Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

RevMod's Gaffe-o-meter is in da house!

Introducing the "RevMod Gaffe-o-meter". Few of us will admit it, of course, but some election coverage comes from the same place as motor sports coverage - sure, it's fun to watch the candidates circle around, and I guess there's some sort of race involved, but wouldn't it be exciting to watch a huge crash? Wasn't the highlight of the 1993 federal election hearing Kim Campbell declare that a campaign was no time to talk about policy? Didn't we all titter at hearing Stockwell Day send the Niagara River's water flowing upstream? And who didn't love Gilles Duceppe's little hairnet-thingy? It's time to predict just how huge the screw-ups will be from the people who want nothing more than love and respect (and perhaps a nice job in Ottawa).

Enter here.

"But how do I play?", you ask.

1) The scoring will begin on the day the writ is dropped for the Federal election - entries will be cut off midnight that day. Entries will include the predicted score for each party. For example:
Conservative: 15

Liberal: 7

NDP: 11

Bloc: 4
2) Two numbers determine the score - the quality of the gaffe ("sig") and the rank of the gaffemaker ("prom"). Both scales will score on a range from one to three. GaffePoints ("GP") for an individual gaffe will be calculated by multiplying "sig" by "prom". Party scores will accumulate by adding the GPs of each gaffe.

3) Contest entries will be scored by measuring the distance (plus or minus) between the prediction and the score for each party - lowest total score wins.

4) I am the final and only arbiter of the quality of the gaffe ("sig") and the rank of the gaffemaker ("prom").

5) Scoring will close at 0800 MDT on the day following election day. SPECIAL PARIZEAU RULE: Scoring will double for gaffes made on election day, including acceptance and concession speeches.

6) For the purpose of the contest, "gaffe" is defined as an unplanned error in fact or judgement. It might be a mistake for the NDP to release a platform paper advocating gender segregation of schools, to the derision of the Canadian electorate, but it's not a "gaffe". On the other hand, if Jack Layton explains the policy by making an aside about "hot and dirty high school girls" (as Don mines the Google hits), that would be a "gaffe".

7) Prize TBA, but political hacks will love it - promise. Others may be less thrilled.
Enter by e-mail, and I'll post the page of predictions once the contest closes. Return e-mail addresses will not be published, but if you want some name other than your own published to the web, let me know.

Without further ado, the RevMod Gaffe-o-meter:

(I searched for the goofiest pictures I could of each leader, but I'm open to improvements. No Photoshop!)

(yes, some of this is lifted from Friday - I wanted it all in one place)

Did I mention Enter here?

Monday, March 29, 2004

Alberta Politics celebrity deathmatch

On Saturday, the Alberta Liberal Party elected Kevin Taft their new leader, in a race that had more predictability than even its federal counterpart. Canoe has an excellent short bio of the new leader here.

Taft inherits a party that spent like drunken sailors last election and carries an enormous debt into the next, but he also carries one huge advantage that Grant Mitchell had, that Nick Taylor had, and that so many recent Alberta Liberal leaders have not had: Taft thinks of the Liberal Party as something more than just the Red Team of some intersquad game. Decore, McBeth, Nicol - any of these leaders would have been perfectly comfortable as Tories - in fact, Nancy McBeth ran for the Tory leadership against Klein.

I like that Taft gets so deeply under Klein's skin. When Taft published Shredding the Public Interest, he became a bestselling author saying something very few others were saying in Alberta at the time. It obviously hit a nerve.

The media focus on the book was on the critique of the cuts, but what got me about it when I read it was the description of the communications strategies that allowed Klein to make the cuts in what seemed to be a docile, accepting environment. In particular, Taft described the changes made to the Public Affairs Bureau office, which was converted from a little group conducting legislature tours and sending copies of documents to those who request them, into the centre of government spin control - doing a political function in a government office. This is the office that developed the idea of spending tax money on the annual Premier's message broadcast, passing the free time offered by the CBC so they could have exclusive access to the public, for instance.

Taft knows how the Tory communications machine works, and is emminently qualified to find the "off" switch, or figure out the right span to wrench. The Liberals are now in as good a shape as they could possibly be, given the million-odd dollars of debt.

Friday, March 26, 2004

"Dogs know what to do with polls" - John Diefenbaker

During the federal election campaign, I'm not going to report on polls for poll's sake. I will not play the "who's ahead, who's behind" game. That shouldn't be what the campaign is about - election day is the only poll I'm interested to see.

But there still should be some horserace-style excitement, shouldn't there? Hey, I'm happy to help out any way I can.

