Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

It's been a fun 2010 blogging. Here's hoping, wishing and praying that all will have a tremendous and bless 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Thoughts

With Christmas only a couple of hours away as I write this, I thought of a few things to describe the season.

First of all, its great to have the family together tonight. Well, most of them, one is visit wife's in-laws. It's also great to watch Isabelle enjoy the season.

Christmas Lights always look good. In my neighbourhood a lot of people decorate, it does add the color we need in the season.

As for Christmas Kettles, it was a bit of a silly season. With some bell ringers complaining to the LCBO through emails about having to sit outside, or between the doors. Really, have any of these people stand out on a kettle in some place like Prince George BC? Now that can be cold.

Then there was the whole Harry Potter or Twilight controversy. Calgary Salvation Army decided not to distribute those type of gifts. Interesting, Edmonton gave them out, I wonder if that had to do with the fact Calgary said 'no'. Locally, the Brantford Salvation Army (Wyndfield Community Church) decided to distribute the divil's toys. It's a case of 'whatever'. I could go into a long discussion about Harry Potter, and yes I have read all the books and seen most of the movies. But that's not the topic of this blog.

Speaking of movies; A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims and the classic cartoons, such as Rudolph or The Grinch who stole Christmas, or even A Charlie Brown's Christmas do not get old or tired, ever.

Tomorrow will be the giving of gifts and the eating of even more turkey.

To all, a Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mark Zuckerberg, Person of the Year

His face now adorns the cover of Time Magazine, in a way it has been an amazing year for Mark Zuckerberg. To be named the "Person of the Year" is a singular honour, one that recognizes that this has been one of the major newsmakers of the past 12 months. While some have wanted the title to go to Julian Assange, and have accused Time of playing it safe, it may have been a situation of peaking far too late. When you think about it, while Wikileaks has been in the news for at least the last half of 2010, it is doubtful many in the mainstream would have recognized the name until the recent leakage of the US Embassy Cables. Plus let's be honest, would Time risk the wrath of the governing elite? The cables are simply gossip, what is more interesting is the leaks about the banks. Now that is something all of us want to read. If there is any truth to the rumours that prove the banks were in collusion and in their greed and overarching stupidity, let the economy collapse, it should be like the closing scene of Johnny Mnemonic, when people burn down the building of Pharmakon Industries. It's fitting since Pharmakon was busy hiding the cure to NAS, probably for more money.

NAS or Nerve Attenuation Syndrome is characterized by:
Causes uncontrollable seizures at complete random. It is apparently caused by the overload of electronic interference present in the film.

So what about Mark Zuckerberg? One has to agree the scope of Facebook is daunting, its growth is amazing, and the fact that it has faced competition and has ignored them all, as if they don't exist. Which is probably true in a way. Their only 'serious' competition is Diaspora, and that seems to be very slow in coming to the field of play. Will it be a worthy competitor, will Google bring out its social network? Hard to say, if you notice, Google has been running into some problems when it enters other fields, consider Google Wave and Google Buzz. However, can they turn it around with Google Me? Probably not likely.

What does it mean for Mark Zuckerberg to be given this honour? Some suggest it is more to do with the fact that Time has a nice deal with Facebook. They have been playing nice with Time, so give them some recognition. One person wrote in the comments to the main article:
Zuckerberg was voted Time's so-called person of the year because Facebook offers Time a lot more potential upside than Wikileaks. Time can get eyeballs and demographic marketing info on users from FB. And possible advertising partnerships. Assange's Wikileaks does not offer this.

Time has a Facebook button so people can link stories from the site to their FB accounts. And like many news websites now, Time encourages readers to use their Facebook or other social media login credentials to post comments. Time gets access to people's info from Facebook when they login to Time via their Facebook account.

Choosing Zuckerberg was unethical given Time's relationship with Facebook. Saying that Zuckerberg's company allows people to connect in a new, empowering way is disengenuous and cynical. The point of FB is to make money on advertising and suck people's demographic info out of them for the advertisers and content partners such as Time.

Is it a case of old media recognizing new media?

Or perhaps it is a case of a brilliant PR strategy being played out to absolute success.

Let's go back about a year ago. If you can remember the early part of 2010, Facebook was beginning to be hated. It has been growing but certainly it did reach a fever pitch early this year. One article I read was called, "I hate FB; Lots of Reasons to hate Facebook". The big reason for hating Facebook had to do with privacy, the company was always changing privacy settings. When a change was made the complaint was the default was 'everybody', and to change your privacy setting became an exercise in extreme patience and understanding confusing directions. It got so bad that people were threatening to leave Facebook. At one time Leo Laporte left Facebook. He was one of many who threatened to pull out.

Then there was the movie "Social Network", it was supposed to be a true hatchet job on Mark Zuckerberg, portraying him as a low-life sleazebag who stabbed people, including his best friend, in the back to be rich. Mark, at first would not see the movie, in fact the release of the movie is what probably catapulted him to the Person of the Year status. For here is the true reason, it's not so much the acceptance of new media, or even new social media by old media, it's a case of some good old fashioned PR.

First he appears on Oprah and gives a sizeable donation to the schools of New Jersey, then he gets all folksy with Oprah, allowing the cameras into his home. The effort was to show the humanness of Mark, that he wasn't a total jerk or heartless scumbag. It was obvious from the Oprah interview that a lot of training went into it and coaching. It was a far better interview then the one he did with Sarah Lacey, which has been called a total disaster. Later on Mark gets to sit down and interview former President George Bush.

Just recently he also pledged to give away half his fortune to charity.

So a masterful job of spin when you think about it. From a person who was reviled to one who is considered a really nice guy once you get to know him, it was a truly impressive transformation.

It could be thought of that he is not deserving such an honour. To be honest, his company has grown in influence, and while he has made a few blunders along the way, he has managed to recover. Now people are returning to Facebook and the rest of us are still posting pictures.

So in the end, congratulations Mark, you worked hard and you deserve it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is President Evo Morales Right?

