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June 29, 2004

Let's change the subject

Curiously, I'm still angry and upset about yesterday's results. I just hate to think about it. I haven't opened the newspapers and I'm keeping a safe distance from the TV. To prevent me from writing a long screed where I shake my little blog fist at the dopey and deluded voters of Ontario, I went digging for cool stuff on the web. These links should cheer anyone up.

  • How can you keep in shape without going to the gym? With House Gymnastics, of course. Soon to be an Olympic Sport.
  • Check out this digital Tower of Babel. They'll get there someday.
  • Here's a script that displays the last 30 photos posted to Live Journal. It's quite intriguing and occasionally pornographic. Just keep reloading
  • Are grocery lists boring? Yes. But archiving other's lists is not.
  • Have you ever seen one of those PC cases with the window cut in the side and neon lights inside? Amateurs..
  • And are you dope? Or wack? Find out.
Okay. I feel a bit better.

Please sir, may I have another?

The emotions are swirling. Feeling stupid for being confident that Canadians weren't going to buy the Liberal snake oil again, angry because Canadians did buy the Liberal snake oil again, and disgusted because I put my faith in something, worked hard on it, and have nothing to show for it.

The last emotion is wrong. It's too easy to wrap yourself in a thick armour of cynicism and detachment to avoid suffering disappointment. But that requires giving up, and I'm not prepared to do that. There'll be another election soon, and if this minority government allows us to finally get to the truth about the depth of Liberal corruption, we'll be able to boot them out and do some much needed repairs to our democracy.

Hopefully the Conservatives will run as conservatives next time, rather than a slightly less looney version of the Liberals. Laying down a bold but honest platform that proposes to shake some of the grit and mildew off our institutions will surely enrage the usual suspects (who could never be pleased anyways), but will cool the overactive imaginations of those fearful voters that gave Paul Martin another chance. An aggressive but reasonable public agenda will eliminate the worries of a hidden agenda. Privatize the CBC? Oh that's all?

Considering the national picture, the Conservatives in Pontiac did pretty well. We got more than 24% of the vote, but still came in third. And so much for my vision of having many drinks while watching the results come in -- I spent most of the night flying a spreadsheet and talking to scrutineers on the phone. Just as well -- I don't think I could have handled watching Peter Mansbridge's smug, sanctimonious crap for very long anyway.

And now I go to bed...

June 28, 2004

Election predictions

Lots of predictions are floating around about what the results of the election will be. I haven't been following the professional pundits and pollsters' thoughts about this very well, but I get the idea that they think the Liberals are within striking range of getting more seats than the Conservatives (though a Conservative win is still more likely). But I don't think so. I think the Tories have definitely got the win, and may even reach a majority.

The Liberal vote is extremely soft. They may answer 'Liberal' to the pollster, but they've been given no better reason for voting for PM Paul than paranoid hysteria about what a party with slightly more common sense will do to some particular sacred cow. In my own personal discussions with people, I haven't come across anyone willing to admit to supporting the Liberals. Some will vote NDP, some Bloc, and most Conservative, but the Liberals have no supporters in my immediate circle of friends. Of course, if there were any, they would no longer be in my immediate circle of friends... (Just kidding.)

But I'm not willing to bet on a majority. Here's my guess -- and I'm only making it to cash in on the worldwide fame and admiration I'll receive if I'm correct:

Conservatives -- 130
Liberals -- 98
NDP -- 26
Bloc -- 54

And in my riding I'm betting on Judy Grant, the Conservative candidate, to take it in a tight three-way race. There's three classes of voters in this riding: anti-Liberal, anti-Bloc, and anti-Conservative. The anti-Liberal is the largest by far, and will give many votes to the Bloc and Tories. But Pontiac is also a Federalist riding and traditionally votes with the winner. We've run a well-financed, well-targeted campaign, and though the local strategy is usually secondary to the national battle, I think we managed to swing a significant number of voters. But we'll see.

I'm going to be at our campaign's party in Chelsea as the results come in. I'm either going having a few to celebrate or drown my sorrows. Should be a fun night.

