Sunday, November 25, 2012

Calgary Centre By-Election

I don't live in Calgary Centre and I don't have a preference for who wins tomorrow - as long as it's not Joan Crockatt. Calgary is more politically diverse than it used to be, but still has some ways to go. It is not as bad as portrayed in convenient national stereotypes.  As I see it, the main challenge to Progressives are the intense partisan dislike of each other along party lines, and the impossible task of getting any type of cooperation or consensus.

There were a few polls during the election and there were long and complicated arguments regarding the validity of the results.  The last one I saw had Crockett at 37%,  Locke  at 35%, and recording a drop of Green Party Candidate Chris Turner to 17%.

I'm not willing to make a dogmatic prediction about the results tomorrow - I'll leave that to the partisans. However I do believe there is a probability this order will hold up and Crockatt will win.  How big is that probability? I have no idea.  It is completely unpredictable how people will move from one party to another when they get to the ballot tomorrow. I think it is possible, but highly unlikely that Turner will overtake two parties.

Low voter turnout will affect Locke and Turner more adversely than Crockatt, since her vote is more or less locked in (no pun).  It seems unlikely to me that the conservatives voters that are left for Crockatt will abandon her.  For them it's more about the Prime Minister than anything else.  That and hating Justin Trudeau.

The NDP will probably also hold it's voters down.  Green Party comparisons to the Nenshi winning mayor's campaign are probably invalid for this reason. In that race the 4th place candidate, Joe Connelly, took less than 1% of the total vote. If the NDP holds their 10-12% tomorrow it makes it much harder for Locke or Turner to find new votes.

So, basically, I'm hoping for a pleasant surprise tomorrow, but not overly optimistic.  The idea of a consensus candidate, and the hard work of 1CalgaryCentre has been thrown out there to the privacy of the voting booth.

And finally, don't forget Locke, Turner and Meade had the Calgary media campaigning against them. Good for them, for getting good press wherever they could find it.  It's not an excuse for losing, just a fact of life out here in "the west".

Please recommend this post

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Excellence in Blog Commenting

via Comments thread at Butterflies and Wheels:

I’ve been accused by atheist men of not caring about Muslim women when talking about a completely unrelated subject, it’s happened so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve been told all feminists are selfish bitches and support Muslim women wearing burqas and don’t ever talk about FGM. Christopher Hitchens once wrote that “the silence is deafening” from Western feminists regarding the plight of Muslim women. (American feminists protested his pal GW Bush when as President he entertained members of the Taliban in the White House, but I guess Hitchens conveniently didn’t notice). A.C. Grayling wrote that it’s up to Western women to “strain every sinew” to liberate Muslim women, as if Western men aren’t obligated to do a damn thing.
It’s a way for them to justify hating or dismissing feminism and feeling righteous about it, too. As if we have the power to end their oppression but for some reason we’re holding out.

In the comments  at Butterflies and Wheels, one of the best comments I've seen for a while  by reader callistacat.

There's a whole back story to this about sexism and anti-women, anti-feminist attitudes in the atheist community.  The short version is using the suffering of Muslim women in Islamic countries as a rhetorical prop to vent rage against feminists in the west.


Please recommend this post

The King of YouTube's Atheist Slime Pit

There are so many triggers here I wouldn't know where to start in listing them all.

From Manboobz:
Amanda’s story illustrates what can happen to young girls when sexualized images of them floating around online, whether they’ve put these pictures up themselves in a moment of poor judgement or whether someone has stolen them from password-locked private photo albums, or whether someone has surreptitiously taken an “upskirt” or “down-the-blouse” or some other compromising picture of them in public. This is the sort of damage that things like the Jailbait and Creepshots subreddits can do to young girls. This is why it’s so important that things like these subreddits be shut the fuck down.
Sadly, even after her suicide, Amanda remains the target of bullies and assholes online.
One of these assholes? The MRA and atheist videoblogger and all-around terrible person known to the world as The Amazing Atheist, whom we first met when he had a Reddit meltdown and started spewing misogynistic abuse at his detractors. Now he’s spitting on Amanda’s memory.

It's possible a lot of atheists strictly identify in the dictionary sense, philosophically, but want nothing to do with the movement.  Who can blame them?   There's some real problems in this sub-culture.  It's not just one blogger.  The people who passively observe and don't say anything share part of the blame.