While the news from COP16 is still good, in fact one article announced that even the USA and China have signed the accord. There was one voice that raised a great deal of concern and criticism towards the Accord and that was President Evo Morales of Bolivia. His concern has to do with the agreed goal of allowing the Earth to warm up to 2C above what it was a century ago. He asks the question:
According to the proposals from some powers, they are happy to put forward measures that would lead to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius and some think even of increases to 4 degrees. Imagine what our planet would look like with an increase in temperature of 2 degrees or 4 degrees, given that at 0.8 degrees we already have serious problems in the world

There has been a lot of discussion over this goal. Some believe it is attainable, others think we may have to warm up the planet a bit more, to 4C before we can see the result of cutting back the carbon emissions. Regardless of what happens today, we shall experience a temperature increase, because it will take some time before the effects of what is in the atmosphere now are demonstrated, from what I read there is a bit of a lag. The goal is 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. For most experts this is the safe number, if it goes higher, there is concern. Right now is 383 ppm, so there is concern. At the website, there is a discussion page which gives the science behind the number. So the concern is we are already on the way to missing the target. Of course the other problem is that it is the average temperature increase, which means the potential for fluctuations within that average. For example, the hot regions of the planet won't experience much more of a temperature increase, its hot enough all ready. That means for the average, the northern and southern areas will get hotter still. This probably will mean; changes in weather patterns, and everything moving north or south. While some think its a great idea that Canada will get warmer, it also means problem if there is melt of the permafrost or if the muskegs begin to dry up, for in both scenarios, it will mean even more carbon released into the atmosphere.

To continue some of the thoughts of President Morales:
We came to Cancun to save nature, forests, planet Earth. We are not here to convert nature into a commodity. We have not come here to revitalize capitalism with carbon markets.
He has a concern with the carbon trade- that whole thing that allows one nation to pollute if another promises not to develop. He truly believes it must be equal. It is not one nation that has problems, it the entire planet.

He also stated:
I am convinced that if presidents take on their responsibility, not to certain powers such as multinational companies, but instead to peoples and social movements, we can advance. Why don’t states here go to the Peoples’ Summit in Cancun, and listen to the concrete proposals of social movements who come here in representation of the victims of global warming? Why don’t we agree to a global referendum; take the historic decision of practicing global democracy, submitting ourselves to the demands of the people struggling against climate change and for life? If governments don’t act, it will be the people who will force their governments to act.

So by writing this, am I now opposed to Cancun. No I still am optimistic. We are living now in a time when things are happening. The window of opportunity has now slammed shut, we've got to do some major reacting to what is going to happen and hope that our actions today will have a positive impact.

One thing that must be remembered, but never counted upon, is the Earth has an amazing ability to heal. If we start dropping our carbon emissions, and Cancun is an important step, it's not the whole step, but a small step nonetheless, then perhaps the globe will forgive our folly and begin to cool down. I'm sure we'll get kicked in the teeth a few times before it happens, but those might to our ultimate advantage to never be so stupid again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Modest Success at Cancun

The news came to me in a Twitter from Elizabeth May:
Breakthrough! New texts circulated. Plenary reconvenes. Way better results than expected. Some more negotiating to be done. #GPC #COP16

Then later the news came, a agreement was reached. Reuters reported that a modest deal was reached. A modest deal, well after the debacle of Copenhagen, any deal is a good deal. At least it means the world governments have finally gotten together to at least make a serious decision to deal with climate change.

At least they're discussing the issue and promise to do a few things, establishing a green fund, for example. As well, its good to see some of the detractors of Kyoto, such as the USA and China are getting on board. Of course the reason could be one of self-preservation, climate change is beginning to effect life on this planet. China now faces problems that will only grow worse. They needed to consider that this is a closed system, and they can't continue to pollute.

What was nice about this meeting was the transparency. Copenhagen collapsed when 'secret' deals were revealed through leaks. This got everybody angry and guaranteed nothing would happen. However today, the agreement was sent around. It sounds like a long day but a successful one.

Is it the best that could have been achieved, probably not- there is still that needs to be done. Ultimately it must be said, a deal beats no deal. At least there is a framework. Now comes the hard part, getting things to turn around.

Perhaps deals are best done in sunny climes.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

John Lennon: Working Class Hero

Remembering that today, 30 years ago, John Lennon was murdered.

If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace.
You're all geniuses and you're all beautiful. You don't need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are. Get out there and get peace. Think peace, live peace, and breathe peace and you'll get it as soon as you like. Okay?

War is Over! If you want it.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Saudi Money backs Terrorism

The normal reaction to that sort of headline would be to shrug your shoulder, think 'wow, obvious' and move on to the next article about Lady Gaga. Well, that's unfair, Lady Gaga is probably following the US Embassy Cables.

This Cable actually makes some interesting reading, especially when a person considers the dates. This sentence and following was highlighted by the Guardian:
Despite this presence, however, more needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan. In contrast to its increasingly aggressive efforts to disrupt al-Qa'ida's access to funding from Saudi sources, Riyadh has taken only limited action to disrupt fundraising for the UN 1267-listed Taliban and LeT-groups that are also aligned with al-Qa'ida and focused on undermining stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Let's go back a few years ago, the then President of the United States, George Bush was beating the war drum stating a military action against Iraq was both imminent and necessary. He and his allies, such as Tony Blair gave two very compelling reasons, at least to any one who wanted to believe them, the first was, Iraq was an unstabilizing influence in the region that wanted to expand its control and could do so since it had 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'. The other reason, and when I use the word 'reason', you can replace it with the word 'lie', was that Iraq was a major player in the attack of 9/11.

The proof of the lie in the former is the fact after some seven years, no weaspons, no proof of the existence of such weapons have been found. The latter was easily disproved and this comment in the cable makes it clear that the funding for Al-Qada was never with Iraq, but with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So another argument that the invasion of Iraq is illegal and therefore those who were involved in the planning and bringing about the invasion are guilty of war crimes. If you have to lie to justify an action that involves the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, then that is a war crime, a crime against humanity. I know the actual number will never be calculated, but why quibble over a few thousand?

Now for his trouble, Julian Assange faces harrassment, the possibility of arrest, detention and then what happens can only be imagined and shuddered. Or it could be nothing will happen, there's too much light on him, to quote that line from the movie "JFK". If he was to suddenly disappear, or be arrested and tossed into a jail, there would be such an outrage that any government foolish to do it would face a great deal of wrath from the world at large. Hopefully they would realize to do anything to Julian would make him a martyr. Let's face it, the charges against him are a joke. It wouldn't surprise me if they seized his computer we would have about the finding of child pornography on them. Why? To further discredit him.

