Sunday, January 01, 2006

The Last Post ...

... sort of. Fact is, one of my New Year's resolutions was to do a site revamp, so I've shifted to a new server (Yahoo) and a new blogging engine (Wordpress).

My intention is to have my new address at At the moment, though, there are issues to be ironed out (technical transference -- I'm not sure if the problem is at Yahoo's end or at DomainDirect, but I expect to find out by the end of this week).

In the meantime, though, I'm not letting this keep me from effective blogging. So here is my cureent, temporary blog address:

This is the site that should eventually hook into the above bill. If you have any comments about the new site, feel free to post them over there.

UPDATE (14h02): is now active!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Happy Holidays

I suppose I could easily say "Merry Christmas," but for me Christmas is a specific day. Whereas my workplace is giving me seven off. So it's Holidays, plural.

My plans? Well, I'm taking a break from blogging, but I'm not going to ignore this blog. I'm definitely going to switch bloghosts in the New Year, using Wordpress as my new publishing platform. I'm trying to decide between (which Andrew of BBG is using) and Yahoo (which is one of the host sites recommended by Wordpress). My reason for switching is that I want some flexibility to set up RSS as well as create a more customized design.

That, of course, means artwork. I'm midway through creating a new title banner (featuring a brand-new ID logo) using Flash MX (vector-graphic illustration). I'm also creating a new graphic for the Red Ensign Brigade blogroll on my page, inspired by Castle Arrgh's graphic plus a previous effort.

I'm also spending much of Boxing Week on the road. I couldn't get to Miami this year (still too high for my budget), so I'm settling for a couple of days in Washington, DC (cue The West Wing theme). My plans include the Museum of the American Indian as well as the Spy Museum and the Air & Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center (where the Space Shuttle Enterprise is housed). Naturally I'm taking pictures, which I'll post when I get back. I may blog, depending on whether I find an Internet cafe. (I don't plan on Blackberrying for another couple of years).

To everyone in the Brigade, the Blogging Tories and the Canadian Conversation: have a safe and comforting season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ottawa-Centre: Guess Who's Late

The Ottawa Citizen reported this morning that two of the candidates, Keith Fountain and Richard Mahoney, weren't registered as candidates. Keith posted up a refutation on his blog, complete with link to the Elections Canada website, showing that he was indeed a registered candidate.

I don't think we should jump on reporter Carly Weeks too hard; there's often a time lag between when a story is finally written up and when it's approved for publication, during which Keith's approval may have come through to be listed.

Besides, the story's still somewhat timely. Here, according to Elections Canada, is the list of registered candidates for Ottawa Centre as of 10:31 a.m., 20 December:

Candidates in your electoral district
David Chernushenko (Green Party of Canada)
Paul Dewar (New Democratic Party)
Keith Fountain (Conservative Party of Canada)

Guess which name is still missing?

Ottawa-Centre: Summing Up the Candidate Blogs

Well, after 3 weeks, the candidates in Ottawa-Centre have all hit the groove for serious campaigning, including their blogs. I've always maintained that you can tell a lot about a candidate's campaign by their blogs, and the 3 major candidates (the Greens don't count, sorry) have done enough blogging that people can draw conclusions about them:

Keith Fountain-- His is the oldest, and the most traditionally formatted of the candidate blogs. This isn't a surprise, since it's based on a Blogger/Blogspot-driven template; compared with the other candidates, Keith's is a low-budget blog. He updates about every four days, and he keeps his text general-purpose but strictly business. He does have a talent for writing about local issues without sounding like he's copying Tory talking points, which keeps him from coming across like the TCFlogger. He has the Blogging Tories blogroll listed, so he's willing to network with the online Tory community. His blog allows moderated commentary for each entry, and he also lists an e-mail address.

Paul Dewar-- his blog went online about a week after the election was called, as a component of his website. It's a group blog, with entries written by individual staffers as well as by Paul himself. With that many people you'd think there'd be more entries, but the blog itself is updated about every 5 days. As to be expected with group blogs, writing quality and subject matter is uneven, ranging from the bland but serviceable (Dewar himself) to the ridiculous (a campaign toque?). Individual entries do not have their own links, and there is no archiving. There is no public commentary, but clicking on each blog author's name will enable you to leave e-mail to the site. In short, this blog is pretty weak, but it may still have value: because local campaigns are group efforts, this blog has the potential to give the most accurate portrayal of the efforts of staffers involved, and not just the candidate.

