Friday, December 30, 2005

"Hola from Mexico," he said as part of his attempt to secure the reputation for the tritest post titles ever.

Yes, I'm in Mexico, and yes, it's at one of those all-inclusive places, where "all" means "everything but the internet". Meaning that if my addiction was alcohol instead, I'd be considerably richer.

One thing that *is* included, though, is custard: all of it I can eat which is, as those of you who have ever seen me consume custard are aware, quite a bit. It's getting quite absurd. I'm actually deliberately moderating my intake of included alcohol for fear that over-indulgence would lead to hangovers, which would lead to reduced consumption of custard.

Custard: it's my favourite vegetable.

Election? Haven't been following it much, except to read Paul Wells just about as religiously as ever. My only two observations at this point:

1. From having read most of an article on the subject, I'm quite confident that it is not incumbent on Ralph Goodale to step aside. No, I'm not joking.

2. Gord Stamp appears to be getting Peter Goldring into some trouble. Gord was VP (Internal) of the U of A Students' Union (in 1986-1987, I think, though I could be off by a couple of years), and I dealt with him extensively back when I had a job that included tracking down former S.U. Exec members, because he seems to have kept his network very much intact. He was extremely helpful. Based on what I read about him in old Gateways, though, he was also batshit insane.

Anyway, I'm off to continue putting to the test the hypothesis that man cannot live by custard alone. Probably no more posts until I get home, but I've been known to lie about such things (as well as any number of others) before.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Agnostifest

I'm leaving the country, to return January 2. No more blogging in 2005.


P.S. I'm not actually an agnostic, but I like to celebrate Agnostifest anyway; it's a good tradition.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Prediction

With the benefit of hindsight, a lot of Conservatives will be bemoaning Stephen Harper's talk of re-opening the Constitution (diluted thought it was) on January 24.


Monday, December 19, 2005

News Flash: Paul Martin Says Something Logically Incoherent Regarding Gay Marriage!

I have to hand it to Paul Martin. I really do. He's the Prime Minister of a government that introduced legislation expanding the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Stephen Harper is the leader of a caucus that voted overwhelmingly against this legislation. I'm a secular humanist who's all about same-sex marriage. And yet, when Martin and Harper square off on the issue, I still find myself more on Harper's side than on Martin's. To lose my support under those conditions takes the kind of talent that only Paul Martin has.

For the latest jaw-droppingly dishonest portrait of the issue from our Prime Minister, check this out. Paul Martin has managed to take an uncertain situation and, in a few short sound bytes, come up with a wide enough variety of statements to ensure that he has a flagrant lie for any eventuality.

Let's examine the uncertainty surrounding the gay marriage issue, and see how spectacularly Martin has managed to misrepresent fact.

Uncertainty #1 Is same-sex marriage a right protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

See, we still don't have a definite answer on that, in the form of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the question. We have a whole pile of provincial court rulings - meaning that, absent a Supreme Court of Canada ruling, prohibiting same-sex marriages is illegal in all provinces except Alberta and Prince Edward Island, where the courts haven't yet spoken. But before you can claim definitely, as Paul Martin keeps doing, that same-sex marriage is a protected right under the Charter, you need rulings in all jurisdictions, or (with apologies to Tolkien) one ruling to rule them all. So when Paul Martin asserts (without acknowledging that he's engaging in legal speculation, rather than stating a fact) that gay marriage is a Charter right, he's lying.

(Incidentally, one reason that we don't have a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the question is that the Liberal government declined to appeal the ruling that its laws were unconstitutional. Which is fine, and I applauded it for it at the time, but it's a little disingenuous to pass up the opportunity for certainty when you were in a unique position to deliver it, and then proceed to claim that you have it anyway. This is what Paul Martin is doing.)

Uncertainty #2 Would a Conservative-dominated House of Commons invoke the Notwithstanding Clause to "protect" traditional marriage?

Harper says no and, to the extent that he would be in the position to prevent it from happening, I believe him. But we'll treat this as uncertain anyway, for illustrative purposes.

