Psychopathy Rewards

Psychopathy is a neuropsychiatric disorder marked by deficient emotional responses, lack of empathy, and poor behavioral controls, commonly resulting in persistent antisocial deviance and criminal behavior.  ref.

There was a time where we didn’t like psychopaths. The neurological disorder was tightly bound to serial killers and the outer edges of society. And then we reached the 80s, where “Greed is good” and we actively started rewarding people with this trait. When the almighty dollar is king, then that’s what people cherish. The CEOs that most people know have these traits, and the most egregious of them all get rewarded handsomely for it. These people are generally quite intelligent and leverage this lack of empathy towards “success”.

I won’t hard on it for long, but Trump is clearly a psychopath. Boris Johnson. They’re not alone, there are a slew of elected officials who require this trait in order to twist the truth to meet their agenda. The gap between the neurological state and learned behaviors is an interesting one, which is why we have the adage the power tends to corrupt, and absolutely power corrupts absolutely. In 2022, this often manifests in a cult-like worship (think about how far that spans for a minute…)

Elon Musk offered to but out Twitter, and staked a $1b minimum transaction on the deal. Elon Musk doesn’t actually have a salary or income, he has Tesla shares. Shares he needs to sell/leverage to have money. He has so many shares, he needs to declare he will sell them to the SEC so that he doesn’t “tank” their value. If he wanted to see in a month, he says so now, then in a month it goes through. He only gets value based on the stock in a month, so it’s in his best interests to make that number go up.

Tangent – When Musk announced a return to work for 40hrs/week for salaried employees, it was clear he needed to cut operational costs, which he announced the next day. When you force a change like this, a company loses the “top quality” talent, as they generally have a better ability to find somewhere else to work and the flexibility to afford time without pay. It’s a fascinatingly bad management decision.

Unfortunately for almost everyone involved, Mush has poor behavioral controls and has managed to cut the value of Tesla by nearly 50% (aware that stocks in general have taken a beating, but that’s closer to 20%). His ability to buy Twitter is based on the value of Tesla stocks, which are now worth half of what it was before. And now he wants to back out of the Twitter deal. Which is simply fascinating to watch, just like a slow motion car crash.

The general idea is that Musk over-extended the offer, on an artificial value of his own stock boosted by his love for Twitter. The deal made very little sense to start. Since that time, Musk has continued to stay in the spotlight, relishing the ability to share his thoughts with the public. The more he did, the more time was allowed for the market to correct itself. He was overpaying then, and even more so now, with half the funds available to pay it. He’s going to do everything in his power to back out of the deal.

Is this enough for society to get a wake up call that the people we reward are the ones with the least useful traits for our survival? Quite unlikely. We’ll go for the person who takes advantage of people who are not us. There’s a term for that…

Just About Enough

These last few years have felt like a non-stop dumpster fire. Just a barrage of events, some within control, others outside, that have been draining my sanity.

My city (and others) just got walloped by a massive storm this weekend, knocking out power to seemingly half the population, and efforts are still underway to restore it for quite a lot of people. Farms destroyed, roofs ripped off, it’s something that frankly should not happen in our area. We’ve had two 100-year-floods in the past 5 years. It’s a special type of person who isn’t concerned that things are getting worse and what we should do about it.

There’s a months-long war in Ukraine, held aloft through nearly 2 decades of enabling a dictator because of our global dependence on gas/oil. Decades of wars for oil, and it took Ukraine to be the proverbial straw here.

And for some reason abortion is a big deal in the States, yet it’s not a big deal that school shootings continue. The factory of dumb that comes from the US in general is just mind-numbing, where people are proud of their stupidity instead of ashamed of it. I mean, I can understand why folks are looking to the fringes when their elected officials don’t care about them, and their CEOs are bleeding them dry. The inmates are about to run the prison.

The whole Musk-Twitter-Tesla debacle is a really great popcorn show of billionaires gambling and thousands of people crossing their fingers as to where it lands. If that isn’t proof enough that billionaires should not exist, I don’t know what else would show it.

