30 April 2006

Information Futures Institute

Yesterday I was invited to spend the day at the meeting of the Information Futures Institute, and lead a conversation as the last session of their annual meeting. The IFI is a small, invitation-only group of individuals who are concerned with the state and future of what would conventionally be called libraries and librarianship - but these folks are anything but conventional, both in their respective experiences and their thinking. Anyone who (still) believes that librarians are dull would do well to spend a few hours in conversation with this group.

Among the invited speakers were Alan Darnell, who described the terrific aid to academe, the Scholars Portal, and Hubert St. Onge talking about Conductive Organizations (which is primarily a mashup of Barry Johnson's polarity management and David Bohm's dialogue). For me, the highlight of the day was Ken Roberts from the Hamilton Public Library, not merely for creating an exemplary online presence for the library, but primarily for being an exemplar of many aspects of an organization of the future. Ken's description of how he has positioned the library within the city (along multiple organization-to-organization valences) and within the community demonstrates the type of balance between inner and outer orientations that I believe is a key indicator of an effect-ive organization (his other competing values seem pretty well balanced, too). I have a feeling I'll be writing more about the HPL as I get into my empirical cases.

For the IFI members who are visiting my blog, welcome! Here is Why Johnny and Janey Can't Read (and why Mr. and Ms. Smith can't teach). If you want to read more about Research in the Age of Ubiquitous Connectivity, or about Role*, my research into intrinsic motivation and finding passion in your work and your life, or about Applied McLuhan for Managers, or about my work on Organizational Effect-iveness, just click the links. I do have a few copies of McLuhan for Managers on hand that I can sell - if you'd like a copy, please email me and we'll arrange the details.

Thanks for inviting me. It was a fun and interesting day.

[Technorati tags: | | | | | | ]

Things Don't Necessarily Go Better With Coke

In the "we try to do as much evil as possible" it seems as if Coke has ripped off some creative guys in Uxbridge, north of Toronto. According to an article in today's Star, the Huizenga brothers created The Winking Circle as a crazy, creative collective ""eccentrifying" the world, urging kids to turn off the television and drop out of consumer culture to star in their own, unique lives." The made a movie about it, and it seems, the Coca Cola company liked it enough to rip it off.

Here's the real version:

And here's the erzatz, fizzy brown water version:

Coincidenza? I think not.

As my regular readers know, I am all for the type of creativity that comes from remixing, recombining, and sharing ideas - after all, together, we're all smarter. What I'm against is the type of idea piracy the occurs when so-called creative agencies co-opt grassroots endeavours without so much as a nod to the originators.

Coke's reputation around the world is already a tad tarnished. Ripping off The Winking Circle goes against the emerging ethos of collaborative creativity, and from the perspective of its target market, is just plain dumb.

[Technorati tags: | | ]

27 April 2006

1984: A Reality

It has become a cliché: comparing our time and emerging politics with the dystopian society envisaged by George Orwell from his 1948 vantage point in 1984: A novel. Among the vivid images created in what was then a work of fiction was the ever-present telescreen:
Behind Winston's back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Now, two patents have been issued recently that effectively implement the telescreen. This patent, issued to Philips Electronics, embeds digital flags in broadcast transmissions that prevent viewers from changing channels on the television/cable/satellite tuner during certain programs (commercials, for example), or fast-forwarding through them, if the program was recorded. And this patent, just awarded to Apple, "inserts thousands of microscopic image sensors in-between the liquid crystal display cells in the screen. Each sensor captures its own small image, but software stitches these together to create a single, larger picture." In other words, the television watches you.

Imagine the possibilities for individual liberty. No longer will neighbours have to report on neighbours. The amount of fear and suspicion will decrease as only those who are plotting behind closed doors will be monitored closely. Remember, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Repeat after me:



Scattered about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided. The Ministry of Truth, which concerned itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. The Ministry of Peace, which concerned itself with war. The Ministry of Love, which maintained law and order. And the Ministry of Plenty, which was responsible for economic affairs. Their names, in Newspeak: Minitrue, Minipax, Miniluv, and Miniplenty.

The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one. There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometre of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons.

