling of responsibility to something greater than oneself, be it family or society at large — have been shrugged off like so much paternalistic baggage. To some large degree, Dude Culture has embraced all the entertainingly offensive trappings of the old idea of manliness (some of these increasingly appear to be inherent rather than socially constructed, which might explain their persistence) but has thrown out the few good qualities that came with it — the social imperatives to contribute." (Author - Edward Keenan)
 So gentlemen, embrace adulthood. To quote Russell Peters, "BE A MAN."

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Prorogue Bay

It seems has lent its support to the anti-prorogation movement.