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

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Lessons from the past

George Bush, yesterday:

[President Ford] assumed power in a period of great division and turmoil. For a nation that needed healing and for an office that needed a calm and steady hand, Gerald Ford came along when we needed him most.

During his time in office, the American people came to know President Ford as a man of complete integrity who led our country with common sense and kind instincts.

That sounds to me like a pretty good want ad for 2008.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

I didn't get you anything. Except this creepy, creepy card.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Reading the tea leaves

Calgary Grit anticipates a small shuffle that's going to get Rona Ambrose out of the Environment portfolio, to be replaced by Jim Prentice. Although I strongly suspect the Clean Air Act proposed in October and widely reviled shortly thereafter was not so much Rona's proposal as it was Rona and the department's details painted onto some Harper/Tory guidelines, she's the lucky Ayn Rand fan who gets to eat it, and that's okay by me.

If Jim Prentice in fact ends up with the position, is that a signal that like the Liberals at their leadership, the Tories are ready to step forward and take the environment seriously in deed as well as in word? There's been a whole lot of ink given over to writing elegies for the NDP in the wake of Dion's win (though the typists like to pretend the Green party is an influence as well, to which I dismissively say, "yeah, right"). Will a serious environmental effort from the Tories add nails to the coffin?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Socks are okay, too

Bear604 has some last minute gift ideas.

As for me, I spent a portion of last night in West Edmonton Mall, a place I generally avoid. You know that shortage of workers they have in Alberta these days? Good news when one is negotiating for more Christmas spending money. Bad news when one is attempting to spend it. I'm with Bear about skipping the gift cards, but I can't recommend the big malls or big box stores, either. Is it too late to celebrate the new, Ukranian-ruled Alberta by putting off Christmas to January 7?

Monday, December 18, 2006

You're either with us, or you're with the Visitors

Dave Bouchard has been fired from the Saint John (NB) Seadogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for not signing a Canadian flag for the troops in Afghanistan. He claims it was a mistake, though perhaps he doesn't believe in the justice of this war, war in general, or the desecration of flags. Who knows or cares? He's a left wing (insert joke here), not the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Oh, well - I'm sure Don Cherry will approve.

Hit the road, hippie!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Now the game is afoot!

It's too early to say anything for certain, of course, but I have to say that leaving one-time Liberal Gene Zwozdesky and famously moderate Gary Mar off the front benches of the government today suggests Premier Stelmach might just be steering a course for the provincial Tories rightward.

On the other hand, politically, Ted Morton had to get a cabinet post, and perhaps his placement in Sustainable Resource Development will render him relatively harmless, unless he decides that the best way to deal with the mountain pine beetle is with some sort of firewall.

Nonetheless, it isn't a cabinet that inspires any confidence in me.

(Also: Oberg? Finance? Talk about pulling his political life out of the fire with the quick Stelmach endorsement during the runoff week - I figured he was headed to the back bench to stay after his campaign of bizarre accusations.)
Another Criminal Mastermind

Forget the much-sweated-over fake "Dumb Criminal" sketch on the Studio 60 show-within-a-show. In this marginally interesting story about police using YouTube to help them find suspects comes this paragraph:
Another YouTube video posted in July depicts a person trying to break into a surveillance camera store in California. The video, recorded and posted by the store's owner, allowed police to nab a suspect wanted for auto theft, burglary and bank robbery.
First, how dumb to you have to be to break into a surveillance camera store undisguised? "It's the perfect plan, so long as they don't have some sort of device to capture my image." But actually, it's even less perfect than that. Who's going to buy a security device out of the trunk of a car? It's not exactly an advertisement for the effectiveness thereof, is it?

I'm guessing they don't have any sort of entrance exam for the Robbery Guild, or Thief Union, or whatever it is.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lucky thirteen

Welcome aboard, Premier Stelmach. You've inherited a divided caucus, an economy that can't help but slow, and a party that by its own admission lacks direction.

On the bright side, you seem to be likable enough, the economic slowing that is bound to come shouldn't be along too soon (barring some radical and external force), and the federal government doesn't seem to be of a mind to constrain the provinces from doing pretty much what they want. So there's opportuinity there, too.

You have my sincere wish for all the best in governing Alberta well, right up until the next election and the surprise NDP sweep to power.

Ralph, thanks for fourteen years of public service. Enjoy your retirement - you must have some grandkids by now, right? They'll appreciate seing more of you, I'm sure.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Help me

Some pundits think the federal election will come fast, before Dion has a chance to settle in to the new job. I'm not sure I agree, but just in case, please keep your eyes open for bad Dion headshots for use in the next Gaffeometer - links or shots can be e-mailed via the address to your left.

(Note the new address - I have finally surrendered the old one to spam. Here's hoping for another spam free year before I have to move on again.)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bedtime, and still no Premier

But it seems pretty damn close. After the second, week-delayed ballot, Stelmach has a marginal lead, but people who picked Morton first aren't headed to Dinning. Ballot number three is going to go to Stelmach huge.

I won't, however, change my prediction about his future. He has nearly zero charisma. Judging from the debate, policy is a little thin as well. I heard one cabinet minister suggest they were going to wait at least a year for an election, without saying "to give this guy a little seasoning." But I get the feeling Mr. Stelmach's going to require a whole spice rack.

I'm sure we'll hear more tomorrow. Sleep well, Alberta - not sure what kind of Alberta you'll be waking up to. Does anyone know?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

And on a completely different sort of broadcast

Sadly, the best broadcast of the evening election for Premier of Alberta seems to be CTV's two minutes per fifteen. Stelmach is running second behind Dinning, and CTV seems to believe that this spells trouble for Dinning. Alternatively, if Morton can get to second, Dinning should win.

Dinning - 30100, Stelmach - 25500, Morton - 21800.

But the big loser is me, who has to put up with Whistler during the other 48 minutes this hour. I don't watch a ton of television, so I had no idea what a sad excuse for programming it is. Also, the women on it need a ham sandwich, stat - I think they might actually be starving. But at least part of my point is, after the Newsworld examination of all of the minutae of the Liberal convention, this seems a disappointing degree of coverage. I need my fix!
Oh, oh

Bob Rae, my prediction to win, doesn't even have his name on the final ballot. Could I have missed badly with the Tories as well? Congratulations, F.L. Ted! You scare the crap out of me!

"Paul" a commenter at Calgary Grit, breaks it down thusly:
I'm interested in the mood among Kennedy and Dryden voters: if they split +50 to Iggy, +400 to Rae (including many of Dryden's), and +550 to Dion, we could get a three-way tie (give or take a few ballots).
This ain't over.
Political crack cocaine

Anyone who, like me, grooves on the politics is enjoying a big day today - a Premier and a federal leader of the opposition all at once!

I write this two ballots into the Liberal convention, and Warren Kinsella has picked it for Dion. I begin to think he's right, despite yesterday's prediction.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The end of one member one vote leadership contests?

Two signs that one member, one vote leadership elections might finally start being seen for the folly it is:

The Liberals have voted to reject it.

People in Alberta are treating the Tory leadership vote like a general election with a cover charge. Liberals are apparently buying memberships and voting with wild abandon for Dinning (though Wild Abandon voted for Morton in an advance poll). Will Tories be satisfied with the final result? Even Klein was elected leader with one member, one vote pro-rated by constituency. That's got to be an improvement, since that's how you eventually have to get your guy made Premier - one constituency, one vote.
Interesting elsewhereness

Warren Kinsella notes that many elected delegates didn't make it to Montreal due to weather, and others are "bumping up" into those spots. Are those delegates first-ballot committed to the selections the people they fill in for would have been? Once home from work, I'll write Warren and ask. Who knows if he knows.
(Update - 4 pm MST: via Kinsella again, MacLean's explains more. This will in fact change the first ballot counts.

