Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is it really possible to die laughing?

In 1989 a Danish audiologist, Ole Bentzen, died watching A Fish Called Wanda. His heart was estimated to have beat at between 250 and 500 beats per minute, before he succumbed to cardiac arrest.
Reminds one of this classic, naturally. The catch is, I haven't been able to track down anything quite counting as a primary source (the Wikipedia entry on A Fish Called Wanda gives a reference, but the link is dead).

Monday, October 27, 2008

McCain says the "S" word

Of course, to call Obama, or virtually any of the Democratic team a socialist, is absurd, but that doesn't stop John McCain:
THE war of words between US presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama for the votes of plumbers and other average Joes is a reminder of the nation's long-standing doubts about concentrated wealth – and its qualms about doing something about it.
Americans have long voiced concerns about putting too much wealth in too few hands, but the public's views also come with contradictions – there is concern also about the role of government and the individual.

"I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," Mr Obama told Ohio voter Joe Wurzelbacher – aka "Joe the Plumber".

The remark may have sounded pretty innocuous. But Mr McCain has lambasted his rival's words as sounding "a lot like socialism", and turned the criticism into a central theme of his campaign's final round. Mr Obama's remarks, Mr McCain says, are emblematic of a tax plan to confiscate wealth and give it to the poor that would make the IRS – America's tax service – "into a giant welfare agency".
From here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tires slashed during Obama rally

Those Repugnicans are getting desperate:

Someone slashed the tires of at least 30 vehicles parked outside the Crown Coliseum on Sunday during a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, authorities said.

Sheriff’s deputies are investigating. The tires were cut while people were inside the Crown Coliseum listening to speeches, said Maj. E. Wright of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

Many of the damaged vehicles were parked on Wilkes Road. Representatives from Obama and Sen. John McCain’s campaigns said they were unaware of the acts.

From here, via Bad American and Talking Points Memo. Meanwhile, in Texas, Mock, Paper, Scissors reports that someone had her car severely vandalized for having an Obama sticker. Expect more of this as the election approaches.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sarkozy displeased with voodoo doll

So much so, in fact, that he's trying to get an injunction against its sale:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has asked a Paris court for an injunction to stop sales of a voodoo doll made in his image.

The doll's maker, K&B Publishers, has a hit on its hands and has turned down a request to voluntarily withdraw the doll from sale.

The doll with Sarkozy's face comes with a voodoo kit, including pins to stick into the figure.

From here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jaffer doesn't know when to quit

You've gotta love this:

Rahim Jaffer has been tight-lipped and out of sight since he refused to concede his loss to NDP candidate Linda Duncan in Tuesday night's federal election.

Some media outlets prematurely pegged the Conservative candidate, who held the seat for the past 11 years, as the winner in the Edmonton-Strathcona riding. Jaffer went as far as delivering a victory speech before the final polls were counted and Duncan was declared the new MP by 442 votes.

A wee bit overconfident, no? But then, Jaffer has always been a bit off. Remember this story?
Rahim Jaffer says he is working hard to put last month's scandal behind him.

Jaffer's personal assistant impersonated him on a national radio show while Jaffer attended the grand opening of his coffee shop. Jaffer initially lied to protect his friend, then confessed it wasn't him on the show.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Well, it's over...

... and surprisingly little has changed as far as the big picture goes. The Liberals got another shitkicking, yet the Tories remain scary to enough people (fortunately) that they weren't able to capitalize on it as much as they'd hoped. Some highlights:

Jack Harris took St. John's East with almost 75% of the vote! I suspect he's going to be a prominent figure in the party for some time to come. Especially nice given that Newfoundland has not traditionally been fertile ground for the NDP.

Elizabeth May failed to take Central Nova (or any other seat, for that matter). Whether she will live to fight again remains to be seen, but I suspect she will.