Please recommend this post

Amanda Marcotte: Reddit and Creepshots

If women have to be in your porn whether they like it or not, you can hardly complain if your real identity is outed
To which a commenter replies:

Candid pictures do not make pornography. Sitting on the bus is hardly like being on a porno set. Sure it is creepy but men taking candid pictures of mostly clothed women is hardly the end of the world as long as they dont provide details of the woman. Outing the creeps feels like harassment to me, with the implication that the creep is fair game for revenge.
How do these people (the commenter) make it through life being so obtuse. Is it deliberate?


Please recommend this post

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rebecca Watson on Harassment

 Rebecca Watson speaking at the Humanists of Florida 2012 Conference. The talk discusses sexism, harassment and threats directed towards many visible women in the atheist and skeptic communities. Youtube comment threads are one of the last warm refuges for complete asshats. Please recommend this post

Alberta Business Leaders Prefer Romney

Alberta Business leaders have expressed a preference for Mitt Romney in the upcoming Presidential election:

The online survey of 241 business leaders favoured Romney, with 42 per cent of support, over Obama, with 34 per cent. The support for Romney was higher in Calgary (45 per cent) than in Edmonton (40 per cent).

This isn't news it's opinion shaping. The  poll was conducted exclusively for the Calgary Herald,  and no doubt they pushed the answer with leading questions. I'm surprised it's not a bit higher in Calgary considering the large number of Americans living here, many of them working in resource or finance head offices. No doubt the poll's purchaser  is concerned that the general population is not tracking as high for Romney as the CEOs.

It's no secret that the Alberta Government and the Canadian Government have a strong preference for a Republican Congress and President.

I wonder if these people have any awareness at all of how backwards Romney's social views are, and how severely extremist the Republican Party has become on religion, hyper-nationalism, and anti-women policies.

It's hard to understand why someone wants to be a business partner with people who want to ban birth control, deport Muslims, and who think rape isn't necessarily rape.  Don't social issues matter in business?


Please recommend this post

Monday, October 08, 2012

Solving the Saudi Lust Problem

via BBC:

A Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia has called on women to wear a full veil, or niqab, that reveals only one eye.
Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan said showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye make-up to look seductive.
I've always wondered why the burden lies with women to dissuade men of their improper biological urges, commonly referred to in religious jargon as lust. (I miss that flaming font)

What the Saudi clerics have discovered, and admitted rather ineptly, is that trying to make women invisible isn't working. There is ample evidence that the experiment in forced modestly has failed.  The men of Saudi Arabia simply can't control themselves around women regardless of how covered they are.

Stories of women falling afoul of the law in Saudi Arabia make the news on a regular basis. Whatever mishaps occur between men and women, it's certain that it will be the woman who ends up in prison.

As a result, as a last resort to stem this pernicious tide of desire,  the Saudi Religious authorities will have to castrate all of them.  It's the only way to be certain that these temptresses are not winking at men and leading them on a path to hell.  To paraphrase Jesus, better to cut off something now, than to suffer eternal punishment later   For a small number of them who are biologically incorrigible  it's a simple additional step to blind them.  It's a small price to pay for peace of mind.

I'm dying to hear why this proposal is radical or extremist, other than a fanatical and obsessive devotion to men's rights.

Please recommend this post

Saturday, October 06, 2012

"Calgary Muslims to campaign against controversial film"

A local Muslim organization is speaking out against a controversial anti-Muslim film.
The group will be out this weekend, going door to door in a campaign to enable Calgarians to understand why the film has offended so many.
It's good that they're trying to communicate about the Muslim communities view of this problem.  I just don't know if Calgarians will be receptive to their message.  Calgary, although diverse and friendly, also has an underside of raw prejudice.  And the climate right now is to be judgemental of local Muslims because of the actions of extremists elsewhere.

It also depends on what their message is. I don't think there's any possible way you can go to non-believers and complain about blasphemy.  It's a meaningless concept in a society of free speech and free thinkers.

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think it will turn out well. Please recommend this post

"Feminist blogger calls iconic World War II kissing photo ‘sexual assault’"

A feminist blogger is taking serious heat for suggesting that Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famed photograph V-J Day in Times Square depicts anything but a jubilant embrace.
Last week, the London-based blogger known only as “Leopard” wrote the post “The Kissing Sailor, or ‘The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture.’”

Alternate post title: The Globe & Mail blows their anti-feminist dog whistle.  

I had always just assumed that the couple in that photo knew each other, but apparently not.  The kiss was not consented to.  In and of it's self it might be a pretty harmless event considering the circumstances of the war being over. In spite of that I think the blogger has a valid point about rape culture, and seems to have hit a nerve.