The Alberta Spectator argues that Ted Morton is a seperatist. I think that's too strong. Rather, I think he'll be looking for an "Albertans are a Nation" resolution, and that'll satisfy him.

You know, people don't give me enough credit for having my finger on the pulse. Perhaps what I need is a Stephen Colbert-style celebration complete with "I called it" graphic once in a while, when I, er, call it. Here I go sticking my neck out once more.

Provincially, I think those who are worried about the Morton revolution should relax - Dinning will take this by default, probably requiring two ballots. Notwithstanding the ousted candidate endorsements, the value of which I think is not what it would be in a single room with twenty minutes between ballots (as Liberals will discover in Montreal), Stelmach has done nothing this week to pull himself out of third place. As I said last night, I suspect that virtually none Stelmach's ballots are going to list Ted Morton as the second choice.

In advance of the speeches tonight at the federal convention, I think it's tough to be certain about much in Montreal, but that never stopped me before. I wish Dion or Kennedy had enough to come up the middle, because I think both of them have proven themselves ardent federalists (Kennedy in the past weeks, Dion over a proud career) but I fear they don't. I think Iggy's carrying way too much baggage to swim far after the first ballot - the Quebec as a Nation debate this country has stupidly involved itself in again is the freshest and heaviest of these albatrosses (albatrossi?) no matter how much he attempts to pretend the resolution early this week was a 'proud' moment. (If he brings it up tonight with almost any emotion except contrition, he's going to be that much worse off. Alternatively, he might try to spin it once more, but where's the evidence that anyone on Ignatief's campaign team understands the fundamentals of spin?)

This leaves Bob Rae, whose baggage comes from a term as Premier of Ontario. I argued then, and continue to argue, that he got stuck with a shrinking economy and serious government financial problems that derailed his early attempts to do anything but stop the bleeding, and by the time he got things back on the rails, the media was having so much fun piling on that the book on Rae's government was already written. I liked Bob - as a moderate NDP who found himself in conflict with his own civil service unions, he never forgot that his first duty was to the people, and to the financial well-being, of the government he led. A left wing government who gives labour the tools to fight on a reasonable footing has done enough - it isn't the government's job to give away the farm to the people who work for it.

I digress, which I tend to do. My point is that Bob Rae will win unless he completely stinks it up tonight, possibly at least in part because he's carrying less trouble with him than Iggy. And if Bob does bomb, it might just open the door for Dion, which would be just fine by me. Despite Iggy's running first right now, I don't know how much growth Ignatief can expect on subsequent ballots against almost any of his seven opponents.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Debate watch

Ted Morton mentions of "Ottawa" in opening comments: two.

Oh, Good Lord. Ads? "Thanks for tuning in to this important debate. But first, here's some products you might enjoy."

Morton: "Rebalance federalism". Translation: devolution of power. No wonder he was all for Quebec as a nation. One more "Ottawa" mention.

Stelmach's been taking hand-gesture lessons. Possibly from Raj Pannu, c. his first election as leader.

Dinning has twice said "stand-up, proud Canadian." So far, I think he's playing the right game.

More ads? This is quickly starting to look like Politically Incorrect with Bill Mahar. Except this is funnier.

Calgary Herald reporter Tom Olson needs a haircut.

Jim, I don't think your time with the CHRA is a selling point.

Morton: "The [health care] system has to be broken." I think what he means is the monopoly, but that wasn't the best line ever. Dinning has very eloquently summed up the zero sum game that private health care is. Another five minutes on the topic would have been nice, but we have some crap to sell. Thanks, Sears. A gift card sounds nice. When did the Brick stop yelling at me? Oh, a Subway gift card! I think that time could have been better used.

Ten Morton, and Bill 208. "Toleration will flow in both directions" Toleration isn't exactly tolerance, but good try. Will Ted tolerate my church performing gay marriages in Alberta? Stelmach played dumb dodgeball with the question - where does he stand on social issues? I have no idea.

I could do without Jim Dinning's shit-eating grin at the end of many of his comments. I suspect it's that smart-ass smugness that's led us to this close race in the first place.

"Alberta is on the verge of greatness"? Whoops to Dinning.

Ted Morton makes an appeal for second-preference votes. I suspect he's not going to be getting many of those - lots of firsts, and lots of none. Then again, Stelmach hasn't been impressive this evening, and that might have been the first serious look that a lot of voters have had of him.

Well, that was brief, but moderately enlightening. Not in terms of policy, which got too-quick a brush, but in terms of flavour. Not being a Tory myself, I haven't had a lot of exposure to these guys. Now, I have stronger impressions:

Dinning: Paul Martin. Wants to be Premier because he feels like it's his turn, would shift the party to the centre, and will spend a lot of time fighting with his own divided caucus. I'd like him okay, but I'm not voting Tory.
Stelmach: Don Getty. No charisma, no ideas, and coming on the heels of someone like Ralph Klein, no future.
Morton: Stockwell Day. Even in Alberta, with our theoretically generous media, he will get eaten alive, and I'll enjoy every minute of it.

I'm starting to think my old rival Lyle Oberg might not have been a bad choice after all. The Tories look absolutely screwed to me with any one of these guys.
Debate night

With the federal Liberal convention going on, the Alberta race for the Premier's chair may not be getting the attention it deserves - you owe it to yourself to watch the debate to begin in less than an hour on Global. And here's a little game to play, of which I'll explain more later. Every time Ted Morton says "Ottawa", replace it in your head with the word "Canada". A clear picture of what Ted Morton is all about should emerge.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Let's Make a Deal

There were a lot of old-timey Reformers, the sort that in the past stood against Meech and Charlottetown because they didn't want any special status for Quebec, who stood this week to recognize Quebecois as a "nation". Is this debate the pro quo to pay off that quid?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ted Morton, bad for Alberta in the short term, great for Alberta in the long term

Why do I think Ted Morton would be so great for Alberta in the long term? Because, as I kept trying to argue to other New Democrats at the convention a couple of weeks ago, he represents the end of the long Tory rule in this province. And it turns out that moderate and smart long-time provincial cabinet minister Gary Mar agrees:
Cabinet minister Gary Mar has said he will not run for re-election if Morton wins, as he believes the party's 35-year reign over Alberta would end.

"If we went to a general election with premier Ted Morton we would fail to form a government in the next general election."
There's something that the NDP forgets, that the rest of the country forgets, but it's something that Albertans need to remember. We've only replaced our provincial government three times, and one pattern has been consistent throughout: our governments spend decades and multiple leaders in a slow drift to the right, and we throw the bums out with a radical shift to the left. When we elected the UFA in 1912, it was a precursor to the CCF. By the time we replaced them in 1936, they had drifted rightward, and William Aberhart and the Socreds were offering what amounted to a guaranteed income to help get us out of the depression. The Socreds remained until 1971, by which time items such as eugenics legislation still on the books had become an embarrassment to the people of this province. The Tories under Lougheed seemed young, energetic, and far more moderate.

Up until now, this pattern took three Premiers per party. Ralph Klein avoided repeating the pattern by radically changing the Tory party he inherited, and despite a general sense that he's a right-winger, the fact is that he nipped several socially right-swinging efforts from his own caucus in the bud. In his first few years, he resisted pressure to use the notwithstanding clause to undermine the Vriend decision ("reading in" protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual preference into Individual Rights Protection Act), and he stepped hard on an effort to de-list abortion as a provincially health-insured procedure. While cutting budgets severely in those early years, his wasn't an effort to, as the American Republicans like to talk about, shrink government until it's so small that it can be conveniently drowned in the bathtub. Instead, he was simply trying to get the books in order. I think there were many better, less painful, and possibly even braver paths to that goal, but I can't fault the intent, or dismissively label it "right-wing". An NDP government in Saskatchewan was making the very same hard choices at the very same time, for instance.