Once again, it took the Bloc Quebecois to save Canada from destruction. Happily, Thomas Mulcair held on to Outrement, which I believe makes him the first New Democrat to win a seat in Quebec in a general election. Contrary to what was said at a rally last week, though, he is not the first to win a seat in the province; Phil Edmonston did it in 1990. Unfortunately we didn't pick up any other seats in the province, though.

Disappointingly, Gerard Kennedy made one of the few Liberal gains this time round, at the expense of Peggy Nash. I suspect when the knives come out for Dion, one of them will be wielded by him.

Waterloo Region has turned solidly blue! This is a bit of a shock; although some had suggested that Karen Redman might be in trouble in Kitchener Centre, few could have predicted Andrew Telegdi's defeat in Kitchener-Waterloo. I'm happy to see Telegdi go, by the way, but not happy to see who has beaten him. And I would love to have seen his concession speech; I imagine him being bitter and angry.

The orange wave has swept northern Ontario, except for Kenora. This is not a surprise; the biggest surprise is that it hasn't happened for so long.

Shelly Glover slapped the cuffs on Ray Simard in St. Boniface. Niki Ashton has picked up Churchill, and can probably look forward to carrying her family dynasty for some time to come. She's one of those people who remind you of how little you have achieved (unless, of course, you were an MP by the age of 26).

Nettie Wiebe didn't quite make it in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar. A pity; she'd have made a fine MP (and agriculture critic!) Better luck next time. Things turned out a lot better in Edmonton-Strathcona; let's hope that Linda Duncan represents the start of a trend rather than a fluke.

Turncoat Ujjal Dosanjh held onto his seat in Vancouver South. He bleated to the media about how evil the NDP is for actually daring to contest an election, and blames us for the Tories forming another government. Gee, it couldn't have anything to do with the fact that his party sucks, could it? The turnout was low across the country (below 60%); many pundits are saying this is the result of prospective Liberal voters staying home. Maybe next time they'll actually find someone else to vote for? Like, say, the NDP?

So what does the future hold? Well, as hinted at above, I suspect that Dion is finished. I predict that by this time in 2011, Michael Ignatieff will be prime minister. You heard it here first.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Berlusconi's curious reversal

One of the curious things that happened yesterday was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's announcement:
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said political leaders are discussing the idea of closing the world's financial markets while they ``rewrite the rules of international finance.''

``The idea of suspending the markets for the time it takes to rewrite the rules is being discussed,'' Berlusconi said today after a Cabinet meeting in Naples, Italy. A solution to the financial crisis ``can't just be for one country, or even just for Europe, but global.''

But within minutes, he retracted it:
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reversed his comments that leaders are discussing closing the world's financial markets while they ``rewrite the rules of international finance.''

``I heard it on the radio,'' Berlusconi said about an hour after his initial comments his spokesman confirmed. ``The hypothesis wasn't put forward by any leader, including myself.''

An hour earlier, during a press conference in Naples following a Cabinet meeting, Berlusconi said, ``The idea of suspending the markets for the time it takes to rewrite the rules is being discussed.''

So WTF is going on? Did he actually hear it on the radio, or did he hear it from other world leaders who didn't expect him to open his big mouth?

I don't know, but Bad American as well as Canadian Silver Bug are of the opinion that it might be a good idea to stock up on supplies and cash this weekend.

On the other hand, maybe Berlusconi was just speculating wildly, or offering an opinion as to what he thinks should be done, and nothing will be done about it. We'll know soon enough I guess...

Layton, Duceppe defend Dion over interview

By now you've no doubt seen the CTV interview of Dion flubbing a question. Well, Layton and Duceppe, showing more decency than Harper could in one's wildest imagination, have come to his defense:
Party leaders spoke out on Friday to criticize Tory Leader Stephen Harper for using his second scrum so far of this election campaign to attack Liberal Leader Stephane Dion for looking confused when he struggled to understand a question in English by a TV interviewer.

Mr. Harper and his campaign team seized on the interview, claiming it proves the Liberal Leader isn't up to coping with the country's economic problems.

