CAN politics

World Citizen

I’m currently a candidate for permanent residency in Canada.  It’ll be a while before the Canadian authorities make their decision, and then a bit longer while I come up with ~$500 that Canada likes to extract from its immigrants for the privilege of the legal right to remain even after their stay is approved, on top of a similar expense required to even apply.  I’ll have to sit for some sort of interview in between, most likely, so that an official fundamentally unqualified to make this determination can decide if my relationship to Ania is genuine.  I haven’t yet determined whether I’ll have to make that appearance while crossdressing, given that my legal paperwork is all under the old name, but signs point in that direction.  I’m still figuring out whether it’s a good idea to start moving on my legal name change now, or if that would complicate my application.  Immigrating while transgender is a dreadful experience overall.

Eventually, I’ll also have to renounce my US citizenship, because even having US citizenship is a liability for US citizens relocated long-term elsewhere.  The United States is unusual in two respects: it is illegal to enter the United States with a non-US passport if one is a US citizen, and the US extends its financial fingers into the doings of US citizens living abroad.  Much has been written about the annoyance that these rules impose on people even approaching middle-class, despite being ostensibly aimed at drawing back some money filched by jet-setting CEOs and parked elsewhere in the world.  Worse, because US citizenship is transmitted by birth to at least one American parent or on American soil, if I have children, anything in their names is also subject to US scrutiny and US taxes, when they’ll have no personal connection to “the old country” at all.  Relative poverty has kept me off of the IRS and Treasury Department’s radar, but I’ll still probably have to answer for my invisibility once my income becomes real.

(more…)

They’re Taking Your Money and Giving it to Your Boss’s Boss

The marketing campaign that made everyone fear deficits was a brilliant one. Politicians have been using that fear to fake economic policies ever since then, to the detriment of everyone. One of the favorite comparisons out there regarding the budget of any country is the one to the household budget. Different candidates wax poetic about the importance of living within one’s means and how the same rules must apply to a country and so forth and so on.

The idea of living within one’s means is one that often gets trotted out to “teach” poor people not to be poor, under the mistaken belief that the poverty is the fault of the people living within it.

Like any person actually living in poverty will tell you, it’s not really about not spending money you don’t have, but making sure that such expenses pay dividends. No one lives within their means, except for the very poor. For everyone else, there are credit cards, mortgages, financing, and so forth. All of which are examples of spending more than you make.

It’s the very poor, who don’t qualify for those loans, people on disability, on welfare, homeless people, who live entirely within their means because they don’t have the privilege of not doing that. Where the problem arises is that “within their means” does not equate to “while having the basic necessities needed for survival”.

(more…)

The Totally Biased Guide to Canadian Politics for my American, UK, and Aussie Friends

How it works:

Each city is divided into ridings based on populations, so smaller cities might make one riding, sparse rural territories might only have 1 MP, and each of the territories only has 1 (which is fucked up and is a slap of Native People). Each riding votes for a Member of Parliament (MP) who becomes the riding’s representative in the House of Commons. The party with the most MPs in the House of Commons has their party leader become the Prime Minister of Canada (get it, first minister). The party with the second highest number of MPs becomes the Official Opposition. If there are more opposition MPs than there are leadership party MPs then it is a minority government, if they have more than half the MPs in the House, then it is a majority government.

The Parties:

The Conservative Party of Canada:
Leader:
Stephen Harper (Douche King of Douche Mountain) aka Canada’s Bush.

For comparisons sake, this party is akin to the Republicans in America, and the Tories in the UK (in fact, we call them Tories here too), and from what I understand the Liberals in Australia. Just to make this extra confusing.

A little bit of history: The Conservative Party of Canada is actually a relatively new party made up of former right wing parties including the Canadian Alliance, the Reform Party, and the Progressive Conservatives. There has been a “Conservative” Party of Canada since the British were here so they kept the name for branding sake.

The current leader of the conservatives has been Prime Minister now for a decade and his tenure has been one of shifting the whole country into a recession, taking away people’s rights, and generally putting this country in the shitter. Oh and he committed election fraud. Multiple times.