Update (30 April 2006): I just went to see V for Vendetta last evening (yeah, I know I'm late), and it is a worthwhile thriller-cum-political-commentary that is a chilling reminder of what can be just around the corner. What struck me is how few American reviewers were able to make the connections between a fabricated crisis, those connected to power profiting from it, and the imposition of a totalitarian police state. More here and here, with a great parody of the trailer here.
[Technorati tags: | | | ]

24 April 2006

Towards a Valence Theory of Organization

Update (April, 2010): The research and thesis on Valence Theory of Organization is now complete and available at the Valence Theory Thesis Wiki

I’ve just finished some major writing that extends my previous thinking about an Effect-ive Theory of Organizational Effectiveness, and derives A Valence Theory of Organization (that were once only initial thoughts). Here’s an excerpt – but for the really good stuff – including the Latourian entanglement argument – feel free to ask for the complete version.

They are relationships, connections, and emergent effects – far more than defined boundaries, production processes, functions, and responsibilities – that seem to be more apropos with respect to considering contemporary organization. Consider the effect-ive theory of action that I derived earlier, and the extension of the competing values framework of organizational effectiveness to include orientation. Consider, too, Castells’s (1996) reframing of the dominant organizational trajectory from vertical to horizontal, enabling the emergence of the network enterprise; Granovetter’s (1973) “strength of weak ties” that demonstrates the efficacy of indirect relationships in a large social network for diffusion of information. Inspired by [Margaret] Wheatley (1992), I propose another metaphor from science that serves to capture essential aspects of human relationships, to facilitate a reconception of organization, and more importantly, a new entanglement of the organization-person hybrid.

In the Niels Bohr model of the atom, electrons orbit around a nucleus in discrete levels or orbitals. There is a limit to the maximum number of electrons in each orbital, with the outermost orbital being incomplete – that is, having fewer than the maximum number – in most elements. Electrons in this outermost orbital can effect various types of chemical bonds with other atoms, and are known as valence electrons. In its most simplistic conception, valence bonding occurs when two or more atoms share valence electrons in their respective, uppermost orbitals, thereby creating a mutual connections upon which all of the atoms depend for the creation of the resulting molecular compound.

In an analogous fashion, an individual can consider her- or himself connected to an organization – and vice versa – in a variety of ways. There are often economic ties through employment contracts. In many cases, individuals construct part of their identity through self-identification with the organization. Indeed, in contemporary capitalism, some argue that both employees and customers construct identity based on their relationships with organizations (Gee, Hull, Lankshear, 1996; see especially chapter 2). Especially among non-profit or volunteer organizations, there are socio-psychological connections that emerge; indeed, I argue that these (among other) factors that explain aspects of motivation in the free/libre open source software movement can be applied to general principles of management (Federman, 2006).

These various relationships create valences – the capacity to connect, unite, react, or interact – between the individual and the organization. Ordinary experience would suggest that valences have complex relationships among themselves – one’s interactions with an organization are rarely uncomplicated and unitary, save in the most instrumental and limited circumstances. The strength of a given valence likely changes over time: for example, a person might be very active as a volunteer during a particular campaign (representing a strong socio-psychological valence, perhaps) and then limit her involvement thereafter (weakening the valence). A full-time employee might enjoy strong economic and identity valences; during a layoff, the economic valence might weaken more than the identity valence. Unionized workers would likely have dual identity valences that sometimes form “double bonds” (reinforcing self-identification with both union and company), and sometimes work in opposite directions, as during labour negotiations or strikes when the union-identity valence might work to negate the employer-identity valence.

Since individual-organization valence bonds can shift in intensity, type, and pervasiveness among individuals and over time, organization conceived in terms of its relationships, or valences, with its members is consequently contingent. Consider a non-trivial organization like a university. At its core are full-time faculty and staff, and enrolled degree students, all of whom enjoy mutual economic and identity bonds with the institution – and likely others, but two will suffice for illustration. Part-time faculty and students have the same types of valence bonds with the university, but neither bond is as strong as that of the university’s core constituents. Alumni, too, have economic and identity bonds, but the quality and nature of their bonds with the university are different than those of both the core group and the part-timers. In terms of relationships, then, what defines the university? The answer is interestingly contingent, uncertain, and complex, consistent with much else in the contemporary world: it depends. It depends on the temporal, spatial, material, and other contexts in which the question makes sense, but can be precisely defined by the types, strengths, and extents of the valence bonds under consideration. Like water that has three states – solid, liquid, and gas – the university analogously can exist in the same three states: solid (core constituency), liquid (core plus the more fluid part-timers), and gas (core, part-timers, plus the often evanescent alumni).