The virulent overly-emotional counter-reaction to this blog post, is prima facie evidence that there is an obvious cultural problem, and a deep current of anti-feminism in society.

And the comments thread in the Globe & Mail story proves that as well. 

The original post from Crates And Ribbons is here.

Please recommend this post

Friday, October 05, 2012

Anti Gay Hate Group Steals Wedding Photo

The engagement photograph showed Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere at their happiest, celebrating their love and upcoming marriage. Two years later, they were shocked to see it used in an advert opposing same-sex union.

This hate group (Public Advocate) grabbed the photo off Facebook and altered it, then used it in a massive pre-election mail-out to discredit a candidate who supported same sex marriage.

So the hate group is being sued.

Please recommend this post

Anders Pushing Transgender Hysteria

Calgary MP Rob Anders has once again drawn criticism for controversial comments, this time about the transgender community.Anders wants to stop Bill C279, a private member's bill that would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and hate crime section of the Criminal Code to include "gender identity" and "gender expression" as grounds for discrimination.He says the bill's goal is to give transgendered men access to women's washrooms, which has led it to be nicknamed the "bathroom bill" proposal.
He said it’s the duty of the House of Commons to protect children from any exposure or harm that will come from giving men this kind of access.
Rob Anders makes the news today for pushing a long standing myth that keeps circulating in social conservative circles, that transgendered people are sexual predators.  It is a variation of the blood libel .   Anders is trying to whip up hysteria among conservative church members who will  no doubt be contacting their conservative MPs.

A lot of effort goes into trying to figure out the secretive reasons why Anders is still a member in good standing in the Conservative caucus.  The simplest explanation is the best.  He holds a safe riding that brings in steady revenue.  The secondary reason is that Stephen Harper and Rob Anders are probably closer in thinking than most people think.  Anders feeds the pigs while Harper tries to look professional in the parts of Canada where he needs to win.
Please recommend this post

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Eat More Alberta Beef Campaign

Alberta’s Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson makes a pouty face while stocking up on Alberta Beef in a Camrose store. Good thing there was a Sun Media photographer right there to capture the moment for the front page. What serendipity! You can’t pay for that kind of luck.

Please recommend this post

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

John Bolton + Brian Lilley

via Facebook ads:
Ambassador John Bolton's is one of America's leading minds in foreign relations. His experience has earned him numerous accolades. President George W. Bush called Bolton "a stalwart defender of freedom and peace." Senator Jesse Helms (then chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee) referred to Bolton as "the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon." We invite you to join us for what is sure to be an intellectually stimulating conversation on the Consequences of a Second Obama Term.

Stimulating? John Bolton will be speaking at the University of Calgary on October 17, 2012, and in Toronto the next day.  Canada's two most neo-con receptive cities I guess.  Bolton's warmongering about the dire consequences of re-electing Barack Obama rehashes tired right wing themes that have obviously not been working.It's sort of amazing that you can get two of the biggest professional idiots on the same stage.  If only they could get John Baird up there.  I was glad to still be alive after the Bush era came to a close.  It's true that the United Nations is dysfunctional, but the cure was not John Bolton running up and down the hallways threatening other nations with annihilation.   Harper and Baird aren't the cure either.  They're the symptom.

Please recommend this post

"France Bans Public Protests Over Cartoons"

Jason Ditz:
“There will be strictly no exceptions,” cautioned Interior Minister Manuel Valls, saying that any demonstrations will be broken up by security forces. France had previously closed a number of embassies across the Muslim World fearing protests. 
The position of the government is odd, however, as they had publicly spurned calls to censor the magazine, saying free speech is inviolable in France, and are now banning public speech in criticism of the move.
The French Government regards the rights of the media inviolable in regards to publishing inflammatory cartoons that will certainly cause violence elsewhere, yet refuses to allow protests in France.  

It's starting to look a bit like a candy machine.  People push buttons in the western countries and out pop's violence and death on TV, far far away.

