Thursday, December 27, 2007

"The Power of Words..."

Nation, much has been made lately of the fact that Will Smith thinks that Hitler wasn't so bad.

The only problem with the story, of course, is that it's completely false.

Never ones to let the truth get in the way of a good ratings bump, though, the media are all over it like a fat kid on a cupcake. After all, they can get away with saying it as long as they quote the source of the article - if you can be a journalist by interviewing journalists on your television show, then surely you can be a journalist AND avoid culpability by quoting other journalists and then asking someone for their reaction to the other journalists work.

(On an aside, that sounds a lot like what many bloggers do - but we're not "real journalists", as Big Media so often and derisively points out... and then they proceed to do the same thing.)

Immediately after the article was released, the Jewish Defence League, which proudly trumpets itself as "the most controversial... of all Jewish organizations (note to JDL: Calling yourself "controversial" and proudly trumpeting the fact that you get hate-mail from illiterates doesn't make you good at what you do, or important... ditto for Ezra Levant, Michael Coren, and Rick Bell) issued a release which said, in part:

... Smith's comments are ignorant, detestable and offensive. They spit on the memory of every person murdered by the Nazis. His disgusting words stick a knife in the backs of every veteran who fought so valiantly to save the world from those aspirations of Adolf Hitler. Smith's comments also cast the perpetrators of the Holocaust as misguided fellows rather than the repulsive villains of history they truly were.

If people do not understand how idiotic and insensitive it was to make such a comment, it is like a Jew saying that James Earl Ray, the assassin of Rev. Martin Luther King, was basically a good person who did a "bad thing."

The Jewish Defense League is calling on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to repudiate the comments made by Smith, his friend and supporter.

The Jewish Defense League also is calling for movie theaters to stop showing Smith's movie I Am Legend, a science fiction story about a man-made virus that has killed off most of the world's population. The JDL also is asking the movie-going public to avoid going to see the movie, which received mixed reviews, and is asking executives in the entertainment industry to cancel future projects planned for Smith.

The Jewish Defense League also vows to confront Smith if ever the chance occurs.

Okay, so let's review...

Smith's comments were "ignorant, detestable, and offensive". They "spit on the memory" of 6 million murdered Jews and every Allied soldier who died fighting the Nazis. Smith was "idiotic and insensitive" to make the comments. They played the race card, heavily, and even went so far as to request a repudiation from "the black guy running for president, who must be one of Will's friends". They then called for a boycott of his movie, which they insinuated wasn't all that good (nice of them to throw in a thinly-veiled movie review in the midst of a statement of outrage). They ask that Will never be allowed to work in Hollywood again, and they say they'll "confront him" when the chance occurs.

Of course, things got a little more clouded when Smith fired back at the allegations, which was immediately after he heard of them, stating:
"It is an awful and disgusting lie. It speaks to the dangerous power of an ignorant person with a pen. I am incensed and infuriated to have to respond to such ludicrous misinterpretation. Adolph Hitler was a vile, heinous, vicious killer responsible for one of the greatest acts of evil committed on this planet."

All right... it looks like the Fresh Prince isn't that into Hitler after all. Now, we wait for the JDL's retraction. Oh, look, here it comes now, in its entirety...

The following statement was issued by Will Smith through his publicist after JDL publicly condemned the words he used in his interview with The Daily Record: “Adolf Hitler was a vile, heinous, vicious killer responsible for one of the greatest acts of evil committed on this planet.”

To Smith, JDL says: This is what you should have said in the first place.

While we do not believe Will Smith is a Jew-hater by any stretch of the imagination, we stand by our original assessment that his original comments were offensive. He thinks there is goodness in everyone but, sadly, that is far from true. Smith's articulation of such a naive view is not only worthy of derision, it is worthy of condemnation since it is always dangerous to whitewash evil.

Will Smith’s apology is enough for us to call off JDL’s request for non-attendance of his motion picture, I Am Legend. We also have no problem with anyone who wishes to employ him.

In a related matter, the Jewish Defense League supports the Hollywood writers and hopes the strike is settled soon so that Smith, a very talented actor, can continue doing what he does so well.

Umm... what about THIS part of Will's statement, JDL?

"It is an awful and disgusting lie. It speaks to the dangerous power of an ignorant person with a pen. I am incensed and infuriated to have to respond to such ludicrous misinterpretation."

Don't so much want to deal with the implication that maybe Will DIDN'T say what you attacked him for saying?

Okay... so, on second thought, Will is not a Jew-Hater (very big of you to admit that), but he IS naive... you don't want people to boycott the movie... something about the writer's strike... Will has talent... I guess you're not going to "confront him" anymore... umm... what about THESE points?

Smith's comments were "ignorant, detestable, and offensive". They "spit on the memory" of 6 million murdered Jews and every Allied soldier who died fighting the Nazis. Smith was "idiotic and insensitive" to make the comments. They played the race card, heavily, and even went so far as to request a repudiation from "the black guy running for president, who must be one of Will's friends". They then called for a boycott of his movie (later rescinded), which they insinuated wasn't all that good. They ask that Will never be allowed to work in Hollywood again, and they say they'll "confront him" when the chance occurs. (both rescinded).

The problem, JDL, is this: By originally painting Will Smith with the anti-Semitic brush, screaming it to the high heavens, and then issuing a watered-down half-hearted clarification, you have, in essence, DEFAMED him. You attacked him without confirming your facts. You were prejudicial. You attacked the man's character, reputation, work, and intelligence, without a shred of proof beyond an unconfirmed quote in a newspaper article.

So, as we do in cases of defamation, we consult the Anti-Defamation League. After all, they clearly state their principles right at the top of their website:

... to stop the defamation of the Jewish people... to secure justice and fair treatment to all...

Will's part of "all", right?

From the Anti-Defamation League:

New York, NY, December 26, 2007 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed and accepted actor Will Smith's clarifying statement that Adolf Hitler was "a vile, heinous, vicious killer" and not someone to be held up as a good person.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

We welcome and accept Will Smith's statement that Hitler was a 'vicious killer' and that he did not mean for his remarks about the Nazi leader to be mistaken as praise. Once Smith realized that his remarks may have been misunderstood, he took immediate steps to clarify his words and unequivocally condemn Hitler as an evil person. We would have expected no less from a celebrity of his standing in the strata of Hollywood stardom.

Unfortunately, in citing Hitler in what appears to be a positive context, Smith stirred up a hornet's nest on the Internet, where hate groups and anti-Semites latched on to the remark and praised it. If anything, this episode serves as a reminder of the power of words, and how words can be twisted by those with hate and bigotry in their hearts to suit their own worldview. This is why all celebrities bear a special responsibility to weigh their words carefully, and an obligation to speak out against racism and bigotry whenever even a whiff of it appears, as Will Smith has done in this instance.

Okay... good stuff. I'll keep reading, and I'm sure there will be a reference made to the need for the JDL to apologize and retract their statements about Will's character, intellect, work, et al...

Sorry, come again?

There IS no more?

Nation, herein lies the problem with "social justice" organizations... they're very into "justice for all" in public, but in reality, they're about pushing their own agendas.

Now, there's nothing wrong with pushing your own agenda. It's your time and your money, and you have every right to do so. I support, with my voice AND my money, several pro-Israel and Jewish groups and charities. I agree whole-heartedly with the cause and calling of the ADL. But these groups, ESPECIALLY groups with the influential voice of the Anti-Defamation League, have an obligation to choose their words as carefully as (as they kindly point out in their own release) high profile actors and celebrities must. It's the same obligation.

By not coming out strongly in their release against ANY assertion, by ANY group that Will Smith is an anti-Semite (which was what the 24-hour news networks were telling all of Western civilization for the better part of a day and a half), the ADL has left it open to the interpretation of the listener as to whether or not Will pulled a "Gibson". "He clarified, and we accept that". Hey, great. I wonder if he accepts the JDL's retraction which, through omission, re-affirms their assertions that:

Smith's comments were "ignorant, detestable, and offensive". They "spit on the memory" of 6 million murdered Jews and every Allied soldier who died fighting the Nazis. Smith was "idiotic and insensitive" to make the comments. "The black guy running for president, who must be one of Will's friends, should respond to his views". His movie isn't all that good.

Actors and celebrities aren't the only people who need to clarify and apologize for insensitive and prejudicial attacks, Nation. The JDL attacked without clarifying their information, and damaged Will Smith's reputation in the process. Where is the accountability from this group that they demand from others?

Words DO have power. All of us should remember that - including the Jewish Defence League. And shame on their ideological cousins, the Anti-Defamation League, for not using their superior reputation and media presence to remind them of such.

So much for "justice and fair treatment for all".

Monday, December 24, 2007

Yes Virginia, There IS A Santa Claus

A little bit of "warm and fuzzy" as I stay up, trying to catch Santa Claus breaking and entering. Warmest greetings of the season to all. - The Enlightened Savage

(As printed in the New York Sun, 1897)

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' Please tell me the truth;
is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe in anything except what they can see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest man that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank GOD! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Now Eligible for "Best New Blog"

The nomination criteria have been changed, and the deadline is November 12, 2006 - the Enlightened Savage was born several days after, and thus, I'm eligible.