I digress quite a distance. My point is if the phone-in show denizens that constitute his base continue to rally and get Ted Morton elected Premier, then Albertans, despite having a reputation for radical redneckery, will reject the Tories, perhaps dumping them in the same trashbin that the Liberals, UFA, and Socreds already occupy, to not ever return.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sing along with the Tories

Competing with Ted Morton and Jim Dinning is apparently a difficult business, but Victor Doerkson is managing the trick maintaining the illusion.

It seems Dinning and Morton both have had songs written for their campaigns. Doerkson has fired back with a song written for, as Arrested Development fans everywhere know, George Oscar "GOB" Bluth.

I can't find Dinning's song, but Morton's song is here. Catchy, if you like the twangy music. And The Final Countdown, used as atmospheric music to some very bad magic, can be found here.

Here's a tip, Vic: if you're already running way behind, it's a bad idea to imply that your canpaign might actually be a joke.

Update, Sunday evening: The Calgary Grit found Dinning's song. Now having heard both, I'm giving Morton the edge in tunage. Oh, yeah - and in batshit craziness.
Words you won't hear in Edmonton this week:

But at least it's a dry heat.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Another great tradition

Another thing longtime readers know about me is I don't get too excited about hockey. Curling's my winter spectator sport. But for the summer, Canadian football all the way.

So, as much as it hurt me to watch my Stampeders go down in flames in the Western semi-final, I was glad to see a team as skilled and dominant as the BC Lions convert their success into a Grey Cup, even if they did manage to break the damn thing. Go stop by the Bear 604 Show, and offer the Bear your congratulations... I'm sure he's estatic.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

As longtime readers know, I don't normally attempt to find the words today - rather, I feel that today calls for respectful silence. But one thing needs to be said this time around:

Showing respect for our veterans and war dead is unrelated to the debate on our current war involvement. While I happen to think we're fighting the right fight right now, I also know there are thousands of Canadians who disagree with the best will. That debate, I'll save for another day.

When I was a kid, there were three wars whose dead were listed on the cenotaphs and memorial books. The Boer War was Canada's early effort to support British expansionism in Africa. Do I respect Canada's involvement in that war? No. Do I respect those Canadians who took up arms in what they no doubt felt was defense of an empire to which they owed allegiance? Unreservedly.

I encourage Canadians to pay your respects today. Debate Afghanistan tomorrow.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Democracy Watch

The American government has certainly been talking up democracy over the weekend.

First, they've been promoting the sentencing in the Saddam Hussein trial as a victory for democracy:
"Saddam Hussein's trial is a milestone in the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law," Bush told reporters before leaving Texas for campaign stops here and in Topeka, Kan. "It's a major achievement for Iraq's young democracy and its constitutional government."
Because, in fact, in Texas, nothing says "democracy" like a series of executions. Hope they got the right guy!

Meantime, in an actual democratic process, Nicarauguans are on the verge of electing (or have already?) Daniel Ortega to the Presidency. Naturally, something dirty must be going on:
The U.S. Embassy said it was too soon to "make an overall judgment on the fairness and transparency of the process."

"We are receiving reports of some anomalies in the electoral process," including polling stations that opened late and closed early, the embassy said.
Meantime, election observers from anywhere else in the world believe the process has been fair.

So, to sum up, the calculus of the Bush White House is:
Results we like = democracy
Results we don't like = not a democracy
It will be interesting to see if that calculus holds up on Tuesday. It'll also be interesting to see if variance from polls to election day are any different in Diebold states than in non-Diebold states. A government that believes favourable results are the same thing as a democracy is a government toward which suspicion can only be healthy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Two-point conversion

For the taxation change to income trusts, Jim Flaherty earned two solid points in my book.

First, that he did it at all was a solid point. That's a billion dollars in tax revenue that the government was losing to generally wealthier Canadians (certainly, wealthy enough to have the advice of lawyers and accountants) who least need tax breaks. Don't let an opposition parade of impoverished seniors who lost value on their income trusts today fool you. There's much more this federal government could do for seniors with a billion dollars a year than this tax loophole was doing for those seniors.

Second, and nearly as importantly, the change came silently and while the markets were closed, thereby earning some mad props from this page. After the random leaky/guessy nonsense in the leadup to the last rumoured change to income trusts, it's refreshing to see a Minister of Finance who knows how to make changes to tax laws like this with the speed and guile of a thief in the night. That's some serious Ministerin' of Finances, right there.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Elsewhere, but some here, too

Ian Welsh has posted a good piece on the Conservatives attempt to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. However, I don't think he's looking deeply enough. He sees transnational corporations wanting to grow wheat and barley, but while farms are getting bigger, transnationals have no interest in operating them. Employees have to be paid, whereas farmers work for damn near nothing.

The farms that want to see an end to the wheat board aren't transnationals, but they definitely no longer can qualify as "family farms" either - farm operations several sections large that benefit from the economy of scale that allows them to put machinery on their fields that qualify less as "tractor" and more as "industrial equipment." Those are the farmers that think they'll gain the same scale advantage moving their product without interference from the CWB.

To be sure, the CWB is not operating as well as it could, it having been designed for a different time. It's long overdue for an overhaul, something it's already starting to do for itself. But dismantling it is (to use a hoary old metaphor) tossing the baby with the bathwater. Toss it out, and in half a decade the same big farms will decide they need a marketing board again. That sort of cleansing fire could be a very good thing, except that NAFTA and the WTO, which grandfather the CWB, aren't going to be as friendly to a new marketing board.

If the Tories take apart the CWB, it's the end of the wheat business for small farms, but then again, small farms have been moving slowly away from wheat and barley for years, because the financial yield is too low. Five years forward from the dismantling, it'll also be the end of the Tories in rural western Canada, when the farms and small communities forget their own complicity in the CWB's destruction, and the end of the CWB replaces the birth of the NEP (something else Albertans have conveniently forgotten their complicity in) as the Great Betrayal.

Edited to add: I only wish the Western Producer wouldn't hide so much of its good content behind a subscription barrier. Pragmatic, left-leaning, and with deep roots in rural western Canada - who does that remind me of? Hmmmm.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More elsewhere

I've started in on my cleanup of this page. There's a whole bunch of staledated blogs over there on the left that will be leaving soon, and to the right, you'll notice I added a new member of the "must read" club. Macleans has realized that although the ideas of Liberal speechwriter Scott Feschuk got their asses kicked in the last election, the comedy of Mr. Feschuk, delivered in blog form, was huge. They've decided to translate that to a daily news page. There's some plug in for IE for the audio version that freaks my IE out, but it works just fine in other browsers.
In entertainment news (of a sort), Mike Bullard has signed a one-year contract to host a weekday morning talk show on XM satellite radio. The former TV personality says he will apply a sharp wit to comedy routines and segments with guests. Bullard did not saying whose sharp wit he'll be borrowing.
Go. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


The Calgary Grit has begun a review of the leadership candidates for the Alberta Tories. At the NDP convention this weekend, I seemed to be the only one who believed that F. L. "Ted" Morton is a serious playa, for his resonance with the hard social right, "More Alberta, Less Ottawa" crowd. There's more of those in the Alberta Tories than some pundits would have you believe. I'm looking forward to seeing what CG will have to say on the matter.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Revision Thing

I've just been watching The War of Words: The Story of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists (and for those of you who haven't yet watched it, go. Go now.). It got me to thinking about my own previous blogging, and the stands I took at various times. I'm particularly proud that I was willing to stand by my faith that the UN inspectors didn't find any WMD in Iraq pre-war because there were none to be found, and declared that as early as February 10, 2003. At the same time, I'm sure a more thorough search would find contentions I'm less proud of. I'm willing to change my mind in the face of new evidence or cogent arguments.

The point is that I'm happy to allow my work to remain on the record, if not to continue to hold every opinion I've ever expressed. To the left, you can find links to every word I've posted here, although changes to how I manage comments mean those will disappear from time to time. The reason I make this declaration now is that, as I developed this post, my search for things I might be less proud of reminded me that I've recieved criticism in the past, and I thought those criticisms might lead me to some sort of post I was less than proud of now.

