My Shift epiphany #Ldnont

Laying in bed Saturday morning it dawned on me, the London bus rapid transit plan has nothing to do with growing a vibrant 21st Century city. Shift, like all major political decisions in the past seven decades is about BabyBoomers. Once I realized that I learnt to accept the very flawed plan as it currently is.

No generation in history has or will have the automotive usage patterns of the BabyBoomer. The bulk of Canada’s wealth is held in the hands of BabyBoomers, as is the bulk of the private automobiles. We still build automotive infrastructure thinking the average BabyBoomer just turned 16 and has the Dad’s car keys. The reality is within ten years BabyBoomers start turning 80 and must start having driving tests every two years. Even before 80 doctors can revoke licences if the patient is deemed a driving danger.

The bulk of the BabyBoomer generation are hitting retirement age in greater numbers. They are already downsizing homes and going with hassle free condos which in London will supposedly be along the BRT line, at least that is the plan. This explains to me why the routes are where they are. Two major hospitals and two major malls are within the core of the plan. Translation, convenience to medical appointments and a place to walk when the sidewalks are icy.

So now that I realize the aging Boomer is the focus of the plan my only complaint is the blatant dishonesty on what/who it is for. Selling Shift as a progressive plan to make the London of tomorrow is false, if it were then connecting Fanshawe/Western students to courses on the other campus the route would stick to Oxford and not meander through the downtown. If it were for the growing tech industry it would connect to the airport so the tech companies could connect with the world of customers. If it were for lower income London it wouldn’t focus on a few areas that gentrification will make for the affluent only.

The LTC in the last while has made progress on correcting some silly routes and making improvements on hours of service. There are still areas of London, mainly lower income, that have poor or no service. Most of the industrial areas are not serviced at all, including the areas the city is spending to attract new industry to.

The longer the commute, the lower the commuter’s productivity. Routing commuters from the suburbs through a central point of failure in a downtown intersection built for horses will lower the productivity and health of London. The focus of the city and LTC on the downtown focus appears to be coming at the expense of satellite areas of the city. Many London commuters will have to use automobiles, especially poorer people in the ignored areas or people who work in industrial areas. The long commutes or unhealthy means of commuting make London unattractive to investment, and Shift is doing nothing to correct this.

Shift is best viewed as a boon for the serviced area and the affluent seniors most likely to be able to downsize to the serviced area. Shift is itself left vulnerable to reactionary politics that will make BRT lanes into HOV lanes and then freeze funding so LTC is forced to cannibalise satellite routes to keep BRT running. If someone has seen concrete guarantees to keep this from happening please show them to me.

Some research to consider:

A tale of two customer service experiences

Some people colour to relax or geocache but I prefer Lego. I have a casual collection of Lego Star Wars Minifigures and discovered noticed awhile ago the Rey figure had a cracked torso. I filled the web form at the Lego site and the replacement arrived today. I’ve made to purchases from their site directly and both experiences have been positive. The most recent order included free shipping at CDN$35 and a free poly bag Lego set, a police helicopter with a police woman. The replacement part came with an apology letter saying the quality control people were notified.

Lego allows me to use PayPal and won’t allow me to click on items that are out of stock. BattleFront, the company that makes the Flames of War miniatures game I play does not allow PayPal so I have to go through a local store. If I could order direct free shipping doesn’t happen until US$100(CDN$140) and there is no guarantee that what ordered is available. Almost everything on my order through a local store was out of stock and so the order was cancelled as what was in stock wasn’t enough for the free shipping. I cancelled the order and have no plans of making another.

The really extraordinary thing is this past weekend BattleFront launched version four of the Flames of War rules. Customers were supposed to trade the version three book for a pair of free version four books. As far as I know no one in South Western Ontario has access to these new rules except through bootleg PDFs. When I mentioned it to Battle Front on their forums they implied I had the wrong information about why my local store didn’t receive any books.

The BattleFront representative then said stores got good shipping deals at USD$300 and a small box was only USD$30 shipping. The claim of stores getting free shipping was refuted by a store owner responding saying USD$300 was $10 shipping and not free, if the stock was available to fill the order. The store owner was saying the stock problems were so bad they may have to drop BattleFront products.