Can we maybe go through the summer months without a new level of emergency going on? Let people catch their breath and just hug a neighbor? I could certainly use some bits of good news.

Inflation vs. Scams

These are rough numbers as the tax structures vary wildly.

Inflation in North America is at crazy highs right now, near the 7% mark. This has a massive impact on people with limited disposable income (read: middle class and lower), as they are now faced with making much harder decisions. They are likely making the same income, but the value of their dollar is much less… fuel in particular. Odds are if you live outside an urban centre, a truck is in the driveway. At $300 per tank, that really limits options. There are only a few possible counters to inflation that actually work at a larger scale and unfortunately, pay raises is not one of them (it is an outcome though!) The primary tool to manage inflation, in a neoliberal market, is borrowing rates.

Why? It’s because inflation is not caused by the bottom, but the top. Inflation is a market correction for an overvalued economy, which is grown from speculation. Speculation is funded through easy access to credit. Let me rephrase this a bit. Let’s say you took a $10k loan from the bank… you’d probably pay 5-7% interest because it isn’t backed and isn’t large enough. Let’s say you take a 2nd mortgage and get $500k instead, that rate is likely to be closer to 1.5%. You can do the same with other forms of equity, such as other investments. These lower rates were seen as stimulus after the crash of 2008.

So let’s pretend you borrow $500k at 1.5% in 2010 and invest it in the stock market. By 2020 you would have made a ~160% return. Invest in real estate, and the returns are similar (2020 – current you would have gained an additional 50%). Depending on where you are, you are taxed at a different rate on your gains… over here you pay on only 50% of those gains at a nominal rate – which effectively means you are taxed at ~20% on all the gains. To break even on the 1.5% borrowing rate, you need to make ~1.7% return. This is a machine to print money. And once you made that money, you can leverage it to make more money. The problem here is that access to the seed funding to invest at these levels is next to impossible to acquire for people without assets to leverage. It’s not possible for someone making minimum wage, trying to put food on the table, to get approved for any meaningful loan without crazy interest rates.

The mean wage during this same period increased by about 40%. If you worked and were not able to invest, then you were making less money than someone who didn’t work and solely invested. If you worked and started at 500K, you’d have gained ~600k (pre-tax) by the end. If you didn’t work and solely invested, you would have started with 500K and gained 1.3m (pre-tax) by the end. By investing once and never touching it, you would have gained twice as much as a worker. By doing nothing. That’s our version of capitalism.

Crypto is like this, except access is much easier to acquire. 1 stock of Apple is $145 today. You can buy any amount of crypto you want, it’s all broken into smaller pieces. Have 5$, you can buy crypto. Bitcoin only hit $1 in 2011. In 2020 it was worth nearly $30k. If somehow you had invested $500k (not technically possible, but the argument is the point) in 2010, buy 2020 you would have $15b dollars (Sep 2020 to Feb 2021 Bitcoin went from 8k to 55k). For a lot of people who have no concept of what investing is, and simply focus on the % returns, crypto seems like the simplest thing in the world.. it just prints money. Except the value of crypto is not linked to anything but the value of crypto… and therefore almost exclusively inflated and therefore extremely volatile to trends.

If by chance, you had 5k invested in crypto and you needed that money suddenly because of inflation pressures, then you would take that out to spend it. If enough people do this, then it deflates the value in the currency. In the stock market, the % of trades required to impact the market are massive, and there are balances to reduce the impacts (generally). It is really hard to have a run on the market. In crypto, a totally unregulated market, there are no such controls and runs are extremely common. Enough that the market has dropped ~40% value since Jan 2022 (hell, Luna lost 99% value in 24 hours). The stock market as comparison is down ~10%.

The larger problem space is that it may appear that people are playing the same game, the truth is simply that the rules are different. The value of crypto in particular is based on the last person who invested, making it effectively a giant ponzi scheme (as evident multiple times). The stock market is certainly bad, but there is something on the other end of it that is tangible.