So let's first assume that Harper's telling the truth, and that there would be no invocation of the Notwithstanding Clause. In that event, the question would almost certainly wind up in the Supreme Court, whereupon we'd get Uncertainty #1 resolved. If Uncertainty #1 was resolved the way I'd anticipate it being resolved - with a ruling that the right to marry somebody of either sex is a Charter right - then same-sex marriage would remain legal, and Stephen Harper would have done nothing to undermine the Charter. On the other hand, if Uncertainty #2 was resolved through a Supreme Court ruling declaring that gay marriage is not protected by the Charter, then the Conservatives would actually have accomplished something. Again, though, the Charter wouldn't have been undermined, since all the government would be doing is making legislation that complies utterly with the Charter. Clearly, in this eventuality, Paul Martin's assertion that Stephen Harper would be undermining the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is nonsensical, by which I mean "a lie".

But let's pretend that it's Stephen Harper who's lying and that, when the dust settled and the Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage, the Conservatives *do* invoke the Notwithstanding Clause. In that eventuality, Paul Martin's still lying. How so? Well, the Notwithstanding Clause is also known as Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In other words, legislation that declared gay marriage illegal would *still* be completely in accordance with the Charter.

Now, Paul Martin is welcome to argue, as I would, that invoking the Notwithstanding Clause is, absent a totally batshit crazy ruling from the Supreme Court (and I set the threshold for that very high, such that no existing SCC rulings would come close to meeting it), never a good thing. But it's rather a stretch to go from that to saying that because Stephen Harper is probably lying when he says that he wouldn't invoke a specific portion of the Charter, he has no respect for the laws of the country and is unfit for office. In fact, it's downright offensive, among other reasons because it implies that adherence to laws on the part of a Prime Minister is voluntary.

It gets worse. Apparently, even though it's a Prime Minister's responsibility to voluntarily adhere to the highest laws in the land, MPs are not subject to the same burden of stringent voluntary compliance to the Constitution that the Prime Minister is. As such, it's perfectly okay for a quarter to his own caucus to oppose granting what are, according to him, rights that are guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And just to make things even sillier, he's essentially telling the voters in (to take but one example) Scarborough-Southwest that they need to vote for Tom Wappel, who has as anti-gay-rights a voting record as any MP in the House, because otherwise Stephen Harper will take away the right to gay marriage.

So, yes. On balance, I'm on Stephen Harper's side. Politics do indeed make for strange bedfellows.

Tee hee.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Canadian federalists should find it encouraging. . .

That the leader of a party that was supposed to disband within a decade of its founding owing to the attainment of its sole goal is now confidently predicting that attainment within thirty years.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

An Attack on Jim Harris and a Defense of the Other Party Leaders. Huh.

As a voter who voted for the Green candidate in my riding during the last federal election and who doesn't regret it a bit, I still recognize that the possibly imminent rise of the Green Party in Canadian politics comes with its fair share of both pros and cons. Pro: it will bring environmental issues into sharp focus. Con: it will do so courtesy of a party whose solutions to environmental problems are at best New Democrat-lite and at worst kind of wacky. Pro: it helps weaken the hegemony of the existing parties. Con: it will do by increasing the power of a new party that supports ideas like proportional representation. And so on.

I do, however, have to sympathize with Jim Harris' desire to be included in the leaders' debates. In 1993, Preston Manning was allowed into the damned things, and his party had all of one seat, that it had won in a by-election. Lucien Bouchard's had more, but only one of them (Gilles Duceppe) had been elected as a Blocquiste, also in a by-election. Moreover, the B.Q. ran candidates only in Quebec, and the Reform Party ran candidates only outside of it (and there were many maritime ridings that it was unable to contest). Contrast this with the Green Party, which ran candidates in every riding last election, virtually always placing in the top five and often finishing ahead of candidates from the other "main" parties. While my disregard for political parties translates, at least on an intellectual level, into a distaste for national leaders' debates, as long as we're to have them they should represent the broadest possible cross-section of options available to Canada's voters. In my books, running 308 candidates should alone guarantee inclusion; everything else the Greens have done is just gravy.

Still, though, from a purely opportunistic standpoint, I don't really see why Harris wants in. He's got a pretty good thing going as it is, what with all of these people supporting his party from a standpoint of ignorance.

