Thursday, November 25, 2004

Paul Wells would be proud

There's someone else out there who's unimpressed with the National Post editorial board. I got this email today from a smart friend, and will pass it on verbatim. Is there a third way for aboriginal policy?
Perhaps out of your interest sphere, but this editorial from the National Post confirms my belief that everyone should be required to complete at least one Anthropology course. The comments perfectly illustrate the two most common fallacies regarding Native peoples.

This section, in particular, would be laughable if the consequences weren't so serious

"The belief that, historically, natives had a justice system, much less a lenient, communal one, is a myth. Being pre-legal, most tribes dispensed ad hoc justice. Among many pre-Columbian native peoples, the most common punishment for offences ranging from stealing to murder was banishment, which in hunter-gatherer societies meant almost certain death. Few could survive the rigours of subsisting in the wilderness alone. The first European explorers and missionaries recorded, too, that mutilation was frequently ordered for adulterers.

Somehow we doubt this was the type of native justice Mr. Cotler was waxing on about."

Pre-legal? Ad-hoc justice? And their justification for this interpretation is anecdotal accounts of the type of punishment? Sadly, the perspective that Natives were (and continue to be) socially and morally underdeveloped and lacking the basic institutions of "civilization" (e.g., a legal system) are all too common - and totally false as any introductory Anthropology student can tell you.

Next, the conclusion that a parallel "Aboriginal" justice tradition would be obliged to recapitulate "pre-Columbian" penalties is absurd. When was the last time you saw someone keel-hauled or burned in a British Court? This, of course, is the second most common fallacy - that Native Culture somehow "fossilized" as soon as Europeans arrived on the scene. As a result, when Native peoples use guns instead of bows-and-arrows, it is untraditional or inauthentic. Somehow, unlike our own culture, when Native culture changes it becomes less Native. Thus, a new Aboriginal legal system could not be conceived as reflecting the needs of contemporary Native groups - because then it isn't really, Aboriginal.

Finally, they note that Natives are proportinately over-involved in crime. No doubt. Alas, they make no attempt to consider potential causes or potential solutions except to allow Natives to be more responsible for themselves . . . except apparently in terms of legal justice, in which they want Natives to be less responsible for themselves.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not sold on the notion of a parallel Aboriginal Justice tradition (although I'm not sold against it either), but the logic used in this editorial is not only atrocious, it also perpetuates damaging stereotypes.

Comments?

And restricting candidate contributions will make election campaigns cleaner...

Recall at the health summit, when the premiers proposed that the feds take over prescription drugs, everyone scoffed. No pundit with anything resembling a brain and/or BS-detector took it seriously. But at the same time, most media devoted a bit of time to examining the concept, and tended to conclude, approximately: "This proposal has a lot of problems, constitutional and financial, and it's not going to happen. The savings and efficiency from a single buyer would be nice, but whatever."

Well, file that conclusion under "Things That Seem Correct Intuitively, But Have Now Been Disproven In Practice So Many Times It Might Be Time To Reassess". Sheila Fraser, you've done it again.

It's well-worth considering that the point of this might not be, "The federal government is inefficient", but rather, "there is a point where economies of scale reach peak benefit, and beyond that size, there are inherent problems which do more harm than good." Sounds like an Andrew Coyne piece; it may already be one, but I'm not worked up enough about this for some hard-target Googling.

The Western Standard on the shelves right now has a nice piece about "megacities" and amalmagation, and their nearly perfect record: total failure to achieve the cost savings and efficiencies set out as their objectives.

Without out doing much (any) research, I suspect that this is an articulated economic concept and it is not limited to government. Until last month, I worked for the subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company, and purchasing was mixed: some was done on a continent-wide basis, some regionally, and some locally. Conventional (municipal?) wisdom would dictate that efficiency is being sacrificed in regional and local purchasing (all that duplication!), but if it that were the case, it would have already been corporatized, because I don't think there's a thing they haven't done in the past 2 years to maximize efficiency on the overhead side. I would also note that even the most successful bulk purchaser in the world does not have identical products in all of their stores.

I'll be keeping an eye out for more data and analysis on this subject. If anyone out there can help edumacate me, that would be great.

And as a note to self, one of these days I'm going to have to dump out the "file" noted above, and run a list. The manila is bursting from the strain these days.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Leftovers

A few more tidbits from yesterday's Alberta election:

- The NDP is officially a political non-entity outside of Edmonton - they came 5th, behind the Greens and the Alliance, in numerous ridings.

- The Alberta Separation Party garnered a whopping zero-point-something of the popular vote. OK, so maybe we're not THAT disenchanted with the federation.

- Cosh's post-election post on his website is titled "Fight to the Death". Why is this amusing? This is why:
The Progressive Conservatives have won their tenth consecutive majority government in Alberta tonight. They came in here the same year I did, and I suppose it's time to start wondering which of us will last longer...

Indeed. I would also observe that Ralph Klein's personal string of election successes began the same month the Calgary Flames played their first game. With the exception of a 3-year stint as a mere provincial cabinet minister, he has spent the entire 24+ years as a head of government. You can listen to his CBC Radio commentary here.

