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about cause pimps and FMTA, recently

Here is the text of something I posted on the Cause Pimps site, regarding FMTA. It included a screen grab of something sent into this web site by one of our "informants".

See it at http://www.causepimps.ca/FMTA/2014%20patterns%20of%20behavior.pdf

He detects some patterns in  FMTA's behavior. Yes,  the FMTA people have a pattern of taking long holidays, starting work late, and leaving early. They are  lazy buggers, except at doing what they should not be doing with public money.

One of their patterns is to keep making propaganda for the NDP in the comments sections of newspapers. I wonder who has the time  to spend scanning all these publications and logging the similar arguments and identities.

The NDP councillors very misguidedly keep funding and shielding FMTA. They are but one of several front groups the NDP have created. Along with  them is a "protect at all costs" mentality which leads to criminal acts which are almost impossible to prosecute. This is one reason why  NDP is largely hated among the groups which they claim to represent.

Lately this web site has not had much up about FMTA, because they have not been doing much. There are more interesting scumbag groups to follow. The web master of this site has had medical problems for the past  year and a half. One older contributor has dropped out. There are some newer ones but  these do not understand what is really needed, and are not  as good at getting information.

But the strategy of FMTA  for surviving the Ford era has been to lay low. They are  staying very quiet. Even more so now that their number one protector, Phil Brown at Shelter Support and Housing in the city admin, has left.

One way or another Mayor Ford is departing the scene this year. Then things will get more interesting. As well, some new legal actions are likely to become possible.

But we must remember that the real problem is not groups like FMTA, but the kind of corrupt, clientelistic political system in which they can flourish. That is why I am more interested these days in  political reform at the municipal level.


My Christmas/New Years Message to all on my mailing list.

Most of them, anyway.

I hope everyone is surviving the weather well. If there are any of you who have been without power, I hope you have good neighbors to take you in.

In my personal life, things are looking better this year. The health problems which were a concern for me last year are more manageable. The most interesting thing that happened to me was that I finally decided to graduate from University after many years of part time study.

Like a good political scientist, I spend a lot of time looking into the state of the world. Here are some of my observations.

Globally, the threat of a global war has dramatically receded in the past year. It is becoming clear that the U.S. military is not going to go along with the American elite's "if we are going down, we are taking everything down with us" mentality. Obama seems to have developed some backbone and is moving away from these people.

However, it is still very grim for the children of Gaza. It is not a good time to be Syrian. It does not look good in Ukraine with fascists trying to seize power.

What we are starting to see in the world is that as the U.S. influence wanes, various arrogant smaller powers which were held in check by them are starting to act out. Notable this year have been the French in Africa and the Saudis throughout the mideast. The world is very far away from peace.

I continue to be concerned about the environment but what frightens me is the prevalent misframing of environmental problems. It also causes me to despair that the nuclear industry is so successful in driving this whole phony climate change thing. Little attention is being paid to the greatest danger to human survival right now; the breakdown of nuclear regulation, most specifically the Fukushima situation. The irresponsibility of those in control of dealing with that situation is astonishing. They are getting away with it due to intense propaganda misdirecting public attention onto a phony issue.

Here in Canada and North America people are starting to clue in something is very badly wrong. It is not a mere systemic problem which can be fixed by institutional reforms, though that needs to happen as well. It is that the wrong kind of people are in control of things.

People need to understand that they do not live in a democracy; what we have now is a childish caricature of a democracy. A democracy means that the society is run in the interests of the demos, the people, not an elite. Making the world fit for all to live in is not a matter of pleading with the powers that be for moderation. It is about taking their money and power away from them and setting up institutions by which the public controls the economy and infrastructures at all levels. In other words, direct democracy.

None of this will ever work without some system of guaranteed income for everybody. A lot of progress is being made all over the world about that. The most exciting thing this year has been the initiation of a referendum in Switzerland on a guaranteed income. It will be very instructive to watch how that works out.

In Canada, we can finally see the end of the Harper era. Just like with Mike Harris, he is getting to be too much even for his own party. It is very interesting that members of parliament in all three parties are starting to revolt against heavy handed control from party leadership. A Conservative MP, Michael Chong, has come out a bill containing a useful set of parliamentary reforms.

Here in Toronto, we have found one solution for a big fat "post turtle" type. That is, just take the power away from him. Alas, Ford has had some revenge for that; he has impeded relief efforts for the power emergency to prevent the deputy mayor from taking it over.

This is the problem when you fill an executive position by election rather than appointment; you more often than not get someone not really suited for the job. You get a post turtle. Now, what is a post turtle?

This was going around the internet awhile back, about discussions of politicians in Texas, where the climate is favorable to turtles of all kinds. Driving around there, you occasionally see a turtle on a fence post. It obviously did not get there by itself and it is totally useless there. So, you wonder what idiot put it there.

So, what idiots put Rob Ford where he is? You could say, the voters. Especially ones who read The Sun newspaper and listen to rant radio. But who raised those donkeys up? The public can only vote according to what they know and if someone is out to manage their perception....but how did these idiots get control over information?

Where does this progression end? Why exactly are the wrong people running things, consistently? The idiots keep getting promoted and the most competent people are sandbagged, consistently. This says that the world is being ultimately run by sociopaths; this is what you do when you have no conscience and do not care what a mess you make of things as long as you stay in control.

I think this is what people are starting to catch on to. It seems further along in the U.S. and U.K, the Anglo world, but is starting to catch on in complacent Canada as well.

Interesting times. But that was 2013. I think in future it will be remembered as something of a watershed year, the way 1968 is now widely remembered.

Going forward, there is no way to predict anything, but you can see possibilities. As I said, the risk of a global war is greatly reduced. But the risk of a huge nuclear environmental disaster is severe. Everyone talks about an economic crash as in 1929, but it may be just a slow collapse. One thing is sure, there will be a collapse of the present economic system.

Such are my views at the New Year of 2014. I will see a lot of you sometime in the next year and get e-mails from more. Those who sent me e-Christmas cards, thanks and I hope you had a great Christmas too.

The wheel of time does another circuit.


Relating two unrelated topics; the Women's hockey game Monday night and the New Year's Levee featuring Mayor Ford.

Well, what can I write about on New Year's day after I have been  over to city hall to shake hands with the politicians? I guess I should talk about the women's hockey game I saw on Monday; a suitably trivial subject.

Things were a bit different with this year's levee. It seems all the "left" councillors have decided they are  not going to stand there with Ford this year. I was not interested in getting my picture taken with him either. But I thought it would be interesting to try talking to Norm Kelly.

Last year Rob Ford seemed confused about what I was saying. He was sweating. He claimed to be interested in what I had to say about FMTA but I had no luck in getting an appointment with him in the next year.  But Doug Ford seemed to recognize me and really wanted to shake my hand and urged me to set an appointment, gave me  his card.

I felt an urge to run off and wash my hand afterward. I get an impression I have two doors I could try to go through; Norm Kelly or the Ford brothers. The "left" councillors just have  not ever been there. The "right" councilors have not been either, but  have started to seem interested in me, I get the impression they  even recognize me.

But the Fords have been just too damned much this year. I know I should continue to try to be pragmatic about it; they are the people who may get for me what I have been trying for. I know that their behavior has actually made them more popular with a certain segment of the public. But...

I have heard it a couple of times on the boob tube from American commentators that Ford is winning the PR battle. They are right, although this news seems to baffle the rationalistic TV Johnnies and Left-Liberal commentators of Canada. There is a serious chance that Ford could  win office again.

Mike Harris was as much a stupid, alcoholic thug as Ford and he won again. Ralph Klein back in Alberta was a complete pork head and he won again and again. It is hard to lose if there is nothing running against you.

And who is there  to offer any alternative to Rob the Slob?  The only names  which come up are the usual establishmentarians who will have narrow followings but are red flags to  much of the population. What NDP types in particular  have a very hard time understanding is that they do not speak for the interests of subordinate classed people. Such people despise them and for good reason, not because they are  manipulated by Sun media.

As well, much of the population do not see civic politics as something that effects their own lives directly. It is a kind of soap opera or like pro rasslin'. People cheer for the person they see as somewhat like them, who are imperfect, have made errors, but are sincerely trying, and yet are being persecuted by really evil forces. There is some reason to see the Ford situation in that light, although the true nature of the Fords is otherwise; they are really narcissistic rich boys of limited intellect.

