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

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Sadie Hawkins Day, Oscar night

Going by tradition and Neilsen numbers, women win all-round, today. Combining the two events, if your wife asks you to watch the ceremony, you have to. Yes, including all the red carpet crap. But you aren't expected to be able to comment on the clothing - feel free to simply nod and go "uh-huh".

I think there could be a great tradition of holding the Oscars on February 29th, because that would get us down to one ceremony every four years. Hey - how about always on Sunday, February 29? Thanks for coming, everyone - see you in 2032!

My Oscar picks this year are a bit thin, since I saw --- well, I saw Return of the King. Oh, and Finding Nemo. Hmmm. I think they'll both win.

Does that help?

Friday, February 27, 2004

Go West. No, wait, don't.

While I opined that Ralph Klein was making threats about withdrawing from the Canada Health Act as a political maneuver to get more cash out of the fed, new evidence suggests that what Klein really meant was "if Albertans don't go apeshit at the suggestion, were getting out of the Canada Health Act". And the new evidence comes in the form of one ideologue: the new chief-of-staff to the Premier is Steve West.

Steve West! The man who passed everything he could into private industry hands - liquor stores, electricity, large swaths of the prison system, highway maintenance, licencing and registration services, and land, land, land.

Steve West! The man who doesn't like spending government money on prisoners (and tried to deny them multi-ply toilet paper), unless it comes to punishment - then it's pricey black and white televisions, rather than the cheaper colour versions, for all. (Apparently, being tough on crime means making sure criminals in provincial institutions can't tell the difference between the home and away teams --- damn all those third uniforms.)

I've never accused Klein of being an ideologue, but he does have a tendency to keep some around. I always thought that was for show - an appeal to the base, without actually pandering to it. My mistake - this is a warning that the entire operation of the provincial government is at risk of going to auction. Vigilance is called for, now.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Holy Bible: Now a Major Motion Picture starting Jack Black as Pontius Pilate

It's Ash Wednesday, and that always spells big screen blockbusters.

I have a strong desire to attend today's big release, if only to start up a chorus of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life as the movie wanes. But reviews suggest that the film's message is single-minded and forceful: getting crucified is an ugly and bloody business. If that's an important message, strengthening the faith of the flock, it speaks volumes about who we are, how we understand, and what our religious institutions communicate.

I'm going to speak to the film, trusting the reviewer descriptions thereof. It may be some time before I actually see the film, and I'll let you know if my impressions change.

Just as some people seemed to have required Spielberg's hand-holding to get the fact that war isn't all ponies and ice cream, so too will some people require the emotional impact of "seeing" a crucifixion to get the fact that it was, as I say, an ugly and bloody business. But just as Saving Private Ryan, beyond the emotional impact, didn't really have anything to say about the causes or prevention of war, neither does a graphic description of the death of Christ have much to tell us about faith.

I'm Christian, and one of the attractions of the faith to me is that we are asked to think and consider, not just to feel and react. "God is the Word." I don't want to say that we can't have our faith challenged and changed by artistic representations, including film. The Last Temptation of Christ challenged me to consider the humanity, the human-ness, of Christ, and was perhaps the moment for me when I thought "this crucifixion thing is no joke - that's some serious sacrifice." I'm not sure I need a "spiritual splatter film" to reinforce the point.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The fight for the Inequal Rights Amendment begins

George Bush wants to see a twenty-eighth amendment added to the Constitution of the United States. That amendment will ban the recent continual display of men kissing each other on CNN, which Shrub described as "off-putting".

I think the example of how this is going to go can be found in the early part of the 20th century, in amendments eighteen and twenty-one:

Amendment XVIII: ...the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited. (1919)

Amendment XXI: Man, we must have been ripped! Were we drinking Harding's homebrew that night? It's lucky we didn't all go blind! (1933)
I suspect the same process is going to happen with gay marriage - there will be an amendment, but a generation from now, it'll be overturned, and the pair will remain in the constitution as another quirky embarrassment for a country that is constantly vascillating between modern democracy and Puritan enclave.

Monday, February 23, 2004

"No support"

Via the newest addition to my reciprocal blog list, VanRamblings, here's an article about the tech support world and why I'm not sad to leave it.

