Why am I anti-conservative, when many conservative financial ideals make sense?

untitled83 asked on my recent post about electoral projections:

I just have a quick question I’ve wanted to ask a strong liberal, or should i say a strong anti-conservative. I stumbled on your blog so here you go. Why is it so wrong to vote conservative. I work. I appreciate the effort of workers, of small businesses and of even large corporations. Even large corporations where small once. They worked hard and made there way to huge corporations which employ thousands of people. I don’t see anything wrong with them, or myself for that matter, wanting to keep the money we make as opposed to paying it in taxes.

If one believes its wrong to keep all that money and that it should be shared, then we should appeal to their morals and have them donate it. I prefer that than employing something like forced charity.

What are your thoughts on this? It doesn’t seem irrational to me. Why the strong anti-conservativeness?

As I said, these are excellent questions, and I find surprisingly little to disagree with in the assertions that untitled makes.

I do not see anything wrong with wanting to keep money earned. I do not see anything wrong with appealing to people’s better nature and asking that they donate what they have to spare to charity. I do not like the idea of forced charity. I do not like the idea of high taxes. I appreciate people who work hard, and in fact, I have such a work ethic that my blog (and home life) often suffers because of my inability to “switch off” and stop working for the company that pays my salary.

I understand a few things about the nature of a government “by the people”, and about the nature of corporations and big businesses, though, that colors what I’ve said. I’m not sure that everyone that votes big-C Conservative understands these things, in fact. I suspect many of these observations about both the government and corporations in general need to be pointed out, so I’ll try my best.
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Hey Elon: never mind Mars for now. Put us in a car first!

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, vows in this clip to put humans on Mars within 20 years. I’d love to know why this is his priority, given that Tesla has never had a profitable quarter and has sold less than a thousand cars. They recalled ~460 of them due to a backup 12v wire design flaw which caused a short and possibly a fire. They just started down the dark side of litigious behaviour, the evil temptation to which SCO succumbed when they decided to spuriously sue everyone and their dogs over Linux. And they really need to finish their plant in LA and start getting cars out the door for a low enough price that they start turning a real profitt.

Don’t get me wrong. I love any spunky little startup that plans on making it big riding the green wave into the future. But announcing pie-in-the-sky plans like this do nothing for any of their current projects and they simply act as hype generators outside the scope of what’s reasonable to expect from them.

Election projections for your riding; who to vote for to simply beat Cons

Canada’s election at the moment looks like a choice between another Conservative minority, or a Conservative majority government, unless everyone were to suddenly vote Liberal strategically. In Canada, one can gain a majority government (e.g., enough seats to mean your party basically wins every parliamentary motion) with a mere 35% of the popular vote with our current political breakdown. That means that with a minority government, it’s well possible that at least 65% of the country disagrees with the party in power. In the case of Conservatives vs. Everyone Else, that is assuredly true. The Conservative Party of Canada, since being created in a coalition between the Progressive Conservatives and the Reform TeaParty a few years ago, makes up the entirety of the right half of the political spectrum. The Liberals, NDP, Bloc and Greens all make up the left, with the only outlier that could possibly be called right-wing being the Bloc, whose prime motivating reason for existence is secession of Quebec from the rest of the country.

So we have a political climate today wherein the Right has unified into a coalition for the purpose of leading our country off a cliff (or more accurately, siphoning money from the pockets of the average Canadian and directly into the pockets of big businesses, as though Reaganomics ever worked for anyone!), and the only way to kick them out is to form some sort of coalition on the left. Well, the only way short of strategic voting, which really hurts when you don’t particularly like one of the alternatives.

If you’re willing to suck it up and swallow your pride in order to vote strategically for the sole purpose of tossing the bums out, and just need to know which party to vote for in your riding, here’s an excellent tool, wherein you can find out what the current projections are for your specific riding and therefore decide whether to vote strategically for the Libs, NDP or Bloc, depending.

Sorry, my loyal Green readers… they’re simply not competitive anyplace at the moment, even in Vancouver where they’re running double-digit candidates. However, if you want to vote for the competitive challenger in your riding, you can ask someone in a less competitive riding to vote for your first choice via PairVote.ca — that way your party doesn’t technically lose your vote, and you still get to make a difference in the more competitive race.

