Friday, December 30, 2011

GoodBye Diggnation and Thank You

Right now as I write this blog, and I know this since I'm following the twitter feed, the final show of Diggnation is about ready to start. Yes after over 360 episodes, over six years of a weekly program, one of the pioneering shows on the Internet is coming to an end. It's hard to think about it, the finale of the premier video podcast of this era is soon to be over.

I have been a fan since episode one. I would never say I'm the biggest fan, but I do own a tee-shirt.

It has one of the strangest premise, two guys sitting around on a couch with their laptops open, reading stories from a website and drinking beer. Sometimes they drank a little too much beer. It should not have been compelling yet it was.

From some of the early arguments that centred around Alex calling Kevin out as a total Apple fanboy, to the various friends and pets that have entered the show.

Both were the showmen, both held my interest. Their take on the news items that appeared on Digg was always a good time. I'm hard pressed to think of an episode that was boring or uninteresting. None of them ever was.

So tonight, it's the last episode and i say with so many fans:

thanks Kevin, thanks Alex it has simply been great.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keeping Our Schools Safe

Living where I do, there are times when things happen that totally escape the local news. It takes a visit back home to get a taste of what is really happening out there. Of course it helps when you hear from sources to close to what is happening. What I'm talking about is the L'affair Burge that seemed to have become quite a tempest in a teapot in the city of Windsor. I was pointed to the article in the Windsor Star regarding a certain student of Kennedy Collegiate and some of her musings on Facebook.

I'm not going to get involved in a discussion what she said and whether or not everything done to her was appropriate. Enough has been said already and I can't add anything new. However, what did get my interest was the comment regarding the Ontario Safe School Act, this is the piece of legislation that was used to justify her suspension. In fact a lot said in the Windsor Star article got me looking up that interesting act.

The purpose of this act is:
A safe school enables learning and teaching within an environment that fosters responsibility, respect and academic excellence.

Now this is a sound and great ideal. Seriously it is, a student who feels safe in their school will be relaxed and will enjoy learning. As we read more and more about bullying, it makes sense.

The broad purpose of the Act is to establish guidelines and policies for school and school boards. The Act opens with this:
The Minister may establish a code
of conduct governing the behaviour of all persons in schools.
(2) The following are the purposes of the
code of conduct:
1. To ensure that all members of the
school community, especially people in
positions of authority, are treated with
respect and dignity.
2. To promote responsible citizenship by
encouraging appropriate participation in
the civic life of the school community.
3. To maintain an environment where conflict and difference can be addressed in
a manner characterized by respect and civility.
4. To encourage the use of non-violent means to resolve conflict.
5. To promote the safety of people in the schools.
6. To discourage the use of alcohol and
illegal drugs.

No one could disagree with such an act and it is good the Ministry recognizes and encourages local boards and school to articulate this Act for the local purpose and keep within the guidelines of the Act. There is also a great deal given to the purpose of discipline and suspension.

Then I came across this part of the article:
Public school board spokesman Scott Scantlebury said any actions by pupils, including “inappropriate” Facebook posts, that are deemed to negatively affect “the moral tone of a school” can, under Ontario’s Safe Schools Act, be dealt with by a suspension.

When it comes to a school’s code of conduct, Scantlebury said that, “as with the law, ignorance is not an excuse.”

Now it becomes interesting, perhaps someone should share a copy of the act with Mr. Scantlebury, because it says this about ignorance of the law:
Every board shall take such steps as the Minister directs to bring the code of conduct to the attention of pupils, parents and guardians of pupils and others who may be present in schools under the jurisdiction of the board

So Mr. Scantlebury seems not to be aware of the fact that it is his duty to help the students understand what is expected of them while in school. It appears the 'moral tone of a school', is one of those catchphrases that can mean whatever the administration wants it to mean. One of those policies that make everyone guilty and its only a matter of time before the trigger gets pulled on any student. I'm going to try to avoid the original issue, but I have to ask the question where students made aware of the fact that what they publish on social media sites such as Facebook may come back and bite them big time.

I went to the policy of the GECDSB website and look up some articles. In the article listed POLICY: Safe Schools, it has this in one paragraph:
In order to promote safe and inclusive environments, all schools, schoolsponsored activities, Board properties and Board-sponsored activities must be free from conduct which infringes upon the rights of others or endangers people or property. All pupils, parents, teachers, staff, volunteers and community members have the right to be and feel safe. With this right comes the responsibility to be law-abiding citizens, to be accountable for one’s actions, and to protect the rights of others. These responsibilities also include appropriate use of technology and responsible behaviour in other activities both on and off the school property which may affect the school climate. Such activities shall not negatively impact the climate of the school or members of the school community

I realize the comment on technology could cover the issue, but there is nothing said more about it. I understand that we need to be aware of what we do publish online may have negative consequences, it is something that should be stressed. As an aside one person has observed as more people use social media, the more likely our society may become more forgiving of the peccadilloes of personal life. Right now we have stories of people being refused jobs because what people are finding on Facebook and no doubt the people making that decision are thinking to themselves how fortunate they are to have lived in a time when photographs of them downing a kegger simply don't exist.

So when the vice principal showed her a print-out of her article and suspended her, he or she was acting in accordance of the Act and Policy. However she was told she had 'brought' her work into the schoolyard. Had she decided to become the Thomas Paine of KCI? Did she become a pamphleteer, passing out copies of her missive to students?

Understand this, tolerance and acceptance of diversity is good, however what is the message coming to the students? Does the GECDSB want to develop law-abiding citizens who would feel right at home in the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea?

The Act does allow for a review of the decision of suspension:
The following persons may request a review of a decision to suspend a
pupil, other than a decision to suspend a pupil
for one day or less:
1. If the pupil is a minor, his or her parent
or guardian.
2. If the pupil is not a minor, the pupil.
3. Such other persons as may be specified
in a policy of the board.

Did this happen?

Schools are different, the challenges are now huge and certainly resources that allow schools to operate in a proper way that protects both students and staff is important. I will never disagree with that ideal. However I have to wonder if the zeal for protection rights are trampled on. There is a difference between dignity and diversity and indoctrination and intimidation.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is RIM truly in Trouble?

I have to admit, I don't really understand the stock market. I suspect it's like every other aspect of human nature, it can be irrational, prone to the latest fad or even a product of the 'just cuz' way of looking at things.

We have been inundated with doom and gloom from RIM. From riots in Indonesia when a new Blackberry went on sale, to drunk executives getting arrested on planes. Oh yes, the lack of sales for the Playbook. You would almost think the heavens had decided to turn against RIM. Or, is there an active case of Apple's reality distortion field is being directed at every business and tech writer in North America.

The number one answer is to fire the CEO's much like sports teams fire the coach when the team does poorly. Easier to fire one or two people then 17,500 people. Although those numbers may not be all that good.

However, there is also reality. If one examines RIM there are a few things that come to the eyes; it is a profitable company and it makes a lot of money. Also sales have been increasing, even this year it's up. If you look at the headlines, you might think otherwise, but the numbers don't lie. I suspect it is a company that has solid but not spectacular growth. Also it has a product that people have grown to expect and therefore its not lighting any fires or rocking the world with its latest release. Could it be the main problem. We are living in the age when everyone has the attention span of that dog in the movie "Up" "SQUIRREL!!!". Yeah, that dog. If it isn't shiny and bright and if it doesn't have an Apple logos on it, not good at all. Of course.