Update: Colby Cosh has a good roundup of other predictions. I'm at the upper end of the scale, with only Colby himself predicting more Conservative MPs than me. Hmmm.

June 23, 2004

Can't win, don't try

The editorial board of the Official News Organ of the Liberal Party of Canada came out today and endorsed Paul Martin for PM. Big surprise. But it's funny to read the twisting and squinting they use to try to find the right angle to make 'Team Martin' look good. That they're not very successful is captured in their pessimistic title: The safe choice is to do no harm.

June 22, 2004

Sparse

Also: lame, unfocused, boring, quiet, pointless, disappointing. If my thesaurus was nearby I'd find other words to describe my blog lately, but that would require me to go looking for it. And you can't find anything around here right now.

Each day, these toddlers of mine suck up much of my free time and prevent me from adding anything significant to this blog. It won't last forever, f course, but right now I feel a little out of control. My work on the local campaign has kept me pretty busy too. But that doesn't mean I don't have anything to say. Here's some of things that would have been written over the past two weeks if my kids would just calmly play with their toys on the floor and not require constant stimulation from me. Some of them might even have been interesting:

  • A rant on biases in the media.
  • A thoughtful examination of the two different philosophies of threat management, prevention and deterence.
  • A Lileksian discussion of my humiliating encounter with the new, automated, do-it-yourself checkouts at the supermarket.
  • Fiction! Murder in Teletubbieland, the story of the gruff but endearing DI Albright's investigation into Dipsy's murder. I think the NooNoo did it...
  • A discussion of how the growing anti-American obsession of watchdog groups such as Amnesty International and Greenpeace will weaken the causes they claim to care about.
  • Another rant about the biases in the media.
  • Musings about how allowing private health care providers will cause government spending to go up -- by removing some of the rationing of service that goes on now.
  • Gushing praise for what is probably the best kids movie you've never heard of, My Neighbor Totoro.
  • Yet more complaining about media bias.

Who knows, I might still be able to write these pieces in the near future, but I doubt it. I dream of the days -- coming soon, I hope -- when I'll be able to close a door to a room for a couple of hours and type away in peace. But trying to write standing at the kitchen counter while two little people clutch my leg saying, "Uh! Uh!" (translation: 'Up! Up!') is not much fun. So the blog will be sparse for some time, I'm afraid, but I'm not going to give it up yet.

And they're still be pictures. Like this one, which holds many thousands of words, I'm sure:

What's going on in this picture?  Write an essay to describe the emotions on the children's faces and speculate on what is happening.  You will be graded on your use of language and imagination.

A bloody Moore-der

Christopher Hitchens absolutely shreds Michael Moore and his ludicrous new movie in this must read column. He takes an axe to Moore's facts, eviscerates his character, and bludgeons his artistic ability. The money quote:

To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.
And it just keeps getting better...

June 17, 2004

A 'Dear Paul' Letter

I'm not sure what happened to make me dislike Paul Martin even more than I disliked Big Bad Jean, but I do. I think it might be that Jean would just shrug when facing his critics -- he knew he was crooked, but also knew he had the bodies safely buried. It was as if he was saying, "What are you going to do about it?" Paul Martin is just as sleazy, but he seems to really believe he walks on water -- as many others believed as late as last December. And he gets pretty sactimonious when when faced with skepticism.

Anyways, I love a good take-down of Preachy Paul, and Paul Wells has a great one in his column in Macleans. Enjoy.

June 15, 2004

It's summertime

And about time for another picture of the kids. Here they are enjoying the pool I so heroically inflated the other day.

June 14, 2004

Any English to French translators out there?

As I mentioned before, I'm working on updating the website for my local Conservative candidate. I have a problem right now finding people willing to translate short pieces on the local race, and am wondering if anyone could help out. Nothing more than a few paragraphs a day, I promise. Just send me a mail. Thanks.

