Thursday, April 14, 2011

Personal Thoughts on Election 2011 and More

Hello everyone. Things are off to a good start this week. My afternoon at the Dam went quite well. It's getting warmer out there and people tend to hang out and talk outside. That suits me and will all the more as it gets warmer. Time spent actually engaged with the teens in conversation is starting to go up. Monday was notable for its insane amount of wind. Had I ventured even a couple of metres away from the building, I may never have found my way back nor heard anybody ask if I needed help even if they yelled. The wind never let up all day. The day was also notable for the most off-kilter Twitter conversation I hope ever to have. It put me in mind of when the chief engineer responsible for Michael Chrichten's Jurassic Park explained about resonant yaw. It's an effect that happens when a rocket is launched incorrectly due to irregularity in propellant or some other deficiency. Once launched, it would go wildly off course and there was just no way at all to correct things. My conversation with Paul felt very much like that. Each of us were busy doing other things but kept being drawn back to this un sequential argument conducted in 140-character chunks over the course of the day. A lady at my church talked about how we all craved the understanding of others and hated to leave things in a state where we felt misunderstood. She's absolutely right there. I should have just realized how utterly hopeless things were much earlier on and continued with my own agenda. However, I just couldn't walk away thinking that a basically good man who I respected had been left with such a false impression of what I'm about and how I've conducted my life both online and off. Some times though, the only thing to do is to simply get on with living and let the judgement of others attend to itself. Easy to say but very difficult to do especially if you have as much solitary time on your hands as I do.

I've spent considerable time looking over the platform launch videos and reading the full platforms put forward by the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democratic Party. I've read all three completely now and have also heard last night's debate. Now that I actually have somewhere I can think of as a permanent home and community to build some semblance of a life in, I feel a lot more disposed to put some time into casting my vote intelligently. While I don't for a moment expect my circumstances to drastically improve or deteriorate due to who's in power, I do feel that our votes are a part of the legacy we leave. In that very small way at least, I can help to shape my country and give it something of who I am.

Kurzweil1000 stood me in good stead with the pdf files of the platforms. Converted them from inaccessible to accessible in very short order. There were some glitches but most were small chunks of nonsense I figured were page headers or something. One more major annoyance was having a whole chunk of text in the Conservative platform about how the opposition had forced us into an unnecessary election kept on being repeated again and again and... again!! all through the damned file. I've never been so fervently sick of hearing words I completely agree with. Somehow, I don't think that was the desired effect. I presume that in print, it appears only one time near the top of the document. The NDP and Liberals have their platforms on their pages in HTML. With the Conservatives, I had no option but to deal with the pdf file. That's not a huge deal for me although having the ability to click to various sections was nice. The NDP platform was by far the shortest. The Conservative and Liberal platforms seemed of pretty much equal length although I think the Conservative one was longer. I haven't done the whole university student thing and taken copious notes or anything. What I'll write about here are the impressions and things that have stuck with me. Perhaps, someone will find them to be useful. I'm no political junky. I don't pay all that much attention between elections and can only offer the in site of an educated mind given more time than most to think about news and things due to being unemployed. Also, being blind all my life, I may very well be missing visually obvious stuff like the condition of streets or other things in my environment that I don't come into contact with or hear in any way. Same goes for body language and such.

Frankly, I don't believe that we really needed another election just now. Democracy is being discredited as it has been since that idiotic attempt to form a coalition government to bring down Mr. Harper some time ago. That was definitely a low point of no return and the dust hasn't really settled since. Enmity between the parties just shouldn't have reached that point where they couldn't work together when we most needed them to. Harper's response of proroguing parliament really didn't sit well with me and still doesn't. You just shouldn't be able to call a halt to parliament when things don't go your way. You have to face the music then and there one way or another. Both sides sort of backed each other into a place where extreme action to unblock things and carry on was necessary. Surely, there was a less fractious and better way to go through that than the political game of Chicken we all found ourselves helplessly dragged through.. A national embarrassment if there ever was one.