However, the backlash has begun. People are standing for freedom on speech and the right to read. While a lot of the cables is rather gossipy, it's still information and information needs to be free.

Support Wikileaks.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Take a Bullet for Assange

Like you I've been riveted by the releases of formerly top secret cables from US Embassies around the globe. The revelations have been very shocking and earth shattering. I have learned that Muammar al-Gaddafi has a smoking hot blonde Ukranian Nurse, Nicolas Sarcozy is sensitive about his height, the real ruler of Russia is Vladimir (Batman) Putin, Iran and North Korea are both ruled by nutbars,and the the CBC broadcasts sitcoms that feature unflattering depictions of Americans. The latter is shocking, I honestly feel sorry for that poor person who had to sit and watch some of those shows. I understand that CSIS uses CBC sitcoms rather then Waterboarding to gain confessions.

For the trouble of publishing all these top secrets, Wikileaks is being accused of risking lives, in fact one State Department Official stated:
Philip J. Crowley, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, told CTV's Question Period Sunday that the Internet whistle-blower site has harmed the careers and even the safety of innocent people.

"Julian Assange is wrong and has really done great damage … in exposing these classified documents he is putting (our) sources at risk," Crowley said.

"We have reached out to people around the world with whom we interact and have warned them about the potential ramifications.

"We are going to be watching this closely."

Crowley said at the very least some U.S. diplomats may have to be moved to other posts as a result of documents released by WikiLeaks.

"We may well have to reassign some of our diplomats and a couple of our ambassadors," he said. "There's no question that this has done substantial damage."

Yes, moving can be trying but to the best of my knowledge no one has actually died from packing things in cardboard.

Mr. Assage is being portrayed as a anarchist, which is one step away from being declared a terrorist.

Then there is the arrest warrant for 'sex crimes'.

It could be argued that it has been embarrassing for the US Diplomatic Corps, they will no doubt face snickers from other diplomats. There has been a lot of spin going on but the real answer to all of this would be for someone in the State Department to stand up and say to all the diplomats from other nations, 'yeah, like you don't say the same thing about us'. Let's face it, this is not news, this is everything everybody knows.

So why is it people such as Prof. Tom Flanagan at the University of Calgary wants him assassinated? I think there is a couple of reasons, one is that governments have always felt its there right to keep secrets. They keep secrets from their enemies, their friends, their allies and their people. They live in secrets and they don't like it when those secrets are exposed. The only time they like secrets exposed is when they release them, the famous "the Ship of State is the only one that leaks from the top", scenario.

The second has to do with the fact the world is now filled with very petty politicians. We are a long way from what I want to consider the last golden age of the Statesman, this is when giants such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Brian Mulroney and Nelson Mandela commanded great respect. Whether you liked or supported any of those people you have to admit they were individuals of vision. They saw the world beyond their mandate and had a world view that drove them to do things like end apartheid, end the Cold War and bring about a relatively strong era of peace. They had a great vision, they also could possess a rather self-deprecating sense of humour, think Reagan, "Honey, I forgot to duck" after being shot. Now we have small minded politicians running the world, people who can't see beyond the next election. Such people are more involved in their own comfort. legacy and hold onto power. Such people also do not possess any sense of humour. They are more interested in remembering every slight, every insult and filing it all away for later use as a mean of extracting revenge. This is what we face. Wikileaks comes along and hits them all in the face with a big custard pie.

It's no wonder Julian Assage is being attacked. To all this I say, as I opened my blog post, we all should be ready to take a bullet for him. He is not only exposing secrets and bringing about light to darkness. He is doing his best to help justice.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Hancock's Hill, Brantford

It's always appropriate to name geographical features after famous individuals, you think of Mount Everest, Mount Logan to name a few. Or you think that a catchphrase can be thought up to register an opinion about a certain act of a politician, Seward's Folly ( the purchase of Alaska) comes to mind. Often when the deed is perceived to be a monumental blunder, the name quickly becomes the act of infamy which follows said person to the grave, even though it may be proved to be a brilliant act, usually long after those responsible are dead.

Today I took a walk down Wharf Street to look at Hancock's Hill, the slope that was once the south side of Colborne Street. I thought of a few things, namely the fact that a meeting I attended in which the now retired mayor of Brantford, Mike Hancock gave a 'state of the City' address. He spoke, as it was one of his last official acts of all the challenges that he faced as mayor and some of the successes and a few not so successes he had experienced. One fact he brought up, and I know I've mentioned this in tweets and comments, was the demolition of South Side of Colborne. I know its still a sore point to those who worked so tirelessly to preserve it and a sore point with those who didn't care for the work of those who tired so tirelessly to preserve it. I suspect most of us simply walk down Colborne Street and shrug our shoulders. After all, what's done is done. Perhaps in a few years we shall look back and agree it was a visionary act, it was what needed to kick start Brantford into the 21st Century.

I will grant you that.

Still one statement made by Mayor Mike was that he thought the slope or hill would make a great toboggan run. Yes it is possible to envision it. I can see the children of Brantford making their way to Colborne Street, sleds in hand and racing down with all the energy and joy of childhood. You can almost hear their squeals of joy as they come down at breakneck speed, and then you can hear the screams of fear and the moans of pain, when they run into the cast iron fence at the bottom.

Yes I will grant you, it's not cast iron, but its still a fence. Mind you there's one at the top so that pretty well ends the toboggan run aspect of Hancock's Hill.

So what can be done. I know there has been some opinion about putting picnic tables up either at the top or bottom for people to enjoy a picnic and the view of the river.

As I stood there, gazing up the Heinbuck's Slope

part of Hancock's Hill, named for the plucky little store that was one of the last structures razed,

I kept thinking about 'sunflowers'. Now I don't want to encourage anyone into doing anything illegal, this is only for entertainment purposes only, but don't you think a little seed bombing of the slope with sunflower seeds, and zucchini seeds might be a nice thing, come the spring? Imagine a slope of bright sunflowers- it would be perfect, being a south facing slope.

What a lovely sight.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Do we need to look beyond Governments?