Consider all of the people voting Green because the environment is the most important issue for them. And then consider that the New Democrats consistently receive higher marks from environmentalists for their environmental platform than do the Greens for theirs. Or consider all of the people who vote Green because they're tired of the so-called "old line" parties. Then consider that Jim Harris is as much an old line politician as either Martin or Layton (and somewhat more of one than either Harper or Duceppe). Consider all of the people voting Green because they see a fiscally-conservative approach combined with progressive social views, and then consider that the Green Party (rightly, in my view, but still) takes a much harder-line approach to rising gas prices than do New Democrats, and is every bit as vociferous in its condemnation of the government's proposed corporate tax cuts.

The Green Party's not unlike William Lyon MacKenzie King, in that it looks more attractive to many people from a distance. Jim Harris should perhaps be leery of removing that distance.

EDIT: I just realized I left out the defense of the other leaders promised in the title. I eventually decided, in the spirit of trying to reduce topics-to-posts ratio of my blog, that that bit will wait until tomorrow, along with a few miscellaneous tidbits.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Links Today, Green Party Talk Tomorrow

1. I knew there was some reason that I continued to read Dave Cournoyer despite the fact that he's inexplicably started using the first person plural to refer to himself, and tends to pass off reasonably obvious predictions as being sourced, and his link to this reminded me of what it is. Thanks Dave!

2. Over at POI, Mustafa beats me to linking to this article by Paul Wells critical of Paul Martin. In his enthusiasm for slamming Martin, however, Mustafa missed linking to this piece on Stephen Harper, equally as excellent and almost as critical.


Monday, December 12, 2005

The Gauntlet Hath Been Thrown

Don Iveson has made a few premature ejaculations on the subject of election predictions and, while I agreed with most of them, I left a snarky comment offering to bet money against his third one, which predicted at least two 2006 elections. Resultingly, we now have a bet in place, and I'm making this post primarily so I remember to collect come New Year's day 2007.

There has not been a double-federal-election year since Confederation. If there ever is one, it will be the result of a Parliament failing to work - not only that, but it will have to fail to work even more spectacularily than this last one did (since more than a year and a half is ellapsing between elections this time). Moreover, there was little public appetite for this election, and there will be even less for a third within two years. The opposition parties, whichever ones they turn out to be, won't risk that level of public hostility. Bear in mind that the Conservatives initially agreed to support the Liberal budget, and that this was disrupted only by the juicier Gomery recommendations (which prompted the Conservatives to indicate that, while they still had no objection to the *budget*, they had to vote against the *government*). There's no reason at all that this couldn't work again or, in an alternative scenario, that the Liberals couldn't veer to the left and get the support of both the New Democrats and the Bloc. There won't be another election until *at least* the latter half of 2007, and I'd venture a guess that we'll be some distance into 2008 before we see one.

The last time Don and I squared off like this, incidentally, was during the August meeting of the Gateway Student Journalism Society Board of Directors, when we argued over whose recollection of some budgeted figures was more accurate. (A dick-measuring contest? Sure, but you've got to look at it proportionally.)

Also: who do I know who keeps checking this from Genuity Capital Markets?

Next time: Why Jim Harris should count himself lucky that he's not allowed to the leader's debate (and why he should be).


Saturday, December 10, 2005

My new e-mail address: mad&angry@littleman.whaaa

So, the questionaire I sent to all Edmonton-Strathcona candidates for the elections site has borne its first fruit. . . sort of.

The hell of it is that I'm really quite sure that I never said anything nasty about him.

The Marijuana Party *does* have a pretty awesome platform, though.

On another note, does anybody know who this is?


Friday, December 09, 2005

"Steve, you cut your hair! And you got a rubber chicken!"

You know how sometimes in your life you'll get something and then realize retroactively what a huge void the lack of that thing had been in your life? Well, yesterday I acquired a rubber chicken, thanks to Pleasure Motors (of Sad Newspaper and Covered in Oil fame. Fame in some circles, anyway). And I love it. I've named it "Homosex U. L. Chicken", for reasons that likely make sense to an unhealthy majority of my readership.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Guy Smiley for PM

The first NDP election ads are out, and they're probably the best of the big three's ads. Unsurprisingly, their biggest weakness is the fact that Jack Layton still seems unable to wipe that grin off of his face.

