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A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 5

Posted by Keen Observer on February 6, 2012

And so it continues…

At some point during this period following the attacks, I also found—I’ve no idea now how at this point—a left-wing blogger that I found interesting enough to read regularly. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was likely in 2006, and I think it was after I moved to Calgary and was looking for connections to the city of my birth. This blogger, whose link is at the right side of my blog’s home page (grrrlmeetsworld), was a southern Baptist preacher’s daughter transplanted to Saskatoon for graduate school, who became an atheist and a Democrat/liberal. The conversion from Christian Republican to atheist Democrat seemed interesting to me at the time, and I even commented a few times, though I can no longer seem to find them. I read her posts and resisted some of what I read mentally, which told me I wasn’t a true leftist, but I didn’t know what I was for sure yet. I definitely did agree with her condemnation of southern religious practices as outlined in the documentary “Jesus Camp”, of which I have admittedly only seen a few scenes. What I did see scared the crap out of me and had me fearing for a generation of brainwashed children steeped in superstition. It did, I think, help with my transition away from religion.

 [Blogger’s Note: I had thought, when I started writing this (and have held as long as I can recall) that reading grrrlmeetsworld pointed me at a right-wing blog, described below. I’ll tell the story as I believed it, but after trying to create a timeline from Internet resources, I can no longer swear positively that this was the way it happened. It was similar in some way, but the connection would seem not to be as direct. I add this little note as my attempt at deflecting potential accusations of “making shit up” or “intellectual dishonesty”, but I would have sworn this to be true before starting to verify it.]

Reading this blog, however, pointed me in an unexpected direction. Said blogger decided to take issue with something she’d heard on the radio or read in the local paper and then followed up by linking to another site at right, smalldeadanimals. I think this was in 2006 still. The hostess of that blog had commented on the subject of welfare and single moms and drugs (or something like that), to the effect of “Why should we pay for people who can’t keep their legs closed?” I’m paraphrasing, but I believe that was the sentiment/subject. I went to this blog and read the statement, as I wanted to make sure I had the context correct, because I couldn’t believe something like that would get published/make the air. But that’s what it was. Somebody said something I knew to be unpopular, but with which I agreed. So I poked around the site and read more. And more. I initially read bits and pieces, feeling as though I was being naughty for doing so, but most of what I read resonated quite strongly with me, though I have—and still do—disagree with some things that get posted there, especially in the comments.

That was effectively the beginning of the end of my conversion to conservatism. The more I read, the more I realised what I was and why some things seemed wrong to me, and the more I realised that I was regularly being either lied to or fed half-truths in the name of a specific agenda. I learned about things I had not heard before. I learned about things I had heard about before, but with additional or different information. I clicked on links and found other blogs with even more information and links that exposed further lies and untruths. Some of what I learned put earlier experiences in my life in a different light.

Of course, the more I read of how I had been duped in the media and school, and more about things that make sense to me, the less I find I want to read left-leaning blogs, because I have trouble now reading them without wanting to pull out my hair in frustration. It frequently seems to me as though the left-leaners are wilfully blind to facts and logic. Until I was trying to put this together, I couldn’t have told you the last time I was at grrrlmeetsworld, or Daily Dose. I almost never go to places like the Huffington Post, unless someone provides a useful link. Watching how the “regular” press treated different candidates in elections differently, or treated one side of the parliamentary aisle with more respect than the other really helped turn me off, when the information is available by other means for you to draw your own conclusions, ones that frequently (if not mostly) disagree with the “accepted” view of things.  It doesn’t hurt that I moved to a province generally considered to be the most conservative in Canada, which certainly made it easier to accept that I wasn’t alone in my beliefs.

As time goes on I settle more into where I’m at politically and religiously. It’s a strange sort of comfort. Religiously, as should be obvious, I am barely agnostic, still a hand’s breadth from “committing” to atheism, teetering daily, when I have time to think about it. Some things—or people—make that seem to happen more frequently. Looking up on a clear night is one of those things, though there are fewer clear nights in Calgary than there were in Saskatoon. Sometimes, a friend makes you think, or a random experience. So, I remain agnostic, but for practical purposes I’m an atheist.

