Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You're hired!

All my dreams may be answered in 2012. Imagine a presidential race between Obama and Donald Trump. Actually, imagine a presidential race between anyone and Donald Trump. We are talking about some seriously good times here.
He's tying in the early polls with ancients like Mike Huckabee, and crushing real politicians, like Mitt Romney. Madness, yet here we are. If I were a bookie, Trump would be getting the long odds on receiving the Republican nomination. He’s maybe a five-to-one or even a ten-to-one shot. The shocker is that he isn’t a million-to-one shot. Can anyone look at him without sniggering? That hair alone should be a deal-breaker as far as being considered a serious candidate to run for The Most Powerful Man in the World slot. Some GOPs do think of him as a joke candidate. Astoundingly, others do not. Here’s a sample:
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Trump.”
“Trump is saying on the national stage what other people won’t talk about.”
“He is causing conversations.”
“He’s got people fired up.”
All of these quotes are from actual card-carrying Republicans. Furthermore, they are said in terms of admiration rather than head-shaking bewilderment.
Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. These are, after all, the people who brought us Dubya. How could they seriously have thought that someone as vacant-eyed, as clownish, as stupid, could have a chance at the big seat? I mean, come on, didn’t they at least interview Dubya? One conversation alone would have revealed that he had only a passing knowledge of his native language, among a laundry list of other flaws? They should have instantly seen that he didn’t have a hope of winning a presidential race. Laughable, really.
Oh wait, never mind. He won twice (sort of). It could be those GOP dudes have a better idea of how the American public will cast (waste) their votes than I do.
Trump for 2012. If it all goes according to plan, it’ll be a hilarious contest. If it doesn’t, the last thing Obama will hear will be those sound-bite words: “You’re fired!”

EDIT: Since posting this in the morning, news articles have begun to see print claiming that some Republicans are actively working to undermine Trump, as they see him as incapable of defeating Obama. Coincidence? Or do my seven loyal readers hold secret sway over American political parties and/or news agencies?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Portrait of an artist

When someone says “artist,” what is the first image that pops into your head? Is it Ned Flander’s beatnik parents from the Simpsons, with their berets and all-too casual attitudes? Is it some crazed Van Gogh-type, as ready to hack at his own ear as paint a masterpiece? Or is it a dedicated visionary trying to distill the angst of a generation into a single guitar solo? Would you want your child to marry an artist, or would you be perpetually worried they’d be led to a life of low-rent apartments and marijuana?
The word “artist” conjures up negative connotations for too many “non-artistic” folks. Artist isn’t a word they connect with hard work, efficiency, or necessary to a society. Rather, it’s seen as effeminate, foppish, lazy, useless, and/or non-productive. Harper’s comment in 2008 that artists aren’t cared about by ordinary folks is probably right. Because of this, politicians are able to get away with ignoring artists come election time. You always hear plenty of promises centered around tax cuts, social programs, family values, crime control, how corrupt all the other parties are, and so forth, but funding for the arts rarely makes the Political Top Ten.
Part of the problem is the vast scope of activities covered under that one topic. I can’t even list all the professions that would be considered ‘artists.’ According to CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi, “the arts and culture sector employs as many people as the combined sectors of agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas, and utilities.” Now I don’t have hard numbers on that, but it sure sounds like a lot of people. As a result, when you speak of ‘artists,’ you’re lumping writers in with actors, painters in with singers, theatre owners in with buskers. Because artists do not share a hive mind (and one sort might loathe another sort, potentially) it’s hard to get the whole gaggle of them to band together into an effective lobby. Perhaps by their very nature, artists are individualistic, so having them form ranks and march on parliament is about as easy as herding cats. When voting time comes, they just don’t count. They aren’t courted, not the way other segments are. Youth vote, senior vote, poor vote, ethnic vote (careful how you phrase that one), urban, rural, heartland, etc. For any and all of them, politicians get down on their knees and promise the world. Artists usually get squat.
When a product in the market-place isn’t working, it gets rebranded. So why not do the same for artists? They are an essential part of a nation’s landscape, more critical than any other single aspect. Yes, the people that make food and clothes and shelter allow us to survive, but art and culture is what defines any country that exists above the subsistence level. Remove all artists from Canada and we become, in a finger-snap, a colder version of America. We need them. Without them, we aren’t Canadians because we’d have absolutely no defining characteristics beyond the geographic description of our climate. So let’s call artists what they truly are: patriots.
How’s that for a name? “What do you do for a living?” “I’m a professional patriot.” How could anyone sneer at that? Patriotism is seen as a virtue. A whole new generation of creative patriots, spreading their visions and works across the land. Just imagine the glory of it! Even the Conservatives might suddenly start liking patriots! How could you be right-wing and not give money to the patriots? Do you hate Canada or something?
Patriots: for the 21st century and beyond!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Great support

