Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dan Savage and Some High School Kids

Dan Savage is talking to some high school age kids at a conference about journalism.  When the subject turns to homosexuality in the bible a bunch of them walk out.  By walking out they are making a public statement that they don't mind being on the wrong side of history and rationality.

They would make some fine journalists.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Night

Liza Minelli and Joel Grey explain the surprising results in the 2012 Alberta Election.

Also, the Toronto Star won five National Newspaper Awards. 

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Morton, Hinman and Some Bickering

The last pre-election message on Ted Morton's website:

To our Supporters:

Thank you for supporting me and the PC Party—a party that has madeAlbertathe best place to work, to live and to raise a family. As your MLA for Chestermere-Rocky View, I will work for you to keep it that way.

I wasn't really sure if that was a premature victory speech or an awkwardly worded appeal to get out the vote. A paragraph down, to the undecided voters he wrote:

Vote for a candidate who has known and worked with Prime Minister Stephen Harper for over 20 years, and will work effectively with Ottawa to ensure Alberta’s continued prosperity by getting the export pipelines like Keystone XL and Northern Gateway built.

Vote for a party that will build the new schools and health facilities our growing communities need, not fritter it away with “Danielle Dollars”.

Vote for a candidate and a party that will protect the Bow andElbowRivers, and the Eastern Slopes, not a party that will repeal the Land Stewardship Act.

In summary: I'm pals with Harper, infrastructure spending, and we did nothing wrong with the land use framework. There are all kinds of interesting issues regarding Morton's election loss, however I will simply say that as the key architect of the land use framework it isn't too surprising that the voters walked away from him. The framework was perceived as heavy handed, lacking due process, and just alienated land owners. To get rural Albertans to vote out a PC Cabinet minister takes some special talent.

The sad thing is something like the framework is needed, and the alternate policy that would have been implemented by the Wildrose would have made it impossible to stop polluters, help endangered species, or act in any way in the public good.

Aside from that rumours persisted in the campaign that Morton was disinterested in the campaign. The Premier must have been extremely disappointed that he wasn't reelected. No seriously...

A gratuitous photo of Richard Nixon leaving the Whitehouse for the last time in 1974

Paul Hinman's Wildrose website, on the other hand, went 404 almost immediately after the election.  Today he announced through a local Pravda outlet that he would not be paying back wages recieved for being a member of a committee that never met. Also known as the money for nothing scandal. I'm still a little confused exactly about this pay structure, but so is everyone else. But if all of those involved agreed to pay back those wages, it seems to me that Hinman should as well. I'm not sure it's a great career move.  Rick Bell will have to find another hero.

Naturally, the party leader shrugs her shoulders. What can you do? He's a private citizen now, she roughly said. He's presumably still a party member and was or is on the executive. I only bring this up because the leader spent so much time talking about entitlements, big government, and transparency. I should learn not to be so naive.

Hinman's loss will make it interesting for the Wildrose Caucus having 17 members but only 2 with previous MLA experience, and a leader who has spent her whole career in elitist right wing bubbles. Hinman had some MLA experience that might have been useful. How to table a pseudo-scientific paper on the climate change hoax, for example. Without Hinman who else will  compare mundane legislation to Stalin and the Ukrainian Holodomor.  Someone will have to step into those shoes.

At last we get to Gary Bickman. the new Wildrose MLA for Cardston-Taber, who believes the urban voters got it all wrong and don't understand. It's a dish better served in his own words:

"I think they possess more common sense, a least that's my experience. The people who make their living off the land really seem to understand the way nature really works," said Bickman.

He went on to say that city dwellers just don't understand the issues.

"I think that these social issues that came up during the last week and the PCs ability to exploit them, caused some concern in the voters within urban areas, at least, because they didn't really understand the issues, they didn't really understand that there was an aspect of free speech, " said the Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA-Elect.

Yeah, common sense. The people who live off the land in southern alberta have it tough enough considering how arid it is. I wonder how they think nature will really work when the global climate is a few degrees warmer.

And as far as issues go, Bickman should know that almost the entire Wildrose Platform comes from institutions in the cities:  universities, the churches, and the think tanks. Even homophobia, carefully packaged  for hipsters to seem harmless comes from the large urban mega churches and the urban hate groups like Focus on the Family.  Also, professional sports.