I will admit some of the complaint are probably justified; too many phones- which confuses the consumer, a tablet that seems to have been rushed out the door and the fact it was the primary leader and company that once set the standard of what we now call smartphones. In that case it probably suffers the fate of all front-runners, they believe their best is their best and will continue to be that way. It happens.

I don't believe the company will disappear. It produces a product that is popular around the world and its still making inroads. It is big in those small markets such as India, it is truly an international company. Let's face it, the North American market is just changing chairs. Today I want a Blackberry, tomorrow it will be an iPhone and then next week an Android until Windows 8 phone comes out. It's the fickleness of the consumer that is probably driving the headlines.

The question is, what should RIM do?

Again, not an expert but here's a few:

1) do the research and marketing- the Blackberry is now popular in school, everyone loves BBM- push that for all its worth. Texting is the way people communicate- not the phone necessarily but texting.

2) Simplify the product. One complaint is that RIM produces too many Blackberry's. I don't know how many models there are but it seems a lot of them. Too many choice confuses people. If we look at Apple, there are really only three products- the iPad, the iPhone and the iPod Touch. If I look at the commercials, that's all. the ipod, with the exception of the Touch, is no where to be seen. This holiday season there are no commercials. I have seen the Touch commercial- this is simplifying things, if you want a tablet, you get the iPad, you want a phone, the iPhone and if you want a media device, you get the Touch. That's it. Also all their products basically now look alike, the only difference is size. You do the same thing on all three products, yeah one's a phone and the other two are not, but seriously what is the difference. Even the capacity is the same; 16.32 or 64 Gig- yes I know the Touch has a 8Gig model. Notice the huge difference. Even design doesn't change- of course this year they added a white one of everything. Now that's innovation. Now I know the iOS is spectacular- but still what huge leaps forward is there? I came across one comment that suggest RIM should have three basic models; touch, keyboard and hybrid. Three works well.

3) Improve the Playbook. This device is turning me into a RIM fanboy. It is a great product. The multimedia work of it is stunning. Let me add a video I shot today:

It does need email, BBM and more apps. I hate to sound like one of those app junkies, but I actually am one. Let's get the apps out- for tablets and small devices they do make life easier. I am looking forward to the Playbook OS 2.0 software. It should be exciting. When it does come out, the company should push the Playbook as the new improved, without being totally dorked about it. I know it's easy to compare it to the iPad, which is the gold standard, but let people know it's blackberry bringing that knowledge to the tablet. As well, make sure there are the native apps, I know the push is android apps- which is going to be very good, but make sure there are Playbook only apps. This will help.

4) remind yourself of the original vision. Now take that vision and discover new ways to articulate it.

5) Ignore all the negative press. It's all nonsense.

Just a few of my thoughts.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Instagram coming to Android!

Two things have brought Instagram into the news over the last few days: just it was announced as being the iTunes app of the Year. When you consider how many apps there are in the iOS universe, that's an impressive act, especially when one considers that Instagram is something like a year old. The growth has been phenomenal over the course of the year. I was reading one news report that put the number of Instagram users as 10 million with something like 10 photographs posted every second. That's an impressive count and speaks of quite a impact the app has had. Further to this, I read an article at the Huffington Post from September in which famed photograph Annie Leibowitz described the iPhone as the greatest snapshot camera. I am going to assume, and you get this from the tone, this was not an insult. While not thought in the same way, its a great app to have with the iPod Touch. I use mine a great deal, perhaps not as many as a large number of instagrammers, but I do my best. That is the first bit of news, the second has to with an announcement from a few days ago, many outlets are reporting that Instagram will soon release a app for the Android platform. This interests me because of the fact that the promise is with the next OS upgrade in February, we Playbook owners can install Android apps to our devise. This will end all that nonsense of not having enough apps to put on our devises. To me, with the fantastic 5meg camera on the back, the possibility of posting amazing shots through Instagram has increased. I have one photo-editor on my playbook right now, I compare this to the four or five I have on the ipod Touch as of right now. This tells me there needs to be a lot of work when it comes to using the multi-media capabilities of the Playbook to its fullest. I mean those filters are quite good and you can do a lot with them. I have been reading that right now I could access the Android Market if I download the beta to Playbook 2.0, but I think I will wait. Still this is very exciting news and I am so looking forward to all those android apps.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Death Knell of the Playbook?

I subscribe to PCWorld. It's one of the few computer magazines that are out there. I know PCMag is still around, but its completely digital. Perhaps if they would put out a Playbook version I would go ahead and subscribe, but until that comes, I'll just go to the website and read what's out there. Going back to PCWorld, which also is part of the publishing house that produces MacWorld. I think that's an important little point. I believe every so often, a few of the writers from MacWorld make their way over to PCWorld and write their propaganda. This must be the case otherwise how can you comprehend the article entitled: "Is RIM Throwing in the Towel on the PlayBook?". The basis of the article is the recent move by RIM to admit it's got a huge inventory of Playbooks and they are writing it down, or off. I'm not big on business, nevertheless it doesn't sound good. So the inventory is being written down, probably at a loss and this is effecting the bottom line, which effects the value of the stock and if you believe some commentators, RIM is in huge trouble and will likely 'go out of business or be bought out'. Some are saying RIM may simply kill off the Playbook and forget about this whole tablet market and leave it to Apple and its iPad. This is music to the ears of Apple. Let's consider a thing or two, Apple is now suing Samsung in every court on the planet because its Galaxy looks too much and acts too much like the iPhone. It is black, it's a rectangle and it has a touchscreen. So if I understand this correctly, Apple wants to own the patent to a colour, a shape and a way to interact. Apple does not like competition it seems. Wait a second, this is about the Playbook, not the ways Apple is the new personification of evil. I'll save that for another blog. Another article states that RIM was 'blindsided' by Amazon taking a loss on its Kindle Fire, which by the way, is not available in Canada. So don't even bother attempting to get it. Seems Amazon decided to take a loss right out of the gate and undercut its competition. Of course, Amazon can do it, because the Fire ties a person to Amazon marketplace where all sorts of wonderful things can happen. I do mean that sincerely by the way, I am a big fan of Amazon. It's not that RIM can't catch a break, its that all its problems are magnified and can't do anything right, in the eyes of the media. Consider the blindsided article, which is found here. So when Amazon sells its devise at a loss, its a strategic business move, when RIM does the same, it's losing money and bringing the company closer to insolvency. Makes perfect sense I suppose. Obviously there are a lot of RIM haters out there. If not haters, then a lot of people who feel RIM deserves some sort of comeuppance and views its recent troubles as just that. What is being missed in all this is a few things, one the Playbook is a very nice product. Alright, let me say it, it's a cool product. I was planning to write about its multimedia ability. Just watch a high def video on it. Amazing. As well, the sound from the speakers is great. I would say they are better then my laptop speakers. Just the quality of sound is something else. The camera works good and yes I will admit it needs a few more killer photo-editing apps to really bring it to the fore. In other words, what's not to love. Yes I know, a lack of apps. That is almost the only thing you hear about, and the lack of email and calendar. I will acknowledge that is a bit of a question, you don't put a calendar on the Playbook, a bit silly. Perhaps it is true the Playbook was rushed out the door because RIM needed to get a tablet out there for the consumer. The good news is RIM sent out a press release which speaks favorably of the Playbook. The company is committed to the tablet. As a part of the committment, all owners will be able to upgrade Playbook 2.0 for free when it comes out in February. What is being said of that upgrade is the fact there will be email, a calendar and the ability to load and run Android Apps. This is going to be good. It should quiet the complaints of the critics who complain and point out how many million of apps there are for the iPad, of which 93% are farting and other rude noises. I`m just making that number up. One commentator made the point:
I've had my Playbook for a month now, and thus far it seems to be able to do everything the Ipad2 can do, with the added bonus of having an integrated 1080p digital camera, and supporting flash as well as HTML5 - all within a smaller, sexier package. Sure the Ipad boasts are massive library of apps, but anyone who has ever owned an iPhone (myself included), is well aware that the vast majority of those apps are garbage and have artificially inflated ratings (3rd party companies are hired to write phony reports on Apps to improve their sales)
The press release gives us a promise of improvement to a great product, what`s there not to love when its come down to that.
RIM is committed to the BlackBerry PlayBook and believes the tablet market is still in its infancy. Although a number of factors have led to the need for an inventory provision in the third quarter, we believe the PlayBook, which will be further enhanced with the upcoming PlayBook OS 2.0 software, is a compelling tablet for consumers that also offers unique security and manageability features for the enterprise,
RIM is committed and I know it will only get better.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Playbook Apps. My Wishlist