Back to the original point… if you want to tackle inflation it’s not about pumping more money to people at the bottom… they don’t have disposable income in the first place. It’s about removing the amount of easy money entering the top, who are made up entirely of disposable income and are frankly gambling against a house that has been paying out at a crazy rate for nearly 40 years. They don’t care an ounce that gas costs triple… it could cost $2000 a tank and they wouldn’t know (they would from a profit perspective if they are running a business). The outcome of inflation being controlled is that the non-stop increased in costs are reigned in, which would then allow for incomes themselves to catch up.

There is no model that fixes this without changing the way the people who manage the majority of wealth are taxed. (Top 1% own ~40% of income, bottom 50% are 20% of the income. Top 1% = assets >$5m, annual income of >$500k). If you were in a hockey stadium with 20,000 people, 1% of those people would fit on a single articulated bus.

There are larger reforms that can help here… but the people who have benefited the most from the broken system are the ones running the system. Crypto was a great option to say “here’s an option for the plebs” (Poilievre in Canada said “...it can also let Canadians opt out of inflation, with the ability to opt in to cryptocurrencies.”) If you’re voting, and finances are of any interest, dig a bit. Soundbites are fun and all, but the actual decisions that make a difference… been a long time since that’s happened.

Supply Management Systems

Supply chains are notoriously complex, but fundamentally a simple thing. People make things, people buy those those things. The people orchestrating the sale want to find a price that meets their operational costs, and people buying things want to find value. Both need information in order to make those decisions. It’s why there are grocery flyers right? Find the best deal on canned soup and whatnot.

In the larger sense, most large scale retailers dominate the sales market and can both set and negotiate better supply prices. COSTCO and WalMart operate with this model… they will just buy all your stock but pay you half price for it.

Supply Management Systems start at the bottom of the pole, with a laser focus on raw goods. They have a few purposes:

  • protect the market from wild price fluctuations
  • give the producers some semblance of guaranteed income and an effective quality floor
  • give buyers an effective “floor” for the lowest price and assurance on quality
  • proposes protections to the national market from external “flooding”, typically through an import tax
  • supports the internal development of new products

Canada has supply management on major agricultural goods – grain, eggs, milk. This means that all large size eggs are bought from suppliers at the same price. There’s been a bun fight for quite a few years about the dairy market, as it hasn’t been as flexible as it could have been. There are specific types of cheeses that simply are not made in Canada and the import fees make it so that we likely never will see them from other countries.

If you’re a consumer, this can be seen as a bad thing as there’s less variety and you are “technically” paying more for the product as no one can undercut. The problem here is that of personal bias. You getting the cheapest possible eggs means that it’s a race to the bottom for the farmers to cut every corner possible to beat the next guy, or just close up shop. You may win, but the farmers lose and eventually there just aren’t remotely enough farmers left.

Second, is the protections it provides to a national economy. Dairy is a great example. Wisconsin, a single state in the US, produces 50% more dairy than all of Canada combined. Wisconsin doesn’t have supply management, and the farmers there are over-producing dairy, to the point of dumping stock. (They are subsidized, so it actually costs less to pump and dump the milk than to produce less milk.) Without a supply management system in Canada, they would flood the entire market are put most of our farmers out of a job… or force the government to subsidize equally.

Subsidization is an interesting topic in itself. The US subsidizes nearly everything because it’s functionally easier to control at a global scale as compared to import taxes, and can be done at the state level.

The best global example is crude oil, which is traded globally. In the US and Canada, we are both nearly self-sufficient in production, marginally in refinement. The lack of a supply management board (and the extreme power of OPEC) means that it makes no sense to sell locally when you can sell internationally at 4x the rate. If you’re wondering why the war in Ukraine impacts your gas prices, it’s because oil prices are “managed” internationally instead of nationally. Capitalism dictates that companies maximize profits over all else…they could sell it locally but that would be a significant loss if they instead sold it on the global market.

