Sunday, July 31, 2005

B.C. Election 2005 - Further Thoughts

I have reviewed the 2005 election results in detail and made comparisons to 1996 and 2001. What is interesting is that despite the nine-year gap in a province where the population grew rapidly along with significant demographic shifts and a redistribution of riding boundaries - a fact that makes the comparison to 1996 a little rough - I find the 1996 result is a slightly better predictor of the 2005 election than the 2001 outcome. This is not surprising in the sense that 2001 was an extreme one-sided election with NDP support levels unusually depressed, not typical of preceding elections. My calculations are just one more confirmation. The average error for the percentage prediction for the NDP and Liberals was about 4% in both cases, with error higher in the case of 2001 as the base. To clarify I compare the actual percentage obtained in each constituency with my predicted outcome for the same, and the difference is what I refer to as error. There is some error

There appears to be a minute overall shift that slightly benefits the Liberals, but it is too small for one to be certain. The NDP seems a little stronger in Surrey and on Vancouver Island, the Liberals in Burnaby and the northeastern suburbs, but the numbers are too small for one to feel confidence in the assertion.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Ignatieff as Liberal Leader

There has been some media speculation that Michael Ignatieff might return to Canada to run for Parliament as a Liberal with the idea that he could replace Paul Martin as Liberal leader in a few years when the current PM retires.

The metaphorical comparison is to Pierre Trudeau, a Quebec academic/intellectual who then went on to have a long and ultimately successful career as Prime Minister. My impression is that there may be some substance to the speculation - Ignatieff did address the Liberal Convention in March so the connection is there.

What might be his prospects? He is not listed in the top rank of possible candidates by Calgary Grit Рa somewhat Chr̩tien leaning Liberal - although his name does appear further down.

A major drawback for Ignatieff is that he supports Bush’s Iraq war, which is unpopular in Canada, especially so in Quebec. However, it may not matter if the war is over by the time the Liberal leadership opens up.

Ignatieff is a strong critic of ethnic nationalism like Trudeau but as a non-Quebecker, in a weak position to carry the debate in Quebec. I have no idea how strong his French is.

Pierre Trudeau was a world traveller but he never left Canada to live abroad. As an intellectual he was continuously active in Quebec politics Рpublishing Cit̩ Libre, speaking to strikers in Asbestos, etc. He was very much tuned into Quebec politics, and after entering electoral politics and winning the Liberal leadership, he subsequently dominated federal elections in Quebec. I think his biography looks quite different from that of Ignatieff when one looks closely.

In fact Trudeau is more admired now than when he was in office, and the clouding of memory by time obscures the fact that he was by no means an unqualified political success. For example, Trudeau’s first term was a disaster resulting in the near loss of 1972, and he never did win back to back electoral majorities.

Electoral politics is very demanding and leaders have to be attuned to local sensitivities everywhere. One of the incidents that hurt John Kerry in last year’s U.S. election happened in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He called the football stadium there Lambert Field rather than Lambeau Field. Similar hazards would confront Mr. Ignatieff. If you haven’t lived in Canada for 30 years you are at a great disadvantage. Would Ignatieff know that Shania Twain is from Timmins or that Winnipeg used to have an NHL franchise called the Jets?

That fact that he is being touted is partly a reflection of the undue obsession of our Ottawa media with the politics of personality and leadership, but also of the fact that the Liberals have a dearth of quality successors to Paul Martin.

Ohio Congressional By-election

There is an interesting Congressional by-election going on in the 2nd Congressional district in southern Ohio bordering on the Ohio River. This is as safe a Republican CD as there is the U.S. It is partly classic working class blue colour Appalachia but also southern influenced fundamentalist Christian pro-Bush country. Voting is on August 2.

Bush appointed the incumbent to an administration job thus opening the seat. However, the Democrats have an Iraq war vet, Paul Hackett, who appears to be making inroads in a district that has voted for the Republican in the past four elections by 40 to 50 point margins. Now rumours say Republican polling puts it within the margin of error or that Hackett is 10 points back. It has the Republicans in a panic, with huge ad buys and a swift boat style campaign of disinformation directed at Hackett although later reports indicate that the swift boater has backed down.

Be nice if it was a straw in the wind, but local factors including the fact that the Democrat is a pro-gun (but also pro-choice) war veteran perhaps makes it atypical. However, it is getting increased attention and even a close outcome will be seen as bad news for Bush whose recent poll numbers have turned negative.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

NHL Players’ Association Politics

The media treatment of this story has been exclusively focused on how Player’s Association executive director Bob Goodenow is in trouble (despite evidence to the contrary). Take this example from the July 21 Globe and Mail:

Bob Goodenow, for whom the word embattled has become a prefix to his title as executive director of the National Hockey League Players' Association, received an informal show of support last night from at least some players.

But a small story on an inside page of the sports section of the July 16 edition of the Globe suggests to me that Goodenow's position will emerge from the strike strengthened. It is because of this overlooked aspect of the agreement:

In the deal, a player's minimum salary would jump to $450,000 (all figures U.S.) from $185,000. After two years, the minimum would jump to $475,000 for the middle two seasons of the agreement and to $500,000 for the final two years.