So one company apologizes and says we have a department to keep this from happening, and the second company suggests customers don’t have all the facts and their policies are reasonable. Reading the BattleFront forums as often as I do I see stock problems and customer complaints almost weekly. The new editions to the line up were apparently shipped with incorrect items. Plenty of other posts about backorders, lost orders, and damaged orders.

I guess both companies could be used as examples of customer relations in some business program. I certainly wouldn’t invest in BattleFront if I money too, it strikes me as a company committing suicide. In fact I’m really hesitant of ever buying from them again.

Sanctuary Spaces #ldnont

A recent petition circulating around Farcebook got me angry. The petition calls for London Ontario Canada to not become a sanctuary city to illegal immigrants escaping the USA and elsewhere. A headline on the Montreal Gazette site mentioned Montreal couldn’t afford to be a sanctuary city and council shouldn’t have voted unanimously in favour of becoming one. The arguments of financial burden, our own people first, they’re all terrorists, and others are repeated widely and all sound hollow and heartless to me.

I get that people don’t want “those people” coming here draining our resources and maybe committing a crime. These people have been so programed to be paranoid that hard data will not overcome their blatant cowardness. Yet these same people are supporting the very systems that have created the migrant and refugee crises. They support companies and governments that are fueling corruption, exploitation, environmental destruction, armed conflict, trafficing, and ethnic cleansing.

Think about it, is buying stuff cheaper so important you would see entire populations exploited for their labour, resources, or simply destroyed to make way for others? Are a few short term jobs in dying industries so important that measures should be taken to deny good jobs to others in Mexico, Southern Asia, and Africa? What if high wage jobs in the BRICS and MINTS are the only way the Canadian economy could survive the century?

If you don’t want these people sneaking in, risking their lives and enriching criminals in the process, are you willing support the economies people are fleeing from? Are you going to put pressure to limit the arms trade so conflicts are starved of resources? Will you vote for politicians with a peace centred foreign policy? Will you demand an increase in our own military resources so we can deploy forces to help monitor and end these conflicts?

It easy to protest the move to sanctuary space, be short sighted and unempathic to those suffering. Maybe those who are opposed to sanctuary spaces have never need one. Never been in a domestic abuse situation, chased by bullies from school, had their homeland torn apart by a proxy war, been targeted for being a minority, and so on. If which ever group you belong to was criminalized, demonized, targeted, or forced to flee wouldn’t you want to seek sanctuary?

I remember hearing of King Zog of Albania inviting Jews into the mostly Muslim kingdom while the rest of Europe was anti-Semitic or indifferent to Jewish plight under the Third Reich. Even Canada was turning Jews away in the Thirties but Albania opened the borders, actively sought to bring them and protected them during Nazi occupation. Canada was on the wrong side of history in the Thirties, now we should be the example and not the accessory to genocide. Rescue in Albania article.

Another thing to remember is when we keep some of these refugees out of our society it feeds the anti-west narrative of the groups forcing many of them to flee. The lack of compassion we show could haunt us in the form of terrorist attacks. We know it doesn’t have to be an immigrant who threatens us, it may well be a domestic terrorist either inspired by the perverters of Islam or emboldened by a global environment of xenophobia and intolerance.

Crowdsourcing Solutions

So I’ve been feeling low, slow, hyper distracted, disoriented, and unmotivated for the last few months. Concentration is almost impossible for more than a few minutes, to the point I’ve stopped being able to read a complete paragraph before moving to another activity. It can take an hour to read a short article. I’ve had untreated concussions in the past and I have ADHD, either or both may be causing this.

Last fall I was sent back into the social services merry go round to find work or be threatened with refusal of Ontario Works. So far the results are the same as every time before: I need university degree/s to get a job I’m capable of doing, or I need to find a way to be paid to write, or I need a complete rewrite of my DNA and brain chemistry to do the jobs available. I have no clue on how to get any of those things done.

Certain assumptions in our society have been long held and are counterproductive; everyone is able to sell, everyone is able to drive a car, and everyone is able to use the phone. I can not do any of those things and have no desire to. My confidence was shattered at a very early age and will never recover. I go into complete shutdown and panic mode with phone calls and many times all social actions shuts me down or sends me into a panic. Add to the fact I can not absorb/learn anything unless I see it written or diagramed and phones become a major problem. I cannot return to a phone call to see what was said and I instantly forgot because my memory is so bad. With my sensitive hearing I find loud noises difficult so I shut my hearing off when people shout or make noise.