Introducing the "Revmod Gaffe-o-metre" (Canadian spelling, eh?). Few of us will admit it, of course, but some election coverage comes from the same place as motor sports coverage - sure, it's fun to watch the candidates circle around, and I guess there's some sort of race involved, but wouldn't it be exciting to watch a huge crash? Wasn't the highlight of the 1993 federal election hearing Kim Campbell declare that a campaign was no time to talk about policy? Didn't we all titter at hearing Stockwell Day send the Niagara River's water flowing upstream? And who didn't love Gilles Duceppe's little hairnet-thingy (oh, for a photo to link!)?

The Gaffe-o-meter will be here to measure those crashes, providing you with your daily dose of schadenfreude. Scoring will be based on the following formula:

(prominence of committer of gaffe)*(significance of gaffe) = GaffePoints
So, yes, that means any candidate for any of the four major parties is eligible to be recognized as a "gaffer" (not to be confused with the honourable and respected profession of lighting movie sets). For the leader, something as simple as staging a photo op on a jet-ski will be noticed, but hardly election-impacting, so Layton's score there would be (Prom=3)*(Sig=1)= 3. On the other hand, if some no-chance-to-win schmuck running in rural Manitoba starts sharing his ideas about how Hitler's Final Solution was ahead of its time, the calculation would be the opposite: (Prom=1)*(Sig=3)=3.

But more than just scorekeeping the gaffes of the thousand-odd candidates and campaign workers screwing up for your entertainment, there will also be a contest. Pick the final score for each of the four parties, and the closest prediction will win some political swag I can dig out of my storage closet.

I will be the final assigner of scores for individual gaffes, though I'll be attempting to recruit someone from the other end of the political spectrum to review my decisions and confirm to me that I'm not just judging out of my assumptions. Even still, arguments over my scoring are encouraged - I didn't set up the new comment server for nothing.

In the next few days, I'll be posting my own predictions, and perhaps a fancy graphic to represent the running score. I'll figure out a fair way to take entries, I'll publish the Revmod Gaffe-o-metre to the election blog, and I'll open the contest.
New comments

This page is going to look a little odd through to the end of the month, because I'm simply not prepared to abandon my old comments. I don't feel like I'm the only contributor to this page - I think the comments submitted are key to the energy of this place, and are as deserving of being archived as what I write. The last couple of days have certainly proved that to me - without the comments, I have no incentive to write. Pathetic, really - I used to write for the love of it, and now I write for the feedback.

Anyway, in the hopes that the old comments come back, the links to them will remain on the page through to the end of the month, so the monthly archive retains the links. But in the meantime, the first of the two "comments" links will be the operative one, now and I hope for a ling time. Come April, the second link will disappear.

Not the most elegant solution, I admit, but it's what I got while I MacGyver my way through HTML.

Edited to add: No, I'm sorry, that was TOO weird. I apologise to all of you who wrote comments to March postings, but the double script had to go. With any luck at all, at least the comments attached to posts of previous months will rise again, but March had to go away. Enjoy Reblogger - I've been using it on Bullets for a month now, and I really like it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Harper smear job continues

After such overwhelming response to my last post, how I can I resist reminding my readers how hostile the man who would be Prime Minister is to all those other Canadians - the ones who would commit "federal intrusions"?

When Atlantic Canadian political leaders protested Stephen Harper's suggestion that people in their part of the country suffer from a "can't-do attitude" that's the product of too many years of federal transfer payments and industry handouts, the Canadian Alliance leader offered an interesting response.

"[F]rankly, they're out of touch with their own people if they don't think that there isn't a lot more that could be done to get people more optimistic in that part of the country," Harper said, adding that the problem isn't confined to the east coast. "[G]enerally," he said, "the kind of can't-do attitude is a problem in this country."
Man, I love the classics. A Prime Minister who feels derision toward the whole non-Albertan electorate! How bad would Paul Martin have to be to let this guy win?

Monday, March 22, 2004

More historical blindness

Does anyone even seem to remember that Reform Retread's new/old leader, Stephen Harper, was the braintrust behind the idea to put a "firewall" around Alberta, to protect it from "federal incursions"?

If Brian Mulroney was the "headwaiter of Confederation", at least he wasn't trying to burn down the restaurant.
Your Help Is Urgently Required

I'm too busy helping an unfortunate woman get her millions out of Nigeria, and don't have the time to find the text of Ralph Klein's speech to the Reform Lite assemblage on Saturday. If anyone happens to know where I can find it online, I heard a jewel drawn from it this morning I'd really like to respond to.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

A Public Service Announcement for the readers of Revolutionary Moderation

The election of Stephen Harper to the leadership of the Conservative Party brings to completion the takeover of the Progressive Conservative party by the Canadian Alliance. (In as much as killing the PC party and then hiding the body in the hopes of picking up a rich inheritance can even be deemed a "takeover".) From here forward, you're unlikely to catch me calling anyone associated with this Conservative Party a "Tory". I'm going to have a hard time even thinking of them as "Conservatives". Rather, this party has just established that it's entirely comfortable as "Reform III: Reform Reloaded" You know, I like that even better than the strikeovers I'd planned ("Reform Canadian Alliance Conservative Party").