You know what you have to do, Nation. ;)

In other news - still working on the other features you were promised earlier this week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Calgary Council Irony - Holiday Edition

Nation, not one to spend a lot of time whipping the dead horse that is Calgary's city council accountability, but...

As most Calgarians know, the city council decreed in mid-2007 that yellow "Support the Troops" decals would not be permitted on city-owned vehicles, owing to the fact that some citizens and employees of the city would be offended by the sentiment. Mayor Dave Bronconnier went so far, on the record, as to call the yellow ribbon movement the "flavour of the month".

Seen today on the electronic messageboard on several city-owned buses:

ROUTE (whatever).

Greeeeeeat... they'll manufacture something as being "potentially offensive", but forget that most of western civilization has decided, for better or worse, that "Merry Christmas" is verboten to spare the feelings of groups that have ACTUALLY been offended in the past.

Good to see the fresh blood at Silly Hall has abandoned all common sense at the door.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Snow Job

Nation, with the arrival of Winter comes the annual rite-of-passage for Calgarians. They wake up in the morning, look at the streets on the way to their vehicle, see snow, and then try to guess a) how many accidents will be reported on in tomorrow's paper, and b) how long it will take for the city to plow their neighbourhood.

Calgary city council, predictably, cries foul over any suggestion that the city needs to increase the snow removal budget.
"Citizens will revolt! It'll mean increasing their taxes by a hundred dollars or more per year!"
, they cry. Anyone who has lived here for more than 2 Winters realizes the game that council is playing, of course: It's called "pray for a chinook".

If Calgary gets 10 cm of snow in a 24 hour period, you just need to plow and sand the major routes, and cross your fingers. 250 vehicular accidents will take place in those 24 hours, but think of the thousands of vehicles that WON'T be in collisions. Then you sit tight, and wait for Mother Nature to cast that beautiful arch in the West, and She'll take care of the rest.

Elections are in October, so snow removal rarely comes up. After all, it's been 6 months since the last time the roads needed to be plowed. And as long as those chinooks keep coming, people will be happy, roads will be clear, and you'll be acclaimed for doing a great job, and keeping tax rates down.

The people involved in those 100, 150, 200, 250, or more accidents EVERY. SINGLE. SNOWFALL. would disagree. They'd tell you that the failure of the city to plow and sand any but the most major of the routes led to their accident. The minivan full of Timbit hockey players that bounced off that light standard because the feeder road still hadn't been plowed, 4 days later, isn't all that concerned with the tax rate.

Nation, I know we hate to compare ourselves with Edmonton... but, as the only major centre near us, and facing a similar climate, we're going to take a look and compare snow removal in the 2 cities.

Size within city limits: 726 km2.
Average annual snowfall: 135 cm
Annual Snow Removal Budget: 21.1 Million
Size within city limits: 684 km2
Average annual snowfall: 123 cm
Annual Snow Removal Budget: 40 Million

So, let's review: Edmonton is smaller, by a shade over 40 square kilometres. They get 12 centimetres less of snow every year. They (admittedly) don't get chinooks. And they spend 18.9 MILLION dollars more per year on snow removal than Calgary.

"We don't have the money!", cries city council.

"Find something to cut - do your jobs, and keep your citizens safe!", respond Joe and Jane Calgarian.

Playing "pray for a chinook" might be fun, but it's not good public policy. Chinooks or not, we live in a snow-prone area in one of the northernmost major cities on the planet - only London, Berlin, St. Petersburg and Moscow are further North with larger populations than Calgary.

Calgarians are a funny bunch. They revolt against even the whiff of unfairness in their federal government, occasionally make noise about the provincial government, and all but ignore their city council for the first 3 years of the new council's term. Mis-spending, lack of services, you name it, and Calgarians will just assume it's some other level of government's fault for not giving their mayor enough to work with.

I'm told I have to clear my sidewalk within 24 hours of a snowfall, or risk a $155 ticket. The reason I'm given for this commandment is "public safety". The irony should not be lost on anyone.

The bottom line is, people get hurt and die every snowfall in this city, because our council lacks the political courage to do something unpopular (raising taxes or cutting programs to allow an increase in the snow removal budget) in order to save lives and suffering.

Calgarians should hold their elected officials accountable for this lack of courage. Mail your $155 ticket in to city hall with a note attached to it:

"You First".

Lest we forget (and we usually do): THEY answer to US, not the other way around.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Week Ahead

Nation, the week ahead is going to be a busy one for yours truly in the blogosphere. Here's what you can expect in the next 7 days (in no particular order)...

  • Coverage of, and reaction to, RCMP Taskforce recommendations
  • What Calgarians can't afford to ignore until the next civic election, part 1: Snow Removal
  • The last word on Chandler's Egmont play until at least February
  • The Harper Conservatives: Reasonable environmental policy presented in excessively stupid ways
  • The first of my analysis of the Alberta political parties ahead of an expected early 2008 election - Wildrose: Ready to blossom, or withering on the vine?

Ambitious? Sure. But compared to 6 weeks of near-daily posting on every municipal ward and race in Calgary, it'll be a piece of cake. :)

Going out to buy Red Bull, and uninstalling Eastside Hockey Manager and Civ4 from my computer...

- E.S.


Nation, I am honoured to announce that I have been nominated in 2 categories for the Canadian Blog Awards. Nominations remain open, and many heavyweights have yet to have their names thrown into to ring... I expect that my odds of winning are about equal to the Miami Dolphins winning the Superbowl, or Brian Mason being Alberta's next Premier. That said, at the risk of pulling out a cliche, it is an absolute honour to even be nominated.

The 2 categories that I have been nominated in (so far!) are:
  • Best Blog (wow!)
  • Best Political Blog (wow again!)

Many thanks to Lance and Clarke for the nominations. They mean more than you know. :)

- E.S.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Two Stinkin' Weeks...

Nation, the nominations for the 2007 Canadian Blog Awards have now opened. You can nominate me in whichever categories, and however many, as you wish. ;)

EXCEPT, of course, for the "New Blog" category, which is open to blogs started after December 1st, 2006 - I hit the blogosphere on November 15th, 2 weeks too early. :(

I thank-you in advance for the overwhelming response from the millions and MILLIONS of members of the E.S. Nation.

Nominate me (or, I guess, other blogs that you might read) here.

But, really, WHY would you read other blogs?

-E.S., who has the following blogs on his "daily must-read" bookmark list:
  • Summer's Daydreams
  • Six Meetings Before Lunch
  • CalgaryGrit
  • daveberta
  • Ken Chapman's Blog
  • Phendrana Drifts

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Calgary Egmont: The Neverending Story

Word comes today that ousted/stepped down (depending on who's telling the story) consitituency president David Crutcher is considering a run for the PC nomination in Egmont.

Crutcher, as you know, is also a close associate of Craig Chandler, having worked on his campaign for the nomination before the Chandler/PGIB "One Riding At A Time" electoral machine ensured his election to the presidency of the constituency association, thus easing Chandler's path to the nomination. Since the PC Executive and Premier Ed Stelmach have rejected Chandler's nomination, Crutcher would be seen as a "Chandler-by-proxy" by the people who contributed to Chandler's alleged $127,000 nomination bid (note: HOLY CRAP!!!) and the social conservatives who bought memberships in the party purely to support Chandler, thus ensuring that their interests are represented over the great unwashed and silent moderate majority.

One has to wonder, if whomEVER the "One Riding At A Time" folks get elected to sit in Egmont is going to be busy representing the donors of the fabled $127,000 (note: HOLY CRAP!!!!), who, exactly, is going to be representing the voters and non-voters of the riding? NOTE: The following example is absolutely, 100% hypothetical. I have heard or read nothing to substantiate this, it's completely, as far as I know, 100% fictional. Please, Craig, don't sue me. If Birthright, for example, donates $50,000 to a candidate and he wins, but the majority of the riding's citizens are pro-choice, which view is the candidate, as MLA, going to champion? The view of the people in his riding, or the view of the group that bought $50,000 worth of favours and influence? Any candidate associated with Chandler's $127,000 price tag is going to be suspect, for that same reason.

Crutcher doesn't come without baggage of his own, mind you... he ran in Egmont for the Alberta Alliance in 2004, garnering 14% of the popular vote. In 2005, he finished 3rd in the leadership race for the Alberta Alliance. He joined the PC's in July of 2007 (yes, he wants the nomination after a whopping 5 months as a member), and (as covered earlier in this post) was successfully planted as president of the constituency association shortly thereafter. Among Crutcher's stated opinions:

  • Supports an Alberta provincial tax on consumer goods
  • Supports publicly funded alternative medicine in order to save money and resources
  • Supports traditional marriage and is pro-life
  • Supported Alberta's separation from Canada if the Conservative Party of Canada did not win the most recent federal election
Crutcher, whose campaign was run by none other than Craig Chandler, came under fire during the Alliance leadership race for what were described as "bully" tactics, including repeated threats and promises to sue party members who expressed negative views of Crutcher's campaign and candidacy. Sounds familiar.