As with most things today, complex systems are reduced to soundbites. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the topic, and there are certainly multiple improvements that could be applied to the systems. Fun times.

China and Russia

I am not a foreign policy hawk, but I enjoy reading up on the subject. The world as we know it has 3 primary super powers – the US, China and Russia. They are, in extremely simplistic terms, focused specific areas of market. Russia in raw goods (primarily energy), China in manufactured goods, and the US in services. There are other countries in the mix, but none of them are large enough to direct their market share like these three.

Politically, these 3 countries have a lot in common, in that the politicians are run by business interests. The slight difference here is that the head of state is all but permanent in Russia and China. Both are also ex-communist countries that still have that generational echo where the country is larger than the people within. This is a complete contrast to the US, where the individual takes precedence over everything (lawsuits don’t really exist in Russia/China, at least as we recognize them).

In terms of military strength, all of them are capable of mutually assured destruction, which is the only bar worth measuring. Digital war strength, well, the advantage is clearly with both Russia and China, primarily because they also control the methods by which information is shared within their countries. China is particularly resilient because of the Great Firewall. Russia has little defence, but a tremendously effective offence.

Foundations set, all 3 countries have a desire to increase their influence/control, as this increases the amount of money they can make. Recall the markets they control, and you get a better idea as to the type of control they desire. For a long time the US wanted more oil security, Russia wanted it’s raw resources back, and China needs more secure borders and material to make goods.

The US empire has been on a steep decline for a good decade now (this is a fascinating subject), their ability to expand is in the traditional sense is all but gone. Russia and China however are both relatively new to the scene and have been taking advantage of this retreat. Both have blustery leaders who will gladly throw a threat around with no intent to follow through. Which is also the case for retaliation, where there’s only so much bluff calling possible when you’re on multiple war fronts. The war in the middle east never truly pivoted, with that focus taking away any global ability to counteract other offensive acts. As any opportunist would, others took advantage. There really hasn’t been any noticeable resistance against either Russia or China.

The war in Ukraine (that’s what it is) is different for many reasons. Importantly, Russia dramatically underestimated its capacity to overtake the country and resistance capabilities. These are not protesters or poorly armed rebels. This is two countries at war. The quick attack and follow up propaganda just didn’t work, and that means that attacks will get more desperate as time draws on. Second, Russia underestimated the western resolve to impose sanctions. Russia makes nearly all of its income from raw material, which has been all but shut off. Now it’s a game of chicken of how high gas prices will get before the west caves, or Russia runs out of options. A desperate country with a deranged leader and nuclear capacity is not a good mix. Without firing a shot, the west has crippled Russia, and it’s a matter of time before their reserves run out.

Which in turn makes for an interesting view in China. Their method of power play was to put countries against each other. With a unified front, they are certainly doing the math as to how the country could potentially resist any similar sanctions. They could certainly survive, with an absolutely massive cash reserve, but it would be a constant drain on their reserves and push a lot of the millionaires/billionaires to lose money – those who are keeping the government in power. There’s a threshold here, where only a certain small % of the folks can be targeted (Jack Ma was untouchable until he wasn’t).

This is just a simplistic view of a hyper complex and interconnected puzzle. It’s not possible to isolate any one part and not impact another… that’s what globalization has done. No country can be self-sufficient in this age, to the point where their lifestyles can be maintained. Higher gas prices is one thing. Empty Walmart shelves… that may be a bridge too far.

The next few weeks are going to be very interesting on the global stage. With hope, this can de-escalate and find a long term solution without the continued loss of innocent life. But it’s a turning point all the same for how this tiny blue dot moves forward.

February 24, 2022

I use this blog as a outlet to the various ideas percolating in my mind. It allows me to refine them to some degree, which allows me to digest and store them more fully. The wide majority of the posts are gaming related, with theory and armchair designing. Some are based on current events… which let’s be honest, have sucked something fierce for a few years.