Instead, what they led me to was Brock! On the Attack!'s archives, in particular, his post of February 29, 2004, where I was hoping to find some link to some post I might no longer stand by. Instead, I was reminded that the post contained some vauge ad hominem attacks and no substance.

Can't find it? It's because he dropped the post! Everything else still seems to be there, but for some reason, that post is gone. Fortunately, The Wayback Machine archives these things, so it can still be read. I don't know why he dropped it. But it raises an interesting question, to me, anyway. Do other bloggers regularly edit their archives to reflect their opinions in the here and now, the way the United States Administration keeps moving the target on reasons for war in Iraq? Is it wrong to do so? I'd be interested to hear from other bloggers on this.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Guess who hasn't been getting laid for a while?

Seeing as I'm the host of the Gaffe-o-Meter, it seems I should comment, so here you go:

Watching all the furor over Peter MacKay's comments during an exchange of heckling in the House, I'm trying to figure out who's being stupider over it all. Is it MacKay himself, who, although he got in a "good one", should have the political instincts to know when a "good one" will create a shitstorm? Is it the Liberals, and particularly Stronach herself, who looks at best disingenuous in trying to make MacKay's "good one" out to be some sort of example of the Tories' alleged general misogyny? Or is it the media, who are eating all of this up with a spoon, at the expense of the Tories nonsensical legislation?

Frankly, I barely blame MacKay at all, except in his actions since. The initial comment was neither premeditated nor just an angry rant. McKay was having some fun at his ex-girlfriend's expense. As friends of mine know, I have a lot of sympathy toward that. My only complaint is about his denial that he said it. Instead, he should have thrown a press conference: "Yes, I said it. I was implying that my ex-girlfriend is a bitch. It seemed funny at the time, and still kinda does. I'll leave Canadians to judge both those issues. However, here are some of the things I've done on behalf of Canadian and more recently Afghani women, most of whom are not power-hungry opportunists..... . Finally, a personal message to Tie Domi. Get away while you still can."

(Hmmm... power-hungry opportunists. He certainly has a type.)

I have some beef with the Liberals who should have just recognized a "good one" and moved on. They're now the ones who have shifted the focus away from the Clean Air legislation, when Canadians should be thinking very hard about that legislation and what it doesn't do. Stronach herself I blame a little less, because she was painted into a corner by her colleagues who made an issue of it. It doesn't really leave her in a position to say "I'm sad he's still hurting, because I'll always have a place in my heart for him. But Tie 'n' me, we got something really special....." Or, you know, whatever it is ex-girlfriends say in these circumstances. Still, she might have gotten away with "I think that caucus is a bad influence on Peter. I know he's not a misogynist, because I don't sleep with misogynists, but it's sad that he thinks he has to say things like that just to impress his new friends from the old Alliance party....." and then start naming names and examples.

Finally, the media. How can I blame them? "He said, she said" is so much easier to cover than a complex environmental issue, and it sells more papers.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What I did on my summer vacation

Let's see. I played some cards, I got closer to nature, I got some exercise, I asked my former employer to justify not coming up with any vacation pay, and I made several trips to Canadian Tire in a so-far failed attempt to get my bicycle repaired. I drank some coffee and some beer.

Oh, yeah - I searched for work. If you have any interest in a writer with technical and customer support experience (software moreso than hardware, but I'm adaptable), let me know, and I'll happily forward my resume along. Though I'd love to stay in Edmonton, I'm open to moving almost anywhere. Almost. I'd be very happy to end up in Regina.

Anyway, I'm back, and ready to write. Watch this page for, well, for the sort of nonsense I've been producing since 2002.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Hey! I still have keys...

Until Don checks back in, check out all-new episodes of The bear604 Show:

This week:
Vancouver's super-homeless
Survivor plays the race card
The best McDonald's toy ever
Seattle can't bottle its fortified whine.
Admission to The bear604 Show includes a free trip onboard Walnut Boat!

Friday, June 09, 2006


I was going to write something about the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, probably relating to the number of days it's been since George Bush promised to capture Osama bin Laden, "Dead or alive" (1435), and how Zarqawi wouldn't have ever been anyone if the United States government had just kept their eye on the ball in the first place instead of following the nocturnal emissions of the PNAC crowd and heading off into their Iraq misadventure. I was going to mention that the United States seems to want to build up individual enemies so that they can claim victories, and yet they're pretty much through the whole post-invasion "deck", and shit keeps exploding, so maybe there's more to winning the hearts and minds than just picking off the leadership.

I was going to point all of that out, but there are other, more interesting distractions, so I won't.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

It's almost like an ad. Wait - it IS an ad.

So, as of yesterday, I'm back to being a free agent. I took my last phone call, and with any luck will never work in a phone centre again. With any luck, this will mean some regular posting here. It also means I need to generate some income some other way. One of those avenues will be returning to my life as card sharp.

I thought of posting this little ad over at Bullets, but Rod might want to, and Stars may be nit-pickey about dual entries from the same blog. So what the heck - it's not like I've been doing much with this site lately.

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker!

This Online Poker Tournament is a No Limit Texas Holdem event exclusive to Bloggers.

Registration code: 1074823

I'll let you know how it goes. Perhaps I'll win enough to give the children in my life some money, so they can follow their dreams of passing it along to Joe Volpe.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

What the hell is wrong with Edmonton?

I lived in Calgary two years ago, when the Calgary Flames went on their amazing trip through the Stanley Cup playoffs. Win after win, and at a certain point even after losses, 17th Avenue SW would fill with celebrants. One notable feature of that party? It was always peaceful, right to the end. The police were there, but never did a riot break out.

Now I live in Edmonton, where the local hockey team is performing above expectations, and well above results from recent years. Like the Flames two years ago, it's exciting for a city long-denied a contending hockey team. (One might argue that after five cups in seven years, fairness dictates that they have some bench time. I'll let people who give a crap about hockey make that argument.) So why can't this city celebrate the team without, you know, stabbings and riot cops?

Perhaps as residents of a labour city, Edmontonians are more used to confronting cops. Or from the other side of the calculation, perhaps the police are more ready to break out the riot gear, putting the screws to people simply for being out and about, perhaps drunk, perhaps disorderly.

Frankly, I don't much care. Either way, my dislike for living in Edmonton has been brought into stark relief. Which is all by way of saying, if anyone wanted to offer me an escape hatch in the form of a job anywhere else, I would have to consider it very seriously.

(Then again, another job right here in Edmonton which involved working normal business hours might provide me with a greater sense of perspective as well. Either way, I might be able to find the time and energy to start writing more regularly again.)

Monday, May 01, 2006

What's cool on the web this week, Don?

That seems to be the current theme of this blog. Oh, well - I'm going to go with it.

Saturday night was the White House correspondents' Dinner, when the President of the United States traditionally participates in a roast. There was much media coverage of the President's use of a Bush imitator to do a bit which was, in fairness, pretty funny.

But the less-covered highlight of the night is available on video here: Steven Colbert, former correspondent for the Daily Show and current host of The Colbert Report, delivered the final roast of the night and didn't pull punches. That's quite a trick, I'm sure, when you're two chairs down from the man you're punching.
He doesn't just stand for things, he's stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.
Not a bad night for Colbert, who also hosted Saturday Night Live - albeit not live, since he hosted in cartoon form as Ace, one half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo. Even still, that has to be a first.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Kingdom of Steel: Uh, Sudbury?