As you may have guessed from the previous blog, I am quickly becoming a fan of the Playbook. As I write this, I'm syncing some files from my Dell Axim, so I can learn to use the productivity apps. As much as I am a fan of the Axim, I'm realizing its an older device and I would hate to have it suddenly stop on me. I do know the day is coming, after all, I've had it for at least 4 years and it was used when I purchased it. So it's going to stop working one day. I'm not hoping for that day to come soon, but I am being realistic. So I might as well figure out the various productivity apps now, rather then later. So I've been thinking of the apps I have and if I would like to see them on the Playbook. For the most part, yes. I am glad to see that both "The Score" and The Globe and Mail both have apps that are now installed on my Playbook. I noticed the Toronto Star isn't there, but then again why am I not surprised. For all its alleged nationalism, it's still the newspaper of Toronto and Toronto doesn't care much about the rest of Canada. Enough of my anti-TorStar screed. What about the apps, I was reading a review in the Globe about Tablets and they do rank the Playbook very high. The caveat is the lack of apps. I was chatting with an employee of RIM, hi Sheldon and he told me, the more Playbooks out there the more apps that will be developed. He also challenged me to make mine own. I'm thinking about it. What apps would I like, that is the question. What I would like to see is, more photo editing apps. The Playbook has a 5megapixel camera in it, that's quite an impressive piece of hardware, why not give some good photo editing apps to take full advantage of this fact. I have on my ipod Touch a BeFunky app and FX PhotoStudio. Both offer photo editing as well as the ability to add enhancements through effects and filters. Now likely apps with different effects are available and its a matter of me finding them, but I know from personal experience the two I've mentioned are quite good. I think they would both add a lot of good photo editing ability to the Playbook. Along with those, I'm thinking of the various apps that have to do with posting pictures to the various social networks: Twitrpix, Twitpic, Pikchur and so on and so forth, even Brightkite would be great. Again, they have apps and they have filters that can be used to enhance the photographs. They also make it easier to post to Twitter and Facebook, which is a good thing. This can be a great social device and I truly believe its potential has not been met yet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Blackberry Playbook

Like a lot of people, when I heard the news of the massive price slash RIM was going to bring onto the Playbook, I got caught up in the excitement and decided to attempt to purchase one. The first few places were failures, sold out no how many will come in with the next shipment. I even went and got a raincheck but was told there were more of them then what they were expecting in the next few weeks. The message was simple, first come, first served. Then I tried Staples and discovered they had a pre-purchase plan, you put your money down and you will be guaranteed a copy. So taking the opportunity, I did that and was promised one within a week. Two days later I got a phone call, and a day after that I got my copy. This was my first serious tablet, yeah I did purchase one of those Chinese Android tablet- its not that bad an experience but you can tell it was made with inferior parts. I opened up the box, and its a cool box too, by the way, and held it with respect and awe.
It is a lovely little device. It took me a few minutes but I got the gist of the gestures and made a few quick look around on the various apps and programs pre-loaded. I mean it has a NFB of Canada app! What is that?? Any time I want I can watch some great NFB documentaries, for example. It also comes with Kobo as the ebook reader, so I can do some reading. What else about it? Well, I know there's already been a lot of reviews out there about the Playbook, most of them tend to be negative. I do sometime wonders if this whole 'iPad Killer' is a bit overdone. Listen the IPad is the standard, the gold standard of tablets if you will. It is still the best tablet out there and that is our reality. However let me say this, perhaps the best response by those companies making tablets is to simply say iPad is the best and they are not in competition. Blackberry has been hammered by a lot of reviewers and I understand some of the concerns, the odd button set-up, the overall unfinished feel, the lack of apps. I wondered about the latter, but now I can comprehend the problem; apps are good. A year or so ago I wouldn't have said that but after having the IPod Touch I get the importance of apps. So, the Playbook, what about it? Here is my quick review: the screen and multi-media is amazing. To watch some High Def video on a 7 inch screen is amazing and the sound, without headphones is very good. It's better then some laptop speakers I could talk about. Also the two cameras are good. It seems everything has to have a camera and so why not tablets. I believe 7" is about the limit of dorkness when it comes to taking a photograph on a tablet. Taking a picture witha 10" or more just looks dumb. The body of the tablet- the size is good, the rubberized back feels secure- I like. Screen responsiveness- also good. It is very fast and responsive to the gestures. Yes the glass is a fingerprint magnet, but that's why they include a cleaning cloth.
Problems: apps. 'Nuff said. Perhaps a result of the sale, it may spur developers to get moving and get some apps pushed out there. I comprehend the development of a Blackberry Apps World- but I hope it doesn't restrict people. I know Apple touts its' few hundred thousand, but how many fart making apps does a person really need? The native calendar and mail. I would care more for the former then the latter. I can access my gmail account easy but I could really used a calendar. I do plan to use it in place of my Dell Axim which one day will go the way of all flesh and so a full featured calendar would be very important. What else can I say, well I think I will now investigate purchasing a Blackberry for my next phone. I mean I should immerse myself in the environment. My overall thoughts? Positive. Am I glad I purchased it? Yes I am. Will I suffer from iPad envy? Not now. Will I become a Blackberry fanboy? There is always that danger. The price is right, the device is right, go and make the purchase.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Instagram: I Understand

I've been hearing about it for a few years, this whole app thing called Instagram. Since at the time I had a 2nd generation Ipod Touch, it really wasn't a big concern for me, since I didn't have a camera and since its was only an iPhone app, it was 'who cares'. I know it was talked about on Net@Nite a few years ago, I'm certain Leo raved about it, he was in his 'rave about everything Apple' stage of life. I wasn't sure about it, in fact I wasn't sure about the 4th gen Ipod Touch, since the camera wasn't supposed to be all that good.

Then I bought the 4th generation. I should have realized I was going to like everything about it. I had first thought I wouldn't use the camera, since I had one and also my cellphone had a 2Meg Camera, which I use a great deal in my day to day picture taking time.