Free speech and the right to mock religions and their icons are a natural right of free people, but bigotry and racial hatred are coming along for the ride.
Please recommend this post

Mr. Fish Netanyahu Cartoon

Mr. Fish Cartoon:

Benjamin Netanyahu at the U.N. General Assembly explaining how easy it used to be to beat the absolute shit out of cookie monster back before he obtained a cookie recipe from 1945, which immediately turned him into a fucking lunatic sugar junkie prone to crazy outbursts and spooky ululations about cookies and nobody knowing what the fuck to do about all the noise and goddamn crumbs and exploded cookie boxes everywhere.
Please recommend this post

Alberta Skies

 Alberta skies near Ellerslie. Please recommend this post

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Spoken Word Homophobia

This is just...awful, weird and creepy, and full of the usual lies about sexuality. The up camera angles are very 1984. I'm sure the young peoples of the hood were deeply touched. Update: wrong video... Please recommend this post

Mixed Message. Selective Listening

Likewise, we condemn any type of extremism. Of course, what took place was ugly. Offending the Holy Prophet is quite ugly. This has very little or nothing to do with freedom and freedom of speech. This is the weakness of and the abuse of freedom, and in many places it is a crime. It shouldn't take place and I do hope the day will come in which politicians will not seek to offend those whom others hold holy," said Ahmadinejad.
We also believe that this must also be resolved in a humane atmosphere, in a participatory environment and we do not like anyone losing their lives or being killed for any reason, anywhere in the world.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an interview with the mentally vacant Piers Morgan.

New drinking game: take a shot every time you see the first paragraph quoted on an conservative/atheist blog without the second paragraph.

An acceptable compromise would be to create a blasphemy law with the strict requirement that you must produce the victim for cross-examination.

(Spell check tries to change Ahmadinejad to Madeleine.  They're using some type of soundex algorithm which is tuned to anglo-saxon, latin words.) Please recommend this post

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Motion to examine definition of human being defeated in Commons

Toronto Star:
OTTAWA—A Conservative MP’s pro-life bid to have Parliament study the definition of a human being has gone down to defeat in the House of Commons.
Stephen Woodworth’s motion was voted down 203-91.
Eight cabinet ministers voted in favour of the motion, including Status of Women Minister Rona Ambrose, government House leader Peter Van Loan and Trade Minister Ed Fast.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper had allowed his caucus to vote freely on the issue, but did not vote for it out of concern it would re-open the debate on abortion.
Four Liberals also voted in favour of Woodworth’s motion, while the NDP caucus opposed it.
Somewhere a Bishop is kicking a chair.  Maybe now they can get back to their real job.  Four Liberals voting for an anti-choice anti-woman resolution makes it impossible to take the party seriously on social issues.

And the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women...oh nevermind.


Please recommend this post

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Churchill Bust: Outrage on Demand

Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron discuss a little head.

This story about the sculpture of Winston Churchill given to the White House has so many weird (partisan) angles it would baffle Pythagoras.

No one likes a dirty fork.

Please recommend this post

Calgary Diabetic Pressuring Ab Govt on Promises

A local man suffering from diabetes is hoping a facebook page will start a movement to hold the government accountable.Brent Whitford has dealt with the Type 1 diabetes since he was three years old, and remembers clearly when premier Alison Redford promised to include insulin pumps as part of Alberta Healthcare during her campaign.Whitford says he wants the province to address the promise, and make it clear about where it stands.
Insulin pumps are covered in quite a few places. The funding of front line health care and education is dependent on the price of oil.  Note that overly generous bonuses and severances continue to be awarded to the political layer of health care management regardless of economic forecasts.

In order for the Alberta Budget to be met without a deficit the price of oil, and to a lesser extent natural gas and bitumen, have to rise above a certain level.  This is wholly determined by world markets. But even when the price does rise to a sustainable level it never stays there for too long because it is a cyclical commodity, and of course it's price and demand are outside Alberta's control.  (This cycle will get worse in the future)

You would think the government would treat this with more urgency after creating the expectation just to get elected. After all proper treatment and management of diabetes is a public health issue, and results in less expense to the taxpayer.  Additionally, diseases like diabetes impact the poor more than others.

Politicians bother me the most when they use the hopes and fears of people with real problems to get a few votes.

Facebook is not totally useless. Please recommend this post

Is ‘Jesus’ Wife’ papyrus fragment a forgery?

Stephen Emmel, a professor of Coptology at the University of Muenster who was on the international advisory panel that reviewed the 2006 discovery of the Gospel of Judas, said the text accurately quotes Jesus as saying “my wife.” But he questioned whether the document was authentic.
“There's something about this fragment in its appearance and also in the grammar of the Coptic that strikes me as being not completely convincing somehow,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference.
Another participant at the congress, Alin Suciu, a papyrologist at the University of Hamburg, was more blunt.
“I would say it's a forgery. The script doesn't look authentic” when compared to other samples of Coptic papyrus script dated to the 4th century, he said.
It could be a forgery, conveniently passed to a scholar who will create a buzz to raise it's resale value.

