Dispatches from The Swamp – the ‘Bella’ edition

Bella with her Lion Cut - which she loved!
  • We lost Bella this past week. She had a hyper-thyroid and cancer. She had been doing really well – eating, using her litter box, being very affectionate until last Monday when she just stopped everything. We took her to the vet right away. I thought perhaps her thyroid meds were suppressing her thyroid too much but I was wrong. Her abdominal mass was huge and she was done having fun. We let her go right there and then. She was a great cat. It took a great cat to live with up to 11 dogs at a time. She ruled the roost from wherever she chose to hang out. She used to love to whack the dogs as they went by. She was 16 and had been with us for 11 years. We will miss you Bells. You were definitely a one of a kind cat.
  • It is no secret that I am not a fan of the robocall. I once tweeted that I would not vote for any of the leadership candidates who robocalled me and got into with a Thomas Mulcair supporter. Ironically, I think that is the one campaign I have not had a robocall from. Now, it would seem, that it is actually the Conservatives who have figured out the best use for robocalls by using them to divert voters who didn’t support them in the last election to phony polling stations. All I can say is that there best be a serious investigation into this scandal. Maybe we should call it ‘robogate’ or ‘callgate’. Here is Rick Mercer’s take on it:
  • Now that I have some genetic information from finding my biological parents my doctor has put me on medication for high blood pressure. I had been avoiding this but not anymore.
  • This week I am having the last of my dental work done. I will no longer have any amalgam fillings! Plus my teeth have never looked or felt better. I have no pain anywhere. I love my new dentist along with the sedation option for major work. I could not have had my bottom teeth fixed without it. What a difference it makes to your self-esteem when your teeth look good!
  • Deb and I are going out with Kasandra for dinner next week. I finally called after waiting about 3 weeks. When she answered the phone she said she had planned to call me that evening. I am still unsure where this will end up. I hope we end up having a great relationship – one that I thought would be there by virtue of the fact that she is my biological mother. I was wrong, apparently. I have not seen Gary since our first meeting and his wife, Martha, keeps putting me off via email. Oh well. I don’t think I have a lot in common with them anyway. I really want to meet the brothers at some point but I am happy to wait.
  • I have been feeling pretty good the last couple of weeks. Although I do have an issue when I have to work 5 days in a row. I also seem to really suffer if I don’t have 3 days in a row at home. This week will be short and I am happy for that.
  • We started watching Downton Abbey yesterday. It is great! I recommend watching it with the Wikipedia article open so that you can figure out who’s who in the zoo! I have to say that Maggie Smith is one of the best actors I have ever seen. She can convey so much with just a look on her face. Amazing.

Crying in our beer… if we drank beer…

I was tempted to paint the blog black in my disgust at the Conservative party majority government but then Stephen Harper would make me miss a blog posting. This morning Deb started a post on Facebook about all the people who voted for the Cons. I contributed some as well (we are evil and we work well together). Deb used to blog at Fat People are Hard to Kidnap. So without further ado, here is the first guest post at Dispatches from the Swamp:

By Alphamutt

To everyone who voted for the NDP in yesterday’s disastrous election, thank you for doing the right thing. For those Camericans who voted for Despot Harpie and his gang of hangers-on, perhaps you might think about picking up your cowboy hats, long guns, Viagra prescriptions, bibles, high school diplomas, Toronto Maple Leafs hats, “My Canada is a WASP Canada” signs, yard dogs, mobile homes, beer fridges, your holy grail of intellectual stimulation: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, your CB antennas, your “God is my Co-Pilot” bumper stickers, your prime cooking appliance – the burn barrel (and your favorite foods – hot dogs, beef jerky and beer), and your secondary appliance, the turkey deep-fryer, your well-worn copies of Speaking in Tongues for Dummies and your barbecues, pack it all up in your ball-wearing, smoke-spewing, gas-guzzling, primer-adorned pick-up trucks and make a dash for the US. Land is cheap in Arkansas, the banks will be happy to sell you another mobile home at a rock bottom price, so your mother and her fourth husband can live right next door.