We’re getting great support.
This has become Harper’s tag-line this election. Every time he is asked a hard question, all he really says is “We are getting great support.” He says it in a variety of ways: Lots of people attend our rallies, we have wide-spread representation, Canadians worship me. (That last one might not be a direct quote... but then again, it might.)
Students booted from a rally for also daring to listen to Ignatieff. “Great support.” Please bring your ethnic costumes to Tory photo-ops. “Great support.” Recycled a quote supporting Liberal party actions in order to make themselves look good. “Great support.”
The sad truth is that he isn’t lying. They do have great support. Four-tenths of the decided public, give or take, would still elect Harper right now. Come on people! If he sprouted horns and carried a glowing red pitchfork, would that be enough? Or would he just grin that soulless smile at you, say “Great support,” and win your vote anyway?
The other parties have had gaffs, too. Iggy booted a racist out of the running, for example. The thing is, Harper never apologizes. He never takes corrective action. He never shows remorse, guilt, or admits to wrong-doing. You know who else shares that list of traits? Psychopaths. But hey, let’s vote him in again, why not?
I’m sure many of us live in ridings with perfectly decent Conservative candidates that would do their best to support us and our interests. The thing we have to remember is that when we bring a Tory home, we also get Harper. That is not a good deal.
Maybe you truly adore the Conservatives. You believe in their economic policies. You want to crush the arts, or close libraries, or give rich people tax cuts. Maybe it’s their social agenda that appeals to you (probably not, if you’re reading this blog). Fine. I can accept that. We just need to cut Harper loose, though. It really has to happen.
So here’s what we do. Instead of splitting the left-wing vote, we all gather together and bring Iggy to 24 Sussex Drive. Don’t throw your vote away on Green or NDP, even if you fervently believe in their cause. Quebec, don’t vote Bloc, just for one election - it’s okay, they’ll still be here next time. Give the Liberals a 90% share of the vote. The Conservatives do what every party does when they take a brutal pounding in an election - they bring in a new leader. Then next time we go to the polls, we can all go back to normal. Vote Green, NDP, Liberal, Bloc, even Tory again. Whatever you like.
It isn't about loving Liberals or hating Conservatives. It's about getting rid of Canada's second world-famous robot (first one was the CanadArm). Follow my plan and it could happen. Spread the word. Make it a thing. We can do it, Canada!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Don't blame Monty Python!

Terry Jones has done no one any good by burning a Qur’an. First of all, he has besmirched the heretofore proud name of Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. Shame! Second, and probably more importantly, he has thrown a big lit match into the powderkeg that is the Middle East. People have died as a result. As tempting as it is to blame Terry “Lunatic Christian” Jones for their deaths, most of that blame has to be laid at the feet of the murderous radicals that actually ended up with blood on their hands. Most, but not all.
Certainly there is no shortage of radical insanity or blame to go around. Florida radicals provokes Islamic radicals, and of course, just the existence of Islam is enough to provoke Florida radicals right back. It’s a vicious circle. The big losers in all of this are the innocent people that have been killed already along with all the others put in danger by an escalation of animosity in an area already (justifiably) disposed not to like us a whole bunch. Can anyone doubt that the lives of soldiers as well as civilians have been put in danger because one crazy man burned a book?
This pastor didn’t directly kill anyone. But he sure helped make things worse. So why isn’t the US prosecuting him? Didn’t Mr. Jones put American lives in jeopardy? Like, a lot? I’m only asking because “jeopardy to soldiers’ lives” is the precise reason the US whined and complained when Wikileaks let slide a bunch of American embarrassment into the public eye. That was their justification for sending the Attorney General’s office perusing through their shelves of leather-bound volumes to find a broken law Assange could be charged with. Soldiers were put in danger. National security interests have been threatened. Therefore the perpetrator of that heinous crime should be strung up.
Well, not if he’s religious. Or an American. But Assange? He is safely foreign and his religious interests (if any) are not a matter of public record. Certainly he's no pulpit-beating right-winger. That's two strikes already. Heaven help the man if he’s discovered to have entered, at any time, a mosque! It’ll really be ‘game on’ then.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Go for the throat!

