Equalization and You

Equalization is a federal program where they spend more money in regions that are economically depressed. Full stop.

This five minutes 30 seconds is the best description I’ve heard of how equalization payments work in Canada. It’s two Albertan political strategists .

The Strategists: Episode 564

I’ll start you at 31:40 into the episode. Listen at least to the 37:10 mark.

We pay the exact same taxes (federal rate) in Alberta as they pay in Quebec…there’s no “I’m paying more because I’m a rich Albertan — you’re paying more because you’re rich.
Every province does a form of equalization…every city does a form of equalization, because we don’t make the same money and the reason we do a taxation system to begin with is to redistribute funds to those who need them.

Bonus quote, from later in the episode:

Ralph Klein was the one who started to establish this idea that we’re sending a cheque somewhere down East. Well I’ll tell you something — before the 1970’s, we needed it too. People have to remember that in Alberta we were a have-not province. Then we got a little bit of oil an gas going our way and things started to work for us. But it didn’t really start to work for us until the late 1960’s and the 1970’s.

Death, the Prosperity Gospel, and Me

Kate Bowler — a professor at Duke Divinity School — has been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.

But one of my first thoughts was also Oh, God, this is ironic. I recently wrote a book called “Blessed.”

A few years ago she wrote a history of the prosperity gospel, and this article is a sort of mini history, particularly looking at how it shaped the ways in which Christians respond to “bad things” including impending death.

The prosperity gospel has taken a religion based on the contemplation of a dying man and stripped it of its call to surrender all. Perhaps worse, it has replaced Christian faith with the most painful forms of certainty. The movement has perfected a rarefied form of America’s addiction to self-rule, which denies much of our humanity: our fragile bodies, our finitude, our need to stare down our deaths (at least once in a while) and be filled with dread and wonder. At some point, we must say to ourselves, I’m going to need to let go.

Many of her points also permeate the non-prosperity North American church. She deals with the religious, the cultural, and the personal with depth, humour, and frankness.

Cancer requires that I stumble around in the debris of dreams I thought I was entitled to and plans I didn’t realize I had made. But cancer has also ushered in new ways of being alive.

Read it.

M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village is an underrated masterpiece

Todd VanDerWerff, on Vox, putting it out there that contrary to the knee-jerks out there, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village is:

  1. a technical achievement
  2. a well-done commentary on the post-9/11 Iraq War
  3. a good human story

I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it an “underrated masterpiece”, but I’ve always been the one guy I know who loves most of Shyamalan’s work because of how he tells great stories of personal human struggles. Starting with Signs, the twists were incidental to the story.

He tells the story he set out to tell. The Shyamalan problem is a marketing problem — the audiences are usually there to see a different story than what he’s actually telling.

I first noticed this with Signs. The hype and advertising around it were for a summer blockbuster (“ILM did the aliens, yo!”), but the movie was about a man’s struggle with faith during a time of personal turmoil.

He’s said as much about his work in an interview in The Independent:

A common misperception of me is That all my movies have twist endings, or that they’re all scary. All my movies are spiritual and all have an emotional perspective. – M. Night Shyamalan

I don’t recall the advertising around The Village, but I assume it was making it out to be a horror-esque movie. I won’t explain the crux of that story here, since my wife hasn’t seen it yet (read the spoilers in the linked article if you want them), but it’s also exploring questions that we all deal with in modern society (as the Vox article articulates well).

Lady in the Water is another movie where you have to take him at his word as a filmmaker. The story is explicitly framed as a bedtime story, and I assume the movie is less enjoyable if you ignore that aspect of it. (It’s hard to ignore — there’s even a prologue that tonally sets it up this way).

The reason I’ve enjoyed his movies is I trust Shyamalan as a filmmaker more than I trust his marketing team. Even with that said, Lady in the Water is the last of his movies I’ve seen (with the unfortunate exception of The Last Airbender). The ads around The Happening pointed at a genre I don’t generally care about, but I should have known better by then not to trust the hype machine around his movies.

I think it’s time to re-watch his canon, and newly watch the ones I’ve missed. Maybe I’ll even find some redeeming factors in The Last Airbender if I go into it looking for his trademark stories of struggle and growth. The source material, Avatar, is chock full of that, but I didn’t go into the movie with that mindset — I was more worried about it ruining a show I loved, which is probably just a self-fulfilling prophecy when you’re looking for things it “does wrong”. (To be fair, I don’t think this movie is fully redeemable, but at least I might find some redeemable qualities in it. I like his movies, but that doesn’t mean everything he does is perfect.) At any rate, I’ll see where a re-watch of The Last Airbender leaves me.

Let the Shyamalan marathon begin!

On the inevitable cannibalization of tech by those who monetize a public good

But here’s object lesson number infinity on how handing over all the software to somebody else with a datacenter is the Law of Unintended Consequence’s best friend.  — brennen, on MetaFilter

The whole thread is quite good (not surprising on MeFi – the corner of the internet where comments are good).

exercises in missing the point

Power & Politics podcast from February 17, 2012

It was disappointing how neither the host nor the NDP MP saw (or, at least acknowledged) the political and satirical value of the Vikileaks30 account. Yes, it was personal information. Yes it was so-called “private” information. Yes, its publication was unwanted. That’s the point.

I did enjoy the general tone of the conversation, though.

Canada’s "Dutch Disease"

Will Oremus:

It’s well known that America’s dependence on foreign oil forces us to partner with some pretty unsavory regimes. Take, for instance, the country that provides by far the largest share of our petroleum imports. Its regime, in thrall to big oil interests, has grown increasingly bellicose, labeling environmental activists “radicals” and “terrorists” and is considering a crackdown on nonprofits that oppose its policies. It blames political dissent on the influence of “foreigners,” while steamrolling domestic opposition to oil projects bankrolled entirely by overseas investors. Meanwhile, its skyrocketing oil exports have sent the value of its currency soaring, enriching energy industry barons but crippling other sectors of its economy. Yes, Canada is becoming a jingoistic petro-state.

He could have dialed it back at times, but overall worth reading.

The forgotten manuals

At Practically Efficient:

Understanding people—the fundamental ingredient in any personal or professional pursuit—is probably the most practical knowledge you can have. And there’s probably no better place to read detailed descriptions of people than fictional stores.

He also says a lot about reading books vs. online. The entire post (and even comments) are worth it.