Unless you're a premium member of Salon, you'll have to watch an ad to see the article. I don't normally like to send my readers through such hoops, but this is so totally worth it.
I wanna wake up, in the city, that never sleeps

Calgary, fed up with its reputation as a modern, thriving metropolis, is debating a bylaw establishing "quiet time", running from nine pm to seven am (nine am on weekend mornings). Because citizens love nothing more than being treated like unruly children.

Councillors Aldermen are really working that highly-desirable curmudgeon vote. "Say, Mr. Wilson, will you take a sign? I'm the Councillor Alderman who came up with the bylaw outlawing Stampede fireworks from going very high! No need to thank me - your vote is more than enough. And if I'm reelected, perhaps we'll work on another change, where the fireworks can only be set off during the daytime, so they won't hurt anyone's eyes." It's city council as imagined by Lemony Snicket.

Who came up with this one? Was it Grandpa Simpson? Was it the same person who decided that smoking on bar patios needed to be stopped, because it was a threat to the health of the SUV drivers passing by? Was it the same person who came up with Calgary's earlier noise bylaw, protecting residents of central communities from the noise of activity like the folk festival?

If people want quiet, they should consider moving to a quieter part of the city. People who live downtown are probably prepared for the hustle and bustle that comes with it. And Calgary is big enough (God and the Go Plan committee know it's plenty big enough) to accomodate sleepy seniors and youthful late-night revellers. Or vice versa.

Did I mention firing the lot as a possibility?

Friday, February 20, 2004

Floating like a lead trial balloon

(Cross-posted to the Federal Election Blog)

I think I know what Ralph Klein is trying to accomplish with this, and it sure isn't an effort to increase Tory popularity:

Premier Ralph Klein is warning that the province may have to start charging user fees in order to preserve the health care system.

Klein, who made the comments Thursday, said he is willing to step outside of the Canada Health Act to control health costs even if it means being denied federal health care dollars.
Now, it just may be that this is posturing on the eve of a federal budget. Provinces are all clamoring for more health care dollars from the fed. This may simply be the Premier trying to make a bold statement: the pittance we get from the federal government is tiny, and if we lose it, what's the difference?

The Canada Health Act is important to Canadians, and not even us crazy right-wing Albertans are prepared to give it up without a serious fight. If Klein went through with two-tiering, I think that would be enough to defeat his government next election. But of course, he knows this, and would never go through with it. But he's not above reminding Ottawa that the fed's power over health care extends as far as the dollars contributed. The closer that comes to zero, the easier it will be for provinces to break away.

The same calculation can't be attributed to Belinda Stronach. I'm not entirely sure why she's floating this idea:

[The Globe asked] Would you consider permitting people who wanted to step outside the publicly funded system to avail themselves of private care, if they so chose?

"I do respect Canadians' freedom to choose, and it's something we could take a look at," she replied. "We must respect the Canada Health Act, but as long as we don't compromise the principle of universal access to good quality health care ..... if it does relieve some pressure on the system, and does help provide that good quality access to health care for Canadians, it's something we can take a look at."
The Globe goes on to point out that what she's suggesting actually violates the letter of the Canada Health Act. I could go on to point that it's a zero sum game - that you can remove patients from the system with a second tier, but you also have to remove providers. No pressure is relieved. Thus, the single-tier system. I could point that out, but I won't.

What I will point out is that Stockwell Day felt he had to make a little sign during the last federal election debate, just to reinforce the point - "No 2-tier health care". It was, at the time, gimmicky and silly, but it illustrates the point now: any party that is not willing to say the same is doomed to never, ever govern in Canada.

I'll go further - if Harper is now the "left-wing" candidate in the Conservative leadership race, no one in the country will think the merged party is anything but Reform III come election time. Enjoy your fifty seats!
And now, the newest recruit into the Frog-Marching CEO dancers!

Who doesn't enjoy these?

Thursday, February 19, 2004

(no posts from Don in 3 days, so the Bear chips in ....)