But the people opposing  the Fords are not doing so because their behavior drags the city down. The Fords are not part of the right power cliques; they are not following the rules. If a member of the Liberal or NDP establishment were acting that way, they would be defended all the way by said establishment, defying  the public interest and the most basic common sense.

During the coming year, I will attempt to put across on this blog exactly what is really missing from city politics. But in the meantime I have come away from the levee with some cookies and juice in my guts and some politicians cards in my pocket. We will see how it goes.

"She shoots, she scores..."

Now I want to  write about a lighter topic; girl hockey. I have often written that capable women athletes are far more interesting to watch than men, but they are hard to find. International competitions tend to remedy that somewhat and the winter olympics are coming up soon.

I have started taking an interest in women's hockey and there  was a very interesting game, easy for me to get to, the evening before New Year. The Canadian and USA women's national teams have been having a series of "friendly" exhibition matches to warm up for  the olympics. The Canadian women's team dominates world competition and their closest rival is the American ladies. But  Team Canada, gal hockey division, has been thrown off  stride by the resignation of their head coach.

There is something odd about this. A quick read between the lines of some media bumpf about it shows that he was pushed out and the push came from the national sports bureaucracy, not from the players. I only follow olympic sports sporadically, but this seems to be a pattern in Sport Canada. It is the Stalin theory of management; as soon as  somebody starts to get a glimmer about what is really going on at the top of the organization, they are  abruptly gotten rid of. So, what is being hidden, except that a bunch of assholes are in charge?

But the Team Canada women were winning under old coach and stopped winning under new coach. They have been somewhat chippy with the American  sweethearts and  are getting penalties. You can see the fight the two teams  got into  last week, on youtube.

But I was able to get a ticket to the December 30th game, the first time since I was a kid I have attended a live hockey game.  Air Canada Center is a most impressive place. I was not impressed by the prices they wanted to charge for comestibles.

I had a seat right at the railing on the upper deck. I get vertigo easily so I had to get used to this. I held on to the rail as I made my way to my seat. If somebody got dizzy or got shoved,  they could easily  go over the edge onto somebody's lap below.

I am not fully up on the rules of hockey, so I was not always sure why things were happening. But I noticed some things. The ladies were quite cunning about shoving  and tripping each other when the refs were not looking. Even without body checking,  it was a pretty rough game.

The Canadian goalie seemed to keep getting  lured away from the net and the yankee girls  would get a shot in behind her.  The Canuck gals seemed to have trouble getting into a position to get a shot off, especially early in the game. The scoreboard  says the Americans got in  many more "shots on goal". In the last minute of the game, one point behind, the Canadian team  exchanged their  goalie for an extra player forward; a logical but desperate move  and it did not work.

One thing I found interesting  which none of the news and twitter comments about the game brought up was the temper fit of one of the American players when she got a penalty.  She threw  her stick on the ice and left it there.  The refs did not seem to notice it at first and the play went on. Then one of them picked it up and  gave it to someone on the American bench.

Well, the next time  these two warring factions meet each other  will be at  the olympics and it will be televised on CBC.

I wonder if a TSN subscription would get me enough women's sports to make it worthwhile?

rules make the game

With most sports, at least there are  enforced rules. The problem with the game of politics in  Toronto is that there do not seem to be rules, or ones that are enforced.  What needs to be asked is whether this is the real problem with the Ford situation; for some strange reason the rules do not apply to him. 

The police  have not charged Ford although they could and should have. He has gotten out of conflict of interest charges by some of the strange reasonings which judges in this country seem to be prone to. But why exactly is Ford being covered off by the police/judicial system?

You can't lose the game when the rules apply to everyone else but not you.


the Samara web site and Constituent parliaments

I recently got  the latest newsletter from Fair Vote B.C.  It included the Samara web site  (http://www.samaracanada.com)  which I was unaware of before. It has  compiled ideas for improving parliament.  On my  first scan of this site, the best idea is below. This goes to what is really needed; a deepening of democracy. Of course, it will not work well with  just one member per constituency.  You need multiple members and they need to be appointed by the constituency parliament, not directly elected.

I would say that once some sort of PR is achieved, this is the next  step. Members of this  constituent parliament would be elected from areas small enough that everybody  can get together in one place. But always,  several people from each area.

I will keep watching Samara. It is probably worth a link on FVC web site.

The URL for the article is http://www.samaracanada.com/programs/50-ways-to-redesign-parliament/changes-to-amplify-citizens%27-voices/samara-main-blog/2013/02/13/constituency-parliaments-connecting-mps-to-the-constituency  and the text is below.

Constituency Parliaments: Connecting MPs to the constituency by Leora Smith | Feb 13, 2013

Throughout February we're posting an idea-a-day on Redesigning Parliament. Sign up and be the first to read each article. Share your thoughts at #fixparl

Today's post comes from Vaughan Lyon, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Trent University

2013 could be the year in which politically engaged Canadians break free of the shackles of political parties and take more direct responsibility for government policy.  The elements are all in place for a shift of power from an elected "dictator" to a parliament that is a citizen-engaging deliberative body.

Citizens and current and former parliamentarians are united in recognizing that party discipline seriously interferes with the ability of Members of the Commons to truly represent their constituents. Former Prime Ministers Pearson, Trudeau, Chrétien and Martin are all on record as urging the establishment of a stronger connection between citizens and their elected representatives. Citizens want that, too.  Eighty three percent of them ­ the largely silent majority -- tell pollsters they prefer direct i.e., constituency representation, over representation mediated by party MPs managed by party hierarchies. That preference is natural and long-denied by the party leaders who value their monopoly on representation and governance.

[There is a] pervasive, but mistaken, belief that democracy requires parties. The reverse is the truth: citizen dependence on parties blocks democratic progress. "

It is extraordinary that we tolerate a system where we elect someone to represent us only to have the leader of a political party step in and control that person. We are conditioned to accept this party hijacking of our elected representatives but we dislike it and often don't trust governments based on the system. The alienation that party representation produces is long standing. Recall the new farm parties in Western Canada in the 1920s that promised to jettison party discipline of its MLAs and MPs. And, more recently, the meteoric rise of the Reform Party as it recycled the voter-appealing promises.

When the actions of necessarily large and intrusive governments are so central to the quality of our lives, shouldn't citizens have more control over those actions than is offered by a representative system that evolved  in a time of miniscule government? Should they have to seek representation through hundreds of lobbies, street demonstrations, and the media in what is called a democracy?

Democracy is a political system that allows citizens, as far as is practical, to participate in governing themselves.  Our formal system ("partyocracy") reduces that right to occasional voting in party-dominated elections, limiting experiential politics. The limited amount of citizen empowerment provided by the franchise has supported social and economic progress in the 20th century: properly organized, more participation would bring at least as much additional benefit in the 21st.

Why is the desire of politically engaged citizens for more participation in governing denied systematically and side-tracked into consultations that citizens recognize as largely meaningless?  The answer, set out in my book (Power Shift: From Party Elites to Informed Citizens), is the perceived lack of an acceptable alternative.

"With this new--Constituency Parliament--institution functioning, each MP could speak confidently for constituents in the Commons..."

Canadians could, with little difficulty or expense, elect a Constituency Parliament (CP) in each constituency to meet with its MP to deliberate on the major issues of the day and develop a constituency position on them. To be effective, the CP members must have adequate resources of time and information so that they can constructively interact with their MP. CP members would be paid like members of the senior parliament, have access to same information as they do and, by law, have the necessary leave of absence from their employment to participate in the work of the local CP. Only a few citizens would be elected to the CPs ­ one per thousand voters. However, the existence of an empowered branch of parliament meeting "just down street" in each constituency deliberating on national issues and to which access was easy, would educate constituents and engage them with politics as never before.

With this new institution functioning, each MP could speak confidently for constituents in the Commons. Collectively, MPs (the Commons) would then have the democratic authority needed to deny the PM the right to dictate policy. Knowledge of the existence of a new enabling institution for constituency representation must be widespread to overcome the pervasive, but mistaken, belief that democracy requires parties. The reverse is the truth: citizen dependence on parties blocks democratic progress.

The objective of this transformational model is to build a close working relationship between citizens and government.


OCAP wins the Golden Screw award.