- In Cosh's commentary (and others have noted this as well) he makes the point that Ted Morton is probably the most significant new addition to the legislature. I hope he's right, but I have a feeling that, at least in the short-term, it will actually be this guy.

Which brings me to why I'm so disappointed about the PC election "campaign". They were going to win. Everyone knew they were going to win. They also know that structural reforms of some kind are required to be applied to the health care system. They also know, and have stated openly several times, that it is indefensible to restrict Albertans from spending their own money on their own health care.

It would have been so easy, and low-risk, to say that going forward, the government is going to focus on providing the best health care possible for those who want or need it. Private facilities? Whatever - we're not going to worry about people who don't want health care from us, we're going to devote our resources towards serving those who do. Private ownership of facilities providing publicly-insured services? Sure, why not - it would be arrogant of our government to assume that we're the only ones who know how to run a hospital, or even that we know the best way.

You know if the PCs had said any of these things, there would have been some scolding comments from federal politicians (Martin returning the favour to Ralph?) which as always would benefit Klein at the polls.

But the PCs didn't say any of this, excepting a few hints, supported half-heartedly. And so, instead of having a clear mandate to enact a few basic conceptual reforms to the system, they have a fuzzy mandate to destroy public health care, or something. Worse still, the provincial Liberals will be challenging any health reforms from a presumptively strong moral position. Witness three of the new Liberal MLAs:
  • Harry Chase (Calgary Varsity), former head of Friends of Medicare, an Alberta organization which opposes any policy not involving increased $$
  • Bridget Pastoor (Lethbridge East), former RN of 15+ years. (Sample campaign boilerplate: "as a nurse, I have an insider's understanding of the problems confronting the health care system, etc. etc.".)
  • Dr. David Swann (Calgary Mountain View) former medical officer of health for the Palliser Health Region, who I guarantee will continue to be a poster boy for the logical fallacies described here by the Monger.

I don't think it's stretching it to say that the PC "campaign" "strategy" set back health care reform in this country by 3 years. It just means the changes are going to be even more painful when they come.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Election Day! Again!

(Updated, at the top, throughout the day)

12:45 AM - Cardston/Taber/Warner appears to have elected the only Alberta Alliance MLA (and here I should probably add, "ever"). All polls are reporting, and the margin is 131 votes. No doubt, especially in Edmonton and even Calgary, that the papers will characterize this as a victory for small-c conservatives in rural Alberta. I suppose it's not exactly wrong to call it that way, but if you're asking, "why did they win in this particular riding?", it's not instructive to talk about a love of small government, or even social conservatism: that just doesn't differentiate this riding enough from all the others. Wondering if it was the impressive candidate?

Look, even this CBC profile of Randy Thorsteinson mentions why he abandoned Social Credit; they were dissing the Mormons. If you accept this characterization of why Randy and the SC broke up, and assume that the AA made sure everyone in Cardston, Taber, Warner, and points between knew it, it probably tells the tale. My LDS history is a little stale, but there's something about being given the middle finger at the last place that strikes a chord with a lot of Mormons. I realize this whole take sounds a bit ignorant, but hey. I don't think it's unfair.

Anyhoo, none of this matters much, and not just because Ralph is clearly ready to retire and anoint a replacement. As soon as the Alliance member starts voting with the NDP guys to reregulate electricity, etc., the "threat from the right" (at least electorally) will become irrelevant for a political eternity, i.e. two years.

10:47 PM - Klein just interviewed on CBC (Global has moved to Fear Factor). I'd call this a softball, but it was the CBC:
Anchor: "Brian Mason has suggested you don't really have a mandate."
Klein: "Well, I'd rather have 62 or 63 than 5."

The NDP presently has 4 candidates leading or elected. That reminds me, the striking thing about Kevin Taft's speech (besides the size of his head) was that the gloating was directed more at the NDP than the PCs. This may just be residual talking points from the campaign, but phrases like "the serious alternative" and "a voice in the centre" are obviously directed more at the NDP and their voters than the PC crowd.

10:41 PM - Bridget Pastoor (Lib) has been elected in Lethbridge East. I feel like the disenfranchised minority now, and that's a funny thing for a tall, good-looking white guy like me to say.

10:35 PM - Cenaiko came back and was elected in Calgary Buffalo. He's a former cop, and has been the epitome of what you want from a backbencher or opposition member, i.e. pick an issue or bill, master the topic, and win the argument. Harvey is a straight law & order type, which in 2004 is actually rare for a provincial or federal elected representative. Glad to see you back, Harvey.

10:25 PM - Ralph is talking, and the present tally is 63-16-4-0. (Sidenote: childcare and liveblogging do not jibe at times.) He is still a very likeable man, which reminds me again that I'm really sad about the missed opportunity that is this campaign. More to follow sooner or later. Global is going off the air. Bye Danielle!