Took this one today, I enjoy the fact that when the mood strikes and I see something great, a quick photograph and then some editing can do wonders.

With all this, why should I bother with the Touch. Then I bought one. All of a sudden I had another camera and I had to use it. I got a number of photo editing apps, such as befunky, which I've blogged about in the past.

However, this Instagram thing was out there and I debated. Eventually I downloaded the app. I tried it and I am hooked. You knew I would have been anyways. I think its great. Like all things in this Web 2.0 Social Media/Network world we live in, its social. I take a photograph, do some editing and post it. The social part I discovered comes from following others and having them follow you.

I started to take photographs:

And more photographs and , you get the idea.

I also found sites that help with the experience. A good place is Inkstagram, where the feeds for myself and those I follow are posted, so I can go through them all. A good way to keep in touch with all those people and see the latest works. Webstagram is another one. From that one I learned about Stickgram, instagram photographs transformed in fridge magnets, who doesn't need fridge magents?

So from a not-sure camera, to one that makes artwork and fridge magnets. You know you got to love it and try it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Preserving the Brick Works

I was listening to CBC Radio 1, it's been a time I know, and one of the topics was the documentary "Brick by Brick", an examination of the Brick Works and the work to preserve it from the wrecking ball. Of all things that could be destroyed, or rather, renewal of the land and protection it would be a dilapidated industrial zone, a brick yard, as you will.

However, people with vision saw it as something more and the result has been a jewel near the Don Valley Parkway. In other words, someone saw beyond the abandonment and realized this could be something great and it is great.

It has festivals, it has events, its a farmers' market, it is connected with the community at large. In other words, it has found a new lease on life and is following that life with all gusto.

What it had was a garlic festival. I mean if that's not a sign of life, I don't know what is, garlic, you have to love it.

Of course such a project cost a lot of money, $55 Million worth. I suppose its one of those things that brought about a lot of questions but not now.

The real thought in my mind is Brantford, here we have a site that is comparable to The Brick Yard, 50 acres for the Greenwich-Mohawk site and 40.7 for the Brick Yard. Of course there are some differences, the building in Brantford are for the most part torn down, except for one.

Officially there is a great plan. However a few people have expressed concern because Brantford does not have a strong record when it comes to heritage buildings.

I suppose the idea should be this, keep the pressure on the mayor and council to use the land that preserves the past and brings about something, anything that will bring people to Brantford and something we can look to with pride.

A high order I know, but something that is attainable.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pirates Victorious

So it was all over the news. A bunch of upstart 20-somethings, to quote one article managed to convince almost 9% of the Berlin electorate to support the aims of the Pirate Party of Germany. The New York Times attempted to portray the new parliamentarians as looking more like the Lost Boys from Peter Pan then proper politicians. It always intrigues me when the Mainstream try to figure things out which has to do with the Internet and the new world that's evolving out there.

Some are wondering whether or not this is a shift or a blip, something to do with the German Electoral system, which is proportional representation and all you need is to get at least 5% of the voters and you're in.

The Guardian opined:
The big questions are: is the Pirates' electoral success a culturally specific blip, or a pointer to longer-term political change? Have we reached the point where the internet is having a measurable effect not just on political discourse, but also on what happens in polling booths? And could it happen here?

The answer partly depends on which electoral system we're talking about. Germany has a strictly proportional system: once a party receives more than 5% of the vote it becomes eligible not just to hold parliamentary seats, but also to receive state financial support. So vocal minority parties that can persuade more than 5% of the electorate to turn out can expect to have a political impact. That's why green parties have done relatively better in Germany and Ireland than they have in other jurisdictions. (The last – discredited – Irish government, for example, was sustained in power by an alliance between Fianna Fáil and the tiny Green party.)

Of course that article was more to do with the first past the post system that is the norm in parliaments which follow the Westminster Model. Still, its something to consider. As I read the articles, I couldn't wonder if the same was not said when the first Green Party members took their seats. You know, a crank one policy party that is more of an protest vote rather then anything serious. Now look at the Greens, they even got an MP here in Canada. It took work but you know what, the party is no longer fringe.

That's it really. If you get a voice in Parliament or the local legislature you now have something to work with, no longer are you outside looking in, but part of the fabric.

Some may think, still, the Pirates are jokes, simply a group of people who like to download music illegally. Not anymore, there is this quote from the New York Times:
They are absolutely not a joke party,” said Christoph Bieber, a professor of political science at the University of Duisburg-Essen. While there was certainly an element of protest in the unexpectedly large share of the votes the Pirates won, they were filling a real need for voters outside the political mainstream who felt unrepresented. “In the Internet, they have really found an underexploited theme that the other political parties are not dealing with,” Mr. Bieber said.

No longer a joke. I have to believe this is the possible springboard for other Pirates to look at and consider. The Internet has become a very powerful tool, the place where much of our lives are now centering and something that is being totally missed.

Der Speigel had a fascinating look at the election results. Part of the story had to do with the way other parties and groups dismissed the Party, even the Greens took shots but none of this stopped over 120,000 people from casting their ballots.
The criticism may actually have helped drive young voters to the Pirate Party. Indeed, other parties may have overlooked the fact that the Pirate Party addressed the concerns and interests of a relevant group of voters. The party focuses not only on classic themes like direct democracy, transparency and online data protection, but also on demands that would be unthinkable to traditional politicians. The party wants to see the introduction of an unconditional basic income, for example, and the legalization of soft drugs. Both positions sit well in alternative Berlin districts such as Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain.

The Pirates also have something other parties have long since lost -- credibility, authenticity and freshness.

There is now a new sheriff on the alternative voting horizon and it sails under the skull and crossbones.

Friday, August 12, 2011

David Cameron wants to Unfriend You

The news is out, PM David Cameron of the UK has suggested that limits should be placed on social media, since its through things such as Blackberry Messenger and Twitter that the rioters are passing messages and strategies to each other.

Now understand this, when Egypt or some oppressive regime does this, its considered heavy-handed and a restriction of democratic rights, when a western nation, such as the UK does it, its for public safety.

Let's talk about the riots, already the spin is being put on it, that its just a bunch of out of control young people who should be looking for jobs instead of looting. Of course that's the second point, its nothing more then an attempt to smash some buildings and make off with some high cost clothing or electronic goods.

Of course, if that's the case, then the solution is not bring in more police or have the military parade through the streets, its to buy and distribute Blu-Ray players. Why riot and smash when the government will give it to you for nothing. While some would comment about the cost, consider this, Players are now under $100.00 and just don't bomb Libya for a couple of days, that should pay for them all.

While the direct cause was police shooting an unarmed man, no doubt it was, as is always the case, brewing for a few years now. It appears this is not a good time to be young, the UK announced austerity measures aimed at young people. This during the time banks around the globe were getting massive amounts of cash to prop them up during the financial crisis. Young people no longer feel a part of the society and have no reason to respect it. With the PM even considering cracking down on social media- which is much like his ancient predecessors cracking down on coffee houses because they were hotbeds of sedition back in the 1700's, they have fewer reasons to feel a part of the nation. If a person feels disengaged more so because the nation has turned their back or declared unofficial war, then you will have disruptions.