Chicks dig the NDP

After being left for dead three years ago, the NDP pulls into a dead heat with the BC Liberals

The NDP is polling at 47% among B.C. women, compared to 30% for the Liberals, whereas men back the Liberals at 49% to the NDP's 32% - if there was ever a conclusive illustration as to what a bunch of pr**cks Liberal supporters are....

Support for the Green Party dropped from 11% to 8%, which, combined with the NDP's strong numbers should shut up anyone still talking about "renewing the left", as if the BC Greens were actually on the left. For those of you outside BC, put Mike Harris or Steven Harper in Birkenstocks, and that's pretty much the BC Green Party.

The scary numbers for the Liberals lie with Reform B.C. (5%), Social Credit (2%) and BC Unity (3%). That might not seem like a lot, but together it's 10% that can do some serious fundamentalist-hang-em-high-vote-splitting damage to Gordon Campbell once May 2005 rolls around.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Bad news comes in threes

Number one, as mentioned before, was my layoff.

Number two is here. I've been less than a year enjoying the Whedon-verse, and it's all over come spring.

I'll keep you posted when the last comes about. I'm a little concerned.
I'm convinced

A few days ago, I suggested that Martin's public inquiry into the Quebec ad contracts was an effort in PR, not about rooting out the criminal masterminds. I no longer think this.

Martin put on quite a show Sunday, sitting in on Cross-Country Checkup. He convinced me. He convinced me that he's actually angry, he doesn't know precisely which heads need rolling, and the AG report didn't give him enough information to figure it out. He wants the inquiry because he wants the results. I think he believes that at the bottom of the whole trouble is going to be a person or people who acted illegally in order to enrich the Liberal Party, and he's pissed he's going to have to wear this black eye for a while.

I think that Paul Martin, finance minister, didn't like the way then-Prime Minister Chretien ran the show, and silently vowed then that when he was PM, things would be cleaner, more open, more transparent. Thus a public inquiry, before the opposition had time to call for one. Thus an appearance on a call-in show, something I cannot once recall Chretien doing.

Whatever I think of the Bermudan's politics, I'm impressed enough by his desire to do things openly, if in fact that's what I'm seeing.

A side note to Cross-Country Checkup callers: this scandal is not the same as the gun registry. A government has a right to set priorities and execute them. No one is saying that it was criminal to spend money on advertising in Quebec, that trying to convince Quebecers through advertising that Canada's a nice country to live in. Neither was the gun registry, however disliked and however expensive, criminally executed. Do not confuse what you thought of the project itself, and the political question of "is this a good way to spend our money?", with the inquiry's question, and I think the Prime Minister's question: "Was money stolen from this project and given to the Liberal Party? Who is responsible for that?"

Friday, February 13, 2004

Conan O'Brien, Don Cherry. Who can tell the difference?

As I'm sure you've heard, Conan O'Brien is broadcasting this week from Toronto. Normally, it wouldn't matter if he was broadcasting from my front lawn. I still wouldn't watch him, because I find him a little dull. But last night, he was pushing musical guest, Stompin' Tom Connors (though he kept calling him "Connor" for some reason). All right, I thought, watching Stompin' Tom playing to an American television audience might be interesting. I tuned in.

Here's what I didn't need in the meantime: listening to the Toronto crowd boo, loudly, when Montreal was mentioned. Real frickin' mature. Watching Triumph the Insult Comic Dog wandering the streets (of Quebec City? It wasn't made abundantly clear to me) trotting out tired French jokes as if the Quebecois had just arrived here from Marseilles. "So you're French Canadian? That must mean you're arrogant and dull. You don't understand me? Hey, you live in North America - why don't you learn the language?!?"

Where's the Official Languages commissioner now? How is this less offensive then Cherry?

On the bright side, I will admit a bit of a rush watching Tom haul out his stompin' board, listening to a crowd singing along to The Hockey Song, and imagining Americans in their living rooms saying "what the hell?"

Update: It looks like I wasn't the only one who was put off.
The right message

I've been saying the same thing to the NDP for years. I supported Lorne Nystrom for the leadership because I thought he was saying much the same thing. And now Andrew Edwards has said the same thing in the group election blog (we have to find a better name!) Namely, that the NDP has to think beyond its base when it communicates.

