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.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Blog Boy and Bilingualism

Interesting feature of Scott Feschuk's "not-quite-as-Liberal-as-TCFlogger-is-Conservative" blog. Try clicking on the "Français" link.

If Scott's blog were functioning like 95% of the Government of Canada websites -- which the Liberal Party site presumably uses as a model to emulate -- then you'd get a French version of his comments (pause while we duck to escape the spittle of the blogosphere's collective hissing). Instead, it's a repeat of his regular blog page, in English.

The TCFlog, as it turns out, is bilingual; if you click at the "français" link at the very top of the web page, you'll get a French version. (Of course, the quality of writing is the same in both languages. Make of that what you will.)

One of the Tory bloggers (not me, I assure you) decided to make hay of this, causing Mr. Feschuk to semi-blow some steam:
So forgive me this one, folks, but I am moved to respond to the latest thoughtful missive from the Conservative war room – in which it is revealed that, after 17 days of clever and tireless research, the Conservatives have noticed that this blog is [make gasping noise here!] available only in English. (I think their first clue was the absence of French.).

“Why is the Liberal party providing its official blog in English only?” the Conservative war room generals inquire. “Why are francophones being shut out from the blogging buzz coming from the Liberal campaign?”

Blogs are, by nature, personal. They're not intended to be bilingual -- nor would this one be even remotely comprehensible much of the time in our other official language. As an experiment, we tried to put the first one in French but three of our top translators were fatally wounded by the challenge of explaining to francophones my reference to Erik Estrada.
He then goes on to lambaste the Harper '97 position on bilingualism's implementation, which is of course fair game. I bolded the above passage because I believe this is where Scott gets it wrong.

Yes, blogs are most effective when they're personal. But they're also a reflection of the person writing them, including the language used. A bilingual person trying to reach a broad audience WILL use both languages, to be most effective.

Scott has, perhaps inadvertently, touched upon an issue that has really afflicted the federal public service: the implementation of official languages policy. A lot of otherwise qualified people have failed to obtain positions because they were designated as bilingual-imperative. Sometimes it makes sense, with call-centre positions. But there are others (such as mid-level managers) where the need for bilingualism is not all that apparent, and where the department in question is unwilling to fund language training for an otherwise-qualified candidate. And when the position is specifically targeted towards a national public -- like an "official" blog of an institution supposed functioning in both languages -- then having a unilingual blogger would seem somewhat hypocritical, given government hiring practices.

As for the French problem in Scott's blog, obviously French translation couldn't really be done in the timely manner that blogs demand. A better solution would be to bring aboard a francophone blogger, and I remember making that suggestion via e-mail a couple of weeks ago. Feschuk responded that he passed the suggestion along to the webmasters. I suspect they'll announce such a hiring on 24 January.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ottawa-Centre: Keith Fountain Demonstrates How to Blog

If you want to see how a politician can effectively use a blog to discuss an issue with constituents, have a look at Keith Fountain's recent blog entry.

In this entry, Keith talks about public service reform, in the form of a letter to a constituent. There are a few things to note:

1) He discusses the issue on his own terms. There's nothing about PS reform currently on the CPC website, so he's not really echoing any national talking points here. In this case he's on a par with Richard Mahoney's exercise diary, except that Richard has yet to discuss issues there.

2) He couches his argument in terms of his own experience. Remember that Keith is himself a former civil servant, so when he talks about the conditions under which mid-level public servants work, he knows whereof he speaks. In Ottawa-Centre, where the public service makes up a big chunk of the voting population, that kind of constituent identification is very important, akin to Paul Dewar playing hockey.

3) He's not hard-selling. Note that in his language, he's not trying to work in points to blast the Libranos with. He calls the Liberal policy on PS recruitment short-sighted, and mentions the sponsorship scandal, but note that there's no attempt to foist the "corruption" argument. That's because it's not needed in this context. It's this type of measured response that moves this entry away from the "flogging" viewpoint that less-experienced web-diarists can take.

This blog entry, in short, demonstrates how a candidate can discuss a sensitive issue without going overboard on the partisanship.

And note one other thing: there is public (albeit moderated) commentary. While Ottawa-Centre's two other candidate blogs offer e-mail feedback, Keith's allows for public conversation, one of blogging's greatest advantages. It shows how Keith deals with his audience, both allies and adversaries, which is a good thing to know about a candidate.

Of course his site isn't perfect. It doesn't reach the French constituents, unlike Richard Mahoney's, and there's no events page to list where people can meet him, unlike Paul Dewar's. But of the three candidates, based on experience alone, Keith has the firmest grasp of blogging's potential in an election campaign.

Harper '97: What a Year -- Not

Things to remember about 1997:

-- Bill Clinton was president. (Well, so was Harrison Ford.)

-- There was no "Conservative Party of Canada."

-- Jean Charest was leading the Progressive Conservatives, while Preston Manning was leading the Reform Party.

-- George W. Bush was finishing up his fourth year as governor of Texas.

-- George Lucas was re-releasing the Star Wars Trilogy in theatres (the one where Han Solo shoots second).

-- The big movie over the Christmas season was Titanic.

-- The Detroit Red Wings were Stanley Cup champions.

-- "South Park" was making its debut on Comedy Central.

I could go on and on, but I think you see my point. The world of 1997 is far different than the world of 2005. You are different. I am different. Our country is different, for better or for worse. And among other things, this election is going to be about progressing further down a path, or taking a different one.

And yet the Liberals, in this early stage of the campaign, are attacking a version of Stephen Harper that has not existed in eight years.

Are they so afraid of the 2005 version that they need to set up a "straw Stephen" from the past to knock down? Do they really think that Canadian voters are willing to believe that Harper '97 is a stronger vintage than Harper '05? Particularly in comparison to the odiferous decline of the Librano cellars? Are they really that welded to the past that they won't deal with him in the present?

If that's so, then turfing out the Libranos may be easier than I thought ...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ottawa-Centre: Paul Dewar's Blog Blunder

You can always tell from the way people handle little things, how they'll do when they handle big things. Based on NDP candidate Paul Dewar's recent group blog entry, I don't think we can trust him to be a responsible MP.

The trouble stems from his latest blog entry, "My Life As A Campaign Toque" (note to Paul's blog editor: you can use hyperlink targets per entry):
Admittedly, it was a little uncomfortable getting a Paul Dewar button forced into me, but all the campaign staff kept complimenting me, saying I looked 'hip' with the small orange pin. I mean, what's a polyester-mix toque supposed to do? ...

