jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
[livejournal.com profile] garething asks, on FB, "What, in your view, is the job of government?"

I'm answering here because I think it would make a good post. And also because if I answer directly in Facebook, I'll need to type this out on my phone, but here I can use a proper typewriter, because reasons.

First, broadly, government is there to protect people's rights. This can include protection from enemies within (criminals) and without (invading armies). As I am fairly liberal, I also think it requires protection from actions that, while not criminal, are in everyone's best interests. Exploitation of the commons for example - environmental laws, and laws protecting individuals from corporations' predatory practices are two examples. This includes being mindful that government itself can be one of the biggest threats to people.

I differ from Libertarians, in that I acknowledge that there are threats to people other than government. I differ from Anarchists in that I think only government can protect people in the long term from a world of competing local warlords.

Beyond mere protection, I think it should also promote an increase in general happiness. "Happiness" here is a stand-in for lots of things. Generally, a population that is healthy, productive, and able to do their own thing with a minimum amount of stress and hassle. If people are starving, then government can improve happiness by making sure there is enough food. If people are oppressed, then government can increase their happiness by stopping oppression. If people are ignorant, educate them. If they're dying of preventable diseases, cure them.

Of course, the world has limited resources and death will come to us all, but in the meantime I think we have a duty to do what we can with what's available to us.

So, to summarize the what they should do, I think it's protect rights, then try to improve everyone's lot.

As for how, I'm all for a social democracy that keeps a firm hand on the forces that exploit people. So no religion in the public sphere. Criminals should be prosecuted. Corporations should have a firm hand controlling them (including corporate governing documents plainly stating what public good the corporation provides, and an expiration date). We should recognize oppressed people and work to remove that oppression.

And it should all be paid for by steeply progressive taxes. Given that we're rapidly moving towards an machine-automated society, we'll likely need a Universal Basic Income too, or some other tool that insures we don't have a permanent unemployed underclass (instead of a UBI, maybe a reduction in the hours worked per week). I think this is definitely doable for the simple reason that the world economy generates enough value for everyone now. That there are lots of desperate poor people out there is due to all that value going to tiny oligarchy.

Anyway, this is what I could come up with in ten minutes off the top of my head.

Loser

Jan. 20th, 2017 11:47 am
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Donald Trump is a loser.

  • He lost the popular vote by almost three million people. Loser.
  • He only "won" the electoral vote because Russia and the FBI threw it for him. People who "win" by cheating? Losers.
  • Bankrupted several times. Loser.
  • Can't run a profitable casino. Loser.
  • Brags about assaulting women. Loser.
  • Doesn't pay his fair share of taxes. Loser.
  • All of his business ventures resemble grift more than they do actual businesses. Loser.
  • Is so thin-skinned, he can't stand being satirized on TV that he has to attack them on Twitter. Loser.
  • Won't release his tax forms, probably because he's afraid that people will see he doesn't have as much money as he claims. Loser.
  • Has so few friends, he doesn't know enough people to fill all the federal government positions he needs to. Loser.
Going forward, I think the best protest strategy is to call him a loser. All. The. Time.

Every protest, chants of "LOSER". Every sign, a picture of Trump labelled "LOSER". Everyone interviewed on the media should make a point of calling him a loser. Repeat it over and over until it sticks - until his name is synonymous with loser.

And don't try to explain it - don't give reasons for why he's a loser. Don't give him something to argue against. "Well, he's a loser because of X, Y, Z. Nope. He's just a loser.

He will lose his fucking shit. Because the overriding trait of Trump's psyche is that there are winners and losers, and he wants to believe he's a winner. Don't let him think that. Remind him that he's a loser from now until he vanishes from the public eye. Every protest. Every Op/ed piece in the news. Every time he has to meet someone who's not one of his sycophants. I want to hear all the Democrats in Congress chanting "loser". I want him to meet Angela Merkel at the G7 and have her whisper "Verlierer" in his ear.

At first, he'll respond like a grade-school kid. "I'm not the loser, you're the loser."

Next, he'll try to ignore it, while still responding to it. "People are still calling me loser. Pathetic."

Eventually, he'll try to shield himself from the relentlessness of it. He will not succeed if everyone who opposes him sticks to this.

Trump should exit office (hopefully sooner, with criminal charges pending) thinking that running for President was the worst mistake of his life. Because he became President, and he's still just a loser.

Anyway, that's just my thoughts on President Trump. I've got another post brewing over dealing with Republicans in general.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I like to imagine that it went down like this:

"B****, c***, s***, *assorted other slurs aimed at women*"
"Hey! That shit is not acceptable ever, and certainly not when I'm running for the leadership of a political party in the 21st century."
"Oh yeah?!? Well, if you're so thin skinned, why don't you just go over to the party of" *ptui* "respect and tolerance."
"Fine. I'll do that!"
Sandra Jansen has crossed the floor from the Progressive Conservatives (one of Alberta's two right-wing parties - don't let the "progressive" part fool you) to the New Democrats (Alberta's center-left party. Federally they're just plain left, but that doesn't really fly in Alberta, so they've softened some of their stances with regards to the oil and gas industry, hence center-left). She's cited the misogyny she faced while running for the party leadership as the cause. Which makes me wonder at this Damascene conversion, since it's not like they were particularly welcoming to women to start with. I imagine they're fine with women in the clubhouse, provided they never notice or bring up women's issues. I was especially taken with this quote from Jansen:

"The dog-whistle politics that I heard at the PC policy conference were chilling to me: eroding public education, taking away women’s reproductive rights and trying to out gay kids in schools," she said. "It was frightening to see that element."
To which I have to add, I guess you weren't paying attention over the last twenty years.

Forsetti's Justice makes the point that a lot of progressive ideas don't penetrate some people's bubble until it affects them personally. I wonder if that's what happened here.

Being more charitable, Jansen might be one of those people who recognize the problems with their party, but wants to work within it to change things. That happens a lot when there's a de facto one-party system in place, like the PCs had for forty years in Alberta. Ideological wars took place at the riding nomination level, since no one was ever going to elect anyone else. At least until 2015, when Alberta had a choice between the assholes and the losers, and opted for neither.