The party's over

Well, it was fun while it lasted. Time Magazine has noted the blogging trend, so I guess this fad is over. Maybe I should set up an internet TV station now. Yeah, like I've got that much time...

It's on the internet, it must be true

Here's the summary of last week's election news, straight from Planet Liberal: Liberals continue to spread positive message, while Alliance-Conservatives get pounded with criticism!

Bring an umbrella if you plan to follow the link -- it's a bullshit hurricane over there. These guys are so deep in denial they can't even accept their opponent's name.

June 11, 2004

Runaway Train

There's a thrill that comes from taking a few days off from the blog that comes from the inflated sense of importance it gives me. After a day and a half, I start receiving emails wondering if anything is wrong. And when I don't answer them, the internet is soon a-buzz with theories as to what's happened. But when the police came to my door to check up on me, the necessity of my posts to my readers was really driven home. Thanks to both of you for your concern.

An excuse I thought I would use for my absence is that my TV service has been resumed. I tried to shut it off back in December, but the clever person in the call-center convinced me to just switch it off for awhile. And now it's back. Possibly I could have been spending the past few days getting reaquainted with an old friend -- but this is an excuse no one would believe. If anything, TV has gotten even worse in six months. Vacuous, repetitive, unimaginative crap -- and the non-news shows are pretty bad too.

The American stations were shocked -- Shocked! -- that dogs had been used to intimidate prisoners in Iraqi jail. This was implied to be some sort of scandal, though they didn't really explain why. Newsworld -- or al-Gorezeera as some internet wit named it -- was covering their coverage of their obsession with the non-issue of abortion in the Conservative campaign with immense dedication. I got to see one clip of an earnest young woman, newly emerged from the bubble she's been trapped in for the past twenty years, ask yet another abortion question at a campaign stop. The sound from the crowd was a groan and a soft clunk as their eyes collectively rolled back in their heads. Her indignation sensor was obviously calibrated far too sensitively, so she started throwing out accusations that she was being heckled. To the person she was asking the question to. It's a wonder how Harper kept a straight face. Can this really be the state of the professional media today?

I'm going to keep the TV going until the end of the election, then off it goes. My children will grow up deprived. Too bad. Let them whine to their therapists about it.

The campaign here in Pontiac is going better than expected. I can't say I've been a big help -- I've done a few updates to the website, and helped with a couple of technical issues -- but mostly I've been on the sideline. But I've been to the meetings and am enjoying watching how a campaign is run. The big thing I've learned is that politics really is local. You can't just put up signs and go around shaking hands in the town center to get elected. You need to know people who know people. You have to earn the trust of those people. Communities are complex networks of people that take cues from others. Winning support of influential citizens goes a long way to winning the votes of the majority. We're doing quite well here as our candidate has deep roots in this area. As well, many of the former organizers for the Liberals here have lost their faith in the party and are angry at the way the incumbent was treated. They're working for us now. Can we win? Well, I'm feeling pretty good about it.

Hey! It's Mama's and my tenth wedding anniversary today! That's a really long time -- just imagine, double digits. And we've been together much longer, almost eighteen years. It's one of those milestones that makes you reassess your vision of yourself -- no, you're not a young man who's life is just beginning, you're a middle-aged guy for whom anything is no longer possible. I hope to delay my mid-life crisis until the kids are in nursery school.

And how about those kids! Three weeks ago Max was still crawling and Talia was much slower. Now .... well, it's crazy around here. Max tries to get into everything. Doors, latches, drawers, windows -- they all fascinate him. His standard response to the word 'no' is an evil smile and a chuckle. Talia is not quite such a terror to objects, but she's a fast mover has has very many strong desires. She's also absolutely incapable of sharing, and one of her strong desires is of whatever it is that Max is holding at any moment. And she's also learned how to scream, did I mention that? Just for fun, she'll let out a blood-curdling, ear-splitting scream for no reason at all. If you live within 50 miles of here, you're probably already aware of it.