Even though there are a limited number of scholars qualified to translate and analyse ancient Coptic, there doesn't seem to be any doubt about the actual words - just doubt about the provenance of the fragment and what if anything, it actually tells us about the historical Jesus.

It's a problem for fundies and literalists because the celibacy of Jesus is the basis for his sinlessness.

All you can really do is follow the scientific and historic evidence as it emerges.  If some orthodoxies get harmed along the way true believers will find new ones.

Please recommend this post

Monday, September 24, 2012

Karaoke Nationalism

Lips Karaoke Calgary, on 10th St SW made the news by putting up a sign which translates as:

"Diaoyu Island belongs to China. Japanese are not welcome."

I've been there a couple of times. What they probably don't realize is that the average Calgarian won't want to go there if they are displaying this kind of hostility to their fellow Canadians.  It's really a bad business move.

The thing about Canada is that we are a country of many cultures and a country of immigrants. Most of us accept that as natural,  except for people like Ezra Levant who has a long list of all the people we should all be hating.

The only way a country like Canada can work is if people put restraints on their geopolitical grievances. In other words, don't bring your ancient feuds, religious or otherwise, into your new country.  In Calgary, atheists, Catholics, Hindus and Muslims all get along relatively well, mainly because of our separation of religion and state, but because of our rights and equalities.  It's not always perfect, but it's not Nigeria either.

I hope they apologize to the Japanese community and take down the sign.

Via News880am

Please recommend this post

Friday, June 29, 2012

Aristotle, Homer, Rembrandt and Joseph Heller

Aristotle Contemplating a Bust of Homer, Rembrandt van Rijn. (1653) Apparently Joseph Heller wrote his novel Picture This about this painting. The only Heller novel I haven’t read yet.
Heller concludes that we don’t learn from history (and in fact so much of history may be nonfactual that learning may be impossible). Being a pessimist chronicler of the American Century, his main unspoken theme is of course parallels between the onetime Hellenic overlord respective the onetime ruler of the Seas, and his home country.
This is most apparent in his treatment of the peak and downfall of Athens, when after the victory over Persia, Athens formed the Delian League, and got embroiled in the Peloponnesian War. Heller describes a beacon of democracy that destroys its own greatest advances or transforms them into tools of abuse, turns on its own allies just to demonstrate its power, and loses to weaker enemies due to self-deception.
I've always wondered about this painting. 
Please recommend this post

Calgary, Shakespeare In the Park

Shakespeare in the Park in Calgary is back this summer with A Midsummer Night's Dream:

After one summer’s hiatus, Mount Royal University’s summer offering, Shakespeare in the Park, is returning to Prince’s Island Park in a new — and improved — form.

Theatre Calgary now shares the reins with the university in presenting the 25-year tradition, which remains a pay-what-you-can venture.

Shakespeare's best play, in Princes Island Park.  Gender confusion!  Dirty Puns! Magic tricks! A real donkey!  June 27, 2012 to August 11, 2012.

Please recommend this post

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gay is the Word

I was in the gym tonight when Toronto Archbishop Tom Collins came on the television.  The Ontario government is currently fine tuning proposed anti-bullying legislation, which of course affects catholic schools.  The legislation would allow students to form anti-bullying, anti-homophobic groups, sometimes known as Gay-Straight Alliances.  The issue right now seems to be the use of the word gay in the groups name.  I had a hard time understanding this at first, but that's it. (Well, that and the existence of the groups themselves.) The government wants to head off the obvious tactic of the local catholic boards disallowing students to use the word gay in their group name. Ironically, such a rule would in itself be a form of bullying.

Collins struck me as glib and narcissistic. He claims these groups and their name amounts to religious persecution. Perhaps he should read some of Amnesty International's reports to put his suffering in better context. The Cardinal thinks the word gay is a distraction in the process of stopping the bullying of gay teens. I don't think they're even trying any more to sound logical.

Collins was followed by a female trustee with a spacey smile who informed us that we can't very well accept the title Gay Straight Alliance because it is a political movement which seeks to inject politics in a political way. We know how much Catholics hate that kind of thing.  Out Heroding Herod, she added that it was an American political thing.

At that point I had had enough and walked away from the television.  I spent the rest of the night thinking thoughts that would most certainly constitute persecution of the Cardinal's religious liberty.  I couldn't help it.