We hope that the Wildrose MLAs keeping expressing their thoughts in the media. The party has made a rather open commitment to free speech and MLA autonomy. It should be interesting when dogma meets reality. Please recommend this post

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Identity Politics and Some Numbers

The No True Scotsman fallacy often appears in arguments about philosophy or religion.  It has some bearing on the change that is about to engulf Alberta.  The fallacy would sound something like this in a conversation about Alberta politics:

You:     No conservative would vote for the Progressive Conservative Party
Me:      Well...last election 58% of Albertans voted PC, and I think they would call themselves conservative
You:    Ah...well no true conservative would vote PC.
It seems that Alberta is on a collision course with a severe case of right wing identity politics. The biggest scandals of the Wildrose campaign, a  homophobic rant, and a weird statement about caucasian power, are clear examples of the right wing's obsession with identity and conformance. However, I'm pretty sure most Albertan's who got on the Danielle Smith bus think it's really about abstract notions of populism or change. Or even just the opportunity presented by an incompetent PC campaign, an organization seemingly in it's last days. Thus, the main question of the 2012 election seems to be, who are the real conservatives? This question wrapped in the grade school rhetoric of a family feud has overshadowed other topics.

But before we can unravel this question of who the real conservatives are, we have to consider the polling numbers.  Historically, conservative parties in Alberta get between 50% to 60% of the popular vote. In 2008 it was 58%, in 2004 57% and in 2001 61%. That range holds fairly true federally as well for Albertan voters.

In the 2012 election polling suggests that the combined conservative vote will be around 70%. The one I last saw reported 41% for Wildrose and 32% for PC, a total of 73%.  So it appears that this election has magically created an addition 10-15% more conservative voters.

It's obvious that a big chunk of Wildrose voters are coming over from the PC Party, but not enough to explain the 73% estimate.  The drop in PC support is probably more precipitous than we know and may be masked by Alberta Liberal party voters moving to the PC party out of fear and loathing.  What is actually left of the PC party will be an interesting question to look into next week.

That  leaves the original question of who are the real conservatives who will take power tomorrow? Well, the Wildrose Party will cruise to victory on a well crafted narrative that they are Alberta's true conservatives. They and their friends in the media, managed to demonize Alison Redford as a "liberal" and I saw the word socialist thrown around for good measure. So the Liberal Party and the Alberta NDP never really got into the game because Redford and the PC Party became the surrogate for everything true Alberta conservatives are supposed to hate.  They appear to have tapped into some powerful voodoo about what a true Albertan is.

I suspect that the 73% conservative vote estimate will snap back to the historical range when the votes are counted.  But that won't be enough to stop the Wildrose identity movement of true and pure conservatism from being elected.  And you know that that identity will be projected onto the national stage as what every damn Albertan bar none believes.   Gird your loins.

I can just hear it true Albertan would tolerate a human rights commission...

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

ABVOTE: Play the Obama Card.

Donna Kennedy-Glans, election flyer 2012
This was in my mailbox on Friday. Donna Kennedy-Glans is running as the PC candidate in my riding of Calgary Varsity. It's quite impressive, the production values are great.  It looks like it cost a lot. Not surprising from a governing party that spares no penny on self-promotion.  Interesting, no mention of the PC Party until the very bottom of the back page. A bit bombastic perhaps.

Kennedy-Glans and Alison Redford have one thing in common: they both tried to unseat Rob Anders as the Conservative Party candidate in Calgary West.  I wrote about it here and here. For their efforts they both had to endure the misogyny of the right wing smear machine, being referred to as "left wing feminist lawyers" and that kind of thing.  Creeps like Ezra Levant and the like had their fun with it. Stephen Harper, apparently, made it kind of clear that neither woman was his kind of people.

I was wondering about this flyer though, and the obvious homage to Barack Obama. It seems sort of opportunistic from a conservative activist. I wonder if you can ride that train while at the same time betting your economic and environmental platform on the unseating of Obama and his congressional colleagues. It seems a little strange.

There was an interesting photo op a week or two ago of Kennedy-Glans explaining to Redford that the people in Calgary Varsity were really quite angry about the committee pay scandal.  Redford, who I think has been losing the battle on body language, looked like she was ready to punch someone.

I don't have a good feel for who can win in Calgary Varsity.  I tend to think Kennedy-Glans is running third, behind the Liberal and Wildrose candidates.  She could win.

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Friday, April 20, 2012


Warren Kinsella says here and here that Progressives should vote for Alison Redford's Progressive Conservative Party in Alberta's Provincial election. It is a formulaic and emotional appeal to strategic voting. It presents no argument that such a vote would accomplish anything useful.  The strategic voting argument is always stated as an urgent imperative, and is insulting to our intelligence. (So is this video, by the way.)

I will grant you at the outset, that a Wildrose government is the worst of all possible outcomes for Alberta. It's not an Alberta trait (in majority) to be ignorant racist anti-science homophobes. Few Alberta leaders (except perhaps Ralph Klein) have been so tolerant, even welcoming, of these malignant views as Danielle Smith. And yet, you can find those same views in the Progressive Conservative party any day of the week. They just manage their message better, that's all. I would rather face these people out in the open, rather than have the PC party's rodeo clowns wave their arms in my face and tell me they don't exist. I thought it would be obvious to Alberta's Progressives that voting for Alison Redford's Party will not solve any particular problem, and will probably make things worse.

