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

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

State of three unions

Well, I didn't have the benefit of hearing the State of the Union live, but I read it the next day as we raced to make up time lost in a blizzard east of Thunder Bay. All I can say is that I'm getting a little impatient for this "evidence" Bush keeps promising as his excuse for war. I hope he isn't planning to release said evidence on literally the eve of war, before the world has an opportunity to weigh it. I hope Canada isn't planning on joining up in advance of said evidence. But frankly, from the tropical paradise I'm hiding in right now, it's a little tough to get worked up about it any further than I have been.

For a real critique if the SotU, check virtually any of the links to the left. August was particularly good.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

Posting light for the next three weeks

I'll be keeping up on here, but only just barely. I'm getting on a Greyhound for Toronto tomorrow morning, searching for the soul of Canada on the way. Or sleeping through a lot of it. I haven't really decided. Anyway, my routine of posting unreasonably frequently will return in mid-February, but I'm sure a few tidbits will arrive here in the meantime.
Am I happy?

This wasn't the NDP leadership result I was hoping for. I think the party is taking a huge gamble with Jack Layton. And I think this is a time when careful course adjustment could have elected us a Prime Minister. And further, if the party was in the mood for a crapshoot, I think Pierre-mania would have been a much better place to start.

Having said that, I get to be disappointed today, but tomorrow, I'm going to realize that Layton and I agree about most political matters, and I'll get used to his style. It won't be difficult to maintain my membership.

Now, my first piece of advice: Jack, perhaps I wasn't reading your campaign materials close enough, but I don't recall reading that you were planning to wait two years to get a seat. I think that's an extremely poor decision, and I wish you'd mentioned it to your ardent supporters. Perhaps the area code 416 kids you signed up would have been quite satisfied to hear you'd be organizing "on the street" and working "at ground level" where they're already carrying signs and chanting, but I suspect some of your party insider support would prefer that you "raise your profile" and "do your fucking job." But go ahead, wait. (I agree with you, Jack, that there shouldn't be a resignation, but if you can't win a vacant seat in a byelection between now and the next federal election, that's not a good sign for your leadership in that election. The leader has better things to do in a general election than remind his constituents that he IS the leader.)

Ah, the bitterness sets in again. I will get through this, and be back to my normal, bitter-at-everything-except-the-NDP self in no time.
NDP leadership result

I'm sure I have a few people coming here for some reflection on today's events. Sadly, I've been so busy participating in the Calgary mini-convention, I haven't really had time to reflect. Some time later tonight, I hope.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Alberta government strikes another blow for on democracy!

The Alberta Tories have a long history of democratic tradition, but since Ralph Klein came to power, that tradition has been seriously eroded. Kevin Taft has described from an inside point of view the restructuring of the non-partisan Legislature Communications office into a highly-partisan Ministry of Truth in Shredding the Public Interest. Opposition members make an annual tradition of rightfully criticising the Message from the Premier, which is essentially a twenty-minute ad for the Tories. (That would be fine if the Tories paid for it. Or if the government used the public airways to broadcast it, allowing opposition rebuttal.) And I cringe when I hear an ad arguing that private hospitals are great, or that Kyoto will leave us all living in cardboard boxes, because, agree or disagree with the issue of the moment, it pisses me off that I'm paying taxes to be influenced. (There's a wide difference between a public service message advertising services a citizen might want to use, and a government-sponsored ad telling me what to think. I digress.)

When I ran against Lyle Oberg, this was my litany of affronts to democratic practice that I trotted out at the forums. I added two others: the firing of an entire democratically-elected school board, and the lack of Regional Health Authority elections (promised from the first establishment of RHAs in 1994). So with this history, it comes as no surprise to me that the government has determined democracy failed again.

Health Minister Gary Mar says electing board members didn't work and things will run more smoothly with appointed directors.

Is there any other way to read this than: "Albertans are too stupid to govern themselves"? I think we should all thank Alberta's Tories for their continued effort to get the trains to run on time.
Even random strangers are anti-war

When I linked to the "blogger template" below, it was an essentially blank blog newly set up. And already, it's become yet another anti-war voice in the blogosphere. I'll have to hunt again for an unaltered template next time I make a change.

My friend Mike has finally heeded my advice and started a blog as well. Cogent foreign policy analysis, though I'm not always convinced of his conclusions. But it's the debate that counts anyway. Have a look.
You mean Iraq has oil? Huh. What a coincidence.

Unlike so many of my left-leaning bretheren and sisteren, I don't happen to believe that the war in Iraq is about American control of the world's second largest oil reserves. Oil changes the situation, to be sure, but I don't think the Americans are simply lawless merceneries taking whatever juicy piece of the world suits them.

But it's tough to believe my American neighbours are misguided yet pure of heart, when you see a story about the military preparations that includes this paragraph:

At the meeting, on the future of a post-Saddam Iraq - details of which have been disclosed to the Guardian - the state department stressed that protection of the oilfields was "issue number one".

Damn, did we say issue one? That was supposed to be the Kurds! Or the nukes... or the civilians... or getting Saddam... or... something. I don't really remember. But it's not about oil.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Mark one's calender

Reuters reports that the Americans have set a date for war: mid-to-late February, which matches the 21 February I had heard from another source. They get one thing clearly wrong in the story, though: "...the United States and its allies have already decided to launch military action...". Er, allies? In as much as the Americans have any allies left in this effort, who actually believes that the "allies" were part of setting this date?

Via Alternet.
RevMod, ver. 1.4

You know, I keep making minor changes to the site, to separate myself from the original Blogger-supplied template. I still believe that one day, I'm going to start from scratch and build a version 2.0. In the meantime, I'm open to feedback.
To Serve and Protect

Local RCMP are cracking down on parents who expose their children to methamphetamines.

In particular, they'll be arresting people who enlist their children in the United States Air Force.

(insert rimshot here.)

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

By popular demand:

An overwhelming number of people who find me via search engines are looking for information or opinion on the Gordon Campbell drunk driving charge. Since those posts have fallen off the bottom of my blog, and notwithstanding building an index for the archive, here are the posts your search engine tried to point you at:

Here's what I thought of the issue on first blush, as well as reader Bill's take on it.

Here's what I thought after the media realeased the .149 BAC measurement.

Here's where I linked to what someone on the right thinks.

I've been thinking of producing this sort of index for all the issues I touch on more than once, though perhaps I should just install a search engine to my archives.

So much for non-partisan

Since there seems to be actual media coverage around the NDP convention, I think it's incumbent upon me to comment on it, despite my assertion that I'd put aside party issues until after convention. Of course, the coverage is not around a candidate, or a platform point, or even on the horserace elements of the contest. All the major media can discuss is the 25% carve-out of union representative vote. "Anti-democratic", it's called. And emotionally, I agree... union representatives in theory are representing hundreds of affiliate members, but in fact, my experience with unions suggest those who are interested in leadership and responsibility in a union are given it. Which means to me that there are members involved in the NDP who got their ballot a different way, and therefore have a vote that is weighted heavier.

It's important to understand the history of this situation. At the delegated conventions the NDP had been using to select their leader until now, affiliated labour organizations were guaranteed 25% of the delegate positions. When the party debated moving to one member, one vote (hereafter described as OMOV), those labour delegates made it clear they weren't prepared to lose their historic role in the party, and the 25% carve-out was the compromise reached.