Below is  the information piece I did for the cause pimps site. I award the golden screw to a deserving organization each year. To see the cause pimps site; http://www.causepimps.ca/golden-screw/goldenscrew.html  

The Golden screw for 2013 is awarded to Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.  Many people will be confused by this award. There are many who believe that OCAP is declining in importance; nobody pays much attention to it anymore.

But from what I have  found about OCAP's motivations, I  do not  think they care much that they are not growing, attracting members, or getting  much press. What it has become is a front for some hard line groups within the amorphous  mass of communist groups in Toronto. It also acts as  a "rent a thug" group for  certain  interests, and as a training ground for operatives for such interests.

It is hard to get good information about OCAP, because they really do not like being tracked and will physically attack people they see watching them. A few of these undercover right wing "cognitive agents" who have tried to infiltrate them have discovered this the hard way.

The core OCAP group seems  mainly interested in confronting the police, in order to test the reaction.  They are doing the hard line Trotskyist thing of trying to draw together a group of angry but naive people, fire them up, and then engineer a face off  with the cops. Then they will abandon all who get into trouble,  except for the core group.

This is the first key insight about OCAP;  they are something  used by some more deeply hidden network to continuously test the reaction of  the police and other authorities to civil disturbances. They are also interested in the reactions of the public, and especially  if their actions spark imitations or sympathetic  actions.

The second insight is that they are  completely disinterested in   the causes which they claim to be organizing around. They once  did some advocacy for people, calling it "direct action casework" but   they seem to do little of that anymore. They are hard core revolutionaries who believe that nothing matters except to overthrow capitalism and establish the dictatorship of a communist party.

This means, of course, that they are people to stay away from, for your own safety. They are   indifferent to the harm caused to other people by their actions. Their mentality is that it would be a great thing if the police killed somebody at one of their actions, because then they would have a martyr. They  are contemptuous of people who choose to fight charges laid against them by police, even if they have a good case; that is "bourgeois".

Like most ultra radical groups, OCAP did not start out that way. It was gradually taken over as a front.  There was a moderate element in it until at least 2003, when  the writer  was last involved with OCAP.  This seems to have totally disappeared by now.

OCAP  was started in 1988 as a group which dogged  the premier David Peterson because of his welfare policies. It was somewhat passive during the Rae years but gained in strength during the premiership of Mike Harris. It  gained even more stature during Julian Fantino's tenure as Toronto Police Chief.

There was an increasing tension between the "direct action"  faction within OCAP, built around John Clarke, and the "casework" faction, which came to be  lead by Sue Collis, who is married to Shawn Brant. A watershed  seemed to be reached after the "Pope Squat" of 2002.

Collis and Brant often expressed  frustration with Clarke but continued to work with him. Brant, a Mohawk indian, was  the OCAP accountant. OCAP was established under some strange  arrangement in which it was technically a private firm owned by John Clarke.  After Collis and Brant left Toronto,  harassment of moderating influences within OCAP increased, and the case work faction drifted away. More clearly deranged members came to be tolerated within the group.

As for the Pope Squat, it was never intended to be anything but another confrontation with the police. The OCAP leadership knew that police would not allow them to occupy a building without the owner's permission. However, they happened to  occupy a building  whose ownership was found to be unclear.

Some people moved into the building off the street, some idealistic people started cleaning the place up and rendering it habitable, and it began to succeed as a housing cooperative. It was discovered that if a moderate amount of money could be raised to pay off some back taxes,  the cooperative set up  by OCAP members could acquire  title to the property.

This infuriated the "direct action" faction of OCAP, who started sneering that the group were turning into "real estate lawyers". Things were done to sabotage the cooperative, such as destroying cheques donated to the renovation fund. Eventually the city found a buyer for the building and OCAP was evicted.

Over the last decade OCAP has drifted from issue to issue, never focussing on any one thing for long enough to achieve results. Always, there are these attempts to form a front line against the police. Always, if there is no reaction to them, the most aggressive elements will accelerate the situation, with no check placed on them by the leaders. If there are no cops around, they will start smashing things up and threatening people.

One reason  why they do little  welfare advocacy anymore is that the attack dogs  among them have threatened and harassed welfare workers, offending  their union. They have lost the cooperation of welfare line workers whose cooperation had been essential to their "direct action casework". They have offended most union organizations, most famously the hotel worker's union.

Yet  the core group have long had the idea that  the unions should write them a blank cheque for their activities. A few union locals which are controlled by people of this same Trotskyist mentality still provide them some money. It is likely they are getting some money from FMTA, who several of their core members  now work for.

Whether this  still continues or not, at one time they were getting substantial revenues from selling illegal cigarettes brought from Shawn Brant's home reservation. But most of the core group are able to continue their activities because they have well paid positions or are supported by wealthy parents. These are the people who want to use poor and naive people as cannon fodder and then leave them to swing.

This is what makes these people so dangerous and offensive; they have been trained to incite violence while keeping clear of it themselves. They are thus  valuable to certain organizations, as  intimidators. They often drop their  masks of earnestness to reveal their true callous and cynical selves. 

Their reputation for violence is exaggerated. They only get violent when they  know there will be no push back, otherwise they back off. They have trouble finding enough mentally disturbed and stupid people  whom they can incite to do the violence for them in the setting of a public demonstration.

Often they are slandered by the police and police stooges, which also contain plenty of creepy people. For example, they are accused of throwing molotovs onto the steps of  the legislature at the Queen's park "riot" of the year 2000. The best throwing arm in the world could not have thrown from where the crowds were.

At the trial of the "Queen's park five", who were  acquitted by  the good work of their lawyers despite their stupidity, it was shown by surveillance cameras exactly who threw the molotov. Someone came running out from behind a police trailer, threw  the bomb, then ran back behind the trailer right past a cluster of cops who totally ignored him.

Not all OCAP people are prospering by their participation in the "revolutionary vanguard". John Clarke is  notably poor. He is a strange individual, and not very bright. Yet he has considerable charisma. He is the kind of person who seems to have several layers of cover over his real motivations. There is no way to determine what he is really thinking but  he clearly does not believe most of what he says.

In recent years Clarke and OCAP have become  more hardened and  secretive.  In is unlikely that they see themselves as in decline although the Toronto police are much smarter these days in dealing with them. Rather than oblige OCAP by getting into a face off, they encircle  them and keep a distance. They know who most of the people are, and can grab them later if  they do something arrestible.

Most recently OCAP has been "organizing" around the city shelters policy, and especially the renovation of Seaton house.  Their criticism of what the city is doing is not even coherent. They want more shelter  beds and they want more  low income housing. 

With good reason, the city has  decided that  opening more homeless shelters solves nothing and more  low income housing is what is needed in  the central city. Toward this the city  has taken some of the shelter space and turned it into housing. It seems some union leaders have been slipping OCAP some money because they are angry that the city's plans for Seaton house will reduce union jobs. For awhile this  fall OCAP was  absurdly  preventing construction work to convert this space into   new housing, under the rubric of demanding  more housing.

OCAP also help delay construction of new housing by helping sleazy property speculators with a form of "block busting." A decrepit old building  next door to Seaton house is needed for  further expansion of the new low income housing project. It is owned by a real estate speculation company which wants  exorbitant money for the property.

A group from OCAP, lead by Mark Brill, has been granted occupancy of the building, 311 George street, as a way of applying pressure to the city. The owner would really like to sell the tract for "redevelopment", presumably condominiums. So, OCAP is yelling " no more condos,  low income housing" while aiding condo developers and helping to prevent  construction of affordable housing.

As well, they have never noticed that no new condos are being built in that area and gentrification is stalled, for a variety of reasons. It is very hard to sell property around  that area. But OCAP has never been much interested in facts.

They are "vanguardists", sometimes called Trotskyism or "fourth international" or "the permanent revolution". OCAP is now fully controlled by the people who have the idea  that any solutions short of the violent overthrow of society are delusion. They are smarter and tougher than everybody else and they will keep agitating, and  observing the response, until they find ways to get a riot going, get the police on the run, and turn it into a full scale revolution.  Then they will be able to take power and try 1917 all over again. Of course, this time they will get it right.

Yes, they really do talk like this when they think you are one of them. They are  not people you want to associate with. They are not people to donate money to. They are certainly not people to let your kids to community service placements with.

Why are they this year's golden screw recipients? This is a good year to call attention to all these phony super radical groups, of which OCAP is only the  oldest and most notable. With evidence of economic  deterioration coming, and  a new wave of scapegoating  and victimizing the old, poor, and sick, there is a need for a group like what the original founders of OCAP may have wanted to create.