I've read one editorial that has already declared COP16 in trouble. Sad isn't it, only one day in and already there's problems. Perhaps the problem is we are failing to comprehend the fact that western governments are losing the battle for climate change. For some reason they seem more involved in almost protectionist policies when it comes to climate. It also appears that Canada will be one of the leading foot draggers when it comes to the issues of global warming. A recent news article states Canada is failing to keep up with the US in matters such as reducing carbon emissions. Of course this is nothing new, it's been a problem since the days of Chretien; it went something like this, the US is bad because it didn't ratify Kyoto, Canada is good because it did. The US has been steadily reducing carbon emissions, while Canada continues to crow about ratifying Kyoto. I think there's a problem here.

Another problem may be we are not including an important player and that is private enterprise. I know activists such as Naomi Klein were beside themselves when you mention the importance of industry in solving the problem, but I believe now the situation is such we all must work together.

She does make a lot of good points, national governments are sadly in the back pocket of those lobbyists who have the deep pockets and so far that usually are those involved in Oil and Gas Industries. But it seems a lot of other voices are not coming to the fore in the world and speaking forcefully of the need to reach an agreement. There does need to be an agreement which protects all life on the planet, that is fair to those in the underdeveloped world, they should not have to take it on the chin so that the West can continue to follow its wasteful practices.

I have at the top of this blog the logos for the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. I know some may argue against the involvement of business, stating the very idea of sustainable development is questionable. In way that's as bad as the previous mentioned idea that the west gets away with it, only this way we say there is no further development, you are stuck where you are. A number of companies are beginning to get it, they are going out of their way to implement policy that does lower their carbon footprint, that invests in sustainable and green technology. Some companies are now looking at partnership to manage raw material and not simply destroy it all.

The challenge before us is to develop a new source of energy that is inexpensive, sustainable and can be used throughout the globe to develop and enhance the lives of those who have been left behind. This may sound impossible but we are a creative bunch, if we can put our minds to it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why COP16 might succeed

Tomorrow will commence the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP16 in Cancun Mexico.

According to its own website, the purpose for COP16 is:
COP16/CMP6 is the 16th edition of Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) and the 6th Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP). “Parties” refers to all the national states that signed and ratified both of the international treaties, committing to observe and comply with its terms regarding international cooperation against climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has been signed by 194 State Parties (list) and the Kyoto Protocol has been ratify by 184 State Parties (list). In accordance with Article 7 of the Convention, the Conference of the Parties in its authority of the supreme body has the mandate of adopting the necessary decisions for the promotion of its effective application.

The purpose of COP16 is to further strengthen the Kyoto Protocol and to set new standards and plans to lower carbon emissions and thus set the stage for cooling the planet down and to reverse the problems being experience by global warming. For the purpose of this blog, the assumption is that a large part of global warming is due to human activity, to wit, the dumping of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

I want to say, I think there may be hope for this conference, at least more hope then last year. As you may remember, COP15 in Copenhagen was an unmitigated disaster, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The end of the conference communique was leaked early and went along the lines of the usual communiques that is the developed nations get off Scot free and the developing nations get screwed over royally.

I want to suggest to you a number of reasons why I think COP16 has at least more of a chance to be successful. You might call the the Top Ten Reasons for Climate Change:

It's not Copenhagen. Let's face it Northern Europe at the end of November, beginning of December is NOT the place for anything. If its weather is like Canada's then the best words you can use to describe the weather are: dull, dark, dank, damp and depressing. It wouldn't surprise me that over half the delegates were dealing with some sort of cold or flu. All this guaranteed there would be no agreement and if there was, everybody would hate it.

It's Cancun. Think sun, sand, surf and pleasant surroundings. There is a reason why most international events take place in sunny locales. Everybody will be happy, plus there's swimming pools to hang out, and golf courses. These will be the real locations for deals to be discussed and made, not in stuffy conference rooms where the delegation beside you is trying to take your Kleenex. In years to come, there will be pool side bars which will be considered international landmarks as the place where real change was made. Just for comparison, the average temperatures in Copenhagen for November 7.2C to 2.1C as the low. In Cancun, the average is 30C with 23C being the low. Oh yeah, much better.

There's not the same pressure and expectation. There was a lot riding on last years conference, they even had songs for example. Huge pressure was set up, which almost guaranteed a fail. Not so much this year.

The world's on a roll. The Biodiversity Conference produced positive results, the Tiger Summit produced positive results. First time in a long time that could be said.

Probably not too many places for protests and protesters. It's expensive, plus any one trying to come to Cancun to protest has to get past the Mexican security and the various drug wars taking place. I understand both groups have been given the order to shoot the first paper-mache puppet they see. There will be groups monitoring, but I doubt the same level of activism.

So lowered expectations, better climate and past successes should make for better result. There's also one more reason, if President Nicholas Sarcozy going, then the number one reason for success with be;

Carla Bruni, the First Lady of the Republic of France in a Bikini.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Is the Tiger Saved?

The Guardian announced that the World's first summit dedicated to the survival of the Tiger in the wild has reached an impressive agreement. I know if you read on, there are many who have a healthy scepticism on the potential success of the summit, but still it is a start. What I believe is impressive about this summit is the fact that strong nations and strong International Organizations are supporting the idea of preserving the wild Tiger. One of the leading proponents was the head of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick has taken a great interest in preserving the Tiger. This is the group that can provide the access to the finances to make it possible. What I like was the fact the World Bank seems to want to get out of the nature degradation business, which seemed to have been the hallmark of all its lending policies. I believe I mentioned in a previous blog something about "build a dam to exploit your environment and screw the impact", or words to that effect. Also, Vladimir Putin, who is the Prime Minister of Russia, not the President, although many still think he is the President of Russia, and Dmitry Medvedev is either the lapdog of V. Putin or just keeping the seat warm for his return. Mr. Putin has declared himself the Protector of the Tiger, well if there is anyone who can protect the Tiger, it probably is Putin.

The result was that there was a pledge given in the form of $300 Million Dollars to help preserve the Tiger. Also the goal was set to double the population of wild Tigers by the year 2020. To give the perspective, that's from 3,000 to 6,000. It sounds modest but at least its something that can be achieved. An interesting fact of Russia is it has seen its Tiger population grow from 30 to 500 and growing. This gives hope.