Of course, none of the above is considered "baggage" by the Chandleristas. They'd mark it under "Qualifications".

Crutcher has requested that the PC Executive and Premier review his eligibility to run for the party, and notify him whether or not his candidacy WOULD be accepted, should he win.

On this, David and I agree.

Certainly, the PC Party of Alberta needs to reform its nomination process, and set up some sort of vetting process for potential candidates. In absence of one at this time, and considering the delicate state of affairs in Egmont, I think it's reasonable that ALL PC members in Egmont should hope that they won't be asked to trudge out of their homes on some cold January day to vote, only to find that the vote won't count if cast for Crutcher.

Of course, the PGIB Campaign Machine would likely also appreciate the "Heads Up" as, if Crutcher won't be approved by the party, they may be able to talk Erik Gregson into giving up his rumoured designs on Calgary Fish Creek in 4 years, and try to run in Egmont as the official "Chandler-by-proxy".

After all, the group's stated purpose, straight from the pen of PGIB Godfather and Kingpin Craig Chandler, is thus:
...the PGIB is launching a campaign to take back the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party called ONE RIDING AT A TIME. This campaign will help conservatives such as yourselves to win nominations within the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party... We can take ownership of the party and win nomination by nomination.

Gotta win a nomination, first. What better way than by getting your candidate pre-approved by the party before spending your $127,000 to buy the riding's nomination.

I wonder what it would cost to "take ownership of the party"... let's see, 42 ridings is a majority, 42 times $127,000... $5.3 million. To take control of the party that, in government, controls around $35 Billion annually. Seems like a bargain.

On second thought, maybe a vetting process is exactly what they want... 42 pre-approved candidates are better than 1.

The well is already being poisoned by Chandler for Jonathan Denis to run for the nomination again... so who's going to run against Crutcher?

ADDENDUM: It seems, based on murmurs in the ether, that Crutcher, Chandler and crew fully expect the Crutcher nomination to be squashed. In fact, they seem to be counting on it. After which they'd likely present another vocal evangelical to be rejected, and then another, until finally they could hold a news conference and declare their experience as proof positive that the PC Party of Alberta hates/doesn't want or value or welcome/is biased against Christians, and all the Christians in the province should vote for whatever party they're joining/taking over/founding.

The only way to stop this, of course, is to allow the candidacy of one of their chosen delgates, and then have the party members in Egmont simply CRUSH him in the nomination vote, without any "interference" from the party brass. Chandler apparently figures that nobody can beat a PGIB campaign machine-backed candidate with grass-roots, last-minute organization. He may be right, but it would be glorious to prove him wrong - at which point he'd still move on to the "PC Party and their members in Egmont hate Christians" step outlined above.

Just a quick note, in response to the press conference that hasn't happened yet... the PC Party isn't against Christians. The PC Party is against preaching intolerance in the name of Christ.

Which, I suspect, Christ would be opposed to as well.

Coming Soon

Nation, in the next week or so I'll be putting the finishing touches on overviews of the "contenders and pretenders" for the provincial election that, finally, it seems we won't be forced to endure until spring at the earliest.

The parties, and platforms that I'll be looking at:
  • Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta
  • Alberta Liberals
  • New Democratic Party of Alberta
  • Alberta Alliance
  • Wildrose Party
  • Alberta Greens

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead!

Well, Ed Stelmach has pulled the plug on the Chandler nomination. Chandler and his Chandleristas (credit to daveberta for the term) have, predictably, already come out attacking the party, Ed, Ed's dog, the media, and everyone else even remotely connected with the decision. One wonders why, if they have so many bad things to say about the party and its leader, they wanted to run under its banner? Flag of convenience?

One of Chandler's supporters referred to the process as a "witch hunt", trying to disqualify Chandler based on his religious beliefs. Note to Chandler supporters: Politically active Christians who believe that society should reflect their own personal religious beliefs don't SUFFER from witch hunts, they HOLD them. Just ask every unpopular, unmarried, educated, independant-minded woman left in Spain after 1834... both of them.

Now, then, the question becomes: What now?

  • For Craig Chandler, it will likely be threats of lawsuits, a run for Egmont as an independant, possibly a run at the Alliance or Wildrose leadership, and a lot of anti-PC vitriol to come on the Freedom Radio Network.
  • For PC's in Egmont, another nomination contest. Several people - including yours truly - would have seriously considered running for that nomination were Chandler not already on the ticket. With his hand-picked president already in place and years of surreptitious fundraising and campaigning behind him, no one could have possibly hoped to beat him. With Chandler out of the picture, more candidates may step forward. Jonathan Denis remains a strong candidate, if he's interested. The Tories CAN simply APPOINT a candidate, if they so wish - but I wouldn't count on it. If they DO decide to appoint someone, though... they've got my number. ;)
  • For the PC's Province-wide, a renewed push by the Wildrose and Alliance parties to paint the party as "out-of-touch, arrogant", and the like. Those holding rural seats of discontent will have to hope that the prospect of a rural premier will over-ride the general distrust that this incident might stir up over the Tories being "taken in" by the "Gay Agenda".
  • For the Alberta Liberals, more bad news. They may have a shot at coming up the middle in races that were already going to be tight, with some of the social conservatives staying home, or voting for someone other than the PC candidate over this... but the Liberals were really, really hoping to be able to label the Tories as "the party of Craig Chandler".

Chandler spent thousands of dollars - whose thousands, we're not sure - running his campaign over the past few years. He sold memberships to people who had never been inclined to support the Tories in Egmont - most of those will likely not vote Tory now. But he got his voters out to the nomination meeting, and registered the most votes. He was the choice of the majority of the party members in Egmont, to represent them on the hustings.

Ed Stelmach, a year ago, was the choice of the majority of the party members in the province of Alberta. They chose him to lead this party, and defend it against destructive forces both external and internal.

Today, Ed did just that.

Should the party re-imburse Chandler's costs? Sure - it's only fair. If the decision had been made earlier in the process, the money would never have been solicited, accepted, or spent. But the PC Association of Alberta doesn't OWE Chandler a nomination to run for this party... it is far too easy to stack a nomination meeting or constituency board, as we saw all too well in this case. The democratic process can, and is, corrupted by those who have the finances and connections to manipulate the system. Knowing this, the party constitution allows the Leader to disqualify nominated candidates for the greater good of the party. Which he did today.

Sometimes, Craig, it doesn't matter how smart, loud, well-spoken, connected, crafty, Christian, or well-prepared you are. You can't run from a record of supporting bigotry - and such a record MUST disqualify you from running for a party that bears the word "progressive" right there in its name. You're a smart guy - you knew this was coming.

But there's no such thing as bad publicity - especially in politics. You weren't going to get the moderate votes anyway - but all the social conservatives in the riding, and many in the province, who had never heard of you before this now know who you are. They like what they see.

Maybe that was the point of the whole exercise... after all, you can't buy that kind of publicity. "This guy doesn't like queers... me neither, maybe I'll vote for him...". Can't really get that commercial to run on CFCN. But it's on every station today.

Crazy? Or crazy like a fox?

Egmont Drama - the Appetizer

Nation, the crap has already begun to hit the fan in the provincial riding of Calgary-Egmont, and we are still a few hours from learning the fate of the democratically-nominated (regardless of circumstance) Craig Chandler.

Riding President, former Alliance candidate, and former Chandler campaign treasurer David Crutcher, accused by many of being the "wedge" that would set the table for Chandler's nomination win, was ousted last night by the riding's Constituency Association board.

Don Leonardo, the riding's Executive Vice-President, has stepped down in protest over the move.

A harbinger of things to come? Or is Chandler going to go into battle without his hand-picked President and with a hostile riding board? Stay tuned.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Lead Me Not Into Temptation...

Long time, no speak, Nation... a situation I hope to begin rectifying at some point tomorrow, when the crap hits the fan in Egmont.

I'm in the People's Republic of Redmonton, for a completely NON-politics-related work trip. I walk into my hotel, only to be stared in the face by the following sign:


I'll try to be strong, and resist the urge to go see whether they're using Lego or Superblox. ;)

- E.S., on location (much to his surprise)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Calgary Egmont - There Goes The Neighbourhood

Well, Nation, the "Big 2" have confirmed their nominations for the provincial constituency of Calgary Egmont. The contenders are:

Cathie Williams, former chair of the Calgary Catholic School Board.

Craig Chandler, head of the PGIB. Remember this?

This riding is just BEGGING for a legitimate candidate to crawl up through the middle, run a high-profile campaign waging war simultaneously against Williams' proclivity towards spending taxpayer dollars and Chandler's proclivity towards, well, being Chandler.

Wildrose? Whatchya got?