I came across this fascinating video interview of Cory Doctorow:

If this is true, then all this is to be expected, you cannot oppress a group for too long without them rising up and responding in similar manner.

As the global financial debacle continues and with conventional wisdom is to basically ignore the big issues and pass them on to the next generation, while all along pounding that same generation in the present, then this unrest are going to continue a very long time.

Of course the smart move is to throw out families onto the streets if any member is involved in breaking the law, smart idea that, encouraged the already dispossessed feel like they are totally being screwed over by the government.

Closing down Twitter isn't going to solve anything, because Twitter is not the problem, its short sighted governments and politicians making sure their friends are taken care of, while the rest can go pound some sand.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Year Later

It's hard to believe that just a little more then a year ago, the demolition of the 41 buildings that made up the South Side Colborne Street commenced. There were those who cheered and those who were very angry. There were speeches, protest marches, appeals to City Council and even letters to the editors. Facebook had groups cheering on the demolition and groups who were opposed. A number of people in the community thought that it was about time and a number who thought it was totally ridiculous, a waster of money and also was going to have a negative effect upon the housing market in this city. Groups supporting looked at the buildings and considered them eyesores, groups opposing, or supporting the buildings, saw marvellous history and great potential, if only someone would have a vision and the finances to do something with these building that had suffered years of neglect.

All that ended when the first crane starting the assault.

A good crowd was on hand to watch the proceeding, including a few from the sitting Council. I don't know if a lot of people were cheering that day, there was a lot of people on hand to watch and record the goings-on, I mean how many times in a life do you get to witness a whole side of a street demolished?

We could watch building after building destroyed by the cranes, and bulldozers. We saw the material gathered up and then moved to fill landfill sites throughout the region.

To celebrate the anniversary, the Station Coffee House and Gallery is putting on a exhibition of media created during the demolition. There is a lot of pictures taken and video shot of the entire experience. It's taking place on July 2nd. Now likely it would be interesting, but perhaps in the interest of controversy, the people putting on the show have invited former Mayor Mike Hancock and former counsellor Mark Littell to the gala launch. There is a little frothing for this.

I suppose the question is now, what next? There is a plan to build a very nice athletic centre/YMCA complex, that would service both the University and the community at large. The cost has been estimated at $50,000,000. I think it will not happen very soon.

Still, we have a very nice new park in the downtown core:

It is sunnier downtown, and we have a very nice view of the Casino. All of which is worth the $30,000,000 it has cost the city to remove those 'eyesores'.

A recent linked was posted by Lloyd Alter on Facebook considering the potential decaying building can bring to urban revitalization. The writer asked the question: Can decaying buildings lure top talent?

The key paragraph is this one:
It may be overlooked, but one key incentive for creative clusters is older buildings that entrepreneurs can convert. “At a certain point you want to take advantage of something that is decaying or running down, and let new use adapt to opportunity,” says Gordon Price, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, and a former Vancouver city councillor. “And you may not be able to put that into a plan.”

Also, an older stock of rental housing gives young, creative people an affordable place to live. “If you push them too far from places where you’re hoping to generate a creative cluster, it’s neither fair to them nor likely to succeed,” Mr. Price says.

I think that's enough for today. As one member of city government said to me, you can always repair buildings. Shame he wasn't listened to.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

SOCAN, Netflix and Greed

So the Society of Composers, Artists and Music Publishers of Canada has gone to the Copyright Board of Canada and filed a request for something called an interim tariff. The purpose of said tariff is:
to enable it to license the use of music on websites that profit from audiovisual webcasting and user-generated content services. While tariffs applying to the use of music in this manner are currently being considered by the Copyright Board, the interim tariff would accelerate the compensation to music creators and publishers for the use of their work and would give businesses some assessment of the royalty payments necessary to run their operations.

Many believe this is an attempt by SOCAN to get some of the proceeds from services such as Netflix, YouTube and a few other services that stream content which may contain music that was produced by members of said organization. Apparently there is a feeling that this is being done on the back of hard working musicians who again are getting stiffed. Well, let me say they are getting stiffed but its not from Netflix etc, its from the organizations that say they are 'helping' the musicians, such as CRIA. Remember that fun group, its the people who collect the tariffs from blank media and distribute it all to the members, except they are woefully behind on the payments.

I think a few things need to be understood before we proceed; music that is used in soundtracks, be they movies or television programs are licenced by the content holders. If you think for one moment that a movie is going to feature music that is not licensed, you're not paying much attention, if a studio did that, don't you think that the RIAA would go after them with all the lawyers in their fold? Of course they would. The licensing agreements can be quite good. I went to the site "How Stuff Works" and came up with this explanation:
According to the book "All you need to know about the music business" by Donald Passman, "The fees for synchronization licenses are really all over the board, and they vary with the usage and the importance of the song." For example, Passman's book mentions some fee ranges:

* Low-end TV usage (e.g. -- music is playing from a jukebox in a scene, but no one in the scene is paying any attention to the music) -- free (for exposure) to $2,000 for a 5-year license. In a film, the fee would be $10,000 in perpetuity.
* A more popular song is worth more, perhaps $3,000 for TV and $25,000 for film.
* A song used as the theme song for a film might get $50,000 to $75,000.
* Commercials fetch even more money: "a song can command anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000 plus per year. The typical range for a well-known song is $75,000 to $200,000 for a one year national usage in the United States, on television and radio."

This is why artists love to have their works featured on commercials, it can be quite a lucrative adventure for the license holder.

None of this makes it into the press release of SOCAN, they want to go on about the poor starving artist.

So what do they want? Well, another website has this:
It also appears as if SOCAN will not allow the Copyright Board of Canada to determine what constitutes an "acceptable" tax rate. The organization has created an outline that shows what percentage should be taxed, depending on the service and host "sharing" their intellectual property.

SOCAN hopes that streaming services like Netflix, Apple TV and Sony Crackle would be taxed around 1.9 per cent of gross revenues. For user-generated sites like YouTube, however, SOCAN recommends payment from 6.8 per cent of advertising revenue incurred from music videos and 1.9 per cent from all other audiovisual content.

Let's discuss the outcome of said tax, which will probably be a dynamic tax, 1.9% this year, and going up every year from now on; how they plan to go after YouTube is rather interesting, since YouTube does not have a Canadian branch at all. I have a feeling Google could just as easily block access to YouTube with people who are using a Canadian based ISP. Or they will simply ignore it. If people dont want their music used, simply ask Google to take it down.

What about Netflix? I think there is a few possibilities:

1) they pay the tariff and pay on the costs to consumers. This is usually what happens when companies are taxed. So instead of $8.00/month, figure it might be $10.00
2) Pull out of Canada. If the tariff is ridiculous and the paperwork becomes too much, close it all down. There are a lot of services unavailable to Canadians, think of Hulu, so this would be one more.

In both cases the consumer gets it in the neck.

This explains why in a lot of ways, Canada is becoming a digital backwater for these services. As I said, Netflix is legitimate, it is buying the rights to the programming it delivers. Everybody should be winning, then along comes a group that gets greedy and in the end, we lose out.