I think we were better off with a delegated convention than with this compromise, but never mind. This is the change we accepted, and I wasn't at the convention to say otherwise. But, if I understand the situation correctly, that same convention was silent on the matter of how the carve-out votes would be reported. Voting tends to be reported in raw numbers --- will the carve-out votes be multiplied to reach that 25%? Will the 3/5 vote that results be rounded up or down? I get the sneaking suspicion that all we'll hear on Saturday is percentage of vote for each candidate. And I think that's a huge mistake.

I think each ballot result needs two numbers: the raw total votes, and the "adjusted" percentage. We don't need the carve-out votes separately described, though it could be estimated by a backward calculation if anyone was particularly curious. This has the advantage of being transparent without ghettoising the labour vote. I don't think there's going to be a huge variation in the two numbers, but if there is, that's something the party can use as a lever with labour to get a more pure OMOV next time around.

We risk an embarrassing disparity between the vote winner and the leadership winner. But that's a burden that Dubya carries every day, and it doesn't seem to have done him any harm.
No politics ahead:

So, when I downloaded my P2P software, I accepted one little add-on (but only one): a little temperature gauge that sits resident on my taskbar. It's always nice to stand for the bus, have a stranger say "wow, it's warm", and be able to say "sure is... twenty-four" like I actually know. Today I considered removing the gauge, because for the first time, I'm looking at a temperature below -20*, and the font on the tool seems a little unfriendly, like it wonders what sort of idiot would live in a place where it's twenty-five degrees below.

On Sunday, I'm on a Greyhound headed east in my ongoing effort to find work. I hear it's colder the further east you get. Ick.

A side note: I have on a couple of occasions applied for work in Iqaluit. I think working that far north (albeit indoor work) would be a neat experience. The current temperature in Iqaluit? Also -25. How cold is it in Calgary? It's Iqaluity.

* Dear American reader: the rest of the world uses Metric. Catch up, already.
War is Pants --- Mystery solved! (I guess)

Okay. Y-fronts are men's underwear... briefs with a fly. "Daubed" is inked or painted... like with a bingo dauber. Pants are underwear. There is more about "pants" here, if this isn't already too much information.

I'm glad it ended up being something very British. I would have lost too much "cred" with my "homies" if it had merely been urban. Am I "with it" yet? Let's try this, then:

Big props to Fearthainn for first defining "pants" for me. Phat props to Mike for aiming me at the pants website. He points at a lot of sites, actually. Get a blog, already!

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

War is Pants

The Guardian's coverage of anti-war demonstrations in the UK over the weekend was a bit sparse, but the little of it I could find requires translation:

The most colourful [protest] took place yesterday outside the permanent joint headquarters of Britain's armed forces at Northwood, where protesters chained themselves to a model of a giant pair of Y-fronts daubed with the slogan: "War is pants."

I looked for the "Cockney to English" choice on Babelfish, but no dice. If you've got some help for me, the e-mail link is to your left.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Quick update

Joe Comartin can speak French quite well. When I wrote this, I said I just didn't know one way or the other. But I've since read this discussion at the forum at Rabble, and the consensus seems to be that Joe's French is just fine, every bit as good as Nystrom. Reviews of the French of various candidates can be found on that discussion thread.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Pay attention, already! Do I have to give a quiz?

Tom Tomorrow linked to this poll, which suggests that Americans have some strange ideas about what Iraq has done to deserve the military might of the world's only superpower to come crashing down upon them. 23% believe the American government has released information linking Iraq to the planning and funding of September 11, and another 37% said they didn't know or didn't want to answer. 17% correctly identified the number of Spetember 11 hijackers who were Iraqi citizens. I would mock this, but after listening to Cross-Country Checkup today, it seems there are plenty of Canadians who link Iraq to September 11, as well.

Iraq almost certainly had nothing to do with September 11. There is no evidence in the public domain to suggest otherwise. Do I seriously need to provide links to back this up? How is this not common knowledge? Are we so incompetent as citizens that we are willing to sic overwhelming military might on a foreign nation without really understanding why? To paraphrase a West Wing joke, there's an irony in doing this to promote democracy elsewhere, when it clearly doesn't work here.

I kid. We have democracy when we inform ourselves (because CNN sure ain't going to do it for us), and change the oil in our bullshit detectors every 5000 km to keep them running smoothly. We all have a responsibility to do just that.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Protest spin

Now that I've set up Damien Penny as a thoughtful, intelligent right-moderate fellow, he goes and proves me wrong. He tells this tale about The Ma'dan, people who lived in the marshes of southern Iraq before those marshes were drained. And good for him for telling that tale, because it's been a largely unreported suppression of Iraqi citizens, systematically, by their government.

Here's the part that bothers me a great deal about the story he writes: in typical right fashion, he sets up a straw dog anti-war protester:

Among those that have heard about it, here are the likely answers:

- "Well, it's his country, isn't it? It's none of our business!"

- "Yeah, but the Americans supported Saddam once, so it logically follows that they should make no attempt to overthrow him."

- "Well, if the Americans had supported the Marsh Arabs when they revolted against Saddam, this probably never would have happened." (Which is true, but does anyone think these "peace" activists would have supported an American-backed revolt against Saddam?)

- "What are you, some kind of Zionist?"

Except that none of those answers would come from any anti-war protester I know. Let's let Amnesty International say it better than I ever could:

Once again, the human rights record of a country is used selectively to legitimize military actions.


Life, safety and security of civilians must be the paramount consideration in any action taken to resolve the current human rights and humanitarian crisis. The experience of previous armed intervention in the Gulf has shown that, all too often, civilians become the acceptable casualties of war.

Is Saddam Hussein criminally dangerous to his own citizens? You betcha. But Amnesty's site is a great place to find a lot of guys like that, in countries around the world. Now, for certain, a journey of a thousand miles blah blah onestepatatimecakes. But the American government has not given me any reason to believe that it actually cares about human rights abuses. The indifference the American government now shows toward human rights in Afghanistan supports my mistrust. So does the American unwillingness to ratify the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court.

No one on the left supports widespread human rights abuses. And speaking for myself, if I thought the Americans were going to war to avert a humanitarian crisis, and they had a chance of doing so, I'd be in support of war. But in this case, human rights abuses are an excuse, not a reason. I don't have any expectations that the American government could care less about solving them.

I don't think the military might of the United States is the best way to bring about democracy and freedom around the world. The failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda proved to me that military actions, even with the very loftiest of goals, remain military actions, and humanitarian work is something different altogether.

But even if the military might of the United States was a great tool to solve humanitarian crises, that isn't anything like how that might has been used in the recent past. Why should we think that's going to change in this war?

Friday, January 17, 2003

Profile in Courage

I've stolen this title from Michael Moore's site. In the weeks and months following September 11, when the voices of dissent were few, Moore featured (for example) Members of Congress who didn't support giving the President absolute power and what-not, and who paid or were willing to pay political prices for their dissent.

That's the sort of category Carolyn Parrish belongs in. There's not much out there about this, but the story should be told. Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish has said she'll walk out of the Liberal Caucas, walk across the floor, and sit as an independant if the Government involves Canada in a military operation in Iraq without UN approval. CBC story containing brief aside about it here.