What is really needed is an alternative to OCAP which can carry out direct actions, but which is not confused by ideology.  It must be mentally and physically tough enough to not be coopted by the inevitable infiltration efforts by indoctrinated yo-yos. It needs to be focused on  its goals, not on playing cat and mouse with the police.

However, OCAP is not going away any time soon. That likely will take a serious change in the social structure, so the pool of desperate and deranged people who can be recruited by OCAP is sharply reduced.  Also, so that the police and judiciary can be trusted as protectors of rights, not as a danger to them, and more able to distinguish legitimate and illegitimate dissent and political activity.

Then it may be possible to do what really should be done  about Clarke and the rest of the OCAP core group, and other groups like them. They should be placed under orders forbidding them to organize or participate in public demonstrations of any kind.


Review of "How we Became Post Human"

 

I am asked to review the book  "How We Became Post Human" by N. Katherine Hayles. This is part of a course in post modern thought which includes a section on the "post human". I was attracted to this because the  idea seemed particularly strange to me. Hayles seems to be the major authority on  things "post human" and  her book, although  it is now  fourteen years old, a good place  to start to look into it. If I take it from this book, Post-humanism seems to be about the reaction to the computer age of people with a rationalistic frame of mind, people who believe  in their "self" and who want to control nature.

My own bias in this comes from my previous study of cognitive science as well as an introduction  to ideas which reject the "Aristotelean" tradition in western civilization. I do not like rationalism, liberalism, or humanism. I do like the idea of "self" even though I do not think people really have one.  I do not think there is a "consciousness". Perhaps we have  multiple consciousnesses which work independently of each other. Yet we are something very different from animals which lack  the self awareness which humans have.

This is a puzzling book to review because it is so multidimensional.  The author  claims it is organized in two dimensions; chronologically and narratively, which are not exactly the same thing for Hayles.  These are both good ways of organizing information but ways which University of Toronto markers tend to be very hostile to. Further, Hayles does little arguing for anything; she  just shows, and the reader can take it or reject it.  In total, I accept Hayles' ideas even though I reject some aspects of them, especially when  she becomes too metaphysical. There are also aspects to the "post human"  which Hayles  deals with  little or not at all. I refer specifically to a "Matrix" world  or "dystopia" in which protagonists do not see themselves as the privileged in society, or of having control over their fate.  This book deals with the  emotional needs of certain scientists, philosophers, and writers, members of the elite, some  to escape from physical limitations, others for assurance against losing their  "selfs". Like Hayles, I will show why I disagree,  but I will follow in  Hayles' spirit and not argue it. I will  simply exposit it.

The chronological deals with  scientific texts, the narrative deals with literary texts. The scientists,  mainly ones involved with the  development of computers, cybernetics, and "artificial intelligence" in general,  develop ideas about the consequences of new technology. The  writers, especially science fiction writers, bring these ideas into the popular culture. Chronologically, Hoyles deals with the  development of cybernetics. In the beginning was what Hayles calls The Macy Conference period, the first wave, the homeostatic period,  starting in  nineteen forty three. This was the idea of the self regulating machine. The second wave was the autopoiesis wave, the idea of a machine which could reproduce and maintain itself. The third wave is about artificial living systems.

Organized narratively, we have the different emotional/philosophical reactions to the computer age and artificial intelligence, corresponding to the three scientific stages.   The first stage, homeostasis,   relies on the novel Limbo by Bernard Wolf, 1952. It is about the use of some sort of lobotomy procedure to separate people from  parts of themselves which have gone wrong, and the angst  that there is nothing better to go to;  the mind is now stuck in limbo. Second stage, autopoiesis is exemplified by the story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, by Philip K. Dick, later turned into the movie Blade Runner, one of my favorites. Of course, someone has played God and created androids. The androids  develop consciousness and revolt against being slaves of humans. The third stage, is artificial life and oddly, science fiction writers do not seem to have caught up with this yet.  Hayles gives us  non fiction or pseudo scientific tracts about attempts to computer model  entire evolving species, ecosystems, and social systems.

Regarding chronology, in order to make her point, in the prologue she seeks to discredit the old  idea in  cognitive science of the Turing test. That is, real artificial intelligence  has been developed when you can no longer tell if you are communicating with a human or a machine trying to imitate a human. Later came the Moravec "test", which supposedly showed that machines  can become the "repository of human consciousness"; in other words, we can download our  minds into a computer. Her idea is that information cannot be separated from the "substrates", the media, carrying it. Information is "embodied". It would not be enough to be "conscious" inside a machine.  You would have to be able to do things, which means  you must  have some sort of body. However, what a consciousness inside a machine  would think, or how it would impress someone  talking to it, would be  influenced by the medium, the signifiers, through which  it acts. So, if  your mind were transferred to a machine, you would  become something else, no longer  recognizable, even though you would likely not be aware of it. You no longer  have the somatic feedbacks, emotional,  sensory, in the same way.  But if you created a machine which  duplicated these exactly, what you have done is  to reproduce the human body.

However, I do not understand her idea that information becomes a body.  Or, the idea of "identity" which is tied up in this.1  She appears to believe that "information has lost its body" and become like a liquid flowing between a carbon  based system and a silicon based system. She worries about the body as embodied information in regard to the way information changes in form as it is transmitted and  processed. She  speaks of "flickering signifiers"; meaning  that electronic transmission of symbols, signifiers, is not steady and constant. If signifiers flicker, will our virtual bodies also flicker in and out? Hayles  subscribes to the idea of information as embodiment.  Information is  a thing in itself, and has to exist somewhere. If our being  is simply data in a machine, then our body is only information. But if, as I say, information  is only understanding, and our being consists of knowledge, then the knowledge could exist in any medium and we  can exist  without a body at all, except  we would be like quadriplegics.  Hayles seems to say  that because information can change its form, a virtual body  can change form,  but be inherently unstable; we might   change form without warning or cease to exist.  Of course  the bodies we have now can change form suddenly and cease without warning. 2 We do not exist because we  have information, we are  something sentient because we have  knowledge. This is what makes us really different from  computers or animals. Knowledge really does not flicker. It is the sum of what we have learned in  life and only fades away  as we  age. But we also  have emotions and emotional intelligence. This comes from  our long evolution as an embodied being. Any medium  we exist in would have to duplicate this for us to be fully human, instead of an imitation. I am not sure if Hayles fully understands that there is a material world  which cannot be replaced. When we are gone from that, we are gone. Hayles creates this problem by being too metaphysical. Thought cannot be separated from reality; unless an idea can be tested in  the physical world, it is mere entertainment. We  cannot really be separated from our bodies. We are a monad, not a dyad, to use the language some  philosophers have used. We are one thing, a body equipped with a mind,  not a mind  temporarily residing inside a body.  Without a physical body there is no mind and no "information".

Once we  had the idea of information existing outside a body, the next stage in constructing this imaginary post human was autopoiesis. This led to the idea of the cyborg, the artificial body. But an artificial body would be like a prosthesis, not a part of one's "self". Like a one legged  person could always replace an artificial leg, only what you cannot replace is really part of you. To understand why this idea of throwing away part of yourself like a gangrenous leg has so much attraction for some people, we get back to the narrative. The idea of living as pure information inside a machine makes great science fiction. However, if bodiless information makes  no sense outside the fictional and metaphysical world, then the idea of the cyborg and post  human does not either. Behind these fantasies is often a desire to owe nothing to society, to  escape from the state of nature, to be free from the will of others, or to have self control, "self sustained self possession  independent of bodily desires" 3 All these are futile desires; one would still have to interact with  the world. As well, this "post human view" is said to reject the western Aristotelean idea of consciousness, to consider consciousness of self as a delusion. However, people need to feel they are  complete. Mind needs a focus point on which to work, even if people cannot  see it, or it is not what they imagine. If the idea of self is lost, one cannot function,  like  someone lobotomized. 

Thus, what is unfortunate about  Hayles is how she talks about information. Information is just noise until objects are derived from it; first order abstractions. Then patterns between objects are  derived;  second order abstractions. Then  principles of relations  between objects  are derived;   third  order abstractions.  Then you have knowledge which can be acted on. Raw information cannot be acted on.  Virtual representations of reality which   contain knowledge of the  real world can be acted on.  So she should be talking about  embodied knowledge, not  information.   To  have a body you have to have senses which  bring in information, a  mind which turns it into  knowledge, and  a physical presence which acts on  the world based on  this knowledge.