But they're fun little guys. I spent the other day inflating a small pool for them to frolic in on hot days. I had lots of time to relect as I did it, and thought about all the other fathers, in the past, present and future, that spent their time assembling some mass-manufactured outdoor playstructure for their kids. This is one of the father's special roles -- mothers don't set up the swingsets or fill the sandboxes -- and I felt a strange bond of solidarity with those other men. And yet I've always felt somewhat isolated from the main currents of human experience. I've always been an outsider, or so I thought, living in a different world.

But I'm not. Fatherhood is the most normal thing in the world. Who would have thought it would feel so wonderful?

June 07, 2004

France's misplaced fears

Andrew Coyne relates an interesting historical footnote that sheds a bit of light on current paranoias.

June 06, 2004

Sixty years later

Gnotalex at Blog Québécois has a great post on the subject of D-Day and the Liberal Party's relationship with it. Remember it when you see the pictures of Paul Martin looking solemn at the services today.

June 05, 2004

Propaganda? Look who's talking!

I like comic books and computer games. Most of what's produced in both mediums is absolute crap, of course, but there's some great stuff that comes out every now and then that I'd like to be made aware of. The National Post, to it's credit, has reviewers covering new games and comics, just as they do for movies and books. It's too bad the comics reviewer, Jeet Heer, is such an idiot.

Here's how he begins his review (not available on the web) of a collection of anti-American comics:

Propaganda works: That is the distressing lesson we can draw from recent history. Over the last two years, a large majority of Americans (and a significant numbers [sic] of Canadians) have accepted as fact patently untrue things, notably that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, that the Iraqi government had significant ties to al-Qaeda, and that Iraq itself was awash in weapons of mass destruction. These factitious notions were spread either by the U.S. Bush administration or its Neanderthal allies in the right-wing press.
Well. After two years of reading the Neanderthal right-wing press I have not once read any claims that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. But maybe I'm not reading the right crackpots. Certainly the Bush administration never claimed he was -- could you imagine the 'Bush Lied!' crew's hysterics if they had? And I detect some qualifiers to the 'propaganda' Heer's exposing. Does he mean it's 'patently untrue' that the Iraqi government had ties to al-Qaeda, or just that they were 'significant' ties? And while he's certainly right that it's 'patently untrue' that Iraq was 'awash in weapons of mass destruction', no one actually claimed it was. (The sarin gas used recently in a terrorist attack in Iraq and the 20 tons of chemical weapons found in the hands of al-Qaeda in Jordan would hardly have made Iraq 'awash' in the horrible stuff.)

Well, never mind. I'd be able to forgive that (very stupid) opening paragraph if he went on to discuss to book he was reviewing as a work of propaganda as well, just on the other side. After all, pictures with words have been used as propaganda with great success in the past -- and pictures with words is all comics are. They have a tremendous ability to simplify issues and promote a certain viewpoint, which I'm sure this book does.

But no, Heer is unable to even consider this possibly balanced point of view. In the rest of the review, Heer follows the same extreme leftist line, calling Fox News viewers 'simple rubes', praising propagandists Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky, and dropping the names of some obscure left-wing intellectuals (in case you missed how clever he is). The article would fit right in in a typical campus rag. How on earth did it get in the supposed 'right-wing' Canadian national newspaper?

June 04, 2004

Let's go for a walk!

