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Political ideology is not a map, grid, graph or chart

Photo: flickr/Joe Cressy

We see them in every election campaign: lines, grids and maps of all kinds. We fill out a form with a few or a lot of questions and find ourselves represented as a dot, usually on a grid opposing social (up or down) and economic (left or right) liberalism or conservatism. We shrug our shoulders at the result, maybe share it on Facebook, and then forget about it. But this idea that we can plot every political ideology and set of beliefs on a simple grid has become such an ordinary way of talking about politics that we take it for granted, even as it's dangerously misleading. When we think of political concepts and policies this way, we all lose. Here's how.

Moving to the 'centre' to appeal to 'right' voters

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Defending Canada's anti-spam law: Consumer protection and privacy law in disguise

Photo: flickr/g4ll4is

My first post defending Canada's anti-spam law focused on why spam remains a problem and how the new law may help combat fraudulent spam and target Canadian-based spamming organization. Most would agree that these are legitimate goals, but critics of the law will argue that it still goes too far since it covers all commercial electronic messages, not just fraudulent or harmful messages.

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Defending Canada's anti-spam law: Why spam is still problem

Photo: flickr/freezelight

Canada's anti-spam legislation took effect at the beginning of the month, sparking a steady stream of critical opinion pieces calling it everything from an absurd solution to a mostly non-problem to "ludicrous regulatory overkill." The criticisms generally boil down to three claims: spam isn't a big problem, the law is ineffective because most spam originates outside Canada and the law is overbroad because it targets legitimate businesses alongside fraudulent spammers.

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On the escalating Iraq Crisis

Photo: flickr/The U.S. Army

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It was just over a decade ago that Iraqi cities were falling to the assault led by foreign militias, vowing to overthrow the government and 'liberate' the Iraqi people. Baghdad's streets bathed in blood, a functional state turned into a failed one; the ultimate cost of land and life was colossal and incalculable.

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B.C. aboriginal communities' simmering fury towards Enbridge and Harper

Photo: flickr/Leadnow Canada

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Where I come from, people will spit at you if they think you support Enbridge. That's because we not only get the pipeline risk, but also the tanker risk, and the inevitable splashes that come with loading diluted bitumen into the tankers, which would mean constant micro-spills. Despite being bombarded with a lot of pretty ads reassuring us that our fears about tanker accidents are unjustified, the world-class tanker-safety system in the Douglas Channel, so far, amounts to one orange plastic triangle nailed to a tree.

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Terri-Jean Bedford on the proposed new sex work law Bill C-36

Photo: wikimedia commons

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In 2007 I was one of three women who began a constitutional challenge of Canada's prostitution laws. I am the Bedford in Bedford Versus Canada. Before that I was wrongly convicted under these laws, which were struck down in 2010 by Justice Himel. In 2012 the Ontario Court of Appeal basically supported her decision and in 2013 the Supreme Court, Chief Justice McLachlin writing, voted unanimously to support it as well. They said the laws were arbitrary, too vague, worked against stated objectives, endangered specific groups and put unfair restrictions on a legal activity, the sex trade.

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Why is the government giving up on protecting our privacy?

Photo: flickr/OTA Photos

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In recent years, it has become fashionable to argue that Canadians no longer care about their privacy. Supporters of this position note that millions of people voluntarily post personal information and photos about themselves on social media sites, are knowingly tracked by Internet advertising giants and do not opt-out of "targeted" advertising from telecom companies. Yet if the past few months are any indication, it is not Canadians that have given up on privacy. It is the Canadian government.

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Mourning the 'War on Terror's' ungrievable casualties

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Certain forms of grief become nationally recognized and amplified, whereas other losses become unthinkable and ungrievable ... A national melancholia, understood as a disavowed mourning, follows upon the erasure from public representations of the names, images, and narratives of those the U.S. has killed. On the other hand, the US's own losses are consecrated in public obituaries that constitute so many acts of nation-building. Some lives are grievable, and others are not ... -- Judith Butler, Precarious Life

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Andrea Horwath, the Left, and the unintended consequences of strategic voting

Image: wikimedia commons

Purists in the Ontario NDP who expected their party to run in an ideological straightjacket, and then punished them for it with calls for strategic voting, should not now be surprised that their former party has stopped listening to them.

In a prescient Facebook post a few weeks ago, a long-time observer of the NDP, political scientist Chanchal Bhattacharya, distilled this insight in response to Rick Salutin’s grumbling column in the Toronto Star about Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s new direction.

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