Unlike traditional contingency theories of organization that focus on instrumental repositioning of individual functional requirements based on environmental conditions (e.g., Lorsch, 1977), the contingent construction of an organization when considered from the ground of its valences considers the multiplicity of its relationships, and the nature, quality, and extent of those relationships’ effects, to define what now becomes organization as an emergent form.

When one moves beyond individual-organization relationships, it is equally clear that the same sorts of relationship valences can exist among discrete organizations (if indeed the notion of a “discrete organization” retains a useful meaning), both directly and indirectly, as in the case of a network enterprise. The same complex multiplicity of relationships and effects define inter- and intra-organizational forms, again, as emergent actants. This observation leads to a tentative, recursive, redefinition of organization:
Organization is that emergent form resulting from two or more individuals, or two or more organizations, or both, that share multiple valences at particular strengths, with particular pervasiveness, among its component elements.

  • Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Federman, M. (2006). The penguinist discourse: A critical application of open source software project management to organization development. Organization Development Journal, 24(2).
  • Gee, J. P., Hull, G., & Lankshear, C. (1996). The New Work Order: Behind the language of the new capitalism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
  • Granovetter, M. (1973). The strength of weak ties. The American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380.
  • Lorsch, J. W. (1977). Organizational design: A situational perspective. Organizational Dynamics, 6(2), 2-14.
  • Wheatley, M. J. (1992). Leadership and the new science: Discovering order in a chaotic world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Update (April, 2010): The research and thesis on Valence Theory of Organization is now complete and available at the Valence Theory Thesis Wiki

[Technorati tags: | | | ]

20 April 2006

Pedagogical Patterns

Speaking about my daughter, and her fascinating Spiritual Youth project (and if you know someone between the ages of 12 and 25, please direct them to the site and encourage them to contribute), another assignment of hers got me thinking. As part of her English culminating project (they're big on culmination at her school), she's writing an essay on Lewis Carroll's classic, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

This happens to be one of my favourites of the classics of Western literature because of its richness of metaphor, allegory and meaning, not to mention Menippean satire (a perennial theme among McLuhan folk). But because it is so rich, there are few essay themes that haven't been done to death. And so my daughter was seeking inspiration to discover something new on which to write. Adopting my best role* interviewing stance, I asked, "tell me about the main characters." As she went through the familiar White Rabbit, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter and March Hare, Queen of Hearts, and of course, Alice herself, she was describing (among other attributes) how each one related to passages of time and change or transformation. With a little more thought, she realized that each of the characters represented a unique expression of time and change, that the characters taken together were a Lewis Carroll treatise, of sorts, on various aspects of longevity, preservation, and the (apparent) inevitability of transformation.

"What were the circumstances in England just before the turn of the 20th century?" I asked. (Okay, here I had to help her - Queen Victoria, the height of the British Empire, colonial dominance throughout the known world.) And from that emerged an original essay theme.

What struck me was the way a random and open exploration led to the emergence of a pattern, that led to a new insight. Now this came juxtaposed with another conversation with a teacher (researching innumeracy among adults) about the sorry state of math education in schools - essentially, that very few math teachers realize that all of math is about enabling people to see meaningful patterns. Learn to perceive emerging patterns and algebra, trigonometry and calculus are a snap. Focus on formulae, solving problems and getting the right answer and math becomes a chore, or worse, a torment.

It occurs to me that the contemporary emphasis on testing and ranking precludes a teacher from enabling students to see patterns, and allowing insight to emerge. Despite much of the progress that has been made in some academic (specifically K-12) training, students learn that to get the marks, they must separate the testable wheat from the often more interesting chaff. Apparently open questions put by teachers are often leading questions, specifically designed to allow the student to discovery the "right" answer. In doing so, the process of pattern recognition is corrupted: the message of contemporary Western education is that patterns are only useful if they lead to what has been predetermined as being "right," with right defined by an authority figure.