These people need to be told to butt out and let us enjoy watching what we want on what we want. Or we can wait for BestBuy to commence their service.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Cold War has a new Front

I've been thinking baok to the Cold War. For those of you who are too young, it was a time when the two great political and economic philosophies stood staring at each other, with fingers on the button almost daring the other side to press first. It was conflict through proxy, since a war between the Superpowers would have meant the end of the world. The bad part of nuclear war is the winning side only has month or days to enjoy the victory then they too will get destroyed with the massive cloud of radioactivity that will circle the globe. The Wikipedia definition of the period of time states:
The Cold War (Russian: Холо́дная война́, Kholodnaya voĭna) was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World – primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies – and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States and its allies. Although the chief military forces never engaged in a major battle with each other, they expressed the conflict through military coalitions, strategic conventional force deployments, extensive aid to states deemed vulnerable, proxy wars, espionage, propaganda, conventional and nuclear arms races, appeals to neutral nations, rivalry at sports events, and technological competitions such as the Space Race.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, its easy to say the Cold War is open, the West won and now only the US strides the world as the only Superpower and the rest of the planet better cowtow to them or else. Now, Russia is a partial ally to the US, or if that's a bit much, at least not a full blown opponent.

You would think that and probably be right, then if you turn to RT, the Russian based 24 hours news channel. I have to admit, I am a fan of the channel. Not only does it provide news of what is happening in Russia and that part of the world but it gives me all the information I need on Vladamir Putin. The motto is, after all, "All Putin All Time". Well, not really, it does portray Dmitry Medvedev in a very nice light. He is the President after all and does wield a fair bit of power in the world. He also seems to like wearing wide ties. Of course the big news in Russia, speaking of news, is whether or not Putin will run for President in the next election.

It is also a good network to learn Russian history or the nation of Russia. It's fascinating in that regard, parts of Russia I've never heard about, there's probably a show for it.

Then there is the other aspect and that is,the cold war position of the network. Now I'm not sure how much of the content is controlled by the Kremlin, but it has a number of shows which portray the US in less then flattering light. There are a number of programs, all on during Prime Time that are based in the US and have a rather negative slant on what is happening in the West. One of their chief messages is a complaint that mainstream media tends to concentrate on fluff and forget the real news. Just this evening there was a journalist professor commenting that most of MSM is taking the time to go into great detail over 'Weinergate'. The hostess was complaining that during a time of war, this is what is taking prime time with the various news outlets. Of course RT only concentrates on real news and so you will get their slant on what is happening in Libya. I'm not sure which side RT is on this conflict, they are more complaining over the escalating of the work of NATO from making a 'no-fly' zone to going out of their way to bring about regime change.

What about the comments on MainStream Media? Is is truly that bad? Is it simply a tool of the Military-Security Complex and so it will attempt to distract rather then to instruct? If you go to the site The Aloyna Show, you will notice all the newer programs deal with examinations of what is being missed. Besides this, the network goes out of the way to discuss the growing War State that is the United States. There is also comments about the economic collapse that is happening in the US and Western Europe- almost a continuation of the cold war in a way.

Some have accused the network of becoming a haven and harbinger of conspiracy theories. They also bring in individuals who would be sympathetic to the point of view. This makes sense, after all most networks have their list of experts they count upon to bring some interesting facts.

Then there is Adam vs the Man. He had a brief time in which he took on the law as it pertained to dancing at the Jefferson Memorial. He and a few other people danced and got arrested.

I've was trying to think of the angle of this new front in the "Dance Dance Revolution", but I realized its as much of an attempt for publicity then making a statement. Then again, its a rather stupid law and should be challenged.

So from programs such as these it makes me wonder that Russia still views the US as the Enemy and the weapons is now 24 hour media and web presence. Of course if you saw some of the advertisement on the network the proudly flaunt themselves as Ànti-American Propaganda and declare that it can be the truth.

I still will watch because it is a fascinating point of view. Plus where else can I watch Cory Doctorow interviewed?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Read Geist

A number of years ago I picked up a sticker that I placed on a clipboard, it said simply:

That was the 20th Century, now I believe the saying of the 21st should be to "Read Geist". To read him makes one to understand what is happening in the world of copyright and how Big Media and Big Copyright Holders want to put their own interests way ahead of your interests. To them your only part of the entire thing is to give them more and more money as long as you live.

In the Toronto Star, he wrote an article regarding a new deal Big Pharma wants to enforce in Canada. It is to extend the life of the copyright of drugs. In the day when new medication is being produced which, for the most part, is bringing about enhancement in daily life, Big Pharma wants to ensure its hold on the copyright of the drug is extended.

He described the position of Big Pharma, most of them which are based in Europe and have managed to wrap the EU around their various pudgey fingers:
The intellectual property council (which counts several brand name pharmaceutical companies as members) claims the reforms would lead to increased pharmaceutical research and development in Canada. But last week University of Toronto law professor Edward Iacobucci released a study that thoroughly debunks the CIPC claims, predicting increased consumer costs and noting that there is little evidence the changes would increase employment or research spending.

Of course, they say that such protection will enhance the industry in Canada and make it wonderful place. I am surprised there was no mention about piracy in that situation, knock off drugs. Of course that is what the Canadian Intellectual Property Council would want us to believe.

What Michael Geist is concerned about is the extension of the protection ensures the costs of such medication remains high and stays high. As I thought about what he was writing about, I thought the true danger of excessively long copyright is that it becomes a monopoly. As I thought about drugs, I am reminded of the fact that generic provides both a low cost alternative and choice for the consumer. Have a headache, you are not stuck with one brand name, but a number. With medication becoming more important, I was talking to one person who was complaining they are now a pill popper, it is important to have low costs and choice. If the numbers are to be believed, it is costing the consumer and the health care system 22 Billion a year. He mentions a document written by Dr. Edward M. Iacobucci, "INNOVATION FOR A BETTER TOMORROW: A CRITIQUE". He mentions:
When generics enter, public and private plans obtain competitive drug benefit prices for reimbursement of a particular drug; competition brings pricing benefits that monopoly does not. This is especially the case after recent provincial reform of generic pricing, causing generic prices around the country to fall from 50-75 percent of the brand price to 25-45 percent of the brand price, depending on provincial market characteristics and trade restrictions (see table below). Lower, competitive prices for drugs tend to reduce the cost of private insurance plans, and bring potential social benefits by allowing public plans to reallocate resources to other aspects of the provincial health care systems, including other pharmaceutical products which are not currently reimbursed by provincial or private health care plans.

With health costs only guaranteed to increase, the issue now comes, is there places to save money that do not included restricting or rationing services for people. There is and that is make generic medication available. If it is true the cost can decrease by as much as 45% that is a sizable saving. It is easy to understand why Big Pharma wants to restrict the right of generic drugs to expand, it cuts into their profit. I know there would be those who would say that this companies have a right to a return to their investment. Of course they do, there is nothing to stop them from continuing to produce the same drugs even though there is competition, after all some people only feel comfortable with brand names.

However, it is a matter of cost; to us as consumers and to us as taxpayers. I was reading an interesting article regarding Brazil and copyright. Early in this century, Brazil decided to become a strong open source nation, and probably continues to follow that line. The article mentioned that at one point the government became aggressive in treating HIV by making the medication available. It helped but was very expensive so they decided to approach the patent holders to discover if a deal could be made, at first the pharmaceuticals refused. The the President decided to do something:
His first approach was to go to the key patent holders, the US pharmaceutical giant Merck and the Swiss firm Roche, and ask for a volume discount. When the companies said no, Serra raised the stakes. Under Brazilian law, he informed them, he had the power in cases of national emergency to license local labs to produce patented drugs, royalty free, and he would use it if necessary. Merck immediately caved, but Roche stood its ground until August 2001, when Serra prepared to make good on his threat by drawing up the required paperwork. It was the first time a poor country had even come close to breaking a drug patent - and Roche, stunned, returned to the bargaining table with a newly cooperative attitude. In return for Serra's agreement to play nice, the drugmaker would reduce the price of its drug in Brazil to less than half what it was (and less than Brazil's cost to go it alone).