It's 11:00. Time to get the kids up. We've got time for a walk before lunch at 12 -- won't that be nice? They're both in their cribs standing up and waiting to get out. I let Talia out -- and away she goes; and Max -- whew, I've got a poopy diaper to change. I put him on the changing mat, and he starts to squirm and complain. He needs a distraction -- Mama's makeup bag (empty). It works. I get the freedom to open up downstairs -- and what a mess it is. One of those brown slimy, ookey poopies that get in all the crevices. Yuck. Someone's been feeding him strawberries. Nothing to do but clean it up. One cloth -- not enough, two cloths -- that'll do. Latch him up again just as he's losing interest in the bag. And now where's Talia? She's smart enough not to have tumbled down he stairs, but she's had the time to get into real mischief. I'm lucky, she's just in Mama and Papa's bedroom looking out the window. I take Max downstairs and close the gate to the basement, latch the door to the foyer, and set the gate for the upstairs before putting him down. I set my internal trouble timer for three minutes though, because Max is better at getting into trouble than Talia, and head upstairs. Okay, does Talia need a change? Sniff. She does. Put her on the mat and hand her the bag. She's enthralled. I get to work. Hmm, even worse than Max's -- ick. One cloth, two cloths, all done. Wipe her up and, uh oh, my trouble timer's gone off. Nothing I can do, get her dressed, but wait -- it looks like a bit of poopie got on her pants. I need new pants. My trouble timer is blaring. Let's get some pants. Now where are they? Those nice white overalls with the anchors would be perfect right now. Here they are -- no wait, these are different. Where's the other pair? Trouble timer -- deafening. These'll do, I'll put them on her downstairs. I lift Talia up, take her downstairs and look for Max. No sign of him -- not good. Oh, he's opened the screen door to the back deck and is outside. I didn't know he could do that. He's fine, I just quickly latch the gates to prevent him from getting into the yard and leave him there. Okay, let's get Talia dressed. These overalls are -- too big. Maybe if I adjust the shoulder straps -- no. Way too big. Okay, gotta find some more pants, this should just take a second. I run upstairs to the kid's closet. Where's those damn pants? Here's her blue overalls, they're getting a bit small but they'll do -- hey, look, the nice white ones with the anchors are under the blue ones -- perfect! Oh oh, what's that? Max is screaming. I run down the stairs, avoid tripping over Talia who is wandering around with those giant overalls on and get to the back deck. Max is on his hands and knees, red-faced, crying loudly. It looks like he tripped over the extension cord I had out for some yardwork this morning. I pick him up and let him get it all out. There's tears all down his face and his mouth is wide open -- oh, here's a bit of blood in his mouth. He must have bit his tongue when he fell. Poor boy. I look through the screen door and see Talia strolling around, holding her stuffed panda. She trips because of her long pants but gets right back up again like nothing happened. Cutey. Max is okay now, so I put him down and grab Talia and sit on the couch. She's squirmy, but I manage to get the correct pants installed. Okay, now we need socks and shoes. I remember that yesterday's socks had been pretty dirty so they needed new ones. This will also free me from having to actually find yesterday's socks -- Bonus! I go back upstairs to get socks. Mama has the socks well organized and I have no trouble picking out socks that will match their cute little outfits. Now, the shoes. Where are the shoes? Are they on the kitchen table? No. The kitchen counter? No. At the front door? On the front deck? On the back deck? No. No. No. Where are the damn shoes? Maybe they're upstairs, sometimes they're still in shoes at bathtime and get left in the bathroom. I run upstairs and check. Nope. In their room? No. In Mama and Papa's room? NO! WHERE THE HELL ARE THEY? And then from downstairs -- BAM! (pause) Whaaahhh!!! I run downstairs to see Max tangled in the screen door. The cats have ripped a hole in it, and Max had put his foot in the hole and fell trying to get it out. He's okay. Talia is patting his head, not very gently. And so back to the shoes -- where are the damn shoes? Downstairs, could they be there? Yes! I see one shoe in the middle of the room and manage to find the other three scattered under various pieces of furniture. One of them even has a pink sock still in it. How they got there I can't remember. Maybe we should create some kind of system so that ... yeah right. Okay, lets get the shoes and socks on. Max lets me do it no problem, and his are quick because they're velcro. Talia is squirmy girl and doesn't want shoes. Luckily I'm much much stronger than her and manage to force them on. Double knot, they're not coming off, so there. Next: sunscreen. Where is it? Out on the front deck under the Adirondack chair. Of course. Out to the back deck where the kids are playing. Grab the small one. A struggle. Lather her with goop. Set her free. Grab the other one. Another struggle. Resistance is useless, foolish earthling. Finished. Now all we have is the hats and we're ready to go. And the hats are where they're supposed to be! Great! I put their hats on, snapping on Max's and tying on Talia's, and then set them free in the front yard before putting them in the stroller. Um ... where's the stroller? No stroller. Oh wait, I remember now -- Mama took them for an outing yesterday, so the stroller must still be in the car. Talia starts walking to the right of the house and Max staggers to the left. I open the trunk and pull out the parts of the stroller. When we first got it, it was very easy to unfold. Now for some reason, things get caught when you're trying to open it, so you've got to hold these things apart with one hand while you pry the thing open with the other hand and one foot. Very awkward. Okay, it's opened, now I just have to attach the front wheel ... and what do you know, it doesn't want to go on. I've never had a problem with the wheel before, what's going on? While I struggle with the wheel, Max loads the stroller with gravel. I finally get it on, though the lock didn't latch the way it normally does. Who cares, it's good enough -- now where's Talia? She's on the other side of the yard trying to get the lid off the sandbox. Not right now, my dear, time to go for a walk. I strap them in, and do we have a dog? Musette? Yes! Okay, let's go.