A pair of politically-interested university students were booted out of a Conservative rally for the heinous crime of having a Facebook picture with Michael Ignatieff.
Having young people removed from your public gathering just because they have Facebook connections with your political rival is absolute gold. This is exactly the sort of thing that can cost a candidate an election. If Iggy, assisted by Layton and Duceppe, can keep the pressure up on this issue it might actually turn the tide. The problem is that Ignatieff has traditionally (if we can speak of tradition when the man’s only been leader for 12 seconds) proven unable to turn the screws when Harper and his Conservatives make one of their classic “we hate the people we rule” sorts of gaffes. Chretien could have done it. Even when he was smacking people around, he always managed to walk away looking more a part of Canada than his opponents. Iggy, though, has a touch of the Al Gore about him: a little too intellectual, a little too Ivory Tower, a little too top-hat-and-monocle. He’s the sort of guy you can imagine laying a white cloth down on a chair before sitting.
Harper, on the other hand, would lay a whole person down before sitting. Preferably an artist of some kind.
Our beloved post-PM claims that it was his “people” that had these two young ladies ejected. He couldn’t be bothered to learn the details, so he said he couldn’t comment on specific situations. It’s a classic example of the kind of evasiveness the slippery fellow has demonstrated since day one. It’s not my fault, it’s someone I hired. Well, doesn’t one of the oldest maxims of leadership automatically make it your fault? The chain of responsibility always leads right to the top. Maybe you didn’t hire the actual guy that made the eviction decision, but you hired the guy who hired the guy who wrote the policy that directed the guy... You get the drift. The entire Conservative party structure is a reflection of the guy on top, more so with Harper than with any other PM in recent memory. He practically tells his lackeys what to say to their wives when they get up in the morning.
Any number of prospective PMs could tell you that all it takes is one mistake, properly exploited by your enemy, to cost you an election. William Lyon MacKenzie King’s famous “five-cent piece” remark. Stockwell Day’s awesome wetsuit and jet ski photo op. Scott Reid in 2006 claiming that the Conservative tax rebate would be spent by Canadians on “beer and popcorn.” Look them up. They’re all amusing, and there are many more just like them.
Only time will tell if Iggy can make the most of this golden opportunity. He really needs to, because if he allows the Liberals to drift to another Opposition standing, he’s out. Do or die, Michael. Back against the wall. Come out swinging, or don’t bother coming out at all.
Didn’t you learn anything from your time in the States? Come on, they are the masters of dirty pool politics!

Everything is skin deep

For anyone who has studied any psychology at all, it will come as no surprise to hear that humans are tragically simple creatures. I say tragically because we believe ourselves to be rational, logical, intelligent, and sensible. We think our decisions are based on sound judgment and reasoned conclusions. We are, of course, very wrong.
A couple of Princeton dudes have helped to display just how deep our stupidity goes. I suspect that was not the intent of their research, but that’s what’s resulted. Basically they have shown that we give our trust to people based almost entirely on what they look like. In the first quarter-second that we see someone, we determine whether they are trustworthy and competent, or kind of dodgy and a bumbler. This snap judgment persists in the face of almost any evidence to the contrary.
Among the many experiments they used, one utilized a pair of photographs of two French electoral candidates. The first was the winner, and the second the runner-up. These pictures were presented to a group of children aged 5 to 13 who had been primed to select the captain for their sailing ship as part of a game. With no information beyond the physical appearance of the two candidates, almost 80% of the kids picked the election winner to be the boss of their pretend ship. That is, what they call in the biz, “statistical significant date.” Seriously.
If you think “ah, kids are stupid, what do they know?” you should be aware that the scientists performed similar experiments with adults, including a sample group with PhDs in, of all things, psychology! One would think if they were any way to avoid this instinctive reaction that places appearance above everything, educated experts trained in the nuances of human behaviour would be able to do it, and yet they couldn’t (or wouldn’t).
Party platforms, campaign promises, comprehensive plans to save the world... these things mean nothing to us. Ultimately, we silly humans decide which hairless ape looks the most trustworthy in a handful of milliseconds, and that’s who we refuse to vote off the island, no matter what. Terrifying, to think that all of democracy is based on the idea that we, the people, know best how we are to be governed, when all we really know is who has the stronger chin.
Perhaps you wear rose-coloured glasses, though, or are a big believer in psychic phenomenon. If that’s the case, then our instant-judgment ability is just a telepathic short-cut that gets to the root of competence and quality without all that pesky “getting to know you” garbage. Snapshot. You suck. Snapshot. You’re awesome. Handy as that ability might be, I just can’t buy it, and neither can anyone else who’s ever dated, worked with, or voted for a charismatic moron.
For the curious, here’s the link to some of their research: