Tag Archives: The Huffington Post

Why Does Respect Fly Out the Window When Women are Involved?

Yesterday, Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland asked — ahem, tried to ask — a question during Question Period of the government. Unfortunately for her (and those watching), she wasn’t given the same respect afforded other MPs. As far as I can tell, this was the first question she’s asked during question period and as folks would expect who’ve read her work, she asked a question that was grounded in research [this one happened to be from the IMF]. The video doesn’t seem to be up on YouTube and all I could find was the link through AOL, which doesn’t embed nicely on this site, so you’ll have to watch the video here (2 minutes and 23 seconds in all).

On most days, Question Period can seem a bit immature, but I took particular issue with this instance because of some of the comments that followed on Twitter. Actually, the comment from the Minister of State was a bit off the wall, but most answers in Question Period don’t really address the details of the question. The comment on Twitter that came from a journalist (!) no less, which has since been deleted:

Part of the reason that it seems so appalling that this came from a journalist is because Freeland herself, was a journalist before she became an MP. I would have thought that if any profession were to cut Freeland a little more slack, it might be journalists. Freeland’s response on Twitter:

Exactly! It’s 2014! Why are we still marginalizing women in such a sexist fashion. I was glad to see Michelle Rempel, a Conservative MP, tweet the following, shortly after Freeland’s tweet:

This was the same Michelle Rempel who came under fire because of the way she posed in her Twitter pic! It’s absurd to me just how awful we still treat women in our society. As Freeland said, it’s 2014, for Pete’s sake!

Beyond all of this, though, I don’t necessarily hold the journalist completely at fault for what he said. [He did apologize, too — twice.] Yes, it was awful and unnecessary, but in a way, we are all a bit culpable. How? Why? Well, because we all live in this society and we all help to create the norms and values upon which we act and behave. One of the best ways to help effect change here: awareness. Go watch Miss Representation and tell your friends to do the same!

Still Looking for a Christmas Present? Try These Projects on Kickstarter Canada

It’s the last weekend before Christmas, so there’s a good chance that a lot of you out there are out in the hustle and bustle trying to find last-minute gifts for friends and family. If the weather forecasts are to be believed, some of you might not be able to make it out into the madness that is last-minute shopping before Christmas. That’s great! Why? Well, that means that you’ll have to be a bit more creative with your gift ideas.

So, why don’t you make someone’s day (in addition to the person who you’re giving the gif to) by making a donation in their name to one of these projects on Kickstarter Canada. Also, you could just donate to them anyways — and not make the donation on behalf of someone else: it could be on behalf of you!

Note: I’ve only included projects that — at the time of writing this post — hadn’t reached their goal.

NASH: The Movie

“You may have heard of Steve Nash, the NBA superstar and multiple MVP winner. You may also know that he’s Canadian. A Vancouver documentary crew secured unparalleled access to Nash, and they’re in the middle of raising money for production and editing costs for the final film. Unlike many film projects, tiers of this project include a physical and digital copy of the final product, which gives potential backers a tangible reward for their donation.” (Source)

Stratus Watch

“The concept is as simple as it is unprecedented; a titanium wristwatch with a face that you can choose. You can choose from dozens of patterns and colours from the manufacturer, or design your own and submit it to them. The watches exude a clean, straightforward charm, and even the lowest funding tier gifts you one of them.” (Source)

Shot Time

“In what could easily be the ruin of many a young soul, this is a shot glass that measures the amount of liquor consumed over a period of time; a potent mix of a stopwatch and a case of acute alcohol poisoning. The consequences of such a device are best left to the imagination, but if it meets its funding goals, the consequences may become very real, very quickly. Hooray for progress?” (Source)

Canadian Black Garlic

“Exactly what it says on the tin; backers are funding the creation and shipping of various black-garlic-based condiments and seasonings. The majority of the project’s funding goal will go to securing a large batch of Canadian-grown garlic, and the rest will go into the blackening and production/packaging process. Is there anything more Canadian than authentic Northern delicacies?” (Source)

SpecShot

“Like the mirror universe version of the Shot Time, the SpecShot is a two-in-one system that scans your drinking water for contaminants and then posts the results online. This process could be equal parts fascinating and harrowing, depending on your results, but the ultimate goal is to spread awareness through hard data, and hopefully inspire some change to our water quality standards.” (Source)

Political Implications of the SCOTUS Decision on the Voting Rights Act

More than a week ago, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered a decision on a case that had implications for the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Court ruled that the formula from Section 4 of the VRA was unconstitutional. The decision has certainly enraged liberals and the political left as is clear in Justice Ginsburg‘s dissent:

[T]he Court’s opinion can hardly be described as an exemplar of restrained and moderate decision making. Quite the opposite. Hubris is a fit word for today’s demolition of the VRA.

Because of this outrage, I’ve seen some people argue that this decision was good for liberals/democrats because it will ignite those potentially disenfranchised people to vote. From Ross Douthat:

Well, to begin with, voter identification laws do not belong to the same moral or legal universe as Jim Crow. Their public purpose, as a curb to fraud, is potentially legitimate rather than nakedly discriminatory, and their effects are relatively limited. As Roberts’s majority opinion noted, the voter registration gap between whites and blacks in George Wallace’s segregationist Alabama was 50 percentage points.

… But voter ID laws don’t take effect in a vacuum: as they’re debated, passed and contested in court, they shape voter preferences and influence voter enthusiasm in ways that might well outstrip their direct influence on turnout. They inspire registration drives and education efforts; they help activists fund-raise and organize; they raise the specter of past injustices; they reinforce a narrative that their architects are indifferent or hostile to minorities.

W.W. from The Economist finds Douthat’s analysis “quite plausible.” Both articles referenced the same information I talked about yesterday: the missing white voter.

I don’t know that I necessarily agree with this assessment.

In Wisconsin a couple of years ago, citizens were pretty excited about recalling Governor Scott Walker. Some folks were really upset by Gov. Walker’s actions on collective bargaining. Democrats, Gov. Walker is a Republican, thought that they could seize this opportunity to recall the Governor. There were over 1 million signatures to recall the Governor. It seemed like there was lots of momentum and people engaged in the recall. However, during the recall election of 2012, Gov. Walker won more of the vote than he did in the gubernatorial election of 2010.

There’s another example from this past election: The Affordable Care Act. Otherwise, known as “ObamaCare.” In March 2012, when the Supreme Court heard the arguments for the case, Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

This week’s historic Supreme Court hearings on President Obama’s health-care overhaul will have huge political ramifications.

Then, in June, when the decision was rendered, there was this from The Weekly Standard:

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, the principal choice now facing Americans on November 6 will be whether to keep Obamacare or to repeal it.

Republicans and conservatives thought that ObamaCare was going to give them the chance they needed to have a Republican elected President. It’s safe to say that it didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Not only did Republicans not elect a Republican President, but they also lost seats in the Senate (when they anticipated winning more seats).

Neither of these examples perfectly map onto the VRA decision, but it seems to me that there’s a bit of an overreaction in assuming that this decision is going to be a lightning rod for Democrats. I’d say that it’s “too early to tell” how this will affect the upcoming 2014 and 2016 elections. For now, the one of the only things that can be said about the political implications of the VRA: We’ll see…

Cutting Salary to Show Solidarity: This Isn’t Empathy

A couple of days ago, there was news indicating that President Obama was going to return 5% of his salary, which amounts to about $17,000, as a sign of solidarity with those federal workers who’ve been furloughed. In case you’re not familiar with this situation, I’ll explain a little first.

In 2011, there was the debt-ceiling debacle. One of the things that came of that was the sequester. The sequester was supposed to be such drastic cuts to the federal budget meant as an incentive to make some sort of deal before the deadline. It wasn’t ever meant to happen, (at least that’s what politicians said publicly), and the date set for the deadline to make a deal (and begin the implementation of the sequester if there weren’t a deal) was January 2, 2013. As part of the New Year’s Eve tax deal, Congress pushed the start of the sequester to March 1, 2013, which is when it began.

As the sequester has a great deal of spending cuts, this has greatly affected some of the workers in the federal government. For instance, some workers have had to take furloughs — temporary unpaid leave. Companies (or the government) don’t usually use this unless there’s a need because of the budget situation. As an aside: on Chris Hayes’ new show (All In with Chris Hayes), he went into detail with one particular worker who has had to take furloughs and had a brief panel discussion about it. That brings us back to President Obama.

A couple of days ago, President Obama stated that he was going to return a portion of his salary to show solidarity with those workers who are having to take these temporary unpaid leaves. The President may have started it, but he’s certainly not finishing it. Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano are all showing similar signs of solidarity. So is freshman Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth. But this is not limited to Democrats. Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Mike Lee have both indicated that they will return some of their salary. I think all of this is well and good, but the one thing that irked me was how Lindsey Graham wrote about his decision on Twitter. (I should note, I don’t know if any of the other politicians have said made similar claims, as I just saw someone retweet Lindsey Graham’s commentary.)

After I saw this tweet, I went on a bit of a rant on Twitter that I’ll include below:

 

Let’s first start with the issue of empathy. People often confuse empathy and sympathy. I’ve written about empathy before:

Empathy is at the heart of the beginning of the solution to many of the world’s problems. When we empathize, we are able to recognize the emotions that another is feeling. At the root of compassion is empathy. [Note: sympathy is quite different from empathy. Sympathy is simply a concern for another’s well-being, where empathy usually refers to one sharing the same emotional state.]

I should note that the “note” in that quote actually comes from the post. So, now that we know what empathy means, let’s return to Senator Graham’s comment. He said he was cutting 20% of his pay to empathize with those furloughed. In order for Senator Graham’s actions to demonstrate empathy, it’d actually have to affect his life in the way that those furloughed are affected. For an example of this, scroll up in this post and watch the video I linked to with Chris Hayes talking to someone who is being furloughed. Senator Graham’s current salary for FY2013 is $174,000. If we take 20% away, that leaves him with about $140,000. Something else that’s important to this conversation is Graham’s net worth, which is now pegged at $1.5 million. I understand that politicians have to keep up two offices (one in DC and one in their district/state), but does anyone think that Senator Graham’s going to have as hard a go as thing with a $140K salary as the military serviceman who had to get a second job delivering pizzas?

This is not empathy.

~

As an addendum to this conversation, I wanted to include data about the current Congress’s net worth, but there doesn’t seem to be a list out there. However, I was able to find a list for all members of Congress in 2010. Some things of note: of 100 Senators, only 7 had a net worth of less than $100,000 and 24 had a net worth of more than $10,000,000. Of the 435 member of Congress, 81 had a net worth of less than $100,000 and 42 had a net worth of more than $10,000,000.

When the Wisdom of the Crowd Fails

A couple of weeks ago the  (SCOTUS) ruled that the (otherwise referred to as ) was . This ruling did not come without controversy because, as with most cases brought before the Supreme Court, there were people who disagreed with the ruling.

More to my point though, is that there was controversy because of the lack of agreement amongst the news agencies as to what the ruling was in the first few minutes that it was released. If you like political humor/satire, then you’ll definitely want to check out about the mixup. Interestingly, one of the best on the morning that the decision was released comes from the same website that is being of the decision.

As you’ll have seen if you watched the coverage, read about it, or clicked through to the clip from , CNN was the first agency to report on the decision — but — their reporting was wrong. Immediately after CNN reported the (wrong) decision, those with access to technology began perpetuating the wrong news to their social networks. Shortly after CNN incorrectly reported the news, SCOTUSblog put forth their interpretation and the subsequent major news agencies fell in line reporting the right decision. Even after this happened, CNN and FOX News continued to report the news incorrectly.

This situation brings to light what I see as a potentially major of our ability to connect with hundreds of millions of people in an instant (read: ). As soon as the reports from CNN and FOXNews came out, everyone began telling everyone else the wrong news. This spread quickly. When the right information was thrown into the mix, it became hard for people to know who was right. Were CNN and FOX News right because they had it first? Were SCOTUSblog and other news agencies right because they took the time to read more than the ?

Regardless of who’s right and wrong in this situation, it left people confused and unsure of whom to trust. Different news agencies were telling them different things (about the facts). Now, this happens on a , but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

~

I’m beginning to wonder about the and it would appear that I’m not the only one. I came across an interesting article this weekend from called, “.” There were some interesting points made by Leonhardt, particularly as they relate to how some folks have begun to trust the “wisdom of crowds” as showcased by websites like  (an online trading exchange website where people can bet on events in a similar fashion to how people can buy/sell stocks).

Some folks think that the internet can be viewed in the same way (wisdom of the crowd). I’m not sure how I feel about this, especially when a well-respected news agency like CNN that’s been operational for over 30 years can make a mistake like this and set the internet ablaze. I like the last paragraph from Leonhardt:

After several years in which the market was often celebrated as a crystal ball, the Supreme Court ruling was a useful corrective. The prediction-market revolution, like so many others, initially promised more than it could deliver. But it’s not as if the old order was working particularly well.