Perhaps this will be a bigger story if she actually needs to follow through on this. If that's the case, God grant this story will wallow forever in obscurity. In the meantime, e-mail her to tell her you appreciate the stand she's taking. Add your own pathetic excuse for an MP in the carbon copy recipient list... that address will be hidden here somewhere.

I'm not usually one to advertise a right-wing blog. I'm never one to advertise a right-wing blog. But I have to admit, searching for something completely unrelated, I found and actually enjoyed Daimnation!, live from Corner Brook. Now I get the feeling being a right-leaning blogger in Newfoundland is not completely unlike being a left-leaning blogger in Alberta, so I have respect for the fellow, even if I find myself clucking my tongue in usual judgemental left-wing fashion at his politics. The writing's good. And, hey he posted this about Gordon Campbell, so he's not blinded by ideology. I can appreciate that, too. And finally, I think I've found the blog I'll follow for a thoughtful right-wing argument on ... well, on whatever ... when Ezra becomes too tempting a straw man.

Update: Okay, so I noticed his hit rate... over 1300 a day. My sympathy for his isolation is somewhat reduced.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

I received this notice, and thought it worth posting. If you don't want Canadian troops to risk their lives on flimsy evidence that Iraq may one day threaten our (okay, American) interests with weapons of mass destruction that may or may not exist, the time to speak up is now.

International Peace Rally

Friday, January 17th at Calgary City Hall (West-side), 2:30pm

Then march to this:

Vigil for the People of Iraq

Friday, January 17th 4pm-midnight in front of the US consulate (Rocky Mountain Plaza).

More information on this event or others around the country, including contact names and numbers, can be found at CANESI's site.
Conspiracies abound!

I'm not a big conspiracy theroy guy. You may have noticed a strong lack of such on my site. So I thought it might be a good idea to get them out of the way in one shot.

This article concerns itself with the top ten conspriacy theroies of the year, and follows with ten "Honourable Mentions". The honourable mentions are the more interesting list, because there's no context for them, no links to deeper research, and they have a tendency to sound truer than the others. My favorite? 3. Jeb Bush's 7 September 2001 martial law declaration in Florida. Wha?

The nice thing about this post is that it's the opposite sort to this one, where, if I've gotten it wrong, leave me open to mocking and derision. This time, just one of those have to be true, and discovered, and I can link back and say, "Didn't I warn you?"

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

August has had a busy day.

There have been several posts today. My favourite is this one: seems Time Europe has a little poll to ask which country poses the greatest threat to world peace: Iraq, North Korea, or the United States. I won't spoil the surprise.

And then, a few minutes later, he pointed me toward this jewel about the thrust and parry between decent reporters and Ari Fleischer, the spin doctor that Satan would hire if only Ari were available.

Go and visit and see how a master does his blogging work. Though someone should say something to him about the white print on a black background. It's a little "goth" for a grown-up. Just highlight it section by section... the black-on-gray that results is perfectly readable.
Hitting .149

You know, when I posted my first Gordon Cambell drunk-driving comment, I was under the impression that he was telling the truth. That he had been drinking steadily, but not crazily, and that he had simply misjudged his own metabolism. That when he got behind the wheel, he may have had no idea that he was impaired. Truth is, I've always thought there should be graduated penalties depending on the level of drunkenness a driver exhibits, because the increasing risk of harm to oneself and others bears a direct and geometric relationship to one's level of drunkenness.

But .149 is not "tipsy". It is stumbling drunk. When Campbell got into his vehicle, he must have known he was well over the legal limit. When he put his keys in the ignition, I'm sure he knew he was taking a risk. And I'm sure he thought "I won't get caught" --- NOT, "I'm not doing anything wrong".

I think the issue of the penalty for drunk driving in Hawaii is a non-starter. So what if it isn't as illegal there? We don't object to it because it's illegal. We object to it because it's reckless and irresponsible behaviour. If he had gone to Bangkok to sleep with child prostitutes, I don't think we'd be saying, "well, it's okay there, so I guess it's no big deal." And in fact, if Campbell made his travel plans around the local regulations for drunk driving, he's got a far more serious problem than I'm willing to consider.

I actually don't think Campbell should resign for this, though considering his constant demand for resignations from others, it would have shown a man of character if he'd held himself to the same high standard. But there are some things he should do. He should voluntarily give up his licence for twelve months. And he shouldn't be ferried around by a personal driver, either... let him ride the bus. Let him rub shoulders with his fellow citizens. Let him face the humiliation of having to arrange for a ride any time he wants to travel outside of urban centres. Let him have his licence back when he endures drunk driver school, and has a device installed in his vehicle that forces him to prove his sobriety to his steering column. And let him, bussing or driving, stop every day at a church, fall to his knees, and thank the Grace of God that he didn't kill anyone.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

NDP horserace review. Political hacks only.

So, what's going to happen on the 25th? Let's start by reviewing my own favourites:

1. Lorne Nystrom (and his site here)

2. Joe Comartin (and his site here)

3. Bill Blaikie (and his site here)

4. Pierre Ducasse (and his site here)

5. Jack Layton (and his site here)

6. Bev Meslo (and her site here)

So, one difficulty I have is being isolated here in Alberta. No matter how closely I keep my ear to the ground, it's tough to know how the long-time members around the country are thinking. And unlike some parties' leadership races, this one will be determined by long-time members, not memberships sold during the race and evaporating like smoke afterward.

But for all that, I'm willing to guess. First ballot will see Layton and Blaikie pretty even in the 30% range. Nystrom will be behind in the range of 25%. Comartin will get something in the 15% range, and Ducasse and Meslo will get a few hundred votes each. The others candidates will be lobbying for Ducasse and Meslo to support them on ballot two for the sake of appearing to have momentum, but the truth is that many of Ducasse's first ballot votes will go wherever they intended beforehand (much of Ducasse's campaign has been "support me on the first ballot, and go back to your candidate on the second"). Meslo will likely have much more control over her votes, and will likely take them to Layton. But this begs a question... how many ballots were pre-cast? How much control will any candidate have over her or his delegates? The process is all new... we just don't know.

The real game will be getting Comartin's delegates. Presuming that Joe will have some influence on most of the people who voted for him, he's the kingmaker, and I don't know where he'll go. If he goes to Layton, Nystrom will drop and head for Blaikie (I suspect, again, the candidates don't know any better how the prevoting will influence matters than I do. He may stick it out for a second ballot to see how much control Joe actually has, and how much of that support he picks up), and Layton and Blaikie have a close second ballot count, but I think with the edge to Layton. If Joe goes to Nystrom, Lorne could pull into first on ballot two, and so long as Layton comes second, Blaikie will drop and head for Nystrom... 60% or more for Lorne on the last ballot. And if Comartin heads for Blaikie, so will Nystrom, perhaps on the same ballot, and Bill has the same sort of 60%+.

I don't know any of this for certain, of course. And the big maybe, I think, is Layton. If he's significantly behind where I've put him, I think his campaign is over, because I don't think he has the same potential for growth of his vote as the others do. But because the convention is in Toronto, he might have a lot of live vortes to control on the convention floor, so his endorsement will win it for any candidate still on the ballot. And if Layton is way ahead, the forces that might have conspired against him will rally around him ,instead, and if there's a second ballot, it'll be a formality.

