I’m Voting…

… well, I’m not. As far as what I’ve been told, I’m not allowed to vote because I’ve been expatriate too long. Which is bloody stupid, but it’s what I was told during the last national Canadian election. (If you know different, please tell me!)

But this is amusing and very interesting, and so are the Mac ad ripoff political spots here. I’m sure there are similar things on the right, though I wonder how much mass appeal is possible given the obvious disadvantages of the Right agenda.

Still, the thing to remember is, we’ve only had an internet less than 20 years. This stuff is going to get a lot more sophisticated in terms media savvy and argumentation. What we can expect is that the vast majority of street-level creativity we’ll see will be Leftist, but the glitziest stuff will be Rightwing.

And this, by the way, is another reason to be very wary of government censorship or control of Web content of any kind. Three cheers for the EFF!

18 thoughts on “I’m Voting…

  1. Well, I would agree to lose my voting rights in France if I were to live abroad for several years IF non-French nationals living in France for several years were to gain the right to vote too.

    It doesn’t feel right to me that French nationals who don’t live in France anymore can have their say on how France is to be run, impacting the lifes of people living in France and paying taxes, abiding by laws upon which they have no say.

  2. Jerome,

    Yeah, but I also can’t vote in Korea. Well, maybe in municipal elections, I don’t know. I would like to be able to vote *somewhere* since I pay my taxes and live under a government too. (And since I may actually end up in Canada at some point after the current morons have dismantled everything that was good in that country. One problem about brain drain is the kind of voters who get left behind.)

    So yes, I agree, foreign nationals whose lives are strongly impacted, who live in a state of relative permanency in that country and pay taxes and all that, should have the right to vote.

  3. Move to the USA! After years of listening to smug, self-satisfied Canuckistani poseurs blather on about how progressive they are, I’m actually living in a country where a woman and a person of color are mounting serious bids to become the leader of the free world. How many years do you think it will take for a First Nations person or a woman to accomplish the same thing in Canada? I’m not going to hold my breath waiting;)

  4. Yeah, I’ve long thought the Canadian establishment was very portly, white, and male. I can see a woman taking the helm in Canada relatively easily, but a First Nations person, not so much.

    Then again, I think the figureheads are less important than policies, and I fear women and First Nations people fare (relatively) better in Canada, at least in terms of basic services that should be universal in a civilized society.

    All of which is moot since Lime is working on her USMLE exam and we have a good chance of moving to the US in a few years. (We might have to live in Canada prior to that, though, depending. Or resign ourselves — er, myself — to returning to Korea for two years afterward.)

    Anyway, we’ll see. I am just hoping very hard she doesn’t get matched to a hospital in North Dakota. Or I will go mad. Mad, I tell you!

  5. Mark,
    “How many years do you think it will take for a First Nations person or a woman to accomplish the same thing in Canada? I’m not going to hold my breath waiting;)”

    Well, we had Kim Campbell as PM more than ten years ago, so luckily you won’t have to hold your breath long on that account.
    Or, were you talking about being the leader of the free world? That would be a little tougher for any Canadian, I guess.

  6. Wow, the Canadians here abound! Another comment on the thread was misposted here, too. There’s a good point raised there: First Nations people are a much smaller part of the Canadian population than African-Americans. Legally, anyway, and sexism in the Indian Act aside, it is a significantly smaller proportion of the population.

    Anyway, Brent and Brian, I forgot about Kim Campbell, and maybe that’s for a good reason. Mark’s talking about getting elected, not appointed. Still, I stand by my instinct that it would not be so difficult for a Canadian woman to become Prime Minister by election. Not so hard at all, and I seriously doubt that the first one to make a serious bid in national elections will have to be married to an ex-PM in order to do so, either.

    First Nations, I think, will take a lot longer. Then again, given how relatively recently things like the residential schools and virtual imprisonment on reservations existed, and the much smaller numbers of people involved, the political awakening of First Nations communities is doing quite well, thank you very much.

    (Yes, there’s corruption in many bands, and yes, there’s still an alcohol problem on some reservations, and many Native Studies programs are falling into similar traps that other “political” disciplines in universities have done, but even so, many communities have recognized this and taken steps to turn things around. When I lived in Lac La Ronge, it was a dirt poor community where kids sat outside the one grocery store in town chewing paper because they had no money for gum. From what I’ve heard, the community there has totally turned things around; dry reserve, lots of small business, and a much better life for people there.

    (Incidentally, the chief now is even a woman, as are all the Elders listed on the website.)

    I’d be curious to know how many officials in elected positions in the US, and in Canada, are women. I’m not sure, but my gut feeling is that a more proportional of women (or nonwhites) elected as representatives in government would be a better measurement that one figurehead, especially in the bread-and-circus game of figurehead selection.

    (I don’t know the numbers, note: it could be that women and minorities are more appropriately represented in the US government than in the Canadian one. I’m too busy to look it up now, I’m just saying.)

  7. You guys can have Harper and Dion. I’ll take Obama, he wears his suits well;)

    If you are that concerned about social justice (or if you want free, second rate healthcare provided by the state) and the fair treatment of womyn and minorities, move to North Dakota. I believe the state has universal coverage, not unlike Oregon and Massachusetts. Cold winters, too, but you can’t have everything.

  8. Well, I’d rather someone else have Harper. Fatty pork gives me the runs. I guess the question of whether Canada or the US has better proportional representation is of no interest, if the fashion of your preferred figurehead is the big issue, but that is a dodge.

    As for the rest, uh, well… I’m finding it hard to reply to the argument without replying to the tone. Do you really think it’s so passé to care about gender and racial equality, or is that just how hip white American Libertarians talk? I don’t think pandering to professional feminists (which is what I’m guessing the “womyn” crack is about) is necessary or even constructive, but yes, I do believe in social justice and free healthcare.

    It wouldn’t have to be second rate if the people running the show weren’t so intent on chopping the legs out from under it to show how badly the system works, as John Ralston Saul pointed out years and years ago when it wasn’t even as far along as it is now.

    In fact, the (almost) free “second rate” health care in Korea is one of this country’s best features. Better than first-rate health care that the vast majority of people can never enjoy, or must get jobs they don’t want or need in order to secure.

    But hey, if you want a fully-corporatized society, it’s your business. I just don’t want it forced on me by people who think they know better than I do. The “choice” central to your professed libertarianism should cut both ways, should it not?

  9. Well, if Obama is just a figurehead, why get so upset about Harper, Reagan, Thatcher et al?

    Sure you believe in social justice and free healthcare. It doesn’t actually mean anything though. You walk around at the occasional protest, you’ve commidified your dissent by buying organic chocolate, and you write obviously sincere blogposts about the issues. You argue your points well in threads, and I do enjoy reading your comments.

    However, if you really wanted to make a genuine difference on the environment and social justice, why don’t you put up more links on your blog? It’s one thing to say Obama is a figurehead, but if you can’t vote, why aren’t you at least showing some ads produced by the local candidate in your riding? I found out about Amit Singh a little too late, but when I knew he was into the issues I cared about, I put one of his ads on my blog. I enjoy the discussions on these threads, but at the end of the day, if there is an issue I care about, I’ll log off of the computer and work the phones for a local candidate.

    If we end up with a fully corporatized society, whose fault is that? I wouldn’t blame Milton Friedman for it. Farmers grow to much corn, and the government subsidizes them to protect them from the ups and downs and of the market. Corporations like Archer Daniel Midland, use the corn to make syrup, which replaces cane sugar in sodas. Archer Daniel Midland continues to come up with different ways of using all that excess corn, and eventually hit on ethanol, which burns up more energy when you make it than you eventually save. Archer Daniel Midlands gets government subsidies for ethanol, cars burn food for fuel, and now there are food riots breaking out in the third world. I can see many different people behind all this insanity (including the massive corporations you detest) but the one group I don’t see are the good people over at the Cato Institute.

  10. Shawn,

    Yeah, I have been paying taxes in Korea, and not in Canada, since I first got over here. That’s how it works with Canada, when you’re a non-resident. (Americans pay taxes even when nonresident, but only once they get over some huge amount of income.)


    You have the right to critique the views I express here.

    You don’t have the right to belittle me personally. Think about that the next time you comment here, please, because you’ve already crossed a line (more than once) that several other commenters have been banned for crossing.

    The latter makes you come off rather like an internet troll, and I’m almost not interested in replying since it makes it look like I’m explaining myself to you. But for the benefit of those who might wonder what I think of your criticism:

    I realize my life might look like a parody of the left wing to you, but there are two things you’re ignoring:

    1. You have no clue what I do on a daily basis because of my beliefs. None. You assume you do, you probably use as a model the egghead leftists you once knew in Manitoba or saw in some film or movie, but you have zero working knowledge of my daily life, at least of the majority — about which I don’t post here.

    So don’t trawl my posts for things to use to belittle me or imply I’m hollowly politicized. Organic chocolate? Wandering around a few demonstrations? Please! Do I criticize your politics on the basis of your choices of media to consume? There’s such a thing as a low blow, even online. If you want to get insulting, we can, but I prefer not to go there.

    And I don’t know why you seem to want to skirt that line on my blog.

    2. I live in Korea, Mark.

    Local candidates don’t make videos, they send white-puppeted ajummas to my local subway station to dance and wave their hands. There are limited things I can do politically here. This is one of the things that frustrates me most about living here, in fact. But I focus on what I can do.

    (Correction: They do make videos, but not the kind you mean. I haven’t seen a Korean candidate’s video online that I would actually pass on to anyone, and besides, the target audience of those videos aren’t reading expat blogs in English.)

    A lot of that, but not all, is in the classroom, where we actually talk about issues like sexism, racial stereotypes, issues concerned with foreign (third world immigrant) workers, the environment, the problems in the Korean media and education system, and motivating people to think something other than apathetic resentment is possible.

    Sometimes my students are grappling with these issues for the first time in their young adult lives, and certainly I’m making it available to them in more interesting ways that most classes would offer — they tell me this themselves, and it’s obvious in how they react. I spend huge amounts of energy on my classes, getting students to think about issues like this and presenting it in a way that challenges and interests them. Which is a hell of a lot of work, and during semesters takes up a lot of my free time.

    Hell, even the way I teach — promoting feedback, encouraging students to put their contributions out into the world — is helping them to see how their education system could be, say, for their kids. This is one reason I review so few novels. But I do it as a way of contributing to Korea, and because so many foreign teachers I’ve seen here were the opposite — lazy, ignorant parasites who implicitly reinforced the idea that Western pedagogy is a joke.

    Or, yes, my writing. What you see as pointless blogging about demos in Korea is, to me, helping to balance coverage dominated by derision for Koreans in general and a lack of research. I put the information I can get out there, and provide more context than just, “Duh! Koreans are dumb groupthinkers! Heh!” which takes a lot of research time and thought.

    And you don’t need to tell me how we got ethanol, Mark, I know all that. But how does the environment where that all can happen come about? Ideas. Ideas drive legislation which drives industries. (Just as, several hundred years ago, the excess corn harvests led to the tax boon created by distilling gin, at the cost of the sobriety of much of a generation of lower-class Londoners.) It is in that capacity — as a tireless promoter of the ideas that underpin the kind of economics that is this blithering stupid and backwards — that I blame Friedman.

    Hopefully, though, better ideas will make this ethanol silliness a thing of the past. Like this one. I’ve been waiting for someone to come up with bacteria that excretes petrol.

    Which, by the way, is another way I work hard. Writing SF may seem a joke to you, but it’s one way people influence others’ vision of the future, sometimes for the better. I aspire to that.

    In any case, I would prefer if you maintain a modicum of politeness and not take it upon yourself to launch personal attacks in future, or take it upon yourself to dismiss all that I do in my faily life as nothing because I’m not posting ads on my site or “working the phones” for a candidate.

    If you reread my comment replying to your previous one above, I’m trying to be polite and engage with the issues you seemed to be dismissing. It’s strained, to be sure — I had to rewrite it three times to avoid vitriol, and maybe the “corporatized” thing crossed a line, but Jesus, man, I didn’t sit back and tear into you at length. I’d appreciate a similar, even if flawed, attempt at respect and restraint from you on your end too, Mark.

  11. By the way:

    The bluster about figureheads is muddling (or ignoring) my argument that we can probably learn more about a country’s progressiveness by looking at how proportionally their elected representatives actually compare to the populace. Would you argue that Indian or Filipino society are more progressive than America’s, since they had women as Presidents before America? Or that Peru is, for having had an ethnically Japanese President?

    As for my criticism of Thatcher, Reagan, Harper, et al, maybe you missed the fact I tended to criticize the policies that governments under their administration implemented, and the effects thereof. You can disagree with my criticisms, but I’d appreciate you not misrepresenting them.

    But hey, I suppose when you’re engaged in ad hominem, a little non sequitur and strawman are minor additions, I suppose.

  12. Bad day at the office, and the curse of relative anonymity online. Re-reading my second last post, I did cross the line, and I’m sorry for that.

    As for the last post, I didn’t think “corporatized” crossed the line at all. What had me seeing red was the following – “hip white American Libertarians”. The sarcasm doesn’t bother me. It rolls off my back – it’s seems to be the preferred put down on the prairies. As I’ve gotten older I think it reflects poorly on the person dishing it out, and I try to avoid it as much as possible.