I often think that perhaps, sending government and parliament on team-building exercises together might be a very good national investment. I think of the Saw movies where people are often presented with a means of mutual survival if they all cooperate. The cannon fodder in the films never seems to see the cooperative option in time before basically killing each other off thereby dooming themselves. I've often wondered seriously whether our politicians, placed in similar horrific circumstances, would see the cooperative option. Would any survivors perhaps be better able and more quick to seek cooperative solutions, or would we be back in quagmire territory like we are at present before a year was out? I certainly wouldn't hold my breath hoping for the former to be true after what I've heard.

The end result of the whole crazy alliance crap was that the Conservatives indeed changed course and came up with a stimulus plan that everyone could theoretically live with. So far as I can tell, this plan is indeed working and we're clawing our way back towards a more even prosperous path. Prices of things are certainly rising which must mean more average people can afford more than previously. Now that this plan concocted to appease the opposition is on course and actually working, they still can't get their thinking caps around the fact that a steady hand and patience to let this plan fully conclude is what is needed here.

I believe that the Conservatives really did need to come to their senses and give us an action plan to help people get through the recession. At the time, it really did strike me that the country needed more action and direction given what was happening elsewhere and starting to creep into this country. The method used to get that message to sink in is what I strongly objected to. Harper actually came through with what was needed though.

I'll be honest here. I'm not a big fan of the Conservatives. I tend to lean more liberal/NDP. Big business just doesn't always care enough about the people working for it or others effected by it. Short-term profit-driven thinking definitely needs to be balanced and curbed by regulations which take a longer more holistic societal view. Harper himself has never really struck my fancy either even before he called an inexcusable timeout on due process. However, the more deeply I look into things as this campaign unfolds, the more impressed I've become with the Conservative platform. I've even come to respect what Mr. Harper has managed to achieve despite all the stupidity we've seen lately. He and his party have put forth a platform which makes a tremendous amount of sense now. He has done the best job of convincing me that his party's agenda is what this country needs. There just isn't any big excuse to rush into an election. The excuses the opposition have trotted out just don't hold enough water for my liking.

Why the hell are these F35 fighters such a big deal? Our fleet of F18s is getting long in the tooth. The Liberals previously supported getting into this deal and tasking some of our brightest scientists to help develop these jets. Something like eight or nine other countries are involved in this project. That's a whole lot of expertise, ideas and research. Now that development and research is well underway, they suddenly want to pull the plug. I agree that it would likely have been better to have had open bids and due debate about the options before one was chosen. However, thanks to both governments, we're here now and have to start looking forward from this point. I don't know that I feel good about our brave pilots flying around in the absolutely cheapest thing we could get them. Anybody willing to put his or her life on the line for Canada deserves better than that and these F35s sound like they'll deliver a good compromise between the need to modernize our air force and the need to balance the books. There's also all the research and development benefits, spin offs, and doubtless Canadian jobs maintaining these fighters to consider. Why not learn from the Arrow and do something other than squander efforts already made this time around? Just a thought from a guy who can't get a job but did finish secondary school and paid attention in history classes. We have to stop changing direction on things and pick a course we can all stick with for a while. Five years is often enough to have an election.

Regarding law and order, I tend to agree with the Conservatives that the pendulum has swung too far in favour of criminals and away from victims. I've often heard about how overcrowded prisons are also. If we want people to serve more of their sentences like a lot of us do, we'll need more prisons. Whether it helps reform them or not, there are clearly people who ought to be locked up for the safety of everyone else. That shop owner, David Chen, was perhaps the most clear-cut example of the need to clean house with the law. He should never have been arrested let alone charged with assault for defending his shop and detaining a repeat criminal. I still remember how disgusted I felt when I first heard of that one. If crap like that can happen, things clearly need to be fixed. I would love to believe that a good enough carrot would make everyone see that honest is best. Being blind exposes me to a lot of the good in people. I often have no option but to take them at their word and have mainly found people to be honest, considerate and willing to help if I need it. However, even I see the need for there to be ultimate consequences to at least deter crime if not teach the criminal the value of morality. Some people can do a whole lot of damage and cause lots of misery if they aren't stopped or jailed. Having read each party's current crime strategy, I have to concede that the Conservative approach seems like it would fix more of our troubles than the others at present.