So what can we expect of Reform Rethought, given the declarations of MPs under Harper's watch as CA leader?

Let's see - Rob Anders declared that legislation designed to extend hate propaganda protections to homosexuals would ban the Bible. Because - and I didn't know this, but it's the only conclusion one can draw from this correlation - apparently God hates homosexuals. At least, Rob Anders' God must. Who would Jesus bash, Rob?

I won't speak for Larry Spencer's God, but the former Family Issues critic certainly wants the government to declare its hostility towards homosexuals, by making homosexual activity illegal. Larry got booted from the Family Issues position, not because Stephen Harper said that this offensive stupidity was actually anti-family, but because Spencer opened his mouth this about this so publicly, when Harper knew damn well this radical anti-family homophobia wouldn't play among most Canadians, who share families, offices, and friendships with all sorts of homosexuals. Harper knew Spencer thought this way, of course. You don't put someone in a position like "Family Issues" critic without asking him some of his opinions on, gee, I dunno - family issues?

And this is just one issue, albeit one in which Reform Redux will find itself at odds with most of the voters it was hoping to inherit from the PC party. Let me look at one more.

Perhaps the single most popular move Jean Chretien made as Prime Minister was to take a pass on joining Dubya's Iraqi adventure. Could the old leader/new leader of Reform Reconsidered be more out of step with the popular mood of Canadians?

...Harper says Mulroney's relationship with the U.S. was positive. He says the former prime minister treated the U.S. as Canada's best ally, biggest customer and most consistent friend. And Harper thinks the current prime minister should follow suit.
(This quote came before the war, and yet, we all remember where Stephen Harper's current former party was on that issue: "The important thing is that always Canada should work closely with its closest allies, particularly its military allies... That's where our bread is buttered." - Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper, Sept. 17, 2002)

"It's the 90% of Reformers that give the other 10% a bad name" - John Crosbie.

Say, remember when my posts were short and pithy? I miss those. I promise some short & pithy as I get through my last week of employment.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Okay, let's spell it out

There seems to be, both through the comments here and in posts elsewhere, some contention about my assumption that al Quada's goals revolve around establishing theocracies in the Arab world. From Matthew at Living in a Society, starting by quoting me (so that you don't have to wind your way down the page to follow it all):

First of all, al Quada? Really? Al Quada's raison d'etre was to destabilise secular governments in the middle east so that there would be opportunities to replace them with theocracies like the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Pissing off the Americans was a means to that end. That certainly doesn't explain the bombings on Thursday.
I wouldn't call that Al Qaeda's raison d'etre. I would say it's part of their plan. I would say their raison d'etre is more aptly defined by the statement of one of their founders: "we are not trying to negotiate with you, we are trying to destroy you." Their goal is not destabilization, their goal is destruction.

[Link here. Edited slightly for grammar - forgive me, Matthew]
I think I should spell out a little more clearly why I think the "we are trying to destroy you" quote can't be taken at face value. Let me start with a lecture Gwynne Dyer delivered to a crowd at Mount Royal College shortly before the recent war in Iraq began:

The first task towards getting God back on your side, to returning to traditional values, is to overthrow the existing Arab governments. The trouble is that 80 to 90 percent of the population, while not necessarily supporting the government, also doesn't want to go back to the village days. They saw what happened in Afghanistan when the Taliban took over. The Taliban paid no attention to traditional governmental roles, like the economy, health or education (except to restrict it), but "were obsessed with attire, beards and burkhas...these guys were hicks and most Arabs have no intention of doing that."

There are underground revolutionary Islamists in every Arab state, waging low level civil wars for the past 20 years in which hundreds of thousands have died, 100,000 in Algeria alone.

"There are 18 Arab countries, but not once has an Islamist government come to power. They have an unblemished record of failure."

Terrorism by itself does not bring down governments, Dyer said. You need either broad public support or a military coup, and the military traditionally sides with the government.

So how do you get public support? How do you bring people into the streets?

In 1998, bombs outside the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 240 people, mostly Africans in the street, and 24 Americans. About 5,000 were injured. Bill Clinton, not really knowing who to punish, unleashed 70 cruise missiles "into the blue," destroying, among other things, a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum that supplied half of Sudan's medicines.