Or you could, you know, vote Conservative if you really want to. Or if you’re unmotivated, you can just let the Conservative in your riding win. You know, if you happen to think that the problem with Health Care is that we have TOO MUCH of it. Or that the economy would benefit most from CEOs pays increasing while normal folks’ wages stagnate. Or if you think they’re all just going to pull the same bullshit nonsense that the Conservatives actually have as party planks, and the other parties actively oppose. Whatever. It’s up to you, of course. I merely reserve the right to hate you for not doing whatever you can to stop the avowed party of privilege.

Vote, please. Your vote could very well mean the difference between us ending up with the same nonsense we’re already living in a Conservative minority, or much worse in a Conservative majority.

How strawman arguments and shitty authors undermine #atheism

I haven’t read anything by Anthony DeStefano aside from his anti-atheist screeds on various news journals like USA Today, but I have no doubt merely by looking through the title list that he is a man of deep conviction in that which he cannot see. He’s written a book for children called Little Star, all about how the baby Jesus is very tiny but is our Lord. He’s written a book for grown-up children about how awesome a place Heaven is. And he’s written a book about all those things you can’t see but that the Bible assures you are really really real. And since you know other people believe it, they must really really REALLY be real.

So today we have a Serious Author writing a Serious Article in a Serious Journal about how atheists are superstitious “Materialists” who are simply incapable of comprehending that the parts of this natural world that we haven’t figured out yet are actually impossible to decipher, because God wants it that way.

Of course, it’s not quite fair to say that atheists believe in nothing. They do believe in something — the philosophical theory known as Materialism, which states that the only thing that exists is matter; that all substances and all phenomena in the universe are purely physical.

What nonsense.

We’re off to a running start.
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First impressions on the iPhone 4

Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen, I’ve gone over to the dark side. I now own a piece of Apple tech. Okay, it’s not my first, where I got donated an old eMac to play with a while back (the ones that blow capacitors out all the time — meaning it was a time bomb anyway). But don’t worry, I won’t be sucking Steve Jobs’ ween any time soon. My choice for hardware upgrade for work was between yet another shitty Blackberry, or an iPhone — and given that one can do VPN and one can’t, my choice was obvious. The fact that I had to pay for my hardware upgrade, making it technically *my* phone, just on work’s data plan, means I did directly contribute to Apple’s bottom line personally. But we’ll let that fact slide for the time being.

The Retina display is very nice, though it’s certainly not all it’s cracked up to be in one respect — giving the extra pixels to the phone’s display smooths edges and does in fact make “pixellation” completely disappear, but it does not in any way add to the amount of information you can see on the screen at a time. I’ve found myself very regularly holding the phone disquietingly close to my face, to the point where Jodi told me once not to arch my head so far forward lest I give myself some sort of neck injury. It’s certainly brighter than my old Blackberry Curve 8320. I can tell mostly because when heading to bed, I often use my phone as a flashlight after having turned out all the other lights in the house.

The big killer app is VPN access, as I said earlier. Apparently you can connect a Blackberry to a VPN, but as far as I can tell, only in situations where it’s associated with a Blackberry Enterprise Server. We don’t have one at our workplace, using BIS exclusively, so I’ve never had the option of connecting my older BBs to VPN. Besides, without some way to connect to a server either via SSH or RDP, it would be useless to connect it anyway. That said, the iPhone works splendidly with our VPN solution. I’ve already installed five or six free RDP and VNC apps and gotten connected to my work desktop over 3G, and it’s surprisingly responsive. I can already tell though that, as I expected prior to obtaining this piece of tech kit, the onscreen keyboard is going to take some getting used to. If I can’t find an SSH app to connect to some of my servers, I’ll have to use puTTY on my work Windows box, and I will likely go blind between trying to see what’s going on in the SSH window and getting used to the keyboard that’s simply laid out differently than my muscle memory expects. In landscape mode, the keyboard is way wider spaced than I am used to, and in portrait mode, very slightly smaller-spaced. But not by much. Just enough that sometimes when I try to hit L, I hit backspace instead. SSH will be a real bitch on this phone. I shouldn’t complain though — at least now I’m capable of doing it at all! Meaning no longer will I be expected to dash home to get to my laptop in order to put out a fire when I’m out somewhere. Now I just lose points with my friends and colleagues as I put out those same fires from my phone while ignoring them!