During a radio interview in Montreal Friday, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe called Mr. Harper's comments a “low blow” that only serves to illustrate the “double standard” that endures when it comes to Canada's official languages.

Mr. Duceppe says Canadians demand that French political leaders speak English fluently, but that English-speaking leaders can get away with mangling French.

But he acknowledged that Mr. Dion should have answered the question.

"Nowadays, there is more pressure on Francophones to speak English well than there is on Anglophones to speak French well. I think there is a double standard. That being said, I believe that yesterday he had understood the question correctly, that it wasn't a language issue but a content issue. He didn't know what to say. And that is a whole other problem," Mr. Duceppe said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton also took a moment during a rally in Toronto on Friday to defend Mr. Dion.

“I suppose if I were someone who could honestly say I have never had trouble with a question, I might be able to make some kind of remark about it,” said Mr. Layton.

“This has been a long campaign, people are tired and questions are coming at you…And you know, my problem with Mr. Dion is his platform and his record of propping up Mr. Harper. I've got a big problem with that. I don't have any problem with some question that he struggled with because I've struggled with questions.”

Via NorthReport in this babble thread. Kudos to Jack and Gilles for doing the right thing.

And as adma points out in that same thread, you know the Tories are in trouble when the Toronto Sun turns against them:

How pathetic.

It's true Stephane Dion's repeated flubs of a relatively simple question from a CTV interviewer Thursday make him look silly. In the out-take now posted on YouTube the Liberal leader looks confused, almost dazed. He looks anything but prime ministerial.

But Stephen Harper? He looks worse.

Dion messed up in a taped interview. For this, the Conservative campaign machine went into overdrive? For this, the prime minister delayed his flight, held an extraordinary news conference, as his people bent over backwards to ensure that reporters would see the clip of funny Professor Dion making an ass of himself?

News flash to the country and the world: Dion's English is terrible!

Was anything else occurring in this country Thursday evening that might have occupied Harper's reputedly gi-normous tactical brain? Um ... let's see ... it'll come to us in a moment ... ah, yes. The global economy is collapsing. Banks around the world are petrified to lend money. Stock traders are in a blind panic. The entire world, to hear some financial experts tell it, is on the brink of another Great Depression.

But Harper's overriding goal Thursday evening was to heap mockery on his chief opponent's poor command of English. How tawdry, cheap and sad.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Audio expert says Cadman tape not altered

Nice to have this come out just before the election:

A tape recording at the centre of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's $3.5-million defamation suit against the Liberal party was not altered as the prime minister has claimed, a court-ordered analysis of the tape by Harper's own audio expert has found.

The key portion of the recorded interview of Harper by a B.C. journalist contains no splices, edits or alterations, a U.S. forensic audio expert has determined.

The results of the analysis were filed in Ontario Superior Court on Friday by lawyers for the Liberal party, despite attempts by Harper's lawyer to keep the opinion out of the court file until at least next week.

Harper sued the Liberals in the midst of a raging controversy earlier this year over claims in a book by B.C. author Tom Zytaruk that Conservatives offered late MP Chuck Cadman a $1-million life insurance policy in return for help defeating the minority Liberal government in 2005.

Thanks to oldgoat in this babble thread for the link. I just hope the story doesn't get lost in the shuffle.

Harper running deficit?

Mike Watkins thinks so:

Conservative leader Stephen Harper continues to claim that Canada is enjoying a surplus, yet his Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty this calendar year has racked up an operational deficit in six of the past seven reported months, totaling over $23 billion dollars, or $20.3 billion for this fiscal year to date. In either case these amounts are unprecedented during this decade.

So much for the Tories' superior financial management skills. It's been suggested that this may be the reason why they're delaying the release of this year's Canada Savings Bonds, because the interest rate that the bonds would have to pay would reflect things about the nation's finances that the Tories don't want public before next week's election is safely out of the way.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Strange bedfellows...