Politically, I usually describe myself as a libertarian-conservative, or centre-right, depending on my mood. I am not a social conservative, though I can understand and relate to some of the positions on that side. I do tend to agree that a nuclear family is better for society as a whole, but those who would espouse freedom should understand that you can’t force that on others, nor can you force them to share your religious tenets. I use “libertarian” in the sense of a minimum of social restrictions, but I’m not a true libertarian, in the sense that pure libertarians tend to anarchism, whether or not they acknowledge that. My political views are largely thus:

  • The role of government should be as small as is possible, given its responsibilities.
  • Governmental responsibilities should be as few as possible to enable society to function relatively smoothly, and new ones should not be sought to expand power, with the possible exception of national emergencies (at the federal level). The limits should be constitutionally set, where they are not already.
    • National Defence at the federal level, including border security and oceanic sovereignty.
    • Adjudicating disputes; jurisdiction depends on level.
    • A minor level of regulation for a very limited set of problems, and federal responsibilities should never be adopted by the provinces, or vice versa.
    • Regulation of international agreements/diplomacy/similar things.
  • Spending as little as possible as needed to fulfil the mandates required. This requires limiting the size of the public service and the amount of money paid to public servants in a way that does not reward sloth or failure. With this in mind, citizens need not pay for as much, so taxes may also be kept to a minimum.
  • Charity is not the business of government. Transfer payments are a form of charity.
  • Child care is not the business of government.
  • Religion is not the business of government, nor should it have any say in government. We are a secular country, but our people may sometimes hold religious beliefs. These are likely to inform decision-making, but this should be minimised where possible. A decision for one religious group may not be good for another, but it may be good on the whole.

Beyond this list, it’s largely up for negotiation, but the public sector should never be getting mixed up in the private sector. There is nothing so bad (in terms of business, at least) that government can’t make worse, and so the opportunities for such should be limited. This also should reduce any existence of—or potential for—corruption, and hopefully reduce the number of lifetime bureaucrats that produce nothing of value.

My positions sometimes shift slightly, depending on circumstances, but these are basically consistent for me right now. I also have views on other things, such as immigration, but those are perhaps topics for other days. I won’t bother to summarise my current religious status, since I think it’s been more or less covered, but the political journey I’ve taken so far does have parallels on the religious side of things.

And on that note, I’ll declare this odyssey at an end, though in much less dramatic fashion than the original. But it’s never really over.

Posted in Alberta, economics, general, news & journalism, personal, politics, religion | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 5

Politics, schmolitics

Posted by Keen Observer on December 3, 2008

I guess I can’t really call myself a blogger if I don’t write something about the on-going brouhaha in Ottawa over a probable change in government.  There seems to be a lot of talk about whether or not the idiots we elected in October are doing the right thing, or even just doing their jobs.  There’s talk about overthrowing the so-called will of the people, about abusing the democratic process, about partisan politicking (like there’s any other kind), and so on and so forth.

Given the title of my blog, I have to step up to the plate and call BS on…well…far too many people.  I’m not going to bother with links, though:  there are far too many posts and articles to list, and I’m assuming y’all are smart enough to find at least one or two that will address the targets of my scorn with a minimum of fuss and bother.  If I can, I may scatter one or two for illustrative purposes.

First, my position, so we don’t have errors in assuming I’m from one part of the political spectrum or another and have people shouting imprecations at me for being there.  I consider myself largely a centrist.  I have many libertarian tendencies, but I think the doctrine goes a little too far on some things.  I lean left on some issues and right on others.  But enough about me.

Second, I agree with most people that there’s a lot of childish bickering going on down east.  I expected more from our PM.  I have to admit, though, that this is the most exciting thing to happen politically in Canada in many a long year.

Third, it’s interesting that people keep mentioning this ‘promise’ of the Liberals and NDP not to form a coalition during the election, yet they have little to say when confronted with repeated promise-breaking by all political parties after winning election.  Every politician spins some sort of promise or another to get (re-)elected, which is subsequently unfulfilled.  To believe otherwise is naïve in the extreme.  A major case in point (or two) that show Canadians should never be surprised by this, nor hold it up as a simple means to excoriate an opponent (ooh! they’re naughty liars!):

  1. a promise to eliminate the GST (Liberals–not done)
  2. a promise not to tax income trust distributions (CPC–broken).

Keep in mind, too, that this is not a military coup to seize power.  The laws of the land are still being followed.   For now.  But also keep in mind that Harper is trying to prevent a lawful vote from happening in the House using means similar to the Opposition.  There is far too much of pot/kettle going on here.