9:02 PM - Terry Taylor and the ghost of Sheldon Chumir are leading Harvey Cenaiko in Calgary Buffalo. Shades of David Pratt (Nepean) - when the self-satisfied, longtime incumbent party is defeated, it's too bad when the actual candidate embodies none of the problems of the party. Another race to keep watching.

8:59 PM - The Liberals are leading in my riding Lethbridge East by 9%, 7/73 polls reporting. That's real bad for the PCs if it holds up. The pre-election polls I saw had the PCs favoured here by 11%, but among likely voters, they were favoured by 5% which was the edge of the margin of error. Developing, I guess.

8:55 PM - David Taras in the Global studio is rightly pointing out that if Mark Norris loses to the Liberals in Edmonton-McClung, it's a major blow. That said, while he's losing by 5% at the moment, it's with 11/71 polls reporting, and the actual margin is 56 votes. Worth watching.
8:49 PM - Called for the PCs at 8:33 by my clock. I suspect that's the most useless stat I'll see or pass on tonight, but I'll keep my eye out. There's a 1 back next to the "Other" box, but I haven't found out where it is yet (Renner in the Hat has now been declared elected).

8:30 PM - Heh. Global mentioned it was Medicine Hat that was Alliance leading. CBC.ca showed, with 1 poll reporting, Alliance 150, Liberal 20, NDP 1, PC (incumbent Rob Renner) ZERO. They fixed it, and now (still with 1 poll) it's PC 68, Lib 38, AA 15, NDP 5, SC 4. That's more like it. Although, I had a millisecond panic that the 1 poll was in a seniors home, and they really want their $1,400.

8:18 PM - There's a "1" next to the "Other" box on the ticker. I suspect this is like that GTA riding in the federal election where the Marxist-Leninist guy was briefly winning.

8:05 PM - Garry Bobrovitz (Global) just stated for no doubt the 50th time tonight that Klein had a very weak campaign. I don't disagree with this on its face, but dispute entirely the example he used (AISH). For you in the Rest of Canada, that means Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped, and on Day 1 or 2 of the campaign, Ralph took a look at a group of protestors for increased $$ to AISH, and said, "they don't look that severely handicapped to me."

A little immoderate, sure. But the media seems to think it is a massive faux-pas to point out that sometimes government entitlement programs go to people that are, um, less needy than others. Sorry, but that's not going to horrify too many Albertans.

And it looks like the Tom Olsen/Danielle Smith panel on Global may wildly exceed my expectations.

7:55 PM - Predictions! I dunno. The PCs slip a bit, it'll certainly look worse in the popular vote % than number of seats. On the tee-vee, a lot of very stupid things will be said. Here we go!

4:10 PM - Since today is Albertablogging, take a look at Diogenes from last week on Edmonton v. Calgary. I'm a native Calgarian and do not, as such, endorse his opinions therein, but he makes a few good points. (Although UofA "has the best Engineering school in the country"? I'm all for hometown pride, but that's news to me.)

I bring this up only because I need to take a gratuitous swipe at the "political scientist" quoted near the top of this story. Hopefully something was lost in the reportage:
Lois Harder, a political scientist at the University of Alberta, attributes voter apathy in Alberta to the Tories' perceived stronghold, and a general lack of interest in the election.

In other news, the CBC is attributing their low ratings to a general lack of interest in CBC programming. Thanks for the analysis, Lois!

2:30 PM - Reading the G&M online, and I am reminded thanks to the multiple references to "oil-rich" Alberta of a point I've been meaning to make for months. To the media, which includes the local guys, and everyone else who works on perpetuating the Dumb Luck Theory: if you're going to tell us that the only reason we're well off is because of this lucrative natural resource we're sitting on, can you at least get the resource right?

I can't get too huffy, because most Albertans misunderstand this too, but natural gas provides much, much more royalty revenue than oil (2002/03 Royalties: Oil - $1.360B, Natural Gas - $5.125B). Other favorite snippet from the Globe piece: "...the province is rolling in cash thanks to high energy prices and gambling revenues...". Gambling revenues - another unfair natural advantage for the redneck pinheads!

2:00 PM - Don't believe me about Ellerslie Rd? Check this ridings to watch piece at cbc.ca, and the previous margin-of-victory in the "close" Calgary ridings compared to Edmonton. I'm not guaranteeing a sweep by any means, but a lot of the Alberta coverage at the moment reminds me of Bob Cole when the Leafs are down 6-2 midway through the third period, and they score to make it 6-3. (Don't go away yet folks! Remember that one time, a few years ago, when the Leafs almost came back in a situation just like this....)

1:30 PM MST
- For the third time in five months, it's election day in Alberta (and of course there was that 4th one, which apparently some people around here had an interest in as well). Since this is the last of the four, and holds the least amount of suspense, it's hard to find anyone outside of Kevin Taft's campaign office who's even slightly excited about the whole thing.

Since the pro doesn't appear to be reprising the Blue Box theme, I'll see what I can do to provide a bit of liveblogging. I'll be off to the polls a little later. The noontime radio news was reporting that early turnout (according to the R.O. for Lethbridge West) was weak, but my mother-in-law says there was no parking at her polling place (in Lethbridge East, which may be the only riding south of Ellerslie Road where a PC win is not a foregone conclusion).