So how does someone like me deal with a society that only uses a phone? I can’t get a doctor’s appointment without calling, or get help from my caseworker without calling, everything seems to be phone only. Why do people only want me to use my disabilities and not my abilities? In many cases it seems my abilities should be allowed to perish in favour of me conforming to some sort of mid Twentieth Century ideal.

I’d go back to McMaster to finish a history degree in a heartbeat but I would have to find a way to go into enough debt to pay tuition, living expenses and everything. I cannot work and study as I will burn out to quickly. Dealing with people drains me to nothing very quickly. Getting work alone isn’t very easy as my work experience is almost nil, scattered over my adult life in small chunks of time, and I have no references. Of course it is all my fault though, I wasn’t getting myself out there and pulling my socks up, or showing initiative, I should stop being lazy stupid and immature. I should just take anything regardless if it will send me into a deep depression.

The only things I feel productive doing are writing and researching. Ideas are what I’m drawn too, as is creativity. Our one size fits none society would rather discard people than adapt to the changing world. The economic centre of gravity is shifting back to Asia and the Silk Roads. Sticking rigidly to archaic work ethics and Nineteen-Fifties job descriptions will kill our economy faster than jobs moving to the BRIC or MINT countries. The us versus them approach won’t stop the jobs moving away, just stop us getting different to support those rising economies.

To keep up with the change we will need a cradle to grave education system that is fully funded publicly, like our health care system. Stop treating education as a luxury reserved for the lucky enough to get loans or rich enough to not need loans. We get so blase about education but we forget there are people willing to get killed for it. After all education is better for economic stimulus than a much higher expenditure in roads.

So how do I monetize my creativity, ideas, and writing ability? I know I need practice, a portfolio of work, advocates who can sell me, and a bunch of luck but I’ve no clue on where to get it. I have looked at the writing unions/guilds’ sights but they require a contract or being published. I’ve thought about self publishing what I’m writing but I have to have the money first and someone to edit what’s finished. This blog’s donation button was added but might not be working. I know, it’s the internet version of panhandling.

The person I’m working with at the latest program I’ve been sent to suggested volunteering to get experience. I would need something without phones, humans, and working with my hands. I’ve tried in the past to do social or phones but it gets harder every time. I don’t want people making phone calls for me, I want the ability to do things over email.

Writing this has been somewhat cathartic, or the Oscar Peterson I’ve been listening too has. I should go get some red wine, but I’m feeling to agoraphobic to go out right now. Had far too much social time already this week.

Canada & the failing state next door #Cdnpoli

I recently listened to a podcast which mentioned Hitler being so egotistical that if he had nuclear weapons he would have used them to take most of the world with him when the Soviets were entering Berlin. We are not repeating the events of the Twentieth Century, Trumpism isn’t Nazism, Trump isn’t Hitler, even if they share many similarities. We have an egotistical figure with a personality cult and, despite losing the majority vote, the reigns of power. We also have democratic leaders who are weak, divided, and focused on internal minutiae. Not a good combination.

History shows how the United States has arrived at the present situation. I don’t mean the rise of tyrannical regimes in Europe or Asia during the Twentieth Century, but the domestic history of a nation dying by a thousand cuts. Eisenhower started the trend to gain “Christian” votes by bringing God into the government sphere, adding it to the currency and the Pledge of Allegiance. Kennedy’s administration started the corporate hold on politics, especially the defence sector Eisenhower warned about. Both Eisenhower and Kennedy angered the Jim Crow states with Federally enforced equality. Since the late 50s and early 60s the reactionary forces of America have been rolling back any progress made. At all levels in the US strategic cuts to education, media regulation and responsibility, corporate oversight, public debating forums, and social services have left the United States fractured and divided.

The last few decades the world has been bombarded by the American extremist media , Hollywood films, and by political movements, that government is always evil and a threat. Add the glorification of violence as conflict dispute, militarism, demonization of compromise and diplomacy, and the diminishing role of citizens in decision making. The simplified binary view of the world; “with us or against us”, “right or wrong”,  “Black or white”, and the dismissal of anyone who wants to explore third options or understand causes and effects. The political world doesn’t have switches to turn on or off, or lines to slide left or right on, it has a circle with democracy at the top and communist, anarchist, libertarian, corporatist, religious, racist, or protectionist paths to the tyranny at the bottom.