Fourth, I watched all four leaders speak tonight and listened to the commentary on more than one channel.  The person who came across the best?  Gilles Duceppe.  Oh, how I wish he weren’t a separatist leader!  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  he’s probably the best man for the job.  As proof, I’ll offer that he and his party would not be in government in this coalition.  Either he’s not seeking power, or he’s staying true to his principles.  You decide.  My breakdown on the other three:

  1. Harper:  he was an angry man, the very picture of a bully trying to get his way by wheedling, when brute intimidation failed.  I haven’t felt talked down to like that in a very, very long time.  He seemed to be taking some plays from the Book of Kim Campbell, in that he felt he needed to explain to us in excruciating detail why this was bad, very bad, for Canada, because we, the people, are too dang stupid to figure out on our own that this coalition was composed of boogey-men out to usurp democracy.  The tone of voice he used made my skin crawl, like I was being lectured for having transgressed and couldn’t understand the enormity of my sin.  As to the content of his message, well, there wasn’t much beyond the core message of “Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”  A wasted opportunity.
  2. Layton:  he spoke well, better than the others (in English), but I have trouble shaking the feeling of smarm that he exudes.  I just don’t like the man’s public persona.  He tried to tell people that he tried to offer substantive help to the government but was rejected.  True or not, it’s now up to Harper to refute.  His best comment?  “[Harper] is more concerned about his job than about [Canadian] jobs.”  Or however it was phrased.
  3. Dion:  Well, there are better videos on YouTube, I have to say that.  He did not come across well, as far as making CTV wait for his video.  CBC seemed to have gotten it okay, though.  Confusion there, certainly.  I don’t think he would make a very good PM, but he won’t be in place long, likely.  He made some very good points, trying to explain how this coalition would be good for Canada, but he missed one important one.  He forgot to explain how this wasn’t, as some have put it, a putsch to seize power illegally, or as Harper put it, “overturning the results of a general election.”

Fifth, Mandate.  There’s been a lot of talk about the Harper ‘mandate’ to govern Canada.  I’m continually confused by this.  Sure, what mandate he has was strengthened in seat count in the last election, but I have a hard time with a minority government being considered to have any mandate to govern.  His party got more seats than any of the others.  Whoopee.  Note that his party got 38% of the votes in this country, with a really low voter turnout.  The other parties got 62% of the votes.  Is Harper really sure he knows the will of the people?  But that’s not really relevant, because Canadians elected who they elected.  And now he has to deal with the confidence of the House, which he apparently no longer has.  There’s your mandate.

Sixth, the suborning of the electoral process by the Opposition.  Here’s one of the biggest BS calls on this whole mess, since all the parties seem to be acting within the rules of Parliament and the Constitution.  The voter’s involvement in the electoral process is generally confined to election day and the weeks preceding it.  Time after time, majority governments have been elected and re-elected, with the occasional minority government to break things up.  We send people to Ottawa to act for us.  Almost never do they ask us what to do once there, and in nearly all cases they would scorn unsolicited advice.  I didn’t vote for my MP; in fact, I think he’s rather a useless tool, and I’d be glad to see him out of government.  But once my ballot hits that slot, I understand that I have no more say in what an MP does during his term.  I don’t set policy; I don’t issue directives; I don’t tell him how to vote:  all of this comes from party HQ and/or the party leader.  Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t been paying attention over the years.  And in this light, unless there’s another general election called, all that Canadians can do is sit back and watch the shit show.

Other comments as they occur to me:

  1. Harper acted like a bully, and the Opposition stood up to him.  He didn’t like having to back down, so he’s trying to re-assert whatever authority he believes he has.  He’s coming across as a scared man, and his lack of a statesmanlike demeanor is obvious.  He definitely seems like a man afraid of losing his job…or like a power-hungry idealogue.
  2. Dion is not prime-ministerial material.  I candidly admit that.  He tends to come across a little too professorial, like he should still be in academia.  I thought he did pretty well in the leaders’ debate, surprising everyone with a concrete economic plan.  But Harper spun that like a pro, calling Dion’s plan ‘panicking’, simply because he revealed it at a debate, not at a press conference.  This was rich, considering that Harper’s own platforms weren’t released until well after the debates (IIRC).
  3. Dion vs Harper is a fool’s choice.  Neither is right for Canada, not now.  Unfortunately, they’re the choices we have.  If I were religious, I’d say “God help us,” but I’m not.
  4. I like minority governments.  Otherwise, we elect dictatorships, and no one needs that.  A working minority government gets stuff done, but it has to be by dealing with the Opposition, giving them something to get what you want.  Quite honestly, I kind of like the CPC minority government, but Harper has been able to get away with a little too much–acting like he is a majority government–simply because the Opposition has been too disorganised, and he’s been–up until now, anyway–able to keep the Bloc in line.  I do have to say in all fairness that I’d prefer that the parties work together, as long as Harper understands that he no longer instills fear in his opponents.  He drew the line in the sand, and they crossed it.  Now he needs to respond to his reality check and get with the other parties to work together to solve Canada’s problems.