Trucker Occupation

We had a national state of emergency declared to clear out the occupiers in the nation’s capital, which was done over the last weekend. First time ever, and borderline sledgehammer for a mosquito. Astounding. Then it was rescinded this week. The end result is a full inquiry within 60 days, which is likely going to air a ridiculous amount of dirty laundry.

Those that participated are experiencing some very interesting consequences. Trucking organizations have had suspensions and seizures at the provincial level. In Canada, the wide majority of pandemic protocols are at the provincial level, not federal. Like wearing a mask is a provincial requirement. Federal mandates deal with international borders (the US requires mandates for truckers, so even if Canada removed it, they wouldn’t be able to cross) and airports (which are changing March 1).

It doesn’t help the cause that the “leadership” of this movement is either uninformed, or misinformed about how this country works. The whole bail review for Tamara Lich is a very sad representation of the matter. Telling a Canadian judge about your first amendment rights isn’t going to work. When you can’t articulate a position, or defend it with structure, it’s really hard to find progress. It turns into “old man yelling at clouds”.

There are going to be some long-term consequences of this event, namely in terms of domestic security, foreign interference, and new legislation. As per above inquiry, if its determined that there were sufficient laws and that they were not applied… that is not going to be a fun conversation. And then the non-stop political mud slinging that doesn’t even try to find common ground. It’s just all bad, and I don’t see anyone trying to actually mend fences.

Tangent – I had an interesting conversation the other day with someone who had very strong opinions on the topic. I tried to find some examples, or research that could help me understand that position. All I got was “it’s obvious”. Hard to find any common ground in that space.

Ukraine

Like what the actual heck is going on?! I am astounded the events have reached this point, like a super high stakes poker game where the people are the chips and the people calling will never be impacted. Either the western world decides to apply meaningful consequences, or this simply emboldens anyone to declare any country “rebel” and then invade.

I am hopeful for some sense of de-escalation and consequence, but more than mindful that this won’t happen in a couple hours. And overly cautious that this doesn’t escalate into a worldwide event that we haven’t seen in nearly 80 years.

I am having a very hard time digesting what’s going on here.

Elden Ring

In the continuing “numb to all reason” space, Elden Ring has had multiple early reviews come out and it appears like it will be the highest rated game since Breath of the Wild – and likely the highest rated multi-platform game of all time (GTA5/ME2 I think are the others).

Odd note, GMG has a 28% discount on Elden Ring. I’m sure plenty of folks will buy directly from Steam, but it’s a fair amount of savings.

In an age where it seems good AAA games are all but dead, it’s been an glorious surprise to see this hit market. Maybe, just maybe, developer leaders will pay attention to what actually works and find a way to restructure their plans. I think that’s asking a bit much, as the number crunchers seems to be running the shops, but one can hope all the same!

Today is a weird day. It feels like the world that I know is coming apart at the seams and whatever happens next is just some random D20 roll. It’s the first time in quite a while where I have not been optimistic about the future. In times like these, I’m reminded of Carl Sagan’s words, and hope that we can find a way forward together.

Exporting Protests

My city is in week 3 of an occupation. I’d use that wording if it applied to any other long-term protest. Protests have end dates. Occupations do not. There have been many occupations in recent years, most of them making the “news” are first BIPOC related. Many, many more protests, but certainly a lot of occupations as well. Absolutely support anyone’s ability to protests a cause. Doesn’t mean I agree with the position or that people have to listen, but they still have that right. They need that right.

It’s interesting to see how the political spectrum applies to this. If you agree with them, then it’s all good. If you don’t, then you want the police to come in and arrest everyone. If it was BIPOC related, then the right was vehemently against it. The recent ones are vaccine related, and the left is against.

There are plenty of laws in Canada that prevent these sorts of events, though laws are applied with context. In some parts of the country, the laws were applied verbatim and all that resulted was protests (Quebec and the National Assembly are big example). In other parts, there were clear occupations that took place. Coutts, AB is one, the Ambassador Bridge another, Pacific Highway are three examples where occupations were present and after a few weeks, the laws were applied and arrests took place.