Against Islam, even Jews and Nazis can be friends:
Following the September 11th attacks on the United States, many members of the Jewish community, increasingly concerned with the threats (real and imagined) posed by radical Islam to the security of the United States and Israel took a sharp turn to the political right. Some switched party affiliations, declaring themselves "9/11 Republicans," and subsequently went on the offensive against their predominantly liberal and progressive coreligionists, whom they have accused (as Caroline Glick did in a Jerusalem Post op-ed last week) of placing concern for liberal issues, such as a woman's right to choose, over preserving the physical safety of their fellow Jews.

Shockingly, as this group, in the advancement of their security concerns and in their growing contempt for the Left, made increasingly strange bedfellows with those historically considered to be hostile towards Jewish interests (such as Evangelical Christians and free market capitalists), some Jews went even further, not only abandoning their commitments to traditional liberal Jewish values, but forming political alliances with outright antisemites.

In 2003, for example, an investigation by an European anti-racist group found that some Jews were collaborating with neo-Nazis in order to promote anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment online. Their interactions included sharing "best practices" for sending anonymous threats to mosques and other Islamic institutions.

Likewise, in 2006 a small but vocal Jewish contingent joined — to the chagrin of many in attendance — the annual conference of the White Nationalist group The American Renaissance, seeking to make common cause against the enemy purportedly shared in Islam. The event quickly devolved into a heated battle between the Jews and antisemites present. Interestingly, the debate resulted ultimately in The American Renaissance's director, Jared Taylor, issuing a statement proclaiming that Jews were a welcome part of their community.

Via Lord Palmerston in this babble thread.

Knock Out: CNBC Confirms Lehman CEO Punched at Gym

Expect more of this sort of thing in the near future:

It seems anxiety from the financial crisis is reaching new highs, but the tipping point for one individual came at the Lehman Brothers gym in the midst of the company’s collapse.

While former Lehman CEO Richard Fuld was testifying before the House Oversight Committee Oct. 6, CNBC reported he had been punched in the face at the Lehman Brothers gym after it was announced the firm was going bankrupt. CNBC and Vanity Fair contributor Vicki Ward said Fuld was attacked at the gym on a Sunday following the bankruptcy.

“Frankly, I sat there and listened and I’m with the guy who apparently, the day before Barclays announced they were coming in and Lehman had already filed for bankruptcy, went over to him in the gym and punched him because that’s how I feel when I, you know, when I watched that,” Ward said on the Oct. 6 “Power Lunch.” “I didn’t think he was contrite at all, I thought he was arrogant.”
From here, via Doug in this babble thread.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A modern Irish folk song, with video

Unfortunately, since it's an "aftermarket" video, the band who performs the song doesn't seem to be credited.

For all I know, this may be the only song in existence to contain the word "Semtex". The entire lyrics can be found here, along with a note that it has been performed by Éire Óg as well as The Spirit of Freedom (I'm not sure which of these groups performs the version used in this video, however). The songwriter is unknown. Other videos exist, set to the same recording, but this is a particularly striking one.

Of course, the song is now out of date, since the decommission that the singers are telling the UK to "stick" did in fact come to pass, thanks to the Good Friday agreement. That is one of the very few things for which Tony Blair may legitimately deserve credit; too bad he went and blotted his copybook with stuff like Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

And, needless to say, my posting of this video should not be seen as an endorsement of IRA methods, any more than this entry is an endorsement of Janet Greene's politics.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The broken end of the American dream

Another story to give you a feel for how the American economy is progressing:
"You feel bad, you don't want to take their wedding rings from them, that's their memories and everything," says Michael Bruce from behind a row of thick steel bars. "But they need the money and that's what we are here for."

Bruce holds out a black velvet jewelry tray, each row holds a dozen wedding rings: big diamond, little diamond, stylish or gaudy, he has dozens. "While they take the ring off their finger, they get all choked up. It's just something you got to deal with... That's just the way the economy is, it's trash."