Aren’t We All Just Baby Chicks Following a Mother Hen?

Because of where I live, I have the great fortune of being able to look out my window and see an abundance of roosters. And because of this abundance of roosters, undoubtedly, there are a number of baby chicks. These baby chicks don’t just wander aimlessly across the lawn looking for food or something to do. These baby chicks, instead, are quite deliberate in their actions. In fact, these baby chicks follow around the mother hen. Partially, because their life depends upon it. Maybe not where I live, but in some parts of the world, if a baby chick strays to far from momma, it’s likely to be another creature’s tasty snack.

As I watched these baby chicks following the mother hen, I looked a little closer at their actions. I wanted to see why it was they were following mother around. From what I was able to gather, these baby chicks are following mother around because they’re safer (read: ), but more than that, mother hen shows them what’s foot and what’s not food. This may have been some sort of anomaly, but from the dozens of  minutes I was able to watch (on different days), the hens would go to an area of the lawn and then call the chicks over to where she was (usually a distance of mere away). The mother hen would then begin pecking away at the grass (or something on the lawn) and the baby chicks would follow suit.

I soon learned, just from watching, that this was how the baby chicks were able to eat. Either the mom was helping to pull something up out of the ground or she was identifying what was nutritious for the baby chicks. The mother hen would vary her time in how long she spent in an area. When she left one area, some of the baby chicks would immediately follow her, while others, remained behind (to pick-up the scraps?) As I continued to watch the dynamics of the situation, I began to be able to notice parallels to the news of society.

The different big-branded news corporations (, , , , , etc.) are all like mother hens and us, the viewers, are like baby chicks. When one of these news conglomerates reports on a story, immediately, our attention is drawn to that area of the world. When one of the mother hens calls the baby chicks attention to one area of the lawn, immediately, that is where their attention goes. The chicks run over to see what’s happening. Like the baby chicks, the viewers become immediately concerned with whatever is being reported to them.

When a reporter or hen talks about a certain story, they are drawing your attention to that story. Unintentionally or not, they are also drawing your attention away from any other story that they could have reported on. As the reporter moves onto another story the next day, some viewers move onto the next story with them, while some viewers stay enveloped in “yesterday’s news.” Sometimes, this is for good (maybe their favorite team won a big game) and sometimes it’s maybe for not so good reasons (?)

Being able to watch these baby chicks follow around the mother hen allowed me to see something that is played out in society time and time again. Somebody (the hen) says xyz is important, so instantly, everyone else (the baby chicks) buy-in to the story to see just what xyz about. My point in this story about the hen and the baby chicks is that all of us, in one way or another, is following around a hen. Whether we watch the news on any particular station, read about news on the internet, or get our news from our friends. Regardless, our attention is being drawn to a story (more times than not) because someone said it was important. I think it is paramount to remember that had we been following a different hen, our views, beliefs, and ideas about the world would likely be completely different.

Misrepresenting the News: Infer-mation Overload

In a previous post, I talked about how the . This post is about a blatant misrepresentation of fact.

In the first line of , the author writes:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday that Al Jazeera is gaining more prominence in the U.S. because it offers “real news” — something she said American media were falling far short of doing.

If you watch the video that accompanies said article, or read the article on the , you see that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is actually saying:

“In fact viewership of al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.”

Clinton does not explicitly say that the U.S. media does not offer real news. Instead, she says that American news is not particularly informative. One can see how this can be inferred from what she said, but it is not what she said. This is something that irks me about news agencies in general, but I can understand how it is necessary in our entertainment-driven society.

Why can’t we just have news that reports on the facts rather than one that tries to ‘‘ the news in one direction. This has gone so far that after debates between political candidates, representatives from either side are meant to spin what their respective candidate said in what is called the “.” We actually call the place where this happens the spin room. Isn’t that a little far? Shouldn’t we just be talking about what the candidate said?

Maybe my line of thinking is too utopian. Maybe my ideals are a little lofty in that there needn’t be a place for — intentionally or unintentionally. I’d really just like to have someone tell me the facts of the day and what that could potentially mean, from a systematic point of view.

In today’s world where there are proponents from both side jockeying for mine (and your) attention at 6pm to get the daily dose of the facts, it almost seems safer to watch both of the news to get a more accurate perspective on what’s been happening. However, some sources like one, and one, explain that watching the news can actually make you less informed about what’s going on. With the advance of social networking, maybe it’s almost safer just to follow the to see what’s happening in the world.