"Al-Quida looks at the sequence of events...24 Americans, 70 cruise missiles fired essentially at random, and says, 'We can work with that. What we have to do is go to the U.S., kill thousands of Americans, and they'll go berserk. They'll get some of us, but we're ready to die, and thousands of civilians. And if we sucker them into doing that, we'll win'."
This seems logical and sensible to me. I'm not saying I like it, I'm not saying we should give in to it, but it's an actual strategy. "Let's kill a lot of Americans and Spaniards because they piss us off" is not a strategy, and I don't think it's a goal you can get a lot of people behind. You can get people behind the goal of changing their governments, in the hopes that it leads to better lives.

As for the "we are trying to destroy you" quote, these people are not stupid. They know that they can't knock down western civilization with a few airplanes. But they also know that what they want, we can't give them, so they aren't negotiating with us. They want to scare us into irrationality. As a result, we don't have to take them at their word - the statement about somehow destroying us was designed to add to the effect of scaring us, I suspect.

And this is the prompting behind my initial question about Spain - nothing I've seen or read so far convinces me that al Quada would have been in any way upset about the deposing of the infidel Saddam - quite the opposite, since it provides an opportunity to convince the people with a government more to al Quada's liking. And perhaps that's the real purpose - the invasion was fine by them, but they have to get rid of the occupying forces before a theocracy is completely free to arise.

As I said a few days ago, I don't have the answers. But if we don't ask, if we don't rigourously consider purposes, if we simply assume the bombers were driven by irrational hatred and had no larger purpose in mind (or worse, if we ascribe motivations to them only so far as they fit with our own ideological assumptions), we risk giving them exactly what they want.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

What the hell is wrong with Madeline Albright?

"The credibility of the United States is sinking," said Madeleine Albright, who was secretary of state under President Clinton. "Osama bin Laden has been able to do something that 40 years of communism was unable to do, which is to divide Europe from the United States."
Perhaps it's just semantics, but it seems to me that Osama bin Laden brought the world together with shared grief, shock, and sadness. If you're looking for someone to blame for the division since, I'd point your eyes to Crawford.
Lost in translation

I like to believe that the primary skill I bring to this page is an acute sense of logic. That's a quality that seems to be lacking in the frenzy around Spain's recent election.

I've been hearing three versions of events:

The first and logically worst comes from people who objected to the invasion of Iraq last year: the citizens hated the invasion of Iraq, and were happy for the opportunity to throw the bums out. That argument ignores the pre-election poll data which suggests Zapatero's Socialist Party would have lost the election just a few days before. A few acknowledge the poll data but say the bombings reminded the voters. That seems too flippant to me, when we're talking about the sudden and violent deaths of over two hundred of their countrymen and women. Should something like that happen in Canada, I can't imagine any but the coldest hearts trying to exploit the event for an "I told you so". I would rather hear this group argue that the oft-quoted poll wasn't all that hot to begin with - that would be somewhat more convincing.

The second version, the one that has Spain's voters offering terms of surrender to Osama, is coming from the pro-war crowd. It has the advantage of a sort of logic, although it's the shallow logic of talk radio. It has clear cause-and-effect - Spain was about to elect the pro-war, pro-Bush party for another term, but then the bombs went off and the voters changed their minds. Therefore, Spainards are a bunch of fish-eating surrender monkeys who refused to stand up to terror, and all of us will pay for that. I don't think it helped that some news organizations had quoted Zapatero as saying the "terror war", as opposed to the Iraq war, was a disaster.

(As an aside, I can't find those quotes online now, but I heard them, more than once, from more than one source. It's as if a bad translation got around for a while, but has since been silently corrected, after the former quote had already colonized the brains of the English-speaking world.)

But the third theory argues that wasn't the bombings that made the Spanish voters change their minds, it was Aznar's ham-fisted attempt to manipulate the reaction to the attacks into political gain that earned his party its electoral defeat. I've already picked out the third argument as the argument that seems to have the most basis in reality. I linked on Monday to James Bow, the first source of this argument I found - here I'll point you to an e-mail that was sent to Tom Tomorrow. I don't think this argument needs to be explained further than that message - be sure to follow the link and read it, if you aren't convinced.

When we're dealing with terrorism, when we're dealing with extremism, we have to be smart, and thoughtful, and reflective - exactly the opposite of the blood-boiling reactionary types we're attempting to resist. If we just react from our assumptions and ideologies, we can't learn, can't adapt, and can be pushed around by the mad bombers into whatever it is they want.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Perhaps a little something after all

Good for the Middleman, who defends Her Excellency and Mr. Her Excellency - you know, the little writer fellow.
I got nuthin' today

I'll admit it - as unemployment looms, I'm focused more on poker - and on my a poker blog, Bullets in the Hole. It'll look a little familiar - we're working on it.