Oh, and if all y’all don’t mind, could you please take the 45% of Canadians who were too lazy or stupid or (yeah, lazy or stupid covers it) to vote yesterday with you? They are worse than you, but they have no right to be here, and we don’t want them. Maybe they can find some cult to join in Nebraska or New Mexico … they should be easy to program, they have no thoughts or feelings and they seem to thrive on doing nothing.

My Live Tweet of the Election Results

6:59 pm One minute to go! #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:07 Crap!!! The Cons could get a majority. Very sad. #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:08 NDP Official Opposition! Wow! Jack Layton and the NDP have made history! #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:10 WTF is wrong with Manitoba? They elect NDP provincially but Cons federally? #elxn41bc #elxn41 #manitobasucks

7:13 pm Historic success for the #NDP and #jacklayton #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:18  Jack Layton said he was running to be Prime Minister. #jacklayton #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:21 Jack Layton has earned this! Could the NDP hit triple digits?#elxn41bc #elxn41 #NDP

7:26 The #NDP are over 100! Jack Layton has earned this! #elxn41bc#elxn41 #NDP

7:29 Lawrence Cannon going down to the #orangecrush! #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:31 One of my dogs is barking for Kali daal. She has decided she likes lentils. She is interrupting my tweeting. #orangecrush#elxn41bc#elxn41

7:53 Fuck. Conservative majority government. #elxn41bc #elxn41

7:56 Bitter sweet results. #NDP Official Opposition but Con Majority #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:03 The #NDP is the real story tonight! #elxn41bc #elxn41. Even though they are dealing with a majority Con gov they will have platform to work.

8:04 I never thought I would see an #NDP Official Opposition in my lifetime. Way to go #jacklayton #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:15 Sadly, I do not feel bad for Michael Ignatieff. The ‘natural governing’ party goes down, hard. #elxn41bc #elxn41#jacklayton

8:16 Is Ignatieff’s job still available at Harvard? #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:17 The Liberals are an ‘ancient’ party – Michael Ignatieff#elxn41bc #elxn41

8:20 I don’t understand what people see in MichaelIgnatieff? Do you? #elxn41bc#elxn41

8:21 Stop thanking people and resign already. #elxn41bc #elxn41 #ignatieff

8:34 Get Jason fucking Kenney off my television! #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:37 Elizabeth May ahead in Saanich-Gulf Islands. #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:40 We need to go to proportional representation. First-past-the-post is so last century. #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:43 Sweet victory for Bob Rae being re-elected and Ignatieff not. Anxiously awaiting #jacklayton speaking. #elxn41bc #elxn41

8:45 I actually liked Gilles Duceppe.Not sad to see the #BQ go down. Maybe it’s time to try to bring QB into the Constitution. #elxn41bc#elxn41

8:50 #Duceppe is not very humble…#elxn41bc #elxn41

8:53 There isn’t even a CDN flag on stage with #duceppe. Speaks volumes. He is leaving. But not spelling end of Sov. for QB#elxn41bc #elxn41

9:08 Where is #rickmercer? He should be commenting! #elxn41bc #elxn41

9:31 #NDP #NDP #NDP #NDP #elxn41 #elxn41bc

9:32 #JackLayton – Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition #elxn41#elxn41bc

9:39 Proposition over opposition – #JackLayton #elxn41 #elxn41bc

Now for more than 140 character thoughts:

  1. It is bittersweet tonight. While the NDP did better than anyone could have predicted it came at the expense of a Conservative majority. It is going to be really hard to stomach 4 more years of Stephen Harper.
  2. The Liberal party will take its time and rebuild over the next 4 years. This is a good thing. It will not happen under Michael Ignatieff. It will take a very charismatic leader who will be able to inspire the entire country. I believe it will be Justin Trudeau.
  3. Jack Layton will be amazing as the leader of the opposition. He will act with integrity and hold the Conservatives accountable. This extra exposure will be great for the NDP.