Richard Mahoney -- he started keeping an online walker's diary about 10 days after the election was called. The diary is documentation of his "Steps Count" campaign to raise money for the Ottawa Food Bank, but for the most part it does follow the format for a blog, since the latest entries are featured prominently on the English-language index page of his site. His diary is updated daily, including distance walked and doors knocked on. Entries tend to focus on personal experiences during the campaign, such as meeting with constituents or attempting to recover from the cold. Entries are also accompanied by photos. Apart from the e-mail address on his "Contact Us" page, there is no provision for feedback.

Now, I know that when it comes to campaigns, pavement-pounding has a better impact on the electorate than blogging or other online presence. Nonetheless we can still come to a few conclusions. When it comes to blogging, Keith has the edge in experience and in utilization of blogging resources, but those resources are limited. Richard has learned quickly about the blogging format, including portraying the travails of a candidate on the trail with sincerity, but his lack of a feedback mechanism shows he has a way to go. Paul is probably the least effective blogger due to the group nature of his blog.

I'm actually starting to look forward to the all-candidates' meeting in January ...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Alex Munter Takes a Leak

The Canadian Press has publicly revealed that Alex Munter was the source of the revelation for Stephen Harper's 1997 speech to the Council for National Policy. Mr. Munter, an Ottawa politician and gay activist, is working for the Paul Martin campaign:
Munter contacted a Canadian Press reporter travelling with the Conservative campaign offering up an old Harper speech that an acquaintance of his, as Munter put it, stumbled upon while browsing the Net.

The reporter passed Munter's tip along to the CP election desk in Ottawa for consideration.

Munter asked to remain anonymous as the source of the tip. Contacted by CP's election desk, he also vigorously denied acting with any partisan direction.

After some deliberation, CP ran a story outlining the main speech points, citing the source of the tip simply as a political opponent of Harper. The story was immediately leapt upon by the Liberal war room as evidence the Conservative leader is outside mainstream Canadian opinion.

[Later,] The Canadian Press learned that Munter was in Vancouver with the Liberal team, working with Martin on debate preparations.

Munter, contacted again Thursday, was repeatedly asked whether the Liberal party had any connection to his suggesting CP look for the story.

Each time, Munter evaded the question.

"I am not a card-carrying member of any political party," he said.
Translation: he didn't pay any membership dues. But Alex Munter's career is exactly the type who'd have the most to lose from a national Conservative government.
"The Liberal party was not a factor in my letting CP know about this story.

"I wasn't calling on behalf of the Liberal party, I was calling on my own and it was up to CP whether it ran the story or not."
You know what this sounds like? The Gurmant Grewal excuse -- independent action with plausible deniability from the leadership. The main difference is that Grewal's actions can be chalked up to juvenile naiveté. Munter's a veteran politician; he doesn't get that excuse.
Munter eventually offered that the speech was found by a friend "who is something of a whiz on the Internet."

He was asked if his friend had any connection with the Liberal war room. He said he didn't know, but finally conceded: "He is a Liberal."
Understand this: as far as Liberal dirty tricks go, this is pretty tame. Had a CP reporter actually dug up the speech, it would still have gone over the press wire. But this was just a leak with partisan motives. In a campaign like this, it's par for the course.

Would CP have gone with the story if it had known that the source was a Liberal? Probably, but with better context; the public would be more disposed to discount the speech's impact due to partisanship.

Munter's denials, though, are somewhat telling. The fact that he was willing to leak shows that he's not afraid to skirt the ethical edge; however, he is afraid of being identified as a Liberal. When a party's supporters don't want to be identified as such -- well, that says something, doesn't it?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Chocolate Nostril Prize Nominee: Jeremy Hunt

It's impossible to avoid in real life, and especially so in politics. There will always be people who try to get ahead by sucking up to the candidate or cheerlead for the cause. I believe the normal term for it is "brown-nosing."