While I do not advocate a return to the "anything goes as long as the student is being creative" school of schooling, reactionary curriculum reform cannot help but leave society a compliant mass, unable to perceive, critically question, or challenge authority. And most certainly, the last thing we want our learners to think about ongoing education is what Alice says about her experience with the Mad Hatter: "At any rate I'll never go there again!" said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. "It's the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!"
[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

19 April 2006

Calling All Spiritual Youth

My daughter writes:
This is the culminating project for my World Religions course. I am collecting personal accounts and perspectives of people between the ages of 12 and 25 about how they are individually affected by their experiences of religion and spirituality. I am trying to find connections, similarities, and differences among youth from as many different religions and forms of belief as possible. I’ll be posting excerpts from the responses I receive, plus my analysis, comparisons, and my own reflections.

Please send me your reflections, stories, and thoughts on these questions or any other topics that you think would be important to share. Pictures that reflect your religious practice are also encouraged.
A chip off the old block(head)! Using social media to conduct research involving some interesting questions among a global peer group. If you know of youth in the right age range, please pass the word to them.

[Technorati tags: | | | | | | | | | ]

17 April 2006

Another Cool Medium: Glossy and Knorr

This is very cool, in all senses of the word. The clever ad works because it is cool, that is, because the viewer fills in the bleeped blank. In fact, it's f****n cool!
[Technorati tags: | | ]

14 April 2006

The Reversal of Canada: The Great Warm North

Taking his marching orders from his policy mentor, George W, Stephen Harper's government eviscerated Environment Canada's programs concerning global warming this week. This was not really unexpected, of course. Harper's ties to the petroleum industry are as obvious as the Bush's. And almost everyone knows about how Harper has muzzled ministers, and tightly controls all access to the press. However, this news is downright egregious, and portends a raft of policies that would seek to stifle anyone who would dare suggest that King Stephen's view of the world is less than total:
Environment Minister Rona Ambrose has stopped an Environment Canada scientist from speaking publicly about his own novel. ... Mark Tushingham has written a science fiction novel called Hotter than Hell. It is set in the not-too-distant future when global warming has made many parts of the world too hot to live in and has prompted a war between Canada and the U.S. over water resources. Tushingham was scheduled to speak in Ottawa about his book and the science underpinning it. But an order from Ambrose's office stopped him.
Yes there was the bureaucratic gobbledegook about following proper procedures, but the message was clear. Either Minister Ambrose cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, or there is a general fear of anything that might dispute or call into question government policy.

Stephen Harper - putting the total into totalitarianism. Sad. Very, very sad.
[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

13 April 2006

The Four Sons

Each year, I have typically taken some time before Passover to study, reflect and meditate on the meaning of this holiday of redemption and emancipation. I have shared many of these thoughts on my Pesach blog, She'ayno Yode'a Li'shol, “for those unable to ask.” Unfortunately, this year I have been up to my eyeballs studying, reflecting and meditating on matters relating to developing some of the theory for my thesis, so I have had to forgo the more spiritually-based contemplation. But here is a bit of a blast from the past, contemplating one of the central parables of the Pesach seder, the parable of the four sons.

How do we engage all types of people – Wise, wicked, simple and ignorant? The fact is that all these aspects are present in everyone to a greater or lesser extent. The question is, how to know each “son”, or each aspect of ourselves. For each, we ask, mah hu omer? or, what does he say? But we can also interpret this question as, “what is he really saying?” or what is the real message of this aspect of ourselves.

The chacham or wise son asks the detailed question about the pronouncements, regulations and laws concerning Pesach. On first blush, this seems to be a reasonable quest for knowledge so that the wise one will be able to fulfil all the requirements of Halachah. But, sometimes, such detailed questioning serves another purpose. It is sometimes used in arrogance to demonstrate one's (self assessed) vast knowledge. In these cases, there is the risk that chacham may change into rasha - wisdom into wickedness. The wise son must take care to ensure that knowledge must reside in humility and an appreciation of one's own limits and capacity.