My final thought:  someone whose opinions are rather important to me suggested something that makes a lot of sense.  Both sides should come up with their budgets and present them to the people in a binding referendum in simple language that a 10th-grader can understand.  No wiggle room, no changing them after they’re posted to the Internet for people to digest.  What the people vote on is what they get.  And that is how you take it to the people.

Posted in Canadian, economics, politics | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

First!

Posted by Keen Observer on October 28, 2008

As a first post, I hope to give people a bit of an understanding of me and where I’m coming from, without my identity getting scattered around for misuse.  I currently have comments disabled, but I hope to turn them on at some point in the future, once I have a body of work worthy of criticism.  For now, there just doesn’t seem much point.

I live in Calgary, Alberta, although I’m not from here.  Up until recently, I worked in the energy industry.  I’m currently looking at a potential career change to something I’ll enjoy more.  I may, however, just end up back doing the same sort of thing to pay the bills.  I have a fairly broad educational background, and I’m a voracious reader.  I also dabble in writing, and this will be the first time I’ve published anything for public consumption.

I have to admit that it makes me nervous, because much of what I say (perhaps all?) will annoy someone somewhere.  I don’t like being exposed like that, but I’ve seen things in the last six months or so that have so left me shaking my head, that I, in my own personal brand of hubris, decided I need to help educate the world.  The problem is that most of the people who need that education are unlikely to read socio-political blogs online.  But I still feel the need to point out glaring issues that seem to miss critical comment and analysis by news media, to the point that what seems blindingly obvious to me (and others) is glossed over or ignored at exactly the wrong time.  If something isn’t glossed over or ignored, it tends to be obfuscated to such a degree that it develops a particular smell.

Therein lies the source of my blog’s name:  sometimes, you just have to call bullshit on something or someone, to tell the emperor he has no clothes, lest the situation deteriorate to something much, much worse.  I use the radio call letters for BS in the hopes of keeping the blog name work friendly.

Four main things in the past year continue to boggle my mind, although there are many other subjects equally worthy of public ridicule and honest analysis, based on the facts I have available to me.  I can be persuaded, if there are sources of factual, unbiased information to which people can refer me (print or electronic).  These four main items are:

  1. The US election and general American political BS
  2. The highly-variable price of oil and BS analysis thereof
  3. The recent Canadian election and continual political BS
  4. The global, stock-market meltdown and associated BS.

Other topics are similar in nature, including political, social, religious, and economic topics in North America and around the world, and perhaps the occasional personal musing on something else.  But among all of this is the common thread that there’s so much BS out there, you’d swear it was being fertilised to grow faster.

The likely format for this is probably something like:

  1. I’ll find/post a link to some news story or other (perhaps multiple links to show more than one of the reporting biases).  I may or may not post a link to another blog already commenting.
  2. I’ll write up some excoriating analysis of why this indicates a head so far up its own ass that they can eat breakfast twice.  It may or may not get edited after the fact.
  3. I’ll see if anyone comments.  I’m not interested in heated discussions, and I tend to love my opinions rather a lot, but if someone can find me a link or hard-copy reference that is an obvious refutation of my position (not someone else’s opinion, though I may check those out), I am capable of reconsidering my opinion.
  4. ????  Rinse and repeat?

A few extra points:  my sense of humour is not the same as most people’s; I tend to use (and encourage the use of) British spellings, but sometimes I slip; I tend to the sarcastic and snarky; SPELLING AND GRAMMAR COUNT, if you wish to be taken seriously or actually understood; there’s no need to be insulting, but I appreciate a good zinger as much as the next person–if you’re going to do it, be creative; I can read French passably, if English is not your first language, but I will miss anything subtle.

I guess that’s it for now.  Just for shits and giggles, I left comments on for this post.  Have at ‘er, and I’ll be back with some actual content sooner or later.  I make no promises as to when.

Also, I will add some things as I go along, like my blogroll and the obligatory links section.  I’m rather new at this, for all that I’ve been reading some blogs for about ten years or so.  And I won’t point out that I’ve been using computers since about 1980, since that might age me some.  But this part of it is all new to me, so it’ll take some time to get it how I want it.  I do like this theme, though.  I’ll probably stick with it.

And fair warning:  I sometimes don’t know when to stop writing.  Hopefully, this will teach me to control that better. (Ha!)

Posted in economics, general, personal, politics, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Comments Off on First!