"Well, the Liberals promised to take action to reduce pollution," says Jack, "and yet pollution is up."

He begins to smile.

"They promised to do something about cleaning water and yet we have boil water orders all over the country."

The smile broadens into a grin.

"The fact is they've failed. They've broken their promises, and people's health is suffering as a result."

At this, Jack looks pleased as punch.

I have to say, I'd be more inclined to trust a politician to deal with environmental issues if he didn't look so positively thrilled shitless about current pollution.

I do like the lack of voiceover, though (the one way in which I think the Labour ad to which I linked via Spencer could have been improved), and the "This time" slogan's pretty powerful.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

How Come Nobody's Soft on Crime Anymore?

I am, I suppose, something of an anachronism. I am skeptical that there's any incremental deterrant value to adding an extra year to a prison sentence. I reject the philosophy that an offender's sentence is intended, in any way, for the benefit of the survivor (except insofar as incarceration makes re-offending very difficult logistically). I place as much emphasis on the civil liberties of those suspected of crimes as I do on the efficacy of police investigations. I have given money to the John Howard foundation. I am, in short, Soft on Crime, and I wear the label proudly. I'd like my vote in the federal election to reflect this particular aspect of my values. That's not going to be easy.

Quite a number of bills - some government bills, some private member bills - designed to stiffen various sorts of criminal penalties came before the last Parliament. Here's a summary:

Bill C-2
Moved by: Irwin Cotler (Justice Minister and Attorney-General)
Effect: This bill increased the maximum penalties for child sex offenses and for child abandonment and failng to provide the necessities of life. It also created new offenses, and broadened the definition of "dependent relationship" for the purposes of sentencing (which had the effect for further stiffening penalties). It also tightened the definition of what constitutes child pornography.
Result: This bill passed with unananimous support from the Liberal, New Democrat, and Bloc caucuses. The Conservatives voted against, on the grounds that the penalties prescribed in the bill were too light.

Bill C-13
Moved by: Irwin Cotler (Justice Minister and Attorney-General)
Effect: This bill broadened the number of offenses for which criminals would be added to the DNA data bank.
Result: This bill passed with unanimous support from the Liberal, New Democrat, and Bloc caucuses. The Conservatives voted against, on the grounds that the bill didn't do enough to broaden the criteria.

Bill C-53
Moved by: Irwin Cotler (Justince Minister and Attorney-General)
Effect: This bill placed the burden of proof on people committed of organized crime and drug offenses to demonstrate that their property was not acquired from the proceeds of crime. If they fail to meet this burden of proof, the state can confiscate their property.
Result: This bill was passed unanimously.

Bill C-64
Moved by: Irwin Cotler (Justice Minister and Attorney-General)
Effect: This bill, inspired by Chuck Cadman and intended to fight car theft, made it an offense to obscure or obliterate a vehicle registration number, with violators being subject to prison terms of up to five years.
Result: This bill was passed with unanimous support from the Liberal, New Democrat, and Bloc caucuses. The Conservatives voted against, on the grounds that the bill didn't do enough to provide deterrance to car theft (among other reasons, it argued that the prison sentences were too light).

Bill C-65
Moved by: Irwin Cotler (Justice Minister and Attorney-General)
Effect: This bill, inspired by Chuck Cadman, made street racing an aggravating factor in reckless driving offenses.
Result: This bill was passed with unanimous support from the Liberal, New Democrat, and Bloc caucuses. The Conservatives voted against, on the grounds that the penalties prescribed for street racing were too light.

Bill C-215
Moved by: Daryl Kramp (Conservative)
Effect: This bill lengthens sentences for crimes in which a firearm was employed, such that, for example, a manslaughter sentence of twenty years would be lengthened to thirty-five years if it involved a firearm that was discharged, causing bodily harm.
Result: This bill was passed (with Speaker Peter Milliken casting the deciding vote) with the unanimous support of the Conservative and New Democrat caucuses and with a substantital minority of the Liberal caucus. The Bloc caucus voted unanimously against, on the basis that minimum sentences should be used sparingly (Bloc MP Richard Marceau, who gave the Bloc's speech on second reading, did note that there were occasions in which he thought that the use of minimum sentencing was appropriate).