Rasha or wicked son is traditionally thought of as not really being interested in the answer to his question, but rather is using the questioning as a mockery, demonstrating his disdain for the spiritual journey of redemption that others are travelling. Immediately the wicked one is rebuked: "God did this for me when I went out of Egypt. You would not have been redeemed." We are at once told that such contrariness precludes redemption. But in considering ourselves as if we personally had come out of Egypt, we must realize that, in ancient times, no slaves were necessarily truly worthy, but all were liberated. How did this happen? The Children of Israel "cried out to God" and in this act of faith achieved redemption, regardless of their individual state or situation. The lesson from the answer provided to rasha now becomes interesting and hopeful: We will all eventually be redeemed; the only question is when. And by turning away from wickedness and our contrary nature, we can hasten the day for our personal redemption and liberation - whenever we individually choose to effect it.

The simple son, tam, asks a simple question, "what is this?" or mah zot? in Hebrew. The answer is equally simple, yet profound: With a strong hand did God take us out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. In other words, this simple experience of the Pesach celebration is evidence of the strong hand of God.

Finally we come to the son who does not know how to ask a question. We are told that we have the obligation to effect a beginning for this son by saying that "this" - our life of freedom - is what God did for "me when I went out from Egypt." This son displays the latency of the divine spark in each of us. As soon as we realize that the miraculous abounds around us, we can awaken our own divine spirit that lies dormant.

Our objective at the seder is ultimately to achieve awareness of Divine Manifestation and thereby liberate ourselves from whatever enslaves us, as I noted earlier. The parable of the Four Sons gives us insight into ourselves, into the complexity of our inner, often conflicted, nature. We learn to be wise, but humble; that we can choose the time to effect our redemption; that true wisdom lies in embracing the simple, yet profound; that the spark of divinity lies within each of us, and it is up to us individually to ignite it. It is a marvellous and beautiful examination of the nature of humanity.

To you all, I wish a Pesach kasher v'sameyach - a kosher, joyous and fulfilling celebration of Passover. Yehi ratzon, may it be His will, that we all will achieve personal awareness, liberation and redemption. Chag sameyach!

[Technorati tags: | | | | | | | | | | ]

Karma For Those Who Believe in Strong Copyright Protection Measures

For those among you who think that the so-called anti-piracy measures being built-in to new consumer devices is a problem for those who download music and movies, think again. And don't assume that the VCR-mentality will survive into the next round of toys and goodies:
I couldn't help but chuckle at Tom Giovanetti's post today concerning his inability to back up his favorite shows from his PVR, which crashed last night. As he laments:
The problem is, we have been using the PVR to record 2 years worth of a Spanish language curriculum that is broadcast over an educational channel, and we've been using this content to teach our son Spanish. Now the curriculum is gone. It's not like I'm just inconvenienced in not being able to watch my "24" episodes. An educational curriculum is lost.
For those who aren't familiar with Mr. Giovanetti's work, he's a frequent and pugnacious commentator on intellectual property issues, and an avowed supporter of the DMCA and digital rights management technologies. He's a frequent critic of "IP skeptics" and "commonists" who argue that copyright law--and the technological measures designed to protect copyright--have gone overboard.

Today he discovered that sometimes, technological measures designed to deter piracy are a pain in the ass for ordinary consumers--like him.

Here's a radical proposition: Mr. Giovanetti should be permitted to make a backup copy of the television programs on his PVR, as long as his use of that mateiral stays within the bounds of copyright law.* Moreover, someone else should be permitted to sell him a device allowing him to do so. And finally--here's the truly radical part--it should be legal to manufacture such a device without getting a license from Dish to do so.
Payback's a bitch, ain't it?
Via boingboing
[Technorati tags: | | ]

07 April 2006

Receiver: Memories of Now

My article Memories of Now has just appeared in the latest issue of Vodafone Receiver. My "receiver contribution tells us, in his own and in McLuhan's words, how we have focused on sharing the "here and now" since we learned to use tools that enable ubiquitous communication."

The piece is a mashup drawn from two prior themes - one on The Ephemeral Artefact and the evolution of culture, and the other on Memories. (And yes, the good folks at receiver know it's a mashup.)

[Technorati tags: | ]

05 April 2006

What's Real?