Was Jansen an in-party reformer, or simply blind to its faults until it affected her personally? I don't know, but I hope she gets a progressive-101 from some of her new caucus. I'm happy she's found a home in the New Democrats. It might be short lived though, since I expect the NDs to fall in the next election unless the price of oil doubles; and that's not exactly in their power to influence.

More generally, I was reminded of Belinda Stronach, another woman who left a right-wing party and moved leftward. And I thought to myself "I wonder if, when women cross the floor, if it's always left-ward. Could there be something about conservative parties that is toxic to women?" This matches my own bias, but I figured I'd better look it up.

There were a few who moved right-ward. In this century, there was only Lise St-Denis (A Layton-ND who crossed to the Liberals after Layton died), and Anne Cools, a liberal senator who moved to the PC party (they later kicked her out for disagreeing with Harper, make of that what you will) before settling as an independent.

Mostly, they stayed still, going to independent status due to disagreements with their own party, or they switch to new parties that are ideologically similar (PC to Wild Rose for example). Of the sixteen since 2000, ten basically didn't move, four moved to the left and two moved to the right. Going back to nineties, there were only four floor-crossers, and they all moved right. Huh. So much for my bias. Politics, and the individuals in them, are too complex to show-horn people into, men or women. Something I need to remind myself of, since stereotypes affect all of us.

Still, the PCs did treat Sandra Jansen horribly. I'd jump ship to if I got that sort of treatment, so I certainly don't hold it against her. I do hope she sees conservative politics for what it is now.
jamesq: (Rage)
I woke up this morning to the news that Donald Trump is President-Elect.

Fuck.

I haven't looked at any news or opinion pieces about this yet, but I do have some thoughts.

The Blame

  • Voter suppression tactics in numerous states, aimed towards minorities.
  • The media, for trying to make the race "even", by weighing Trump's many many sins, against a lot of manufactured hearsay about Clinton. You hear people say "Crooked Hillary" enough, and you start to believe there's something to it, despite the lack of evidence. Now, the fact that Clinton lost will be cited as evidence that she must have been crooked.
  • The FBI. Seriously? WTF.
  • Third-party voters who think that voting is akin to some kind of consumer activity, rather than a civic duty.
  • Political tribesmen, who think that political parties are like the local sports team, and you have to root for them, because you've always rooted for them.
  • But most of all, I think we can blame the fact that there are simply a lot of misogynistic, racist, authoritarian assholes, and those people looked at Trump, warts and all, and said "I want him to be president".
Some random thoughts...

The Supreme Court is going to go conservative. The deciding vote is going to be a Trump nominee, and a lot of the Justices are getting old. Maybe Ruth Bader Ginsberg can last another four years, maybe not. Maybe Trump will nominate his sister.

Kiss goodbye to any progressive actions of the last eight years. I fully expect the Affordable Care Act to be effectively abolished in the next two years. Oh, maybe there'll be something called that, and there'll still be a requirement to buy health insurance; you just won't get anything for it. It'll be a tax payable to corporations.

Some pissant little country is going to get thrown up against the wall, just to show the world that Trump means business. I really hope it's not us.

That said, Trump is going to use the political machinery to go after his enemies, of which there are many, because he views anyone who disagrees with him, or makes fun of him, as the enemy. The difference between him and Nixon is that Nixon tried to keep it secret and got impeached for it. Trump will likely be quite open about it, and be praised for it.

I really feel sorry for the women who came forward about Trump's assaulting them. Maybe you'll have a case for immigrating to Canada based on persecution?

The Republican Party still can't stand the guy. They'll be fine with working with him, just like they were fine with voting for him, so long as he signs anything Paul Ryan puts on his desk. If he doesn't, I think they'll be happy to impeach him and get behind Pence. At no point will a fight between Trump and the Republican party mean a relaxation of their being awful to America.

Finally, I really did think "Do you want to write this? You could have jack-booted thugs coming to your door in a few years." Ultimately, I decided, what the hell - If things ever get that bad, they'll be plenty of things I've written over the years that will get me shot. It's too late to worry about that now.

Here's to hoping he's just a Berlusconi, and not a Mussolini.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I went to a Thanksgiving get together with my family yesterday. It was at my aunt's place, which is tiny, so we were mostly in the living room.

The TV was on CNN. There was only two stories on CNN that anyone cared about. Hurricane Matthew, and Donald Trump's "grab her by the pussy" tape. Specifically, Trump's "apology" about it that included his avowal that he was not going to quit the race under any circumstances.

"Oh god, yes. Please please please stay in the race. I can't wait to watch you singlehandedly destroy the Republican party, you misogynistic buffoon!", I say.

There's a pregnant pause in the room.

"Wow. This is really good turkey."
"Yes... and the stuffing is wonderful."
"I really like these devilled eggs."


And I think to myself. "Ok, don't discuss politics at Thanksgiving."

Later on, after everyone had left but me, my aunt brings it up and we have a laugh over it.

"There weren't any Trump supporters in the room were there?", I ask.
"Oh no. In fact, your cousins would have likely followed your rant with one of their own. They can't stand him."
"Good for them."


Alas, I have a bad habit of doing this. Sometimes it's when one of my pet rants gets poked. Sometimes I'm trying to be funny, and miscalculate into asshole. Still working on those.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Jim Wright opined on Facebook that Donald Trump was going to win last night's presidential debate against Hillary Clinton. A few brief points:
  • He didn't want Trump to win. He's a progressive, and also has a brain in his head.
  • He was wrong.
Why did he think that? Because Presidential debates aren't really debates, they're opportunities to go over your talking points while simultaneously savaging your opponent - two things that Trump is allegedly good at. Debates of this sort are reality TV writ large, and Trump is a master at reality TV.

The logic of Trump-is-good-at-reality-TV, therefore, Trump-will-do-well-in-the-debates only holds if the first part is actually true. I'm not convinced. Certainly Trump is a popular reality TV show subject, and The Apprentice certainly did well enough. But was that Trump? My alternate hypothesis is that The Apprentice had a really good bunch of editors and producers who took the full stream of effluent that comes from Trump's mouth and selected the most entertaining/coherent bits. It would be like finding lost jewelry in the sewer. Possible, even likely, if you have enough sewer to search.