In the meantime, who's for some classic cartoons?

Monday, March 15, 2004

My confusion continues

Something smells awfully fishy about the bombing and election in Spain, and the coverage thereof. I'm open to thoughts, because the news isn't helping me out at all.

First of all, al Quada? Really? Al Quada's raison d'etre was to destabilise secular governments in the middle east so that there would be opportunities to replace them with theocracies like the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Pissing off the Americans was a means to that end. That certainly doesn't explain the bombings on Thursday - what's Spain going to do to help the project along? Was the intent to defeat the government participating in the occupartion of Iraq? Al Quada and Saddam were not, despite the prewar propaganda, friends in any sense of the word. All they had in common was speaking Arabic and hating the Americans.

What about the Spanish? I'm not complaining about the change of government, but it seems to me that countries feeling under attack tend to rally behind hawks - look at Israel, or look at the U.S. right after 9/11. Why did Spain swing so far to the left, and to a party promising withdrawl from Iraq, only after the bombings? Did the voters really think "geez, you win, we give up"? I haven't personally felt like a terrorist target, so I'm not presuming to judge the people of Spain; nonetheless, this seems like a strange reaction from people that jog down narrow cobblestone streets with angry bulls for sport, and I can't help wondering if there's something else we're not being told.

Finally, why Spain? It's not like there's a whole lot of security on commuter trains anywhere else, either - why pick on the smallest of the major Iraq occupiers?

Like I say, I don't have the answers, but I don't hear anyone asking these questions, so I thought I had better.

Update: James Bow takes a crack at answering my question about the Spanish - he believes voters felt like the Prime Minister was attempting to exploit the bombings for political purposes, and reacted overwhelmingly against the manipulation.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Last curling-related post - politics returns soon

What an amazing finish tonight for Mark Dacey's rink. Maybe I'm supposed to feel bad for fellow Albertan Randy Ferbey, but you know, three Briers in a row doesn't seem so bad. In the meantime, who didn't enjoy watching Dacey's rink's fearless calls tonight? This has been a memorable Brier. I'm mentally planning a week in Edmonton this time next year.

So what's been going on in the rest of the world?

What? A bomb in Spain? FOUR? Crap - hope some of the other blogs are on the case.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Hurrrrry! Harrrrrrd!

Don at All Things Canadian gives us the skinny on the two big Brier matchups today - BC vs. New Brunswick, and (knock wood) New Brunswick vs. Newfoundland. I'm amazed and impressed with how well east coast teams have performed this year - depending on the result of this morning's tie-break, Ferby's rink may be the only four in the final four playoff that shares a province with a CFL team.

Ongoing results can be found here.

Update: bad news for Russ Howard, but good news for Jay Peachey and British Columbia, the latter of whom needed some good sports news (Lui Passaglia notwithstanding).

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I ignore the water cooler talk at my peril

I tried and tried yesterday to write something about Todd Bertuzzi, and hockey in general. But what was to be said that hasn't been said by dozens of commentators already?

Then this morning it hit me - the way Canada has reacted to the Todd Bertuzzi hit is almost exactly the way the United States reacted to the Janet Jackson nipple-o-rama. We reacted in outrage at the the original event, even though it was not wildly different from what goes on all the time in the NHL - the only real difference being the severity of the result. They reacted in outrage at Janet's exposure, though it came as the culminating point of an ode to sexual violence that should have been shocking in total. We screamed, Mrs. Lovejoy-like, "What about the children?", as if our eleven-year-old boys have never hit each other on a playground, and they did the same, as if their eleven-year-old boys have never used Google. And we objected to being exposed to such brutal violence, while watching it being played over and over on every broadcast outlet. The Americans? Well, they had pixelation.

Obviously, Bertuzzi needed to face a serious suspension, and if this incident makes hockey take a long hard look at themselves, great. Hockey's been getting worse for a decade now, and it's not the fault of violence, it's the fault of the deathly-dull neutral zone trap. Do NHL fans love the violence? Sure - the few fans left do, because the trap cripples the attractions of speed and exciting offense (and for that matter, of a defense rising to the occasion when being sorely tested - THAT'S the physical game I grew up with).

Get me a bigger rink, get rid of the centre line, or even do like the NBA and outlaw the zone defense. Until then, guys are going to try to kill each other on the ice, lacking anything better to do. And I'll be watching Canada's sport in the meantime.

Edited to add: when a guy who lists his primary sport-watching interests as curling and cricket (that's me!) thinks your sport has become too slow, you are screwed!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Look who's back

As part of my spring cleanup, I've finally gotten to transferring in the old pages from my first webhost. They look a little rougher, a little stitched together - but hey, that was where I was. Not to mention I make reference to links on those pages that didn't exist when I forcably put the old text into the new template.