Len points me to an interesting item about the massively multi-player online role playing game, World of Warcraft, and an ambush that occurred during a memorial service in that cyber-world for one of the players whose physical incarnation shuffled off that mortal coil.
This group of Warcraft players otherwise known as a guild interrupted a memorial service. Apparently, some dude dies in real life who is a popular WoW player. The people in the game think it would be nice to have a memorial for the player so they log into his account, take the character to a lake, and set it up for everyone to come pay their respects.

A bunch of dudes decide this would be a great time to ambush everyone so they run over a hill, kill the dead guy's character, and then wipe out everyone who was there to show their respects. They filmed the whole thing and put it on the net for everyone to see.
The video is here or here - not much to see, really, unless you are an avid player. The comment thread, however, is another matter.

The split is about 50-50, with half saying it's just a game, those dudes got 0wn3d; the other half understanding that the friendship the mourners felt for their cyber-friend was indeed real, and that his physical life that ended should be commemorated in the place in which they all knew him. The incident reminds me of the far more thoughtful, and thought-provoking, incident - A Rape in Cyberspace - that happened quite a number of years ago now regarding a certain Mr. Bungle in LamdaMOO, the latter being the great-great-great-grandparent of environments like WoW.
Months later, the woman in Seattle would confide to me that as she wrote those words posttraumatic tears were streaming down her face -- a real-life fact that should suffice to prove that the words' emotional content was no mere fiction. The precise tenor of that content, however, its mingling of murderous rage and eyeball-rolling annoyance, was a curious amalgam that neither the RL nor the VR facts alone can quite account for. Where virtual reality and its conventions would have us believe that exu and Moondreamer were brutally raped in their own living room, here was the victim exu scolding Mr. Bungle for a breach of "civility." Where real life, on the other hand, insists the incident was only an episode in a free-form version of Dungeons and Dragons, confined to the realm of the symbolic and at no point threatening any player's life, limb, or material well-being, here now was the player exu issuing aggrieved and heartfelt calls for Mr. Bungle's dismemberment. Ludicrously excessive by RL's lights, woefully understated by VR's, the tone of exu's response made sense only in the buzzing, dissonant gap between them.
I'm often asked about the relative reality of the goings-on - including relationships - in the cyberworld. My answer, derived from the medium is the message, is always the same: If the effects persist when the computer is turned off, it's real. Mediation is a confusing bitch: the content blinds us to the true effects that work us over, whether we consciously realize it or not.
(Thanks Len!)
[Technorati tags: | | | | ]

04 April 2006

Which Canadians Exactly, Stephen?

Our PM made his pilgrimage to the Canadian Professional Police Association - one of his natural constituencies - and promised to get tough on crime. So what else is new? Ontario's former premier, Mike Harris - Harper without the charm - did the same sort of get-tough thing, and it turned out to be a waste of time and money, not to mention lives of people in society who are particularly vulnerable. But that's not where I'm going with this post (so you can put away the bandaids for my bleeding-heart). The Toronto Star quoted Harper as saying “Canadians have told us they want our government to protect the way of life that has made this country such a great place to live.

With an only 34% plurality, his claim that he's speaking for all Canadians is a little far-fetched. In point of fact, many Canadians are decidely not in favour of the de facto recriminalization of marijuana possession (check the comments stream at the Globe link - almost unanimous opposition to Harper, and this is the conservative Globe and Mail!), especially for those people who are now facing criminal charges for attempting to relieve symptoms of serious disease.

While there is evidence indicating that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, both in terms of the physiological effects and societal effects, there is the argument that marijuana is a gateway drug to more dangerous narcotics. However, setting ideologies aside, the lesson from the U.S. Prohibition era tells us that it is the criminalization of the substance that is the gateway: regulating and licensing, much in the same way that alcohol is treated today, removes the direct contact with the criminal element. Besides, if you want to look at a REAL so-called gateway drug - one that has nearly 100% correlation with hard drug users - look no farther than tobacco.

Stephen - you don't speak for the majority of Canadians, and you sure don't speak for me. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
Disclaimer: I do not smoke marijuana - in fact, I never have. However, I see this as an issue that has little to do with carefully examining and considering both the facts of the matter, and the complex effects of potential legislation - and it's that blind ideological politicization to which I object.
[Technorati tags: | | ]