These threats to American democracy are not unique to the United States, despite American delusion they’re not exceptional. Many nations are failing to fight the divisive forces within. We hear that if we challenge the status quo we’ll lose our jobs, trade opportunities or our freedoms. Similarly the political “outsider” promises something better if we abandon the political system and blame/punish convenient scapegoats. Are we going to sacrifice our democracy, ethics, rights, and futures for a few lousy jobs? Has greed become our state religion?

Canada should not be putting trade relations, jobs, or anything ahead of basic human rights. Our long term interests, or even or national survival, are not served by being cosy with the Trump administration. Trump’s recent extra-constitutional moves to ban people from seven mainly Muslim countries, dismissing judicial decisions, the possibility of secret prisons and torture, and the sabre rattling with China should be enough for Canada to treat the United States as a rogue state. We have in the past sanctioned governments and individuals for less than what is happening in the US.

We Canadians can not allow a leader like Trump freedom to complete his agenda. At best Trump is a kleptocrat, at worst he is the next Stalin wannabe. Canada needs to sanction Trump and his inner circle and find any ethical means to stop Trump from purging the US government of anyone who would oppose him. Right now Trump is using Twitter and media jibes, but if he isn’t challenged and feels he has immunity will he go this far? If Senator McCain, for example, keeps challenging him will the Senator have a mysterious death? If assassinations happen will Canada just shrug and issue another impotent statement? If peaceful protests are branded riots and put down with lethal force will we still worry about a few jobs? Will the equipment used be made in Canada?

To prevent the Putin/Trump brand of governance, democracies need to be vigilant. Germany has already voiced concern about interference in upcoming elections and most likely France is monitoring things in their upcoming elections. The Conservative Party of Canada should ask for RCMP, CSIS, and CSE assistance to prevent hostile interference in the leadership race. The Trudeau government should immediately criminalize political donations that are not made by citizens eligible to vote in the political jurisdiction, those used to bypass the ban should be charged with money laundering. With the changes at the top of the US security system it won’t just be Russia we will have to worry about interfering with our next election and we should take steps to prevent any interference in future elections.

I am a pessimist, difficult to be anything else when reading the news, but at the moment I will trust Americans will save themselves from this descent into madness and tyranny. If they don’t, Canada should be ready for refugees escaping the third US civil war (yes third, the Civil Rights Movement is considered the second), or a US treating us like Czechoslovakia in 1938, or a US that makes North Korea look like a more open, accessible society. The Quebec City terrorist attack proves we need to monitor extremist groups here with far more vigilance and resources as the threat to Canadian Muslims is higher than any threat from Canadian Muslims.

Going forward Canadians need to reject all politicians who use the language of taxpayers, average Canadian, consumers, real Canadian, or anything that reduces us or divides us. This post is making the Facebook rounds:

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Canada and NATO #Cdnpoli #NATO

I know I shouldn’t have read the comments on an article about Canada’s Arctic being vulnerable to Putin’s expansion schemes. It annoys me when people say NATO’s expansion caused the current tensions with Putin’s Empire, saying it is American imperialism that is the driving force behind NATO’s recent moves. I get the sense people believe the USA are the ones making the decisions, that the eastern NATO nations are just doing as they’re told, and they are obeying to the wrong power. Even my limited historic knowledge of eastern Europe says this is wrong.

Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania have all suffered from Russian occupation, as has Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Ukraine. These nations have suffered under Russian, Austrian, Prussian, Nazi, and most recently Soviet occupations. These peoples have been play things for regional powers, “great” powers, and distant ignorant leaders drawing lines on maps for centuries. Are those opposed to NATO asking these peoples to become pawns again?

The comment that sparked this post was about having Canadian troops in Eastern Europe coming home. As if our small forces, mostly company sized groups (+/-60), are the tipping point to spark armageddon. Canadian Forces need to be able to operate with Allies, for their security as well as ours. This is what NATO was set up for, to cooperate on security and to keep the Soviets from using Salami tactics to move across Europe. Divide your enemies is a classic strategy straight from Sun Tzu and is even older.