But a marvelous thing happened. People liked me. On the doorsteps, voters knew right away who I was. "Why, you must be the NDP!" and "Here come some Paul Dewar canvassers!" and "You don't have to worry about hunters finding you here on Bronson St." I felt a sense of recognition, and importance....

Yes, My true purpose has been found. From my humble beginnings as a hunting toque in a Sharbot Lake Gas Station, I have become something of a political icon. If only Paul Dewar would wear me, my campaign experience would be complete. Alas, the image managers keep us apart....
Yes, it's juvenile. And yes, it's embarrassing. I mean, it's "Scott Feschuk looks profound by comparison" embarrassing. So much so, in fact, that the official agent didn't want to assign credit for it.

And this was when the official agent committed his error. Previously, the blog entries had been credited to either some of the blog staffers (there had been three who made entries) or to Paul Dewar himself (he wrote the entry on "Human Rights and the Holiday Season"; bland but serviceable).

Now, the blog editor might have tried to attribute the entry to "Alan Smithee," the pseudonym which the Director's Guild assigns to films that are so butchered in the editing process that no sane director wants to take credit for it. But that could be considered dishonest.

So instead, the blog editor yanked the credits from all the previous blog entries, so no one person could be blamed for the entry.

This is an example of a fix that does worse damage to the candidate than the original embarrassment. There are two reasons for this.

First, it denies responsibility, which is what I alluded to earlier. Political candidates, like everyone else, are human and prone to error. And when an error is made, the temptation is to pretend it never happened. But it's far better to acknowledge the error quickly and take the immediate razzing, than to let it fester. Paul Martin learned this lesson the hard way in February. If Dewar and his people behave this way over such a juvenile matter, why should we trust them if they get in office and something really embarrassing happens?

Second, it shows a distrust of the readers -- and therefore, the constituents. Paul's blog has been around for two weeks now, long enough to build up a core readership. Naming the authors was a step in the right direction because it meant Paul was being transparent in his campaign. Yanking the credits suggests that the blog editor is hoping the readers weren't paying attention, or that any new readers wouldn't know that the blog was a group effort to begin with. It goes back to a classic "flogger" belief that the readers are gullible enough not to notice any changes, a concept dating back to George Orwell's 1984.

In politics, the most painful wounds are often self-inflicted. Paul's blog editor has done his candidate a great disservice. He'd've been better off giving the "Toque" author (who, based on the writing style, is the same person who wrote the "Campaign Jingle Bells" entry) a virtual noogie and keeping the credits.

By allowing and then pulling them, he has given the impression that Paul Dewar has something to hide. And that will hurt Paul far more than a tale of a gaudy toque.

UPDATE (08h53 15 Dec): Well, after a 24-hour period, they've brought the credits back -- this time, crediting the gaudy toque entry to "Orange Toque #4." (Personally, based on previous entries I think Kiavash Najafi wrote it, but let's not quibble.) I suppose it took that long to figure out how to credit the thing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Harper on Defence: Return of the Canadian Airborne Regiment?

This morning, Stephen Harper announced his campaign promises on national defence. It's no surprise that he plans on boosting defence spending: the Tories have been complaining for years that Canada's been neglecting her Armed Forces. The specifics, however, bear some examination.

First, Harper wants to spend on strategic and tactical airlift capability. No real argument there: he can point to this Fraser Institute report to make his case that we need it.

Second, Harper wants to double the size of DART. It's immediate good optics, since DART's had some good publicity in the past year. But he might want to couple that with an announcement on disaster relief protocols. Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans (and to a lesser extent, Kaschechewan) showed what can happen when different levels of government don't talk to each other in the face of a disaster. Announcing a multilevel meeting to thrash out Canada's emergency-response plans would go a long way towards establishing Tory credibility on being able to handle the unexpected.

But it's the third component that might raise some eyebrows:
Creation of a 650 strong airborne battalion, to be stationed at CFB Trenton, available for rapid or difficult deployments for emergency, humanitarian, or military operations.
This, in other words, is tantamount to reviving the Canadian Airborne Regiment.

Ten years ago, the Chrétien government disbanded the Regiment over allegations its members had committed abuses during a peacekeeping mission. The circumstances of that decision have been recorded elsewhere, but suffice to say that the Tories have always regarded the Regiment's disbanding as a mistake, a political decision made merely to get Liberal neglect of the Armed Forces out of the spotlight.

Could this new regiment cause another Somalia to happen? Obviously not; the Canadian Forces have learned from Somalia. And there's no question that, if Canada wants to be a major player in the peacekeeping game again, we need the capability that Harper's promising.

This won't necessarily resonate as much in Canada as it would in the States; the Canadian mainstream is a bit more indifferent when it comes to defence matters. But in terms of capturing the votes of the Armed Forces, let's just say Stephen Harper's managed a good head start.

Stephen Harper : the Un-American Conservative

Anyone who wants to know what kind of conservative Stephen Harper is, right now, should read this letter he sent to the Washington Times, which appeared in their Sunday edition.

Harper is responding to this column by Patrick Basham, which appeared the week before:
Free-market economist Stephen Harper, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, is pro-free trade, pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto, and socially conservative.
I'm sure Patrick meant well, but his description would play directly into the Librano stereotype of Harper as a Puritanical Yankee-lapdog -- exactly the type of fellow who couldn't get elected Prime Minister if all the other candidates dropped dead. His bigger mistake is to try to slide Harper into the American conservative mold, without allowing for cultural differences -- and there are some fairly big differences.