Better print this out, because if I'm horribly, horribly wrong, I might have to come back and delete this.
We'll miss you

The mayor is the one on the right

The mayor is still the one on the right

Insert your own quips here.
Wow, a whole day

A whole day that is, without writing, despite being full of opinions. So what do I owe you?

- An NDP horserace review

- Something about Wally Buono... I'm going to miss him.

- Something about the Province's decision to not build schools.

- Maybe a little more around Gordon Campbell.

I'll get there, maybe later tonight with my tea, maybe tomorrow morning with my coffee. Having this outlet is great, but being away to step away from it on occasion is also a good thing.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Drumroll, please...

My first choice candidate for Federal New Democrat leader is...

(can you feel the tension?)

Okay, so anyone who has been keeping score so far knows the one candidate I have yet to mention is Lorne Nystrom. He leads in three categories, two highly interrelated, among the six candidates. The first and unrelated one is that, along with Layton, he's got the whole communications spectrum in reach: he can preach fire and brimstone, and he can get all intellectual, but mostly, he's simply reasonable, well-spoken, and calm. The first of the related pluses: he's very likely the candidate furthest right. That doesn't make him a Tory by any stretch (though I suspect the Mesloesque types in the party might disagree), and it doesn't even make him a Liberal. He's fought on the left in the House for over thirty years, and his record of doing so speaks for itself. What it makes him, in my mind, is the most pragmatic of the candidates, the one most likely to search for solutions to problems with a left-minded perspective, but without ideological constraints. And that in turn leads me to the connected point: Lorne Nystrom is the candidate with the best shot at winning a federal election for the NDP. Some voters will always be alienated by the NDP attached to any candidate's name, but among the open-minded and undecided voters, Lorne is the most able to sound reasoned while at the same time sounding passionate. If Paul Martin pulls the Liberal party further right, Lorne is in the best position to scoop up some of that Liberal vote. I hope that even those on the left fringe of the party will recognize that more of their agenda will become law under a moderate left government than with a wildly left parliamentary rump.

Beyond this, what can Lorne offer? I think he's the candidate most in tune with Alberta, so from my personal perspective, I appreciate that. Pierre Ducasse has said that of the Anglo candidates, Lorne's French is the best. (For the record, among the Francophone candidates? Pierre's English is tops. ;-)) He's been in Parliament since he was twenty-two, so there's very little about the process, about the departments, about governing that he hasn't learned.

Marks against him? Well, being in the House since he was twenty-two may have skewed his perspective somwhat, and even if it hasn't it certainly leaves him open to criticisms that he doesn't understand the "real world". And being more from the centre, he might find the left of the party abandoning him the way they did with Bob Rae in Ontario. Hey, that really worked out great for organized labour in Ontario, didn't it? What a clever strategy!

I have one last post on this topic before I'm done... how I think it's going to go on January 25th. And that'll be it for the partisan stuff, at least until the 26th.
Who is Number Two?

I've made you all wait long enough. My second choice for leader of the New Democrats is Joe Comartin. Smart, soft-spoken guy. New enough to the House not to carry the entire load of old baggage that Nystrom and Blaikie would be carrying. He reminds me a good deal of Ed Broadbent, and if we could elect him leader and then patiently wait three elections, he could really grow the party... he'd be the type of leader that would get us grudging appreciation from Canadians who will not vote NDP even once their entire lives.

When I said that Bill Blaikie was my third choice, the big criticism was that he tends toward the bombastic. Joe tends toward the soft-spoken, professorial, intellectual. I think that's actually a pretty good default mode. But I haven't really seen another side... is there some fiery Southern-Baptist-preacher hiding in there somewhere? I think that's a style that needs to be within reach. And I think he's the furthest left of the three MPs who are in the race... for some, again, that's a big point in favour. I like my NDP leaders closer to the centre, however. I have no concept of his French for good or ill.

Yesterday, I heard that Buzz Hargrove had endorsed Comartin. That was almost enough to bump him behind Blaikie, and reminded me that my rankings here are by no means fixed. But I'm going to forgive him that endorsement... he is the only CAW member in the race, so he may have recieved the endorsement by default. As well, Hargrove may be setting up an excuse to keep throwing his feces onto the party from the sidelines, because Joe is a pretty slim bet to win.
The reason Bill should have his own blog

If he did, I'd have nothing to do but link the lollowing:

Actually getting a workable media spin on Campbell's DUI charge. Quite a few talking heads are going to the tune of: During Bingogate, Campbell screamed that Harcourt should resign, and that anyone under investigation, no matter what the charge, should step down. During Casinogate he said the same thing about Glen Clark. Neither of them were found guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. Campbell has admitted to criminal wrongdoing. You do the math...

As for myself, well, there have been comparisons between this and Ralph Klein's Christmas conversion to sobriety over a year ago. But verbal abusiveness is not drunk driving. And I tend to believe Klein when he says he's stopped drinking. And we all knew Klein drank. My criticisms of Alberta's Premier are many and varied, but alcoholism isn't among them.
True leadership

It's not quite a legislative abolishment, but I hope Gov. George Ryan's commuting of the planned 167 government-authorized murders gives pause to Americans everywhere.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Billy Van (1934-2003)

When I was a kid, I sat, every Saturday, watching the Hilarious House of Frightenstein. I had no concept it was Canadian, and might not have believed you if you'd told me... Canadian shows were boring, like the Beachcombers. And I kept seeing Vincent Price in other things... surely he couldn't be Canadian. (He was not, in case you were wondering. I was an adult, almost 25, and knew far better, but when Vincent Price died, he was still, and always will be, "that narrator guy from The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.")

Billy Van was the soul of that show. The Count, Grizelda, The Librarian, The Oracle... all gone in one shot. If you've never heard of any of these characters, forget I've even posted... If you've forgotten all about them, refresh your memory at a site that never forgot.

I wish I were smart, because I'd love to talk about this movie with some authority. I'm smart enough to recognize that every cheap Hollywood plot contrivance in the film was preceeded by the "serious" screenwriting lead character (Charles Kaufman) or his more commercial screenwriting brother (Donald) discussing the contrivance, and dismissing it as unworthy of Charles' adaptation. I'm smart enough to see how creatively self-referential everything was.

I guess what I'm saying is, I'm not sure yet if the film was clever, or too clever. But I know it made me laugh, I know that I enjoyed the trip more than I did Being John Malkovich (although Adaptation was much more conventional, in the journey), and I know I'll be seeing it again to decide just how good it was.
We return to your regularly-scheduled ranting:

How come the United States can withdraw from or ignore any treaty it damn well pleases, but when North Korea does it, it's an affront to world stability? How come the United States is the only country in the world declaring their "right" to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear nations, or on a first-strike basis, and then freaks out when countries attempt to get the tools to defend themselves against that aggressive power?

Seriously, if you want other nations of the world to respect peace and security, perhaps you should follow those standards yourself. Conversely, don't expect the rest of the world to follow rules you yourselves flaunt.
Calgary Blogmeet

*WARNING* Journal-like entry ahead - little or no politics.