The Liberal Party of Canada:
Leader:
Justin Trudeau (Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s Son, is overly fond of reminding people of that.)

Justin Trudeau wearing Buck Dewey's glasses and hear from Steven Universe, with the Caption I'm Trudeau's son.

Akin to the Democratic Party in the US, though I would compare them to Hillary Clinton Democrats shifted more right of late. Possibly similar to the Labor Party for Australia. He voted in favour of the controversial and messed up Bill C-51, which is akin to the US’s Patriot Act. He’s young and considered by some to be handsome. Basically high school Jock Legacy running for Daddy’s seat, and ironically he’s not the one who’s Bush… that would be Harper. This party used to be the left’s primary party of choice however in the last several years they’ve shifted to the right in an effort to go after the conservative’s base. The irony being that in doing so, they lost a lot of their support on the left.

There was some hope with Trudeau since his father was the Prime Minister responsible for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is akin to the Bill of Rights. But his vote for C-51 helps strip Canadians of a lot of those very same rights, no matter how much he might bring up his father in conversation.

The New Democratic Party of Canada
Leader:
Tom Mulcair

The NDP used to be considered the fringe left party, kind of like the kind of people who would want Bernie Sanders to run. During the last election, they replaced the Liberals as the official opposition which was kind of a coup. This year, they have a real chance of winning the election if the left can get adequately mobilized, kind of like how Bernie Sanders seems to have a chance now that people understand how much we need to shift towards better social policies.

Tom Mulcair lacks the charisma of the former NDP leader Jack Layton, but the NDP is also offering the only real alternative to Conservative Party policies, especially now that the liberals are catering to the conservative base by supporting scary bills like this one. The NDP does have a strong history on a lot of these issues.

The Green Party of Canada
Leader:
Elizabeth May

The Green Party in Canada is like the green party everywhere. Consistently the party that has the best environmental policies and seems to align well with most social policies. Invariably though they also seem to be more connected to woo policies including those like anti-vax movements which is seriously scary for immunosuppressed people like me.

Elizabeth May however is often discriminated against and not allowed to participate in any of the leadership debates. In the Maclean’s one, where she was, she came off a lot better than any of the other politicians, probably because as a woman she is used to being cut off by men and so knows how to be succinct. A lesson more politicians would do well to learn, perhaps by not talking for a while. Her history includes failing radically on issues relating to victim blaming, see also the Jian Ghomeshi Rape Case.

The Bloq Quebecois
Leader:
Gilles Ducceppe

Conceptually closest to the Scottish National Party. Their aim is essentially for Quebec to separate from Canada to become its own country. The support for this movement gains and recedes depending on what is going on at the time. Although they really only exist in Quebec, they have been the official opposition before since Quebec is a major population center in Canada. When that happened, Lucien Bouchard, who also was famous for losing his leg to Flesh-Eating Disease, made it party policy to only speak French in the House of Commons: a policy which is in place till this day.

They are relevant enough to mention.

The election is to be held on October 19, 2015. If Harper wins, I’m moving to New Zealand.

#MacDebate Final Impressions

Post Debate Thoughts:

‪#‎Harper‬ comes off completely disconnected from Canadians. I don’t think there is a more poignant example of this where when asked about changing away from first past the post he answered that Canadian’s don’t want that. The results of the Macleans poll was that 84% wanted it. There was a lot of double speak, like saying that a leader takes responsibility and that the senate scandal wasn’t his fault. Which is classic Harper: “I take responsibility by blaming someone else.” It’s what he did on the abortion bill, on the election fraud, on every single time his party was shown to me mismanaged and full of criminals.

‪#‎May‬ Had some great Zingers tonight and certainly represented herself well. Since she was often cut off quickly which helped make her sound more concise. However, I also cannot forget that when it comes to issues like sexual assault, May doesn’t side with women. I enjoyed the fact that she just seemed to be laughing and shaking her head at all the men there the whole time‪#‎lovemesomemisandry‬

‪#‎Mulcair‬ had his moments, and I think he presented himself fairly well. He pointed out both Trudeau’s and Harper’s hypocrisies. He made some good points. I think that while he lacks the charisma of Layton, he presents himself as an option. I hope that he continues the NDPs devotion to improving social policies including better funded welfare and disability programs so that people like me can stop living in crisis. Also I support wholeheartedly his promise to repeal C-51 which makes Canadians less safe not only from terrorism but from our own potentially tyrannical government. He could be stronger on environmental issues, but he is an improvement over the Libs and the Cons.