For example, for Harper, "free trade" means everyone plays by the rules. It's pretty much the same position Paul Martin has:
For the record: While, unlike the current Liberal government, I have always supported free trade, there is a deep concern in Canada about the commitment of the current U.S. administration and Congress to free trade. The United States is withholding some $5 billion in duties held from Canadian softwood lumber producers, despite the fact that a NAFTA panel has ruled that these duties are illegal.
In a recent speech, I stated that Canada must determine "the willingness of the United States to strengthen the dispute resolution mechanism and to subordinate domestic political pressures to a shared system of rules" and that "if this is not a direction in which the United States wishes to go, then Canada will have to make other long-term choices in its economic infrastructure," including expanded trade relationships with Asian countries such as India, Japan, and China.
Remember that Harper's main point of attack against the Liberals isn't really their economic strategy, it's their tactics. Neither major party is really interested in tearing down NAFTA at this point, unless the Bush administration really tries to pull a fast one.
On Iraq, while I support the removal of Saddam Hussein and applaud the efforts to establish democracy and freedom in Iraq, I would not commit Canadian troops to that country. I must admit great disappointment at the failure to substantiate pre-war intelligence information regarding Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction.
This statement was based on a Librano lie that dogged him in the last half of the 2004 campaign: that Harper would have brought Canada into the Iraq war. Since everyone knows our military forces are overstretched due to years of neglect, I don't think any leader would have committed them to any major operation apart from Afghanistan.
And while I have promised a free vote in Canada's parliament to reconsider the recent change of law to allow same-sex marriages in Canada, and will vote myself for a return to the traditional definition of marriage, I have said any changes must protect the existing status of same-sex couples who have been legally married. As well, a new Conservative government will not initiate or support any effort to pass legislation restricting abortion in Canada.
SSM is still a contentious issue; witness Paul Martin's recent attempt yesterday to draw Harper out on his long-term strategy. But unlike in the States, abortion isn't that big a hot-button issue. Hasn't really been on the public agenda since the 1980s.

It's been said that Canadian Conservatives tend to be on a par with centre-right Democrats on the political spectrum. In other words, from a political standpoint we're more like Joe Lieberman or (cough) Hilary Clinton than George W. Bush. (A lot of it is from decades of living under the Liberals: there have been some societal evolutions that we've simply become accustomed to.) I'd say that's accurate, and so here's hoping we have better luck than they do when it comes to changing governments.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ottawa-Centre: Richard Mahoney Gets His Blog

It's a first effort, of course, and you wouldn't expect the sharp insights of a Scott Feschuk or even a Monte Solberg. But Liberal candidate Richard Mahoney has definitely started ... a fitness blog.

It's a little slow at first, talking about the number of doors in the riding he's knocked on and voicing some generalities:
Things are going well...I'm on track to achieve my goal of knocking on every door in the riding by Election Day. Going out on the streets and talking to voters is my favourite part of campaigning. Since I'm hoping to be Ottawa Centre's representative in Parliament, I know that I need to understand its citizens' views. The way I see it, the more I can talk to my constituents, the better I will be able to serve them.
But by the time he's done his official kickoff on Saturday, he's got a fairly good grasp of the format:
December 10, 2005
Today's progress: 11,273 steps taken. 10.6 km covered.

Knocked on about 600 doors in Carleton Heights and hosted our official campaign launch.

What a day! We officially kicked off our campaign with an event at our headquarters. It was a huge success with over 150 supporters in attendance. MPP Richard Patten, Mayor Bob Chiarelli and Minister of Defence Bill Graham were all kind enough to say a few words (that's me with the three of them in the top photo). They talked about the great significance of this riding to the federal election. Ottawa Centre might be one of swing ridings that decides between PM Paul Martin and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. The event was invigorating and I was ready to hit the streets immediately afterwards to work harder than ever to earn your support.
There's still a bit of flogging in his post, but it's about the same level as Keith Fountain's -- that is to say, not as ripe as one of the posters on Paul Dewar's group blog.

Richard has also hit on a personal gimmick, with the pedometer count and the house visit count. That's exactly the kind of personal touch that's meant to distinguish his blogging style from his rivals'. That plus the use of the first-person voice gives the fitness blog the air of authenticity that online voters are looking for.

And there's one final feature which explains why it took so long to appear on his site: it appears in both English and French. In an officially bilingual government town, that's definitely an advantage.

Okay ... now I'm convinced that Ottawa-Centre is going to be a three-way race.

When NDP Supporters Behave Like American Moonbats ...

... let's just say it ain't pretty. An NDP supporter has decided to borrow a tactic from the moonbat crowd in an effort to boost his party's profile among the law-and-order crowd:
Last week, police departments in several Canadian cities surprised to find that websites with similar names to theirs were redirecting web users to the NDP website.

The web addresses included www., and several others with names similar to police departments in Vancouver, Windsor and Edmonton.

The domain names are similar, but not identical, to the real web addresses used by police in those cities.

Burnaby, B.C. businessman and self-described NDP supporter David Bedford owns the sound-alike web addresses and it was his idea to reroute the traffic to the NDP website.

Bedford said he wanted to help the NDP and planned to keep it up until election day on Jan. 23.

An NDP spokesperson said Friday the party didn't have the power to make Bedford stop, but hadn't asked him to stop either.
Apparently Bedford realized his tactic wound up making the NDP look bad. So now those police sites direct traffic towards a more explicitly anti-Harper site.

Mr. Bedford (who calls himself "Darwin" in this site, as opposed to "David" in the CBC story) opposes Mr. Harper for all the "right" (i.e. typical "left") reasons. He's an atheist (he explicitly calls himself the ironic "Atheist Messiah"), he supports same-sex marriage (his hyperlink for Harper's link go, not to the Tory website, but to, and he links to a Stephen Harper essay appearing in a Christian magazine and considers this a bad thing.

Naturally the police are ticked off by this sort of guerilla tactic, but if I were the Tory brain trust I'd be tickled by this news. It's proof positive that Stephen Harper is at least making the right sort of enemies -- the type who believe that the voters will excuse any sort of misbehaviour on their part, so long as their goal is achieved.

Mr. Bedford's antics, ironically, may wind up helping Harper. Not so much by driving the undecideds into his camp, but by getting the law-and-order-crowd riled up enough to bring bigger numbers up to vote.

Hey ... it worked for George Bush, right?

The 33rd Edition of The Red Ensign Standard ...

... may be found here. We're all pretty much agreed that the blogfest can take the Christmas holidays off, to resume in the New Year.

Scott Feschuk's Almost-Hidden Agenda

When it comes to blogging, Liberal official blogger Scott Feschuk can't be accused of being a flogger. Instead, he's trying to pull off something that neither Jeremy Hunt nor the TCFlogger seem interested in: pulling out something of the human side of the leader he's working for.

Thanks to Scott, we now know:
-- that Paul Martin likes Mary Ann over Ginger
-- that Aristotle is his favorite philosopher
-- that he has Nana Mouskouri in his iPod
-- that he can't sing his way out of a paper bag
Is this important? Actually, as a campaign strategy, yes it is. I've always maintained that a good campaign blogger will portray his candidate, while a bad one will only sell him. No one is going to vote for Paul Martin because he likes Nana Mouskouri. Some people, however, might feel comfortable arguing with Paul in Hooters over the merits of Ginger vs. Mary Ann.