Last night, I attended the first meet of the cowtownbloggers.org group. And while I was only able to stay for a couple of hours (and it sounds very much from the descriptions that it went on for more like five?), I found the people there to be every bit as interesting and smart as their blogs would indicate.

But I'm not sure how I fit there. Most of the blogs they operate reveal a lot about the individuals who write them. Mine does too, I suppose, but very different kinds of things. Am I married or single, am I old or young, am I gay or straight, Agnostic, Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim; ethnically African, Asian, European, North or South American? The people who read here and know me in person know the answers to those questions, but the person who stumbles by with a strange google search? If they hang around and get to know me, great... I suspect all of those answers are in here, or in the archives, or are somewhere or another or will be eventually.

My fellow Calgary bloggers, don't let my leaving early (two hours in a coffee shoppe! Who calls that "early"?) fool you. I'd love to sit down with any one of you and answer any of those questions, and ask you several myself. But a social situation, with that many people, who are this extroverted? I asked a couple of times if people had met one another before, and while there were some connections between them beyond the blogs, there also seemed to be a really easy rapport between until-that-moment-strangers that intimidated the heck out of me.

I thought I was pretty comfortable in a pretty wide variety of social situations. I ran for election, for goodness sakes! I knocked on the doors of farmers I never met, and asked them to cast a ballot for a party that was going to take all their property, collectivise their farms, and make them spend the rest of their lives growing un-genetically-modified soybeans to produce mass quantities of tofurkies to eat on Non-denominational Gift-Granting Day(or so some of them seemed to believe). I stood in front of three hundred people and the television cameras from the local news, and told them that the Minister of Education was appealing to their fears and their prejudices, and that even he knows that the solutions to problem x, y, z do not involve treating Section 33 of the Charter like a club to hit the federal government with, and isn't that right, Dr. Oberg?

I'll look forward to meeting with you again, bloggers... I genuinely like you. What I do here is different from what you do at your sites, but frankly, that's a big part of what makes you interesting.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Number Three

the NDP Leaders' Countdown continues. You might notice that the three remaining candidates have something in common: they are all sitting Members of Parliament. They have something else in common: they are all coming from a more moderate politics than the other three candidates. This may be cause or effect --- that is, it may be that serving on committees or sitting in the cafeteria with members of other parties is a constant reminder that your political opponents can be just as sincere and concerned as you are. Or it may be that unless you run in Burnaby-Douglas (and I love Svend, I do, even if I make light fun), you need to cut down on the ideological posturing to get elected. They all have a third thing in common: so long as they lead from where they've run, I'll be supporting any one of these three as leader, without reservation.

So, rather than thinking of Bill Blaikie as my third choice, let's call him "second runner-up", shall we?

If you've never met Bill, you might not realize what a big, imposing guy he can be. I like that. He comes from the Social Gospel movement, and I like that, too. (Anyone that thinks Christianity + politics = Stockwell Day, hasn't met Bill. Or Bill Phipps. Or Tommy Douglas. Or Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Among so many others.) He talks a great deal about stepping away from the negativity to which the NDP has long been associated - Health care is dead in a year, our schools are in ruins, people starving in the streets, blah blah complainycakes. A recent lobbying letter from Bill said "...to many Canadians we are the hall monitors of politics." (Not a bad turn of phrase, but I would have said "hall monitors of Confederation". That would look great on a bumper sticker, no?) Not that the complaints are wrong, just that we need to present a positive vision for change. He's very bright. I like all of this.

What's missing? Not much. He claims to speak French, but hasn't done it in my earshot, even to the degree of a few words for symbolism's sake. I think he probably does, but haltingly. Evidence to the contrary is eagerly anticipated. And he tends toward the bombastic rather than the substantial, though he's capable of both. Bombastic is fine as a menu choice, but not as default mode.

The party could do far worse than electing Bill Blaikie leader. And not a whole lot better... the differences between these top three are in my mind not wide differences. But I do think the party can do better, and it has two chances to do so.
One more correction

I mentioned some time ago that my former-military friend Mike corrected a fact in this story. In particular, I claimed (in myth #1) that "Iraq and Iran [fought] a decade-long war primarily around Iran's desire to extend its theocracy"

Mike responded: "While Iran was just beginning to build its theocracy, I must point out that Iraq was the aggressor in this conflict, and the policies behind the action can be compared to US policies today: "Pre-emptively attacking your enemies before they can attack you "

The religious element in Iran gained control of the country largely due to a lack of any type of moderate opposition. The people of Iran had only the Shah or Ayatollah Khomeini to choose from. I believe that this was largely due to the failure of the 1953 pro-democracy revolution, and this failed due to American intervention on the behalf on the Shah. The Shah of course, had to put up with (to some extent) the Imams because a crackdown would have surly lead to a civil war. But Pro-Democracy opposition could and was put down where ever it was found. Saudi Arabia has many interesting parallels in this regard.

Middle East politics seem to be like that Kevin Bacon game, only everything seems to connect back to something the Americans did
(or the British Empire, once you go back far enough -Don), I think it is important to look at that when looking at Arab views of US policy today.

In addition, the West (the Americans) supported Iraq despite it being the aggressor in this conflict and provided support in the form of money, weapons, intel, and biological agents.

None of this actually effects my main point, that Iraq's government is no friend to theocratic revolutionaries. And that Ezra Levant is a tool.
Trust the popular media.

Literally. I mean, this story on anti-SUV ads has gone from being a blog blip to getting a lot of air. To some, it's treated as bumpf, but I was wrong about one thing: I would have eventually heard all about it, even without August.

I don't mean to be intentionally obtuse, but why wouldn't any tv station, anywhere, sell time for these? Not out of any sense of generousity or even of fairness. Sell the time, and people will fast-forward or channel surf through the ads as quickly as they can. Don't sell the time, and people will watch it from the web, undistracted, rapt.

And as Monday approaches, so does the beginning of the trial of the two American pilots involved in bombing Canadian troops in Afghanistan, killing four. So we're going to start hearing much more about this... in fact, the defense will be doing their best to turn the trial into a trial of the amphetamines banned in 1992, but quietly brought back into service very recently. Here's the story that started the discussion, from an American television newsmagazine(!).

Thursday, January 09, 2003

In interests of equal time:

The Liberal Party of Alberta has announced a campaign including an online petition asking the government to offer a natural gas price rebate this year. In effect, the Liberals are implying the only reason rebate cheques came when they did in 2000 was due to the imminence of an election, and they're right.

But here's a hint for you, Mr. or Ms Liberal Party: if you're going to make a public announcement about an electronic campaign? If you're going to mention a website for it? An online petition? Maybe you should have the pages ready, and linked back to your page, so someone listening to the news can find it all and sign up while it's still on her mind.

UPDATE: The petition is available here. It's possible it was available since the announcement, since it was referenced from the caucus page, and not the party page. Which I still consider bad planning, since most Albertans would have a lot of trouble explaining why there's a separation between the two pages and would likely check only one. But it was not as bad an error as I originally thought. Perhaps they should have spent a few dollars on a unique URL, since this is a big campaign for them, but I'm hardly in a position to complain about URLs, given my own cheapness in the matter. Still, wouldn't it have been nice if the news broadcasts could have said, "For more information, go to www.gasrebatenow.com"?