It's noon. Time for lunch.

June 02, 2004

And I thought my back was sore...

Take a look at this enormous kid, the same age as my two, who weighs the same as Max and Talia put together.

June 01, 2004

Who to believe?

Paul Martin went to Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon yesterday to find a sympathetic audience and a nice background for a 10 second sound bite on the national evening news. Two bloggers covered the event and came up with different views on how he came off.

First we have Paul Wells, who flew in on PM Paul's plane and was generally positive (though he suggested it might be due to a touch of Stockholm Syndrome.) He was impressed by the range and depth of Martin's knowledge of foreign policy and history:

But I didn't say the guy was perfect. What he did was show himself to be competent and engaging in a discussion about foreign policy, trade policy, security policy. The very stuff and essence of a national government's unique role.

I can't imagine why he doesn't talk like this more often, instead of trying to get himself elected health minister of Alberta or mayor of Ste-Tite. There are 13 governments in Canada trying to do the work of provinces and territories. Tens of thousands doing the work of cities and towns. There can only be one Canadian government. And while every leader in this election has a health-care plan, not all of them can find Dakar on a map.

(Though I bet they know the difference between Norway and Normandy. I notice the PM erased that gaffe from the record of his speech on the Liberal website.)

Then we have Theresa Zolner, a local blogger who crashed the party. She was less impressed and found the whole exercise to be quite crude electioneering. She was particularly irritated by the blaring of "Beautiful Day" by U2 over loudspeakers when the band and choir had practiced their own music for the occasion. As to him being 'competent and engaging in a discussion about foreign policy', she sensed he was just fishing for the right question to make the points he wanted to make, not really dealing with what they were saying. She sums up his visit:

It was all about hype and him, and none of it really was about the kids at all. It was grandstanding... in a high school.

The PM's attempt to look Socratic was a miserable failure, and he seemed very insensitive to the students as he pushed them for their opinions on international policy. Then, after donning a Crusaders sweatshirt, he left, before the award-winning Holy Cross, grade-11 band could play their last piece.

I think the real source of Martin's obsessive drive to be Prime Minister is the desire to be on the world stage and wrestle with the 'big issues' that will be the subject of the obsessively footnoted books of the future. He's not interested in the nitty-gritty details of running a country, which involve dealing with the things that affect the lives of voters. His Zelig-like performance in this area -- ingratiating himself with Kofi Annan one day, then impressing the neo-cons in Washington the next -- suggest he doesn't have any strong beliefs in this area, he just wants to be part of the club. He must be a little disappointed that the only people he can shoot the breeze with about the troubles in the Sudan are a bunch of high school kids that have no choice on whether to listen to him or not.

Carnival of the Canucks #20

The latest Carnival of the Canucks, a roving Canadian blogworld cross-pollination initiative, is up over at Circadian Shift. I only mention it because my poor, insignificant blog is one of the many featured. Go, and marvel at just how many blogs you've never heard of are out there, and what ideas people free of editors can come up with.