Understand: these little details are meant to show Paul Martin the person, as opposed to Paul Martin the prime minister. People have pretty much made up their minds about Paul Martin as prime minister. By portraying Paul's human side, Scott may be able to lull the voters into feeling more comfortable about him. ("Hey, he's just a guy doin' a job, y'know?") And if they feel comfortable at that level, they might feel more comfortable about voting Liberal. (Irrational, yes. But politics is about more than logic.)

Contrast with the TCFlogger. Writing about singing "Sweet Caroline" is a step in the right direction (the ability to sing is apparently something they share with Paul Martin), but apart from repeating Harper's campaign promises, he's written bupkis about Harper the human being.

One other thing that should keep the TCFlogger up late at night: the reason that Scott isn't flogging the Liberals? He doesn't need to.

If you look at the blog designs for both the Liberal and Tory sites, you'll realize that Scott has a significant advantage, in that the news release page (with headlines) is visible in the menu right beside the blog entry. So readers, after being "entertained" by Scott's writing, can click straight into the flogging headlines if they want. Why should Scott do the hard sell, when the news releases beside his entries can do it for him?

It's an almost insidious design, and you have to give props to the Liberal webmaster for it. The TCFlog design simply isn't that good.

So, if you want to look at this as a National Campaign Blograce, at this point you could compare Scott to Sebulba, Jeremy Hunt to Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd version), and the TCFlogger to Ben Quadinaros. Not exactly a good sign.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Blogger Night

In December, it's good on occasion for bloggers to get out of the house. Four of us in the National Capital Region Blog Mafia got together, and it was a good time.

Just so you can keep score, that's Sham the Tory Man on the left; Brent Colbert of The Other Colbert Report beside him; that's me in the fedora; and Blair Hansen of Italics Mine on the right. Blair's holding my copy of Hugh Hewitt's Blog, which is an ideal Christmas gift for anyone you know who may want to start one. (That photo took a while to work out because the waitress accidentally set my camera to movie mode.)

I'm not sure when the next get-together is going to be, since it looks like the Mafia members are taking turns organizing the get-togethers (we really miss Shannon Davis). Probably after the election, I think.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Could Lanny Cardow Be the TCFlogger?

An anonymous commenter has made the suggestion that the TCFlogger is a guy named Lanny Cardow.

Since the commenter left no e-mail or website to home in on, I'm inclined to take this one with a very large grain of Dead Sea salt. However, judging from his blog Lanny looks to be a pretty good candidate.

The ominous sign, of course, is the Nov. 23 blog entry:

OK folks. Here's the scoop - As of this weekend, I'm heading back to Canada for a long while. Nothing bad, just some old political scores to settle with the Liberal Party ...
Not enough to go to court on, of course, but extremely suggestive.

The suggestion gets reinforced by the fact that Mr. Cardow has indulged in some photoblogging. Check out those galleries in the right-side column. Looking at some of his landscape photos, he does have the same eye for focal-perspective shots that the TCFlogger has in this photo of Stephen Harper.

Is there any other evidence? Possibly. Mr. Cardow has been a research assistant at the Institute for Politics, Democracy & The Internet at George Washington University. Here's what his profile says:
Lanny Cardow is a Research Assistant for the Institute and a Masters student at the Graduate School of Political Management. After completing his undergraduate degree at Queen's University (Ontario, Canada) in 2002, Lanny served a one year term as VP (operations) of the Queen's University student government. Lanny then moved to Ottawa to work for Stephen Harper, the opposition leader in the Canadian House of Commons, where he managed outreach operations. A native of Guelph, Ontario, Lanny was first introduced to politics by working for his local member of provincial parliament.
So. We have a politically active young man, who's personally worked for Stephen Harper, who knows how to blog and likes to use photos in his work. And who left, a week before the government fell, to "settle some old political scores."

Is this enough to positively identify Lanny Cardow as the TCFlogger? Not for a courtroom, but it might be enough for the denouement scene of an Agatha Christie murder mystery. If anyone out there's good at text analysis, they could compare the texts of the Flog and Cardow's old blog, and come up with a more definite conclusion, but for now, we can consider Lanny the prime suspect.

Of course someone could always ask him at his blog's e-mail address ...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Is Carleton U.'s Jeremy Hunt the CPC Energy Flogger?

Since, like his older compadre, the CPC Energy Flogger refuses to identify himself, it looks like someone else will have to do it for him. Fortunately, in his latest flog entry, he gives us a big clue:
Coming from across the country to study at Carleton University has been great. In fact, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. But I’ll tell ya’…when the time comes to buy a textbook there... run: otherwise there’s a good chance that you’ll lose an arm and a leg ...

During my time as a student representative on our student government, I’ve come to realize that student organizations are always railing for lower tuition fees, but rarely do they consider other solutions that also work to lower the cost of living for students. Tax credits that lower the cost of textbooks, apply to scholarships and bus passes, all add up – and that means more money in students’ pocket, which of course, is always a good thing ...
We now have two very big clues: first, that he's a student at Carleton, and second, that he's sat as a student representative. This is enough to do a Google ID Search.

Step one: check if there's a Young Conservative club at Carleton U. Result: Yes -- and it has its own website. Complete with a list of senior executives.

Now let's assume that our flogger is one of these executives, since only a senior member of the youth wing can be entrusted to write a national corporate flog. Step Two: find out if these exeuctive profiles list student council positions, as described by our soon-to-be-not-so-anonymous flogger. Result: yes. The president himself:
Entering into his fourth year of Political Science at Carleton; Jeremy is 21 years old, and calls Calgary, Alberta home.

He is currently serving in his second term as a Public Affairs and Management representative on CUSA Council, and was the proud head of the Lassoes this year for orientation week. He has been involved with Conservative politics for nearly three years now, and has been very fortunate to experience as much as he has in Ottawa during his short time here.
It fits -- even the Calgary origin (across the country, right?). The odds are extremely good that this Jeremy Hunt is, indeed, the guy who writes the CPC Energy flog.

Is there a picture of him? Yes, from this profile of student candidates for Carleton U's board of governors. It's a bit small, but that's only to be expected from a profile page meant for fast loading.

But the Carleton page is also extremely valuable for those Tories dissatisfied with the CPCEnergy Flog's lack of a feedback mechanism (i.e. commentary page).

Why? Because this page puts, in the public domain, our suspect's e-mail address.