‪#‎Trudeau‬ sounded like a highschool polished jock running for class president. His awkwardness at the end of his closing remarks in not recognizing and sticking with a natural end point. He kind of reminds me of Buck Dewey from Steven Universe, ‪#‎ImMyFathersSon‬ We get it Justin. Protip, try not to mention that as much in the French debate. Also, anyone who thinks C-51 is a good idea is not someone I trust to make decisions.
‪#‎NoToTrudeau‬‪#‎YourFatherPutInTheCharterYouDontHonourHisMemoryByDestroyingit‬

Justin Trudeau wearing Buck Dewey's glasses and hear from Steven Universe, with the Caption I'm Trudeau's son.

A Canadian’s Reaction to the Terrorist Attack on AME

On June 17th, 2015, a white man entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, United States and killed 9 people. This was a targeted terrorist attack meant to strike fear into the black community. His choice of church was highly symbolic. The AME church in general is a famous denomination, but this church in particular is also steeped in civil rights history. It was here that community organizing took place dating back to before abolition. This church had been previously burned down by white supremacists, attacked and raided.

This choice of location was a reminder that even 150 years after slavery was abolished black people are still not welcome in the USA and are still treated as less than human.

Before he murdered these 9 people, the terrorist defended his actions in the name of protecting white women from the criminal advances of black men. The murder of black people in the name of protecting white women’s purity is an excuse that has a long racist history, and as a white woman I would like to join with others in saying #notinmyname.

(more…)

The Problem With Gay Marriage

There is an argument that crops up from time to time when you argue on matters of social justice on the internet. No matter the subject, at one point or another someone will say that this problem has already been solved because some specific thing has happened.

We no longer need feminism because men gave women the right to have jobs or have the vote.

We no longer need civil rights because white people gave people of colour the vote, and interracial marriage is allowed. Or because slavery is over.

We no longer need to worry about disability rights because the abled have made laws about accessibility and not discriminating.

(more…)

Marijuana Safer than Booze

Scientists confirm that marijuana, whether medical or recreational, is safer than both alcohol and tobacco. One of the considerations that went into this statement has to do with the lethal dose determinations.

When it comes to determining the danger of various drugs, there is a need to compare the lethal dose to the standard dose. How much do you need to get high, versus how much will kill you. One of the dangers of addiction with a chemical tolerance component, has to do with the fact that a higher tolerance means a higher consumption. In the case of drugs with a low ration of needed to get high to lethal dose, increased consumption can mean higher fatalities due to what people call overdose.

(more…)

Priorities, CFI-Ottawa, and How the Atheist Movement Failed Me

The Centre for Inquiry is the third atheist group whose events I’ve attended, after the then-new Secular Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics for Reason, Knowledge, and Science (SHAARKS) in Miami and the Humanist Association of Ottawa.  I enjoyed both sets, because I urgently needed a space in my life where being an atheist was a given and not something I had to carefully guard on pain of losing friends.  One set I had to abandon when I graduated from the University of Miami and, promptly, left town; the other I set aside because it seemed geared to an older crowd and because my preternatural awkwardness kept me from feeling at home there.

The one that stuck, the one that made me want to come back and get involved and watch the Internet for their upcoming events and eat and drink with its members in pubs—that was the Centre for Inquiry.  It was the Centre for Inquiry that seemed to hit on that magic combination of activism, public events, and community that could and did engross me.  I put effort into this organization.  I wrote web site content and provided public presentations.  Ania put far more, aggressively promoting CFI-Ottawa’s biggest venture ever despite being effectively sabotaged by CFI-Canada’s then-executive director and known MRA Justin Trottier.  We sought sponsors, cultivated relationships with other organizations, promoted other events, attended protests, designed media, and handed out flyers at Gay Pride.