Election 41

Now that my migraine has receded, I am going to live tweet my thoughts as the results come in. I will post the tweets here after I am done. If you want to follow me, I am @shihtzustaff

Enjoy the Stanley Cup of politics!

My 2011 Election Prediction

If someone had told me a month ago that the NDP and the Liberals would have exchanged places in the poll I would not have believed it. Jack Layton has run a very tight yet engaging campaign. He has not faltered from his message of support for families. I find it so interesting how both Harper and Ignatieff became so afraid of Layton and the NDP in the last week of the campaign.

This is a really hard election to call. There are so many variables to consider. Really, it depends on who can get the vote out. If the polls are correct and the NDP support does not erode then Jack Layton stands a very good chance of taking the NDP to its best performance ever. He may even be leader of the Official Opposition.

I think Harper can expect another minority parliament. He did very little to allay the fears of voters with what he would do if he won a majority. I think many people are weary of Harper saying he needs a majority to govern. He needs a majority if he is going to be a dictator.

The real question mark right now is Quebec. If support for the Bloc Quebecois has diminished and if most of it goes to the NDP the results of this election will be one for the history books. Clearly Quebec is not going to support the Liberals no matter how often they trot out Jean Chretien. The problem with the Liberals is Michael Ignatieff. Apparently he has charisma if you meet him in person, however he does not present well on TV. He comes across as a pompous ass who thinks he knows what is best for us.

The Liberals are done until they get a real leader. They need someone with vision and charisma not a professor lecturing to them. Since Jean Chretien stepped down, the Liberals have floundered. Paul Martin wanted to be prime minister simply to be prime minister. He didn’t have a vision for what he wanted to do for the country. Stephane Dion had promise but he got bogged down in policy.

Harper has shown his true colours this campaign. All of the scandals aside, his insistence on only answering 5 questions a day was quite arrogant. He was so tightly wound and uncomfortable. His perseveration on the ‘coalition’ became so tiresome. He consistently misrepresented several issues.

The other unknown is the youth vote. It is interesting that neither the Liberals nor Conservatives has tried to engage the youth vote. I suspect they are afraid that youth will support the NDP. Rick Mercer has done a great deal to get the youth of Canada more engaged in the political process. If the youth vote in droves it may well be enough to put the NDP over the top.

I think we will have another minority parliament. If the NDP gets the vote out then they well could form the Official Opposition. There is a role the governor-general could play here as well. He could ask the opposition parties to form a government if the numbers are close. It is only convention that dictates that the party with the largest number of seats forms the government. I think it is not likely he will do that but the possibility does exist.

If things happen like I have predicted, Michael Ignatieff will resign tomorrow night. There is nothing the Liberal Party of Canada can do to rehabilitate his leadership. Instead of having a leadership coronation again, like they did with Michael Ignatieff. The Liberals need an exciting and engaging leadership campaign with younger contenders. It is my hope that Justin Trudeau become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. I think he has the charisma and the leadership skills to bring the Liberals back.

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘I love my new front teeth’ edition!

  • I love the way my dentist fixed my front teeth. About 25 years ago, I needed a lot of dental work done. My fear of dentists coupled with living in care and no money meant that I severely neglected my teeth. There was a dental office across the street from where I lived with a big sign advising that they ‘cater(ed) to cowards.’ So, I went there. I needed so much dental work, having all of my teeth pulled was a serious consideration. Instead, I decided to soldier on and get them fixed. My lower front teeth were in bad shape. When the dentist picked the wrong shade of filling material for them and my teeth looked horrible. Plus they were stained from when I was a smoker (20 years ago now!). Because they looked so bad, I always assumed that one of them was going to start to hurt. My bottom teeth are notorious for being very sensitive and not freezing very well. So the sedation route was great for me. The drug they use is halcyon and one of its properties is that you do not form new memories while on it. So all the anxiety of being at the dentist, the sounds, the smells, the anticipation of pain is not there. This is a huge relief for me as I am very fearful. I highly recommend the sedation route for anyone who has a lot of dental work to do!
  • Everyone here at the Swamp is well. Piper has been wandering howling for no apparent reason, which I find quite amusing. Kiefer and Clio were groomed the other day. They look so cute when they come back.
  • I love how some people are so desperate for spring that they are wearing sandals almost in defiance of the rain and the low temperatures. I am dying to get my feet out of socks and shoes too but it is just too cold. I do chuckle at the ones defying the weather.
  • It is still quite swampy here. We still have pooling water on the front lawn. The front part of the backyard is pretty dry but the rest is very, very wet. We have had a great deal of rain so it is not surprising.
  • Things are calming down in my life, which is a very good thing. I have made a decision that I am not going to post about yet but will at some point no doubt. It is a life altering decision.
  • I will post my election predictions tomorrow! Can’t wait!