It is, of course, quite possible that I could be wrong about this, and that someone else is the Flogger. But somehow I don't think so.

What I don't understand, and what I think is worthy of explanation, is why the CPC Energy Flogger feels he doesn't need to sign his name to his entries, if he's so eager to talk about his life with the Tories.

The Art of the TCFlogger

Of course I come down hard on the TC Flogger. All that brainpower up at Conservative HQ and they still haven't figured out how to do blogging effectively, for all the reasons which I've listed earlier.

But the Flogger does have one talent that his Liberal counterpart is ill-equipped to exploit, for the simple reason that Blackberries don't have digital cameras: a good eye for photography. And with this photo, I have to give the Flogger props.

This picture of Stephen Harper at a phone interview does cross a line, from blogger journalism to Art with a capital A. Triple reflection plus variations in focus equals remarkable depth perception, and the triple images (with side profiles suited to a dime) relate nicely to each other. This image would never have made a traditional news release, because the heads are too small compared with the frame and PR officials never like head croppings, but as an Art photo this could be eligible for the short list of a museum for contemporary photography.

Is this a step forward, for the TCFlogger? Yes, in terms of content. It adds the touch of the idiosyncratic that moves a weblog further away from "corporate flog" status. If the TCFlogger can do more pix like that, he might be able to move the Flog into "good Photoblog" territory.

In terms of format, however, the TCFlogger still has a way to go ...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The TCFlogger Tries To Be Funny

It looks like the TCFlogger is trying to get away from his reputation (voice from the back: "What reputation?!"), this time by attemptint to use humour. And in the spirit of Scott Feschuk, he's trying to use lame humour, pretending to diagnose Paul Martin:
Patient makes outlandish and delusional statements that do not resonate in the general public (i.e. believes cutting the GST won’t help working families, and dismisses proposed $100 per month daycare allowance as insignificant.)

Patient has likely been in isolation from the general public for quite some time.
The Flogger goes on in this lame vein for some little while, ignoring the chirping crickets.

Understand that this joke isn't funny because it insults Paul Martin. Scott Feschuk has told funnier jokes that insult Paul Martin, and he's supposed to be on the Prime Minister's side.

No, this joke isn't funny because it's old. I've heard it told about George Bush Sr., not to mention Jean Chretien in his day. I wouldn't be surprised if it was told about Mackenzie King.

It's really too bad that the TCFlogger doesn't have a feedback mechanism. Even an e-mail address to the site would help him out, without which he'll just have to suffer his own lack of humour in silence.

What Do Scott Feschuk and Jonah Goldberg Have in Common?

Answer: they both take great pleasure out of being targeted by shallow people.

Here's Scott, on his Official Liberal Campaign Blog:
Yes! Yet another sweet political advantage for the Liberal party. As of this morning, we are the only federal party whose official campaign blog has been described as "shameful" by the chief strategist of the University of Toronto's McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology! Not the backup strategist - the CHIEF strategist.

That's right - he called this blog "shameful." Also, "very lame." Take that, mysterious yet boring Conservative party blogger person or object! He doesn't savage you in a colourful way at all.

As for Blog Boy, this chief strategist fellow goes on to strategize in a chiefly way that this blog "really does read like a teenage girl's diary." Like, whatever. I'd give him what-for if I wasn't busy taping up my new Scott Baio poster.
For the information of everyone else, the chief strategist of the McLuhan Program is named Mark Federman. He has a blog here, and I'm still trying to track down his critique.

As for Jonah, his critic is perhaps better known:
On November 23, Barbra Streisand wrote a letter to the editor complaining that the Los Angeles Times picked me up as a columnist. As gleeful as I was, I declined to respond. But now, just last night, Ms. Streisand chose to post to her website the "director's cut" of her original letter to the editor, which apparently had been edited for space and, no doubt, for content by the LA Times. I could resist no longer ...
And so on and so forth.

So is it better to be roasted by Scott Federman, or to be roasted by Barbra Streisand?

Well, it's a little hard to compare at the moment, but it's interesting to note that Scott's reaction consists of three paragraphs showing his age (when was the last time teenage girls had Scott Baio posters?), while Jonah's reaction to two sentences in separate paragraphs is considerably more verbose. (Though, to be fair, Scotty would be hospitalized with Blackberry Thumb if he tried for a longer answer.)

Of course, it could be related to the idea that Scott Federman isn't known outside the University of Toronto, whereas Barbra Streisand is better known these days for getting pooped on by the population of South Park. If Feschuk had been roasted by Barbra, he probably would have gone absolutely rhapsodic.

But of course, that won't happen, since Barbra in all probability would think of Feschuk as one of those flatulent South Park Canadians. If she ever thought of Canada at all.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ottawa-Centre: Paul Dewar is Right-Wing

Paul Dewar's blog is slowly morphing into a group blog, the group consisting mainly of his campaign workers. The latest addition is named Robin Maclachlan, who tells the following anecdote:
Paul plays on a local hockey team, along with the owner of Juniper Restaurant on Wellington Street. Apparently, Richard Mahoney had been in a few days previously and had asked if he could put up a sign. "Oh no," the owner said. "You don't have my vote - I'm supporting a real right winger, Paul Dewar!" Mahoney, a bit startled and confused, launched into an attempt to convince the man that he was more right wing than Paul.
This is one of those that feels authentic -- there is a Juniper Restaurant, and I've provided the link above. I wouldn't be surprised if Paul heard the story from the owner himself, and just repeated it to the staff. Whether the story is actually happened the way it's described is somewhat immaterial at this point, but it does tell us a few things:

First, Paul still perceives Richard Mahoney as the primary target to knock off in this campaign. (I'm looking forward to any future posts that go after Keith -- that would mean their internal polling perceives the local Tory as someone to take seriously.)

Second, Paul plays hockey for recreation with local businesspeople, who know him well enough to want to vote for him. This is significant, because it suggests he's networking locally for his support, rather than relying on Bob Layton's charm to do the job for him. In short, the Dewar campaign is playing up the man instead of the issues. (Which is good for him, because his issues page doesn't have all that much.)

Third, the implied plan of attack on Mahoney (and one that probably has legs, given his penchant for press releases over blogs) is that the Liberal lobbyist is out of touch with the local community. That plus he has no sense of humor. A most subtle attack, I must say.

The Dewar campaign is learning. Richard's going to be in for a tough time ...

Ottawa-Centre: Oh, We Got Greens?