A young man in Red Deer is thankful he survived being hit by a train - a train he didn't notice because he had the heavy metal on his headphones turned up way too loud. While his survival disqualifies him for a Darwin award, by his own words he seems deperate to qualify:
It was just instant. I was just walking and then I was on the ground. I wasn't sure what happened. Then I saw the train stopping up ahead. I thought, 'Holy crap, dude, you just got hit by a train.'
Because "Dude" is how I think of myself as well.
Maybe the metal gods above were smiling on me and they didn't want one of their true warriors to die on them. Otherwise, I'd be up there in the Kingdom of Steel.
Where he would be joined in the band by Dimebag and Rick Allen's left arm.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Another monkey wrench in the New World Order

GM, in association with NBC......

There can't be good news at the end of that sentence, can there? Strangely enough.

GM, in association with NBC's The Apprentice, are holding a contest to produce web ads promoting an SUV. Fortunately, creative people have undermined the entire point, producing ads about global warming (among so many other things).

I won't reproduce the entire list here - this guy is keeping up better than I could. I'll just note two of my favourites:

Notice what's missing?

There are also many, many more here, and here.

Edited to ad(d): Okay, this one's pretty good too. And this one. They're like peanuts!

Edited a final time, I promise, Thursday evening: The ads have moved on from the obvious environmental themes, and have gotten increasingly derivative. Manufacturing layoffs, NSA spying, and overweight children have joined the themes, and some are just clever without a point.

Monday, April 03, 2006


I don't know what Ralph Klein's magic number was, but I guarantee it was higher than 55%. It's an inauspicious end to a remarkable political career, and it's too bad. It's too bad for Klein, who surely wanted more dignity in his exit from a long political life that was remarkably successful, despite his lengthy collection of inauspicious moments. It's too bad for the Tories, who are going to be extremely hard-pressed to heal from this vote, or to find a leader with the political chops to dance the way Klein could, high-stepping around enormously contentious issues while leading a caucus divided (nearly equally, in the early years) between fiscal and social conservatives. And it's too bad for the province, at least in the short term, because none of the serious leadership prospects look to be taking the Tories to the left.

That probably sounds a little odd, thinking of Klein as leading his party from the left. The fact is, when the Premier arrived on the scene, he was coming from the right of his party - not all the way right, but far enough. There was still enough of the leftover modernizing spirit of Lougheed (who, Conservative though he may have been, took over against a very conservative old SoCred party. Lougheed's first act as Premier was to repeal Alberta's longstanding eugenics legislation. It's all relative in Alberta politics.) to keep the party balanced. Now, we're left with Jim Dinning as the great hope for the centre. Jim Dinning! Maybe Gary Mar, though he's had his moments. But most of the rest of the caucus looks suspiciously more like Steve West.

But here's the good news, at least from my perspective. As Don Martin points out today in the Post, neither Caesar's nor Chretien's assassins fared very well. This looks like a Conservative Party on the verge of tearing itself apart. Bear asked earlier today why the media hasn't been filled with quotes from the leaders of the major opposition parties. My guess is, they're both lying low, writing speeches filled with kind words for their long-time nemesis, using terms that will stand in stark contrast to the Brutuses and Cassiuses waiting in the wings. Mark Anthony know what he was about. As for myself, I just hope I can take a third shot at Strathmore-Brooks. I have a feeling Lyle Oberg's support might be taking a beating over the next few weeks and months.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Budget day

First of all, woo-hoo! My ftp server is back up and running. Sorry for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks - my host had some trouble moving me over. If you got rerouted to a strange page of some grandmotherly-looking lady selling crafts (oh, how I wish I'd bookmarked it!), you saw some of the move. But I'm back.

On to the budget. I haven't had a ton of time to look over the details, but it's nice to see some spending. Further, it's very nice to see contributions to the HSTF, after not growing it in real dollar terms for over a decade. The future is not about burning fossil fuel, and it'll be nice to have some money in the bank when the future arrives. Remember the bumper stickers from the early 90's? "Please, God, give us another oil boom. I promise I won't screw it away this time." This is the government, not screwing it away.

The bad side of the coin is the continued charging of health premiums. I'll continue to wait for the single most effective potential tax cut to arrive. Could the Premier be saving it as a gift to Tory leader #4?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

And you thought Lazy Sunday was funny

Saturday Night Live has been having a good run with their digital shorts, but the latest entry? All I can say is sweet Mother of God, and all Her wacky nephews. Now Natalie Portman is getting the Oscar for sure.

Edited Sunday to add....

Re-edited Monday to remove the embedded video, now that YouTube has lifted the film. The link will be updated once a new one is found.

Final update: NBC has the video up there - the link is fixed. For those of you who've missed it, time to check it out. And while you're surfing, check out the people responsible.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Sorry I haven't been posting. Besides working a soul-killing overnight shift for the past nine weeks, I've had two curling tournaments to watch, and to a lesser extent, rims to roll up. Posts, including a winner in the Gaffe-O-Meter, continue to be forthcoming. Day (well, evening, but still) shifts starting soon!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Is something rotten in the state of Denmark?

Why, yes. Turns out, the Queen is shlepping her brother-in-law! In fact, they've gotten married, very shortly after the death of her husband, his brother! The funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables!

I've discovered two things in the last week about Denmark. First, my headline here has gone from little-heard once-popular phrase to the first overused words of 2006. Unless we're discussing Shakespeare's single play record for speaking-part casualties, I don't want to hear it.

Second, it seems like a nice enough little place (though perhaps not a place I'd kill my brother to be the king of), but it sure is sad to see an otherwise reasonable-seeming government held over the barrel by a crazy minority right-wing party. If ever there was a more eloquent illustration of proportional representation coming with its own problems, I don't know of it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Yeah, I haven't figured out the final winner of the Gaffe prediction contest yet. Everybody's always ridin' me! In the next day or so we'll all know who gets to earmark my $20 in the next election, likely coming in - what'da figure, 2007? Might be worth another pool right there. Would it be wrong to play "guess the date of the next election" before Steven Harper's even had a chance to put his hand on a Bible?

Another winner was Andre Arthur, centerpiece of an appeal to deny CHOI-FM their broadcast licence renewal. An independent MP needs a very balanced house in at least one configuration to become a power player - otherwise, he's cooling his heels, getting a little committee work and begging for a chance to ask something during QP. M. Arthur luck in this matter is in no way dimished by the fact that he appears, on the surface at least, to be batshit crazy. But perhaps that's just the guy he plays on the radio. I wonder if he can come out of character long enough to sound reasonable in the House when it comes time to send the Tories packing and make a winner of someone in the RevMod next election date pool?

Monday, January 23, 2006

What happened in BC?

While the Tories did better than they ever dreamed in PQ, they dropped something in the range of six seats in BC. What happened?

I have to think that British Columbians figured out how to actually strategicly vote. They didn't run scared to the Liberals in Tory/NDP races; instead, they organized around candidates who could actually win. The NDP vote went up nationally, but only marginally - but in close races, the New Democrat often pulled through.

The loss of Tory seats in BC is a victory for smart tactical voting. Another reason for me to be pleased, tonight.
What happened in Quebec?

On the CBC, at least, they've stopped talking about What It All Means (just in time for the collapse of the Tory/NDP majority - they're down to 151), and have started talking to candidates. I suspect the war rooms have started sending out the schedules or concession/victory speeches. There's one question that was talked around, but not particularly directly addressed.

What happened to the Bloc?

I think the vote tonight proves that the Bloc's early polling numbers had far more to do with distaste toward the Liberals than it did toward any overwhelming seperatist sentiment (at least, not moreso than usual). Give Quebecois another option, as Stephen Harper managed to do this election, and they're happy to walk away from the Bloc.

This is good news for a second reason, beyond the obvious: you can't have a caucus of Myron Thompsons and Rob Anderseses...es.... er....

... a caucus that contains nothing but people like Myron and Rob would have been far more disconcerting than one where the room is shared by members who know that social conservatism is electoral death. You can't be talking up restricting abortion or gay marriage and expect Quebec to give you a second chance.

