Brexit

What is a country, exactly? A group of like-minded individuals living together? I think this is increasingly untrue. Part of my own definition would involve a recognized border the inhabitants control. After all, if the people living in the country can’t control who leaves, and especially who enters, it’s not a sovereign country at all.

To me, this is exactly why the European Union’s unimpeded flow of goods and people sounds great until you really think about it. Goods can come and go within the Union, which is terrific for trade. People can come and go within the Union, but they can also stay, and you have no control over who chooses to exercise this option. That may not be so good.

It’s got nothing at all to do with racism, or xenophobia. Does locking your door any only allowing the people you choose inside make you a xenophobe? I should hope not, and the same goes for your country. It is for this reason alone that I would have likely voted leave if I were living in the UK.

Last Sunday on The National, Jonathan Kay was a part of the panel discussion regarding the Brexit and he described how proud he was that Canada has no significant movement that is so racist and xenophobic as some other countries. That’s so easy to say since we do have control of our borders and our country. I’d heartily suggest the situation would be very different if all of the borders were open within North America and the rules over much of what goes on in our country were handed down to us from an unelected group outside of Canada.

The more I think about it, the less I can conceive how the countries that comprise the European Union ever sold the loss of their sovereignty to their citizens to join the Union in the first place. If you agree to give up jurisdiction on trade, agriculture, fisheries, regional development, environment, treaties and international agreements, defense and security, and monetary policy (for those countries that have adopted the Euro), why not just agree to become a single pan-European country and be done with it? At least citizens could then elect the people making these policies…which they currently cannot.

Entitlement is alive and well. I saw a young English man interviewed regarding the Brexit results and he stated that the exit is the fault of the older folks and pensioners and they need to figure some way around it. Translation: we don’t care for democracy when it doesn’t go our way so we need to get around this vote somehow. Pesky democracy!

In the same spirit, we have this petition that showed up on the UK Parliamentary web site:

We the undersigned call upon HM Government to implement a rule that if the remain or leave vote is less than 60% based a turnout less than 75% there should be another referendum.

This would conveniently force another referendum…so as long as the two conditions are not met, the population would be facing referendum after referendum. That also makes staying or leaving more difficult than the simple majority required to become part of the E.U. in the first place, and that’s supposed to be fair?

Even worse are all the demonstrations. Tens of thousands of young people are out wanting their voices to be heard. This is laughable because only 28% of young people voted. The ballot box was the place to voice their opinion, but almost three-quarters of them couldn’t be bothered. Now that things didn’t go their way, they’re not happy. Even worse, some blame the older folks. You know what? The older folks were smart enough to get off their asses and vote!

Poor pianist

Meet Valentina Lisitsa. She’s a pianist who was scheduled to perform two shows with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra this week. She feels she’s being treated unfairly because she’s been replaced. Despite her still being paid, it’s clearly not fair!

What prompted the TSO’s hand was her performance on her twitter account. See, she’s very pro-Russian when it comes to the Ukraine. Differing opinions happen, but she’s taken it a step further. According to WQXR, Orchestra CEO Jeff Melanson said,

Due to ongoing accusations of deeply offensive language by Ukrainian media outlets, we have decided to replace Valentina Lisitsa.

I went to her twitter account, but it’s such a zoo that I never got back as far as these alleged offensive tweets. She’s draped herself in freedom of speech and accused the TSO of censorship. Frankly, when I saw all that, I thought perhaps she was very young. In fact, she’s in her 40s and should know better.

I’m bemused at her not realizing that the things we say can have consequences we don’t like. The TSO has not censored her in the least. She continues to enjoy the freedom to say what he wants. But those pesky consequences!

To my amusement, one of her supporters lamented that music should be free of politics. Putting aside overtly political music, I agree. I replied and voiced my agreement. But I added, “…so who brought politics into it? Not the TSO.”

The performance, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in this case, should indeed be about the music, but she turned it into a circus. She brought politics into it and I can’t fault the TSO for their actions. Melanson nailed it perfectly when he stated,

Valentina Lisitsa’s provocative comments have overshadowed past performances. As one of Canada’s most important cultural institutions, our priority must remain on being a stage for the world’s great works of music, and not for opinions that some believe to be deeply offensive.

It’s precisely because of this kind of thing that I do not understand entertainers who ‘let themselves out’ in social media. The moment they make their Facebook page, their Twitter feed, or their web page a platform for their views, especially political views, they’re going to drive people away. That’s simply not good business unless what you express is a common belief among your audience. I’m not suggesting that entertainers should agree with everyone, but why not just entertain, and express outrage to one’s friends and family, like most of us do?

I’m also not suggesting that anyone limit themselves if they simply can’t help it, but don’t portray yourself as being wronged when I exercise my freedom of choice and support another artist who cares more about sharing their craft than their politics.


Photo by Michael von Aichberger, used with permission (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The dirty Trans-Pacific Partnership secret

The governments of Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam are negotiating a free trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The talks started in 2005 between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore. The remaining countries joined the party in the interim. Canada joined in 2012. It’s likely you haven’t even heard of the TPP, despite the government being a part of it for two years. Why is this? Because the negotiations, and the agreement itself are entirely secret.

That’s right, our government wants to become part of a free trade agreement, but it appears that they see nothing wrong with negotiating on our behalf while hiding the agreement from us. Frankly, it’s ridiculous and insulting. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions, so I wrote my MP about the issue.

From: Rick Pali <rpali@alienshore.com>
Subject: TPP
Date: February 18, 2014 at 9:10:27 PM EST
To: “rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca” <rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca>

I’ve been reading about the Trans Pacific Partnership lately and I’m really surprised at the secrecy surrounding not only the negotiations, but the agreement itself.