In his rallies, he has an audience that was preselected to be ideal. Hell, the audience literally attacked people who were present that were likely to be critical. That's the live audience equivalent of having good producers. If you can't control the output, control who has to listen to it.

In short, Trump isn't the talented one in this equation, his producers are.

Naturally, not having his producers be part of the debate means he had none of those advantages. Instead, he was dealing with a career politician with years of experience in rhetoric and dealing with hostile audiences. That the polls don't show a bigger beating really just reflects the ideological divide in America right now.

My prediction: the Trump team will release edited versions of the debates that will show their boss in a positive light. That these will be roundly criticized doesn't matter. The people criticizing aren't the target audience. I hope his editors are well-paid, though I doubt it.

--- post script ---

I wonder if Trump is starting to deal with dementia. The stream-of-consciousness rants, the denials of the lies he's told - maybe he really doesn't remember them. What if this isn't just his colossal ego - it's how dementia expresses itself among the loud and egotistical.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
On the left, a horrible example of religious oppression against women. On the right, a fairly typical wetsuit with a hood:

On the left, a horrible example of oppression.  On the right, a wetsuit.

I'm usually the first guy to call out religion for its oppression of women. And let's be clear, I think modesty dress codes, especially those that Muslims have, are at best, pointless bullshit and more often simply the systematic oppression of women. I don't like niqabs, burqas, and their ilk.

But you don't free women by stripping them. You certainly don't get them used to the idea that they can relax their religious dress codes by forcing them off the beach and back into ghetto-like enclaves. And that's the practical effect of these bans - it keeps Muslim families off the beach, because the message received isn't "secularism is a worthy goal, give it a try", it's "you are other, and we don't want you here". Nobody assimilates where they're not welcome.

The presence of a burqini on a woman should just mean "this woman wants to relax on the beach". Kicking them off the beach is a dick move. Maybe some women won't switch over from a burqini to more "western" swimwear. But if she's at the beach with her family, and the family isn't driven away, I bet her daughters will consider it as they grow older. Or maybe not - that's a valid option too.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I mind my own business in public bathrooms, and everyone else should too. I've likely shared a bathroom with plenty of transgendered folks in my life. It bothered me not one iota.

More Republican Senators have been charged with bathroom indecency, then trans-folk have. Your kid has a higher chance of being molested in the rectory than in the food court bathroom.

So why are all these laws popping up? Specifically, why are they all popping up now?

1) Trans-rights advocacy is finally being noticed in the media.

2) There's a US presidential election coming up. GOP movers and shakers want to make this an issue so that Democratic contenders will be asked their opinion. A Democrat comes down for trans-rights, they will lose socially conservative voters. Come down against it, and they will lose votes from socially progressive voters. Conversely, since there aren't any progressive Republicans anymore, this can't hurt their own party, and it can only hurt the Democratic party. Will that be enough to flip some of the states that are in ties? Who knows. I do know that there was a flurry of states passing anti-same-sex-marriage statutes immediately before the 2008 election, for the same reason.

It's all about the election. That Republicans can make people suffer is just gravy for them.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) is common lots of places, but I imagine Calgary is pretty bad for it among Canadian cities. It's part of that whole Conservative/Libertarian screw-you-I've-got-mine mindset.

A Google search of NIMBY Calgary will bring up lots of examples, but the most recent one is the city's plans to build a Bus-Rapid-Transit route that goes down a major north-south artery road in the southwest. This could including designating one lane each way as being for transit only. This could increase congestion on that road.

But I'm not really interested in the pros and cons of a city transit project. I'm more interested in the reaction to it by a handful of residents in the southwest. Basically, they've hijacked the meetings with protests, yelling, general asshattery, and, most recently, death threats. So Nenshi cancelled the meetings.

To me, he's doing what any good manager should do when people disrespect your employees - you show them the door. They can return when they learn to behave by the rules we teach kids in kindergarten.

Online, these people lost their shit, which was predictable. In the Facebook thread related to that article, I wrote: "Perhaps Ready to Engage should consider apologizing. Just sayin'." The most interesting response was the one where someone asked if I was a paid astroturfer (someone hired by an organization to push an agenda in online discussions). Which is odd, because municipal governments don't have the kind of money that multinational corporations do. Plus, the city can't afford me for a shit job like that.

So let's summarize: People are losing their collective shit, to the point of abusing city workers, over bus lanes. What the hell is going on here?

I'm sure the other side will defend their position by saying how hard done by they are and on how they don't have a voice, etc. etc. The fact remains that they are a tiny minority, they voted for the municipal government just like everyone did, and they're confusing not being heard with not being obeyed.

There's an old saying "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low." I think that's what's going on here. Worst case scenario for the opponents of the bus lane: Traffic gets worse and their commute gets a few minutes longer. That's it. Oh, and they get to pretend they're martyrs - that has to be a benefit to people who think they're being horribly mistreated, yet this is the worst thing on their agenda.

If they win, they get to pretend they stuck it to the man. Aside from that, they're life doesn't materially change.

They have nothing to lose. They literally have no appreciable downside if they completely screw the pooch. There is no reason for them to ever negotiate a middle ground. People who have a lot to lose? They're eager to negotiate, because they have so much to lose.

So we have a group of people who get to prop up their self-image no matter how this turns out, and there's no down-side to them being completely unreasonable.

Another reason could be the belligerent nature of political discourse in general, especially with the current US primaries (and, let's be honest, our own Conservative party), but that's fodder for another post.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Kevin O'Leary, trying to be subtle.

Popular finance guru Kevin O’Leary says he’ll invest $1 million in Canadian oil industries — if NDP Premier Rachel Notley resigns.

“I mean no disrespect when I say this but here’s my offer: I’ll invest $1 million in Canadian energy companies if out of grace and for the absolute good of Canada the premier of Alberta resigns,” O’Leary said.
Source.

A few points about this bit of political theater:

First, Kevin O'Leary is thinking about investing $1M into the Alberta oil patch. He must think we're near the bottom. Second, He probably thinks we're not going to languish at the bottom for long, but are going to start coming back up again. He's not the sort of guy to throw away perfectly good money without expecting a return.