I'm aware that many, many of you could not care less about Canada's NDP leadership race. Forgive me... three to go, an overview, and I'm back to calling George Bush a moron (and resigning from nothing for it, thank you very much).

In the meantime, may I recommend trash? Another local blog, with a political edge. But don't abandon me completely... I'll be relevant again, some day.
Fourth in my priority, fifth on the first ballot, number one in our hearts...

My countdown continues with Pierre Ducasse. (I'm generally linking to the English language sites of all the candidates, but in Pierre's case, if you're comfortable in French, clearly the web designer was as well.)

I really like Pierre. I had a conversation with him at length (in Lorne Nystrom's hospitality room) and was impressed with his sharp mind, his subtle ear, and his passion about Canada. Pierre was a Quebec nationalist for a while, but has always come from the left. After Quebec Referendum Pt. II in 1995, he came to the conclusion that there was no leaving Canada, and it was time to change Canada for the better.

Pierre is thirty (though a little balder than me... thank goodness someone is!). For me, that's a huge positive. So is his coming from Quebec... I think the NDP needs to take seriously getting a foothold in Quebec, if we ever hope to form a government (or even claim true "national" party status). So is his communication style.

What are the negatives? Well, he has no seat in the house. He has little or no chance at a seat in the short term, presuming he's committed to a Quebec seat, even as leader. He has no seasoning. His understanding of issues is the understanding of an outsider. And he tends to go over the top on some issues... much the same way I do, actually, but I operate a blog, and he wants to be leader of a national party.

The New Democrats should be doing everything they can to show commitment to Pierre, and to getting him elected, in Quebec. I want him in the house. And if I was more confident my candidate (patience, it's coming) will come first or second on ballot one, I'd give Pierre my first ballot vote (and I still might). I might toss some money his way, as well, once the unemployment insurance kicks in... it's a small campaign, and I'm glad he ran it, vote or no.

Bill, again: I can see why Ducasse is creating a buzz: part philosopher, part class clown. Reminded me a little of another Pierre who was a New Democrat at one time.
Number five

Jack Layton will get my vote as soon as he and Bev Meslo are left on the ballot. Don't get me wrong... I've met him, and I like him. Personable, if a little slick. But a couple of things undermine my confidence in him as the best choice.

First of all, he's way out on the left. Not the alienating, unpleasant left where Meslo is coming from, but far enough. There are some in the party who think that's a good thing, but I'm not among them. I think Paul Martin will be pulling the Liberal party to the right, absorbing the remaining Tories who hadn't noticed until then that they have no leader. I think even the Canadian Alliance could lose members and voters to a Martin-led Liberal government, leaving the hard-core Reform Party types pushing Stephen Harper further out right, as well. All of that will leave the centre-left wide open for the NDP, and we'd be missing an opportunity if we don't try to occupy some of that space. I'm going to go on about that further as I continue the countdown.

Second, he's very urban. His site has a number of policy pages, but nothing in them gives me the impression he knows anything about the ways so many people in Canada make their livings. There's nothing about mining or fishing. The only allusion to oil and gas is how it connects to Kyoto. Sustainable farming through urban-rural partnerships seems to be the only solution he has for the rural prairies, but that seems inadequate in the face of global grain subsidy wars, and while I'm completely in favour of genetically modified food labelling, GMOs only seem to be a problem for Jack when city people eat them. And I think Jack would be very hard-presses to explain "stumpage". In short, I'm not convinced he understands how the country outside of GTA operates.

And finally, but related, he's a city councillor. I'd prefer to have a leader who is already a sitting Member of Parliament. In Bill's words, again: He's sincere, he really wants to lead the party, but running single-issue campaigns while waiting for a favourable byelection won't move the party forward.

Some months ago, I was lobbied by a Layton supporter at a party. I stopped him by saying that like all good Albertans of any political stripe, I have a basic mistrust of anything that comes from Toronto. I was joking then, but really, most of what I don't like about Layton reflects the things I don't like about Toronto. Don't get me wrong... there are many things I do like about Toronto. Give me several days and I'm sure I could name a few. But like Toronto, Layton has no understanding of the world outside, and no concept of the possibility that he might require that understanding to lead a national party. In his favour, given enough time as leader, that understanding will be foisted upon him by force. I'm not sure the NDP has the time to wait.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

The war on the war on drugs, the war on oil

Arianna Huffington is spearheading a group making and broadcasting commercials, based on the American government's "Drug Purchases Fund Terror" series, that could be simply entitled "Wasting gasoline funds terror."

I never would have known about these has August not mentioned it. His take has covered the topic too well for me to be bothered saying much beyond, though he is far more charatible toward SUVs than I am. I'm more of a Geo man.
The war, on drugs, part three

I mentioned back here that Americans have been popping speed before flying bombers. In response, my friend Mike sent me this:

I wholeheartly agree with you on the issue of the use of amphetamines in Military operations.

But the issue is larger than one group of drugs and hits closer to home than you might expect.

The side effects of anti-malaria drugs, especially in combination with alcohol or over the counter cold remedies have been described as judgement impairing and worse as I hope these links will demonstrate.

During the Somalia inquiry an attempt to present evidence that the anti-marlaria medications which our troops were ordered to take had an effect upon the incident, was denied.

Pilots on amphetamines bad. Hundreds of troops on the ground on this stuff... I would say worse.
You are Number Six

I open my NDP Leadership countdown with the only candidate of the six who would actually drive me out of the party: Bev Meslo.

While the other leadership candidates, declared and soon-to-declare (all males), have positioned themselves at the center and on the right wing of the party, there is a strongly felt need for a socialist alternative, for someone who is proud to stand on the Left, fighting for a Workers' Agenda. (from the web page)

I attended a forum in Edmonton, and saw all six candidates in action. Bev's entire pitch was this sort of pissing on the party for selling out, without coming out and saying it. I find this Buzz Hargrove-inspired "I'm the only socialist voice, I'm the only feminist voice" offensive. It dismisses the actions of dedicated, hard-working New Democrats who don't think exactly like her. There will be no room in the party for people like that when she's elected leader, which is why it must never happen.

And as for the "all males" implication, the party has had two female leaders in a row. I don't think that dismisses the possibility of a third... there could be ten in a row for all I care. But there doesn't have to be... the party doesn't sell out the day a white male takes the helm. I think we can maintain our credibility with feminists without electing a third female leader in a row.

All of her page, all of her campaign materials leave me with the impression of someone carrying a sign in front of the convention, screaming "let me in!" Thing is, the NDP isn't the G8... you can come in if you like. But you're going to have to set down the sign and join us in something constructive, instead of continuing to march and chant inside the meeting hall.

If Bev wins, I'll join the Liberal party, and begin a "Draft Axworthy" movement. And when that doesn't work, I'll quit the Liberals, too, and start my own party, because that's what good Albertans do.

The good news is she has very little chance of receiving a single ballot east of Hope. And so, however sexist it may seem, I will be using male-specific pronouns whenever I speak of the party's next leader in the generic. Because Bev is not worth the effort of an "or she".

My friends Bill and Nina are New Democrats living in Vancouver. Bill wrote me this about Bev Meslo:

I think there's one riding that Meslo could win: my riding in Vancouver East. However, Libby Davies already has that seat for the NDP. The next time the party considers a woman as leader, Libby would be the better choice.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Ladies and gentlemen, Casey Kasem!