There is concern, that much of the agreement does depend upon individual nations, do they have the wherewithal to crack down on poaching, can they preserve the habitat of the Tiger? Also can populations return to nations where they are extinct?

One problem is China. There is a huge market for Tiger parts and there is still the hunting of Tigers. The Premier of China was present but many were concerned he did not seem to make a strong statement. Perhaps just his presence is enough to signal a change. One article made this comment:
Tiger products have been removed from the pharmacopia of traditional medicine ingredients. Chinese officials are also discussing whether to impose a breeding ban on tiger farms as a step towards changing the way they are managed. This – along with the burning of existing stockpiles of carcasses and more undercover investigations by police – would send a clear signal that the tiger market is closed for business in China.

Yet there is still hope. One hope is the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio has pledged to donate $1 Million Dollars for the project. This is something, usually we have celebrities get behind 'causes', but they tend to be rather superficial. Here is a person putting his name and his money to the cause. Good on him. He made it to the summit after some interesting travel problems. He impressed Mr. Putin, who referred to him as a "Real Man", and noted that if this is the calibre of people who support the Tiger Initiative, then it is in good hands.

Other good news. Nepal has made a plan to double its Tiger population.

In the end, let's hope so, not only for the Tiger's sake, but for our own. Mr. Putin said it best:
Nature is the habitat of humans so caring for tigers and their habitat is caring for all people.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cities for Climate Change

Recent a large number of mayors gathered for an international meeting in Mexico City.

The purpose of this meeting was to provide of forum for mayors to discuss the issue of climate change and to press for the adoption of standards that will lower carbon emissions throughout the planet.

The host mayor stated:
More than 600 mayors from around the world will meet in Mexico City this week to press for local authorities to get a greater role and a piece of the funding in the fight against climate change.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard will host the conference. He says 42 of the mayors are expected to sign concrete emissions reduction goals. The conference starts Tuesday.

Another goal is to come up with a delegation of mayors to attend the international climate change conference in Cancun, which starts Nov. 28.

Ebrard said Monday that cities should take the lead, because talks among nations are not progressing rapidly.

Mexico City has pledged to reduce emissions by 10 to 12 per cent, but so far have reduced them by only 3.8 over three years.

The meeting is to develop a united front in presenting the needs of cities for protection of the environment. When you think about it, this is a positive idea, we are living on an urban planet. Cities provide wealth, housing, jobs and pollution. Cities are dependent on a healthy environment for food, water and living conditions. Anyone who has ever lived in a city during a heat wave can attest to that fact.

The great news is that the meeting of mayors did bring about a plan for reducing carbon emissions and a call to protect the environment. There was a positive result of the meeting in that is the document which is referred to as "The Mexico City Pact"

I should imagine some will scoff as just another international agreement which means absolutely nothing. But consider, we've already seen the failure when the nations of the world gather to discuss climate change. National governments balance the interest of some strong groups, such as the corporations that are dumping the millions to get politicians elected. However the city is closer to the grass roots and it is where the people live. As I have said, while cities possess the large carbon footprints, they are the places most dependent upon a healthy environment.
To sum up the document:
The Global Cities Covenant on Climate, “the Mexico City Pact” consists of two parts: the first mentions considerations as to why cities are strategic in combating global warming: the second establishes a set of voluntary commitments to promote strategies and actions aimed at mitigating GHG emissions and adapting cities to the impacts of climate change.

To establish and follow up on cities’ commitments, the signatories will establish their climate actions in carbonn Cities Climate Registry (CCCR) powered by Bonn Center for Local Climate Action and Reporting (carbonn). The Registry has two sections:

* Section 1, is for cities that wish to undertake mitigation and climate change adaptation measures and that by signing pledge to take the first steps, such as preparing their emissions inventory, designing and executing a Climate Action Plan, or promoting local laws that favour GHG reduction, among other measures.

* Section 2, is for cities that already have climate actions in place that are measurable, reportable and verifiable (MRV).

It states the aims and provides the means in which progress can be tracked. It is a document which allows and stresses transparency, something that is lacking in most international agreements.

Cities are where the action is, and its not just the largest centres, it can be all municipalities. This is where we live, its the level of government that impacts our lives the most directly. Perhaps this is where change can take place.

Hopefully the delegates who are gathering at Cancun, can read the document and have a heart to heart. As I said earlier, who knows, as they gather around the pool with the fancy drinks, agreements can be reached.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hope for the Future

Last year, the disaster that was COP-15, the Convention on Climate Change that took place in Copenhagen, there wasn't a whole lot of hope for the future. After all, this huge conference that was supposed to bring about all sort of changes that would encourage us all, it was even held in the greenest city in the greenest country on the planet. You would expect that all that environmentalism would wipe onto the delegates. Well it was an epic fail.

So now we have COP16, it's going to be held in Cancun Mexico. When I heard about the location, the thought of nice climate, useless junket came to mind. Let face it, at the end of November, which has to be one of two grumpy months in the northern hemisphere, the other being February. You know that all those meetings will have members thinking about the beach and the cabana huts, plus the multi-coloured drinks will be on everybody's minds.

You know I'm going to be watching things close when they start.

But for some reason I've got a bit more hope for this one then last year. Part of it may be due to the lowering of expectations. Who knows, more may be accomplished around the bars that are part of the swimming pools then in meeting halls.

What may bring about hope is what happened in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan last month. That is when the Convention on Biological Diversity took place and it seems something actually good happened.

First of all, there was actually an agreement. This is something for an international convention, a decision which seems positive. It is so impressive that the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Secretary-General welcomes the adoption of an historic new protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity on Saturday morning, 30 October, in Nagoya, Japan, which sets ground rules for improving access to, and the equitable sharing of, the world's genetic resources. The new treaty, he said, provides an innovative approach to conserving and protecting the world’s rapidly diminishing living resources, while providing benefits to all, in particular, local communities in developing countries.

The Secretary-General said the landmark treaty was a positive step in efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and demonstrated that countries were committed to pragmatic cooperation in meeting the challenges of sustainable development. He also welcomed the adoption of a new 10-year plan by the 193 countries of the Convention that contains achievable targets to reduce the loss of biodiversity. He also thanked the Government of Japan for hosting a successful conference.