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Tory Leadership pre-race

(Update: "live" Alberta election blogging on this page.)

Colby Cosh has covered pretty much everything on the Alberta election that might be of interest to the Rest of Canada. He rightly observes that Liberal leader Kevin Taft appears to have been taking likeability injections over the past few months, and it looks great on him. Taft has always had a vaguely pleasing manner of speaking, by which I mean, he sounds not like a politician so much as a guy who's spent years pondering Alberta's challenges, and how to face them. He's admirably clear talking about both problems and proposed solutions. (I also have a notion I can't quite put together that Taft's speaking is somehow grammatically different from that of a standard politician - but it could be something as simple as never beginning a sentence with "Albertans want.." or "Albertans have told me..".)

And as Cosh alludes, he has stopped using the phrase "when the oil's all gone", and now mostly talks about "windfall revenues". This is obviously politically wise; he's arguably gotten more scientifically and economically accurate in the process. Unfortunately for Taft and his electoral prospects, he still believes firmly in a few concepts that have been continuously rejected by Alberta voters. For you in the RoC, I'd liken him a bit to Jim Stanford - nice enough guy, sounds reasonable, and reading or listening to his stuff, it's uncommon that anything jumps straight out as **STUPIDE!**. Within 5 minutes though, after collecting your thoughts, you realize his argument is premised upon ideas which have been discredited, academically and in practice, for 20+ years.

At the time I read Cosh's piece, however, I had my own voting intention worked out. Team Ralph is a bit worn out (have you heard?), and there's several dozen good reasons to vote against them. First, for me, would probably be the tax increases from two years ago that have not since been undone. Every time I pay my $264 health care premiums (that's every 3 months), or buy beer, or register for anything, I feel like kicking something on the way out.

Secondly: in a bizarre circumstance for a government intent on reforming health care in some way, including the introduction of further private elements, they are not merely unable, but apparently unwilling, to actually sell the reforms. Perhaps it's all part of some grand political scheme of possum, or maybe Ralph and advisors are just having some kicks (I'm visualizing an boy holding a candy an inch out of his younger brother's reach, instead of just putting it in his pocket or eating it.)

Both the Liberals, notwithstanding Kevin Taft's strong performance, and the NDP are non-starters, and not just because I'm worried my subconscious would prevent my hand from making the mark. It is 2004 (you're welcome), and any candidate or party that does not acknowledge that the way we do health care in this country has problems which will not be solved by more government funding will not be receiving my vote, period, new paragraph.

Which brings me to what I thought was my voting plan. There is the "Alberta Alliance", which has all sorts of problems but is ostensibly to the right of the PCs. I decided I'd vote for them, with the intended message being directed at the PCs: "if a party this lousy and disorganized can get this many votes just because they're to your right, you'd better start paying more heed to that flank of the party."

I read their platform in early 2004, and wasn't overly impressed. A few nods to populism lifted from the old Reform Party book (yes referenda, no MLA pensions, etc.), but other than that, the focus seemed to be more around different ways to spend our money, rather than, you know, not.

Then yesterday, I received my flyer from local candidate Brian Stewart, and to put it mildly, I HAD NO IDEA. Except for their vow not to prosecute gun registry offences, they are running well to the left of the NDP. Apparently, the Alberta Alliance's message is this:
1) Governing is not about making hard choices, not in Alberta.
2) As you suspected, there is enough budget surplus to fund _____. Oh, and ____. And of course _____.

Behold, the spending items in the Contract with Alberta. They vow to accomplish these items by various deadlines, the latest of which is Feb. 15, or they will dissolve the government.
  • Reduce the personal income tax rate by 28%
  • Eliminate health care premiums for all Albertans
Why, Simpson, you've made my day. Trickle-down economics, positive business environment, etcHELLO, there's more!
  • Reduce auto insurance premiums by 35% for all Albertans
  • Restore the $2.2 billion in seniors benefits cut be the Klein Government
  • Pay seniors a $1,400 utilities rebate
  • Offer families a $700/child rebate to cover school fees and supplies
  • Offer free tuition for all graduates of Alberta schools who maintain a C average or better in high school and while at their post-secondary institution
  • Reduce residential electricity and natural gas costs by 30%
Wow. I mean, wow. The most theoretically offensive of these items, I suppose, is the promise to drop the costs of car insurance, power, and natural gas by a third; I shudder to think how they plan to accomplish this. Besides, is there still an economist out there who believes that severe price controls are any way to create wealth?

The most directly offensive promise here, though, is the $1,400 "seniors utility rebate". At least when Ralph was accused of vote-buying with utility rebates, they went to everyone, and they were issued before the election. There is absolutely no difference between this Alliance promise and saying, "Seniors - vote for us and we will mail you each a cheque for $1,400". Disgusting, cynical pandering.

You may have gathered from the previous few paragraphs that I have changed my mind regarding my voting intention. You would be correct.