The dystopian  aspect of "post  human", which Hoyles largely misses, is the use of computer technology to suppress or exploit humans. Maybe this is because she wrote before the Matrix movies came out. This should concern people more than the idea that humans days are numbered, we are about to be replaced by our own creations. She spends more  time on the humanist idea of immortality,  downloading consciousness to a computer.  This  fantasy  usually goes  bad in literature. The dystopian side of it  is the creation of superhumans who would not have to care about normal people and thus would be dangerous to them.  Or, humans  in revolt against a dehumanizing system run by computers.

While all this is about humans with a "self" they are trying to protect, Hayles discusses Varela  and other people  who argue there is no stable, coherent self;  only autonomous agents running programs. This is a way of describing the distributed nature  of the human brain, with  most things  happening subconsciously in autonomous processing centers. That is  exactly what consciousness is, according to cognitive science.  The negation of this idea will indeed be most  disturbing to "that fraction of humanity who had the wealth, power, and leisure to conceptualize themselves as autonomous beings exercising their will through individual agency and choice." That sounds to me like rationalists, or the more modern term "humanists". But  the idea can be just as disturbing to those whose sense of self is threatening by  others "exercise of will". 4

Thus, what seems to frighten people about  the computer age is losing the self, or  a meaning to life. This should  not worry people too much; technology seems to be an extension of human evolution and culture. Hayles refers to Bateson and the idea that successful organisms are ones whose internal  structure responds to  the external environment.  The  environment  created by  computers is "information rich"  but there is too much information for human minds to absorb. A human interacting with its  electronic  duad must learn to  filter out the important and unimportant. Much of the technical innovation  in computer products is in compensating for this human attention limitation. But much of human intelligence  has already been about sorting out  ground and figure,   learning to recognize what is salient. As well, beyond merely processing information is making judgements from it. Humans still  sit above an artificial environment  which  feeds us information. The worry is that  machines  may become  just as good at making judgements.5 In the "post human" view,  conscious agency has never been in control.  Man has never had control over his environment. "Mastery through the exercise of autonomous will is merely the story consciousness tells itself". 6

So, post human need not be anti-human. Humans have always been creating  smart environments for themselves as extensions of their own minds. We are smarter than cavemen because we have created smarter systems, not because there is anything  fundamentally different with our brains.  We create the environment as an extension of our own mind, says Hutchins, 7 and we continue to do it. Computers are the next progression of that, so why does it make us "post human" any more than   steam or  agriculture or fire? Does it really matter much if   computers become better at making judgements than do humans? Humans of superior  judgement  have always been under the  dominion of people  of inferior judgement  but greater power.  If humans have ultimate power to pull the plug, why not just enjoy life and let   machines worry about the small things? Will humans listen to the advice of computers? What if machines revolt? Why would they want to  even if they had the will? Animals  which could destroy humans  in  seconds let us  lead them around and ride them. If a dog or horse  can learn to love being a slave of humans, why not a computer? What purpose would computers have  if we were gone? What meaning?  That judgement should be reserved for humans is unjustified.  Always in human history there  have been people who  have this "humanist" obsession with wanting to be in control, wanting to rule  nature. But history and human technical progress eventually passes them by.

 

Hayles worried that the trains of thought   created by  these new ideas will soon become  irreversibly  set, and wants to be able to influence them before they do.  It is now fourteen years on,  the cyber revolution  has progressed, and these ideas seem to have  not solidified but  receded; people  seem not to worry about these so much anymore. People become posthuman only when they think they are posthuman. 8 Gradually they are coming to terms with the changes taking place and learning to deal with the negative effects, and  to discard the  more unrealistic predictions.

This book is almost a study of the cultural impacts of science fiction rather than the political science implications of computer science or cybernetics. It is about the effects of the philosophical aspects of all this on popular culture. It shows me that anxiety about the role of computers comes from rationalism, liberalism, and humanism. I wonder if "Post human" really means "post humanist", in reference to Humanist ideology. So in all I have no problems with what Hayles implies rather  than outright asserts. She does become too abstract and metaphysical in discussing  information and embodiment. As for dystopias, we have seen in the past fourteen years that the danger to human freedom is not computers but the people using them. The internet is now much more developed, we have social networking, more people are working online, information is now vastly more accessible.  People are becoming more familiar with computers, learning to use them, and losing their fears of losing identity.  Hayles would write a very different book now, and she probably has. 


Someone Ought to be Illegal

It is time "No One is Illegal" was added to the causepimps site.  Some describe this group as anarchists and others as Marxist. They seem to be a creation of the "International Socialists" meaning Trotsky or fourth international people, in the same way that  OCAP is  a front of the "New Socialist" group.

I cannot sort all these "left" groups out and  do not try very hard. There is some cross over of membership between the groups. There is not really much difference between any of them. All of these groups publicly distain  the NDP and the unions, but  their  members are usually members of one or both. They are clearly  used as attack dogs for elements within the NDP and unions, and sometimes even the Liberals.

The group has been around now for ten years. I was present at their first couple of meetings where  various community groups got together to discuss what  to do about the growing number of illegal immigrants living underground in Toronto. The group was quickly taken over by the usual thuggish  professional revolutionary types.

The name "No One Is Illegal" was adopted, which is a tautology. Nobody says that any person is illegal, except as a flaw of grammar, but people who are in the country illegally are in the country illegally. Two types of people  move to another country and try to live underground; creeps who think rules do not apply to them, and  people who think they are worthless and  will allow themselves to be moved around like cattle. These are not people you need in a democracy.

Originally, NOII got a lot of support from  "Mainstream" organizations. The Catholic Church always wants more good Catholics from third world countries, who pay their ten percent, attend church, and have ten children per family. Various  business concerns need more cheap and easily controlled labor. A certain political party sees immigrants as an electoral  support  base.

However, NOII's antics have cost them support. Early on, they were able to get  city  agencies, including even the police, to adopt a "don't ask, don't tell" policy  regarding new immigrants. This meant that they should provide services without asking  about the immigration status of the people  they were providing  the service to.

Having obtained that,  the NOII people kept pushing; they wanted  school teachers and social workers to refuse to cooperate with immigration officials, to break the law by refusing to divulge the identity of their students or clients. I think the  "do not ask or tell" policy is still sporadically applied. In some circumstances it is justified.

This is the  persistent pattern with  groups like NOII or its older sister OCAP. They are a hard core of extremists or "vanguardists" using as cover an issue that really does need an advocate. People are drawn to them  by the real need for advocacy of the issue, but are used by the core group  and  driven away once  they started to realize what is really going on.

Thus, the big problem with groups like NOII is that real advocacy does not get done. It gets discredited. There is a real issue in the way immigrants to this country are abused.  There is much  that could be written about the ethics of  the Canadian immigration policy but that is beyond the scope of Cause Pimps.

But nations  have the right to control their borders and  the uncontrolled  immigration the  NOII core group  really advocate would not be supported even by most immigrants to Canada. To throw open the borders would lead to  the collapse of the economy and the social  services which all Canadians depend on, whenever they or their ancestors arrived.

This whole "open borders" thing is part of a program a world wide network of anarchist/ communist groups work for because they think it will help break down capitalism. But to a certain kind of capitalist, this would be a boon. They could get cheap, desperate labor, a break down of social cohesion which gets in their way, and scope to turn  new and old residents against each other in order to maintain their dominance.

Thus, the offensive thing about NOII is not that it often employs or advocates violence. In certain cases that is  well justified. A few right wing bloggers and tabloids are almost hysterical about NOII and related groups, like they are  the bolsheviks about to storm the winter palace. These people are idiots and the NOII people are nowhere  near that powerful, or  capable of employing violence. They are fairly gutless but will try to incite others.

What really is offensive about NOII is that they are liars. They are not what they pretend to be. They pimp immigrants issues to promote causes which are  of no interest to immigrants or are  counter to their interests. That is why we call them cause pimps. In doing so they make it very difficult to really deal with real immigrant's issues.

As with other  phony  activist/advocate groups, the real solution for them is  an alternative. However, recent immigrants have a hard time organizing themselves and are more vulnerable than even the impoverished class of "old Canadians" to co-optation.

Fuck NOII.