Now if only a seat or two would flip so the new government won't need to court the BQ at all.
Even more math

Tory + NDP = 150

Liberal + BQ = 150

Could the Quebec independent talk radio guy hold the balance? Stranger things have happened. But I can't think of when.
More math

With seventeen ridings to report, the Tories in combination with the NDP have 143 seats (leading or blah blah....). I would have no complaints if that number got to 155 total, if it meant the Conservatives don't have to pander to the Bloc. And now that I think about it, with ten seats in Quebec, perhaps Harper will be much less interested in doing so.
Proof they're counting BC now

Hey, look - it's a Green on the board!
Forget the count up

In the elections of my childhood, we always watched the numbers count up to the magic majority number - or would have, if the result wasn't already a foregone conclusion.

Tonight, I'm counting the seats held by parties other than the Tories. I count 154 now. Tory minority.

Hey, Mansbridge agrees! If only I could type faster, I would have beat him.
And they haven't even started counting BC

Fifteen NDP seats as of 7:56. They haven't even started counting in BC. Evidentially, the "lend us your vote" appeal was extremely effective. Jack Layton ran a campaign so much better and smarter than last time around, they might just end up with a comfortable balance of power instead of the razor-thin one they had last time around.
Dear Mansbridge:

Not to break the rules or anything, but the reason everyone's vote was showing as up was because the Bloc vote is still essentially zero - they've only started counting ballots there.
What the hell?

Watching the results coming in, around 7:43. I didn't need the Atlantic catching up, since I was mostly caught up. The surprise for me is the early number-running for the Liberals, mostly I suspect from Ontario. Unexpected.

I wonder how much of it was the same sort of campaign I saw around here - sure, you hate the party, but don't you like your local MP? That was the subtext of Anne's last drop, and I'm guessing it was Ralph Goodale's drop, as well, if he holds on.

(The timestamp is reflective of when I wrote, not when I published. I'm all about the rules.)

If I were to identify a single law that's contributed more to western alienation than any other, it would be the restriction disallowing a live broadcast of results to any part of the country where the polls remain open. When I was growing up, polls closed at 8pm local time, everywhere in the country, and election broadcasts consisted of Lloyd Robertson showing up at 8:01 telling Albertans what government had been elected before a single vote here had been counted. Of course, it was psychological - a seat in Halifax is worth no more than a seat in Vancouver - but it was hard not to feel frustration each time.

Last election, the broadcast ban was lifted, but this year, it's back. And now it's worse: Elections Canada has gotten wise to that "inter-web" thing, and are taking steps to restrict even east coast bloggers, much less broadcasters, from telling Canadians what they're seeing on their televisions right now.

It's not as bad as those previous elections: in absolute terms, the polls from Quebec to Alberta close at the same time. However, there are a whole lot of Atlantic seats already counted sufficiently to produce results, and those results are available to those smart enough to know how to search. I'll give you a hint: cross-border Gomery publication ban scofflaws are a good place to start.

I've always stressed my own law-abidingness. I was mad when the short-term Gomery publication ban was frustrated by bloggers who thought they knew better. In this case, I think the law is shortsighted and stupid. But I'll respect it. Live blogging will begin at 8pm Mountain.
Be the Media

I'm going to respect the intent of Elections Canada restrictions on election day, and won't start posting anything partisan until the polls close somewhere. I may update the score as promised, but any late gaffe catches otherwise will have to wait. Once those polls do close, I'll be blogging my thoughts all the way through election night. It really is my idea of a good time - go figure.

The point being, go vote, and then check back frequently this evening.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I must be getting soft

Look, Peter MacKay has been in Parliament for a while now. I have no doubt that as two of the eleven members from Nova Scotia, he's spoken plenty with Alexa McDonough, and I even expect that as former party leaders, they've probably shared notes on occasion.

So when MacKay told McDonough to "stick to (her) knitting", was it a jab? Of course it was. Was there an intent to demean? Of course. Was it based on gender? No. Did it make Peter MacKay sound like he's about a hundred years old? Yeah, but I find that kind of endearing.

Look, one google search will show you that it's gender-neutral. I've heard it myself, from someone younger than me, and female. I haven't actually heard Alexa complain about the choice of phrase, and I wouldn't expect her to - she's tougher than that, even had she thought it was a covertly sexist dig. Jack Layton's complaining, but he's trying to make political hay where no hay exists. I would have happily scored this one a big fat zero.

Unfortunately, I set precedent five weeks ago - contrition is a gaffe acknowledgement, no matter what I might think about it. If I were MacKay, I would have sent out the following press release:
An Open Letter to the Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada

Dear Mr. Layton Jack:

You could stand to stick to your knitting, as well.

Love, Peter.

p.s.: We'll call you when our majority government needs budget advice. Ha, ha!
But he didn't, and Canadians are poorer for it. Anyway, MacKay apologised, he's clearly a (prom)2, but if you think this is getting more than an ace for significance, your potatoes aren't boiled all the way through. Or whatever they say in Nova Scotia. Two points for the blue team, making a late rally but way too far behind to catch up.

(Yes, I know the scoreboard needs updating. I've just swapped computers, and that's a whole other headache. I owe the Tories three, for a total of eleven.)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Old school

The reputation of Albertans as political dinosaurs is not entirely undeserved. When I was a younger man, I idled a lot of hours in Strathmore coffee shops, overhearing the conversation of one particular group of older (but by no means old) farmers who regularly met. Their conversations followed the same few themes: The Weather, The Price of Cattle/Wheat/Barley, Our Children's Lives, and my personal favourite track, What's Wrong With Canada? The answer to the last overwhelmingly involved changes that mostly took place under the watch of Prime Minister Trudeau: bilingualism, multiculturalism, the end of capital punishment, the beginning of access to safe abortions, and the metric system.

The Reform Party lifted itself off the ground on the strength of these sorts of sentiments, though the party moved on. For a while, it was the Canadian Wheat Board and the Charter, and more recently it's been Kyoto and the gun registry. But there are lots of Albertans for whom the clock has stopped - they've added those other complaints to the ledger, but you can ask them about metric today and they can still build up a head of steam about Eastern Canada conspiracies. From everything I've seen of him as my own MP for many years, Myron Thompson is one of those Albertans.

That's why the only surprise about Thompson's forum performance is that it's getting some national traction. (Sig)1 by (prom)1, unless some tape is produced by the end of the day. Then I'm taking the significance up to two, because if there's audio, you'll hear it, again and again.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What does petty gamesmanship look like?

When Harper spoke about the balances keeping his government in check, he was stressing that no one needs to be afraid of a Tory majority going well beyond the platform.

Claiming that he was threatening to overhaul the process of Supreme Court appointments can only be described as a radical interpretation of the text.

That's all I've got to say about that.
Catch the Buzz

Buzz Hargrove says Stephen Harper's intent to decentralize some power toward the provinces essentially makes him a seperatist. In fact, Quebec voters would be better off voting Bloc, apparently, in order to stop the Tories. I can't claim to understand why voting for explicit seperatists is better than voting for implied seperatists, but such is The Logic That is Buzz™.

Yeah, I'd love to gaffe this. Overstating the danger represented by your political opponents is always a winning strategy in Canada - just check my earlier posts. But which party do I assign it to? Buzz has advocated voting Liberal, albeit in a limited way, but he's also advocated voting NDP in seats where they can win. And now he's advocated voting Bloc. In short, don't vote Tory. Very helpful, but I can hardly score any particular party for it. I could almost claim the Liberals, since Martin was the only leader so far this election dumb enough to share a stage with this particular loose cannon, but that's a stretch. Buzz is a party all on his own.

Instead of gaffe points, I'll instead award Buzz the RevMod Nice Big Cup. Congratulations, Buzz.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Democracy just doesn't work.