Ottawa’s was the first, and located in a quad precinct. The city police, provincial police, national police, and finally the parliamentary police all have some skin in the game. Coordinating all of that, and not inflaming a clearly agitated group is a real nightmare. The location itself is primarily residential, government, and office buildings. These are not groups that get national empathy, nor do they impact the economy at the same scale as say, the auto industry near the Ambassador Bridge. The motivation to clear this is borderline political (though admittedly, surveys indicate national support of the protests is quite small.)

Which makes it all the more entertaining when you realize the downstream impacts. The larger political parties are drawing their borders on the issue. The leading Liberals just enacted the Emergency Measures act to put a line in the sand and apply financial restrictions. (It is easy to speculate what this will do crowdfunding platforms and banks in the future, as the infrastructure and process will be there to audit GoFundMe et al.) The only declared candidate for the opposing Conservatives is still supporting the protestors, which is effectively an albatross that will haunt that party for a long time. The provincial leaders aren’t doing much better, as they could have clearly addressed this weeks ago, and chose to either be completely silent, or borderline supportive.

And sure enough, this particular behavior has inspired others across the globe, though in nearly all cases they appear to be protests instead of occupations. Great! They can get a message across without destruction / anarchy and people can either get on board or not.

Today, Ottawa’s police chief resigned. It was clear that was the only available outcome to this event. There will be enough digging into what worked and didn’t work in the future, but the fact remains that after 3 weeks the occupation is still there. And that there’s hot tubs and a music stage built in recent days didn’t help any cause. It’s clear someone needed to pay the price for this event, and he was the prime target.

It will be interesting to see what happens next. And more so, what happens long term.

Tuesday Morning

Canada had it’s national elections yesterday, and the picture this morning is near identical to the one we had yesterday. The pragmatic in all of us wonders what was the point of this if nothing changed, we certainly could have spent the projected $600m on something else. And there are still 800,000 mail in votes that need to be tabulated, so some shifts are expected.

The results themselves are generally in line with polls, which did undergo some minor swings in this 30-odd day period (that it was short was great!). There were a few hurdles for everyone in this battle, both in the concepts/promises and in the track history.

We have a first past the post (FPTP) electoral system here, so strategic voting makes a big difference. People will vote against someone rather than for, just to avoid splitting the vote. Long story here, but electoral reform is a sensitive subject which we have not yet solved.

The party in power is lead by someone who has a truckload of charisma, there is no denying it. He’s also made some horribly poor ethical decisions, or perhaps they seem anti-ethical when he says he wants to push for transparency and equality. And yet, his platform is very progressive, effectively eating into the platforms of the smaller left-leaning parties. Health care, climate change, national day care, gun control (for automatic weapons) are all part of the platform.

The opposition part is right leaning, with a relatively new leader. He’s a good speaker, but the least charismatic of the bunch. Looks matter in politics, and a old (still younger than the PM!) balding white guy doesn’t resonate so much with everyone. The platform presented was much more center than the last ones, with clear acknowledgement of abortion rights, LGBTQ+ support, and some climate change support. It still had traditional right side ticks, like lower taxes, more jobs, more choices for people. He was pro-choice on vaccine support, and at the provincial level last week, the 2 right-leaning provinces declared emergencies and support for vaccine passports. The problem here is not the leader, the problem is the party.

We then get into the 3rd party, which was traditionally the most left-leaning. The party in power has eaten into their base, so they opted to go farther left, into the ‘this can’t actually work’ space. They have a very charismatic leader, but their platform is utopian in a country that is traditionally financially conservative. When pressed as to how they would pay for all this, the answer was a simple sound bite ‘we will increase taxes on the rich’. While a good soundbite, there was no answer to the follow-up question ‘how do you keep the rich people in the country?’ This party suffered the most from this election, in that they are not viewed as a viable alternative across the country, and strategic voting moved towards the party in power instead. If we were a proportional-representation system, then they would absolutely be a viable strategic choice.