Collins, many trustees, and some Conservative MPPs maintain that the local boards should be able to deal with this on their own.  I think this legislation would be an obvious sign that this has not, or will not happen.  It would have been nice if the Southern American States had desegregated themselves without the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and  fairly aggressive enforcement by federal law agencies.  In retrospect that collision was inevitable.  It's not an entirely unfair comparison.

As far as Alberta goes, i'm pretty sure this controversy is coming our way.  And in the past the PC Party Government has sided with religious groups against those who are being discriminated against.

Please recommend this post

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Shen Yung And Not Your Father's PC Party

The Shen Young Performing Arts troupe recently had their Alberta 2013 performance dates thrown into question when the Alberta Government revoked an agreement to use the Jubilee Auditoriums in Edmonton and Calgary.

The troupe celebrates Chinese Culture in a spectacular show of music and dance.  In their own words:

Based in New York, Shen Yun Performing Arts was established in 2006 with the mission of reviving 5,000 years of divinely inspired Chinese culture.After more than 60 years of Communist rule in China, and especially after the Cultural Revolution, Chinese traditional culture has been all but completely demolished. However, the deeper spiritual core of the ancient culture, with its values of benevolence, honor, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity, as well as a reverence for the gods and the heavens, cannot be destroyed.

The troupe held sold out shows in Calgary in April 2012 but were unhappy because of some problems they had with the facility.  When they couldn't get their issues resolved they sent out a media release explaining their concerns.  What happened next, behind the scenes is fairly obvious, and the result was the government cancelling the agreement to allow the troupe's shows in 2013.  Alberta's Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk wrote a letter to the group informing them of the cancellation.  It was not written in all caps.

Shen Yung is connected with Falun Gong (aka Falun Dafa), a religious group banned and persecuted in China.  Falun Gong is loosely based in Chinese Buddhism, and by most objective accounts is quite harmless.  There are Falun Gong societies everywhere in the West where there are Chinese Communities, including Calgary and Edmonton.  Religious freedom and freedom of conscience is a Charter Right in Canada, which extends even into Alberta.

The problem here is the very serious allegation being made by the group that the Chinese Government has pressured the Alberta Government into these punitive actions against Shen Yung.  The CBC and Canadian Press have been reporting on this. For example, Travel Alberta suddenly pulled out of a sponsorship deal that would have involved some mutual promotion.  Also, Tourism Calgary withdrew from a White Hat ceremony. Classy.

It becomes apparent through various comments and emails that the Chinese Consulate has been intervening with Calgary City Council and Alberta Governments against the group.  Sadly at this point, it is not economically feasible for Alberta to alienate Chinese business interests. Floor painter meet corner.

The key issue here is freedom of expression and not allowing foreign governments to interfere in Alberta's cultural activities.  The other issue is transparency.  The Auditoriums are Government owned.  These are really nice facilities, and it's rather objectionable that they are the centre of a campaign to bully and repress a cultural events.

Yes, this is not your father's PC Party.  Our father's generation knew a thing or two about fascism.

Please recommend this post

Monday, May 21, 2012

Draw Mohammed Day 2012

I forgot today was the third annual  Draw Mohammed Day, a popular internet movement born out of frustration with violent reactions to simple parodies such as cartoons.  While I had mixed feelings about it, on the whole I think these kind of movements are quite appropriate.  Islam is one of the last ideologies in the world where thought crimes, even by non-adherents can result in rather violent over-reactions.

People are right to insist on an unfettered right to make fun of something as a form of free speech or conscience. In our western tradition we have quite a long history of satire and mockery.  We finally got to a point in our civilization where we (mostly) no longer persecute people for mocking the sacred or important. Partly because of the spread of democracy and the corresponding individual rights it contains, but also because authoritarianism and intimidation never worked as way to change people's minds. Everyone knows it doesn't work.

I can't draw so I submit the above stock cartoon as my depiction of the prophet.  If I could draw I would make something subtle and tasteful.  I would make Mohammed a woman.  If the founder of Islam were a woman it would be the greatest irony of history.  It would drop a bomb on the widespread misogyny of religion in general, and Islam in particular.

The other problem is I don't really have a firm opinion on whether Mohammed actually existed or not. Like Jesus, there are a number of possibilities, from being made up completely, to being a composite of a few people, to being a real person obscured wholly by mythology.  So all this outrage could be over someone who didn't exist.