Bruce, whom everyone here calls Junior, is the manager at a pawnshop on the outskirts of Hollywood, Florida, itself a diamond of a city set on the perfect setting of Southern Florida's Atlantic beaches. "It is easier for them to pull a ring off their finger than to bring in a lawnmower," says Bruce, who says Americans are so desperate to pay off their mortgages that they are coming to his pawnshop to sell "everything from musical equipment to the gold teeth from their mouth.
From here, via onepence in this Kitco thread.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The great debate

Well, where to begin. The format was quite well set up, with questions sent in by members of the public (selected in advance by the consortium of broadcasters), on the economy, the environment, health, the arts, Afghanistan, the issue of trust in general, and the first issue that each would tackle as PM. (On the last point, Duceppe said something to the effect of "Well, I know I'm not going to be Prime Minister, and three of you won't either. Some of you know it.")

So how did they do? Well, nobody actually crashed and burned. Harper, though, came across as sickeningly smug, with a vile grin on his face of the type that makes you want to rub his face in the cat box. Harper also had this infuriating way of talking about almost everything in terms of marketing, as if good marketing is the solution to everything. He also seemed out of touch when he said "Canadians aren't worried about losing there homes and jobs, they're worried about their portfolios". Well, Steve, maybe that's true of the people you know...

Dion? Well, he exceeded my expectations. However, I don't really have much to compare with, not being a regular watcher of TV news. I read about him on the net and hear about him on the radio a lot, but I haven't watched enough footage of him to know if (a) he's improved the way he carries himself dramatically, (b) he never was too bad, but the media just got off on portraying him that way, or (c) he's still awful, but I'm too alienated from my fellow human citizens to see how poorly his style would go over on them. He would not commit to never running a deficit, whereas most of the others did.

Layton was extremely good at explaining his ideas in a clear fashion. He seemed to interrupt the others a bit more than most, though all of them did it occasionally. He was the first of the leaders to raise the impact of the FTA and NAFTA, and advocated immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan, then getting the UN in there in place of NATO. He was not explicit, however, on whether or not Canada should be involved in the UN mission that follows. He also did a good job of pointing out the main drawbacks of the Conservatives' approach to helping business and the arts using non-refundable tax credits, namely that they have to be redeemable in order to help those who most need them (who, after all, are below the threshold for paying income taxes, and would thus not benefit from non-refundable credits). He also pointed out the folly of Harper's cherished "intensity based" emissions targets (for instance, you could produce more oil from the tar sands as long as your emissions per barrel were lower, with the result that your overall emissions could, and probably would, continue to increase). He was not as explicit as he could have been in discussing the relative merits of cap and trade over a carbon tax. On the other hand, he pointed out one of the elephants in the room, namely the fact that the Conservatives have not yet released their platform. He said that an NDP government would not run a deficit, pointing out the fact that NDP provincial governments, contrary to stereotypes, have generally been good fiscal managers (and threw in the fact that the obvious exception, Bob Rae, is now a Liberal, for good measure).

May also significantly exceeded expectations. She handled herself competently and confidently, in stark contrast to the train wreck that one is led to expect when most of one's information comes from babble. She handled economic issues well; she mentioned that Canada is in danger of experiencing "Dutch disease", though it would have helped if she'd explained what it was rather than expecting the average viewer to look it up (pity you can't put hyperlinks in speeches). She was also the only one of the leaders to mention electoral reform among the first priorities she would address as PM. As many babblers predicted, though, I can't recall seeing her attack Dion once (though it's possible that I missed something, since I had a number of interruptions while watching the broadcast).