So, I won't be voting for Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party under any circumstances. I never voted for them in any election from when I first started voting in the early 80's, and I likely never will.  Voting for the PC's to stop the Wildrose is a waste of time and energy.

Some reasons.

Fear and Loathing

Trying to provoke fear reactions does not work in politics when you are behind. Tim Powers is right about the Chicken Little argument, but he is wrong about the fear being unjustified.  Scaring people didn't work with Stephen Harper. We Progressives in the west knew what this train wreck would look like back in 1993. But moderate conservatives (in Ontario mostly) and the corporate media knew better, and said Harper was harmless. Now they act surprised and concerned. The same kind of media failure and cognitive distortion put Danielle Smith where she is now. Her superficial charm seems to appeal to some. Additionally, almost all of the fear tactics are being forwarded by PC supporters, with a bit of help from friends with typewriters.

A Credible Opposition

Regardless of who actually wins the election an effective, ethical and progressive opposition is more important that it has ever been. You must realize that next week we could have a legislature consisting entirely of conservatives.  In 1982 Grant Notley and Ray Martin were the sole opposition members to Peter Lougheed. Power should never go unchecked.  The PC party will be in no position to function as official opposition, even though they will likely win that status on numbers. Alison Redford will probably resign Monday night.  Last time they picked a leader it took almost a year, in what could be best described as a farcical infomercial that was fraudulently passed off as a general election of sorts.  The PC party will likely break down in infighting.  I think they are far too arrogant and used to playing god to be an effective opposition. They have no idea what the opposition does.   With the PC and Wildrose the only parties in the Legislature you can bet that most of their time will be taken up with their family feud. Aside from that being boring as hell, we have a lot of important issues to deal with.  Do you believe that 40% or 50% of Albertans who are not conservatives deserve no representation?

Voting into Decline

One good reason not to vote for the PC Party is that they are in steep decline.  We know the mythology about 1935 and 1971.  In both of those election years long running ruling parties were dumped. The 2012 election may or not follow this pattern entirely; however history would suggest that if Albertans say they are done with the PC party then they are really done with them. This may be wishful thinking on my part, but I think it is quite possible they could go the way of the Social Credit Party.  Either way, if you are a progressive in Alberta it would make more sense to take a longer view and vote into the future.  The project of fixing Alberta's political culture will take longer than any of us thought.  It's also worth considering that moderate conservative parties (red toryism) are in decline in many places. Conservative organizations seem to be more radical these days, more tea party like.


The PC party doesn't have an especially good record on the issue of gay rights. Stockwell Day, formerly Alberta's Treasurer and Social Services Minister had an appalling habit of saying stupid hateful things about gays.   They did remove the right of gay people to be foster parents, and that prohibition has been upheld ever since.  Between 1991 and 1998 Delwin Vriend's  human rights case against the Klein Government and the exclusion of gay people from basic human rights protection worked it's way through the courts. The Alberta government fought Vriend through to the Supreme Court of Canada, where they lost. Apparently it was quite expensive.  The result was the Supreme Court writing sexual orientation into Alberta's Human rights code, by force if you will.  The Alberta government has never apologized, nor have they ever acknowledged gay rights as human rights in any way.  I think it remains controversial for them.  And then there was Bill 44 which came out of nowhere. Some would say it was an attempt to stop discussion of gay issues in schools. That may be true. The Stelmach Government just wouldn't be honest about the purpose of the bill. 

I know the Wildrose will be worse for gay rights, with their jocular hate speech and the threats of referendums.  But at least we know that in Canada the courts will side with gay rights.  I'm not afraid to admit that I fear the worst.


Under future PC governments the output of carbon dioxide from industry will likely double or triple, with little or no mitigation. The Wildrose officially does not believe in climate change.  They had to articulate that position clearly to attract support from industry and their collection of little weenies who bravely brag online about wanting to assassinate David Suzuki.  Neither party will be effective on environmental issues. Not much of a choice on a fairly important issue.

Close Races and My Riding

Some pundits are saying that almost half of the ridings have a less than 10% lead for the front running. This, and the apparently large number of undecided voters will make the election interesting, among other things.  But in my riding the Alberta Liberal candidate has a pretty good chance of winning. To me that represents a better choice than voting PC.  And no, I'm not endorsing the Alberta Liberals, but I'm also not especially turned off by them. 


Officially I'm still an undecided voter. But I plan on voting as in other elections, in agreement with my basic values. I know that this time next week we will be facing a whole new set of problems.  A lot of us won't be happy. Democracy and good will will be on the run.

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