    However, this is the second time you’ve made a point of referring to me as “white” in the comments section. Have you looked in the mirror lately? I find it well, insulting to have my skin color brought into discussions, and if you want to talk about ad hominem attacks, I can’t think of a better example.

  13. I probably shouldn’t re-visit this thread, but I do want to try and smooth things over, so I’ll give a little context about my original Obama comments.

    I think Canadians in general frequently mix the best elements of one political philosophy with the worst elements of another political philosophy, and the end result, well, lived abroad for 5 plus years now.

    Gay marriage is great, marijuna legalization is great, but these aren’t threats like lapdances at strip clubs are to Soccer Mom’s who vote for the Grits or the NDP, or selling alcohol in cornerstores and grocery stores are to provincial revenue.

    I don’t use illegal drugs, and on rare occasions I’ll have a cigar. However, I find it bizarre that in Manitoba legislation has made purchasing cigarettes as clandestine as purchasing illegal narcotics.

    It’s an ugly fact, but there is significant resistance to the idea of electing Obama amongst hopefully small, but significant portions of the electorate. Regardless of the outcome, or the ultimate proportions assigned to representation across the board, I think it’s a genuine sign of how far things have come down here.

    Canada on the other hand, well, it always ends up looking smaller by comparison, even when pointing to instances of it’s generosity and compassion. I got tired of the smugness (in general, not in the discussion on this thread) and the use of anti-Americanism as a cover to overlook the problems in our own backyard.

  14. Mark,

    Thanks for the apology, I appreciate it. Likewise, I apologize for offending you by using the word “white” as I did.

    However, please let me contextualize my use of “white” so you know what I am (and am not) saying.

    I am constantly aware of my whiteness, even without a mirror, because as I mentioned before, I live in Korea. It’s a subject I’ve meditated on before here, and here, and (tangentially) here, and in the context of my teaching, here.

    My point in mentioning whiteness is not to shut you down, or to discredit you. Actually, it’s not about your whiteness per se at all… It’s just that I find it hard to imagine these words —

    If you are that concerned about social justice (or if you want free, second rate healthcare provided by the state) and the fair treatment of womyn and minorities, move to North Dakota.

    — coming out of the mouth of anyone but a white man.

    But the “young, hip, white Libertarian” I was talking about wasn’t you per se; I figured the trope is part of a Libertarian library of rhetorical modes.

    The reason I bash Libertarianism so much is because of the degree to which white males of the middle or upper class are attracted to it, and the degree to which white (and male) privilege seems (relatively) invisible or easily dismissed to so many proponents of libertarianism.

    Having said that, I hope you see that this is less an ad hominem attack on you than a larger attack on Libertarianism despite some good points that Libertarians have made in the past.

    (By the way, I haven’t lived on the prairie since 1998, and “white” wasn’t a big insult when I lived there. This is news to me. Aren’t most people on the prairie white? Do they all think they’re some other color? Is this because the US Network affiliates we got our American TV from when we were kids were broadcasting out of Detroit?)

    As for the rest, I understand what you mean and I also find parts of Canada’s political culture frustrating and silly. (I could say the same about America.) Self-righteousness on either side of the border is hugely counterproductive.

    But intelligent people can disagree with you about the status of Canada politically. As I cited earlier, John Ralston Sault’s (dated, but very interesting) book Reflections of a Siamese Twin is a very interesting, and very liberal, view of Canada’s 20th century political history, criticizing many of the warts you yourself acknowledge but arguing different causes.

    My views on the cigarette laws are unformed, because complex, but the real paradox here is this: human beings engage in risky behaviours, include risky use of toxic substances, for complex reasons. (The best treatment of this I’ve seen was in Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee.) What troubles me is that while most of us agree that industries should be legislatively restricted from introducing unnecessary toxins into products — lead paint on kids’ toys, or benzene in cola, for example — the freedom to abuse certain toxins is often touted as “liberty.”

    Yet the people doing the touting almost always do it for the purposes of profit, and have by now successfully spun this all — in the public mind and discourse — as an issue of “liberty” and not as an problem of social parasitism.

    The complicated part is that everything we consume is, strictly speaking, on some level toxic. After decades, even a diet of fresh vegetables can be mildly carcinogenic. Where do we draw the line, and what kind of line do we draw? I like being able to have whiskey, very occasionally, and deprived of the freedom to use alcohol responsibly, my experience would seem to me, subjectively, a deprivation of liberty.