I've seen this quite a bit during the last parliamentary session, usually during Question Period when a Liberal backbencher asks a question of a minister with an obvious partisan bent. I had an idea for a blogger's award in the next session, right next to the Ken Epp Award: the Chocolate Nostril Prize, awarded to that political personality who displays a supreme example of brown-nosing.

However, it seems I need to start the nominations early, thanks to this entry by Jeremy Hunt, otherwise known as the CPC Energy Flogger:
Joking aside, what I’m getting at is this: if you’re watching the debate tonight, turn off the sound for a minute. Watch how each of the leaders hold themselves: how they stand, where they look, what they do with their hands.

Whereas Harper is calm, collected, and statesman-like, Martin’s body language is all over the map. Last night in the French debate, Martin couldn’t stand still; he barely made eye contact with the camera, and he kept rubbing his face: all tell-tale signs of someone not telling the complete truth. You can see how Paul embodies the frantic nature of his campaign simply by muting him. His policies are scant, his ideas are old; and as a result of this, his body language is frantic, his dithering desperate.

In contrast to this waning image, though, stands Stephen Harper. In him, I see a young, confident leader, who is principled and ready to engage us with innovative policies that will unify and motivate. He calmly emphasizes his points, and reinforces his ideas; but unlike Martin he maintains a leadership presence. I guess you could say that he’s standing up for Canada – literally.
I don't think even the TCFlogger has ever engaged in this kind of sucking up.

Speaking of the TCFlogger, though, his latest entries have been bringing out the photoblog side of his personality. Not surprising, since Vancouver's enjoying a mild spell that renders it pretty photogenic at this time of year. Sure, he's still flogging, but at least it hasn't quite descended to the same level as Jeremy's. And the photos are actually kinda cute, especially the "Sad Scotty" doll.

This is the type of detail that national political blogs should be showing us. The photos aren't necessary to sell the Tory platform or Harper as leader, but they portray the little details of the campaign that mainstream media can't report on.

I do believe the TCFlogger is starting to get it. I'm less sure about Jeremy Hunt.

Paul Martin's Sovereigntist Thinking

Last night I decided to work on some personal projects, instead of watching the debates. Based on the news reactions and subsequent coverage, I gather I didn't miss much.

However, I was struck by Paul Martin's attempt to defend Canadian integrity in front of BQ leader Gilles Duceppe. While it might have been passionate, it shows everything that's wrong with the current Liberal line on Canada-Quebec relations.

Here's what Martin said:
Let me say also that I am a Quebecer, and you are not going to take my country away from me with some trick, with some ambiguous question ... This is my country and my children were born and raised in Quebec, and you're not going to go to them and say that you're going to find some backdoor way of taking my country or dividing Quebec family against Quebec family.

We do have an opportunity, and Quebecers understand this, to build a country which is without parallel, and if you take a look at the way that Canada is measuring up in terms of our economy, in terms of the strength of our social programs, in terms of our independent foreign policy, I believe that we do appeal to the deep attachment, the deep love of this country that Quebecers have and you're not going to win, Mr. Duceppe. Let me tell you that.
A defence of Canada that mentions Quebec five times -- and Canada only once. And furthermore, Canada is only mentioned near the end of his defence.

What I find irritating about this line is that in trying to speak to Duceppe as a fellow Quebecer, Martin has in effect ignored his identity as a Canadian. Martin's statement falls into the mindset that Quebec sovereignty is to be decided by Quebeckers alone, a mindset not shared by most federalists.

So what would have been a better line to take? A line that would have rendered Gilles Duceppe speechless, or at least sputtering. A line that would have began as:

"Mr. Duceppe. You are Canadian. I will not let you destroy your country with with some trick, with some ambiguous question. Your children were born Canadian and raised as Canadians, whether you want to admit it or not. For the virtues of Quebec are the virtues of Canada and can be found in all Canadians. Are you going to tell your children that their neighbors are no longer neighbors?"

The best way to deal with the sovereignty question, at this stage of the game, is to introduce a completely new mindset. That's something that Paul Martin can't learn in six weeks.