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's how parties make it look like they're at opposite ends of an extreme. There's a whole section in the Conservative platform dealing with measures they're attempting to implement which give people the chance to reform and/or prevent young people from engaging in crime. On the other side, it isn't like the Liberals or NDP are suddenly going to fire the whole police force either and start handing out millions to criminals to satiate their greed. We have three different but reasonable approaches to an array of issues and must use our best judgement to pick which set of answers we like best. That should be the end of it, but no! I dearly wish all parties would get it through their heads that their opponents aren't complete idiots and neither are the voters. Politics could be so much of a higher civilized art than it is these days.

There's far too much antagonism. All parties are responding to what they see as the pressing needs of Canadians. People shouldn't have to come within inches of calling each other traitors to get their point across. Thankfully, the party platforms dial down the mud-slinging and give us actual directions to consider. The Conservatives really lay out their case well. They give good examples, back up what they say with a good amount of background info as with the F35s, and come across as a whole lot less extreme than I was expecting. They explain why it makes sense not to raise corporate taxes given where we are economically. They also put forward an excellent case for why the legal system needs a good hard jolt.

The Liberals and NDP also put forward quite good platforms. I liked a lot of the Liberal agenda as I was expecting to. In particular, the Learning Passport stood out as a capital idea. I've got one friend plunging into debt getting a college degree after losing his job during the recession. Another one, blind and on ODSP like me, tried and succeeded with a second attempt to get a degree. However, there don't seem to be any jobs for him and he's slowly paying back the money. There's supposed to be a procedure for debt forgiveness if work can't be found but the process is too damned long-winded and hard to complete and he has pretty much given up on it. I also think ahead to when my three little nieces are old enough to think about post-secondary education. Another angle I very much favour is the Liberal idea of bringing more accountability and openness to government. Both their ideas on making the default position of agencies to release information to the public and their thoughts on deploying the Internet to allow greater participation and openness are quite good. We've certainly lost at least one well-regarded civil servant who disagreed with Harper's agenda over the long-form census. It wouldn't surprise me to learn we've lost a lot more. I've also read about how government scientists feel pressured not to speak publicly without first checking with a government person responsible. That shouldn't be the environment in which publicly funded science takes place at all. That sort of thing should be more the kind of thing to spark an election than being unable to provide cost totals for extremely large and complex projects like upgrading our air force.

The NDP were the only party to really say they would do a lot for people with disabilities. Were we in a different place, I may very well have voted for them on those grounds alone. Jack also appeals to me as a leader for the country. I think he'd do a good professional job and stand by what he says. He's always struck me as that sort of man. However, I'm really not convinced that a government's actions will result in all that much immediate direct gain of actual opportunities for folks like me. Certainly not enough to override my stronger sense that the whole election should not have been called in the first place just now. Had the parties just waited and remained loyal working opposition while harper implemented the plan they held his feet to the fire to make him come up with in the first place, Either Jack or Michael could have had my vote. Mr. Ignatieff would, I think, make a good prime minister also. I naturally gravitate to his hopeful fatherly compassionate teacher's style and outlook. However, I first have to see that the Liberals and NDP are able to work with the government that we actually elected and help make certain stuff gets done well. Michael and Jack would be very good leaders but they rushed in too quickly before we really saw that. Had they waited even a couple more years, I may have felt differently. As things stand now, I'm leaning strongly in favour of letting Harper complete the plan which seems actually to be helping us out of our financial pickle. He's the devil we know. Once we're on more of an even track financially, we can more reasonably think of other directions. Just now though, we need a steady course and a calm captain. Harper may not be the most likeable man but I think he has shown himself to be able to stick to this plan. We can't keep wobbling back and forth like we've been brought to the brink of doing.

The debate very much put Harper in an excellent light and somewhat hollowed out Mr. Ignatieff in my judgement. Both the Liberals and NDP could have used the time much more profitably to give us more of the actual alternatives available rather than attack Harper as much as they did. Harper actually gave us quite a lot of the Conservative platform there and that puts him ahead for me. I doubt many people will have read all three platforms and watched all three launch videos online like I had the time to do. Everyone else seems to be running around working themselves to death just to keep up with the bills. It wouldn't surprise me if we had a very low turnout this time around. People are so fed up with the sniping and back-and-forth, the being on the brink. Whatever happens, I hope whoever wins gets a majority. More importantly, I hope the losers actually accept the judgement rendered this time and just get on with actual governance.