    Heroin, on the other hand, because it erodes my ability to choose, is a substance which I can argue should be controlled or restricted; when a person is deprived of it, they would likely experience not a deprivation of liberty, but rather a reinstatement of it. (However difficult or painful, this is what recovered heroin users seem to report; at least, many jazz musicians seem to have spoken of it that way.)

    Cigarettes are in a strange place on the scale: like heroin, nicotine is highly addictive and like benzene in cola, cigarettes are explicitly linked to serious and fatal disease; yet, like with whiskey, people deprived of them (and under the influence of both addiction and corporate spin) would experience the deprivation as a loss of liberty. Any government wishing to deal with this situation — an a government that provides health care is stuck with the bills of mass toxic addiction will eventually realize it needs to do so — faces an excruciating double-bind.

    Anyway, requiring shops not to display them openly is likely a response that tries to balance the two sides of this paradox, but likely an ineffective one. Education, effective PSAs, and so on are one route. Another would be extremely strict legislation about the chemical treatment of the tobacco in the cigarettes. (In order to reduce the nicotine and thus the addictiveness of cigarettes — especially the addictiveness that is built into them chemically — so that users actually can use them in moderation.)

    I’m guessing future societies — in which corporate profits don’t outweigh or define liberty — will probably consider the line to be the point where addictiveness of the product itself erases or erodes liberty. They’ll invet cigarettes that people can smoke if they like, but also not become easily addicted to.

    But addiction is also often in the human brain and the individual personality, and I agree we cannot coddle everyone. (A student of mine argued the Internet should be turned off for certain hours during the night so internet addiction would be reduced. I was taken aback.)

    It’s very easy to say using addictive drugs is about free choice, but research shows that social class (and race and geographic location) and more all come into play and interact complexly. Ignoring those complex interactions — from a governmental perspective, when one is formulating legislation — makes it easier just to say, “Let’s not legislate at all,” but it’s arguable that doing so doesn’t actually result in greater liberty for more people. (Any more than allowing cheap, delicious soft drinks full of addictive substances (and/or strong carcinogens) onto the market would result in a net social increase in liberty overall.)

    And finally, I agree that how far Obama has come means something. I just don’t think it means Canada isn’t progressive, or isn’t as progressive as America. I think different criteria need to be considered.

    By the way, I discovered a current source for proportional representation of women in government in various countries worldwide, that claims to be current. It’s here.

    The US has 16.8% women in what I assume is Congress, and 16.0% in Senate. The situation in Canada, comparably, is 21.3% and 34.4% for the House of Commons and the Senate.

    Before any Canadians get too excited, go look at the chart: Canada’s barely in the top 50 states, and the US is in #68. Rwanda, of all places, is at the top for gender equality in government.

  15. I’ve tried reading John Ralston Saul, but I really can’t get into him. Denying people basic healthcare is cruel, regardless of how it is or isn’t paid for. However, regardless of how well funded the basic healthcare system is, I think it is wrong (and just as cruel) not to allow individuals or groups to use their own resources in order to take care of their needs.

    Personally, I’ve had to deal with everything from the “kinda sorta affects the quality of my life” minor problems to the “bankruptcy or die from lack of treatment” catastrophic problems, in three different countries with three different systems, and I want, and I believe, I am entitled and have a right to as many options as my circumstances and resources allow me. Saying that something like health savings accounts are just a band-aid solution or symptom of system that is being allowed to fail just doesn’t cut it with me. I believe on general principle that John Ralston Saul is wrong.

  16. Kangmi,

    Ah, right. HoR + Senate = Congress, yes? I sometimes mix it up and think HoR = Senate + Congress. I shoulda just left it the way the original site put it, “Upper” and “Lower” House. Serves me right. :)


    Yeah, we agree denying basic health care is cruel. We agree that people need options. See? We agree on the core things, right?

    Honestly, I wish we could live in a society where abstractions (companies, rules, systems) were not more important than the status and benefits of living, breathing human beings. I’m quite sure there are ways of making more choices available without shoveling society’s health care money into a few select pockets at a ridiculous rate. I believe that it’s not coincidence that the options that keep getting put on the table are always the ones that make someone a load of money.

    I also believe that other alternatives are possible, but that our mass social and ideological inertia today will the changes we need from happening anytime in my lifetime. Which is sad. But I can, at least, sketch out some ideas. So back to fiction I shall soon go.

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