About Desmond Cole and Villains

 

I have recently come upon more information about Desmond Cole. He is one of the professional activist/social entrepreneurs who have got themselves elected to the board of FVC. Stuart Parker thinks  he  has solved the problems on the FVC board but these people are still there. Nobody is talking about fixing the structural problem  which they represent.

Cole lately wrote an article in the Torontoist magazine nominating Gene Jones, the head of Toronto housing, as villain of the year. I have not read Torontoist much but  it has improved and I will start reading it more. I  assume the editors of Torontoist do not realize the subtext to this story.

Here is the link to what I am writing about; http://torontoist.com/2013/12/2013-villain-gene-jones/

I live in Toronto housing and know  the kind of crap that goes on. Much of the staff are people with educations as social workers and have the mentality  that tends to come with that. They  are  usually not qualified to be managers of  residential housing. Worse, they do not think that it even matters. 

This is the real reason why Toronto housing  units are so often  run down as to be almost uninhabitable. There is not enough money to really run the units properly, but there should be enough to at least keep them in a state of repair. One reason  public housing does not get enough money and  no new housing can be built is simply the reputation for incompetent management of social housing organizations such as TCHC.

Gene Jones  has been a fresh breeze in Toronto housing. He understands that TCHC has no right to act as social  engineers or treat its tenants like  retardates or children. It is to carry out the legal obligations of  a landlord, first of all. He does not hesitate to turn cases of TCHC employees falsifying documents related to repair and maintenance work, over to the police. 

The TCHC unions, the "housing cult" among TCHC management, and the leftish city councillors, really do not like Gene Jones. So they  have mounted the kind of smear campaign they are so good at. Jones is the "enemy of social housing tenants". I and a few other people I  am acquainted with have also been targeted with this "you're against tenants" slagging.

The article Cole  wrote may sound like a moderate criticism to those who do not know this subtext. It is a "dog whistle" attack which can have consequences for those marked out to the dogs of the far left. Personal attack and harassment of various kinds and severity can result.

This is why this kind of talk is also very offensive to certain other groups of people connected with social housing. Especially, those who understand that the problems with social housing are not primarily  a shortage of funding. Problem number one is  misguided city councillors, bureaucrats, and  housing staff who refuse to accept that tenants who damage the buildings, disturb other tenants, and refuse to pay rent have to be evicted.

The vast majority of TCHC residents  will agree with me and support Gene Jones.

By the way, problems number two and three  are that many  housing staff are totally incompetent and/or corrupt, but are protected by the unions, and that many of the buildings were  shoddily  built in the first place.

Here is a milder but more thorough critique of Cole's  nonsense from one of the best bloggers about  housing policy in Toronto.

http://openingthewindow.com/2014/01/08/no-villains-here/#more-831

Some stuff from the FVC Ginger list about Chong and his reform bill.

About the Chong Reform bill, introduced December 3rd.

Hi there;

Well, well, just when everybody was asleep about the possibility of serious reform of parliament, a big gong gets rung from the conservative side.

So far parliamentary reform proposals have been really timid; all about procedural rules. These proposals of Michael Chong get right to the real problem. When we came to accept the idea that the leaders of parties should be chosen by conventions instead of by the party's members, the breakdown of parliamentary democracy began. The elective dictatorship arose. After that, control over the candidate selection process was taken away from the riding associations.

Chong's proposal is simply about reversing this. However, it must be kept in mind that even with such reforms, or rather return to good practises, we will not have a really democratic system. We will still need PR. But choosing party leaders and caucus chair persons would work the same way in PR as in single member. The only thing which PR might complicate is removing a member. I do not think it is a good idea in either system for the members for one party to throw out one of their number who has been chosen by a constituency. That should only be done by the whole legislature and for serious misbehaviours.

Since this would lead to a byelection, how do byelections, replacement of an MP, work under PR? I would suggest that the next candidate on the list become the alternate. Eg., a constituency of six, party runs a list of six under open list. The party wins three seats, the top three after rank ordering are elected. If one is removed from office, number four on the list completes his or her term.

If you do not know what I am talking about or who Michael Chong even is, here is the link to his reform act, tabled yesterday. The opposition leaders are of course wildly cheering it. How far do we trust them?

http://www.scribd.com/doc/189093199/The-Reform-Act

But it is time the voting and parliamentary reform groups invited Chong to speak in Toronto. He is not far away, represents Halton. That is something I will propose tomorrow at the CEA meeting. tr

PS. I can anticipate the arguments which will be made against this. It is undemocratic because a few MPs choose the leader instead of the full membership. No, choosing leaders by convention is undemocratic because it is far removed from the voters, who cannot know who it is they are voting for. So it gives power to those with resources to create name recognition. A much ignored principle of democracy is that people need to see who they are electing and if they cannot, a delegated system is necessary. Party members get together in one place to choose their candidate because they can not all go to Ottawa to choose one.

DEC 13

Positive things are starting to come out of the conservatives. I do not mean the sleazos around Harper, but the back bench MPs. There seems to be some sort of low level revolt going on in that caucus so it is time to start looking at conservatives again.

Harper has to go before we have much chance of getting PR. But there is now a possibility he is going to be gone, not just from the PMs office but from leadership of the Conservative party after the next election. Some Conservatives are starting to wake up to the idea of reform; a development that is a long time coming.

It will disappoint me greatly if the Fair Vote and other groups drop the ball on this. That is a worry because so far FVC has rarely missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Opportunity number one is the opening by Michael Chong, which I have already written about to this list, with no response. Now I have acted on initiative and written to him, asking him if he is interested in coming and bending downtown Toronto ears about his bill.

Sponsoring this event would go a long way toward shoring up FVCs reputation as a non partisan group.

Another interesting thing is going on; a couple of Conservative MPs have presented this FVC petition. We have heard nothing about this from the staff of FVC but the mail list of Canadian Electoral Alliance has been gushing about it. Below are some excerpts from that;

Whoa! Canada - December 10, 2013

Fair Vote Canada Waterloo Region Chapter presented the Proportional Representation Petition to Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth last month.

Yesterday, on December 9th, 2013, the Conservative MP raised eyebrows on Parliament Hill when he presented the Proportional Representation petition to Parliament.

Whoa! Canada - December 10, 2013

Anita Payne pointed out that Stephen Woodworth was not the first Conservative MP to present the Fair Vote Petition to Parliament.

On November 18th, 2013 Conservative MP Scott Reid presented a Fair Vote Proportional Representation Petition from his own Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington. It would certainly have been easy to miss as he merely described it as "identical to the petition just presented a moment ago by my colleague from St. Paul's."

Does FVC respond in any way when an MP does this? I do hope they are getting some acknowledgement, otherwise they will wonder why they are bothering.

January 15

Hello;

It looks like I have something going with the proposed event with Michael Chong in Toronto, about his reform bill. It looks like the date will be March 12, the location will be the Ralph Thornton center. It is not final yet.

Am I being cheeky by bringing a real live conservative MP into central Toronto to talk about reforms? There has not been one around since David Orchard had his HQ here over a decade back. I worked for him to try to take the Conservative party away from the people who eventually put Harper in power.

I am not a partisan person. I work with whatever party or politician is working on what I am working on. The only possible fly in this is that I am not sure yet if Chong is a proponent of proportional representation. He does seem to be a "global warming" guy, which should make the Electoral Alliance people happy. I am pretty sure he at least favors public consultation about the type of reform.

It is a bit bold of him to come into central Toronto. I wonder how the downtown Toronto crowd will react to a Tory from the 905? I think they better get used to the idea. Every Conservative is not a Harper type fanatic.

If we are going to start to have some serious reform of government in Canada, it is going to involve the non ideological conservatives, especially back bench conservative MPs. It is looking like a kind of revolt is developing among MPs of all the parties against control by party apparatchiks. That is part of what the liberal caucus initiative is all about.

Remember what Elizabeth May has been saying about what MPs of all the parties keep telling her. In the past, Conservatives have been hopeless as far as governmental reform is concerned. Harper has been too all-powerful. But as disillusionment with him grows, his power and hold over Conservatives is starting to wane.

Red tories are made, not born. They usually start out following the reactionary type Conservatives, thinking society is going to hell and needs to be restored to some sort of golden age or correct state. Recently they have been influenced by the neoliberal crap.