Confirming this Kent Brockman truism, Stephen Harper in the Globe and Mail:
"The reality is that we will have, for some time to come, a Liberal Senate, a Liberal civil service -- at least senior levels have been appointed by the Liberals -- and courts that have been appointed by the Liberals," Mr. Harper said.

"So these are obviously checks on the power of a Conservative government."
Am I the only one who finds this declaration a little disconcerting?

This is an argument designed to counteract what I suspect a lot of people are thinking: that a Tory minority will not be able to radically change the country, but a Tory majority may pursue radical changes that go well beyond the moderate and reasoned platform we've heard from Mr. Harper over this campaign.

What's missing from Harper's reassurance here? Well, for one thing, an actual reassurance. He doesn't say "We won't pursue a radical agenda going well beyond our platform." He doesn't say "We're not the old Reform / Canadian Alliance Party, that Canadians rejected election after election." He expects us to instead rely on institutional inertia to prevent Conservatives from ________. And he doesn't spell out what belongs in that blank.

There are two possible (and mutually exclusive) reasons why he doesn't promise moderate, careful government, even if granted a majority. It's possible that he doesn't want to be handcuffed by such a promise if he has the opportunity to make radical changes to the country. Alternatively, he may have no intention of making radical changes, but large swaths of the Conservative core support are expecting those changes. Could Harper say he has no plans to curb the right of gay couples to marry, and still get the whole bunch of old-timey Reformers out on election day?

I don't follow the polls in detail - why ruin the surprise? But it's become apparent to me that Canadians want a Harper government, restrained by a minority. "Minority" isn't on the ballot. Even Harper is being clear here that Canadians aren't comfortable with an unrestrained Tory agenda.

Despite this spin effort, one of the more clever I've seen coming from a surprisingly clever and self-aware spin room, Canadians may very well back away from a Tory majority once again, and like 2004, accidentally end up with another Liberal government as a result.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Two candidates

You know, I'm finding myself more often stumped than not each time I hear of another stupidity coming from the election hustings. Really, do bad ads really qualify for the meter the same way "beer and popcorn" does? Do candidates engaged in shifty shenanigans qualify as "gaffes"? It's time to get back to the gaffe-o-meter roots.

Dictionary.com, which is hardly the OED but will do for our purposes, defines a gaffe as "A public place of entertainment, especially a cheap or disreputable music hall or theater." Hmm.

Okay, there's also this pair of definitions:
A clumsy social error; a faux pas.

A blatant mistake or misjudgment.
So, let's talk about our two British Columbia candidates, one Liberal and one Conservative, who have both become independent candidates, thanks to allegations of very questionable behavior. Our one-time Liberal, David Oliver, is accused of bribing the New Democrat candidate in the riding not to split the vote. The net result is that the Liberal/NDP vote is indeed unlikely to be split in Abbotsford after all. Meantime, the former Conservative candidate, Derek Zeisman, is accused of dodging Canadian taxes (specifically, import duties), which can't look too good in the wake of Harper's debate accusation of the Prime Minister's little canoe concern doing the same thing. I'm sure Mr. Zeisman's Uncle Red is very disappointed in him. (You have to check the picture with the CBC story linked to really enjoy that.)

These weren't "clumsy social errors". These weren't "mistakes," blatant or otherwise. These were people who (again, allegedly - innocent until proven guilty) tried to pull fast ones. A fast one, successful or not, is not a gaffe.

Meantime, had either party tried to avoid the issue, that could be a blatant error, but neither did. Both parties faced the potentially embarrassing situations head-on, and got rid of the candidates as best they could given the timeline. There are no gaffes here. Like the income trust issue, what we have here are issues best settled in a court. No gaffe points.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ah, the ads. Guns in the streets, and what-not.

I'm not going to revisit at length the reasons the ads, the backpedaling, and the threats of violence are gaffes. I mean, c'mon. Straight to the scoring.

The whole party, including the Prime Minister, has been drawn into the discussion of these ads. The Liberals are behind, they needed a huge debate from Martin, and they needed two weeks of spin and policy to follow. Instead, the ads, especially the pulled ad, are the only Liberal story being covered. The ads were a hail mary attempt to turn the election around, and instead, they've given the Tories a shot at a majority. That scares me a little.

Hey, wait! Maybe that was the strategy! Give the Tories a big lead to get a rush of scared voters back to the fold!

Nah. They're just shockingly dimwitted. The (prom) of the entire party - how do you score that? I'm going make it a single calculation: call it "Prime Minister Plus". (Prom)3+1, multiplied by (sig)3. I'm calling the entire adscam (or is that word taken for something else?) twelve points. I'm clearly making this stuff up as I'm going along.
More on the notwithstanding clause.

Bear claims that rather than revoking s. 33, it might be easier simply for parties in power to stack the bench American-style.

I couldn't disagree more - in fact, I think revoking the notwithstanding clause is a sure way to make sure the bench is stacked that way. The existance of s. 33 gives the government an emergency pressure valve - a release. The French-language debate proved that beyond a shadow, with Jack Layton coming out as the defender of a clause that the Liberals accuse the Tories of wanting to use for social conservative purposes.

Remember, s. 33 is hard to use. There's enormous potential political consequences for using it. Further, any law invoking the clause has to be renewed every five years, so no idiocy goes unrevisited. Not every decision by the Supreme court since 1982 has gone the federal government's way, and yet the fed has never used s. 33. The notwithstanding clause is a uniquely Canadian compromise.
Greatest stregic voting guide yet

A tip of the hat to Andrew Spicer, who discovered this extremely useful and interactive guide to planning a tactical vote. It's not quite as perfect as I might hope; it's too ready to declare a close third-place candidate a write-off.

Please take note - if you select Conservative or Liberal and find your riding in the list, as election day gets closer, I can be convinced to trade. Try me - I still await your offers.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Haven't been gaffing

So, here's the thing. I'm not averse to continuing to count gaffes - it's just that the candidates have slowed right down at it. I'm not saying they aren't still making mistakes (some of them huge), but they aren't making the sort of mistakes that have them apologising and feeling stupid. Instead, they're making the sort of mistakes that leave them trying to spin. Can you imagine the Liberals trying to spin Beer and Popcorn? Of course not - all they could do was slap their foreheads, say "D'oh!" (and then grab Reid by the neck with a "Why you little....!"), and move on. That, my friends, is what a gaffe looks like. But backpedaling from a rhetorical turn of phrase to debate the separatist forces on every street corner? Not a gaffe, however dumb it might have been, and however good it allowed Harper to look picking up the gauntlet.

Likewise the nearly-universally panned threat to remove Parliament from the list of legislative bodies allowed to use s. 33. Or the new Liberal attack ads. The Liberals have been making some stupid decisions, but they haven't been making "gaffes", at least not lately.

This brings me to Marc Garneau. He said that Quebec separation is a bad idea.
"I believe there are a lot of sovereigntists who have not worked it through till the end," Garneau said Wednesday. "It's a little bit like the Unites States going into Baghdad. It happened very quickly, but what after that?"
Some people want me to score this. Certainly, it put the backs up on some separatists, and had some Liberals scrambling for political cover. But I fail to understand the math: If "Alberta separation is a good idea" = gaffe, "Quebec separation is a bad idea" shouls not also count as a gaffe. Forget it. Too many times this election someone (from any party) is seen pandering to separatists. I'm on the side of those who speak truth, even hard truth. I'm drawing a line. Saying separation, anywhere, is a bad idea gets a pass from me.

So in short, I really haven't missed anything gaffe-wise. However, I haven't seen Duffy v. Duffy yet, so there's still time.

Edited for word usage. Hey, YOU write these things at three am.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Notwithstanding Question

There was some discussion among the Global 'experts', right before I had to cut the wall-to-wall debate analysis short for my job, about Martin's declaration that he would, "eliminate the notwithstanding clause". Except, and the news stories and spin rooms may be reflecting this, that's not what the Prime Minister said. What he proposed, and he was careful to couch this, was a restriction to keep the federal government from invoking the clause. That would still leave ten governments in this country with the opportunity to apply it to their own legislation.