Because I wanted to, okay?

Anyway, I was following around some of those old links, and I've come to one that was dead for so long, I thought it would never return. Yet here she is, Wanda from Words on a Page. She returned to the blog some time ago now, but it's news to me, so the wish is sincere if dated - Welcome back!
Spring cleanup

I've deleted a few blogs from the reciprocal list, some for inactivity and others for not being so reciprocal any more. If I like you a lot, I'm forgiving the lack of reciprocity and moving you to the column on the right (I'm talking to you, DDW!), but if you're inactive, you're done. The blogosphere is a harsh world.
Political instincts come through

Only a week of getting beat up, and the Premier has asked Alberta's Auditor-General to look into the mad cow compensation. In fact, he's asked for the investigation to be fast-tracked, perhaps in the hopes the results will come out at the peak of the federal election campaign.

He was ready to do this when he was first challenged, and then backed away, presumably at the advice of ---- perhaps Steve West? I hope so... I hope this has undermined West's influence in the Premier's office, that West is now viewed as an untrustworthy lame duck who doesn't understand How Things Work.

As for the NDP, I hope they call it a tentative victory and let it go for now - bring up concerns if the process looks rigged, but otherwise, wait for the report. Parties that keep complaining after they've won are not effective opposition - they're just complainers. As it stands, Brian Mason's "...it sounds like we won, but the question is, what is the scope of the audit?" walks that line.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Tooker Gomberg, 1955 - 2004

I first heard yesterday, attending an NDP nomination meeting, the sad news about Tooker. I first discovered this morning, reading Andrew Spicer's weblog, that his death was apparently suicide.

Tooker was a model for the activist life in Canada - alternating between working well within the system (sitting on or lobbying City Councils) and working well outside (with protests, street theatre, arrests, and Quixotic election campaigns like his run for mayor of Toronto). He lived as he preached, wearing natural fibres, eating vegetarian, and cycling everywhere. He's responsible directly for composting programs in Edmonton and Toronto, and those programs in turn became the models for programs across North America.

We'd crossed paths a couple of times, most recently as he lobbied for votes for Jack Layton during the NDP leadership, but I can't pretend to have really known him. But he was a single degree of seperation from so many people I know in the activist community, and his loss is felt deeply by those who knew him, as well as by those of us at a distance who watched his activism with admiration. Follow the link, and read the heartfelt tributes.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Someone else doing the hard work, once more

Via the election blog, I've discovered James Burns at Hewmon.com. Don't let the bare-bones page format fool you - this commentary is detailed, smart, and incisive.

I've been reluctant to write about the Conservative Ad controversy because I have connections to another "offshore financial centre", the Cayman Islands. Want to piss off a Cayman Islander? Use the phrase "tax haven". It hearkens back to the bad old days when criminals were laundering their money through offshore banking centres, not to avoid taxes but to disconnect the money from the illegal activity that generated it. That doesn't happen any more - at least, there are huge bureaucratic structures to try to prevent it. Criminals are a tricky lot, but the intention of the Cayman Islands to avoid this is sincere.

But of course, when Canadians talk about "tax havens" now, we're not talking about Bond villians making sneaky payments for assassinations - we're talking about Paul Martin or Frank Stronach avoiding Canadian taxes through perfectly legal means. It's so legal, you can get pamphlets from the Canada Customs and Revenue agency about offshore banking and how to access it. But of course, you and I and the other working stiffs can't access offshore investments at all. The super-wealthy can. You know, like Paul Martin and Frank Stronach.

All of which brings me back to James at Hewmon.com. Cross-posted to the election blog, he challenges Belinda Stronach to address this issue head-on. And then, as a chaser, he does what much more experienced blogs avoided - he takes a side in the Haiti confilct, and he stands opposed to the drug lord and the warlord. Unlike, say, the U.S. State Department.

He's only been at this about a month. This is a blog to watch.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

More bad news for the Liberals

There's a certain segment of the Liberal party that is likely celebrating tonight (not the least of which is Tony Valeri, and congratulations to him on his victory, short-lived though it may be), but they shouldn't uncork the champagne just yet.

I think what we're seeing here is a Pyrrhic victory for Paul Martin's "All-New, All-Different" Liberal party. Perhaps not in Hamilton - I'm not sure if Sheila Copps can win her seat as an independant or New Democrat. But I'm sure that Sheila's nomination defeat sends out a message to lots of left-leaning Liberal supporters that they should take their votes elsewhere. Worse, it sends out a message that Martin has a vendetta against Chretien loyalists. To those of us who keep a close eye on such things, this is hardly news, but most Canadians had never heard of Jean Pelletier until last week. Everyone knows who Sheila Copps is.