For all the flaws of the sitting government, the fact remains that Alberta is the wealthiest province in Canada, and it's not dumb luck. There are all sorts of ways a provincial government can sabotage the economy. Strike up a conversation with Kate about Tommy Douglas if you like. Read the recent Western Standard about the consequences of regulated power rates in Manitoba. Take a look at stats on B.C.'s economic strength, and superimpose it on a timeline of governing parties. To assume that Alberta will be fine, no matter who's running the show, is to ignore the history of our neighbours.

As such, I am endorsing the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, and will be casting my vote for them on Monday. I also recommend that engaged Alberta voters take out a membership in the PC party, and have your say in the upcoming leadership (premiership) race. Don't forget, the sooner the better (there was undoubtedly John Manley supporters who figured there was no rush to pick up a federal Liberal membership - oops).

See you at the polls.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Worst. Editorial. Ever.

I don't subscribe to my local newspaper, the Lethbridge Herald. As I've mentioned before, it fails miserably at any particular mission you would care to assign to it. Sometimes, though, I find myself in a waiting room, or bored at my in-laws, and pick it up. This happened Monday, and I was greeted by the most offensive op-ed piece I've ever found in it (and that's saying something - they publish Gwynne Dyer every Sunday). It was reprinted from the Woodstock (ON) Sentinel-Review from some earlier date.

Online content is limited, and archived daily, so I'm quoting it here in full. I can't decide if I'm more mystified by the intellectual bankruptcy of the writer(s), or by the Herald editor who decided, "Here's a compelling argument in favour of gay marriage! Let's reprint it!" Anyway, here:
From the WOODSTOCK SENTINEL-REVIEW

Alberta has enjoyed living rat-free since 1950.

And if Ralph Klein has his way, Alberta will be able to enjoy living homosexual-free soon, too.

Klein says he will fight same-sex marriage in Alberta, whatever it takes.

"What I'm hearing on the streets is that they don't want it in this province. Maybe they do in other provinces, but not in this province," he said.

Well, that's great.

But it's a contradiction to let the majority decide the fate of the minority.

Maybe this majority Klein is talking to on the streets needs a stronger leader to show them how narrow-minded their opinions are.

Unfortunately, in Canada, Klein has every right to fight the gay-rights movement.

While the feds have exclusive authority governing marriage and divorce, the provinces can pass laws regulating the solemnization of marriage.

Plus, by using the not withstanding clause, a government can ignore any of the sections of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Equality movements in the past often weren't well received initially the civil-rights and women's-rights movements but great leaders fought for them.

Now people look back, shaking their heads these minorities were ever denied their rights.

Klein's comments might cause gays to flee Alberta to find the basic rights they deserve in other provinces.

They can go east or west, as both of Alberta's neighbours have authorized same-sex marriages.

It's like Klein is acting like the Pied Piper, trying to lead the gays out as if they were a plague of rats.

The Alberta website has a list of why rats needed to be eliminated from Alberta.

It says losses caused by rats can be divided into three categories: losses to food stuffs (consumption and contamination); damage caused by gnawing and tunneling; and disease transmission.

With a little tweaking and some anti-gay stereotypes, perhaps the Alberta government could create a new list (full of stereotypes perpetuated by bigots to create fear), supporting the views of why homosexuality should not be tolerated in Alberta.

It could say something like dangers of living near homosexuals can be divided into three categories: Losses of moral fibre (contamination of people's minds); damage to society by preying on our youth and turning them gay; and disease transmission.

It's sickening that in the 21st century, people, just because they're different, can be denied rights that are afforded to everyone else.

Klein is trying to appeal to the Marthas and Henrys.

But when will the Marthas and Marthas and Henrys and Henrys of Alberta be afforded the same rights as gays in most of the rest of the country have? Sadly, it will probably be a few years at least since Klein's election win is a no-brainer, and as long as he's in power, he'll surely have a gay old time denying people their human rights.

I don't think this piece needs much of the Bob treatment. Though it's still lazy and unfair, it's not original to equate opposing gay marriage to hating gay people (and wanting the province to be homosexual-free!). Nor is it original to refer to gay marriage as a "basic right" - apparently so basic it didn't exist even five years ago (and if the Herald or the Sentinel-Review can produce an editorial from before 1999 calling for gay marriage, I'll stand chastened).

What really bothers me in this piece is the rhetoric about stereotypes. First of all, it assumes that all gay people's interests are so narrow that the legality of gay marriages is Issue #1 in deciding where they want to live and work, and where they feel welcome. What if I suggested that Alberta is a great place for gay people to live because there's no sales tax? Agree or disagree, my statement focuses on the second word of "gay people", whereas the Herald's focuses on the first. Who's the one with the stereotyping problem?

Even worse is the whole nasty "rats" analogy. I simply do not understand the thought processes behind inventing a brand-new slur on gay Albertans, then projecting it on your ideological opponents, and accusing them of "perpetuating stereotypes". Go to hell! I understand that the job of those in favour of gay marriage would be a lot easier if the opponents were more rabid and inflammatory, but that is totally indefensible.