The mail app that comes stock with iOS 4 is absolute crap compared even to older Blackberry tech, e.g. the 7250 I had strapped to my hip for three years prior to my last upgrade. The only good thing it’s got going for it is the ability to connect to Exchange, meaning I can set up my personal Gmail with push capability. It can’t “mark all as read” though, nor can it be filtered as to what comes to the phone. And the worst part is, you can’t set the return address to something other than the default for the account, meaning I can’t set my work domain’s email address and check the external server I have my work forwarded to, without exposing to the people to whom I email that external mail server’s domain. I’ve downloaded a third-party app that appears to have those capabilities and more, by the name of ibisMail, though it cost $3.99. I’m not used to paying for software if it’s not a video game, honestly. Being a Linux guy, I’m used to being the beneficiary of other geeks’ largesse in releasing their software under the GPL. I don’t know that I’ll adjust to that particular paradigm.

My cat, and my legs. Combining the two traditional first picture paradigms into one shot thats the picture equivalent of Hello World.

The camera functions are exceptional for a phone — easily better than any legitimate phone I’ve ever bought. Now, granted, I’m no Ben Zvan, but still. The cost for the hardware upgrade is probably slightly less than the last camera I bought, and you can’t exactly connect to an RDP server with a camera. The front-facing camera is slightly grainy in house lights at night, but I haven’t tried out Skype with it yet to see how it works. If Skype can even do it — I suspect Apple’s keeping the camera functions locked down for Facetime users only. Oh well. We’ll see how it works. This IS just a first impression post after all, right?

Compared to the Blackberry 8320, the iPhone 4 is leaps and bounds ahead in terms of usability. But that’s like saying a sandwich is leaps and bounds ahead in nutritional value to a slightly slimy rock. It’s simply not a fair comparison to make.

On being frustrated with skeptics’ lack of empathy for outgroups

I love Juniper Shoemaker’s writings. I don’t read her blog at My Fair Scientist nearly as often as I want, given that she’s a very sporadic blogger, but when she blogs, she blogs hard. Juniper, you’ll remember, is in a relationship with DuWayne Brayton, foul-mouthed firebrand of the blogosphere, and she was involved in Jodi’s proposal. She’s also deep into a biochemistry degree, coming from an English background (ENGLISH MAJORS RULE! *ahem*), and she’s doing amazingly well — but seems to be feeling lousy about it for some reason.

No one understands that I tend to fixate on examples of racism against black/brown people only because most of the stereotyping I’m personally subjected to has to do with my being half-black. My need to express my anger over racism against blacks isn’t some sort of hypocritical sanction of bigotry against numerous other groups of people, including gays and lesbians and whites. Nor is it a “liberal” call for the government to violate people’s right to free speech. It’s me giving voice to my experience. It’s the product of a great deal of repressed fury over the years. It’s my painful disappointment in the predominantly white skeptics’ and atheists’ cliques who disingenuously use examples of blacks denigrating gays and lesbians to excuse their own unexamined prejudices against and caricatures of blacks. It’s my exhaustion over constantly having to encounter the defensive, reflexive, burningly self-righteous resistance to sympathizing with a perspective such as mine. I’m surrounded by an abject lack of introspection. I’m sick, sick, sick and damn tired of feeling invisible. Who wants to feel invisible? Who wants to feel worthless?

Certainly not me. And I certainly never intend to make anyone feel worthless, no matter how much invective I might spit at their beliefs. It makes me quite mad on her behalf that she’s been mistreated the way she has, but it heartens me that she can vent as well as she has. You rock, Juniper. Don’t forget that.

Also, Stephanie linked her first. Credit where credit’s due, for being pointed to Juniper’s new blog post. :)

It’s incredibly easy to make an informed vote May 2nd.

In case you’re unaware, we’re having an election up here in the Great White North. Pretty well everyone I’ve talked to around these parts, however, doesn’t seem to care enough to actually vote. Or, alternately, they feel that they aren’t informed enough to make a proper decision. The funny thing is, with the internet, it’s never been easier — elections are no longer about whose commercials to trust, or worse, whose name you see most often on roadside signs.

If you’re like me, and you like being able to download a document and search for key words and phrases (e.g., science, climate change, agriculture, or taxes), the major political parties have all released platform documents for this election cycle, roughly ordered from right (small-C conservative) to left (small-L liberal):

Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)
Bloc Quebecois
Liberal Party
New Democratic Party (NDP)
Green Party

Or, you could take a visual “word cloud” tour of the platforms to see what words are mentioned the most in each. That’s an extraordinarily quick way to tour the parties’ priorities.

Something you might notice is that all these PDFs are English. That’s my preferred language, and the language I blog in, though the party websites have French versions of each if you care to seek them out.