Mark my words, the Liberals have risked more than Hamilton East-Stoney Creek tonight.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Travel is okay, screwing over farmers is not.

Last week, the Alberta Liberals tried to get citizens fired up over the issue of government travel expenses. Generally, when an opposition has very little to complain about, there's a few hoary old chestnuts to haul out - travel spending ("and look, some of the trips were to warm places!"), office expenses ("Oh my goodness - look what your MLA spent on a new carpet, while people in this province have to go to food banks!") or accusations of patronage ("Can you believe it? One of the file clerks in the Minister's office is the daughter of a friend and campaign donor!"). They get rolled out because they're all true about every government to some degree or another. They get rolled out because any one of them has some traction with the Dave Rutherford crowd - the average person breaking their back doing some unappreciated blue-collar task day-after-day, who would love to spend some time in a limousine or a warm country.

If these concerns don't normally stick to Klein, perhaps it speaks to his success in cultivating an image of being a "regular guy". Nonetheless, the Liberals like to keep these concerns in standard rotation, hoping that something will stick, and probably just contributing to the cynicism toward government in general.

This week, the New Democrats brought a very specific, very pressing concern to the table. They suggested that the two large meat packers in Alberta, using the government mad cow relief program as a rationale, paid even less for cattle than they would have otherwise. If true, this in essence transferred the benefit of the relief program into the hands of those two US-owned businesses.

Now, there's a concern with some traction! Ranchers (a core of Klein's support) getting ripped off by big American business (another core) on the back of tragedy. Originally, Klein seemed to be genuinely sympathetic. Monday: "Klein said his government would investigate any allegations of price-gouging and punish anyone found guilty." But the tune changed. Tuesday: ''Present that to the competition bureau,'' he said in reply to questions from the NDP. "''There is a federal agency that is responsible and acts very quickly, I'm given to understand, when there are allegations of price fixing.''" And the stonewalling parade continued through the week, with the Tory majority on the Public Accounts Committee rejecting an NDP request to look deeper into the issue.

Despite being a New Democrat myself, you won't often find me rah-rahing (Raj-Rajing? Sorry.) them on this page. But here, they've found the right issue at the right time. It's an issue that deserves a public accounting - it's about a lot of money, and negatively affects a lot of regular folks. From a communications standpoint, it's gold. Compare that to the hapless Liberal caucus, and I can start to believe that the NDP will no longer be relegated to third-party status in this province.

In the meantime, I give credit to the Premier for having excellent political instincts. I don't know who got to him between Monday and Tuesday, but he should have gone with that instinct this time.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

And while I'm blogging around:

POGGe looks to fulfill our international obligations, thereby re-establishing Canada's place in the world (not necessarily the "top", Mr. Pogge Northcentric!).

Actually, he looks to debunk such phrases. Good for him.

(Edited to add: in an unrelated search, I found a truly Northcentric map.)
Reform III The Conservative Party confirms my fears

I am perhaps overstating it, but The Middleman points out an early sign of Christian Conservative activism - a nomination battle in the Lower Mainland fell in favour of Social Conservative Russ Hiebert, and against longtime and high-profile Reform/Alliance MP Val Meredith. I'll leave the telling of the details to him.

As a side point, his post reminded me that no one is very certain yet what the new Conservative Party is. I've said it before, but it bears repeating now - Canadians like their social policy centre-left, and their economic policy centre-right. Reform tried unsuccessfully to rid itself of the lingering scent of radical social conservatism when it transformed into the CA, but Stock Day didn't help very much there. If the Conservatives continue this pattern, they're dooming themselves once more.

Enjoy your fifty seats!

Monday, March 01, 2004

Ezra confirms my fears

Ezra Levant thinks the appointment of Steve West is a good thing, for all of the same reasons I think it's a bad thing: because Steve West likes to privatize anything that isn't nailed down, and some things that are.

More telling is what else Ezra has to say, using West's appointment as a launch point.

...like a dieter who celebrates his success by pigging out, Alberta's Tories have "rewarded" themselves for cutting spending in the mid-1990s by jacking up spending by 70% over the past seven years -- even though population growth over the same period is only up 14%.
I'm sorry - did the province start running deficits again? Because I thought the idea when the first cuts came along in the early '90s was to stop those, not to cut spending because it's good sport. As for the misleading numbers here, well, the province deferred a lot of necessary infrastructure spending during that deficit-cutting spree, but those schools and hospitals ain't gonna build themselves.