The highly-paid players are taking a hit (but they offered to cut their own wages early on in the process) and there is a salary cap. However, the teams have always helped finance the big salaries by having numerous players at or near the minimum. The now much higher minimum (about 143% higher) will affect a large number of players perhaps even a majority. So I think the deal may well strengthen Goodenow’s position.

I certainly welcome the move towards greater income equality in hockey, as much as I would welcome it more generally. It is the one aspect of all this worth savouring.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Principles of Journalism

One journalistic value oft cited is that a journalist’s role should be ‘to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’. Another principle or ethic is that a journalist must respect a pledge of confidentiality to sources. This promise must be kept even if, as in the current case of Judith Miller of the New York Times, it means going to jail.

The other journalist who was headed to jail until the last minute in the Rove affair, Matt Cooper of Time Magazine, said he received a waiver from his source – Karl Rove (although there is some doubt about that) and was therefore spared some time in the big house. However, what all this reveals is that in this case the keeping of the promise of confidentiality means Cooper and Miller are protecting high level sources; in other words comforting the comfortable.

My view is that there are generally exceptions to principles and that includes the protection of confidential sources. What matters are the particular circumstances: that is who is being protected for what reason. Keeping Karl Rove’s name a secret so he can go his merry way of trashing reputations unfairly for partisan political purposes and all the while sell a few magazines or newspapers does not appear to me to be particularly justifiable as journalism.

It is clear that a great deal of the actual practice of protecting sources has the real effect of permitting the Roves of the world to manipulate the media as if it were a public relations arm of the White House.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Karl Rove

There is a certain poetic justice in the Karl Rove scandal. A political operative who has made his reputation on dirty tricks is hoist on his own petard as one of his schemes ends up triggering a criminal investigation that could result in his being indicted. The vast sound and fury now reverberating in cyberspace and on the airwaves about the scandal will not amount to much in the end if Rove does not face criminal prosecution. I predict this will only become a truly major Washington scandal when and if indictments are handed down. I assume, however, that Rove will fall on his sword (much like John Poindexter did during Iran-Contra) to protect Bush. In any case, there is as yet no suggestion that Bush has any involvement - beyond the usual lies and hypocrisy.

The announcement of the Supreme Court Justice nominee coming so quickly in the wake of the eruptions caused by the Rove revelations suggests that the scandal is doing real current damage to the White House. Although I think the Supreme Court fight will be successful in deflecting attention from the Rove affair, it may only be temporary. In the interim there are many worthwhile blog postings on this affair. Two that I highly recommend are the Frank Rich article, ‘Follow the Uranium’ in the New York Times and an excellent summary of the whole affair by ex-Clinton White House advisor Sid Blumenthal on Salon.

I also liked the comment by Jon Stewart, quoted on Kos:
It seems to me that whether or not this is a crime is a moot point. It seems to me that whether or not what Karl Rove was doing is a moot point. What seems like the real issue to this is simple: when it first came out that her name was released and people started wondering, 'was that a leak of a CIA operative?' the White House pretended they didn't know anything about it. And Karl Rove pretended he didn't know anything about it. To me that is so far, the only issue.

And don’t miss this Paul Krugman column from the July 15 New York Times.

7/7 London

The most appropriate comments on this tragedy were made by London mayor Ken Livingstone and they can be found here:

To me the highlight was:
I want to say one thing specifically to the world today. This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime Ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old. It was an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, for class, for religion, or whatever.

That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith - it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other. I said yesterday to the International Olympic Committee, that the city of London is the greatest in the world, because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the mayor of that city.

There have been many expressions of solidarity with Londoners throughout Europe and in Canada were the subway in Toronto observed a two minute shut down to respect similar observances in Britain Europe. But in George Bush’s America? James Wolcott picks up the story here:

I was watching the news of the two minutes of silence held for the victims of the London bombings, a silent vigil held not just in London but across Europe.

"Britain's Queen Elizabeth stood in silence at Buckingham Palace. In London's Trafalgar Square, a giant banner declared 'One City, One World.'

"Taxis and buses pulled over, workers left their offices to stand in the street and financial markets paused to remember the dead.

"In Italy, government offices, railway stations and airports paused while television stations cut into normal broadcasting to honour the London dead.

"In Paris, President Jacques Chirac's annual Bastille day television address was put back so the French could mark the moment. Chirac stood silent on the steps of the Elysee Palace."

Has the United States or even simply Washington, DC held a silent moment for the victims of the London bombings? Has any national gesture of solidarity been proposed?

If so, I haven't seen or heard of it. We're just going about our business while insisting that the world perpetually acknowledge our scars and trauma from September 11th as our justification to wage whatever aggressive action we deem necessary to ensure it never happens again.

For months, we've been hearing and reading that Brits no longer discriminate between average Americans and the policies of our government--that the reelection of Bush has made them hold us in something of the same contempt they hold him. Well, they have good reason, and we keep furnishing them with better reasons all the time.

New Mirror Site

I have set up a mirror site for this blog so I can do some things - like publish tables of figures - that I can't do on the blog.

For my own amusement and inspired by these truly brilliant efforts at, I created some ads for the election that did not actually occur in 2005.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page. They are Powerpoint Shows and will only play back properly if you have Powerpoint XP.