(aside: I don't agree - I think we're here for a few more years)

So he wants to make a bunch of money, because he's a money-making kind of guy. He also doesn't want to take an action that might support the New Democrats. Finally, he certainly doesn't want Rachel Notley to be in a position to take credit for it. Hence the Hail Mary pass of calling for her resignation. If she were to actually do it, he could take credit for a lot of bullshit.

Alternatively, he's well aware of the fact that this will get laughed out of the ND Caucus. In which case this is what it looks like on the cover - political grandstanding by one of the people who think the sky is falling and we're being cursed by Republican Jesus for voting the wrong party. Things will continue to be shitty, and he can say "I tried to solve the problem, but they didn't listen to me".

The funny thing is, O'Leary knows enough about economics to understand that who's in power in Alberta doesn't make one whiff of difference to the price of oil. It does make a difference to the oil company executives that would like to have our oil for free and not pay taxes, hence why he's doing this. I imagine he plays golf with those guys.

Still, you attack the local left-wing solidly centrist party no matter what happens. Oil prices down? Must be the [provincial New Democrats | federal Liberals]. Dollar down? Must be the [provincial New Democrats | federal Liberals]. Zombies destroy Europe? Must be the [provincial New Democrats | federal Liberals].

Speaking of the good of the country, Kevin O'Leary could shut his trap and invest that million dollars into renewable energy, since it's burning a hole in his pocket and all.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I remember an Onion article about a terrorist cell in the United States. The gist was that they had all been so successful in going underground while planning their terror attack, that none of them wanted to actually do the terror attack. They had all assimilated into the United States. It's hard to plan on bombing a pipeline when you're too busy looking forward to watching the next Star Wars movie.

Another story, not from the Onion. I half-remember reading it as a comment on some blog or forum somewhere, so don't expect a citation. Basically, the story was that some group was using diplomacy as a carrot and the threat of terrorism as a stick. They had pulled off some terror attacks just to prove they meant business, and behind the scenes, they negotiated a diplomatic solution (behind the scenes, because the other side can't be seen as doing business with terrorists). Having a solution, they found themselves with a problem: A whole bunch of young, desperate men whom they'd indoctrinated into wanting to die while taking a lot of the enemy with them. Can't have that if you're negotiating with the enemy - you might end up with a whole bunch of desperate young men who decide they shouldn't be listening to you.

So what did they do? The gave them all jobs as middle managers in the organization, and married them all off to pretty young women. A few years go by and someone asks them if they still want to be suicide bombers, or whatever. To a man, they all said no. They were all living quiet productive lives supporting their young families. They had something to live for.

I don't know anything about yesterdays attacks on Paris, but I do know this: They were desperate young men who felt this was the best they could do. Whether you think they were right in that assessment doesn't matter. "They should just go out and get jobs if they wanted a life", some would say, ignoring the fact that there probably weren't many jobs handy; and life in a Parisian ghetto as a Muslim is probably not compatible to being a white boy in 1950s America.

What do people want? They want community; they want opportunity; they want family; they want a sense that their contribution to the world, small as it is, means something to someone.

There will always be evil fuckers wanting to burn down the world. Give desperate people an opportunity to contribute to the world and feel comfortable in their family and community, and those evil fuckers will not find recruits. It doesn't seem like much, but most people's needs are small. Productive work, a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and loved ones, and some sense of security that these won't be whisked away in the blink of an eye - that's all most people want.

Terrorists come from slums. Oh, not all of them (the 9/11 guys were fairly middle class and educated), but enough of their community was that they could see how people who looked and acted like them were marginalized. If you're a young man, and there is no chance that you'll ever get a job, or ever support a family, you're going to be looking for people to blame. If those people, in turn, treat you like dirt and tell you you're not wanted... well, you can lie down and die, or you can get up and fight. There's good and bad ways to fight, and if some evil fucker tells you to go bomb a nightclub, maybe you're going to go the wrong way.

Don't get me wrong, once you've made that choice and start killing innocent people, you need to be stopped, and I have no sympathy for you after the fact. But wouldn't it be great if we could do something about it before it got that far? Wouldn't it be great to live in a world where people never get desperate enough to consider terrorism?

We can give everyone a job and make the world a better place. We've done it for pockets of geography and time and we know it works. This doesn't work well with the predator class's plans though, so we don't do it. We've been taught that it's a zero sum game. That for us to have a comfortable life, others need to suffer. It's not true. I know it's not true because we have minds and we have hands, and people will improve any space they're in, given enough time. It's why I'm writing this on a computer, and not scratching it onto the wall of a cave.

Give the grown-ups jobs. Educate the children. If there's no work, invent some - there's no shortage of things that need doing in the world. Everything else will follow as people learn that we're all the same. This is the work of generations, since it will be running into the prejudice of billions of people, but prejudice subsides with time and comfort. We've seen that here. It hasn't gone away, but the world is better for any sort of second class citizen in the west now than at any time in the past. We can keep moving in that direction.

Or we could bomb the hell out of some shit hole and seem if that makes the people who live there less disparate.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
There's an online petition going around to rename the Calgary International Airport after Ex-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It seems to have stalled out. It's also spawned lots of counter-petitions. Among them:

  • A straight up don't do it. Of note, it's got four times as many signatures as the one it's protesting. If nothing else, this should make renaming the airport a non-starter.
  • Rename Stephen Harper to Calgary International Airport. Clever. It reminds me of Rick Mercer's attempt to get Stockwell Day's first name changed to Doris as a joke back when Stockwell Day was somebody.
  • Rename the airport Stephen Harper International Terminal. SHIT - get it? Gharf gharf. Funny, but not something I'd like to put up with as someone who lives here, regardless of my opinion of Harper's legacy. It does remind me of the Conservatives earlier (brief) incarnation as the Canadian Reform Alliance Party, before the media pointed out what a bad idea that was.
  • Rename one of the local landfills after him.
  • Better yet, name one of the landfills the Stephen Harper Scientific Archive, in honour of all the scientific libraries he closed, whose contents ended up in landfills, because fuck science.
  • Name the airport after someone else. These range from the ridiculous (Wresting patriarch Stu Hart, who, aside from probably taking flights out of the airport, had nothing to do with it), to fairly serious (Naming it for Fred McCall - it was McCall field back in the depths of time)
Lots of fun stuff here.