We stuck around through the protracted process of getting Justin Trottier removed from his management role in the national organization, and then his de facto replacement Michael Payton, both for what seemed to veer madly from sheer incompetence to active antipathy toward CFI-Ottawa and its events.  We stuck around through the growing pains of an organization still finding its voice and its priorities. Like so many other corners of the atheosphere, the Centre for Inquiry still had to decide whether it would be an inclusive and welcoming space for people marginalized elsewhere for reasons other than their atheism, or whether it would perpetuate the same inequalities and claim reason and science as their justification.  It looked, for all intents and purposes, to be an enthusiastic CFI-Ottawa executive body against a complacent membership and a complacent-at-best national organization, and that was a battle we could win.
That’s when I began noticing cracks.

(more…)

Shifty Lines: The Western Arctic

Earth is a huge planet, far larger and impossibly more complicated than any fantasy realm.  Its vastness is often concealed from us, particularly in the way that common map projections section the Pacific Ocean and stretch and warp Asia.  One region has the opposite problem—common maps make it look far larger and wider than it is.  The Arctic Ocean is the world’s smallest, surrounded by landmasses so close together that, in colder times, every one of them was linked by a single mass of ice.  The eastern Arctic is defined by Russia steamrolling over a multiplicity of indigenous peoples speaking languages from numerous families.  The western Arctic, by contrast, is the story of two specific tribes expanding, colliding, and deciding how best to maneuver around one another: the Norse and the Inuit.

And because North American map-readers can’t seem to make heads or tails of that one huge island next to Canada in particular, it’s worth a look.

Map of North Atlantic showing Greenland, Ellesmere Island, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the surrounding area.

(more…)

One School System

One of the triumphs of the human race was the invention of public schools.  With the spread of public school systems around the world, no longer would the children of farmers and blacksmiths receive only the training their parents could provide or afford to hire.  No longer would learning for learning’s sake be firmly closed to those without independent wealth or unexpected patronage.  The lot of all people was no longer simply to learn a trade and be content with that much knowledge.  The expectation arose that people would enter adulthood with a basic understanding of art, literature, music, mathematics, history, and many experimental sciences.  Later revisions and additions would make it possible for children to complete schooling with a basic familiarity with classical Western philosophy and levels of math and science that would previously have required connections in august institutions like Oxford University.

A lot of societal changes presaged this shift in human society.  In the west in particular, the Industrial Revolution and subsequent urbanization made the propagation of farmhands and apprentices far less necessary, created a middle class that expected more for its offspring, and created a demand for educated professionals that could not be fulfilled in other ways.  The history here is massive and convoluted enough that almost anything can be linked to this social revolution with enough effort, but that history is not at issue here.

This revolution also had a dramatic effect on the role of religion in society.  Religious organizations have a long history as the core of educational systems.  In societies lacking public schools, it is usually not secular charities and benefactors that fill the gap and provide basic learning to the masses, but clergy.  In countries where public systems exist in urban areas but have not yet penetrated into less developed regions, churches and mosques often fill the gap.  In places where ethnic minorities have separate infrastructure, church and school functions are often deeply intertwined as part of what makes these groups distinct from the surrounding society.  This has given and continues to give religious institutions enormous power to shape each succeeding generation of students…dramatically reduced in societies that have managed to implement secular public school systems.  Secularism, when it works, cuts religion out of the system; socialism makes the system available to anyone, preventing religious organizations from keeping their niche by being more easily accessible.

This has enabled the public school system to become much more than it was.  As a shared time of growth and experience for the majority of a country’s youth, school became where people acquired their sense of what it means to be a citizen of their country and the heritor of its culture.  It also became the primary means by which people would learn how our world functions.  School serves many purposes, depending on the priorities of those running them and the pundit consulted: babysitting to make the workforce possible, training future workers for basic jobs, breeding moral and upright citizens, or even conferring advantages not shared by those outside the system.  But that function—bringing to the next generation an understanding of our place in the universe, how our universe functions, and how to gain further understanding—is incredibly important, and becomes more so as more and more available futures demand such understanding.

(more…)