As someone who sympathizes with those on both sides of this issue (and acknowledges that gay marriage will happen later if not sooner), I bloody well resent being called narrow-minded, and accused of equating gay people to rats. Maybe this is what Clark County undecided voters felt like upon receiving a nice letter from a Guardian reader.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Mysterious Ways dept.

Yesterday morning's big surprise: the ODB, deceased from a non-gunshot-related cause. (ÞCosh)

I've never really been a Wu-Tang fan (although the Wu-Name generator provided a couple of days of fun a few years ago) - I'm more of a West Coast fan. So my fondest memory evoked by the Bastard's passing was David Letterman's first Top 10 List after returning from multiple-bypass surgery. I laughed so hard at #1, I was functionally incapacitated for half an hour.

Again, thanks to Dizzy Cow for the pointer. Promiscuous Protestah out.

UPDATE - some more WuNames (this would make a complicated blogroll, no?):
Use them wisely, soldiers.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Follow-ups

First, pursuant to the last paragraph in my Wednesday post, apparently Mark Steyn's hiatus is not indefinite:
Post 25: "[Hugh] Hewitt just said that Mark Steyn is taking a one-month vacation during which he is eschewing participation in all media."

Good to know, even if doctor-ordered rest is the major impetus for this break.

Second, Colby Cosh was instalanched yesterday for this post absolutely destroying "retired CBS drivellist Eric Engberg". Apart from his solidly constructed I'm-rubber-and-you're-glue argument, he also presents a new analogy for TEH INTARWEB which is so clever and disgusting I have pasted it onto my masthead.

Lastly, Jay Jardine (in the comments) notes a couple of omissions from Mama McGuinty's legislative agenda for a better Ontario (including a "prediction" which took less than a day to bear out). So let's recap again. In barely a year in power (is that ever the appropriate word), the Ontario Liberals have imposed or are planning to impose increased restrictions on their citizens in the following areas:
  • Where and when you can smoke
  • What kind of dog you can own
  • What your kids can eat in school
  • When your minor children can drop out of high school
  • Who you can offer money to diagnose your health
  • What you have to wear while bicycling
  • What you can order in a Japanese restaurant
  • What ECE school buses have to be retrofitted with
  • What kind of dangerous wild animals you can shoot
  • How much you can pay to travel on a privately-operated highway
This is getting a bit redundant, but frankly, the point is best made in full list form. And two questions I am reluctant to consider carefully:
  • What would this list look like if Ontario didn't have a big deficit, electricity shortages, a struggling health care system, etc. (i.e. big and serious problems requiring government attention)?
  • If John Tory and the Conservatives came into power, how many of these things would they scrap outright?
The "one-way ratchet" is a popular political metaphor; that's probably because it's so perfectly appropriate.

UPDATE: Not to be out-nannied, Jack Layton steps up to the plate! ("Families want protection from dangerous trans fats," he said, "and the NDP is calling on all parties to provide it.") Bless you, sir.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

And the list keeps getting longer...

Did the Ontario Liberal caucus look at Nancy's list and think, "Well, it's a good start, but we could still...."

Now, in barely one year of governing, McGuinty et al have introduced bills to tell you:
When I graduated from Queen's in 1996, I was occasionally asked if I had considered remaining in the Kingston area. My stock answer was roughly, "It's a great place. If it was Kingston, Alberta, I'd be staying for sure." To be obtusely general, I just felt like government was a bit too big a part of everyone's lives there. Between two major universities, multiple penitentiaries, and assorted government offices serving some fair acreage in eastern Ontario, everyone seemed to be employed by (or closely related to an employee of) some branch of the government. This is not even to mention people employed by government-supported industry.

I've mentioned before that Alberta isn't exactly a libertarian paradise. Nevertheless, there is still an underlying awareness, at least among elected provincial officials, that there is a sizeable portion of the population whose core attitude toward the government is summed up in two words, the second of which is OFF. And whether you agree with that perspective or not, it sure as hell gives pause to legislators pondering new rules telling us what to do. And, that is an indisputably good thing.

*On an unrelated note, I fervently hope Mark Steyn's just-announced hiatus is unrelated to the health problems which kept him away from the conventions this summer. The places I would first expect to see mention of this (Instapundit and The Corner), perhaps with a bit further explanation, are thus far silent. Best wishes to him and his family.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Mission of Mercy

Can Canada send Andrew Coyne on a diplomatic mission to USA Today, or on a friendship tour to the L.A. Times, N.Y. Times, and Washington Post? It might calm a few people down if he recycled a few of his 4-month-old columns (slightly edited) about the electoral system exaggerating regional divisions. Behold this Reuters piece, "San Francisco in No Mood for Tolerance After Bush Win". (ÞNeale)
The woman's frustration was echoed throughout San Francisco, arguably the most liberal city in one of the most Democratic states in the country. On Tuesday, 83.3 percent of voters in San Francisco County cast their ballots for Kerry, compared with 62.8 percent in Los Angeles County and 54.7 percent statewide.
[...]
"I have family in Idaho, but I told my wife we're not going to visit them now. It's all Republicans there," said Ron Schmidt, a public relations executive. "We have family in Indiana and I don't want to go there either."
[...]
Schmidt said: "The ideologies of the two parties are too different. I don't see how healing can take place. I feel like the disenfranchised minority now, and that's a funny thing for a tall, good-looking white guy like me to say."