Here's the thing; we're going to end up naming stuff after Harper eventually. As much as I believe he's the worst PM in living memory, and shouldn't be rewarded for his deliberate mismanagement of the country, I have to acknowledge that a lot of people disagree with me. A fair amount of those people live in Calgary. The old Calgary Archers Club grounds will probably get turned into a park after they finish building Stony Trail. Name it after Harper, the way they named another park after Klein. Let them get it out of their system.

Should we be renaming airports after politicians? Well, we've already done it three times in this country with Diefenbaker, Pearson, and Trudeau the Elder. A lot of people objected to Harper getting one since he's still alive and those other three were dead when the renaming occurred. This makes a sort of sense, but to paraphrase Captain Barbossa, that's more of a guideline than an actual rule. Clark is still alive, and he's got at least one school named after him.

In the end, I'd like to keep the airport named Calgary International Airport because that's what it it. It's the airport, in Calgary, that handles international flights. It doesn't need anything else. Maybe if we had a second airport, it would make sense to give them unique names. We don't really need a second airport.

Besides which, no one actually calls it that, unless we're discussing it in relation to other airports. Even then, the trend has been to use an airport's code for that sort of discussion. If I get into a taxi, I just say "take me to the airport".
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
This will be less ranty, I promise.

I got one of the three things I wanted this election. The biggest one, Harper and the Conservatives out, I got - and then some. Oh it wasn't the crushing defeat that The old Progressive Conservatives had, but that was never in the cards with the Reform party faction of the Conservatives. Still, they can't break shit anymore, so that's good.

Or can they? Can Harper do anything over the next two weeks before Trudeau is sworn in? Maybe make all of Mike Duffy's family into Senators, or sign the TPP with as many concessions as possible? I don't know, and it gives me something to worry about.

The two things I didn't get, I'm OK with not getting. Oh, I'd have preferred them, but if I had to choose between them, these are the two that would get thrown under the bus for the larger goal.

First, I wanted my MP to be the Liberal, Matt Grant. I don't know the man, but I wanted to deny the riding of Calgary Confederation to the Conservatives, and I figured mine was the best option. The Liberals did take Calgary Center and Calgary Skyview in some very close elections (I think the latter won by about 2000 votes, the former by less than 500). Still, the voter turnout for my riding was at least 75%. The national average was 68% (the highest I've ever seen it), so even though my guy lost, I can at least say the other side won fair and square (baring some evidence of vote tampering), without resorting to typical Alberta apathy. Maybe the Liberals will drop someone who's not a complete unknown into the mix next time.

The other thing I wanted was a minority government. The Liberals in charge are OK, but I wanted a situation where they had to listen to the New Democrats to get stuff done. The New Democrats would have dug their heels in on Proportional Representation, abolishing C-51 and C-24, and the environment. I still think the Liberals will do some of that, but I suspect we'll get

  1. a study on PR, rather than real movement. I doubt we'll get more than that, since first-past-the-post just rewarded the Liberals in a big big way.
  2. A modified C-51 that can pass the Charter (not ideal, but better than nothing).
  3. I suspect they'll actually get rid of C-24.
  4. Legislation that is more carrot than stick for the environment. I'd rather have some stick, since corporations respond to punishment more than they respond to polite requests.
So what else would I like to see? Higher taxes for rich people. Apparently they're adding a $200K/33% tax bracket. Great! Let's see more, like $500K/44%, $750K/55%, $1M/66%, $1.5M/77%, and $2M/88%.

Fix Canada Post and the CBC. Restore their finding and set them up so that they're at arm's length from the government, so it's harder for subsequent Conservative governments to fuck with them.

Restore funding to all those progressive things the Conservatives tried to strangle. Federal scientists, status of women, etc.

Oh hell, I could turn this whole thing into a laundry list of things-James-wants-because-he's-progressive. Just undo all the bad things the Conservatives have done, and I'll call it square. Make the country better and I'll be ecstatic!

The Conservatives did do two really good things though, the plastic money and getting rid of the penny. I just took a trip to the States, and the money was driving me nuts. We are doing so much better with those two changes. Keep them.

Anyway, this has been a long election (which reminds me, get rid of the fixed election date rule - the Westminster model doesn't need it and it allows for stupidly long campaigns). I think I'm done talking politics for awhile.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Get out and vote. Not voting is surrendering to the status quo, not a protest against a system you don't agree with.

Anyway, I'm in a hurry to post this while it's still barely relevant, and they're not the most well-organized points, so don't expect the best written essay ever here. I plan on bouncing around all over the place.

When the Conservatives won their first majority nine years ago, a coworker joked at lunch that I would now be worried about Harper's "secret agenda". I countered that his agenda was hardly a secret - the Conservatives had baldly stated their intentions, and they were no good for the environment, civil rights, international relations with anyone not the USA. How was this in anyway a secret? Quite literally, the only people who were going to benefit from a Conservative government were rich stockholders in large corporations. Everyone else was going to be at best ignored or at worst, ruthlessly exploited.

In nine years, I've not seen anything to contradict what I thought. In fact, things are much worse than I imagined (and I've got a hell of an imagination). I think they're flat out fascists now (seriously, check out the Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism and see how they apply to the Conservatives), and only typical Canadian niceness has prevented them from being so obvious about it that they lose their supporters.

For me, the single most important "issue" of the election is to stop the Conservatives. In much the same way that you have to stop the bleeding before anything else in a traumatic injury. It's hard to save the patient if they've exsanguinated. Once they're gone, we can address the details of fixing what's been deliberately broken or destroyed.

Which brings me to strategic voting. I've heard all the arguments - how it promotes cynicism towards voting and government; how we should be voting for the best Candidate; How it plays into manipulation from other parties. All true. What else is true is that I don't get to vote on hypothetical candidates, and I don't get to vote for who gets to be Prime Minister. My choices are the folks on the ballot of my riding. A split progressive vote in my riding will result in a Conservative candidate. Anyway, I've written about this at length before and I don't want to rehash it all here. In years past, I went for true underdogs who had chance of winning my riding, so they could get the small benefit of a federal voter payment (until the Conservatives quashed a policy that promoted fairness instead of deep pockets). In short, strategic voting is one of the tools of intelligent voting.