I am an atheist, someone who rejects god and gods, revelation,  and superstitions. As a result it doesn't interest me too much to get overly obsessive about one particular religion.  Among the social media types who argue about religion and culture there is definitely a sub-culture of Islamophobia.   I don't really wish to get involved with that level of hatred.  I think it's okay to hate ideas or ideologies, but not people or groups of people. It's irrational. In Canada nowadays you more than likely have friends, co-workers, and neighbors who are Muslim.  We have to co-exist.

And besides, if you wake up one day and find out you sound just like Mark Steyn or Ezra Levant, it's game over for your brain.

Please recommend this post

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Tory Here, A Tory There.

The new Cabinet appointed today by Premier Redford is both a continuation of the status quo, but also contains a few hints about what to expect. If you view this as change, you need to get out more.

The 17 member cabinet has 7 associate ministers. Salary and size of cabinet are red herrings. The real issue is whether they can function well.  Previous cabinets were plagued by turf wars, empire building, and cross-jurisdictional disputes. I remain skeptical that the new Premier can fix those problems.

Surprisingly there are only 4 women in the cabinet, including the premier. (More conservative than progressive I guess.)  Edmonton and St. Albert have 5 and Calgary has 6 ministers.  The rest are rural members north of Red Deer.  The average age of the cabinet is about 48.  You could say it is more of an urban cabinet.

I was surprised to see Thomas Lukaszuk appointed deputy premier without portfolio.  You can probably guess by this the Premier will probably be spending most of her time on bitumen related issues.  Lukaszuk's job will be to keep the back benches busy, and to keep people with good ideas away from the Premier's office.

Everyone thought Ken Hughes would be the Health Minister.  As long time Redford loyalist  he was rewarded with the Energy portfolio, which is the most important ministry in this Government.  It is by far their highest priority. Hughes will travel around a lot, sort of a bitumen Ambassador.

The Health Ministry was left as is, under the care of Fred Horne.  I fully expect the Alberta Health Care system to continue to go sideways or backwards. It won't really be a priority.

The merger of Finance and the Treasury Board under Doug Horner is interesting.  Traditionally these two roles are separate because they look at spending from two different perspectives.  The merger of these two ministries suggests the Premier wants to start blasting out money without too much friction or dissent.

Jeff Johnson as Education Minister is an unknowable unknown.  Straightaway he will have to deal with the implementation of Bill 4, the relaunching of the failed new education act, and some public protests over prayer in public schools. And also those irritated religious mommy home school bloggers. Good luck with all that. Johnson and Hughes will likely work well together to get industry developed curriculum about the oilsands into the school system.  Or, as the Premier likes to call it, "facts and science".

Doug Griffiths in Municipal Affairs will have the primary challenge of trying to win back municipalities in southern Alberta who turned Wildrose.  What will the strategy be?  Ignore their needs?  Blast cash at them? I think we know by now that intimidation won't work.

What about Heather Klimchuk as Culture Minister you ask?  I don't really know much about her, or even what Alberta Culture does.  I did find a blog post from her that was written entirely in upper case. Something tells me Culture won't be all that important in this government.

This brings us to the new Transportation Minister Ric McIver.  When he was a Calgary City Councillor he postured as a fiscal conservative, got his boots licked repeatedly by Rick Bell, and on one occasion told Mayor Bronconnier that he should be nicer to Ed Stelmach.  Ric's biggest problem will be learning the new culture. In Calgary he was nick-named "Dr. No" for voting against almost every kind of spending.  As an Alberta Tory under Redford he'll certainly have to become known as "Dr. Yes, God Yes",  as they start blasting out money in all different directions. There is the outstanding issue of the South West Calgary Ring Road project, which will involve a new three way agreement between the City of Calgary, The Tsuu T'ina Nation, and the Provincial Government.  There is the more emotional and contentious upgrades to Highway 63.

Good luck to the Opposition Parties.  There is a lot to be skeptical about here.  Redford isn't a game changer or a reformer.  This is status quo politics with the usual emphasis on Party first.

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Friday, May 04, 2012

Dan Savage and the Economist

A few days ago the Economist magazine ran a short opinion piece on the Dan Savage "bible bullshit" speech and the predictable reaction that followed from the religious right.  A good number of atheist and humanist bloggers that I read were not entirely happy with the Economist's comments.  I think this is because they focused on the opening paragraphs where the writer tries to make an issue of Savage's style, rather than the real issue of substance which is the bullying of Gay youth.