Biodiversity is very important, we live in an interconnect planet. For so many years we've gone to the mono culture, from our front lawns to huge farms that have the same plant or grain or trees. A few years ago there was a concern if one disease hit the rubber plants and rubber plantations, our modern lifestyle would be radically changed, and not for the better.

Some of the decisions:
Among the targets, it is important to note that Parties:
- Agreed to at least halve and where feasible bring close to zero the rate of loss of natural habitats including forests;
- Established a target of 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas;
- Through conservation and restoration, Governments will restore at least 15 percent of degraded areas; and
- Will make special efforts to reduce the pressures faced by coral reefs.

The Guardian had some positive articles regarding the conference. As I have said, one of the great newspapers that cover environmental issues and such conferences is The Guardian. I will be reading them closely when COP16 starts.

Of course, not everyone agrees, one commentator, George Monbiot had a totally different view on the conference. He wrote that we have been conned. One of his concerns was the lack of any "big names", with the exception of about five nations, most couldn't be bothered to send the head of states or head of governments. I would agree that this could be a bad things, but then again, perhaps we had the people who did all the work showed up and did what was needed. After all, all those big names showed up at Copenhagen and they all brought their entourages and egos and nothing happened.

While Mr. Monbiot brings some good points, perhaps we need to consider, there is an agreement and that is the start of all things. Let's hope.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bringing about Peace, Diversity and Harmony

So Katrina has been telling me about some of the discussions going on in her various classes at College. It seems there is a great deal of about issues affecting social sciences right now. One discussion dealt with the issues facing the First Nations. It has to be acknowledge there has been a long history of wrongs perpetrated on the First Nations people.

It's not the purpose of this blog to go into a great discussion about the wrongs or the problems now facing the First Nations.

I was wondering if there is a problem of attitude. While I hope society has become more enlightened about these issues, I will admit there is still a long way to go on both sides of the issues.

So what can bring these diverse groups together. We have seen that working on separate agendas doesn't seem to do it. Attempting to redress wrongs by apology is a start, but there is a few problems. Remaining a victim doesn't work, nor does saying that its all in the past, or constantly living with this feeling of 'guilt'. Or at least always pointing the finger.

Then I thought to myself there are three things that can bring all parties together in peace, harmony, diversity and love.

They are:
1) The Village People
2) Disco

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Global Tiger Initiative-2010

In about a week a lot of people will be meeting in St. Petersburg for the 2010 Global Tiger Summit. The purpose of the summit is simple, to save the remaining number of tigers that exist in the wild, to bring about changes in management of their environment that will lead to the strengthening of the number of tigers in the wild. This will be done through the co-ordination of a number of Asian countries, including Russia. The Siberian Tiger, also known as the Amur Tiger has seen a bit of a comeback from extinction, but its far from safe. Apparently Russia needs to strengthen its laws regarding poaching of the animal. It's still in trouble, even if Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has seen himself as the protector of this animal.

If the numbers are correct, there are only 3200 Tigers in the wild. When you think about it, that's a chilling number. It also tells us the planet is still in a heap of trouble. Tiger exists best in places of great biodiversity, it's the top of the food chain so where there is food, there is tigers. Where there is habitat preservation and controls on hunting ( ie DON'T HUNT), there will be tigers.

What makes this group fascinating is the fact that, first of all, it was started by the head of the World Bank. I know, that's amazing, usually the World Bank is encouraging the devastation of natural habitats so countries can pay off their debts. I suppose that should be one good thing in their favour.

The second is all the nations recognize the problem. They know they must protect and change the direction of the numbers, no one is saying, 'keep hunting tigers, keep destroying their habitat'. Well, they don't say it, but they still allow it.

The problems facing the Tiger is ones we are familiar with, I could add to the list deforestation. This has to be stopped. We are destroying how many million of hectares so we can have coffee and rubber, or open areas to exploration and exploitation of minerals. We need to really consider what we are doing to the planet.

The Guardian, one of the great newspapers when it comes to environmental issues featured the summit recently.

I know we can see Tigers in zoos, and while it could be argued they offer these wonderful animals a chance to survive. Still there is something wrong with seeing such a great Cat behind bars.

Leonardo DiCaprio recently had an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post, he argues for the need to save the Big Cat. He writes this:
Because saving tigers is a compelling and cost-effective means of preserving so much more that is essential to life on Earth. The tiger is what conservationists call an "umbrella" species. By rescuing them, we save everything beneath their ecological umbrella - everything connected to them - including the world's last great forests, whose carbon storage mitigates climate change.

For example, Indonesia's 18 million-acre peat forests, home to the Sumatran tiger, contain 36 percent of the world's tropical carbon stores. So if we protect tigers by stopping deforestation, we also salvage the carbon storage these forests provide. A forest that can't support tigers isn't of much use to us, either.

One of the key saying that came out of the Kathmandu Tiger Workshop 2009 was:
Saving wild tigers is our test; if we pass, we get to keep the planet

It would be nice to finally pass one test.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Red or White Poppies

The Royal Canadian Legion on PEI is thinking of starting legal actions against peace groups selling white poppies. To the Legion the poppies are a symbol of disrespect to veterans as well as a violation of copyright. While it must be agreed the red poppy is the symbol of the RCL, after all it is part of their crest, and it is part of their fund raising efforts for the needs of veterans. What would a Remembrance Day ceremony without the red poppy?

It is the symbol of those veterans who served in the wars. Just recently the Canadian Mint issued quarters that featured the poppy.

We understand the poppy symbolizes those who died fighting wars. To us in Canada, it starts with the poem "In Flanders Field" by Dr. John McCrea
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Between the crosses of those who were killed in whatever recent battle that had been fought, poppies were appearing.

On Remembrance Day, we acknowledge the supreme sacrifice paid by those young men who went to War.

Now along comes the controversy of the White Poppy. There are some who would call the symbol to be an affront to veterans and to those who died in war. Some would think its an attempt by peaceniks to take advantage of the fact that people are thinking about War and so they hitch their waggon on a popular symbol. However, a search reveals this symbol has an equally long history as well. It is tied with the Peace Pledge Union, which is the UK's oldest pacifist organization, going back to 1934. It's aim is quite simple to renounce war as a means of policy of any and all civilized nations. It believes peace is the answer. It has as its pledge this:
War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.