Don't Tase Me, Bro...

The recent travesty at Vancouver's airport has reintroduced the debate over the use of Tasers by police forces in this country. Cops say they need the devices, to reduce the likelihood of deadly force being needed. Defence lawyers and activist groups decry their use as being akin to torture. What are the facts?

Tasers were introduced in 1969 as an alternative to the use of deadly force. Their use was to be considered only in situations where, until this point, the officers would have had to fire their sidearm. In other words, the Taser was designed as an alternative to a bullet: Far less permanent, far less frequently deadly. But, in its initial roll-out, the device was to be used ONLY as an alternative to deadly force. If the officer's life was in imminent danger, or the life of an innocent was in danger, the device would be used to provide a non-lethal resolution to the threat, as opposed to shooting and possibly killing the suspect.

In the nearly 40 years since, the Taser has gained popularity and profile amongst law enforcement as a compliance tool. Instead of "correcting a suspect's behaviour" with the baton, you tase him. Quick and effective, right? If he won't listen, settle down, allow you to cuff him, or is in any way resisting or trying to get away, you shock him. It works 99% of the time, which is more than can be said for batons (too hard to get a good back-swing) and pepper-spray (messy, and you might get some on yourself).

The problem has become that cops today are too reliant on the device. They use it not to avoid killing a suspect, as originally intended, but to elicit compliance. They police are under-staffed, stretched too thin, and they lack the time (or, in some instances, ability) to reason with a suspect, to calm them down, to explain what is going on, or wait for an interpreter. There's going to be another emergency call in 10 minutes, so they tase him, take him back to the station, and head off to the next call.

One needs only to watch "Cops" to see this proclivity towards "compliance at all costs" on the part of law enforcement today. If he won't let you cuff him, you tase him. If he won't get out of the car, you tase him. If he runs, don't chase him - tase him.

The RCMP in Vancouver should not have used the Taser in their situation. Unless the "suspect" (who did not speak English) indicated he had a bomb strapped to him, there was no reason that the 4 (!) of them could not have wrestled him to the ground if he became threatening. There is no way that any of those officers can say he felt his life or the life of a bystander was in danger, so there was no need to deploy the Taser.

The bigger question that we, as a society, have to answer is whether or not Tasers should be used by our police forces at all. The more accustomed to using them that our police become, the more they find they HAVE to use them, as old-school policing and the associated skill set (negotiation, scene control, etc.) fall victim to the need to clear scenes as quickly as possible due to manpower shortages. In a world where our police had the resources, training and manpower to do their jobs properly, Tasers would only be used for their original purpose: Instead of shooting and possibly killing someone who is trying to kill them, the officers would use the Taser.

Tasers can and do kill people, and the police use them far too often. But, on the whole, Tasers are a lot less lethal than the bullets they were meant to replace. They should NOT be used to guarantee compliance with police, or to stop people from running or resisting - they should be used to stop people from killing. There's a BIG drop-off there.

If my friend won't let the police cuff him for an overdue parking ticket, I don't want him tased. But if he gets drunk and lunges towards an officer, I'd rather have him "ride the lightning" at 50,000 volts than catch a bullet. My take? Keep the Tasers as a non-lethal option, increase the number of officers on the streets, and make sure that you spend 10 times as much effort on teaching officers to reason with suspects as you do Taser, pepper spray and proper baton technique.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Has It Already Been A Year? The Self-Congratulatory Anniversary Post

Nation, this blog sprung into being on November 15th, 2006. In the 365 days since (not counting today), I have posted 177 times on subjects ranging from the PC Leadership Race to the Calgary Municipal Election. From Hussein's execution to the death of respectful political discourse.

I would be lying if I told you all that I expected to still be doing this a year later. At the time, I wasn't really all that familiar with the "blogosphere" - I knew it existed, but didn't really sift through it in any significant depth. This ignorance led me to believe that nobody was covering the PC Leadership Race in the way that I believed it should be covered - after all, PC members were choosing Alberta's next Premier, and there was as much main-stream media attention being paid, in the initial stages, as if it were a school board election. Turns out the guys getting all the attention lost.

I was shocked, early on, to find that my writing was resonating with people. I've always had something of a knack for expressing myself on the page, but to have intelligent, politically-informed people sending me messages of support, and posting about this new, anonymous blogger who seemed to know what he was talking about... it was both surprising and extremely gratifying. It still is. I can't tell you how happy I am when I see my blog being discussed elsewhere on-line, because it means people are talking - and not just about me, but about the issues I'm raising, which was the entire point.

I have noticed some discussion as to the identity of this blogger... and I'll re-iterate my stance that, due to my position with the Government of Alberta, "coming out" could have very negative implications for my income. I welcome the conjecture, though. My favourite rumour thus far is that I'm a backbench Tory MLA. Does anyone really think that I'd be content to be a BACKBENCH MLA? ;-)

I couldn't help but notice that my blog hasn't been put forward for any blog awards - surely, the nominations were lost in the mail? ;-)

I thought that this blog would help cure the occasional "politic-itch" that I have experienced in the past, let me get a few things off my chest, and then fade into obscurity. I have found instead, though, that it has renewed my optimism, my passion, and my desire to contribute to the process in a positive way - by covering the issues, or by perhaps someday stepping forward and putting my name on a ballot (if, conspiracy theorists, I haven't already).

Nation, I will continue to fight the good fight, and as most of you know, I am by no means alone. There are many wonderful bloggers of ALL political stripes, from the very partisan to the completely unbiased. Be they municipally-focused, provincial or federal, they work day in and day out to present something that will inform, enlighten, and entertain all of us. Let me tell you - except for a rare few, blogging doesn't pay well, if at all. Nobody's doing this for the money. The people that you find out here in the media wilderness plugging away are doing so out of a desire to contribute to the discussion. I applaud them, and remain in awe of the work that they do - I am proud to be numbered among you.

I would be remiss at this time if I didn't thank all of the wonderful and supportive people who have offered encouragement (or a kick in the pants) when it was sorely needed. Be they bloggers or readers, their feedback and support has bolstered me and served as a valuable reminder that what I say, and how I say it, DOES resonate with people - I have a responsibility to them to "get it right and be fair", and to at all times respect the intelligence of my readers, whether they agree with me or not. It's a lesson that I remind myself of daily.

Special thanks go out to:
  • The wonderfully supportive Duncan and Allie, who introduced me to the blogosphere and held my hand when I was in unfamiliar climes;
  • That up-and-coming youngster Ken Chapman, whose wise and encouraging words helped me through a particularly difficult cross-roads;
  • Larry Johnsrude who, despite joining "the dark side" recently was the first "real media" person to acknowledge that I might have some intelligent things to say despite my lack of a journalism degree;
  • CalgaryGrit and daveberta who, despite our differing leanings have been nothing but supportive in their comments;
  • Kirk Schmidt (the next MP for Calgary West), who has helped restore my faith that good people who want to make a change can and will go up against incredible odds;
  • Naheed Nenshi of the Better Calgary Campaign, who surprised me with his confession to being a member of the E.S. Nation (I knew he was smart, but never suspected he was THAT smart - thanks for reading, Naheed);
  • anonymous poster - you know who you are, and so do I;
  • All of the candidates for various elections who have linked to this blog under their "media" sections - thank you for running, and thank you for the nod;
  • To the much-maligned (wrongfully, in my opinion) Scott Tribe and the folks at Progressive Bloggers who, despite the fact that I'm not a fire-breathing radical lefty, still give me a forum from which to occasionally point out that not all conservatives are neanderthals;
  • And most of all to my lovely fiancee, the soon-to-be Mrs. Savage, whose never ending patience while listening to me "clack-clack" into the wee hours has made all of this possible. Sugar, you know I'd give this all up tomorrow if you asked, so thank-you for not asking. :-)

It's been a great year, Nation. Here's to another!

Self-aggrandizing, congratulatory post done. Back to the issues. :-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is David Lloyd Johnston REALLY an "Independent, Impartial Third Party"?

Nation, I'm not one to see conspiracy theories around every corner. And yet, at the risk of throwing a wet blanket on the celebratory mood of the media that they finally have their "Independent, Impartial Third Party" named for the three-ring circus that is sure to come, something smells at least a LITTLE bit fishy.

David Lloyd Johnston was the Principal at McGill between 1979 and 1994.

The Honourable Alan B. Gold was Chair of the Board of Governors at McGill from 1978 to 1982. So, for 3 years, he was Johnston's boss.

Everyone with me so far?

The Honourable Alan B. Gold negotiated the settlement between the Government of Canada and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney.

So, let's review: The guy who negotiated the settlement of Mulroney's libel lawsuit against the Chretien Government was the boss of, and presumably stayed in touch with, the guy who is making the recommendation about the scope of and need for a full inquiry into the affair.

Gee, do you think in the 12 years between the initial settlement and Alan Gold's death, the case ever came up over dinner?

Could be nothing... could be everything. The reality of conflict isn't at issue. In cases such as this, it is the PERCEPTION of impropriety or conflict that is the problem.