Wow! Where'd the day go? Didn't think I'd take this long to really get my thoughts down. Haven't really done a whole lot else. I went for a late afternoon walk with Shirley where we discussed mainly politics both British and Canadian. I think we walked three or perhaps even four times around the lake this time. We always seem to find things to talk about. I often feel like we're in some sort of tunnel as we don't tend to say hello or talk to other people as much as I would naturally. I think she's a bit too worried about a collision particularly with all the dogs and other animals out there. Little kids also seem fascinated by my cane. The Trekker Breeze is behaving quite nicely and I'm almost at the point where I'll start walking around the lake more on my own again. It's all coming back but it wasn't quite as instantly familiar as I had hoped. I actually had more of a sense of familiarity when we walked to the Dam yesterday. Next week, weather permitting, we'll walk there and back. Shirley apparently doesn't mind going both ways so I can take a stab at how well the reverse route has remained in my mind. I can't just presume that it has stuck as well as the route there seems to have. I have to record landmarks for each direction and hope that basically remains as a separate entity in my head. Simply trying to reverse a set of directions has never worked overly well for me. I've had to stop for sometimes minutes at a time thinking through whether a particular turn on a reverse route was in its proper place or not.

Tomorrow, there's a fairly hefty load of laundry to do. Also, I need to knuckle down and spend more time going through the Voiceover user guide on the Mac operating system. This whole political thing has kept me fairly busy these past few days. Having a place one can call home puts it all in much deeper context. The rent review came back from the folks at Peel Housing and I don't have to worry about rent increases at present. That's good to know. It increases that sense that I'll be here for as long as that's needed. I've lived for so much of my adult life with the prospect of not knowing where I'd ultimately end up in subsidized housing that having a permanent place still strikes me as a new sort of thing. Decisions I make here will actually have long-term ramifications to people who I'll slowly come to know over time. I'll perhaps run into some of these kids from The Dam when they're all through getting their educations and settling down in the community if they choose to. It's quite possible that a government I voted for might do something which has a direct profound effect on someone I actually know. There's my brother and his family, my parents, friends, and complete strangers who I'll hear about on the news or Twitter or email. So many voices out there.

So many in here too; the computer has several, the alarm clock, the microwave, the Trekker Breeze, the iPHONE. I'm slowly getting used to other gadgets having female voices but still find it slightly uncomfortable using one of those as my computer's main voice. A few women have pointed out how silly that is especially when I'm reading dating profiles and/or emails from women. That does strike me as strange when I hear a female's email read in a British man's voice I mainly use while in Windows7. However, I think I'd find it slightly creepy using a female voice for that because it would be the wrong woman's voice once I had heard the real thing. Incidentally, I have yet to hear from that lady who added me to her favourites on PlentyofFish. I suspect she has decided to look the other way like so many others. It's too damned easy for all of us to do that these days. How does one sharpen a virtual hook anyhow? There'll be a whole bunch more podcasts to grab tomorrow. I've been somewhat neglectful of those lately with the exception of last week's wonderful episode of Spark all about the prospect of digital companionship. It was superbly done. Nora, Dan and the rest of the Spark crew just keep cranking out good stuff. Have to catch up with From Our Own Correspondent, Tapestry, and many others. It's nice to have a surplus of podcasts. Actually having to pick and choose what to listen to feels damned good. I have a James Rollins thriller waiting in the wings also. His book Deep fathom was very nifty. I'm saving the new one for the weekend. I hope it stays as nice as it as been lately. If that's the case, I may spend a good chunk of Saturday afternoon out walking around after catching The Bear's Lair. That'll make for a nicely social day. Heard a beautiful song last week called The Journey by Lea Salonga. Didn't like a lot of other songs of hers I purchased but that one's a real treasure. The real trick for me is to try not to let myself come to a dead halt in silence like I did last weekend. I just have to plunge right into the next thing more and not pause for thought quite so much. If I do that and keep jumping at any opportunity to connect which comes along, things will at least be more tolerable and eventually become more interesting more of the time. Looking back, I've felt good most of the time since November or so. Quite a change from last year and downright stupendous when compared to the one before it. On that note, I believe I'll finally get this thing posted and hit the bed for a while. It's approaching one in the morning. Haven't been up this late in quite a while. Good sign? First step down the road to another dose of insomniac hell? Find out in the next captivating episode.

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