This red state/blue state obsession has gone too far. California is no more uniformly liberal than Saskatchewan is Conservative. YOU VOTED FOR REAGAN - TWICE! And if you're hoping to avoid Republicans, Mr. Schmidt, take another look at those state numbers. You can't even drive to L.A. without passing through a couple of red counties. Are you clear than 90% of the Kerry victory margin in your state is from San Francisco and L.A. Counties? Take them out of the equation, and California was closer than Ohio.

And I think I'm going to be sick the next time I hear a voter describe themselves as "disenfranchised" because they voted for Kerry. He just lost, that's all. Cheer up Mr. Schmidt - you'll get'em next time. In the meantime, you still have your height and your good looks. And your, uh, er, whiteness.

Babble On

One thing that's not lacking in the slightest on TEH INTARWEB is self-described libertarians (or 'classical liberals', which I believe is their way of saying, "I believe in small government, but I file a tax return every year, and don't expect me to incinerate my plates and driver's license").

As such, I shy away a bit from ranting about big government too much, because it's being covered, and in many cases, really well. That said, objections accumulate, and once in a while I wake up and say, WHAT the HELL is GOING ON - and why don't more people complain about it? To wit:

1) Occasional PolSpy contributor Nancy Fielding quickly runs down the, ahem, "impressive" list of legislation for Ontario that Dalton McGuinty's government has tabled in their mere 13 months of office:
After just a year in office, the McGuinty Liberals have come up with bills that, if passed, will tell you when and where you can smoke (answer: never and nowhere), what kind of dog you can have, and what food your kids can eat at school. Now, in another move to take parenting out of the hands of, well, parents, the government also wants to make damn sure that the wee buggers stay in school until at least the age of 18.

Not bad Nancy! Although she's forgotten at least one big one: who you can't pay for certain health-related services (answer: anyone). I've been thinking about this one for a while - my initial reaction was that it was both financially and politically unwise for The Amazing Smither-Man to come down so hard. The only explanation that makes sense to me, 5 weeks later, is fear. The Ontario government (and it's not fair to single them out here) is terrified that if they allow parallel, private health care in any form, the shortcomings of the public system will be underscored, and there will be a revolt.
"Sure, we know that if we allow private, say, labour & delivery care, it'll take some pressure off the public system and save us some money in the short term, but then what happens? Once the lefties decide they can't deny expectant mothers choice in where to have their babies, they're going to start pressuring us to make the public system as good as the cash option! Then what the hell are we going to do? Better we just stick with the status quo, and keep pretending that health care is the only commodity that is so important and complicated that only the government is equipped to provide it." Or something.

2) Jay Jardine points us to this arbitrary, pointless, and shameful application of the law in Nova Scotia (with convenient names for easy analogizing!). This actually makes me mad, and I don't get mad about anything.
  • The case of beer and the bottles of wine were unopened
  • They were as inconveniently located as possible in the truck cab
  • The government owns the drive-through liquor store where he purchased them
  • The cop not only cited him for the violation, but made him dump out the booze into the gutter. Demeaning, indeed. How about, um, illegal?
The judge said, in effect, that laws applied unevenly must still be obeyed. OK, in general, but surely there is a limit to this principle, when the defendant can reasonably conclude he is being harassed. Again, the frickin' government owns the drive-through liquor store, and the cop's actions certainly indicate harassment, as opposed to by-the-book anal retentiveness

3) Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada still seem intent on portraying themselves as basically the same as the Liberals, just more honest. Is it really too much of me to ask that he at least give occasional lip service to the notion that the federal government is not the solution to every problem in Canada? More on this another day, perhaps in Billy.

4) Ralph. All my hopes when Sheriff Steve West returned to be the premier's chief of staff have been dashed. The present election campaign is a non-event. The Liberals and NDP can't hardly dream of outspending him. The Alberta Alliance is still new, and well, crappy. Remarkably, they have shown very little inclination to seriously challenge the PCs from the right - all I've seen are merely different and ostensibly better proposals for spending my money. Consequence - they're going nowhere.

Good day to you all! Babble off. (Þ)

Start the week happy

A few of the best election lines, courtesy of the Calgary Sun's weekly wrap-up of comic stylings of the late-night TV hosts:
  • "John Kerry did say he was sorry he lost the election because he was looking forward to spending less time with his wife." - David Letterman
  • "From now on, when you hear Democrats say, 'Let every vote count,' you’ll go, 'We tried that. That no worky.'" - Jon Stewart
  • "Political experts say that this year’s Florida was Ohio. As a result, this year’s Spring Break is expected to suck." - Conan O'Brien
As well, may I recommend Kerry At The Polls by Jay Random at the Shiny Happy Gulag. For content, but especially for style, it is a helluva well-done parody. It just sounds good.