I’m not sure how this kind of thing works, but isn’t is reasonable for the people of Canada to be able to review the agreement so we know what we’re getting into? Is there anywhere I can learn about what exactly is in the agreement? I find it hard to believe that it’s being negotiated in secret and Canadians won’t learn what we’re agreeing to until it’s a done deal. That’s no way to handle a multinational agreement. If it’s a good thing, we’ll all agree and support it.

I’ve been reading alarming things about the TPP, and I’d like to make my own decision.

Ten days later, I received no reply. Mr. Nicholson was actively promoting himself on Twitter all the while so I wrote back and asked when I might receive a reply. Later in the day, I got one. And note the salutation.

From: <rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca>
Subject: The Trans Pacific Partnership
Date: February 28, 2014 at 3:58:28 PM EST
To: <rpali@alienshore.com>

Dear Pick Pali:

I am writing to acknowledge and thank you for your email correspondence to Mr. Nicholson in which you expressed your views concerning the Trans Pacific Partnership. Please find attached a link which I think that you will find informative.

http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/tpp-ptp/index.aspx

Please be assured that your comments will be passed along to Mr. Nicholson, as he very much appreciates hearing from constituents.

Thank you once again for writing.

Stewart Graham
Constituency Assistant for the
Hon. Rob Nicholson, MP
E-mail: rob.nicholson.a1@parl.gc.ca
www.robnicholson.ca

I didn’t expect much, and I didn’t get much. The link is to an entirely fact-free feel-good site about Canadian involvement in the TPP. I’m about to send this message in reply.

Mr. Graham,

Thank you for your reply.

I followed the link you sent me and I assure you, I did find it extremely informative … though more for what wasn’t there than for what was.

I wrote with concerns about a binding agreement being negotiated on behalf of Canadians in secret. Given how the current government has embraced secrecy, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that it sees nothing wrong with this, but let me assure you, everything is wrong with it.

Particularly frustrating is the section detailing how the government consulted Canadians. The web page states, “The Government of Canada launched a comprehensive consultation process on December 31, 2011….  This process indicated broad support for Canada’s entry into the negotiations.” Comprehensive? I would suggest to you that at least 90% of Canadians have no idea what the TPP is, nor that it’s being negotiated on their behalf in secret. Do not mistake support for being a part of the negotiation for supporting the TPP itself. How can Canadians support the agreement if they have no idea what it is? And why should I accept the government’s assurance that they’re looking out for my interests? The best way to assure me of that is to show me the details of the agreement.

Frankly, keeping this agreement secret likely means the governments involved have something to hide. Reports about leaked contents of the TPP agreements seem to bear this out. I came to you for details of the agreement and instead of the facts I wanted, you sent me to a feel-good government page that amounts to a pat on the head and the assurance that I have nothing to worry about. It’s far past time that the government treat Canadians as stakeholders in decisions and not children who need nothing but empty assurances.

For example, the page that details these vast consultations with Canadians about the TPP … the consultations that Canadians in general and the media in particular, seem to know nothing about … claims that “interested stakeholders have an opportunity to provide their views related to Canada’s interests in the TPP.” Frankly, every Canadian is a stakeholder. I know this is difficult for the government to understand, as consultations about changes to copyright laws have shown. In those ‘consultations,’ the stakeholders allowed to appear at the hearings were extremely limited, and were largely limited not to the public or the artists who generate the content being protected, but rather the media companies.

Besides, tell me how anyone can provide meaningful feedback on Canada’s interests in the TPP when they have no idea of the contents of the TPP?

Please do let Mr. Nicholson know that the TPP secrecy stinks to high heaven, and the few Canadians that are aware of the negotiations are aware of how ridiculous the secrecy is. Also, when Canadians find out that the government has kept the contents of the agreement from them for years, they will not be pleased, and no patronizing pat on the head will mend the damage.

An MPP’s job in particular, and the government’s very purpose in general, is to represent the public. This addiction to secrecy, and pretending it’s somehow acceptable and normal, is nothing but disrespect and ass-covering made manifest.

I can not find words to express my disappointment.

Rick.

It’s difficult, but I try not to pre-judge. An open-minded approach is best. Rather than condemn the person/organization based on an incomplete understanding of the situation, I start asking questions. Expressed more cynically, I prefer to leave room for the person/organization to disappoint me. I’ve been a constituent of Rob Nicholson for less than a year, and he’s excelled. I expected no less because the Harper government has been disappointing me for nearly a decade. A very, very long decade.

Passport address

Since I have moved, I’ve been all about letting the appropriate organizations know of my new address. The latest thing I realize that I need to update is my passport. To find out how to do this, I search Google for “canada passport” and then search for “address change” on the Passport Canada web site.

I eventually made my way to an FAQ that answers my question. I quote:

A change of address does not invalidate a passport. Please cross out the old address on page 4 and write the new one in the space above the old address. Do not use correction fluid. If the space in the passport is insufficient, write the new information on a separate piece of paper and insert it into the passport.

Simple enough! Wait. What? Cross out my old address and write the new one? Seriously? It sounds like I could have just made my passport myself. Jeez.

Hearing

At one point, he clambered on to the rubble of what is now a mass grave and, with one arm around a fireman’s shoulders, addressed the crowd of rescue workers through a loud hailer.

He said: “I want you all to know that America today is on bended knee in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, and for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn.”

One fireman shouted from the back of the crowd: “We can’t hear you”. The President replied: “Well, I can hear you.”

As the laughter subsided, Mr Bush added: “I hear you, the rest of the world hears you and the people who knocked these building down will hear all of us soon.”

By Philip Delves Broughton
The Telegraph, “The Rest of the World Hears You
September 15, 2001