This has, historically speaking, led to some problems, according to the Wikipedia page for the group, they backed Neville Chamberlain and his plan of appeasing Adolph Hitler. Which did nothing as history tells us, for peace and only gave Hitler the opportunity to prepare for his next plan which was to conquer Europe. So perhaps there has to be a place for war, especially when dealing with a great Evil.

Yet peace is the ideal. This planet is in desperate need of peace. If anything more effort should be used for peace then war. It would be good to renounce war, nothing good comes about from the activity. It does foster tyranny and human suffering, not just those of the combatants, but civilians. Despite the technology of 'smart bombs', civilians still die in war. Bombs ultimately can't distinguish between someone actively engaged in battle and someone just trying to make a living.

Do we need white poppies to remind us of this? I now think we do. Do we need red poppies to remind ourselves of the sacrifice many did make to stop tyranny and end human suffering, we must. Both, in the end are valid. Let us remember those who died in war, let us remember the veterans of all war, who were called upon by our Nation to perform a task and make a stand for democracy. At the same time, let us work for peace and justice in this world.

Micah 4 gives us this prophecy and hope:
Now ait shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it.
2 Many nations shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion the law shall go forth,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
3 He shall judge between many peoples,
And rebuke strong nations afar off;
They shall beat their swords into bplowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.

I close with Mahalia Jackson singing "Down by the Riverside".

Mahalia Jackson - Down By The Riverside
Uploaded by goldrausch. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Canadian Military Heritage Museum

It's located in a non-descript business in a rather run down and deserted part of the City of Brantford, yet the Canadian Military Heritage Museum may house some of the most impressive military displays this side of the Canadian War Museum. I had opportunity to spend an hour or so at this past Friday, as part of the Veterans Week.

It is a fascinating place, filled with photographs, displays and equipment, that tells the story of Canada's involvement in the various wars of the past two centuries. While there I was informed the museum staff is planning to develop an area that will portray and honour Canada's involvement in the Afghan Conflict.

It is a privately owned and run museum that seeks to honour Canadians who fought in the various conflicts, especially those of the 20th Century. It does so through the collection of artifacts and also displays:

as well as equipment:

as well as displays:

There was a lunch meeting involved and the Rotary Club of Brantford made a donation to the Museum. The Curator read to us an email. I hope I remember the majority of the story.

This person wrote that they were recently at Pearson's International when a number of soldier walked to one of the gates. As they passed through the various gates, people stood up and began to applaud them, that alone makes it a great story. Here were average Canadians showing respect to our soldiers. As they approached their gate a little girl came up to them and began to ask the group of young men a question, she asked if any of them knew her father- her mother was there and explained to the soldiers that he was over in Afghanistan. One of the soldier got down on one knee to talk to the little girl. She said if he saw him to give him this, and proceeded to give him a big hug and kiss. The soldier said to the girl 'wait a minute' and pulled out a cellphone. He dialled some numbers and began to speak into it. After a few moments he closed his phone and spoke to the little girl. He told her he 'just' spoke to her father and he wanted to let her know he loves her and misses her. He also wanted the soldier to give her something back and he gave her a hug and a kiss. Needless to say, at the waiting area, there wasn't many dry eyes left. He stood up and continued on his way, with his comrades. As they reached their gate and began to prepare to board the flight, he turned around and saluted both the little girl and her mom.

I want to conclude with a poem by Rudyard Kipling, the Poet Laureate of the British Empire:


To T. A.

I have made for you a song,
And it may be right or wrong,
But only you can tell me if it's true;
I have tried for to explain
Both your pleasure and your pain,
And, Thomas, here's my best respects to you!

O there'll surely come a day
When they'll give you all your pay,
And treat you as a Christian ought to do;
So, until that day comes round,
Heaven keep you safe and sound,
And, Thomas, here's my best respects to you!

Monday, November 01, 2010

The (Late) Fall Classic

First came the news that the third game of the Giants and Rangers World Series had the second lowest viewership of any World Series game. By the way, the worst watch series was the Tampa Bay Rays- Philadelphia Phillies series, probably more caused by inclement weather that forced the cancelation of a number of games and then a few games played very late at night.

Anyway, after that comes the news that the Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig is thinking of expanding the play-off format to include two more wild card teams. Think this through, today is November 1st, there is a baseball game scheduled for tonight. In theory the Series could be over, but if the Rangers win tonight, they will force a game six and then if they tie it up, that will mean a game 7. In other words, we have baseball into the first week of November. Let's consider if they decide to add a few more teams to the playoff mix. Right now it is the winners of the three divisions and one team, called the wild card. It works, you have four teams per league, two rounds of playoffs before the World Series. As much as I think baseball should be over in mid-October, that isn't going to happen. Now, let's visualize one more round, yeah they will probably start at a 'best of five', and that will last one or two years. Now that will mean having to add another round of play-offs- so in other words, the World Series will begin in November, ending, if we are lucky by the middle of the month.

Here's the plan:
What Major League Baseball is proposing is adding another wild card team to the mix from each league. The two wild card teams would then play each other in a best-of-three series that would determine who moves on. It sounds great in principle.

So you add one more team, and they will play for the privilege of being the wild card team that faces one of the divisional winners. The first word that comes to my mind is 'why'? The wild card does expand the interest in the game, I will grant you, but to add one more to each mix? That is expanding for the sake of expanding.

Also consider the weather, baseball in November works if the only teams that participate every year are: Tampa Bay, Florida (Miami- unless there's a hurricane), Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Dallas, Houston, maybe San Francisco, Oakland, and Arizona. That's it, the rest of the country is cold, dark and wet. Just stop and think of a World Series between Milwaukee and Minnesota. Yes, Milwaukee has a retractable roof, but Minnesota is open air. Now open air is the way baseball is to be played, provided that the month is April, May, June, July, August or September. Certainly not in November, the area averages 9.3 inches of snow in November. Plus, the Fox network wants to have all the games start at 8:20PM, so the game will only get darker, colder and probably wetter. While you may think I'm picking on Minnesota, the same holds true for any team in the Mid-West. Then can you imagine Denver?

I guess what I'm saying is this is a horrible idea. There is nothing to be gained by this. As well, what's to stop the league from continuing to expand the play-off format?