The question is why does it have to become this? Simple because copyright means royalties and excessive royalties mean huge profits. If you can guarantee no competition then you can decide the costs and make them pay.

Michael Geist wants us to know about this, and this is why you need to read Geist.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Me 4 the Senate

Again the papers are filled with angry people complaining about the latest appointments by the Prime Minister to fill vancant Senate seats. As you may have read and heard, the Prime Minister decided to appoint some more eminent people to the Senate, most of them just happened to be defeated Conservative candidates. Then again, this does not make them eminent, in fact their view of politics and the nation is so important that their voide has to be heard. Now there has been a lot of anger regarding the appointments. In fact it seems to be the great unifying factor right now in Canada, with newspapers united in criticizing the appointments.

Of course, I think with the Spring we've had, it wouldn't take much to get Canadians angry. Our only hope is that the city of Winnipeg will get an NHL team and joy will return to the Dominion.

However, we do need to stop this blatant display of partisan entitlement. After all this has never happened ever in the history of Senate appointments ever! I mean, when the Liberals were in power, this never happened. All their appointment represented the cream of Canadian society, just because most of them happened to be members of the Liberal Party of Canada was just a co-incidence.

However, we need to do something and so I want to suggest and lobby myself for a Senate Seat. I know the Prime Minister regularly reads my blog (!) and so I need to present my credentials for this august position.

First of all, I am a middle-aged, white unilingual Southern Ontario male, in others words the most oppressed minority there can be. Also I probably represent the exact demographics of the average Conservative voter. The good news, I didn't vote Conservative. So my appointment cannot be seen as partisan, but rather one that will bring diversity to the Senate. I will represent the average Canadian, which is one of the most unrepresented groups in Canada. All those special interests and eminent people sorts, when we really need is a regular person up there to represent all the other regular people in the country. Seriously what does a lawyer know about being regular?

I promise I won't sit as a Conservative or a Liberal. I could sit as an independent, or a Green or even a Pirate ( Pirate Party of Canada).

I think I have all the qualification, perhaps got to find that $4,000 worth of land, which shouldn't be difficult. If anyone has a lot to lend you will have a job in Ottawa.

I promise to show up on time, to vote when I'm supposed and not involve in any treason, indictable offense or even infamous crime. I will work hard for my $132,000 a year salary which I will pull in until I turn 75.

So Prime Minister Harper, next time you need a Senator, I am your Man.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The SD Card Tax

The title of the recent ZDNet blog says it all: Canadian SD card buyers are all Criminals. The people who run the non-profit (alledgedly) Canadian Private Copying Collective has decided that because you can download content onto SD cards, including micro SD cards then people MUST be copying music onto them, after all, what else would Canadians use such devises. After all, we are a nation of thieves and cutthroats. This group are the ones that collect all the levies from blank cassettes and CD-R to distribute to the various drug dealers and pimps, oops, sorry to the artists, performers, writers of music. In fact they have a whole document on the distribution plan, you can read it here. If you look closely, you can discern the groups that get the money are the artists, the songwriters and publishers AND, a big surprise, the Record Labels. There is also the methodology for the calculations, which is based upon airplay and sales. So you can believe its slightly slanted to major artists and major recording labels. Now of course they try to distribute it fairly, although a look will reveal the last year data indicates the group didn't distribute near half their gain to artists. So what happens to that which isn't given out, another blog posting.

The big news from this group is they have decided to included blank SD cards, the wording of their requests is:
blank audio recording medium” means
(a) a recording medium, regardless of its material form, onto
which a sound recording may be reproduced, that is of a kind
ordinarily used by individual consumers for that purpose and
on which no sounds have ever been fixed, including
(i) recordable compact discs (CD-R, CD-RW, CD-R Audio,
CD-RW Audio),
(ii) electronic memory cards, and
(b) any medium prescribed by regulations pursuant to sections
79 and 87 of the Act (« support audio vierge »);

The last lines is left blank so they can add anything they want. if there is anything else they can think of as possibly being used for piracy could fall under that catagory. This is the same group that wanted to place a levy on all ipods and, one presumes, iphones.

Here is the amount they want"
3. (1) Subject to subsection (2), the levy rates shall be
(a) 29¢ for each CD-R, CD-RW, CD-R Audio or CD-RW
(b) 50¢ for each electronic memory card with 1 gigabyte of
memory or less, $1.00 for each electronic memory card with
more than one gigabyte of memory but less than 8 gigabytes of
memory, and $3.00 for each electronic memory card with
8 gigabytes of memory or more.

Michael Geist had the following post to consider the danger of this possible levy. His concern is the levy is awful for a media that keeps dropping in price. I went to Factory Direct and discovered you can purchase a microSD card, 2GB for $3.88. Well, not any more, the levy would add another dollar, which would represent a 25% increase in the price, plus the tax that would be calculated on the levy. The problem the levy would remain the same even though the base product is going down in price. The other issue is that for the most part, SD cards are used for photography. They are used in digital cameras and camcorders. Yes they are used in cellphones but usually for taking videos and photographs. Cameras are not MP3 players, they are used to create media, not download it for use later.

I have a number of cards, some I still use, others are 'retired'. For the ones in my camera and camcorder, there is no music, only pictures and videos. I have a few mp3 of songs from my CD on they one in my cellphone, but for the most part I use it for storing my media, not anyone else's.

So this group wants even more money from Canadians. They alledge to give to artists, but their own charts reveal this is false.

So what are we to do, well one would be to write:

The other might be to, if this levy happens, to find alternative sources for your SD cards, ebay comes to mind.

If there is any hope, the Conservative Government has not been interested in listening to the CPCC in the past and hopefully they won't with this one. It's just ridiculous enough to engender enough anger to make the government decide to ignore this one and refuse to budge.

It's the least we can do.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Riding of Brant

Well tomorrow is the big day. The first thing I want to write is for all of you who can vote to do just that. It's simple, it's straightforward and makes you feel good. The only problem we have in Canada is we don't get any stickers that will get us a free coffee at Starbucks or Tim Horton's, although I doubt if the latter would ever happen. Still you can vote and feel good in yourself. I should say that some talk about electronic voting, to appeal to the younger an hipper age groups-because we know the younger generation can't figure out to put a pencil to a piece of paper. It's simple to do, come on why make the simple complicated. Plus the problems of electronic voting is that it will probably be proprietary software and we would never know if the system was hacked or not.

Let's talk about Brant riding. What do I think of the local candidates? Here we go:

Phil McColeman

Since I have met and know him I can say he is a good person and sincere in his efforts to serve the people of Brant. He did a few things which got under the dander of his critics, such as putting his website address on the Canadian flags he sent in the mail. This was an effort to help Brantford win some title as the place with the most Canadian flag on display. Ours is on the front door. It could be a rookie mistake, still a bit of a tempest in a teapot.