Friday, November 05, 2004

One dollar - A DOLLAR!!

So I see on Global News this morning that it's not just the anti-smoking zealots who are picking fights with Royal Canadian Legion members. A nice young man from the Bloc Quebecois has decided he won't be passing out Canadian flags to the Legion in his riding because "he doesn't feel comfortable with it" (is there any other excuse out there these days that gets accepted more uncritically?).

As much as I agree with Damian's closing sentiment, and appreciate Sean's parody, my visceral reaction to the thing is still, why oh why is the government involved with giving out free national flags? Anyone with an ounce of libertarian sensibilities ought to find it ridiculous.

And, aren't Canadians the ones who sniff at Americans for their ostentatious patriotism? That don't really jibe when we're the ones getting free flags from our government.

And where did the demand come from for this program in the first place? I'll answer my own question here - there wasn't any, but it seemed like a good idea to a certain National Post columnist and retired Liberal cabinet minister who believes that, by definition, anything provided by the government is more worthwhile than anything citizens provide for themselves.

I'm pretty sure there wasn't an outcry from people who wanted to display the Canadian flag but couldn't afford to. Here's a wholesaler who provides flags, and at those prices, the figurative definition of "giving them away" would seem to apply. A 12"x18" (that's 300x450mm to you and me) flag is a damn loonie! (Er, $1.07).

When Sheila et al initiated the program, they no doubt asked themselves (rhetorically), "What possible downside could there be to a free flag program?" Now we have the answer. Bravo.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A really decent setup for a concession?

I've had a lot of fun tonight, as we approach 2AM Mountain ("I'm Lionel Osborne, and this is Perspectives"). I don't have much to say that hasn't been said already. I think it's bizarre that no MSM website has "286-252" shown anywhere, even simply to illustrate what the EC total will be if no leads change from here on in. I think it's amazing that no network has called New Mexico for Bush, even though he's up by 30,000 votes with fewer than 15,000 remaining to be counted. I think I'd like to send out Mad Propz to Steyn, Tarantino, and Cosh for their fine live-blogging tonight.

And, I think I liked John Edwards' statement. If he and JFK conceded defeat tonight, there's a few too many unanswered questions, and bitterness would persist indefinitely. He simply said that he wanted all the votes to be counted (no mention of JFK being "the next president of the United States").

The way I read it, it was the right thing to do no matter what. Take the overnight to make sure that the statistically improbable was not going to happen. Get the precinct reporting up to 99% or 100% in every state. Then, make the concession speech, when more of your supporters are emotionally prepared to accept that the other guy won, and willing to listen to your conciliatory message.

I pray they don't disappoint me in the morning, and decide to file lawsuits instead of making the speech, but I don't think they will. There's a lot of the "international community", not to mention a sizeable cohort of Americans, who need to be jarred back into reality with the reminder than John Kerry, whatever his worldview, loves America more than he hates George W. Bush.

If you're just joining us, it's 2:11 in the AM, and this is Perspectives. I'm Lionel Osborne.....

Monday, November 01, 2004

My letter to Clark County

I'm not American, and I can't vote, so I won't be writing an endorsement of either presidential candidate. However, I've read some fantastic ones for W - diverse in their logic and detail. The best is probably the much-linked piece by Gerard Baker in the Times of London. I had to nod in agreement with Kevin Steel at the Shotgun when he noted the paragraph that really hit home to him.

Anyway, this post is titled My letter to Clark County, so here goes:

Dear American voter,

I am writing to you because, as you would expect, there is a considerable amount of interest in your presidential election tomorrow outside the United States. One of your concerns, when voting for Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry, may be the way the US is perceived in the rest of the world. I appreciate and admire this concern, so I wish to offer some advice.

The admiration accorded to your president, as an individual and statesman, will indeed differ depending on which candidate you elect. But regardless of who you elect, the overall perception of America across the globe will not improve or suffer in the slightest.

Americans, as a whole, are viewed as money-grubbing, gun-crazy, self-absorbed, Jesus-freaked, and of course, fat. It was like this when Ronald Reagan was president, and when Bill Clinton was president. There is no president you could elect with sufficient statesmanship and selling skills to alter this perception. It is a perception borne of many factors, envy among them, and it is regularly reinforced by leaders around the globe, principally as a way to divert attention from the fact that their own citizens endure a lower standard of living than you.

Various anecdotes, true and false, are circulated regularly here in Canada, showing how Americans are stupid, ignorant, provincial, fat, etc. All of them pre-date President George W. Bush.

I bring this up not to call Americans fat several times in one letter, but only to make one point as clearly as I can, as it might not be obvious without much exposure to unfiltered international media. It is this: the "international community" will continue to assume that you, sir, are ignorant and obese, regardless of whose name you mark on your ballot. You may want to ponder the wisdom (and value) of trying to please this community.

Regards,

Matt Fenwick
Lethbridge, Alberta