The American people have elected two straight divisive and ideological presidents. One I adored (Clinton), the other I hated (Shrub). But two straight. How did those strongly ideological presidents get elected? By trading off very carefully between the centre and their base. Shrub ran as a 'compassionate conservative', and all his tone and headline policies were leftish - things like education spending. Clinton ran on a 'middle class tax cut' and being a white Southern good-old-boy. This doesn't mean abandoning your beliefs. It just means finding ways to frame your beliefs in a way that will appeal to people who are worried you're an ideologue. Your base, both those guys learned, will get it. Appeal to the middle.
There's so much more. It's so sharp. Go. Read.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

I know I haven't been blogging...

... but you see, I've just been laid off from work, with a couple of weeks' notice. (Specifically, I was told that my contract would be discontinued. Feels about the same, except no big cheque for going away,)

Since I'm a contractor, I suspect strongly that I won't qualify for EI, and that means finding work quick, or going hungry soon.

If anyone knows of anyone, I'm ready to work, wherever it happens to be. Canada? Great. Cayman Islands? Sure! I'm qualified for a few things --- I'd like to think I can write, and hey, do you like the place? Built it myself.

I have some complaints about how this was handled my by current employer, but I'll save that for when they take back my security passes. In the meantime, please, no declarations of sympathy. I'm a litle scared about this, but I'm by no means unhappy to think that in a couple of weeks, I'll never have to take a help desk call again.

Enough of the blogging of my life. Your regular political blog will return soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Bad news for the government. Oh, wait - that government. Not us. We're all-new!

(Cross-posted to the group election blog)

The A-G report on the Quebec advertising contracts is out, and as was no secret to anyone paying attention, it's scandalous. (I'll leave the details to be hashed out by the CBC, and other, smarter bloggers.) The Prime Minister, reeling from the shock of the report (apparently he wasn't paying attention) called a public inquiry into the affair... because, you know, the A-G apparently didn't supply enough information to already know what happened.

Martin's election strategy is becoming increasingly clear to me. For all the talk last week about the Liberals extending their ideological footprint toward the left or the right, what Martin is really doing is plotting an election campaign against the previous government. It's a strategy that worked extremely well for Ralph Klein in Alberta, inheriting a struggling government from the unpopular Don Getty. It worked extremely poorly for Al Gore, however, when he ran away from Bill Clinton's record, and voters decided that if they wanted a change, no point in going with the guy who was there all along. How will it work for Paul Martin? Time will tell. But we should certainly consider the models of success and failure.

Notwithstanding those who mention Jean Chretien's three majorities, I don't think the man had the personal popularity of a Clinton, but rather had the generous electoral situation of a defeated and divided right - a situation Martin won't have. On the other hand, Don Getty came within about five points of letting the NDP form a provincial government. In Alberta. If Chretien had been carrying around that sort of unpopularity, Stockwell Day would be Prime Minister today.

I think the first situation is probably more the model here, primarily because Martin was a central figure in Chretien's government, however much he avoids mentioning the fact. It seems disingenuous to claim he had no idea what was going on with these millions of dollars while he was Minister of Finance, but believing that he had no control over what went on under his watch may be equally damning.
Democracy Watch: Alberta

Lorne Taylor has threatened companies operating in Alberta with a loss of tax and royalty breaks if they negotiate deals with the federal government to comply with Kyoto. Which of course has nothing to do with a turf war or anything.

Last time I checked, Alberta companies were also Canadian companies. And theoretically, the federal government could come back and threaten its own tax break withdrawl if companies don't comply. Next thing you know, huge corporations might have to pay their taxes! And as the right in Canada will tell you, then we're all screwed.
Democracy Watch: Calgary

So, you're a city Councillor --- sorry, Alderman --- and three hundred-odd residents are sitting in the chamber, hoping for an opportunity to speak on a development plan. What do you do?

Well, if you're as dedicated as the fine men and women who sit on Calgary's city council, the first order of business is to put the item at the bottom of the agenda, essentially deferring the debate to the next day in order to thin out the crowd.