Sorry to say - and apparently I'm the first - but something about this stinks.

- E.S.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Margaret Atwood Writes to the Enlightened Savage

Nation, I routinely get e-mail from the Green Party. I'm not a member of the Greens, and to be honest, have no idea how they got my e-mail address in the first place. I don't overly mind, though - they don't come very often, and I suppose in my heart of heart I'm an environmentalist above all other issues, so I let it slide.

One of the favoured tactics of the Greens seems to be to have "intellectual celebrity endorsements" coming directly from the intellectual celebrity. I received a message about 4 months ago from David Suzuki, extolling the evils of Stephen Harper (for the record, I think I recall David suggesting that Stephen eats live human babies, but it WAS a while ago, so I can't be certain - maybe that was just the TONE of the message...). Well, just a few days ago, I received an e-mail message from noted Canadian author Margaret Atwood. The text is below, with rebuttal underneath.

Dear Friend,

Global warming -- with the related environmental degradation, "natural" catastrophes, and accelerating species extinction -- is surely the biggest issue facing, not just Canada, but the entire planet. Without oxygen to breathe, water to drink, and soil to grow food in, a cut to the GST is worth nothing. It won't matter if you're paying 1% less GST if you're dead. Nor will your survivors care much that they got a deal on your coffin -- they'll be dead, too.

Yet Stephen Harper's government has gone from outright denial of climate change to lukewarm attempts to cover up and paper over this issue, while all the time keeping Stephen Harper's pledge to "build a firewall around Alberta." Stephen Harper doesn't want us to develop alternate energy, he wants us to keep burning oil. That's why there was no significant money for green economic development in his latest budget.

The Green Party can be depended on to keep green issues front and centre. Graeme Gibson and I joined the Green Party to support Elizabeth May as its Leader. In October, we traveled to the heart of Elizabeth's Nova Scotia Pictou riding to give a boost to her campaign to defeat Peter MacKay. Speaking to a packed hall of 600 local voters, I enumerated the reasons why Pictou should send Elizabeth May to the Canadian Parliament.

She is fearless.

She is honest.

Having led the Sierra Club for so long, she knows where the bodies are buried. If people make untrue statements about environmental issues, she'll have the expert knowledge to call them on it.

When she gives her word, either in writing or orally, she keeps her word -- unlike Peter MacKay, who promised not to demolish the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, but then did it.

In October -- even in the home town of Peter MacKay -- there was spontaneous cheering and two standing ovations for Elizabeth May. Some of this was no doubt due to his betrayal of the old Progressive Conservative Party in the merger with Alliance. As I wrote at the time, the Alliance Party were the "body snatchers." They consumed the Progressive Conservative Party whole and emerged as the new "Conservative" Party. Elizabeth insists we must not call them "Tories." They are the Alliance-Conservative-Republican Party of Canada.

Like Elizabeth, I believe we must stay focused on defeating Stephen Harper. Ensuring Elizabeth May is in the Leaders' Debate is key. The Green Party must have the resources it needs to raise the most important issues of our time. It must be able to wage significant campaigns, especially in key areas.

Donations can be made to the Green Party, and to other parties as well. The Elections Act allows personal donations only. You can donate up to $1,100 each year to the national party and $1,100 to one local riding (electoral district).

We need to put Elizabeth May into the House of Commons so that she can speak honestly about an issue that is of top importance to Canadians. When a general election is called, and if I am in the country at the time, I will travel to Pictou and go door-to-door for Elizabeth.

Please make your donation today.

Yours truly, Margaret Atwood

Okay, let's go back over the message... my responses, fittingly, in green.

Dear Friend,

Global warming -- with the related environmental degradation, "natural" catastrophes, and accelerating species extinction -- is surely the biggest issue facing, not just Canada, but the entire planet. Without oxygen to breathe, water to drink, and soil to grow food in, a cut to the GST is worth nothing. It won't matter if you're paying 1% less GST if you're dead. Nor will your survivors care much that they got a deal on your coffin -- they'll be dead, too.

All right, well first off, Margaret, thank-you for taking the time to write me. As a frequent reader of my blog, you're no doubt aware that I value the participation of EVERY Canadian in our democracy, so kudos to you.

I was hoping, though, if you could kindly enlighten me as to what exactly "global warming" - the subject of the above paragraph - has to do with "oxygen to breathe, water to drink, and soil to grow food in". I mean, they're certainly all important issues, perhaps the MOST important issues, but global warming doesn't have an effect on oxygen levels - perhaps you're confusing global warming with air pollution? They're not the same thing. Jean Chretien made the same mistake a few years back, so don't feel too bad. I just expected that a world-renowned author might have done a bit of homework on her subject matter, is all.

Yet Stephen Harper's government has gone from outright denial of climate change to lukewarm attempts to cover up and paper over this issue, while all the time keeping Stephen Harper's pledge to "build a firewall around Alberta." Stephen Harper doesn't want us to develop alternate energy, he wants us to keep burning oil. That's why there was no significant money for green economic development in his latest budget.

I'm guessing, by the way you tell us what Stephen Harper wants, that you've spoken to him about this issue, and he has told you as much? Could I bother you for some proof?

See, Margaret, here's the problem with the environmental movement in general, and the Green Party in particular... This is an EMOTIONAL issue, but if you want to politically agitate for change, you have to appeal to people's higher-developed, logical brains. Saying "he doesn't like trees because he's a jerk!", or "he cut taxes but didn't pledge $5B for tree-planting, so he doesn't CARE about the environment" plays to the emotional heart-strings of people, but in a political forum, it reeks of junior high class presidential speeches. "He's a jerk, vote for me".

Also, nice use of the "Firewall" reference. I wonder, if you polled Albertans, how many would say that the federal government has favoured Alberta above all other provinces since Stephen Harper took office? After all, if he's willing to sacrifice, as you imply, the health of his future grandchildren for the good of the oil-patch, then he has no doubt favoured Alberta in many obvious ways... right?

The Green Party can be depended on to keep green issues front and centre. Graeme Gibson and I joined the Green Party to support Elizabeth May as its Leader. In October, we traveled to the heart of Elizabeth's Nova Scotia Pictou riding to give a boost to her campaign to defeat Peter MacKay. Speaking to a packed hall of 600 local voters, I enumerated the reasons why Pictou should send Elizabeth May to the Canadian Parliament.

She is fearless.

That's good, I guess... will she be taking on live small-weapons' fire in the House?

She is honest.

Well, she has on several occasions noted her friendship with Bill Clinton - and, as Bill might point out, that might depend on how you define "is".

Having led the Sierra Club for so long, she knows where the bodies are buried. If people make untrue statements about environmental issues, she'll have the expert knowledge to call them on it.

"She knows where the bodies are buried"... you mean, like this guy? Again, the bottom line is that the "truth" is so open to emotionalism and interpretation on this issue that it deflects the attention away from the issue and onto minutiae. I mean, you can't even get a room full of 50 scientists to agree that global warming is even HAPPENING - how are you going to accuse someone of lying, when the facts are in dispute by the TRUE experts in the field?

When she gives her word, either in writing or orally, she keeps her word -- unlike Peter MacKay, who promised not to demolish the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, but then did it.

You mean like when she committed to run in the riding of Cape Breton-Canso (she's not)?

In October -- even in the home town of Peter MacKay -- there was spontaneous cheering and two standing ovations for Elizabeth May. Some of this was no doubt due to his betrayal of the old Progressive Conservative Party in the merger with Alliance. As I wrote at the time, the Alliance Party were the "body snatchers." They consumed the Progressive Conservative Party whole and emerged as the new "Conservative" Party. Elizabeth insists we must not call them "Tories." They are the Alliance-Conservative-Republican Party of Canada.

Okay Margaret, here's the part you're not going to like.

If you are writing me on behalf of Elizabeth May, and in your message you tell me what she believes, then you are endorsing those beliefs.

You are a nearly 70 year-old woman. You are a literary giant. And you just crossed the line into school-yard name-calling.

I don't know your position on George W. Bush, but I could probably hazard a guess. That doesn't concern me. Likewise, I imagine you're not overly fond of the Conservative Party of Canada, or their forebears, the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party. What DOES concern me is that you are labelling someone in much the same way as men used to label women - by what we SAY you are, rather than how you self-identify. 30 years ago, to do this in Margaret Atwood's presence would be unforgivable. Now, she is doing it herself. Unless you can prove to me that Stephen Harper intends to eschew the monarchy and declare Canada a republic, you have just shown yourself to be hypocritical at worst, and juvenile at best.

The name of the party in government is "The Conservative Party of Canada". To identify them as anything other than that suggests that it is in fact perfectly acceptable to refer to you as "Maggie Polk", or "Graeme Gibson's Ball-and-Chain". Sure, it's not accurate, or what you WANT to be called... but, since we're name-calling, what do I care? If it's good enough for a Booker Prize-winning writer, it's good enough for a Blogger from Calgary.

