Blog-o! Notes from

Tue, 03 May 2011

Yesterday Canada elected a Conservative majority government. Our House of Commons has 308 seats, and the Conservatives won 167 of then with 40% of the popular vote. The NDP is our new official opposition with 102 seats and 31% of the popular vote. The Liberals, Canada's "natural governing party", suffered a huge setback winning only 34 seats and 19% of the popular vote.

My politics lie somewhere around the NDP/Greens, but I'm not partisan. If there was a party that ran on a platform of evidence-based compassionate pragmatism I would vote for it, but there isn't so I do the best I can. This time I voted for Carolyn Bennett, our incumbent Liberal candidate, because she's clever and effective. It wasn't a difficult choice, because I would have been happy to have Michael Ignatieff as Prime Minister.

I'm not happy about this result; I'm pretty miserable, actually. Stephen Harper's faults are well-documented elsewhere, so I won't go into that. I'm not on-board with the Conservative platform, obviously, and I worry that with a majority they will make changes to this country that lead it further and further away from what I value.

I'm also frustrated with our electoral system. Electoral reform makes my head spin but I understand enough to know that our system is broken and our government doesn't accurately represent us. Dave Meslin can explain it better than I can.

So the question remains: As a citizen, what do I do next?

There's a school of thought that says that everything will work out and nothing will go horribly wrong no matter who is in government. I think this is the school of thought that non-voters follow, because if that's true, why vote?: stuff will work itself out, everything will be fine.

If I followed that school of thought I would just carry on exactly as I have been. Of course if I followed that school of thought I wouldn't have been so upset last night when the results came in. In fact, I probably wouldn't even have watched.

There's another school of thought the members of which are rending their garments today: the CBC is going to be dismantled, abortion and gay marriage outlawed, gun control repealed, mega-jails built on every corner. That school is well-represented in my Twitter feed, but it's not one I subscribe to either. I'm not sure what would prevent the Harper government from doing all that: perhaps they mostly don't really want to, perhaps they fear that the electorate would disapprove and not re-elect them, perhaps there are checks and balances in place that would otherwise stimie them. But I don't believe a Conservative majority equals the Hellmouth opening.

If I followed that school of thought... well, I don't know what those people are doing. Drinking, I guess.

This is what I think. I think things don't just work out fine by themselves. I think they work out because of the hard work of thousands of people writing letters and articles, rallying support (or just plain rallying), raising money, going on TV, and doing all the other things besides voting that democracy entails.

And so I'm going to email Carolyn Bennett's office and see what I can do to help. Help immigrants, help families, help seniors. Help make (keep) this country great.

[Posted at 14:21 by Amy Brown] link
Tue, 10 Feb 2009

Just a quick link to a blog post on Rational Moms about how the data in that one study which linked the MMR vaccine to autism was manipulated.

I hope the lives of those two children weigh heavily on Dr Wakefield's conscience. I bet they don't.

[Posted at 22:19 by Amy Brown] link

There was an article in yesterday's Globe about a University of Ottawa professor locked out of his office and banned from campus. The article implies that he was suspended from teaching because of his unorthodox teaching methods: he doesn't like to give grades, he altered course curriculum with student input.

It was not his job, as he explained later, to rank their skills for future employers, or train them to be “information transfer machines,” regurgitating facts on demand. Released from the pressure to ace the test, they would become “scientists, not automatons,” he reasoned.

Which, frankly, to me, sounds freaking fantastic. It's exactly what Alfie Kohn recommends: student-led learning, no evaluations.

I'm pretty sure we're not getting the whole story, though. A quick Google shows that this guy is a bit of a pain in the ass, so maybe the university has other reasons to can him. It would sure be nice if they would step and say so, if they do. In the meantime, it seems like they're being idiots.

[Posted at 14:50 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 05 Nov 2008

Last night a friend asked me why I was excited that Barack Obama won the American election. Why, as a Canadian, do I care? I couldn't really begin to explain in a Twitter post, and I was tired, but I thought about it as I went to sleep and here is what I have come up with.