If you’re not interested in slogging through several 200-page PDF files to search for specific topics (though, honestly, Ctrl-F in your PDF reader does NOT take that long to do!), you can always take a political quiz developed in and a mainstay of Europe’s electoral process, hosted at the CBC. It’s a very brief but surprisingly thorough overview of the parties’ platforms and, for a complete political novice, as long as you answer honestly, you’ll get an accurate assessment of the party that will most closely represent your political beliefs. It’s a damn sight better than not voting, or blindly voting for whomever someone suggests you vote for out of their own loyalties.

Believe me, you can skip whatever show you’re watching now — it’ll be in reruns soon enough. Or do it during a commercial while you’re watching the hockey game. You’re sure to be pelted with political advertisements anyway — might as well figure out which ones you like based on what they’re actually about, not what they say about each other!

You should already have your voter registration cards, if you’ve registered during a previous election cycle. If you haven’t, you can register at the polls, just bring appropriate ID. From Elections Canada:

Early Voting Opportunities for Electors

OTTAWA, Thursday, April 14, 2011

  • The federal election takes place on May 2, 2011, and Elections Canada offers electors many different ways and times to vote. With the potential for flooding in some parts of the country this spring, electors in certain communities may wish to plan ahead and vote early.
  • If you believe that election day will not be a convenient time for you to vote, you can vote early:
    • at advance polls on April 22 (Friday), April 23 (Saturday) or April 25 (Monday)
    • by mail or in person at any local Elections Canada office by special ballot anytime before election day (you need to be registered before 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26); to find the location of your local Elections Canada office, check our Web site or call 1-800-463-6868
  • To vote, you must be on the list of electors for the 41st general election. Any eligible elector not yet on the list can provide authorized identification and register prior to voting at advance polls, by special ballot or on election day.
  • More information is available at www.elections.ca in the “How do I vote – what are my options?” section or by calling 1-800-463-6868.

“We recognize that some Canadians may be unsure of whether voting on election day will be possible for them. It may be easier for some electors to plan ahead and cast their ballot early. Elections Canada wants to ensure that all electors are aware of their options when it comes to deciding when and how they will vote,” says Chief Electoral Officer of Canada Marc Mayrand.

Vote. Shape your world.

Elections Canada is an independent body set up by Parliament.

Information:
Elections Canada Media Relations
1-877-877-9515
or at www.elections.ca

I know it might seem like a chore. But maintaining a functional democracy is a privilege, one that some other countries don’t enjoy. If you’d prefer living in a dictatorship, where you don’t have to worry about politics, then by all means move to Sudan or Libya. There you’ll just have to watch out for government men coming after you.

And of course, since I’m a blogger and I’m biased, I’d be remiss if I avoided opining. I won’t tell you who I’m voting for, but I can tell you for sure who and what I’m voting against. And I can tell you why I’ll never vote for the traditional recipient of “protest votes”.

Baby penguin being tickled.

If ever there was a video deserving of going viral, this is it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4K3MXY5ITxQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnxGZ9jeuP8

(Yes, I should be working on a post about the election. I know.)

Looks like the one I posted wasn’t the original. Everyone! Update your links to this one instead!

I <3 ticklish penguin.

Update: Its name is Cookie! Awwwww!

Shit Harper Did

Something I’ve noticed coming off of the debates here in Canada, is that people have been primarily thinking Stephen Harper looked “Prime Ministerial” or “hit it out of the park” — two phrases that, I swear, were used by three separate Conservative callers to the post debate show. That kind of coincidence seriously makes me think someone fed them some talking points, given that it used to always be “presidential” despite Canada having a Prime Minister. This is the first electoral cycle I’ve heard “Prime Ministerial.” And we’re, of course, famous primarily for baseball here in Canada.

Along comes a brilliant idea, though! A slickly designed website has taken it upon themselves to say, “let’s air all of Stephen Harper’s dirty laundry so that people stop getting the false impression that the person willing to lie calmly on camera looked Prime Ministerial.” So they did. This page is the result:

Follow @shitharperdid on Twitter, and visit their website. Great site, and great idea. All backed with links to the evidence for the allegations, if you don’t believe it.

As the page says, there are better choices. No matter who you decide to vote for, as long as it’s not Conservative, Harper will not get the Conservative majority he so desperately desires. Please vote on (or before) May 2nd. It won’t take THAT long, and you’ll get a clap on the back from me.