The only way I'm going to get to my "Leadership Candidates in Review" is one at a time. I want to go enjoy more of that sun and heat today, so you'll just have to wait for tomorrow for me to introduce #6, and begin the countdown.
The polls are open

Well, the voting process for the new leader of the federal New Democrats has begun. The process is interesting. The winning candidate will need 50%+1, but unlike the artificial majority created in direct member votes when ballot two include only the top two finishers in ballot one (see the convention that elected Ralph Klein leader and Premier, among many others), there's potential for the sort of movement more expected in a delegated convention (see the Tory convention that first elected Joe Clark back in 1976 --- he came in third on ballot one, just a nose ahead of Flora McDonald in 4th, and well behind the frontrunners). I think that sort of negotiation and ballot-to-ballot movement makes the best results. But let me go over the "how" for a moment.

First of all, if you don't have a 2002 or 2003 membership now, you're out of luck. Read on if such things interest you, but not with any expectation of influencing the outcome.

All those active members will recieve a ballot (and most already have). Now, if you're of the type, you can prevote online or through the mail, first choice through sixth. When your first choice drops off the ballot, your vote is shifted to the highest choice remaining, and so on.

Of course, you can vote at the convention in Toronto. Had this choice been cheaper, I would have done it; the irony is that I'm travelling to Toronto the following day.

But the choice I'm finding most exciting is the "vote live on the internet" choice. Watch CPAC, see the convention live, and then go, ballot-by-ballot, and vote. Change your vote, even if your candidate is still on the ballot. In Calgary, several members will be doing this at what I'm starting to think of as a 'mini-convention'... we're meeting, watching collectively, talking, and lobbying one another. The way it's supposed to work. Voting as a community, not as individual members hiding in our homes. It's why delegated conventions are actually more democratic than direct vote conventions anyway... because democracy is about talking and listening, as well as about voting.

There's still a lot of movement among my friends in the party, and I only decided for certain my first ballot choice about three weeks ago. I want to go over the candidates, and give you my impressions. When I sat down to write this entry, I thought that's what I was doing... my mistake. I promised that I would do this overview a month ago. This time, for sure. But not this entry, and probably not today.
The wonders continue.

First links, now a counter. I'm becoming increasingly happy I swapped off that old IBM Selectric... I think this internet thing might catch on.

Monday, January 06, 2003

When God wants to punish us, God answers our prayers

I asked for a much more thoughtful and considered argument for war in Iraq, and now I've got it. Michael Ignatieff wrote a detailed and intelligent article in the past weekend's NY Times magazine. I think his conclusions are incorrect, but he's still worth reading and considering. He asks the question, the fundamental question, that needs to be asked:

Whenever it has exerted power overseas, America has never been sure whether it values stability -- which means not only political stability but also the steady, profitable flow of goods and raw materials -- more than it values its own rhetoric about democracy. Where the two values have collided, American power has come down heavily on the side of stability, for example, toppling democratically elected leaders from Mossadegh in Iran to Allende in Chile. Iraq is yet another test of this choice. Next door in Iran, from the 1950's to the 1970's, America backed stability over democracy, propping up the autocratic rule of the shah, only to reap the whirlwind of an Islamic fundamentalist revolution in 1979 that delivered neither stability nor real democracy. Does the same fate await an American operation in Iraq?

Why wouldn't it? I think Ignatieff is arguing that the United States needs to be involved in the world, often militarily, always with the priorities of democracy and liberty in the forefront. Great theory. But the United States often goes to war with the priority of "domestic security", which is defendable until you realize that "domestic security" includes economic security. War for oil.

It comes down to trust. Ignatieff wants me to trust a government that is willing to make the world far more dangerous in defence of its own interest. It refuses to sign on to a world court, it refuses to ratify Kyoto, and it researches and installs a (non-functioning, which seems to defeat the purpose) missile shield in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Ignatieff wants me to trust a government that has already displayed an extremely short attention span. Hey, remember Osama bin Laden? Seems to be still alive... perhaps the US should be tracking him down. Remember Afghanistan? Seems to me the US promised peace and democracy and prosperity and liberation for women, and has all but withdrawn to refocus on Iraq, leaving most of the nation under the control of warlords if not completely in anarchy.

Why is the United States in such a blind panic to invade? It seems to me that there will be war, and it will be here by the end of February (if not well before). Why doesn't the US take some time to do the job right in Afghanistan, first? Why doesn't it prove that it can value democracy over stability? Why doesn't it arrest and charge Henry Kissenger for the death of a democratically elected leader (Allende) instead of offering him lucrative appointments? In other words, why doesn't the United States take steps to prove its trustworthiness, before it starts expecting our trust?

I need to read the article again, and more carefully... Ignatieff's essay warrants that sort of consideration.

Links! Whoo-whee!

They ain't pretty, but they're there.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

The right has righteous anger...

... but the left, when it's working, has a lock on satire.

Join us in challenging rogue states run by military fanatics who produce and conceal weapons of mass destruction.

Rooting Out Evil is sending a weapons inspection team to the United States to inspect the chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons produced and concealed by the Bush regime.

Road trip! Montana's got plenty of silos, I hear.
I'm sorry... did I forget this one?

Tom's a cartoonist, after all.
When did Saddam stop beating his wife?

It's like a high-school assignment: compare and contrast George Bush's rhetoric and the seeming results of the weapons inspections.

Here's what will happen. If Hans Blix comes to the UN on January 27 to say his team found weapons of mass destruction, Bush has no problem --- bombs away. But if Blix says the weapons inspections found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, well, Bush can talk about the Iraqis playing "hide and seek" with the weapons inspectors, describe that as a "material violation" of the UN resolution --- bombs away. Shed no tears for Saddam Hussien, but I'll shed several for fairness, reason, diplomacy, and international law.

Poking holes in the American rationale for war? Tom's the king. Here, too.
More fun with C-250

Okay, I wasn't even close to how truly minor this change will be. Here's the criminal code as it stands:


(1) Every one who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

(2) In this section, "genocide" means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part any identifiable group, namely

(a) killing members of the group; or

(b) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction.

(3) No proceeding for an offence under this section shall be instituted without the consent of the Attorney General.

(4) In this section, "identifiable group" means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin.

Bill C-250 would like to change subsection (4):

(4) In this section, ``identifiable group'' means any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.

So, the fearmongerers are even further over the top than I thought. Svend Robinson would like the criminal code to protect gay, lesbian, and bisexual Canadians from people advocating fucking genocide! I'm with Svend on this one, for some reason. Jesus.
Actual feedback!

I've recieved a series of e-mails from a thoughtful friend who's former military, and makes fact corrections in my Persian Gulf history as well as alerting me to a whole other drug issue in the military besides speed. I'm going to get to both of those in due time.

And I've been linked to ... twice! Once, on the page of a friend of mine teaching English in Korea. Jon is posting some of his Korean adventure observations here. And the other, on the aforementioned-and-soon-to-be-permanantly-linked cowtownbloggers. Thanks for the kind comment, shel. As for my joining that blog, it's coming along... I'm too vain to just send any picture with the application.
Not actually feedback, but I'll pretend...