Like Elizabeth, I believe we must stay focused on defeating Stephen Harper. Ensuring Elizabeth May is in the Leaders' Debate is key. The Green Party must have the resources it needs to raise the most important issues of our time. It must be able to wage significant campaigns, especially in key areas.

I couldn't agree more. The Greens deserve to be in the Leaders' Debate. They run candidates in every riding in the country, and pull in around 5% support WITHOUT media attention.

Donations can be made to the Green Party, and to other parties as well. The Elections Act allows personal donations only. You can donate up to $1,100 each year to the national party and $1,100 to one local riding (electoral district).

We need to put Elizabeth May into the House of Commons so that she can speak honestly about an issue that is of top importance to Canadians. When a general election is called, and if I am in the country at the time, I will travel to Pictou and go door-to-door for Elizabeth.

Please make your donation today.

Yours truly, Margaret Atwood

(end message)

Now, I know a lot of you are going to find it contradictory that I on one hand applaud Margaret for getting involved, and then on the other hand rip her to shreds for her letter. "This is why more people don't get involved", I'll hear.

The truth is, if you are going to endorse a candidate and make statements on their behalf, then you are completely engaged in the process, and therefore open to criticism. To allow Atwood to make statements unchallenged gives her and her candidate an unfair advantage - she can name-call in a public forum, but is above reproach because of who she is? Hardly.

I like the Greens. They're great environmentalists, and as politicians, well, they're great environmentalists. They need to work on their communications strategy, though. The problem with limiting your candidates to "true believers only" is that you end up with bad politicians trying to run for office. At that point, it doesn't matter what they intend to do - if they're bad politicians, they're not getting elected, and therefore can't do diddly squat. So long as the Greens continue to field candidates based on their environmental credentials first and their political skill second, it doesn't matter how many intellectual celebrities write letters on their behalf, or even if they get into the Leaders' Debate or not - they will not be elected.

To know your issues, and be passionate about them, is one thing. But when asking for the people's consent to govern them, you must at least feign an interest in other issues, and show people how you are going to advance your own agenda while still having the time and resources to advance theirs.

After all, to paraphrase Margaret Atwood:

Without streets to drive, a home in which to live, money to pay for food, a cut to Greenhouse Gas emissions is worth nothing. It won't matter if we're emitting 30% less CO2 if I'm living in a cave in Fish Creek Park. Nor will my children care much that they've got an extensive system of bicycle trails to ride -- they won't be able to afford a bicycle.

The Greens are solid on their primary focus. But a one-issue party can't get elected to govern Federally, no matter HOW well versed they are on that issue.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

89 years ago today, the bells of peace pealed across the landscape of Europe. The "War to End All Wars", tragically a misnomer, had come to an end.

In the many years since, we have seen and heard much of war here, tucked away safely by geography and distance. Some have tried to paint the World Wars as glorious triumphs of the human spirit.

Triumphs? Certainly. But war holds no glory. Only death, and suffering.

My ancestors tilled the fertile soil in the fresh, new provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. When hostilities broke out between the British Empire and the Kaiser's Germany, these ancestors saw even the most basic of their farm implements confiscated by the Canadian government, for fear that with names like "Schmidt" and "Kroenader" they might be enemy infiltrators. And yet, these men, and hundreds like them, reported to enlistment offices across their new country, volunteered, were given weapons and went back to the country of THEIR ancestors, to fight their own cousins for the freedoms of generations yet unborn, in both countries.

Many never came home. The ones that did were never the same.

The men and women who have died serving our country deserve our commemoration. On this day, and on ALL days. However, while you are observing your moment of silence today at 11 a.m. local time, also pay your due respect to those who came home from these terrible conflicts. Those who fell in the field paid for our freedoms with their lives - however, they now sleep in peace. Any combat veteran can tell you that peaceful sleep is rare for them - the faces of comrades lost, or atrocities witnessed, of the men they had no choice but to kill...

The ones who came home paid in blood for our freedom, and have done so every night since. Let us not forget them, even while we pay our respects to their fallen brothers and sisters-in-arms. We owe ALL that we have to the sacrifices that they and their torch-bearers made, and continue to make.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Responsible Ownership

Nation, today we're going to talk a little bit about the responsibility of ownership.

As the owner of several enterprises myself, I know all too well how difficult it is to stay on top of things - there always seems to be another complication, another document written in unintelligible legal-ese that needs to be reviewed and signed, another management issue that needs to be resolved... indeed, I found myself as recently as September debating whether hiking the price for one of my services (for the first time in 10 years) would cost me clients (it didn't). Luckily, they considered the small increase worth the investment, as they have been quite satisfied with the service they receive. I'm still also about 20% under the market-rate, as well, so there's something to be said for that as well. Any cheaper, and they could pay me in U.S. Dollars. :)

The parallel between my own situation and the recent Royalty Review shouldn't be lost on anyone. The problem is this: As Albertans, we are all shareholders in a 10.5 TRILLION dollar reserve of crude oil (175 billion barrels, at a low-ball figure of $60/per barrel). We OWN those resources. And we actually get asked for our opinion on the management of those resources once every 4 or so years, come election time. Not that anything necessarily changes with the management - we just have a chance to go into a voting station and express ourselves.

The fact is, each and every single one of us owns over 3.5 MILLION DOLLARS worth of the oil sitting in Alberta. And, until the release of the Royalty Review and the Stelmach government's soliciting of public feedback, we have rarely in our lifetimes been asked for our opinion on how the government is managing our own personal $3.5 Million nest egg.

Well, the recommendations have been made, the decision has been handed down, and there are random sample telephone polls all over the place. The only thing that all these polls have in common is the fact that most of them have an extremely large number of respondents who, in effect, told the pollster to shove off and leave them alone. Media outlets interpret this as meaning they don't like the decision made by the Stelmach government. I interpret this as "I'm eating my dinner, stop calling me". Slight difference of context, no?

Well, now you can express your opinion in an in-depth and thoughtful poll that pushes you neither towards a favourable or critical view or opinion of the Royalty issue. I would encourage each and every one of you to take a few minutes of your time and go to Policy Channel to take their "Alberta's Oil Sands Survey" (link is on the top left corner of their page).

After all, it's YOUR $3.5 Million. Shouldn't you have a better way to express an opinion than marking an "x" once every 4 years?

Friday, November 2, 2007

From the Inbox - Save Kananaskis!

Nation, I get email from all across our great province and beyond, asking for my assistance in bringing causes, events, and injustices to light.

One such email came from a group calling itself "Save Kananaskis" (they wanted to be the "Save Kananaskis Society", but the provincial government denied them society standing).

Their website covers their issue in much greater detail than I could hope to, so I'd encourage anyone interested in conservation, or anyone who lives in Calgary but plays in K-Country, to check it out for yourselves.

A very well-produced video highlights their cause, here.

Other videos of the type of nonsense that is allowed to happen in what many Calgarians mistakenly think is a provincial park (it is, in fact, a Forest Land Use Zone, allowing clear-cut logging, oil and natural gas wells, and hunting on the same trails as you and your kids hike on!) can be found here, here, here, and here. By the way, if you're one of the 500,000 Calgarians living in the city's South, you'll be interested to know that those jeeps, SUV's and even the Neon are driving through (and leaking oil, gasoline, and god only knows what else) into water that feeds the Elbow River.

Which is the source of your drinking water.


"Save Kananaskis" is having a rally TODAY, November the 2nd, at 4:30 pm outside the CAOC Building (1111 Memorial Dr.), on the river side of Memorial at the Louise Bridge. The map and further information are available here. They are hoping to pressure the province to extend the protection of a full Provincial Park to the Eastern parts of Kananaskis near Bragg Creek, which currently allow everything you saw in the videos above.

To the thousands of Calgarian outdoors enthusiasts who proudly call themselves members of the E.S. Nation - now's your chance to have a direct impact. Calgary's playground, Kananaskis, is in the middle of a tug-of-war between conservation and resource development. Which side will you choose?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Strange Times in Alberta...

Nation, I had the strangest experience this morning, and I feel compelled to share it with you all.

I woke up, rolling over and hitting my “snooze” button for the third time, when I saw a strange emanation coming from the window to E.S.’s super-secret lair. Upon walking to the window, I pulled back the shade to see a large ball, made up mostly of hydrogen (or so I’m guessing) and hovering just above the horizon.

Shocked as I was by this sight, I ran to the front door and grabbed the newspaper. There it was, large as life: “Wednesday, October 31, 2007. Calgary, Alberta, Canada.”

Nation... the sun rose this morning. In Alberta. Just as it has every day for the past week, and possibly further back even than that.

I know... I was shocked, too.

After hearing from the “Chicken Little” naysayers from the oilpatch, we can all be forgiven for thinking that the world might in fact be ending. After all, they told us that everything short of a plague of locusts might be coming to this province if the Premier dared to follow the recommendations of the “Our Fair Share” report. It would be a catastrophe – a cataclysm of epic proportions. Overnight, roads would crumble, basic social infrastructure would begin to break down, dogs and cats living together... basically, all the worst parts of the Bible.