Bill C-248
Moved by: Jay Hill (Conservative)
Effect: This bill imposed minimum sentences for drug-dealing within five hundred metres of a school.
Result: This bill was passed with the unanimous support of the Conservative, New Democrat, and Bloc caucuses, and with majority support of the Liberal caucus.

Bill C-275
Moved by: Richard Harris (Conservative)
Effect: This bill would have eliminated the maximum sentences on hit-and-run offences, and would have established minimum sentences of seven years if the victim dies and four years if the victim suffers bodily harm but survives. It would also have prohibited plea-bargaining for hit-and-run offenses, and eliminated the requirement that the perpetrator must have been seeking to escape criminal or civil prosecution in order for he/she to be found guilty of a hit-and-run offense.
Result: This bill was defeated, with the Conservatives in unanimous support of the bill and a handful of Liberal and New Democrat MPs doing so as well. The Bloc was unanimously in opposition to the bill, on the grounds that it did too much to fetter the discretion of individual judges.

Bill C-293
Moved by: Mark Warawa (Conservative)
Effect: This bill would have created minimum sentences for vehicle theft, with the length of the minimum sentences varying for first, second, and subsequent offences.
Result: This bill was defeated, with the Conservatives in unanimous support of the bill and a handful of Liberal and New Democrat MPs doing so as well. The Bloc was unanimously in opposition to the bill, on the grounds that it did too much to fetter the discretion of individual judges.

These bills are in addition to the literally dozens of sentence-enhancing bills, both government and private members, that didn't make it to first reading by reason of the government's defeat (and/or poor luck in the private member's bill lottery). Besides the much-vaunted marijuana-decriminalization bill (which, as it happens, also stiffened sentences for growing and trafficking in marijuana), there was not a single bill before the last Parliament designed to make sentences for any offense lighter.

How come nobody's soft on crime anymore?


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Elections Talk from Around the Blogosphere

First of all, Shannon posts an uncharacteristically-lucid editorial from the Edmonton Sun.

Next up, Sean Tisdall with a very intelligent economic analysis of the Conservative child care plan.

Then comes my personal favourite, Spencer Keys with a post on a brilliant Labour ad from the U.K.'s last election. I don't make a habit of weighing in on the quality of campaign television ads, because they're pretty well all bunk, but this one's something special (and I don't care for the present state of the Labour Party). If you don't realize how remarkable ad this is, I'd encourage you to compare it with the offerings from the Liberals and the Conservatives so far this election. I agree with the near-universal scorn to be have been heaped on the Conservative ads (and I don't think the French ones are much better), and, unlike some, I don't care for the Liberal ones much either. While they get points for not including any politicians, the tone is a little too similar to Trudeau's 1972 "The Land is Strong" or St-Laurent's 1957 "You Never Had It So Good". They may be positive, but they could do without the smugness. In fact, it's probably no stretch to call the Labour ad to which Spencer's linked the first campaign ad I've ever seen that I liked - my reasons are in his comments section.

That crime post is still coming, by the way, but I need to compile a few data to make it viable.

Pretending It's Interesting

Edmonton-Beaumont's a "wildcard", sez CBC Calgary. Pardon me while I snort this water I'm drinking out of my nose.

Edmonton-Beaumont was *never* a Liberal seat. It was a David Kilgour seat (and David Kilgour's credentials as a Liberal MP were a little questionable themselves), from the time he was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 1979 to the time earlier this year when he announced, as an independent, that he'd decided that eight elections were enough. Without Kilgour, the Liberals won't even come close to retaining the riding - they'll come closer to capturing Edmonton-Strathcona (where by "closer to", I mean "within ten thousand votes of", which is more than can be said for any other riding in Edmonton excepting Landslide Annie's Edmonton-Centre riding).

It's time we come to face with facts: except for the perenially tight Edmonton-Centre, there are no "ridings to watch" in our entire province. It's fortunate that both of our neighbours look to be more interesting.

Coming up: how come nobody's soft on crime anymore?