The debate centres around a development plan which would butt the city up against the gates of Spruce Meadows, the show-jumping facility south of Calgary. It has, in fairness, been talked about for some time.

I can understand council's desire not to hear three hundred submissions, some of which will go along the lines of "I like horsies. They jump high!" But that's the nature of participatory democracy. And along with the risk of hearing some repetitive silliness is the risk of hearing arguments that haven't had a reasonable public airing yet. Council is putting hobbles on that discussion. That's evidence of Aldermen who already feel they've learned everything they need to know, and have their minds made up. That's evidence of people who believe that public input is the symbolic representation of democracy, not the actual stuff. Time to fire the lot.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

And if he decides to expose himself, we're protected

The CBC has put Don Cherry on a seven-second tape delay, in case he decides to, you know, get all Don Cherry on us.

Are you kidding? Have you heard him, or seen his suits? I thought he was on a thirty-year tape delay. You know, like light from a distant star... but not as bright.

I think I'm ready to try some stand-up writing again. Easy!

Friday, February 06, 2004

CNN on-screen data-point:

"Most bloggers are paid campaign staff members".

Very informative. But I don't think this spin is an accident. I think what CNN is trying to say is "you can't believe those people. Watch TV for information, instead."

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


The Premier spent $80,000 of my money on his annual televised message, which this year was shockingly content-free, notwithstanding a few platitudes about our hard-working (and, though not mentioned, UFA-voting) forebears.

Here's my annual message to the Premier: hey, how about promising Albertans a functioning democracy for a change, instead of spending eight WSOP entries on the silence of your political opponents?

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Super Bowl wrapup

One of my new additions to the reciprical roll, Red Wheelbarrow, sums up thoughts on the Janet Jackson moment better than I've managed thus far... the thoughts are shared, though. Football game? Huh... I had no idea there was a football game, too.

I'd like to add that for me, it was also a new moment of defining difference between our two countries. Considering CBC's lingering shots of well-sculpted topless young women in the AC/DC audience at SarsStock, it's possible we're a little less mammaraphobic. I think had Janet performed her unveiling during a halftime show at Grey Cup, the discussions the next day would boil down to "wow, Regina really was cold for the game, eh?"

Monday, February 02, 2004

Let me save the US government a bundle

Dubya is striking a committee to ask the $64 billion dollar question: how could the intelligence on Iraq's WMD been so out of whack? Quick answer: it wasn't, but the summaries that got to the President might have been.

Just a quick glance through the revmod archives shows me that as early as February 10 of last year, well before the war started, the most in-depth report I could find in the public domain suggested that Iraq had little more than some canisters of expired mustard gas.

I've been reading Ron Suskind's book about Paul O'Neill, Bush's first Treasury Secretary. It's great reading. Here, from page 161:

O'Neill had reviewed a pile of CIA intelligence dossiers prior to this meeting [taking place May 16, 2001 - Don]. "Everything Tenet sent up to Bush and Cheney about Iraq was very judicious and precisely qualified. The President was clearly very interested in weapons or weapons programs - and frustrated about our weak intelligence capability - but Tenet was clearly being careful to say here's the little we know and the great deal that we don't. That wouldn't change," O'Neill recalled, "and I read those CIA reports for two years." [Emphasis Suskind's]
There you have it. The only people talking up Iraqi weapons programs were the PNAC types who have been looking around for something to bomb. The CIA didn't believe there was a need for a war, and elsewhere in the book it's made pretty clear that State wasn't particlarly keen either.

Mr. President, don't set up a commission - call Rove and Wolfowitz into the Oval Office and start taking names.

Anyway, the doubts of the American people are are rising. Check out the Lou Dobbs poll for the evening. "Do you believe a commission assembled by President Bush to review prewar intelligence on Iraq can be truly independent?" At 4:40 mst, it was showing 97% "no".

Sunday, February 01, 2004

No, thank you

Bear, you have no idea how much I've appreciated and enjoyed reading you these past two weeks. The e-mail address is yours to keep (right up until the first "enlarge your pen1s" e-mail shows up - then it's time for a new), and if you ever feel the need to blog full-time once more, I'm sure we can find you room in the revmod.ca domain.