We see throughout the world a rise in anti liberal-democracy movements, how are any liberal democracies to survive if they don’t work together? Canada can not expect NATO allies to defend us if we dismiss other nations concerns re Russia. The economic centre of gravity is shifting back to the east and away from twentieth-century manufacturing and the Atlantic. The economic upheaval this will cause will make Canada, NATO, and NATO partners even more vulnerable. Throw in the costly effects of climate change on the security environment and we should soon see that Canada abandoning allies is Canada betraying itself.

NATO, like all institutions, is in need of reform, and so are the militaries that are NATO members. More needs to be done in readying NATO forces for any eventuality, every nation could be doing more. By more I don’t mean the arbitrary 2% of GDP spending target set by iron mongers, I mean seeing diplomacy as worth investing in for something other than trade deals. Diplomats and spies are the first and second line of defence, military personnel are the last line. It is time to take the domestic politics out of diplomacy and stop letting petty interests get in the way of global security.

Another comment on my FaceBook after sharing the article was about reducing Canada’s defence policy to petty partisan jabs. No political movement in Canada has a monopoly on wanting to secure Canada’s sovereignty, nor does any party have a glowing record when it comes to supporting the Forces or its membership. The Forces have been ground down over decades and lots of new toys or ‘lipstick on a pig’ policies such as going back to old uniforms and ranks are going to fix things.

If we are going to be an effective ally we need flexible, self contained, expeditionary forces that are capable of working in the air, sea, land, and cyberspace. I’ve written before on how I’d structure the Canadian Forces differently. Since I wrote that I would add greater assets for the electronic/cyber element to both defend and attack. It will take political courage to face the institutional push back, do we have politicians with that courage?

We need a government who stands up to iron mongers, and explore the possibility of nationalizing the defence industry, then placing the plants where it makes strategic sense and not political sense. At very least explore price and wage controls to keep costs manageable, along with higher taxes in the defence industry to get our money back from shareholders profiteering from security.

NATO isn’t perfect, no human institution can be, but it is the tool we have to protect from a world leader seemingly bent on having a greater empire than Stalin or Catherine the Great. It isn’t what some of western Europe’s or the USA’s leaders want, their views are irrelevant, it is about people living with the legacy of occupation by the Soviet Union not wanting to return to the status of mere satellite or a region ignored/belittled by Kremlin elites.

Canadian Forces are in Eastern Europe because democratically elected governments want them there. NATO’s move east has been through invitation, it has not gone as far east as some have invited, Ukraine and Georgia would have NATO extend further east. NATO has not accepted those invitations but citizens of NATO nations need to know why Ukraine and Georgia feel threatened. NATO’s strategy in the Cold War was to make the Soviet Union play Hnefatafl when it wanted to play chess, there is no reason to abandon this strategy but, as Sun Tzu recommends, leave them a way to escape.

2016…2017

My first thought is the worst is yet to come, though that maybe the cold filling my head with mucus or listening to Captain Beefheart without mushrooms or acid. Sure we have a ceasefire in Syria, for now, but with the rise of Putin and his patsy Trump our world is far more dangerous. Terrorism is being fueled by lack of arms controls, fears, and incompetent global leadership. Add climate change deniers being able to reverse any progress and we are going to have a 2017 filled with disaster, violence, and extremists of every flavour demanding a return to some idolized era of tyranny and division.

The 2016 highlight was the birth of my nephew, who should be bigger than me in a few days. I didn’t do much reading, nor finish the novel I started which might be because I merged three novel ideas into one, and the return to show poodle status jumping through hoops for social services. In modeling I finished my US infantry company and my South African tank company. Last month I impulse bought both X-Wing game starter boxes and a spare X-Wing, now I need Tie Fighters, so many Tie Fighters to swarm the Rebel Scum.

For 2017 I’ll keep my goals simple, finish novel, build a Soviet tank battalion for Flames of War, buy more Tie Fighters and Star Wars Lego minifigures, and maybe connect better with people. With the recent discovery that I have a 1 in 2 chance of prostate cancer I should finally get a doctor, I’m on a waiting list so I guess I wait. Why are there so few doctors that allow email appointments? It’s 2017 not 1897.

I’ll stop here, ADHD plus mucus brain syndrome is making me something something.