The last 3 parties are somewhat fringe. One is entirely focused on climate change, and has some serious leadership challenges over the summer. They lack any coherent platform. Another only exists in the province of Quebec, meant to represent their population’s distinct needs. This party is much more aligned to the right, but the national right-leaning party is headquartered in a province that dislikes Quebec and is anglophone – really fascinating dynamics here. And the last party is a bunch of white nationalist imbeciles, with the thought power of a bucket of rusty bolts. They are an extreme right-wing party and their sole part of this election was pushing anti-vax conspiracy theories. They took ~5% of the national vote, which was enough to “steal” some wins from the opposition party.

Lessons Learned

Each party is going to have to do some soul searching after this election, it’s a rare event that the pre/post results are so close.

  • Even with people not wanting an election and a leader that has more than enough bad decisions, they still came away with a “win”. This is the 2nd election in a row with this result…
  • It seems fairly clear that Canadians have accepted that a progressive agenda is here for the foreseeable future and are willing to absolve some poor decisions in that goal
  • There is no new mandate. Nothing promised here was “new” in the big sense. Which is sort of good in that there’s shift in government priorities in the middle of a pandemic.
  • It would appear on the surface, that this election was a quasi-referendum on the pandemic response (as we had during the 2008 economic crisis). The way the prior government handled it vs the style of the opposition was quite the contrast
  • This appeared to be a party-based election rather than a leader-based one, which is a slight shift from the prior one. Perhaps this is due to the shorter time frames and very weird debate format. Ideally this grounds our PM on the impact of his personality.
  • There is a growing regional political divide, as well as an urban/rural one. The inability for provinces and federal parties to “get along” is more striking.
  • That the right still has a significant “fringe” vote and voice that “scares” moderates. (There was a giant unification of the right 20 years ago, there’s the potential of a split)
  • This is still a minority government, which typically have a 2 year lifespan. And we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. This is a tentative endorsement of the party in power, with some checks and balances.

I look forward to see how the various parties adjust their platforms and messages, in particular as to how the provinces adjust.

Ignore the Base

Canada is in the midst of a weirdly (by any objective aside from political) timed election. It’s relatively short, some 32 days long before we all head to the polls. Which is fun because some countries spend half their term in the election cycle, meaning they only work half the time on their actual mandate (at best).

First, the basis that Canada has generally been a fiscally conservative and socially liberal country. There’s been a general sharing of power across the parties for a very long time, with both offering centrist platforms.

As with many countries, there are polarizing bits within the nation. We are a physically large country, but 80% of the entire population lives within the US border and urban centers. Proportional representation clearly favors one side, while equal representation would dramatically shift the national agenda. In the olden days, this was less of an issue as the matters of a local area didn’t often conflict at the national level – groups were relatively self-sufficient. In the post-Thatcher/Regan era of global multi-corporations + the massive proliferation of social media the world has shifted nearly completely and within a generation. The ‘financial hubs’ of our country have pushed a particular agenda, and well, the other parts are stuck playing catch up, if at all. This dissonance causes anger because people feel (are) ignored.

I am overly simplifying between urban and other settings. It’s dramatically more complex.

Each political party has a base. In a multi-party system, this base can shift around a bit. In a 2 party system, the bases don’t move. In Canada, we have 2 right-wing parties, and 3 left-wing parties. Only 1 of each wing has ever held national power, the wings that are closer to center and therefore have a wider base. The fringes of a given wing have typically been inconsequential due to lack of size. That said, as we’ve all learned, there is a very loud minority out there. The crazies have no shame after all (and the echo chamber effect cannot be ignored).

The current regional polling reflects this space. Where the numbers are similar at a national level, you have a federal platform. Where the numbers shift dramatically, you have a local platform. The CPC (right wing) absolutely dominates the prairies, where there are very small urban centers. This is their base, and even if the platform was to shoot laser kittens into the sun, they would still have the base come out and vote. This is due to the lack of competition (the PPC is at 3% national support and super fringe), and the community aspects at play. They could even come out with the most left-wing idea, and they’d still get the base out. But they haven’t. Up until this summer, their platform was entirely focused on their base which has meant a shift further to the right. Their new leader however, has really ruffled feathers by leaning to center with the platform. The ‘old guard’ and vocal minority are all over this, but the proof as the say, is in the pudding.