One of my co-workers last week was grumbling about how the Green Party was left out of the upcoming election debates. So it occurred to me to have a look at the Green candidate in Ottawa-Centre.

As it turns out, his name is David Chernushenko, and his website is here. (They seem to be having server problems this morning; it happens.)

Well, he's apparently done a lot more grass-roots work, judging from the events he's hosted and attended. And while he doesn't have a blog, his site is certainly better maintained than, say, Richard Mahoney's. Information is easier to get to and is well organized. And there's a unique feature in that he links to other ridings where the Greens are fielding candidates. That speaks of a coordinated team effort in Ottawa, which is an element not commonly thought about by the other parties.

So does David really have a chance? Certainly. Like the Toronto Maple Leafs have a chance of winning the Stanley Cup, but based on history, the odds are about the same. (Okay, maybe David's chances are better, but not by much.)

The real trouble is that the Greens here in Canada cannot shake their reputation as a party on the fringe. And whenever they try to appeal to the mainstream, they risk losing their core supporters, such as Joan Russow. She really really comes down hard on them in this morning's Ottawa Citizen:
At least until after the 2000 election, the Green Party of Canada was proud to be associated with the long tradition of movements on the left. Now the GPC has abandoned the tradition of the left, by stating that "we are neither left nor right but straight ahead." A deputy leader in 2004 even derided statements of the left as "socialist rhetoric."

Since at least 2004, the GPC developed the notion of a "living platform." This creates the impression that the platform is emerging and evolving through contributors on the Internet, and raises a fundamental question about the nature of policy formation. If a Green party candidate is elected, to what principle, policy or platform would the MP be bound?
Ms. Russow is accusing the Green Party of abandoning its left-originated principles in favour of the pragmatic expediency practiced by the Liberals. That's a pretty low blow for a party on the edge, but it also illustrates the dilemma that keeps the voter from taking the Greens seriously.

Master of My Domain

Yesterday I registered a couple of domain names. One was under my own name, because I plan to set up a job resume site. The other was, which I tried to set up to head directly to this Blogspot site.

Testing the link last night got somewhat panicky, because Blogspot went down and I couldn't figure out if I'd accidentally disconnected something, but by midnight I was able to get the link working. (I later found out it was a system-wide thing, which was a relief.)

I decided to register this domain because I have some long-term plans for this blog, and I don't necessarily want to be tied down to Blogspot. (If anyone can recommend some alternatives I'd be glad to hear about their experiences.)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ottawa-Centre: Richard Mahoney Brings Forth A Mouse

It would seem that Richard Mahoney isn't exactly an energetic Liberal candidate. He's trotted out a weak line of attack against his Tory candidate, Keith Fountain:
Keith Fountain says shifting “more taxes away from incomes and toward consumption, to increase savings and investment,” is the right strategy – a direct contradiction to the plan announced yesterday by his leader, Stephen Harper.

Mr. Fountain’s policy proposal also said the government should consider a flat tax as part of an effort to simplify the tax system – full details available on his tax plan at

“The Conservative Party is not speaking with one voice. That makes it difficult for voters to know what they are choosing if they’re considering a Conservative candidate,” said Richard Mahoney, the Liberal candidate in Ottawa-Centre. “I think the Liberal Party’s plan to reduce income tax is the right choice, and I’m glad our plan has been endorsed by my Conservative opponent over his own party leader’s.”
This is where Keith enjoys the edge over Richard: his blog gives a nearly instantaneous response:
For some reason my Liberal opponent got it in his head that my being in favour of income tax reductions meant that I was against cuts to the GST. Quite the opposite; lower taxes are lower taxes; they all put more money into our pockets. And I'm a big fan of the Conservative proposal to reduce the GST to 5%.
As an aside, there's a bit of a dichotomy between the language of the blog entry and the language of the press release, which actually works in Keith's favor. I'm not sure why, but for some reason all press releases have leaned towards the bombastic. I suppose that's why press officers tend to become floggers when they try to go on the blogosphere.

Reacting with good humor, as Keith has done here, is always a good response to a weak attack. It neutralizes whatever rhetorical force was present, shows the target's self-confidence, and reveals the attacker's weak points (in this case, the inability to anticipate a swift response).

But you know what's really funny? I would never have known that Richard had actually made an attack if Keith hadn't mentioned it.

Discounting the initial choice-of-language page, you need two clicks to get to the actual press release on Richard's site; whereas with Keith, it's pretty much there up front once you enter the URL. That's because Richard's welcome page is template-static; you'd never know that the site was being updated, unless you're actively searching.

His latest press release shows he wants to take the Christmas holidays off. Nothing wrong with that, of course; it's just a little odd that he thinks taking time off warrants a press statement. Sort of like using a newspaper to print an answering machine message.

The thing is, a notice like that should have appeared on his welcome screen. Once you get the HTML language sorted out, modifying content on a Web page is actually a pretty low-maintenance job, and could have been done by a Mahoney staffer in the space of a few minutes. If Richard isn't willing to devote energy to such a small thing as that -- what does that say about his willingness to devote energy to representing his constituents?

Compared with the other two candidates, Richard Mahoney's online presence is very low-energy. One wonders if he hasn't already given up the battle and is just making token resistance movements, before they haul the Libranos away.

Ottawa-Centre: Paul Dewar Is Learning ...

... because we now know who writes his blog.

The campaign workers' names are Kate Murray and Tannis Bujaczek. Tannis is the "flogger" who goes overboard trying to hock evey Paul Dewar attended event as a success; Kate's the anecodotal one.

Both names are active links which are e-mail addresses to the Dewar campaign. This is a semi-good thing because it allows private feedback on topics. Public commentary would have been better, but one can't have everything right the first time out.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Son of Flog

Just got back from Quebec City (navy training -- I may explain later) to find out that my traffic had jumped, thanks to the CBC's Campaign Blog. (I have to admit, I didn't expect this one. If John Bowman's in Ottawa this Friday, I'll have to remember to stand him a beer.)

I also discovered that Tories not only have not learned from the mistakes of their campaign flog, but they're going to compound them. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you: the CPC Energy Youth Flog.

December 1, 2005 - 7:19 pm
Watching the Liberals try and discredit the Conservative GST Policy is laughable, at best. I still can't decide if they're actually being critical, or if they're just trying to make political hay of a Conservative Policy that clearly has them beat. Remember, this is the same party that has just spent billions of tax dollars attempting to bribe voters with their own money in the lead up to the election; and now they're trying to tell Canadians that they're 'sound fiscal managers'? They have no claim to financial credibility at all today.

