Category Archives: government

Voting, or, Pushing a Whale

whale rescue

from Barotrauma, © Capt. David Williams

A recent Freakonomics podcast explained that economists do not vote, because, according to Steve Levitt, “there never has been, and there never will be, a vote cast in a presidential election that could possibly be decisive.”

He’s wrong. Think of voting like “pushing a whale.” A whale* washes up on a beach. The townspeople collect, and determine that the whale can be saved if she is pushed back into the sea. And collectively they push, they shove, they haul. More people join, and eventually, there are enough hands pushing, and the whale is successfully returned to the water, where she swims off with a departing, appreciative flap of her flukes.

No single person was decisive in saving the whale. But the whale could not have been saved without the effort of the minimum number of pushers required to move that whale.

When you vote, you are part of the group, working together to achieve a goal. Each person who joins in strengthens the effort. You are being decisive.

The difference between the whale and the election: while it’s clear when your collective is big enough to push the whale (it moves, or it doesn’t), you don’t know whether your single vote is necessary to bring victory to your candidate. Win or lose, you’ll never know**. But does that mean you should sit there on a beach chair like Steve Levitt, eating chicken wings, watching everyone else do the work? Absolutely not. In fact, not knowing if your effort is needed makes your vote even more important.

So head on down to that whale, and push, dammit! Vote!

*For you conservatives who don’t give a shit about the whale, try replacing “whale” with something you love, e.g., “oil tanker.”

**Disregard polls. They only predict the outcome insomuch as they make people enact it.

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Stephen Harper refuses to blow

In many jurisdictions, refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test invokes the same charges as those imposed for those who do submit and are found to have exceeded the legal blood alcohol limit. Logically, refusal implies guilt.

Similarly, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives’ failure to vigorously and openly cooperate with the Robocall scandal investigation can only be viewed as an admission of guilt. Democracy is not a partisan issue. Governments – frequently conservative governments – vehemently expound on the sanctity of democracy when rallying for wars against dictatorships, but frequently attempt to undermine democracy in their own nations, as we are currently seeing in many southern United States such as Florida.

Stephen Harper – you can either embrace this opportunity to exonerate you and your party, or you can admit guilt.

And these fools want to govern?

PC Flyer

Wood u voat 4 PCs?

In my mailbox today I found this flyer from the Ontario PC party. At the upper right is a quote, attributed to The Trentonian, May 13, 2011: “[Tim Hudak] said a PC government will give families, seniors and small business owners relief on hydro bills and by pulling the plug on mandatory smart meters.” Yes, read it again. And again. Clearly there’s a rogue “and” in there. Fine, The Trentonian needs to hire a proofreader…there are a lot of words in a newspaper. But for the PC party to quote this, verbatim, on a flyer with about 75 words on it, is appalling. These losers want to manage our energy systems, our hospitals, our education system? If you can’t handle the language on a fucking flyer, how are you going to manage a province of thirteen million people?

Oh, but it’s just one little error, Bri. Don’t be so hard on these folks. Okay, wait, there’s more. Sure, they’re quibbles, but look how it ads up. This is one fucking piece of paper, and these dweebs can’t get it right:

  • I looked up the article in The Trentonian. It’s from May 12th, not May 13th. Details, details.
  • One of the bullet points reads: Remove the ‘Debt Retirement Charge”. That’s right; Tim is saving money by making the first quotation mark a single, while showing his extravagance by closing with a double. (An interesting editorial conundrum: how to present that quote in text? Enclosed in single quotes, I would’ve used doubles; if it ran with doubles, I’d use singles. But one of each? Agh!)
  • And how about that zinger in the upper left: “Unplug smart meters, [Tim] Hudak says.” It’s a quote from the Toronto Sun, nothing more than a paraphrase of what Hudak said. There’s no value judgment here, no endorsement by the paper, nothing at all remarkable about it. Just a thing Tim said, and the Sun mentioned. Thanks for showing up, Tim, here’s your prize!

Putting aside an unreasonable expectation that my government be smart enough to write a sentence, all these promises to reduce the cost of electricity are perilous. If you look at this page from the Ministry of Energy, some of the debt that charge is paying accumulated because the Harris PC government kept electricity rates artificially low.  Maybe it’s just me, but if something like electricity is expensive to produce, it should be expensive to consume…it’s the only way to get people to conserve. And isn’t that what Conservatives should be advocating?

Government as racketeer

Harper's Cover, Aug 2011

A racketeer, writes the historian Charles Tilly, is one who “creates a threat and then charges for its reduction.” When governments…create threats and then offer citizens protection from those threats, the state is running a protection racket… Through…conjured threats, the public is treated to a simulation of a real terrorist attack, yet at each post-arrest press conference is reassured that the police were there every step of the way, and that… “there was never any danger.”

from “To Catch a Terrorist,” by Petra Bartosiewicz, Harper’s, August 2011