And even after all of these warnings – warnings which, of course, were issued purely out of these companies’ concern for the people of Alberta – Ed went ahead and followed SOME of the recommendations.

Remembering the films from my youth, I ducked and covered under the nearest desk.


Still waiting...

What’s that?

Oh. I see.

Nation, Ed has gone on the record pleading for this not to be called a “compromise”. Sorry as I am to have to disobey my fearless leader, that’s just what this is... it’s a compromise.

It’s a compromise, because he *could* have taken his pound of flesh, and then some. He could have, but he didn’t. It would have helped his popularity, but it would have hurt his province, and he knew that - he put the province first, and rightly so. It is, after all, his JOB. The Premier didn’t compromise with Big Oil, he compromised between the 2 extremes of “doing nothing” (a somewhat popular tactic on this file in the past), and “crushing Big Oil under the boots of the people’s revolution” (which will have to wait until I, the Enlightened Savage, become Premier in about 16 years). Both of those extremes would have hurt our province, so he chose neither, though one was easy, and the other would have made him very popular, for the next few years at least.

So, what about the deal itself? How’s it going over?

Well, with the people who find, extract, and develop the resources, it’s going over like a fart in church: It’s not the most popular thing they’ve ever seen, but they can deal with it as long as they keep their focus toward the front of the room and on the prophets (profits?).

With the people who OWN the resources, the move has proven quite popular. It is funny watching Big Media try to spin their survey results to suggest that people are up in arms about this announcement. One survey asked if the Premier “got it right”. The results read:

  • 46% - “He got it right”.
  • 33% - “He should have taken more” and “he took too much” (2 extremes that boil down to “he didn’t get it right”, but for very different reasons)
  • 20% - Refused to respond/No answer

So, of course, the papers report “53% of Albertans don’t think the Premier got it right!”. Let’s ignore the complete and utter buffoonery that was involved in forming the “response options” for the poll, and crunch the numbers.

20% of those polled didn’t express an opinion. Therefore, of those polled who DID express an opinion, 58% said “he got it right”.

Fudging numbers? Maybe. After all, a much wiser man than myself once stated famously “there are three types of lies: Lies; DAMNED lies; and statistics.” But consider this: If 53% of Albertans, according to this poll, don’t think that Premier Stelmach “got it right”, then those same papers should report that “Dave Bronconnier was rejected by 80% of eligible voters in October’s municipal election”.

After all, the mayoral election broke down like this:

  • 20% - Dave Bronconnier
  • 13% - someone else
  • 67% - Refused to vote

I don’t want to quibble over polling numbers here, Nation. I think that Ed’s options were laid out beautifully by my friend Ken Chapman on his blog, and Ed seems to have chosen option “3” on Ken’s list. He’s not crushing Big Oil, but he’s making sure we get our fair share. Of COURSE Big Oil isn’t happy about it – had he raised our take by a penny, they’d be upset. The past 30 years have conditioned them to believe that money is OWED to them: They’re entitled to it, because they do the work to get the bloody stuff out of the ground.

But believing that you’re entitled to something because you haven’t been credibly challenged for a while is a dangerous philosophical place in which to be, whether you’re in business or in politics. Ed knows it. Hopefully, the rest of the Alberta PC’s got the message.

So what did our namby-pamby, dithering, sissy, not-a-leader, wimp, "compromising” Premier do shortly after telling Big Oil that the free ride was over, and we wanted our fair share? He went to the Tony Blair luncheon, less than 24 hours later, and gave “greetings from the province” in a room full of angry Big Oil execs who likely wanted to meet him by the bike racks during recess. Given the way that some of the media try to portray the man, you’d think he would have been hiding in the Stelmach family bunker somewhere near Andrew.

Agree with the decision, like 58% of poll respondants do. Disagree with the decision. But don’t tell me the man can’t make decisions, or take the heat of being in the big chair. Because even when Big Oil took out full-page ads, and billboards, and blanketed the media with veiled threats and predictions of doom and gloom, even when they trotted out their bought-and-paid-for economists who predicted economic collapse, even when they printed signs of protest for distribution at the VERY impromptu demonstrations by rig workers (wearing spotless and colour-coordinated hardhats, no less) – he stood firm, and made the decision based not on who could donate the most to his party, but on who owned the resources. He made the decision as the steward of Martha and Henry’s resources and tax dollars, and he’s vowed to stick to it.

Alberta teachers, take note... and adjust your CBA negotiating strategy accordingly. Threatening a province-wide work stoppage and waiting for “Cool Hand Ed” to blink just became a very bad option.

Just ask Big Oil.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Results Are In... Sorta

Having a HELL of a time getting reliable feed from the government's webcast of the royalty regime announcement... missed the first 10 minutes trying to connect. Watching the press question period as I type this...

  • Changes will take effect January 1st, 2009.
  • Ed seems to be doing PRETTY well, but he's going to the stock answers when asked uncomfortable questions... "How can the companies trust us now?" Answer: "We're doing this for the good of all Albertans." Huh? Trying to build a sense of trust with the public by being seen to be dodging questions is a tough row to hoe.
  • He's really hammering home the "predictability" and "certainty" themes.

It's rather difficult to hear the questions being asked of the Premier. The quality of the sound is quite poor.

This seems like a "glass half full, glass half empty" issue... media have asked Ed about why he's "accepting about 75% of the Our Fair Share Report" and yet other media are asking about "rejecting or modifying half of the recommendations". Guess it depends on the editorial bias of their paper or station. Ed takes umbrage with the description of the announcement as a "compromise", pointing out that Royalties will go to 20% on January 1st, 2009.

IF all things remain equal (they never do), the government estimates an extra $1.4 Billion in provincial coffers annually with the announced changes.

Full text of the government's response to the recommendations of the "Our Fair Share" report are located here.

Details of the new Royalty Regime are located here.

Let the scare campaigns kick into high gear - after all, it's Halloween season!

Full analysis coming later tonight or tomorrow.

- E.S.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Premier Ed Stelmach Addresses the Province

(video available at the government's website, here)

Good evening.

I want to speak with you tonight about the future of our province.

The stake we all share in that future.

And how we can define the future together — as Albertans.

This is a unique moment in Alberta’s history.

At the beginning of our second century, our province enjoys unprecedented opportunities.

There’s global demand for our resources, and we’re recognized as a safe and stable supplier of energy.

We’ve become Canada’s engine of economic growth — the only debt-free jurisdiction in North America, with no sales tax and low personal taxes.

There’s no doubt our province is doing very well.

The prosperity and quality of life we enjoy today is thanks in large part to the innovation, determination, and hard work of the people of this great province.

Because of you, Alberta’s future is bright.

Most importantly — we have the ability to build a future where prosperity goes hand in hand with opportunity, a world-class quality of life, and a deep respect for the environment we’ve inherited.

The critical issues facing Alberta today are clear.

Can we address the growth pressures we face, secure a lasting prosperity — and get ahead of the curve?

Can we balance unprecedented growth and rapid urbanization with protection of the environment?

And can we preserve the quality of life and traditional Alberta values we all cherish?

I believe the answer to each of those questions is an emphatic yes.

Together we can build the Alberta we want — a province we’ll be proud to leave to our children.

And I want you to know your government has a solid plan to make this happen.

A plan that builds our communities, protects the environment, and creates the next wave of opportunities for our children and grandchildren.

A plan that transforms the opportunities of today into a secure tomorrow.

We’ve already made a good start — and I want to take a moment to update you on the actions your government has taken to meet the many immediate challenges we face.

Let me be frank.

When my government was sworn in ten months ago, Alberta was not keeping up with the province’s growth.

Demands on the public services we all rely on — from our roads and highways to our hospitals, schools and universities — were outpacing our ability to deliver.

We recognized these challenges, and we acted.

We launched the most aggressive investment in public infrastructure in Alberta’s history — 18 billion dollars over three years — to provide the roads, schools, and hospitals Albertans need.

Alberta’s municipalities are on the front lines of growth, and I promised help.

As a result, we’ve committed 11 billion dollars in new funding over the next decade to help municipalities tackle their infrastructure priorities and build stronger communities.

From water plants to street repair to affordable housing and recreational facilities — all Albertans will benefit from this investment.

With these new dollars, Alberta provides the most support for municipal government in all of Canada.

And all municipalities have been treated fairly and equally under this new 10-year plan.

As important as it is to invest in infrastructure, our plan is about more than bricks and mortar.

It’s about people.

For example, our world-class health facilities are attracting some of the finest physicians and medical specialists from around the globe — providing Albertans with access to outstanding care.

We’re focusing on improving the public healthcare system — because that’s clearly what Albertans want and expect.

We’re taking action to add doctors and nurses to the system to reduce wait times.

A rapidly-expanding health care system needs staff, and we recently announced details of a 30-million-dollar plan to increase the number of health care workers.