People don't mind the October Classic, but they want baseball to be wrapped up by October. No one wants the game to continue into November. Baseball is best when the sun is out, the weather is warm and you've got nothing else on the calendar but sitting back in the Bleachers.

The scary part of all this, he does think it's a good idea. Good for Selig, bad for baseball.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ein' Feste Burg

With this being the 31st of October, I thought I'd do a quick blog about the other aspect of this day. I know the first tends to be Halloween with the giving of candy and sweets to those who knock on our door. After all, any day in which people give you candy has got to be a good day.

This day is also Reformation Sunday. The day Martin Luther nailed on the door of the Wittenberg Church his 95 Theses. The full name of the document was: "95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences". He was protesting the prominence and theology behind the granting of indulgences. The purpose for an indulgence was to offer a way, through the giving of a gift to the Church for the purpose of shortening your personal stay in Purgatory, or to grant release from a loved one in Purgatory. What bothered Luther was the way it was being marketed and used, it was truly a fund-raiser. The Pope wanted to build himself a large church- St. Peter's in the Vatican area and needed the money for such a project. Here is the Wikipedia entry for indulgences:
The false doctrine and scandalous conduct of the "pardoners" were an immediate occasion of the Protestant Reformation.[4] In 1517, Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The aggressive marketing practices of Johann Tetzel in promoting this cause provoked Martin Luther to write his Ninety-Five Theses, condemning what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation. In Thesis 28 Luther objected to a saying attributed to Tetzel: "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs".[40] The Ninety-Five Theses not only denounced such transactions as worldly but denied the Pope's right to grant pardons on God's behalf in the first place: the only thing indulgences guaranteed, Luther said, was an increase in profit and greed, because the pardon of the Church was in God's power alone.[41]

While Luther did not deny the Pope’s right to grant pardons for penance imposed by the Church, he made it clear that preachers who claimed indulgences absolved buyers from all punishments and granted them salvation were in error.

What began as an attempt to have believers intercede for each other became abused and so Martin Luther decided that enough was enough and called for an end to them, or perhaps an end to the abuses of them all. The full document can be found here. It is truly an amazing document. Here Luther takes on the very belief system of indulgences and calls for the church to have the right priority. Some of his thoughts were struck me are these:
Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.

These articles became quickly known and quickly spread throughout Germany. They were spread by the printing press, so one of the first instances of technology being used to spread ideas. From the Wikipedia article, it states within 2 month the document was spreading through Europe. Obviously Luther had touched a nerve and had expressed the feeling shared by a lot of people.

From this commenced a spark which became the Reformation. Was this simply an attempt by Luther to bring about reform within the church. Doubtful he wanted to start his own movement, but when you're thrown out of an organization, you might as well start your own. Actually his thoughts and his later teaching on sola scriptura and sola fide brought about a wildfire that spread- preachers grabbed hold of his thoughts and began to preach the gospel that was not based upon Rome. The Reformation commenced.

Did he want to start a break-away from Rome? Again, probably not, but the lines were drawn for him and he responded.

So to conclude, I will quote the first verse of his great Hymn "A Mighty Fortress"
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Twitter and the Municipal Election

I think one of the more interesting character on The Simpsons is Comic Book Guy. I know from reading that he was chose to be an exact stereotype of a comic book store owner. Wikipedia has this comment about Comic Book Guy:
Comic Book Guy was in fact partly inspired by a clerk at the Los Angeles Amok book shop who often "[sat] on the high stool, kind of lording over the store with that supercilious attitude and eating behind the counter a big Styrofoam container full of fried clams with a lot of tartar sauce.[1]" Groening noted:
“ I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, 'I know who you based that comic book guy on. It's that comic-book guy right down the block.' And I have to tell them, 'No, it's every comic-bookstore guy in America.'

Besides his comment on everything being the "Worst. (fill in the blank). Ever." He has a tendency to look down on everybody who doesn't know what happen in Issue 24 of the Amazing Spiderman. It's an air of superiority that is irrelevent because when all is said and done, who cares?

I thought about Comic Book Guy as I read Amber MacArthur's recent article in The Globe and Mail. The title was "Could a social media plan have helped Smitherman?"

Now true confession time: I am a fan of Amber Mac, I watch her podcast CommandN and listen to her and Leo Laporte on Net@Nite. However I think the basic premise is wrong. Her heading says it all, if only George Smitherman had used Twitter more, he would be the mayor of Toronto not Rob Ford. There is only one slight problem, if you studied the tweets after Rob Ford was declared elected, the virtriol was effusive. I think one person on cp24 opined that the tweets with the hashtag #cp24votes were running 90% against Ford. It seems the twitterista were already in Smitherman's camp. How could he have motivated them through Twitter. I suppose by getting them out to vote. I could be wrong but I didn't see a whole lot of those names with tweets such as "I just cast my vote!". Perhaps they were so busy expressing their thoughts in 140 characters, they missed their chance. So now the bitterness, all of which demonstrates they are out of touch, not those who voted for Ford.

This goes back to Comic Book Guy, I keep hearing that Twitter only works if you understand it. There are those who get it and the rest, the mainstream, the Straights don't. They are the same group that left their VCR's flashing "12:00". They only time they got involved or interested with Twitter is when some celebrity got on, such as Oprah. So Twitter User Guy/Gal looks down on those who don't use Twitter. Can I make a suggestion? Perhaps the mainstream does understand Twitter and what they understand is that it can be a huge waste of time. Now I do use twitter. There are times it very helpful; when an earthquake hit Ontario and Quebec I went on Twitter to learn how far the effects were felt and then later on information about the quake. But usually what happens is tweets become variations of the theme "I'm in my bean bag chair, eating popcorn". It does have a place, for getting news out, and a good way to get your 'brand' before the public. However it fails as a means of two way communication. Try to reply to a message, see if you get a dialogue going.

Of course the other problem is that people who tweet can be total dorks, witness Innovation Minister Glen Murray, he decided to call all the people he doesn't like 'bigots', in a tweet. Of course he offered a couple of apologies, then after three days he got off the weasel apology and actually did apologize. For some reason I thought if you wrote something untrue its called 'slander'.

Perhaps the mainstream is not there, not because they don't get it, but because they do. It's like the flashing 12, it's not that people couldn't figure out how to set it, but after a few power outages, you get tired of setting it, and since you're only watching tapes, why have the clock set?