Let’s talk about Coalitions

Harper and his coalition government fear mongering is getting on my nerves. He talks as though Mikey and Jack could wake up one morning and talk to their buddy Gilles and kick little Stevie out of the sandbox without any one stopping it. This is so far from the truth. He is completely exploiting a rarely used solution to a government falling as a way to scare the electorate into giving him a majority government. What is more disturbing is that the media are playing along like he is correct.

In parliamentary democracy, it is only customary that the party with the largest number of votes forms the government. It has been done this way since the beginning therefore, it continues to be done this way. In the case of a minority government, where no one party has the majority of seats, it is still customary that the party with the most seats forms the government. As long as the government ‘enjoys the confidence of the house’ then all is peachy keen. They all agree to get along and play nicely in the sandbox.

In a minority government situation, the government is only as safe as its next set of negotiations with the opposition parties. What this means in practice is that at any point the opposition parties can pass a motion of non-confidence (basically they are saying that they have lost confidence in the government) and if the motion passes the government could fall. This could feasibly happen in a majority government situation, especially a tight majority, the government could be caught off guard and a motion of non-confidence could be tabled. However, they usually strike agreements with the other parties and pair up MPs to allow everyone to have the freedom to do constituency work at home. They agree that if Joe isn’t in the house then Jane won’t be. This way they keep the numbers proportional. But I digress.

Back to our minority government situation. When the house fell on the budget bill, (any monetary bills are considered de facto confidence motions) a federal election was not a foregone conclusion. In fact, when Stephen Harper went to see the Governor-General he had 2 choices – calling an election or asking the party with the next largest number of seats to form a government. In fact, we have not had many coalition governments in Canadian history.

So, the whole coalition government thing is a ruse. It is a way for Stephen Harper to divert attention from all the scandals that have plagued his government. If he is busy scaring everyone that the Bloc Quebecois might have a hand in governing Canada then he doesn’t have to answer questions about how he subverts democracy. The next time you are in mixed company and someone starts talking about the spectre of a coalition government, take a moment and educate them. The truth is the chances of it happening are almost slim and none. But you can never rule it out completely as a possibility. In the grand scheme of things, it might be a good government where more Canadians might be represented rather than the party who received 35% of the popular vote taking more seats because of our antiquated first past the post system of electing representatives.

This and that…

Many things are going through my head so welcome to the latest mish-mash post. Here we go, in no particular order:

  • What is up with play off hockey. Why are the fans so intense? As I drove to work today, I was listening to BC Almanac again, of course they had uber-Canuck fans on today to talk about how they are coping with the unanticipated game 7 of this series. These people are fucking insane! One woman called and said that her 12-year old son had gone on a hunger strike and he was not going to eat until the Canucks won again. Well, if history repeats itself, the kid might not eat until next October. Why do people get so worked up about hockey? Where is all that energy when it comes to social issues? To volunteering? To political engagement? Man if we could harness 1/10 of the energy that is directed towards the Vancouver Canucks we could solve homelessness and political apathy in a few days.
  • I don’t know about you but the idea of Jack Layton as the Leader of the Official Opposition makes me squee with delight! I would love it if Ignatieff had to move out of Stornoway and make way for Jack and Olivia. Layton has worked tirelessly as leader of the federal NDP and it is about time he reaps the rewards. I am glad that people are thinking it is time for a change in Ottawa. I am hoping that Harper is denied his majority – just like Dancing on the Stars you don’t get it if you don’t earn it.
  • I need to make some changes in my world. I want to get a handle on my anxiety so it does not rule my life. I want off the medications that are supposed to help manage it but don’t really seem to do the job. I am completely against going on any more medication. I am not sure what the changes will look like. Some of them I won’t be able to post here unless I do a private post. Mostly though the changes will centre on me taking back control and not letting other people/things control my world. I am tired of walking around with hunched shoulders and backaches because of stress. Now some of it I have no say over. My anxiety ramps up if my pain levels are too high. I am going to try to manage that a little differently as well. Again, not sure what it will look like but the goal is to get some peace back in my life. I want more time for me and with Deb and the dogs.
  • I loved being home last week with the dogs. You miss so many things when you are not here with them all day. They seem to bond more closely to me when I am here. As the week went on, I spent more and more time with Piper laying on my leg and Sawyer cuddled in. It was nice. It made my stress levels go down.

Anyone else out there thinking of making changes? Do you have any ideas for me of things that have worked for you around managing anxiety? Let me know in the comments!

Dispatches from the Swamp – the ‘things I have learned’ edition

  • I learned today that when you mostly stop buying and therefore eating processed food you don’t spend as much money at Costco. It was rather interesting. The only food I walked out of there with today was chicken (boneless and skinless), vegetables and dairy products. I did buy Deb was some vegetarian spring rolls but that was it for processed food. I am not sure why we have gone off processed food but I have to believe it is a good thing.
  • I have loved being home with the dogs all week. It is going to be so hard to go back to work. The dogs loving have someone home with them all day. Piper has been close to me all week so that I could just reach down and pet her.
  • I hope re-entry next week is easy. I am out on Friday as I am having another big sedation dental appointment. I am getting several crowns.
  • I am heartened by the surge in popularity for the NDP. Maybe Ignatieff will be moving out of Stornoway. I will make my election predictions next week.
  • I read a great blog by Penmachine on voting. If he can research all the issues, figure out the party platforms and get out to vote while dying from cancer then you can vote too. With so many people struggling for the right to vote we must be grateful that we have the right to vote here in Canada.

The Youth Vote

Last Friday on BC Almanac (a local CBC show) the topic of the call in show was centered on what we need to do to engage youth so that they vote. I have to say that I was stupefied by some of the callers. What came through was a complete lack of responsibility for their democratic obligations.

At least two of the callers said that it was the responsibility of schools to teach them about politics. I don’t know where they went to school but I certainly learned about politics in high school. I also learned that it was my responsibility to vote. I can remember always being engaged in politics.[1] Once I was older and had learned about the various political parties and their platforms there were almost nightly political debates at dinner. Growing up in 1970/80s Alberta when Trudeau was in power, the National Energy Program (NEP) was  always a topic of conversation. My parents were in the oil business peripherally and the NEP impacted their business.

One caller said that youth were too lazy to vote and the solution was to make it easier by introducing online voting. It is so hard to reconcile the protests that have been gripping so many countries as people, mostly youth, agitate for the right to vote. Complacency is a big problem amongst the youth. It also does not help that the national parties do not try to engage the youth vote. They realize that the youth would likely support more left wing and environmentally friendly parties like the NDP or the Greens. Perhaps that was part of the reason Elizabeth May was kept out of the debates?

If we are to engage youth to vote, parents must start at home creating a culture of political participation. This of course means that the parents have to be voting as well. Political education starts at home. Youth also need to take responsibility to make sure they are educated about politics so that they can exercise their democratic obligations. Clearly this cannot just happen during election campaigns. The electorate needs to engage in the political process between elections so that they are able to vote at elections with knowledge and confidence.

[1] Right down to watching the Watergate hearings on TV as a young child.