I like Americans. I know lots of them and I like most of the Americans I know, and for a long time I have been perplexed by the apparent gulf between "America" and the American people I know. Last night's victory closed that gulf; it seems America the country is a lot more closely aligned to the beliefs and hopes of the America I know than to the vocal minority of fundamentalist and fear-mongers we have heard from of late. And thank goodness for that. So I am very happy for my American friends, that finally their government reflects them.

I like what this victory says about America. I have a friend who was predicting a McCain win: "The young people won't wait in line to vote", he said. "The early results with show a strong lead for Obama and everyone else won't bother to vote", he said. There was an argument put forth that Americans say to pollsters that they would vote for an African-American, but then in the privacy of the polling booth their secret inner racist comes out. I am glad those arguments were wrong. I am glad America got excited about its future and came out to vote in droves, many for the first time, many waiting in line (or on line) for hours.

Why am I glad? Because Americans are people, and people are the same everywhere, and if Americans can get excited about democracy and step up and do the right thing, it makes me feel better about people everywhere.

I'm glad Barack Obama won because he ran an honourable and decent campaign. Everyone pisses and moans about negative campaigning, mud-slinging and pettiness, but it seemed, until now, inevitable, like the weather. Obama has proved it's possible to win an election with a positive, optimistic campaign. (Okay, maybe rather vague, but vague in a positive way.) While McCain and Palin were screechin' and spittin', fear-mongerin' and fist-shakin', Obama maintained his composure without condescending. This is a great lesson for American politicians and a great lesson for politicians everywhere in the world. The bar has been raised.

Obama is smart. Really smart, and America is crying out for a smart person in the White House. Why does this matter to me as a Canadian? Because I am excited to have someone in office who has a hope of understanding and acting on climate change, a global issue if ever there was one. Where America leads, the world follows and we desperately need someone to lead us in the right direction on this matter. (Apparently Canada isn't going to do it.)

It's not just climate change. The world faces numerous potential global threats: a flu pandemic, a disaster in our fragile food distribution system, terrorism, peak oil. Not to mention whatever the hell is going on with the economy. It's fine, I guess, to have a numbskull in office when there's not much to do, but when anything could happen I am much happier knowing that there is someone in the most powerful position in the world who has a hope of really understanding the situation, consulting with the right people and making an informed decision without resorting to dogma and superstition.

And I'll admit it: I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. (I still am; I am dying to sit down and watch the Stewart/Colbert special from last night!) Obama is the "other" to so many Americans: he is black to white Americans, he is educated to uneducated Americans, he is foreign-raised to Americans who have never left the country, he is the son of an African to slave-descended Americans (although I never heard anyone talk about that), he is the son of an atheist and a lapsed Muslim to Christian Americans, he is erudite and witty and Northern and liberal(ish); he is so many things that we have heard that Americans aren't (Real Americans, that is) and yet America voted for him. That so many people were able to see past the things they don't share with Barack Obama and see in him the best of their common humanity stirs in me great pride and hope for what has been and could again be a great nation.

Here are some more links:

I don't know if Barack Obama is going to be as shiny as his most enthusiastic supporters make him out to be. I don't know if any mortal could be. But I am excited about what this election says about America and I am optimistic about the future. Why not be?

[Posted at 16:51 by Amy Brown] link
Wed, 30 Jul 2003
Tue, 11 Feb 2003
So apparently, contrary to what I believed, having the runs can help prevent colon cancer. Unfortunately, this applies only if your tummy troubles are caused by E. coli.
[Posted at 15:37 by Amy Brown] link
It looks like scientists are finally figuring out what the hell is up with hiccups. As an occasional sufferer it comes as a great relief to know that there's some point to my misery, even if we're not entirely sure what it is yet.
[Posted at 15:11 by Amy Brown] link