Over the last nine years, I've occasionally asked Conservative voters (I used to have a few who read me regularly here and on Facebook - but they've mostly self-selected away since then) the question that's baffled me the most: Why? These were serious questions - i.e. I really wanted to know, I wasn't just looking to pick a fight. I think I got two responses that gave points for Conservative supporters. Of course, my readership immediately dog-piled on these folks (which was not my intent, but in hindsight was predictable). So the question never really got answered.

Thankfully, other people have posted about this stuff in safe spaces, so I can give a rundown. Conservatives generally are given credit for:

  • Lowering taxes.
  • Balancing the budget.
  • Getting tough on crime.
  • Saving us from terrorism.
Well, they did lower the GST. I don't like the GST either, though for different reasons (I think it should be replaced with a less regressive tax). I'm also not convinced that lower taxes are in and of themselves a good thing. First, we need to pay for stuff. Second, a strongly progressive tax regime discourages a lot of the abuse we see from the 1%.

Besides, I don't want your taxes raised, I want the taxes of people much much richer than you raised.

Balancing the budget. They only did this in the most recent year, and they only did it by stealing from the EI surplus. In the mean time, they've added massively to the national debt. I'm fine with debt, but shouldn't we have gotten something for it? Like the jobs and stuff that infrastructure spending yields?

Getting tough on crime. Interestingly, violent crime has been falling for years, so this is a problem that doesn't really need solving, just managing, and we've been managing it just fine. Also, every time the Harper government issues a new tough-on-crime bill, it tends to get quashed by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional. That tells me that these are bad laws. Maybe write some good ones instead?

Saving us from Terrorism. C-51. C-24. The Niqab debate. It's all about othering people isn't it. You don't get justice by rewriting the law so that dissent is terrorism. Canadians are not equal if some can be stripped of their citizenship. You're not supporting women by making them strip. It disgusts me that going, "Look, a niqab, booga booba!" is seen as a reasonable tactic. It disgust me more that it often works.

Here's an interesting snippet I read a few years ago. Canadian authorities working with other jurisdictions, took down a massive international pedophile ring a few years ago. And they did it within the constraints of the law. If we can do that with this class of vile criminals (pedophiles), why do we have to get rid of our civil liberties for some other class of vile criminals (terrorists)?

I'd get into all the vile things they have done, but I'll be there all day. Seriously, I started writing it and realized that I would be at it all day if I continued. It did remind me of something I've noticed. When confronting Conservatives about some vile policy, when they don't just flat-out deny it, they'll respond with "both sides do it."

Thankfully, someone has compiled a list for me

"They're muzzling Federal scientists."
"The Liberals would do that too, if they were in power."
Since the assertion isn't necessarily correct (often times both sides do engage in some awful behavior, but not always), doesn't this mean you've just acknowledged that your side is behaving abominably? If you, yourself, admit that what they're doing is wrong, and you're still voting for them, I think you can stop holding yourself up as a rational voter, and are now clearly a tribesman.

This seems to be a generalization of "politicians promise things and don't deliver, regardless of what party they belong to." OK, fine, I'll buy that, but there is a real difference between "promised stuff, tried to deliver it and failed because shit happens" and "they were lying all along". Nuance matters.

Last election, I predicted a Liberal minority government. Needless to say I was both wrong wrong wrong, and also deeply disappointed. I'm not going to make any predictions this year, but my hope remains some sort of progressive minority government (i.e. Libs/NDs). One that will reverse as many Conservative policies as possible, while also working towards some form of proportional representation. Will I get even a fraction of that? No, but could we at least stop the bleeding?
jamesq: (Don Quixote)
I'm going to go vote today. I plan on walking to the advanced poll and getting there just before they open. I'm voting ABC (anybody but Conservative), which in this riding (Calgary Confederation) basically means the Liberals.

I'm not terribly fond of the Liberals right now, because they voted for C-51. However, I absolutely hate what the Conservatives have done to this country, and since I can only vote for an MP, not the whole government, I'm going to do my best to deny the Conservatives another seat in Calgary. The New Democrats (who have my heart, if not my vote) trail well behind the Liberals, who actually stand a chance of being elected, here, in "Fortress Alberta".

I'm hoping the leaders of the Liberals and New Democrats see what we are doing and form a coalition government, because that is clearly what Canadians want them to do. My desires for a new government:

  1. The Conservatives defeated, hopefully utterly.
  2. Repeal C-51. No secret police.
  3. Repeal C-24. No second class citizenship - a Canadian is a Canadian.
  4. Bring in proportional representation so we don't find ourselves in this mess again unless (shudder) a *true majority* of Canadians want it. I'd be happy with Australian style mandatory voting too.
  5. Govern well, with an eye to a fair and sustainable future for all Canadians, and doing our best among the other countries.
I'm certainly going to be writing Matt Grant (the Liberal candidate in my riding) to encourage him to do all that.

As to why I'm voting in the advanced poll, rather than waiting until voting day? I don't want to give the Conservatives a chance to deny my vote. If there is anything fishy about casting my ballot, I'd rather have a solid week to fix it and tell everyone about it, then be stuck at the last minute. That it's come to this because of Conservative voter suppression tactics and straight-up election fraud, makes me weep for my country. No time like the present to take it back.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Alberta goes to the polls in twelve hours. And unlike elections past, I am tentatively hopeful. It's looking like we might get a New Democrat government. Someone governing from the left is just what this province needs.

What it needs even more is a change. In the past, the Progressive Conservatives have managed to put a leader and a new coat of paint onto the party and claim it was change. And Alberta bought it time and again. In the end, the policies of the government remained the same.

What were those policies? Bluntly stated, provide a business-friendly location for the oil and gas industry.

That policy created fiscal mismanagement. Because we thought we were going to be rich forever, but we were just pissing away a windfall. Other oil-rich regions invested their windfall; Norway, notably, invested almost everything they made off of their oil reserves into a trust fund. That fund is now in the neighbourhood of a trillion dollars - the most recent downturn in the oil industry was easily weathered by the Norwegians through their dividends alone.

We should have done the same thing. Specifically, we should have charged the most we possibly could to sell that oil. Oh maybe not as much as Norway could (their oil is "sweeter" making it easier to extract and refine), but certainly more than we do now. A lot more.