He likes to point out that the government did start on the road of settling land claims with the negotiation and signing of an agreement with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. When one considers the challenges of land claim settlements in this region a start is still a start and hopefully it demonstrates these issues can be settled in an honourable way that satisfies all parties. As well, he talks about his involvement with the local Laurier Brantford campus and how the Conservatives are putting money into post-secondary education. He also points out he can call up the Prime Minister and present the concerns of Brantford to high office.

There was someone in our neighbourhood passing out flyers. Also he keeps sending the address to the polling booth to Jo-Anne.

He is liked by the people of the riding and is spoken of highly.

Lloyd St. Amand

I can say this is another candidate I know personally. I have sat down and broken bread with him at a few Rotary meetings. He is a gentleman. He is also the former MP of the Riding. Like Phil he is well-known and well liked.

He does bring a lot of parliamentary experience and does have the right pedigree. He also does have the experience to represent the region to government and likely would be a very strong voice for Brant in the House of Commons.

As I said, I have met and talked with him, both in formal and informal encounters and I would say that if I ever thought of voting for a Liberal, it would be Lloyd St. Amand. Talking with people I hear the same message, they like Lloyd, they would vote for him, but the one problem they have is the leader of the Liberal Party. It seems Iggy is a bit of a boat anchor to him.

He has also canvassed personally in my neighbourhood.

Marc Laferriere

This is the only candidate I have not personally met, so I can only discern about him from what I've read and heard. I should start by saying he is a person who has used the Internet and Social Media to the best way of getting his message out. He post pictures of the groups and events he has been a part of and of the workers of the campaign. He has a twitter and facebook page. He uses all the strategies made famous by George Smitherman and his successful run for the Office of Mayor of Toronto. These methods proved very successful for Mayor Smitherman (tug-tug) oh excuse me (whisper whisper whisper) he's not the Mayor of Toronto? But didn't he use social media effectively (whisper whisper). Well, who's mayor then?(whisper whisper) Rob Ford? Well, he used social media effectively didn't he? (whisper whisper whisper) No? Oh, well, I see. Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, Marc is using the same methodology used by George Smitherman and his unsuccessful bid for mayor.

He's been campaigning for the NDP since 2009, he came up with the brilliant idea of having a $0.90 dinner to meet the leader of the NDP. This was done during the time Prime Minister Harper was having $90.00 a plate dinners.

He has caught the eye of people beyond Brant, one article talks of one of President Obama's campaign team members supporting his campaign. Even the National Post has taken notice of him and concludes the Brant is one of those riding the NDP could win on May 2nd.

As of this evening, no NDP canvasser has been in the neighbourhood, I suppose they didn't want to face the Powerline North Park Posse.

Nora Fueten

Another good candidate. Seems to be going with the strength of the party, which is the rural area and not so much the urban place. Even though I support the Green Party of Canada, she really hasn't had a high profile presence in the north end of the City.

One comment and article is her call for support of a high speed rail link, which would go through Brantford. This would do well for the city and its infrastructure. Also make commutes to major cities such as Hamilton and Toronto easier for the people of Brantford.

So this is my round up of the candidates.

Just remember, Vote May 2nd

Saturday, April 30, 2011

What if the NDP wins

There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.
attributed to Woody Hayes

I should say that in this blog the phrase "Socialist Horders" or "Red Menace" will not appear.

Since last weekend, we have witnessed an incredible surge of support for the NDP. I'm not talking up to 20%, we talking at least the Official Opposition or even, dare we say it, Government. Will we really say "Prime Minister Jack Layton" after the 2nd of May? Some have dismissed the surge as an invention of media in an attempt to spice up an otherwise dull election. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen, still there is something happening; even the Toronto Star has come out in support of the NDP. Now that is a shock, the Official Organ of the Liberal Party of Canada comes out to support the third party. Impending sign of the apocalypse I am sure.

So what will happen if the NDP wins on Monday night. I want to suggest there are three possibilities, as as the quote from Woody Hayes says, two of them are bad

Scenario #1 The NDP decides to go ahead and as a party of principle and implement as much of their election platform as possible. Some of them include giving Quebec a guarantee 25% of the seats in the House of Commons. Even though the province is home to 23% they will be weighed a bit more then the rest of Canada. I believe was part of the Meech Lake Accord, which as memory serves, was rejected by Canadians, sorry that was the equally maligned Charlottetown Accord. Then there is the cap and trade, or the cash and grab, which fills government coffers with money and establishes a new market of trading carbon credits- think corruption. Of course the idea will be to punish the major polluters and force them to pay, which they will immediately pass on to the consumers, so we get almost no reduction of carbon and higher prices, a sure win-win scenario. You can read my thoughts about cap and trade in the blog before this one, remember I'm a supporter of the Green Party. Other promises will cost money and while laudable, it has to be realized, its costly to get more doctors and nurses. While the Star comment talks about the fiscal responsibility of many provincial NDP premiers, one name is oddly absent and that is little Bobby Rae, the NDP Premier of Ontario. Anyone want to remember Rae Days?

Then there is the issue of a lot of neophytes in the place of power, hopefully the party is full of quick learners because they will need to be. The problem is as a party of ideology, there may be many who will refuse to compromise and will go ahead with their agenda irregardless of the consequences. An important part of politics is compromise and will this be a skill many in the NDP can exercise, especially when given the reins of power?

Scenario #2

The NDP comes to power having excited a new portion of the electorate. They are inspired by the vision given by Jack Layton and the Platform. There are videos on YouTube from inspired people, think "Yes We Can" by Will.I.Am. They win and then the cold light of reality shines its bright cold ray upon the platform. The party leadership realizes it can't keep the promises, even right now there is some backpedalling. The question is, what happens when it becomes prominent. I think we have the example of this when we look down south. I noticed the NDP has tried to hitch their wagon to President Obama, but look at his track record, the US is still stuck in Afghanistan with no exit strategy, Gitmo is still open and doing a booming business and the health care, IE Obamacare is the dog's breakfast. The result is a lot of supporters of Obama, especially those of the fabled 'Generation O' are disappointed and will probably not bother to come out in the next election. I want to suggest that if the Republican Party could nominate a candidate that is intelligent, articulate and a war hero, such as, oh I don't know, Colin Powell, instead of freak shows such as Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, they would be in control of the White House after November 2012. Even when it carries out promises, it ends hurting rather then helping. Consider the cap and trade, it will effect the major polluters, those same polluters are corporations that employ a lot of the core supporters of the NDP, such as the Auto Industry, it gets hammered and the companies either inform the unions of huge lay offs or demand major concessions, its like the 90's all over again.

Scenario #3

On May 3rd the Dominion wakes to the reality of Prime Minister Layton and for some reason the Sun decides to rise in the East. The party under the wise leadership of Jack Layton is able to maintain a nice balance of compromise and remaining true to core beliefs. Even though the markets react at first badly, over the course of months they realize Canada is stronger for the NDP and things improve. People are supported and overall there are some increase in taxes but a lot of the social programs generally protect people. Seniors are protected and the health care system finally has the funds to provide people with a first rate system. Yes there are some hiccups along the way but the overall strength of Canada is such that the early teething problems of the government are soon forgotten. The Party becomes a moderate social democratic party and all is made stronger.

So those are some of my thoughts for this evening.