December 1, 2005 - 12 pm
I found Stephen Harper’s
hidden agenda!
Yeah, turns out he’s looking to cut our taxes by reducing the
GST to 5%! Boy, those Conservatives are really out to get Canadians. Can you imagine the gall…putting money back into the pockets of consumers?
Next thing you know, they’ll be trying to tell us that criminals should be put in jail.
Some people…

Okay, the language is a bit more in line with what we'd expect from a good blog -- more first person narrative, for example. Based on internal evidence, we're told that the CPCEnergy Flogger has a younger brother who had a broken arm misdiagnosed by a gynecologist. The Flogger's parents are still alive but getting on in years, and there's also a little cousin named Kristina.

Were it not for that last tidbit, I would have dismissed the CPC Energy Flogger has a completely fictional creation of the CPC's youth committee. The parents and brother story are a little too close to rhetorical illustrations Tories like to pull out to make a point about their policies. The cousin, on the other hand, is exactly the type of throwaway detail that a real blogger might use.

But which real person? As with the TCFlogger, there is no identification, and no provision for feedback or commentary. Not even an e-mail address.

I know that individual Tories understand the online revolution. I'm less sure about the people who run their website.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Calling All Ottawa-Area Bloggers ...

... I've managed to set up a space for the next meeting of the National Capital Region Blog Mafia. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a reservation at Alexander's, so I've opted for a standby: the original Royal Oak on Bank Street. Here are the details:

Time: Friday, 9 December 2005, @20h30 (8:30 pm) to about 11 or later
Place: The Royal Oak, 318 Bank Street (across from Barrymore's, not the one in the Glebe nor the one that used to be the Italian restaurant. People will remember it from the last meeting)

Who can come? Anyone with an interest in blogging and the online community. I've reserved a space for 12 people, but I'm sure we'll be able to expand if more show up.

The Anonalogue Deck: It's Time for Librano Poker Night

Anonalogue has actually completed the Card Deck of Librano Jokers that I posted about earlier this week. The faces don't match my entry's proposals but that's okay: we now have a list of Liberals who, not just on general principles but through their own vices, are deserving of defeat at the polls.

And since Anonalogue's cards can be individually downloaded, the Canadian blogosphere can play a game on January 23rd. That's right, folks: Election Night will become Librano Poker Night.

Here's how the game works:

1. Pick five cards from Anonalogue's deck. You can make them into a traditional poker hand, but it's not necessary since winning this game doesn't really depend on traditional poker.

2. Create a blogpost with those five images. You can then send the link to me, and I'll link it up on a new page so people can see your hand. (I did say this wasn't traditional poker.) I'll be accepting links up to noon hour on Election Day.

3. Watch the returns on Election Night. Unlike Quebec independence, the winning conditions are actually pretty simple: the highest-value hand of cards whose faces are defeated at the polls is the winner.

4. The winner will be announced the next day, on this blog. The prize will be one copy of Rescuing Canada's Right, which I'll send via (Not to worry; I'll be personally paying for this one.)

A few things to remember:

-- It won't necessarily be to your advantage to pick all face cards. Ministers with a strong local base won't go down easily; backbenchers and new candidates are more vulnerable.

-- While it's tempting to pick all your cards from Atlantic Canada and Quebec, because the time zones will create an early win, remember that those regions and Ontario are also where the Liberals are strongest.

-- Don't duplicate a hand that's already been posted. I only plan on paying for one prize.

So -- who's in?

UPDATE (12h49): At the suggestion of Johnny Pockets in the Comments section, I've modified the rule from "first" to "highest-value," to get rid of the time zone chaos.

Ottawa-Centre: The Candidates Get Into Gear

Looks like Liberal candidate Richard Mahoney is finally paying attention to his website. And only three days after the campaign started.

No weblog, but given Mr. Mahoney's attention to online matters that's not surprising. He now has two media releases: one announcing his campaign, and one about how this election has put OC Transpo in danger:
“It is unbelievable that the opposition parties put their interests before Canadians by forcing an early election. The result is a huge loss for the people of Ottawa, in this case amounting to $43 million. This investment, which the Conservatives voted against in June, and the NDP ground to a halt in November, demonstrates their lack of commitment to cities.”
He's also gotten his events page updated, highlighting an all-candidates' meeting coming up on Friday, January 6.

It's still pretty slow compared with NDP candidate Paul Dewar, whose own events page makes him pretty busy: not just the EGALE debate, but a show with Mike Duffy, a dinner, and the Barley Mow. Compared with Mahoney, it looks like Paul plans to have fun with this campaign. That's always a good thing.

It also looks like Paul's blog has shifted a gear:
I spoke to one woman who had supported Ed Broadbent in the last election, but hadn't decided whether or not to take a Paul Dewar sign because she didn't know much about him yet. Then, she thought about her options out loud: "Of course I'd never vote Conservative", she said. "Who's running for the Liberals?" I told her I thought it was the same candidate as in the previous election - Richard Mahoney. "Mahoney?!" she said, "I definitely don't like him! WE'RE ON!!!"
Still slightly floggy, but at least it's not quite as triumphal as that first post.

The shift from the third person to the first does brings up a question, in fact the same question with the Tory campaign blog: who's writing it? If it's Paul himself, let him say so; if it's "the official agent for Paul Dewar," then let's see a proper name.

There's also a weakness in that if you click on the "français" link, you don't get a French translation of the blog, but the French versions of Paul's news releases. French translations aren't really required in this riding because the francophone population isn't all that big, but this is still a flaw. He'd be better off either clarifying the link or leaving it out altogether.

There's also an implied tactical error in the the above blog entry: it's a little early to be so dismissive of Keith Fountain. Unlike the other two, Keith doesn't have an events page; he announces his events in his blog entries. But I expect this to change once he talks with his web people.

His latest blog entry is a call for recruiting people, a subject that subtly touched on by Paul in his entry. Paul has a volunteer form page, while Richardonly lists information. This does tend to put Paul ahead of Keith, but to be fair there's only so much you can do with Blogspot, which hosts Keith's site.