But how would we pay for everything, if we're pumping all of that money into a trust fund? The same way all the non-oil rich provinces do - with a proper progressive tax scheme. If Ontario can pay for all of its programs without resorting to oil revenues, so can Alberta. Don't agree with me? Then you're admitting Ontario can do something we can't.

So where did all that money go, if we didn't take our rightful share? Corporations. They wanted cheaper tax rates and we gave it to them. They didn't want to pay what the oil was worth, and we gave it to them. I think it's long past time we corrected that.

They'll fight it, of course. There's been a lot of "Nice economy you've got here, shame if anything happens to it" talk recently. Corporations warning that if things don't stay the same, they just might have to stop giving to charities (that should be handled by proper taxes), or maybe even leave the province all together.

That's bully talk. And you don't acquiesce to bully. You stand your ground.

We'll have to, because I don't think those are idle threats. I think they really will try to "punish" this province if they vote New Democrat. They will shut in wells and try to wait us out. And in that regard we need to push back. Because they're bullies.

There will come a day when we wean ourselves off of oil. If we give the petroleum oligarchy exactly what it wants - carte blanche to extract as much oil as they can without paying what it's worth - what are they going to do for us when we have to shut off the taps? They're not going to do us any favours - we'll be stuck here, and they'll simply go somewhere else.

So fuck those guys. Charge what it's worth, stick it in a trust fund, and pay for government with progressive taxation that includes corporations. Maybe we'll have something to show for it in twenty years. It can't be any worse than the last thirty.

I think the current economy actually helps us here. The Saudis are basically engaged in an economic war with Russia, and have driven the price of oil below what Russia can economically extract it for. Coincidentally, that's less than what we can extract it for. The corporations are already shutting in wells and laying off people, and they started it long before the election was called. The Saudis probably can't keep it up for four years, so assuming we get an ND majority, we can weather this and the economy will improve all on it's own. The New Democrats can take credit for that, even though it was really the actions of oil players on the other side of the world. This is basically the opposite of what happened with the National Energy Policy back in the 80's. The economy collapsed, people lost their jobs, and they blamed the Federal Liberals, even though the NEP didn't cause it, oil players on the other side of the world did.

Not that that stopped the corporations and the PCs from blaming the Liberals. It's a story I've had to listen to for years, and I bought it until I did the research. But now the shoe is on the other foot. The economy is down and has nowhere to go but up (once the Saudis and the Russians make peace).

Anyway, I think the New Democrats are the way to go, and I'd think that even if we didn't have oil. Basically, I like the idea of progressive taxes being used to make a better province/country.

Of course, there's other options. You could vote Wild Rose. If you follow my blog, that's unlikely. To that I'll just say it's a common business practice to give the appearance of competition while there is none. Best Buy and Future Shop were the same company for years, for example. I don't think there will be a bit of difference between a PC government and a WR government in terms of economics. And WR is likely to be worse in terms of social issues. They've managed to keep their wing nuts silent this election, but there's a deep streak of reactionaryism in the WR party that isn't as bad as the PCs (because the PCs did have a small group of "Red Tories").

The Liberals and the Alberta party both exist. With the exception of a handful of candidates who wielded personal popularity, the Liberals haven't been able to grab many seats. And the Alberta party hasn't done anything to distinguish themselves from anyone else. Honestly, I have no idea where they even exist on the political spectrum.

Anyway, go vote. If you don't want to vote because you think it won't make a difference, well, now's your chance to make a difference - an honest chance to change a government that's been in power since I was three. If you think there's no difference in the parties, I think you're wrong. Politicians can't always deliver what they promise, but that's just the reality of living in a democracy. I know some people who don't vote because, when told to vote, their knee-jerk reaction is "you're not the boss of me" - I don't have a lot of patience for that sort of attitude. In the end, if you don't vote, you're saying you support the status quo. I don't support the status quo - I think we can do better.
jamesq: (genius)
So I just hear that Ron Anders lost the nomination for Calgary - Signal Hill. As you might imagine, there was a lot of virtual cheering on Facebook about this. For you Yanks: Ron Anders was widely considered the worst MP in Parliament, but kept getting elected year after year for being a party loyalist in a deeply Conservative riding. Provided he got the nomination, he was a lock to win. As an analogy, imagine a Tea party zealot running for the House of Representatives as a Republican in a deeply Republican area. The only way you get rid of him is at the nomination level. And they have.

I'm glad to see him go, but I'd have much preferred that he was voted out by his constituents rather than by the riding association. I don't care which party, just anyone else. Losing him to another Conservative runs into the same problem that a lot of time travellers kill Hitler stories have: The conditions remain just as bad for everyone, but now you've made it possible for someone competently evil to replace the incompetent that you had before. Ron Liepert is going to be just as conservative, and he's going to vote precisely the same way on every bill that Rob Anders would have voted. He's going to support the same corrupt Harper regime if the Conservative Party of Canada manages to win the 2015 election. He's going to be actively working for Conservative party policies as someone who knows what they're doing, rather than being the sort of guy who falls asleep on camera during question period.

In the end, Anders may have been an embarrassment to the country, but he was also an embarrassment to the Conservative Party. Liepert will simply be a silent foot soldier. Coming up on a significant election, I'd rather the CPC had a few more embarrassments and few less foot soldiers.
jamesq: (Cowtown)
It's awfully nice of Cal Wenzel to talk about how he wants his own candidates on City Council. It's equally nice of Rick Bell and Greg Lefebre to tell us who the slate is. Forewarned is forearmed.

It's perfectly fine to endorse a candidate. It's perfectly fine to donate to that candidate's campaign. It's even fine to advocate for that candidate company wide (unions do it all the time) - provided there will be no reprisals for voting the "wrong way". Donations in kind (getting around donation limits by donating in a non-monetary fashion) and the totally secret cabal-like nature of this does suggest a level of shadiness that could be criminal. That has left a bad taste for a lot of people. That the latest revelations are coming out in the week immediately before the election is bad news for the slate candidates.

Are they organized together, or are they just a bunch of like-minded individuals that the the Wenzels and Lefebres of the world want to endorse? Who knows. I do know I'm not voting for any of them. I've got plenty of others to choose from.