But the last paragraph of the piece really lays it out well:

Mr Savage's apology did not stop the outrage machine. Some seem to have taken particular delight in hurling Mr Savage's epithets—bully and basher (of Christians and Christianity, rather than gays)—back at him. The American Thinker harrumphs, "Evidently, bullying is one of those things that is defined by the 'victim'." Well, yes: in fact it is. Bullying is the strong picking on the weak, not the other way around (the other way around is satire). One could make the argument that in the case of Mr Savage's speech, he was the strong one, and the high-school students were "victims", but that would be weak tea indeed. Mr Savage is one person, not a movement, and of course those students whom he gave the vapours were free to leave. Not everyone has such freedom. Gay teens, not Christian teens, kill themselves at higher rates than the general populace. Nobody calls Christianity an abomination. One blogger accused Mr Savage of "Christian-bashing" for pointing out the Bible's position on slavery. A writer for a Focus on the Family site said that "using profanity to deride the obviously a form of bullying and name-calling." In fact it is neither: Mr Savage, however intemperate his language, was arguing, not name-calling. That is a crucial distinction, and one that too often eludes the showily devout. If the Bible is in fact the word of God it can survive a few arguments about context and application.
And then there's a letter writer's acerbic comment about the piece:
The reason the psycho end of the right wing is *really* angry at Dan Savage isn't over the one word "Bullshit". The actual reason the psycho end of the right wing is angry at Dan Savage are the three words he brought into public consciousness: "It Gets Better".
There shouldn't be any doubt as to who the real victims are in this debate.

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Peter Lougheed Wins Again

A 1975 editorial cartoon showing the early foundations
of the  Alberta PC Party's formula for success
Former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed has been named the best "Provincial Premier" of the last 40 years.  The poll was conducted by Policy Magazine using a small number of experts and academics.  I was curious as to their methodology, since most of the time Premiers deal with localized issues.  How do you compare premiers and rate them?

Lougheed dealt with two national issues of importance; the Constitution Act of 1982, and the National Energy Program.  Both gave him a national profile.

I don't find it hard to believe that a group of historians would pick Lougheed the winner in such an analysis, however I'm always skeptical about political mythology and idolization which by it's very nature has to completely ignore alternate viewpoints and inconvenient truths.  Lougheeds legacy is not unlike Pierre Trudeau's. It's complicated. It can be polarizing.

And then there's the timing and circumstance of the award:

The exercise was part of the institute's 40th anniversary. Also part of the celebration is a tribute dinner for Peter Lougheed on June 6 in Calgary. The keynote speaker will be Alberta's newly-elected premier, Alison Redford.
What an amazing series of coincidences.  This would be a rather awkward night if they had picked Robert Bourassa.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Shadowy Shadow Cabinet

Wildrose Party experts test a new communication strategy.
Danielle Smith revealed her shadow cabinet today, the people who will make up the official opposition in the Alberta Legislature.

First the demographics.  All of the candidates except one, are from southern Alberta.  There are only two urban members, both in Calgary.   Of the 16 official opposition members, 13 are male, 3 female.  I don't know about their average age, but I don't think anyone will refer to the Wildrose party as a 'brat pack' or 'up and comers'.

Starting with Smith, she will take on the role of representing the official opposition to the cities. It was no secret in the campaign that the mayors of Edmonton and Calgary were less than warm to the idea of a Wildrose victory.  Part of it was the vulgar comments about gays and caucasian power.  But really, it was more about funding, taxes and infrastructure.

Also, Smith will represent the opposition on international, intergovernmental and aboriginal issues.

Rob Anderson will be house leader and Finance and Treasury Board critic.  He will also be in charge of theatrics and insane rhetoric.

Joe Anglin will be the environment critic. He really got under the Stelmach government's skin over rural land owner issues.  But in this Legislature he won't have Luke Ouellette or Mel Knight  to interupt his presentations.  Anglin is a grenade, with a wobbly pin. He may or may not be manageable.

Gary Bickman will be the Advanced Education critic. Bickman believes that city folk just don't get it. Irony is a gift that we should always be thankful for.

As for the rest of the caucus, I'm really not familiar with them, so I won't comment.  I'm sure they will make headlines.

I don't believe that the Wildrose Party planned on sitting in opposition, and probably didn't prepare for it. Also, they probably didn't expect such a small caucus.  It will not take them a long time to figure out that the PC Party micro-manages everything in the Legislature.  I don't know how happy they will be knowing that the opposition parties, in practical terms, don't really exist.

With two conservative parties dominating the Legislature, and the media in Alberta almost universally openly supporting one of the two conservative parties, don't expect any progress on issues that matter to liberals and progressives.

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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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