Saturday, June 26, 2004

Toward Choice

Well, the 38th General Election is almost upon us. I've decided how I will vote, and I've decided to reveal my decision here: I'll be voting for my Green Party candidate on Monday.

So, first, why Green? I heard about - and, just recently, read about - the political campaign financing reforms that set an annual public subsidy of $1.75 per vote for parties that win over two per cent of the popular vote. I've read that the Green Party has the support of about six percent of the voting public, so I'm reasonably confident that my vote will throw another $1.75 in the Green pot for next year.

So what, you say? Well, Green Party leader Jim Harris still has a day job. With a big enough pot, he could spend more of his time thinking about, and soliciting opinions on, the country's problems. (I don't think he'll drop the day job, since he's an author as well as a management consultant.)

Too often, Canadian politics is simplified to the resources available (read money). Oh, you have a problem? How much money do you need? Well, that'll force cutbacks elsewhere. I think the voters assume that solutions (but not money) grow on trees, and that with enough resources, we could solve all of Canada's problems. The fact is that we've thrown a lot of money at some problems for years, and they're still staring us in the face.

I've heard - CBC Radio One in the morning and evening is where I get most of my information, BTW - that the Green Party approach is frugal - fiscally conservative seems to be the vernacular - and thoughtful. That is, questioning the solutions that people take for granted, and trying to generate new ideas and discussions around them. This is obviously elusive, and it remains to be seen how it would work in practice, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt today.

So, finally, why reveal all this to the world? Well, to be honest, I still have a lot to learn about our political system and the problems that our "open society" is up against. (Dare I say I'm green?) :-) If you see flaws in my logic, have relevant information I'm not considering, or just want to share your point of view, add your comments at the end of this entry. (That goes for any entry, BTW, although I only just set up commenting this month. E-mail me about older entries; I'll probably create an new one based on your comment.)

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Fruits of the Immoral

The creators of The WB's Superstar USA were obviously part of the popular crowd growing up; either that, or they're acting out a perverted cycle of abuse. This show is as cruel and immoral as the school-yard to high-school game of letting the pariah hang out with the popular crowd to protract said loner's humiliation when their true status is finally revealed. It is heartless, and runs diametric to the spirit of the golden rule.

Close to a month ago, CBC's Ontario Today ran a phone-in on raising moral children. Unfortunately, I couldn't listen to the whole program - having to work in the afternoon 'n' all :-) - but what I heard got me thinking. What are the consequences of raising children who don't question why Sally is never invited to any birthday parties, or why Paul gets the snot beaten out of him every school day at 3:00 p.m.? What happens when the movers and shakers believe that that's life, and that those who are affected should suck it up and watch their backs so they're on the winning side next time?

Today, I think the answer is that shows like Superstar USA are produced, promoted and watched by millions of people. Is this a big deal? Not really, but I think it's a sign of things to come. One can only hope that the people behind the scenes don't see how this message feeds the fear of humiliation, putting the preservation of one's status - and one's self, ultimately - above all other considerations. The consequences of this are truly horrific when these people are asked to act morally, when many other lives hang in the balance. What will be going through their heads? Which outcome makes them look the best? It's scary... really scary.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The perfectly-legal, all-seeing eye

"We're at war," [Dennis R. Schrader, director of homeland security for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.,] said.

This blanket justification for building a regional, closed-circuit, video surveillance system in Baltimore raised my blogging brow, but it was Schrader's flawed logic that pushed me over the edge:
Cameras will only observe and record that which a police officer or private citizen could legally see.

Each camera will only observe and record what could be legally seen! The aggregate of every camera's observation is something that no one could physically see, and it is such a limitation that is taken into account when laws are written. Remove this limitation, and we can no longer talk about what is legal or illegal until the effected laws have been revisited.

This is one of the few things that's scarier than the huge databases of information being compiled these days: decision-makers who are oblivious to the power of data. (What else is scarier? Corporations owning these databases, but that's another entry.) What may seem innocuous to one person (e.g., seeing Joe walk out of some apartment complex), may be a critical piece in someone else's puzzle: the final correlation in a list of evidence that means Joe's screwin' around, or he's an alcoholic, or a homosexual, or suffering from Parkinson's disease... The list is endless, as is the list of what people could do with that information, including nothing. The point is, it's out of Joe's hands. His privacy is in jeopardy.

Saturday, June 05, 2004