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Pretty Much the Greatest Thing in the World Ever

So, back in grade eleven when we were learning about atomic orbitals, I designed a helpful mnemonic device to remember the order of orbitals (s, p, d, f): "spudfucker". I haven't thought much about it since, except on those rare occasions when I've been tutoring people in the subject.

Today was one such occasion. This time, though, my victim's reaction to the device was somewhat different than usual, in that he'd already heard of it. Certain that I was, in fact, the inventor of this thing, I was intrigued as to where he'd dug it up. His answer?

"A friend of mine in Mr. Ng's class told me that he learned it in class."

"Mr. Ng", you see, is known to me as Mike Ng, fellow member of the Paul Kane High School class of 2000, and now a chemistry teacher at the alma mater. Thanks to his methods, I seem to be making a contribution to the world of science.

This is totally going on my resume.

308 posts on Steve's blog. . . 308 seats in the House of Commons. Coincidence? Not really.

1. The sidebar's updated. I could tell that I'd been gone for too long when I noticed that a couple of blogs had, during my absence, been resurrected from the "missing and presumed dead" list and then, before I returned, earned their way right back on there.

2. I think I need a new blog template. For the longest time I've considered the unrepentant ugliness of my home on the net to be a virtue, but now I've decided to attribute its lack of readability to its poor choice of font and hideous colour scheme, rather than to my overly-prolix ways. I'm thinking that I need a smaller, serif font, and maybe a darker background. Thoughts are welcome, and should be dropped in the comments section.

3. I just sent off my questions (I limited it to twenty-five this year) to the three Edmonton-Strathcona candidates for whom I currently have e-mail addresses (these being Ms. Duncan and Messrs. Wakefield and Dowling), and noticed, moments after hitting send, that I'd neglected to include anything Clarity Act-related. Humbug. In any event, answers to the questions will be posted here if/as they come in.

4. Sean Tisdall has apparently acquired a board game called "Canadian Pie" which simulates a federal-provincial conference. I have no idea if it's any good, but one of my rules for board games is that a bad board game that simulates a federal-provincial conference is better than a good board game that doesn't. E-mail me if you want to play, and Sean and I will attempt to set something up.

5. I really like Tom Cochrane, and I'm no longer ashamed of this fact.

6. I'm getting a cell phone. Further details to follow, where by "further details", I mean "number".

7. I wrote the LSAT this morning. It went alright, but I don't think I'll be equaling the 177 I managed in practice. This is partly because, in the practice one, whenever I finished a section I'd just proceed straight to the next one, allowing me to finish it in an hour and a half, while in the real test they make you wait the full thirty-five minutes before starting a new section, and it's pretty hard to keep your focus for five hours (this included about half an hour during which we were taken through the process of filling our personal information into the bubble sheet. Some people had questions. Inevitably, these are the people who will wind up as our MPs.). Also, I was drinking tea and listening to music during the practice exam, and those fascists doing the administration of the real thing wouldn't let me do either.


Friday, December 02, 2005

It's not often I express sympathy for a star Liberal candidate. . .

. . . but you've got to feel a little sorry for Michael Ignatieff. First, he gets accused of making anti-Ukrainian comments in one of his books ("Isn't nationalism just an exercise in kitsch?" "Ukrainians now have a state, but are they really a nation?"). He says they're being taken out of context. I say they're not all that unreasonable even sans context.

Then he faces the music for the Liberal Party establishment's typically high-handed and anti-democratic behaviour (though to those who think that they were screwed out of a Liberal nomination, I say the same thing I always say: you think you're better than the guy carrying the Liberal banner? Run as an independent.), being heckled by a whole lot of plants at his nomination meeting, most of whom don't even appear to have been members of the constituency association.

Now he's facing the music for saying, of all things, that he'd like his old job back if he fails to get elected to this new one. His old job, see, is in Massachusetts and, apparently, running for Member of the Canadian Parliament doesn't just mean that you need to be Canadian, but that, even if you lose, you have to live and work in Canada for the foreseeable future. Or something.

I'd be no more likely to vote for Ignatieff if I lived in his riding than I would be to vote for any other Liberal in whose riding I happened to reside, and I find comparisons between Ignatieff and Trudeau to be more than a little sacrilegious, but I think the poor guy deserves a break.


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