We’re also helping those in need — for example by increasing support for Albertans with disabilities.

The future of our province is indeed bright.

Economic growth is set to continue, and more people will be drawn to Alberta to fulfill their dreams and be part of our great adventure.

Best estimates suggest that within 20 years Alberta’s population will be approaching five million — that’s potentially one-and-a-half million new Albertans!

That’s a positive and exciting trend — and one that we will be prepared for.

Our plan for this exciting future is straightforward and practical — rooted in our deeply cherished values, and guided by a vision of greater opportunities and a better quality of life for all Albertans.

Building communities

As our population grows and becomes more diverse, supporting strong communities is key to ensuring that our high quality of life is sustained and enhanced.

We will implement a 20-year capital plan that responds to immediate pressures, and ensures that longer term needs are anticipated and addressed, with a clear commitment to keep pace with a changing Alberta.

The current backlog didn’t happen overnight — and we won’t be able to fix it overnight.

But we will get it done!

We’ll build the transportation systems, health and seniors facilities, schools and universities, affordable housing, and recreation and cultural opportunities that a growing province needs.

Strong communities are much more than roads and buildings.

They’re built with strong families.

That’s an Alberta tradition — and we have the opportunity to ensure that our province remains the best place to live, work, and raise a family.

Albertans deserve to feel safe in their communities.

And in the days ahead we will be announcing a significant new strategy to reduce crime and bolster law enforcement.

We must take criminals off our streets — and keep them off!

Equally important — we must address the factors that give rise to crime, such as drug and alcohol abuse.

As our province grows — we will not sacrifice the values Alberta is built on.

We’ll enhance and better co-ordinate the wide range of services already available to support the well-being of our children, seniors, and those most in need.

High quality childcare, world-class education opportunities, long-term care for the elderly — these are the true measures of a compassionate society.

In the Alberta we’re building, those needs will be met — because all Albertans must share in the benefits of prosperity.

I recognize that governments alone cannot create the communities we want.

The dedicated work of community groups and volunteer organizations contributes greatly to our health and social services — to our quality of life.

Albertans have always seen the potential within our province and its people, and we’re willing to roll up our sleeves to help make it even better.

Those traditional values deserve support.

As a government we have already announced a 50 per cent tax credit for every dollar donated over 200 dollars — the highest in Canada.

But I believe there is much more we can do to support Albertans helping Albertans.

I’m committed to expanding cultural, historic and outdoor opportunities for all Albertans —young and old — to experience and share their pride in Alberta.

Greening our growth

As Canada’s most dynamic province, we must take a bold leadership role on important issues, and nothing’s more important than protecting the land we’ve inherited.

As Albertans, we live in one of the most spectacular and beautiful places on earth.

We’re blessed with abundant natural resources that are the basis of our current and future prosperity.

Albertans rightly expect their government to strike a sustainable balance between development and conservation.

I’m determined that other countries will recognize Alberta as a global leader in responsible resource development.

We can’t wait for the perfect international agreement — so while others talk Alberta acts.

As a result — we’re forging a sound and practical environmental vision.

We’re working with industry to find creative, innovative solutions that we can implement today to preserve our environmental heritage.

Finding the balance between development and conservation is the great challenge of our time, and that balance starts with a practical plan that encourages innovation and sets realistic goals for industry.

Creating opportunity

Albertans can proudly say that we are the first jurisdiction in North America to place real and measurable limits on large industrial plants that produce about 70 per cent of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s a good beginning — but we need to do more.

Because in Alberta today we’re experiencing industrial development on a scale never before seen in our province.

We need to raise the bar in managing the impact of this development.

And we have, with a bold new strategy that looks at the overall impact of growth on our air, water and land.

Instead of looking at developments project by project, for the first time we’ll assess the overall environmental impact, and set limits for various regions of Alberta.

We have a comprehensive strategy for protecting our water, and we will soon be introducing a framework to better manage the competing demands on Alberta’s landscape.

Alberta must capitalize on new opportunities if we are to continue growing our economy, building strong communities, and securing long term prosperity — for all Albertans.

Central to our future prosperity is a commitment to add value to our traditional strengths in energy, agriculture, forestry, tourism, and health sciences.

We must build on those strengths, and develop new areas of promise.

This will involve making choices — and even taking some risks.

But being timid and doing nothing is a far greater threat to our future.

The diversification of our economy will be driven by the creativity and innovation of Albertans.

And we’ll support them by encouraging investment and research that transforms new technologies such as life sciences, material engineering, and nanotechnology into commercial successes…

Not in the U.S., Asia or Europe — but here, in Alberta!

Resource royalty framework

We all know that much of our resource wealth is non-renewable.

Once used — it’s gone forever.

So to build a stable and prosperous future, we must ensure we get the best economic return on the development of our resources.

Alberta’s current oil and gas royalty regime has attracted billions of dollars in investment.

It has created one of the most successful economies on earth.

But from time to time all policies need to be reviewed and updated.

I heard that message loud and clear from Albertans as I sought the leadership of our province last fall.

And when I took office I ordered an independent review of our royalty system.

As I’m sure you know, the review panel delivered their recommendations a few weeks ago. I made their report public as soon as we received it — so that it could receive the widest possible public debate.

And that’s certainly happened.

We’ve taken the time to give this important issue the serious thought Albertans would expect from their government.

And we’ve taken the time to get it right.

Now we’re ready to take decisive action.

Tomorrow we’ll be releasing details of a new royalty framework. One that delivers the fair share Albertans rightly expect from the development of their resources.

I promised you a royalty system that works for Albertans — who own the resources — and also for the companies who invest billions of dollars in our economy.

And that’s what we’re doing.

The new framework will enable Alberta to plan for a secure future.

It will provide the stability and predictability business needs, and time to adjust to the changes.

And it will address my goal of adding value to our exports and expanding our economy by upgrading our resources right here — in Alberta.

Our energy industry is undergoing historic changes.

The oil and gas deposits that have underwritten our prosperity in the past are gradually depleting.

We’re seeing the development of new and innovative techniques to get the most from these traditional sources of energy…

And we’ll continue to encourage those developments.

But in the coming decades our jobs and prosperity will increasingly depend on the development of new sources of energy such as the oil sands and coal-bed methane.

This royalty regime recognizes these changes — the need to create new industries, new jobs, and build for the future.

Decades from now, when our conventional energy resources are gone, our children must be left with an economic foundation for their prosperity.

We will secure Alberta’s future.

Governing with integrity

My grandparents came to Canada in 1898 — when Alberta was still a district of the Northwest Territories.

Like so many immigrants to this country — then and now — they came to Canada in search of hope, opportunity, and an open society.

And they found it.

I thought about that a lot when I became Premier, so last December I wanted my swearing in ceremony to be in public — in full view of Albertans, on the steps of the Legislature rather than in some private room.

Governments earn the trust of the people by being open and accountable.

Governing is a privilege not a right, and that privilege has to be continually earned.

I believe that, with all my heart — and I wanted to signal a fresh start — a new approach.

And I’m happy to say we’ve done that.

Information that was previously hard to get — flight logs, ministers’ expenses — is now routinely posted on the web for everyone to see.

If you want to lobby government, you will have to register — so Albertans will know who’s seeking to influence their elected representatives.

And for the first time in Alberta we’ve instituted all-party committees to give the opposition a chance to contribute in a positive way.

We need new ideas — new attitudes — to secure Alberta’s future.

I’ve described to you tonight a new plan for a new time, and a new Alberta.

An Alberta built on solid values, but ready for the challenges of the future.

That’s my promise as your Premier.

To create an Alberta that reflects our provincial motto — strong and free.

A place where you can reach for your dreams.

A province where government gets out of your way — and where you can keep the fruits of your hard work.

I’m excited to be leading this great province at such an incredible time in its history.

Because where Alberta is 30 years from now depends on the direction we establish today.

That’s a unique opportunity — and a profound responsibility.

But I know we’re up to the task.

Like you, I’m a proud Albertan, and I know that working together, we can build a province that’s a beacon of hope and prosperity…

Not just within Canada, but for the entire world.

The plan I’ve outlined tonight honours our past, addresses the challenges of the present, and builds a bridge to future prosperity.

By working together, I know we can achieve those goals.

I invite you to join me in making that future a reality.

Thank you for listening to me tonight.

And God bless Alberta.

(end transcript)

All in all, a pretty good "State of the Province" address... "Here's where we are, here's what we've done, here's what we want to do". Short on details, but that's what budgets are for. He stated several times that more details on certain items (Law & Order agenda, Land Use Framework, Royalty Review) would be forthcoming soon. If he unveiled them one per week for the next month, he'd be in a great spot to call an election (PLEASE Ed, for the love of god, don't do it! I'm already falling behind at work!) Stay tuned tomorrow at 3:00 for the webcast of the Premier's announcement of the new Royalty Regime, and shortly thereafter for my response thereto.

- E.S., getting ready for a big day analysing Ed's Waterloo or his Trafalgar