I'm not particularly anti-business, unless you consider won't bend over backwards for business interests to be anti-business. I personally have no problem with any business owner making a case to City Council that supports their business. Make your case and let others make their case too. A good city councillor will weigh all sides and do what's best for their constituents and the city at large. Maybe they think a pro-business stance really is good for their constituents and the city at large. If so, hey, less work for you!

I'm sure every one of those slate candidates will describe themselves that way. Possibly every one of them thinks of themselves that way too. But what they think of themselves right now is immaterial. Their true test of character comes later, when some major donor comes to them privately and doesn't make a positive business case. Instead, that donor comes with a veiled threat: Do things my way, or all those resources that we used for you last election will be marshalled towards another candidate next time. Do things my way not because I make the superior case, but because I paid for you and I want value for my money. That's another piece of democracy quietly dying in secret.

And I don't like that one bit - it's behaviour that in-and-of-itself should never be rewarded. The people behind the slate shouldn't be trying to buy candidates in secret. If Cal Wenzel wants a unique voice on City Council, let him run for office himself.

Vote for a pro-business candidate if that's your ideology, but I suggest researching your candidates and picking one that's not already destined to be put in the moral dilemma I describe above. I have a pretty good idea which candidates have already told these guys to pound sand, and that's who I'm voting for. That they more-or-less align with my more centrist views is simply icing on the cake.

Anyway, go vote. The city has a comprehensive website describing the nuts and bolts of the election, including a list of all candidates and a handy tool to tell you where to vote.

(Crossposted to [livejournal.com profile] calgarians - we'll see if it actually shows up since that group hasn't exactly been active for awhile)
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap. - Kurt Vonnegut.
A friend's FB mentioned that the Swiss were going to vote on a providing a basic income.

Switzerland will hold a vote on whether to introduce a basic income for all adults, in a further sign of growing public activism over pay inequality since the financial crisis.

A grassroots committee is calling for all adults in Switzerland to receive an unconditional income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,800) per month from the state, with the aim of providing a financial safety net for the population.
Source.

On its basic level, I can certainly agree with this scheme - a basic income is provided for families to make sure that their needs are met. Make the administration simple and trust the majority of families to know what their needs are. Other social services could take deal with the abusive parents, victims of addiction and the mentally ill.

It turns out that Canada experimented with this back in the 70's and it was mostly good. The Dauphin Mincome experiment did show a slight disincentive to work, but it was mostly among groups you don't want working anyway (new moms and teens). And even if the disincentive was greater, I think we need to measure it against all the positives that such a scheme provides. It's like how you don't judge a program solely on it's costs. Firefighters are expensive, but we don't simply say that's wasted money - we measure against people not dying in fires all the time, which is, I hope, a completely uncontroversial social good.

And I think the biggest social good is that people are now free from economic coercion. You're boss can't treat you like shit because you need a job. You're not stuck with an abusive spouse because they're providing for your children. You can pursue an education because you're not living hand to fist. In short it gives people options.

And honestly, the amount of people who would sit around eating Cheetos and watching porn all day isn't that high. People will still work, they'll just engage in work that they think is worthwhile. Ultimately people want to work.

Current thinking is that we're transitioning into a world where there will be a permanent unemployable underclass. That automation and overpopulation are creating a world where there's a huge welfare class that we'll need to cordon off and keep entertained with bread and circuses. I don't agree with this assessment - I think there is plenty of things that need doing in the 21st century, they're just not things that a corporation will think they can make a quarterly profit on. We need to remember that corporations aren't the be-all and end-all of society - in fact, corporations should serve the good of society, not vice versa.

I'd like to see a basic income instituted all over. I'd also like to see something like the WPA instituted too, exactly to give people worthwhile work to do, that needs doing, that corporations aren't doing. These would be seperate - a basic income to cover needs and a higher level of pay to actually do something "useful" (and I define useful very broadly - remember, artists worked for the WPA too. Orson Welles' work, for example, probably paid back the whole WPA budget for artists.

This will, of course, cost money. I'm OK with that provided we don't beggar ourselves. I think Mincome (and the Swiss proposition, provided it passes) will show us that we won't. Of course a lot of people consider even one red cent more in taxes as too much. Hell, it might cost us less (by increasing systemic efficiency - more people doing useful work, less money to the bureaucracy trying to find "cheaters"), but a lot of people still won't like it. They'd rather hurt themselves than see someone else "get away with something". Me? I'd rather give the heroin addict an income rather than have them busting into my car. If Rat Park has any application to humans, I think the incidence of addiction will decrease.

First order of business for people who want to make more than the basic income? Work to make your local community better. Once they've done that, you've got a bunch of people with experience and pride in making better communities that you can use making other places better.

I hope it works. I like the idea of a better world, full of people doing rewarding work, not starving.
jamesq: (Rage)
News from the Catholic Country of Ireland:
Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later.

Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination.

This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

She spent a further 2½ days “in agony” until the foetal heartbeat stopped.
Source.

Disgusting. I hope that the authorities charge whoever they can with whatever they can at that hospital. They probably won't though. If any good comes of this, it will be because Ms. Halappanavar's death triggers a change. I can think of three changes, in decreasing order of goodness:

1) Legalize abortion. That's it. Not illegal unless raped and not illegal unless dying. Legal, across the board. It's between a woman and her doctor. The state should tell women how to use their uteri exactly as often as they tell me how to use my kidney.

And to be clear, I mean everywhere, not just Ireland where it's mostly illegal, or Canada where it's mostly legal.

2) Abortion on exceptions that would have helped this woman, and others. It's a step in the right direction. If my options are "legal for some exceptions" and "none at all", I'll hold my nose and pick the former.

3) Some doctor, when presented with a similar case, will simply lie. *unplugs heart monitor* "I can't hear a fetal heartbeat - rush this woman to the OR." Maybe the doctor will get away with that lie, maybe they won't (or maybe they'll come clean during the inquiry); I don't know how easy it would be to get away with it in the long term. However, if they can get away with it in the short term, their lie will have saved a life. I think lying to save a life is an acceptable sin. Perhaps one of Ms. Halappanavar's doctors, having trouble looking themselves in the mirror every morning, has quietly decided to do that next time. I hope so. Not just because it would be a positive change, but also because I'd like to think that their conscience does bother them. It should.

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