Of course it's early days, but the way I see things shaping up, the fight here isn't going to be between Paul Dewar (Ed Broadbent's successor) and Richard Mahoney. Unless Richard really gets moving, I see the big fight as being between Paul Dewar and Keith Fountain.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The TCBlogger Has Just Become The TC Flogger

It looks like I was premature in my earlier assumption that the official Tory Campaign Blogger understood the difference between blogs and flogs. Because with his latest post he's definitely moving along the dark path to Floggerville:
The bottom line is simple: Stephen Harper is promising to reduce the GST to 5%. If you like the idea, vote Conservative. If you don’t, then you’re welcome to take the other option and vote for four more years of ethical lapses, missing billions, investigation, scandal, and corruption. A or B. Blue or Red. Your call.
The last person who tried to pull that stunt on me was Robert McClelland, and it's a stupid example of what I call the false choice: attempting to set up an either/or situation without allowing for alternatives. Note to the webmasters of when your house blogger starts reading like Robert McClelland, it is not a good thing.

This TCFlogger would have us believe that the choice is between the Tories and the Liberals, with the latter being discouraged with as much insult as (s)he can muster. An intelligent voter, instead of being persuaded, would respond with the following:

1) Why don't I vote NDP?
2) I live in Quebec. I'll take the Bloc.
3) Gee, the Greens are looking good.
4) Screw it, they're all corrupt. I'm staying home.

This is a theme that I have always practiced, time and time again: you must always respect your opponents, lest you underestimate them. When a blogger throws insults, it says more about the blogger than about his target. It's a lesson that our flogger has yet to learn.

TCFlogger: your latest screed has shamed the very cause you claim to serve, because it insults the intelligence of your readers. It is now well past time for you to reveal yourself, and be accountable for your posts.

Campaign 2005-06: On Blogs and Flogs

Campaign 2004 took place before the explosive influence of the blogosphere was felt. So it's perfectly natural that in Campaign 2005-06, parties and candidates want to tap into that influential energy, which is why several MPs have websites and blogs of their own.

You can pretty much tell if a politician really gets the online revolution by the quality of their website. And you can also tell if a political entity is in tune with the blogging phenomenon by the quality of the weblog it publishes.

We may see some good political blogs out there as a result of this campaign, on all sides of the political spectrum. However, we're also more likely to see an explosion of pseudo-blogs, or what I'd call flogs.

A "flog" will have the appearance of a blog; that is, it will be in reverse chronological order and may have individual links for entries. But its sole purpose is reflected in the British-derived dictionary meaning: to sell the candidate or party. Meaning, stressing everything that's good and true and ignore everything that's not.

A flogger, of course, is the maintainer of a flog. He or she will more than likely be the candidate's communications officer or speechwriter, since prose handling is a prerequisite for this position. The difference between a flogger and a blogger is this: a flogger will sell the candidate, while a blogger will portray the candidate.

That's a significant difference. The blogger will write things about the candidate or campaign that, strictly speaking, aren't necessary for selling the candidate or the message to the intended readership, but give a better picture of what the candidate's like. This includes vices as well as virtues, something the "flogger" is incapable of grasping.

You can tell a flog from a true "blog" from its content: if you can turn it into a press release with little or no editing, then it's a flog entry. And if all the entries read like press releases, then it's a flog, with all the credibility (or lack thereof) that the concept implies.

As I mentioned earlier, Ottawa-Centre candidate Paul Dewar's campaign diary has started out as more flog than blog. Contrast that with Scott Feschuk's federal Liberal blog: poking fun at the Martin campaign bus or singing about the joys of muffins won't get Paul Martin elected. But they do add to the overall portrayal of the campaign.

In other words, Scott "gets it." Paul Dewar's flog doesn't.

And believe it or not, the Tory Campaign Blogger also gets it. Look at this sentence from his/her 30 November entry:
What I did not expect to see on this chilly, rainy Ottawa afternoon was a room so full that some supporters actually stood outside the propped-open campaign office doors, craning their necks to view the Leader's speech as it took place inside. Dedication of this sort is heartening to see in a winter campaign!
That sentence would never have appeared in a press release, because it doesn't hard-sell the Tory position. But it adds color to the campaigning process. It's true that most of his other entries are flog-like, albeit to a lesser extent than Paul Dewar's. But the existence of that sentence means there's still hope for this anonymous writer. (Echo in the back: "I still demand that you show yourself!")

The TCBlogger would do well to study Monte Solberg's blog. His current entry -- talking about the Boston Bruins -- has ostensibly nothing to do with promoting him as a good MP or promoting Tory policy. But it adds an authenticity to reader's perceptions of Monte as a person. It provides a point of identification.

Does it matter if a candidate's website has a blog or a flog? In this online age, yes, it does. It's the difference between paying lip service to the online revolution and really embracing it. It's the difference between making gestures to your online readers and really trying to start a dialogue with them. Most of all, it's the difference between jumping into the future and trying to get by with the conventional tools of the past.

A flog will not help a candidate win an election. A true blog will.

Ottawa-Centre: Paul Dewar Gets His Flog Started

Well, it's been three days since the Government fell, and the NDP candidate for Ottawa Centre, Paul Dewar, has finally gotten his campaign blog started.

Well, actually, it's more a "flog" than a "blog." Here's a passage from his first entry:
With his orange tie complemented by the tiny "Paul Dewar!" buttons on lapels around the room, Paul brought forward the NDP candidates for the Ottawa region, and honoured the role of Ed Broadbent in showing the people of Ottawa Centre the power of electing NDP MPs to Parliament.

The capacity crowd erupted into applause and cheers as vibrant Celtic fiddles came over the loudspeakers, and Jack Layton entered the room, smiling, shaking hands, and looking ready to win.

Flanked by his Ottawa team, he laughingly told the audience that Paul Martin wanted to run this campaign on the Liberal’s record. "Bring it on!" Jack challenged. "We wrote a budget," one that got things done for the people of Canadians and the people of Ottawa-Centre, rather than just for the Liberal’s corporate friends.
It's pretty obvious that Paul Dewar didn't write this himself. The tagline at the bottom says, "Authorized by the Official Agent for Paul Dewar," and I can believe it. Purple prose, positives, and bad sentence construction: the marks of a staff volunteer. (If it turns out Dewar did write this, he's got bigger problems than I thought.)

I have to say, if Paul Dewar wants to reach out to the online community, he's going to have to develop a steep learning curve. He might do well to look at his rival Keith's site.

But if it's any consolation, Paul Dewar has definitely gotten a leg up on Liberal candidate Richard Mahoney. Would you believe that, three days after the launch of the election, Mahoney's website still hasn't been updated? Does this man want Ottawa-Centre, or not?