The Magical US Budget

We’ve all heard a lot about it these days. It really is doom and gloom as critics point out that the cuts just won’t go deep enough to avert an economic Apocalypse. Raise taxes some say. Cut spending others say. Don’t raise the debt ceiling, said a few angry and hardcore Tea Partiers.

But where is all the money going? What’s being spent and how much can really be cut? Is there a gravy train that requires Washington to dial up the “Brothers Ford” . Well, the New York Times, in their clever and innovative way, have sought to break it all down with this amazing interactive graphic.

Below I’ve clipped an image. Click on it and go to the Time’s site. There you’ll be able to interact with Obama’s 2011 budget. It’s pretty damn nifty. Couple initial observations:

1) They’re spending as much on National Defense ($738 billion) as they are on Social Security

2) Education (ie preparing the young for their bright futures – where they’ll continue to pay the elderly’s medicare, medicaid and social insurance bills) gets $122 billion – that’s like 16% of defense funding and that’s with a Democratic president.

3) They cut Space funding by 20%! What the hell – how are we ever going to accomplish George W Bush’s goal of getting to Mars now?


Pirate Communities: Business and Governance

Blackbeard knew branding: I think we get the message, yes?

[Editor's note: Sunday, September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day...I'm just saying.]

Last week two dear friends sent me two different articles about pirate prominence. The first was from Gumbooteer, Stewart Burgess (his pen name is s||A), and it discusses the rise of pirates-as-kingmakers in Somalia. The second article was sent to me by Director of UBC Career Services, Howie Outerbridge – actually, he sent it to my boss and apologized for encouraging me; the article that Howie sent, after all, was entitled “What Business Executives Can Learn From Pirates.” It’s always nice when my senseless rants about pirate communities being benchmarks for progressive ideologies are affirmed by those smarter and better looking than myself.

To summarize, pirates are leaders in governance and business. Here’s why…

Business + Pirates = Awesome

According to, well, me, pirate ships have historically been bastions of democratic principles, where the

interests of many were, naturally, aligned with the overall goals of the organization. Fazil Mihlar’s recent article in up-and-coming “newspaper,” the Vancouver Sun acknowledges what Kurt Heinrich has known since we began chatting about pirates: “since the pirate crew (shareholders/ employees) collectively owned the ship, they had to keep the captain (CEO/management) in check.” Mihlar – with Peter Leeson’s popular Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates as his muse – smartly delves into health care (in addition to democracy, pirate ships were also the first place to see health care benefits and compensation practiced) and corporate branding.

“Awesome” + Community = Governance?

NEWS FLASH: Somalia is in turmoil! The American-backed central government is on the ropes, with a few different warlords vying for power and an Al Queda supported Shabab militant group close to toppling the regime. Jeffrey Gettleman’s article points out the unfortunate situation of Somalia’s government: “Squished between the two, we have to become friends with the pirates,” Mr. Noor said. “Actually, this is a great

Seriously, this is an alleged picture of Mohamed Garfanji

opportunity.” There sure is a great opportunity: for the pirates to take both sides! After all, the most nefarious dude in the Gulf of Aden, Mohamed Garfanji, isn’t you’re typical pirate.  Remember the name, as his clever consolidation of power by creating a grassroots following of local (the community in the pirate enclave of Hobyo), regional (coastal communities pissed off at international fishers and polluters that have decimated Somalia’s coastline) and national (a central government that is teetering on the brink of destruction and needs people-power, firepower and cash) might just see the purple-rain-coated buccaneer become the next leader of Somalia. Like Mitch Albom says, “build a little community of those you love and who love you.” And then give that community millions of dollars and anti-aircraft guns and try your hand at governance in the worst place on Earth!

So, whether you’re teaching Business 101 or planning Phase 3 of your Tea Party Revolution, remember that you can always learn from Pirate Communities!


Baldur Sveinbjörnsson


1.Who are you?

Baldur Sveinbjörnsson. I am the only African-Icelandic player on the Icelandic Olympic team for the Vancouver 2010 Games. My sport is biathlon. I achieved a personal best by finishing in last place in the men’s 20 kilometer biathlon on Thursday, February 18. My mother thinks I am a star. My father – rest his soul – would have been proud, I hope. Now, it is time to party! I’m also really, really tall. (Editor’s Note: check out the size of the biathlon rifle next to Baldur…it’s pretty darn small – let’s just say it was easy to spot him in the International Press Centre, where the Gumboot editorial staff spent a lot of time during the Olympics.)

2. What do you do for fun?

I polish my rifle. Shoot rabbits with my non-biathlon rifle (it is illegal to shoot anything but targets with your rifle, but that doesn’t stop the Norwegians from practicing on muskrats). I really like writing haikus about my father’s homeland, Tanzania. One day, I hope to visit Tanzania and start a biathlon program in Dar es Salaam.

3. What is your favourite community and why?

The women’s biathlon community. In this community, I am a love god. Some call me a combination of Thor, Odin and Loki – and I can dance like Justin Timberlake. The biathlon community has taken me in as their own, even if I am a foot taller than everyone here.

4. What is your superpower?

My willingness to break all the rules – even my own – to do the right thing.

5. How do you use it to build community?

The world is not designed for tall people. My willingness and skill at breaking all the rules makes me well suited to be a height-centred ambassador to the short community. I like to think that I bring a new, better, “taller” perspective to your world. Exit signs shouldn’t be seven feet off the ground, you know – some people hit their head on them.

My three favourite things about Baldur are…

1. He’s Tall. When the Daily Gumboot editors were investigating the stories of the games in the International Media Centre (sorry, VANOC, for not actuallyIceland_flag writing anything about the Olympics yet…), Baldur was easy to find because, well, he is a seven-foot-tall biathlon athlete – biathlete? Since meeting Baldur, he has helped us reach no fewer than six things that were up high and out of our reach. He can also see over the fence that surrounds the Olympic flame.

2. Baldur is a Love God. We don’t want to say that Baldur has a harem of attractive women always following him, but he doesn’t not have a crowd of attractive women always following him. Being the generous fellow that he is – and being done all of his events – Baldur was good enough to take Kurt and John on a few sojourns through the intense and passionate gamut that is the Athletes’ Village in False Creek. That’s really all that we can say about this.

3. Kindness and Community Become Him. The Daily Gumboot’s editors and correspondents have been searching for athletes to interview since the games began – after speaking (or trying to speak to) over 50 competitors, we could only wrangle an interview with two Russian aerialists. Without a translator, it was a pretty difficult conversation, but Kurt and John might be married to them now (we may or may not have been representing ourselves as “editors” of the New York Times). Baldur, without his fancy “badge” or an Icelandic track suit, was more than happy to talk to us. We took him at face value and stand by the above facts that make up his inspiring story. Because that’s how you build community.

As told by John and Kurt…