Duceppe was very good as well. In terms of presentation, he was perhaps the best of the five. I liked the way he remarked on the irony that he was the first to advocate a "buy Canadian" policy in the course of the debate. He was also the first to bring up First Nations issues, in the context of health policy. However, health was otherwise one of his weaknesses in terms of actual policy, given that he is a big-time decentralist, to the point of objecting to federal regulation of such things as privatization of health services (he says he doesn't advocate this, but it should be up to "Quebec and the provinces" to decide these matters). Similarly, he objects to national securities laws; he thinks that this should remain a provincial matter. These are understantable in the context of a Quebec nationalist, of course, but probably bad for much of Canada.

All in all, I'm happy I watched this rather than the Biden-Palin debate. I'm sure that anything really juicy that came from that debate will show up on YouTube anyway.

A harrowing read

I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road. I've long been a fan of apocalyptic fiction, but The Road is among the best in the genre that I've seen in a long time. It tells the story of a father and son wandering through a landscape that has been devastated by some vast catastrophe. It's not entirely clear what the catastrophe was, but whatever it was was huge, as virtually every animal and plant seems to have died out, leaving a diminishing number of people to wander through forests of dead trees, and scrounge for any remaining canned goods they can find, some becoming bandits and cannibals. Whereas many apocalyptic novels (The Day of the Triffids, The Stand, Earth Abides, etc) read like what Ixion calls "boy's own adventure" stories in which one could easily start to envy the protagonists, nothing in The Road makes the situation seem bearable; it's not a "cozy catastrophe". It's a thoroughly devastating novel (I've heard that description applied to Philip Wylie's Triumph, but that reads more as a "cozy catastrophe" to me). There is an overwhelming sense of bleakness and futility, yet all the while the father and son carry on, struggling to survive and to retain their humanity. George Monbiot has called it "the most important environmental book I have ever read"; it drives home the message that we are utterly dependent on the biosphere. Apparently there's a movie in the works, which may be unfortunate as I'm not at all sure Hollywood will do a good job on this.

Conservative MP shows his true colours?

Sure looks that way:
A lawyer and humanitarian says Calgary West Conservative MP Rob Anders told her he believes Canadian diplomacy and humanitarian work should focus on changing foreigners' language to English and their faith to Christianity.

Donna Kennedy-Glans said Mr. Anders made the remarks to her during a private dinner in June -- although the veteran politician insists his comments are being "twisted" by someone with an agenda.

Ms. Kennedy-Glans, a Calgary West constituent, said she has come forward in the middle of the election campaign because she wants fellow voters to understand his perspective.

From here, via candle in this babble thread. Not quite as bad as Ann Coulter, who in 2001 said of the Muslim world that "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity", but shocking nonetheless. Maybe this has something to do with the curious reluctance of Conservative candidates to attend all-candidates debates:

After weeks of phone tag and buck-passing, a Winnipeg women's business group was forced to cancel a long-planned, all-candidates forum slated for Friday because no Tory was willing to attend.

"It was very eye-opening," said Audrey Wasylyshen, a member of the Manitoba branch of the Business and Professional Women's Clubs (BPW). "I always thought the political field was very open and people wanted to speak out, but obviously some people want to keep quiet.

"How do we choose our representative when we don't have all the voices heard?"

The BPW event isn't the only one the Tories have dodged. Tory candidates failed to attend two separate election forums organized by students at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba earlier this week.

In two Winnipeg ridings the Tories hope to steal -- Elmwood-Transcona and Winnipeg South Centre -- the Tory candidates there have yet to go head to head with their opponents with only two weeks left in the campaign.

You have to wonder if the orders to avoid the debates came from on high, to avoid the embarrassment of one of their candidates saying something like Anders said.

One thing I find curious is that BPW decided to cancel the entire event. Why not allow it to continue, and let the Tories face the consequences of not showing up? Perhaps the name of the organization is a clue -- "business" and "professional" bring to mind people who are likely in a high tax bracket (regardless of the fact that reelecting the Tories is not in the interest of most women).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More on the "plagiarism" scandal

Not surprisingly, the Australian media have taken an interest in this story. The Australian has this to say:
John Howard was never renowned as a great orator. Much of the time he simply spoke from dot points.