I got this in the email a few days ago. I have no idea where these sorts of things come from, or why anyone I know would think I'd be sympathetic, but I got it nonetheless:

The dangerous Bill that threatens our freedoms of speech and religion!

Bill C-415 is now C-250 - But is still the same dangerous Bill that threatens our freedoms of speech and religion!

Bill C-415, the proposed amendment of the hate crime law has been sent back to the Justice Committee as Bill C-250. So C-415 is not dead, as some have reported. It is exactly the same bill with a different number, and has been given the status as having passed �second reading�. This means that the Bill is only one vote away from becoming the �law of the land� and the only way to stop it is to send a message to the Justice Committee Members and to all MP�s that the bill must be defeated. Some MP�s are still not aware of this Bill nor its consequences. They must be informed.

Bill C-250 proposes changes to the Criminal Code hate crime legislation that are intended to criminalize all people with dissenting opinions on homosexuality and the homosexual agenda. Are you a criminal because you do not approve of homosexual behavior? If Bill C-250 becomes law, the following consequences will result; especially once hate crime charges are before the courts.

- The Bible, at least certain portions of the Bible may be declared �hate literature�.

- Expressing disagreement with homosexual behavior or the homosexual agenda, either verbally or in writing would be considered hate propaganda.

- Educators, including those at private religious schools, will not be able to refuse to teach homosexual curriculum.

- Religious institutions will not be allowed to teach anything non-supportive of homosexual sex.

- Canadian Blood Services will not be allowed to screen risk-behavior donors.

- Governments (including local municipalities) will be prevented from passing (even debating) sex standard laws.

- Churches will not be able to mention certain Scriptures.

- Clergy may be subjected to criminal charges if they refuse to marry homosexuals.

- PARENTS may be subjected to criminal charges if they refuse to allow their children to attend classes that teach about and promote homosexual behavior.

Please speak out against this Bill. We need every voice. Sign a petition, write or fax your MP and insist that NO amendment be made to the hate crime law, and to not allow this kind of assault on Free Speech and Freedom of Religion by such an oppressive law.

This is Crucial Do it Today! Please let everyone in your household 18 years and over to email your Member of Parliament

Is This The Future?

Please contact your Member of Parliament and let them know how you thinkabout the new proposed bill and how it will effect our nation.

(I've cleaned up a little of the formatting, but that's as far as I can bring myself to go)

So I searched Yahoo for "C-250", and found many, many sites plying the same sort of story. And none to give me any other perspective on C-250. Not Svend Robinson's site (he's sponsoring the bill), nothing at EGALE's site (though I whiled away several minutes there enjoying creative communications work like the Adopt-an-MP programme)... I was on my own here.

I have to draw a few conclusions based on flimsy information. If someone there finds actual facts to string together my assumptions, or tear them down, have at 'er. First of all, if this is sponsored by an Opposition member, it's going nowhere, though second reading does suggest the government is at least fond enough of adding sexual preference protections to hate crime legislation that they want to kick it around in committee, and see what they might come up with that some Cabinet member can sponsor and pass later on. And second.... well, most of the other assumptions are implied in my response, which follows (in bold, because, hey, it's my site):

... "There may be some religious organizations that are legitimately concerned about the slippage of their freedom of expression, but any law that infringes too far on section 2 Charter rights is going to get tossed out by the Supreme Court. In the meantime, whoever wrote this original note seems to be fear-mongering: "Educators ... will not be able to refuse to teach homosexual curriculum." WTF is "homosexual curriculum"? I think I took 'straight' math 30 in High School... do you suppose there's a correspondence course to upgrade that to bisexual math 30? "Canadian Blood Services will not be allowed to screen risk-behavior donors." If that means CBS can't ask if you're gay, well, good. If it means CBS can't ask if you've engaged in unprotected sexual activity with a new partner in the last few or several months, well, no court in the world would interpret that question as 'promoting hate'. (On reflection, even nice, Christian, formerly virginal straight kids newly married and monogamous for life probably get to answer that question "yes" at one point in their lives.)

What c-250 does is say that it is especially abhorrent to a tolerant society to beat up a man because you suspect he's gay, as opposed to beating someone up for the hell of it. Just as it is especially abhorrent to assault a man because he is black, as opposed to assualting black men and white men in equal measure. And so, in either case, the former will be penalized more harshly than the latter.

I'm not sure that's a good thing, that any hate crime legislation is a good thing. I can see a rationale for it, and think it's important to openly communicate that Canadians of all religious practices and political leanings do not tolerate gay-bashing. But at the same time I'm somewhat concerned about a court trying to decide why I did something, and judging my sins to be mortal or venal depending on my suspected motivation.

I do, however, know that fear-mongering claims that the Bible will be declared hate literature do not advance the debate."

I've had enough of straw men for a while. I need to start arguing with thoughtful people, and fast! In the meantime, if you see an e-mail like this, respond. Respond directly to the people who e-mailed you, and cc it to your MP or MLA as appropriate. Let those who govern know there are thoughtful citizens who will support them when they stand up to the kneejerk right. I've found some of those who might be thoughtful just need that little verbal push out of the kneejerk habit.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

The war, on drugs: update

CNN has finally reported what Canadians have been talking about for only two weeks now. But at least they've reported it.
And once it's fixed

Here's another link you'll see over on the left some day. As I was mentioning yesterday, there are Calgary voices in the blogosphere that are challenging and funny and smart, and I've attached myself to them like a leech in the desperate hope that some of that skill (or at least, reputation) sticks to me.

<< < ? Cowtown Bloggers # > >>

The first step is admitting there's a problem

I think I finally have figured out the problems this page has been giving me. I'm a writer, not a web designer, so when I started the blog, I simply picked a generic template out of Blogger and jumped in. Since then, I've tried to make little changes to that template, with mixed success.

I like the design, so I don't think you're going to be seeing radical changes, but I'm going to spend some time and effort rebuilding the template from the ground up, so that I understand and can much more successfully mess around in the code. In the meantime, blogging might be a little light, though there are a couple of things I feel the need to write about in the next day or so.

Friday, January 03, 2003

The downside of blogging

Here's what happens: you look around for a little while, you see what other people are doing, and after losing a day, you feel inadequate.

I'm not going to make wild promises simply because the new year has begun. However, I'm certainly going to endeavour to smooth out the more obvious and embarrassing bumps.

One of those repairs will be sorting out why Blogger is so hostile to my attempts at permanent links along the left bar. Once I figure that out, you're going to see sites I frequent, and today, I likely would have been adding bob upndown blog, (the first Calgary blog I managed to find), and cowtownbloggers, which I found through the first.

Had I found these sites three months ago, I may not have started this blog. The idea first struck me when I could not, under any circumstances, find an Albertan political voice on the web that was a) current and b) not connected to a publishing or broadcast empire. But now I have, and I'm going to be struggling not to simply link there often and say, "See, that's what I think, too."

But I'll try to stay fresh by boning up on these logical fallacies, before my next run-in with Mr. Levant. Oh, how I wish I had seen this even a week ago. I find the etymology of idiocy a very useful tool. Don't just tell me he's a dope --- name his dopiness. Preferably something Latin.

I guess this means I've fallen on the "someone must stop him" side of my internal argument directly below.