Or perhaps they will, if the Alberta Alliance Party has its way - or at least, they'll be built by private industry. I'm sure that's the hope encompassed in the voucher programs being recommended by that party. Sound a little out there? Well, that's the party Ezra fears (hopes?) Tories are headed to as Klein "loses his way".

Also given the Ezra stamp of approval is the Alberta Residents League. I'll leave it to readers to determine to what degree their vision for Alberta sounds like "Sovereignty-Association", and further leave it to readers to determine how desirable that sounds. To me, the first organization sound like they are way out to the right (and Randy Thorsteinson's name reinforces that impression - remember him from the SoCreds, last election?), and the latter organization appear from the website to be nutballs. I've read some of that stuff before, but generally it's scrawled in crayon - my favourite part is the bullet chart on this page.

So there you have it. The Alberta Tories have slid too far to the left, what with their trying to get along with Ottawa, and wasting money on stuff like, er, programs. Thus Spake Ezra.

(as an aside, it was the ARL that sounded like the sovereignists to me, but Google thinks the same of Alberta Alliance.)
Haiti's troubles

I don't feel authoritative enough to comment, but Ian at Tilting at Windmills has as good and as brief a summary of what brought Haiti to this point as any I've seen.
We love feedback

I've been peer-reviewed. Well, at least inasmuch as the author of brock on the attack qualifies as a "peer". I've been featured in the Liberal Blogger BashFesh 2004. Yay, me!

Revolutionary Moderation is a well written blog, but lacks any intelligence. It follows the traditional liberal formula of passing off all conservatives as crazy zealots of one form or another (usually religious).

The author of this particular site also on several occasions demonstrates regular liberal idiocy by presenting relativistic and circular arguments against the war in Iraq. For example: North Korea is a bigger threat than Iraq, so why not attack North Korea instead of Iraq. Simple: Attacking the weaker enemy first makes you even stronger! Geopolitical guerilla tactics, baby, yeah! I actually talked about this is a very serious fashion at some point a while back. I'll let you search through the archives.
Iraq again? Jebus - even the White House doesn't want to talk Iraq.

Let's start from start. I'm described (not specifically in this passage) as Liberal, witha capital "L". I'm going to keep saying this, because I think it's important you know what perspective I'm writing from: I'm not a "L"iberal. I'm a New Democrat - card-carrying, in fact. I ran once as a candidate provincially, as a New Democrat. I think Brock spent too much time south of the border, because he's a huge fan of the liberal - conservative dichotomy so much more meaningful there than here.

"Well-written" - hey, too kind.

"lacks any intelligence" - and yet well-writen. I would have called this a contradiction in terms. But let's pass on his ad hominems (ad homeni?) and press on.

"...passing off all conservatives as crazy zealots..." So, you mean like here, where I say complimentary things about Bush's former Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O'Neill? Or here, where I quote and refer a scathing critique of the NDP's communications strategy? And that's just scanning through a lightly-blogged February. Honestly, I can't think of a post where I suggested a conservative is also a religious zealot, except in circumstances where the conservative in question has presented compelling evidence in that direction. And even then, I'm unlikely to be critical of a person's faith on that basis alone. But don't ask me, ask Rev. JS Woodsworth, or Rev. Bill Phipps. Eitehr way, I'm not sure what blog Brock was reading, but I don't think it was this one.

"Why not attack North Korea instead of Iraq" - quoted as a regular "liberal circular argument". I don't know anyone on the left who was at the time, or now, advocating a military assualt on North Korea. The argument, as generally used at the time, was meant to illustrate the thinness of the rationale used to attack Iraq. "Iraq poses an immenent threat? how about those guys over there - the ones with the spankin' new nukes? Charter members of the Axis of Evil? That looks more like an immenent threat to me - why aren't you getting all shock and awe on their asses?"

(Also, I'm not sure what "geopolitical guerilla tactics" are, but it seems from the context they work something like the quickening - kill one country, and get stronger. I'm not comforted by the thought that There Can Only Be One, but there's little to fear. In fact, my own observations and study suggests geopolitics has very little to do with Highlander. Except for the part where there's a lot of Queen music)

But finally, honestly. Do we need to explore these arguments again? Don't the lack of weapons, the mounting evidence of a lack of after-Saddam planning, and the general cluster-fuck Iraq has become suffice as compelling arguments of their own? I don't post much news from there any more, because I find "nyah, nyah, I was right and you were wrong" rather tiresome on blogs. Please don't make me say it.

If you're going to critique my left-right positioning, perhaps it would be simply fairer to take a representative sample of something that was written at a less obviously divisive time. But I suppose "brock on the attack" is more likely to attract readers than "brock engaged in Socratic considerations of the human condition." So, hey, good luck with that.