Who's up for a s. 33 refresher? I remember the fun during the provincial elections I ran in, with angry constituents asking Lyle Oberg why his government hadn't yet used the notwithstanding clause to opt Alberta out of the gun registry. Or something. Now, these are not dumb people. However much my politics and the politics of farmers in rural southern Alberta may not overlap, I give them credit for being generally pretty smart individuals. But talk the subtleties of constitutional issues to the average voter, and they tend to glaze over. Who can blame them? The most extensive discussion of the notwithstanding clause in Alberta was around the recognition of gay marriage (could Alberta avoid it with the use of the notwithstanding clause? The answer, which few politicians admitted but most must have realized, was no). No wonder voters came to the conclusion that s. 33 is a big stick that's used to smack the federal government around.

In the meantime, even though it could, the federal government has never felt the need to invoke s. 33.

What would it take to legislate the change Martin is suggesting? Would the federal government be satisfied with a Parliamentary resolution establishing it will never use s. 33? It would have the same effect in law as the various pieces of legislation enacted by governments banning deficit spending - there'd be a stink overturning it, but a government that wanted to violate the law would only have the additional impediment of revoking it. Conversely, the Liberals could attempt a constitutional amendment, which in this case (affecting the federal government alone) wouldn't require any provincial support
44. Subject to sections 41 and 42, Parliament may exclusively make laws amending the Constitution of Canada in relation to the executive government of Canada or the Senate and House of Commons.
but we return to the same problem we have with the resolution: repealing the amendment would be a simple matter of getting the approval of the House of Commons.

What Paul Martin is talking about is a symbolic act of claiming he likes the Charter better than Stephen Harper. That strategy might even work. But the proposal simply doesn't have any practical effect.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Three quick debate observations, before going to work and spending some time and thought coming to conclusions others will draw more quickly

First, this format was much, much more effective. Direct clash without overtalking worked to define and differentiate the leaders.

Second, Gilles Duceppe is certainly getting the crap kicked out of him tonight. Yay!

Third, does anyone else find it strange that Martin and Harper are the ones invoking Broadbent and Douglas? "Vote for my party, because it believes in the same things the NDP does." Er.....
This week in entertainment news

David Letterman goes to town on Bill O'Reiley. It was nothing like Jon Stewart on Crossfire, but it was fun to watch none the less.

Speaking of Jon Stewart, he'll be hosting this year's Academy Awards. I'll be watching to find out which actors and directors he thinks is bad for America. Can't wait!

(Wondering where my regular posts are? I wanted to leave my vote trade offer front and centre for a few days. Regular posting, including a little discussion of Marc Garneau, now returns. However, if the posts appear to be at strange hours of the day, well, I'm a night shift man now. Ick.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Don's guide to intelligent tactical voting

Regular and long-time readers know I hate talking about polls. Other blogs have the topic well-covered. For me, the further away from the horse race coverage I can stay, the happier I am.

The results of this poll, though, are worth talking about. Jack Layton certainly sat up and took notice of it, judging by his messaging this week on the trail: New Democrats who want the party to do well need to vote NDP. That's certainly true, in places like Windsor and Oshawa, where he's taken that message. But I live in Edmonton Centre. What's a vote for the local NDP candidate going to do? How will it change the results of the election one way or another?

I refuse to feel guilty about casting a tactical vote in Edmonton Centre. Why shouldn't I cast one? The New Democrat is not going to win the riding.

I wrote my original post on tactical voting a few days before the last federal election. It was a much simplified version of what I have here. Basically it consisted of (a) determine which candidates in your riding have a chance to win, and if there's any sort of contest, then (b) select your preference between or among those candidates.

Let's consider those points before moving on to advanced strategic voting for the real political hacks among us.

Which candidates have a chance of winning the riding? There are three-hundred and eight separate elections, all scheduled for January 23. If you're confounded because you can't find Jack Layton on your ballot, strategic voting might not be for you. If you think every candidate has an equal chance, or only think in terms of the national parties' chance of forming a government, strategic voting is also not for you - don't do it.

If you're certain there's only one candidate that has a chance, a guaranteed winner, don't bother with a tactical vote there, either. Give your favourite party a buck and a half, and feel good about the decision.

But what if it's a real race? Take my own riding as an example. Going by previous elections, there are two candidates with a chance: the incumbent Liberal, Anne McClellan, and the Conservative candidate, Laurie Hawn. (Jack Layton hates strategic voting, because casual voters presume this is the race in every English-speaking riding, but in mine, it happens to be true.) Now, part of me wants to vote Liberal, because I really don't care for the social conservatives among the Tories at all, and from the sounds of things, they're just biding their time. And part of me wants to vote Tory because I'd really like to see the Liberal party spend some time on the bench (in the hockey sense, not the "Court of Queen's" sense), which they've more than earned. Then again, it's nice having at least one little island, even of red, in the Alberta sea of Tory blue. In other words, I could see myself voting Liberal or Conservative come election day. What I can't see myself doing, despite knowing, liking, and respecting the local NDP candidate, is spending a ballot on a candidate who I know can't win, when that ballot could be used to tilt the seat one way or the other.

Let's add another level of complexity to the mix: vote trading. It was suggested by one Tory resident of Trinity-Spadina that I might offer my vote to help defeat a Liberal, in exchange for his vote to help defeat Tony Ianno by voting for Olivia Chow. That's an exchange I'd be interested in. Likewise, I could happily move my vote to Regina Qu'Appele, if some Liberal there wanted to help put my man Lorne Nystrom back in the House, while saving the skin of the deputy PM. These are two places off the top of my head where an NDP vote is a strategic choice, and one of the two potential governing parties is a wasted vote. Why shouldn't I use the leverage I have as a resident in a very close riding to help get another New Democrat into the House of Commons? There are many, many other ridings that likewise are close races between the New Democrats and someone else - I'm certain Bear could recommend a few in the Lower Mainland, for instance.

Likewise, I've heard you hard-core New Democrats at conventions, claiming there's no difference between Tories and Liberals. Some of you live in unwinnable ridings, and you know it. Put your vote where your mouth is, and transfer it to a winnable riding, in exchange for casting a vote for a potential winner in your own.

If I had the disposable income today, I'd register tradeyourvote.ca and offer up a place where those savvy enough among us could get our votes to places they matter. If the interest exists, I'll set up a page for it in this domain. But in the meantime, be encouraged to use this discussion thread to offer up those otherwise wasted votes. While we wait for proportional representation, let's use the system we've got to elect the members we want.

Update, Thursday early evening: Based on the first few comments, a couple of things deserve to be pointed out.

First, Idealistic Pragmatist wrote a good piece back when Hargrove was yipping his yap about straegic voting. One very important point stressed there: if your riding is a true three-way race, don't try to overthink it. Vote your favourite if you think s/he has any chance to win.

Second, is vote trading really illegal? I could imagine a law against trying to sell your vote, but I can't imagine this. If commenter "Bryan" is correct, I look forward to being a test case. What an exciting opportunity to be a spokesperson for electoral reform. Please, make me a vote trade offer in a close NDP race.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

2006: The Year of the Gaffe

I remember when I used to be known for something other than tracking the idiocy of nobodies. Those were good times. We're definitely revamping the rules the next time around, which I still suspect will be sometime around this time next year.

But in the meantime, Gordon Stamp gets recognized for his goofballery on Free Dominion, threatening to start working for Alberta independence if the Liberals win another election. These dumbasses have to learn to keep off the internet; a little knowledge is proving to be an extremely dangerous thing. Prom(1) x sig(1) = 1. I was thinking of a sig(2), but it's gotten no play, and really given a chance for the Tories to play Captain Canada again in their quick and loud denounciations.