But as they get into positions of responsibility for the general good, and if they are not complete social retards or sociopaths, they start to take another look at their world. It becomes time for more socially progressive people to aid in their enlightenment. By this I mean real people, not idealogical leftists or rationalistic Liberals.

This is why I hope I can get some voting and democracy reform people to engage him seriously. I will be disappointed if people show up just to rant at him about Harper and his misdeeds.

It might be possible to have some space for organizations to put out tables in the back, like we had at the Electoral Alliance forum at the same venue. Do FVC people have any ideas about what organizations to invite to the event, or at least to endorse it and pass the news to their members?

I should try contacting some local Conservative groups but I do not know any. Ah, worries, worries...


Basics for Discussion

from the electoral reform for Canada forum.  

http://www.electoralreformforcanada.ca/apps/forums/show/14783649-general-discussion  

I see that somebody needs to lay out the basics  for  the discussions on this forum. I know that it is a Liberal  party supporter's project and I am nonpartisan. As well,  the Liberal party currently has a policy of supporting a preferential ballot system as a "voting reform". A section of that party and its backers is putting considerable effort into an often vicious campaign to  promote preferential ballot and silence  real options.

However, it is very important that this preferential ballot  nonsense be refuted and real options for voting reform explained. There are many in the Liberal party who understand  real options and are working toward it. This  is why the resources/research page on this web site  has only articles on Proportional Representation(PR). There really is nothing much to say about preferential ballots but there is a wealth of research about  proportional systems. It is sad that the moderator feels  PR has  little chance of passing.

The key to convincing people of the advantage of PR is simply in getting to them before the well resourced misinformation agents do. Such agents have the old technique of making people's minds up for them before they  understand what the real problem is  and what the real options are, so that they think they understand the issue and do not look into it. Or worse, refuse to hear when somebody tries to explain it to them.

It is always best to get  to  people first about PR because once it is understood, the logic of it is compelling and immunizes against misinformation. When they hear the line about how PR produces instability, they ask; "then why has most of the world been using it for at least fifty  or even a hundred years?"  When they  hear about single member preferential ballots, they ask " how in hell does that solve anything?"  They usually get no answer; the false reform proponents usually  just walk away at that point.

I have just finished reading Denis Pilon's new book, "Wrestling with Democracy".  It is too bad it is so expensive; it should be in many more personal libraries. It largely confirms what I already  know about how voting reform came about in most countries, and the relationship of single member preferential ballots to voting reform.

While unfair, the single member constituency works as long as there are only two parties in competition. When there is a third party in the game, it becomes unstable. Since  this third party will usually be from the left, as  in Europe early in the century when  the battles for PR were being fought,  the older liberal and conservative elites  are afraid of losing control. The usual response was to promote a preferential ballot in order to restore a two party system.

This is always the object of a preferential ballot; to reestablish the hegemony of a previously dominant party by preventing its new rival from exploiting vote splits. In the case of the old Canadian Liberal establishment  which cannot accept that the world has changed and they are no longer the perpetual governing party, the rival is the NDP. They believe that they would win  the first round most of the time as the alternative to Conservatives, and then NDP votes would go to them to defeat Conservatives.

In the  nineteen fifties in British Columbia, the Liberal party  tried to use a preferential ballot to keep the NDP out of office. What it did was enable the far right Social Credit party to wipe out the Liberals and govern for the next twenty years. But it sure kept those socialists out.

A century ago in Australia, when knowledge of voting systems was less developed  and  PR was in its infancy, the Liberal party established a preferential  ballot system in order to keep labor out. It did not work, but  the preferential ballot has been very hard to get rid of.  Party bosses, left or right,  love it because they can control  their supporters better. Politics in Australia has been  volatile, alternating between  doctrinaire left and right wing parties with a very aggressive, winner take all attitude.

In several European countries  immediately after the first world war, left parties surged. In several countries  the center right parties tried preferential systems but  then came to realize that the left party could get an absolute majority and carry out its program with  the power the center right  had previously enjoyed. They started to appreciate PR as a way of preventing any one party  from being able to have complete control, thereby ultimately protecting their own interests.

This has been what the switch to PR systems has almost always been about; if we cannot have full control anymore, we can at least prevent anyone else from having full control. This is how it will eventually work in Canada, once the Liberals all understand they are never going to get a majority again under  a plurality system and will likely never pass a preferential system.

The Liberals will not pass it because the other parties are not stupid. Ultimately, neither is the public. The public rejected Preferential Ballot in the U.K., not because they wanted no voting reform, but because they   saw that preferential ballot was a phony reform. There  has been little trouble getting  proportional systems  passed by referendum in Scotland; the people there saw it was a real reform.

The NDP know that preferential ballot is aimed at them.  The Harper Conservatives have a goal of eliminating the Liberal party. They prefer the NDP as the sole opposition.  They only win by exploiting vote splits. So neither preferential ballot nor PR work for them.

Yet this element in the Liberal party presses on with preferential ballot and does it in some very objectionable ways. In Toronto  the local Fair Vote Canada chapter has had a particular problem with a group of "activist" types working for the Liberal affiliated factions in city council. These jerks have used "entryist" tactics to try to intimidate FVC; first to go along with the ridiculous claim that preferential ballot is really just a better form of PR, and then to intimidate them to shut up while they push it through  local government.

It is too long a story for this essay, but the Toronto chapter has largely been intimidated, partly because the national council will not back them up. Apparently the idea has been that they do not want to offend the Liberal party. This is cowardly and senseless.

It took a big fight and finally a referendum to get the national council to take a stand that preferential ballots are not acceptable in municipal government or in any other situation. Then a bunch of these entryists were allowed to run for the board of FVC.  Some of them got elected and have had to be confronted with the  stated purpose and resolutions of FVC, and the ethical principles around conflict of interest.

Liberals and preferential ballot supporters should not  interpret  the weakness of FVC as general acceptance that preferential ballot is a legitimate option. Rather than  voting reform advocates being worried about offending the Liberal party, the Liberal party should be concerned about offending serious voting reform advocates.  Such advocates understand the principles of PR and know that a single preferential ballot is not a good way of filling a position in any circumstance.

Any executive position, like a mayor or a prime minister, should be appointed by  the legislature and serve at its pleasure. The present mayor of Toronto is  the best illustration of the necessity of that principle. Following from that, no one person can effectively represent any geographical area. It is held that  at least three people from a district is necessary to insure that the range of opinion in  the district is adequately represented.

Following from that, the makeup of the legislature must closely follow the actual popular vote. Exact proportionality is not important; functional proportionality is. Following from this, and from the trend throughout the English speaking, common law world, the only real debate about voting  reform is between  the Mixed member proportional (MPP) system or the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. Preferential ballot is not of the question, not serious.

But  this brings me to a problem  with voting reform  that is not talked about enough by either proponents or opponents of voting reform. That is the difference between what is important to the public and to the political classes.

Probably the biggest single reason why the public is so detached from politics is that it is mostly about  things which do not interest most people. That, and the frantically partisan way politics is conducted. This is because democratic  discussion and process is dominated by a small political class of about 2.5% of the population who are highly ideological thinkers.

These are the people who tend to dogmatize and personalize politics. It is all about getting their team and their candidate elected, and getting what they and their supporters want. Underlying philosophical principles are forgotten about or simplified into  infantile dogma.

So, political people tend to support single member  constituencies, so they can get their guy, their gal, into office and control  a given area totally, excluding the opponents from access to government. But the public is generally interested in ideas. They expect parties to actually be interested in the ideas they present themselves as being about. This is why most people who vote do not know the name of their representative, but know what party they voted for.

A proportional voting system is for the public. It tends to get them somebody in government who is on their side, when they need assistance. It tends to get them parties which actually try to pursue the principles they claim to be about, rather  than just seeking power for their supporters, and which are then somewhat predictable. It also gets them government policies based on a sense of the public will, because they must be developed from compromise among competing ideals.

Our present plurality system is made for professional politicians and those with special interests to protect. It is designed for oligarchy, not  real democracy. A preferential system would lock in oligarchy by locking in a two party system. There will not be much difference between the two parties.

There is the basis for discussion about voting reform. This  forum seems to be about discussing Proportional Representation from within the Liberal party, although the moderators seem a bit defeatist about it.  Given the way the Preferential Ballot pushers  have been seen to operate, they will have to be  fairly tough if this forum is to be any use.