But now a speech he gave five years ago has come ricocheting back across the Pacific after causing chaos in Canada's election campaign.

Two days after Mr Howard rose to his feet in the House of Representatives in March 2003 to announce Australia's defence forces had been authorised to go into action against Saddam Hussein, Canadian Conservative leader Stephen Harper repeated much of his case for intervention in the House of Commons in Ottawa -- word for word.

Mr Harper is now Prime Minister of Canada. His Conservatives are leading in the polls, but the plagiarism claims have derailed their campaign two weeks out from the October 14 election.
To say it has "derailed their campaign" seems a bit extreme, though it's an embarrassment for them. But if it reminds enough people about how gung-ho Harper was about going into Iraq at the time, it might do some good.

What's interesting is that neither the Australian, nor the ABC, nor the Sydney Morning Herald, nor any Canadian media outlet, seems to have bothered to ask John Howard what he thinks of this episode. You'd think that would be a rather obvious thing for a journalist to do. But there is nothing -- not even anything about Howard refusing comment, which leads me to believe that no comment was requested. The Australian article notes above that Howard often "spoke from dot points"; perhaps on this occasion he was reading from a speech that came from a ready-made template -- a template also used by Stephen Harper. But perhaps it's considered improper for professional journalists to raise that issue during the campaign.

Tactical voting redux

In a previous post I linked to a site that some recommend for tactical voters. Well, a bit of browsing of babble reveals that folks more diligent than I have noticed some interesting things about that site. In particular, the site tends to recommend voting Liberal in a lot of cases where it's far from clear that this is the best option. Another site, recommended by Wilf Day in that thread, is much more cautious:
DemocraticSPACE does not endorse strategic voting (i.e. where voters cast their ballot for their second choice party to prevent a less favourable party from winning). We believe that Canada should explore options of adding an element of proportionality into our electoral system to ensure fair and accurate representation in parliament. However, strategic voting happens in Canada. DemocraticSPACE believes that it is better to make informed choices than misinformed choices. Therefore, this guide is meant to help voters who are thinking of voting strategically.

In order for a riding to qualify for strategic voting, we feel 3 conditions must be met:
1. It must be a close 2-way race (i.e. the two other parties must be within 5%)
2. The chances of third/fourth/fifth party winning riding are remote (i.e. support < ~20%) 3. Small number of votes of third/fourth/fifth party can make a difference (i.e. <>Interesting. The list of ridings is at the site, and to be even handed it also includes the ridings where Tory supporters can vote to stop Liberals. Noteworthy to my friends in Waterloo Region is the fact that while Kitchener Centre is listed, neither in Kitchener-Waterloo, Kitchener-Conestoga, nor Cambridge is it worth changing your vote in the hope of stopping a Conservative (not that I did when I lived there, but I know many people who are considering it). More surprising to me is the fact that only in Central Nova is anyone advised to vote Green, and there it's only the Liberals (who don't have a candidate anyway).
In any case, as previously discussed, the merits of voting for someone you don't really like are dubious at best. DemocraticSPACE's own attitude towards this is more one of harm reduction than anything. And the Pundits' Guide isn't keen on the practice either:
The Pundits' Guide is a non-partisan site and does not endorse any political party, and tries by the selection and application of quantifiable criteria to treat all major parties the same. I've even tried to redress the situation faced by smaller parties by starting to add in their party affiliations on riding and candidate profile pages.

However there is one issue I'm going to weigh in on during this election, and that's the advocacy of so-called "strategic voting". It's based on faulty assumptions, is frequently clumsily calculated and executed, often by people with hidden but vested interests, and most seriously: it can lead to quite perverse outcomes.
For me, the best thing about this has been that it has introduced me to the DemocraticSPACE site. The main page for this election is here, but they've covered others in the past, including the 2006 US midterm elections, and they may well cover the present US campaign as well. Stay tuned.