The left is more complex, as they share the remainder of the pie. The Liberals have used this to their advantage in eating into the more left-leaning party’s social platforms. Where the party was generally more controlled on the financials, that’s been all out the window to support social growth programs. They leveraged the fact that the right was going further to the extreme and ‘centrists’ would generally favour their platform (which the last 30 years has signalled). It didn’t matter what they had as a platform, they could just point and say ‘the right wants to stop abortion’ and that would be the end of that.

Not today! The right’s platform has practically ignored their base and put almost all their chips in the middle. That has thrown the left’s thinking that this was a slam dunk election out the window. It’s still leaning left for now, and more because there are a LOT of base voters that will vote against a party rather than for one – strategic voting is the term often used.

I remember reading Foundation when I was younger and fascinated at the concept of psycho-history – that numbers could predict actions, at large scale numbers. To me, this particular development was expected, just that the timing of it is a tad earlier. Most of this is generated from the situation with our southern cousins and the ever growing divisive political situation. It is hard to articulate how much Canada wants to avoid being seen emulating the US system. The shift back to centre was sorely needed, and this is just the first act in that rebalancing.

Regardless of the results of this election, it’ll be fascinating to see how this modifies the party platforms in the future. And I haven’t even started on the generational shift underway now…

Acti-Blizz Lawsuit

I guess it’s current affairs and game related…

Riot Games had a similar suit in the past, which had relatively small impacts in their organization. There were a fair amount of reports on it too, Kotaku’s of note. Curious to the larger outcomes. The $10m payout is peanuts for that company.

In this case, Acti-Blizz is getting his with a state-level lawsuit over discrimination. Personal lawsuits in the US are a dime a dozen. State-level efforts, that frankly millions of dollars invested just making a case. They don’t get issued without a rather high level of confidence that it can be proven. The penalties are not financial – Acti-Blizz revenues are $2b per quarter, so $10m is a hiccup. The penalties here are public, which is weird that we’re in the mode today.

High odds here that there are few execs that are shuffled, maybe a could lose their jobs (Afrasiabi left last year), but I would be really surprised is anything meaningful happens outside of some larger pay-outs to some impacted people. I say this because the executive leadership within that company has been extremely consistent that the only thing that matters is money.

Sidebar – I am convinced that EA has been doing an internal review for years prepping for their eventual suit.

I do understand how these events come to pass. Gamer culture for most of its existence was a “bro” culture, in particular in the more competitive space. Hell, IT culture was full of “a/s/l” questions and then pouncing on anyone that claimed to be female. Picking on Acti-Blizz here, but it’s rampant across the industry. It’s better now, but that’s like comparing a forest fire to a house fire. There are still some big issues to sort out. Riot Games is an interesting example here, as they went to great lengths to build a corporate culture that was reflective of their gaming culture – competitive and aggressive. Wilting flowers got nowhere. Acti-Blizz seems on another level though, where it was outright abusive, and top brass was aware.

What I find the most interesting in all this is the response that Acti-Blizz put out afterwards (emphasis mine).

We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.

I have experience in how this process works, though obviously in another country. The company is made aware of pending litigation (if individuals are not indicted), giving the company some time to prepare their statements. The legal team at Acti-Blizz had time to prepare this statement and get it approved. The wording is purposeful.

Ad-hominem arguments are an extremely effective defense – they question the ability of an individual. You’ve seen enough where the defense questions the integrity of a witness, not the actuals facts of the case. The media has conditioned us to look past the facts and at the ideas – Nancy Grace is the best example that comes to mind. But this only works on individuals. It’s a big challenge to sway public opinion on an organization that is established to support people’s rights.

I remain curious as to where this path goes.