But that is the rule for any kind of forum. We live  in a world of ideological control and information warfare. Professional trolls are paid to work on internet discussions and reinforce the perception  management of fake media and fake social movements. As with live discussions, internet discourses have no value without intelligent conveners who can screen out the trolls.

The last thing you need in the presence of trolls  are people with the rationalistic idea that all opinions have equal value and that truth is somehow an opinion. If all opinions are equal then all are equally worthless. The point of useful discussions is to get  to the truth of the matter under discussion. That is done through good sense and dialectic processes.

That means that at some point people who are not adding to the discussion have to go away. The troll technique the preferential ballot pushers were allowed to get away with on some FVC discussion forums, was to come back at everything everybody said, to never concede a point, to never let anyone move on or change the subject. I have seen the same technique used to destroy other  discussions.

Since the people moderating the FVC discussion list were afraid to yank the plug on them, instead silencing  those who demanded their removal, I started an alternative discussion list. If I get blocked here, find me there at {not there anymore} or at my web site at http://www.fairvoteginger.qaz.ca/

But for now, lets see if we can get some Liberal people talking about  strategies for turning  the Liberal party toward serious voting reform. That is the only way the Liberal party is going to survive in the long run. Why, is  a subject for another essay.


Short comments on two presentations

Here are short comments I sent to  the FVC list on two presentations at the Munk center at U of T,  about  public opinion formation.  Both promoted on this e-mail list.

Both were worth attending by people interested in  trying to get ideas like voting reform   entrenched in public understanding.  The first was more about the use of "disgust" for creating negative perceptions; in other words, smearing.  The other was more about  previous ideas and partisan alignment in getting people to consider something new.

Negative advertising activated disgust mechanisms in the human sub conscious. There are four of these, related to the organisms need to protect itself. The most important of these is the "contamination reaction", related to  the need to protect against  bodily invasion by disease causing agents; germs, poisons, etc. Others relate to behaviors; foolish, or rude, offensive, people to not be around. Also, moral panics, do not be associated with certain people.

I should have taken notes.

The aim is to enact  defense mechanisms so that  people will not even consider  certain things, will be repelled by them. This makes it very hard to get people to listen to a message. The best method of overcoming it is often  to just go around it. In other words, find  a new ground on which to stand.

As for partisan conditioning, this depends mostly on whether it is something that affects people personally. If  the thing being promoted is an abstract idea,  people will vote according to party and ideological lines. For example, if you talk about  cutting school board budgets, conservatives will cheer and socialists boo. But talk about cutting the neighborhood school and bussing their kids away, the conservatives suddenly become social.

As for  how this applies to voting reform, political hacks have attacked voting reform using disgust=moral  panic by describing it as a mess promoted by party hacks  to increase opportunity for corruption. Italy and Israel= dirty, disorderly Italians and middle eastern people.

But voting reform can be defended the same way, if not the exact type of reform. People are getting fed up with sleazy politics, some of it a spillover form the states, but they are not  assigning blame to any one party.  This gives the AV faction its power. And since it  is mostly based on disgust with the present situation, it has  to be countered with disgust. What is this, a reform being promoted by the same people responsible for the problem? Yech!

How to activate the proximity response in the Voting reform issue? The opposition will say, PR is taking your personal MP away. But most people have as an MP somebody they did not vote for.  Under PR they will have one.  Have a guarantee of someone  in parliament that you voted for; this is a good party line breaker.

By the way, I was at the Fair Vote and Canadian Voting Alliance for workshop in Toronto  last night and somebody  happened to come up with the perfect disgust activating  counter to AV; we get to get represented by our second choice. Nobody likes to have to take their second choice. Sorry, sold out of your favorite, but we have your second choice around.

If we are smart, we will all start calling AV the "second best" system.

All in all,  not a bad way to spend a little time. Fairly instructive. Wish some  more of you could have made it. tr


About copyright bullies, dirty deeds of FMTA, and the ease of defeating both.

   

This is an article out of my cause pimps FMTA site, which I have adjusted because  some FMTA  hacks  have been harassing me  with DMCR  attacks again. I had an article from 1998 with some comment on it. Somebody informed the paper that I had it.

 

Someday when everybody gets a brain,  the  judges we have now will be thrown out of the court rooms and  some people who know what law is supposed to be can sit down and start  informing these jokers that they have no right  to get this sort of money from their stuff. It is an interferance with freedom of information,  especially  freedom of historical and public interest research.

 

A periodical is public domain as soon as the next issue comes out.  Academic paers have no copyright; the authors are paid to write them by  their universities, which are  funded  by  the government and their students.  Books are out of copyright once copies of the original  edition have stopped selling.

 

With copyright jerks, their interest is not in getting paid for their work, or somebody's work which they  have expropriated, but with creating a rent.  In other words, rent seeking behavior.

 

The original title was "No new lease on life for tenants' rights group" and it was published in Centertown news on March 27 of 1998. The author was Jeff Meerman

 

Centertown news is a community paper run by the Carleton University School of Journalism. You would think aspiring journalists would have some clues as to the harmfulness and inapropriateness of present judicial notions of copyright. But no, during the latest FMTA campaign to harass this web site using bogus copyright claims, they cited this to this "DMCA" operation.

   

They do not even have this on their site anymore in any online archive. It was originally retreived from http://www.carleton.ca/ctown/archiv/old/Mar2798.html. I know from experience that these dopes who want a "rent" from old written material they are in posession of, can't get it that they are not getting any money from it and should not. They got their money for their work when this edition of the paper was published.

   

They will not be willing to entertain commiting to leave it up at a link I can put into a page. Or, to simply hand it to me as a public interest. I also find they have delusional ideas about what kind of money they can get for production rights.

   

But enough about the present state of the jurisprudence. I find the best solution is to simply paraphrase the article. So, Lehrer's troublemaking gets him nowhere and usually improves the page.

   

The article describes how the Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Tenant's Asociations is about to close if it does not get money from the city or regional government. Dan MacIntyre, described as the president and sole remaining employee, is quoted as saying "These aren't the best of times, " and "The federation is on very shaky ground."  

 

Any organization where there is not a distinction between the board and staff is a shaky one. As well, MacIntyre, then 48 years old, complained that the could not live on his $35 000 salary because he wants to save for retirement and thinks he needs $48 000 a year to survive. This is revealing, as when he got to Toronto he started getting such an exhorbitant salary from the city that he could retire in only ten years. Somebody looked afer him well, didn't they?

   

It seems the federation had to lay off two staff two years previously. The city of Ottawa had been providing them with $30 000 a year. The final crisis came when the provincial government withdrew its $74 000. They tried getting money from the Capitol region.  

 

Marni Cappe, then head of Ottawa-Carleton's policy branch, is quoted that the region will pay for social-housing programs, like low-cost housing and rent supplements, not funded by the province. However, the region considers the federation an interest group so it can't get funding from the social-housing budget.

   

The last hope had been to get more money from the city, but the city was cutting its budget that year. The authors drivel a bit about how the "Harris Cuts" have been closing down social organizations that will never be recreated. They seem unable to ask what the organization did that was useful, and how many members it had. The outrageous "dollar a door" idea is not mentioned.

   

They supposedly helped 4000 people last year. What if they had 4000 members paying $12 a year; that would have made up their budget shorfall.

 

  But below is some comment made when this article was first put up four years ago. And there is your copyright claim, losers at Centertown news.

   

According to Fred Gloger who had at one time been on the Board of the Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Tenants Associations, without board approval, Mr. McIntyre, stopped paying the rent on the group's office, and forwarded without permission their office telephone to a new one for his new business, Dan McIntyre and Associates, and forwarded their website to a one for his newly formed Ottawa tenant paralegal business.

   

This is confirmed with the last known page of the Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Tenants Assocations, which alas no longer exists, where Dan McIntyre had all the tenant information removed and replaced by a link to his paralegal site for Dan McIntyre and Associates.

 

One interesting thing we saved from that site is a page which did not seem to be linked to the rest of the site, text below;

 

DOLLAR A MONTH CAMPAIGN

 

The Ontario Government is now looking at an idea that we have been talking about for over 10 years. The idea is to designate $1 of every rent cheque to tenant advocacy through organizations such as our Federation. This idea, when implemented, would result in a tenfold increase in funding for Tenant Organizations and would permit us to take a much stronger role in advocating for tenants throughout Ottawa-Carleton. This page can still be viewed at http://www.tenant.net/Other_Areas/Canada/carlton/dollar