Friday, February 10, 2006

Garth-gate

So I have (again) been away from the world of blogging for quite some time. This issue of Emerson has dragged me back though.

During the election campaign I was telling pretty much everyone I could that Garth Turner's election blog was by far my favourite. He regularly gave in-depth and compelling accounts of his time spent on the campaign trail. No matter how exhausted I was from the nine to twelve hours I had spent working my own local campaign I usually tried to find time to read it and I wish that more candidates would have gove to a similiar effort.

Sometimes this sort of Garth-dorsement was met with comments like "you mean you like Nortel Turner"? I must admit that I had forgotten (or never really knew) about Garth Turner's alleged role in pumping-and-dumping Nortel stock Frankly, I still don't know all the details and in the end that is quite separate from what I think of his blog and more relevantly his comments on David Emerson.

I must say that I have spent the last couple of days considering the Emerson fiasco rather closely and have commented over at Cherniak's blog once or twice (including here). You know what, Garth is right this was and remains a major screw-up. It looks hypocritical, cynical and totally unnecessary. There was no reason to entice David Emerson across the floor especially considering the lacklustre political skills that the Minister has displayed over the last week

As for whether or not Garth should have aired the dirty laundry on his blog--I'm not sure. Short term track records seem to disagree, as we have a successful candidate who did better than many of his fellow Conservative candidates in neighbouring ridings pitted against Harper's team that ran what was pretty universally lauded as a very tight campaign. I suppose the balance has to fall with Mr. Turner because this sort of thing seems to be directly in keeping with what he did right before election day (working hard for his constituents and speaking his mind) whereas I don't know where the PM was coming from. The end result will probably be that we will unfortunately see a lot more pressure for MPs to stay away from blogging.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Income trust announcement

Kinsella's post today on this growing fiasco emanating from the profits people made before Ralph Goodale announced that the government would not be changing the tax rules for income trusts and would be decreasing taxes on dividends. As I see it there could be three explanations for the pre-announcement trading:

1. Investors found out about the news conference and correctly guessed what was going to be said.

2. Someone other than Liberal politicians, who rightfully had this information before the press conference began (either through carelessness or design) the chain of communication that disseminated this information.

3. Liberal politicians began (either through carelessness or design) the chain of communication that disseminated this information.

Please note that I am specific about placing the responsibility on the person who was first to "leak" this information. As I understand the law, only a person who has a fiduciary duty to keep information confidential is prevented from communicating or trading on that information. So, if someone trades on a piece of information that they cannot be reasonably expected to think is "insider" information they have done nothing wrong.

Case number one looked like the most innocent and probable explanation at first (and with proto-scandals this is usually the safe bet). It's hard to believe that the Minister of Finance could get a room full of cameras and reporters together for an announcement at 5 PM without someone knowing that it was happening before 4:30PM. Problem is that the CTV news story states that "skuttlebutt" (as some illiterate chat room poster put it) had begun circulating by 11:14 AM. Also, if investors only knew that there would be some announcement and even if they knew it would on income trusts there is no reason for them to know it was positive. Even if this was a fore-gone conclusion the news should already have been priced into the market. Also, this doesn't account for the movement in dividend-rich stocks.

Case number two has a staffer, civil servant, private consultant, whomever who knew about the content of the announcement as the culprit for starting the communication. Right now this seems like the most likely explanation but by no means absolves Goodale or other Liberals involved. They must have known the sensitivity of this announcement and therefore should have taken exceptional steps to prevent any leaks. Furthermore, the feet-dragging in terms of a public response is quite disheartening.

Case three has, as Kinsella implies, someone Liberal and elected whispering the good news to friends who then traded on the information. The obvious first objection here is that the potential loss for Goodale et al seems much greater than the gain. Why would they share such information when they know the likelihood is, at least, greater than zero of being caught? Well, for one they depend on the donations of friends to run campaigns, and what do you know we're in a campaign right now. Also, if politicians always made reasonable cost-benefit analyses in situations like this we wouldn't need the word "scandal". Perhaps the information was shared with someone who they knew to be discreet (and was) enough to take a small profit only for themselves but this sharing expanded the number of people in the second category (secretaries, spouses, brokers, drivers, etc.).

Whatever the explanation this definitely is dangerous for the Liberals. Slow developing scandals like this can easily derail an otherwise winning campaign. This scandal would probably have been less dangerous twenty years ago before the average voter understood (or cared) about insider trading. The Liberals, though, can thank Martha Stewart for bringing everyone up to speed on it. If nothing else this story will definitely increase the volatility of the campaign going into the first debate.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Lower GST

Cherniak has a post today on why lowering the GST will win the Tories points but is bad policy. He even concedes that this policy move might give the Tories the first half of the election. Unfortunately this is followed by a flawed argument about why retailers will raise prices to fill the entire gap created by the tax cut. Here is my comment to him on why I disagree:

1. Seriously, this is first year economics. A good is currently being sold for $100 with 15% tax for a total of $115. Theoretically say that the retailer is paying total costs of $80 to sell this and therefore makes $20 profit. Sales taxes are decreased to 13% and all other things remain the same. There is now a gap between what was previously being paid and what you think prices will increase to of about $1.85. This gap will be SHARED by consumers and retailers. If one retailer chooses to take all of it his competitors will take advantage of him by taking less. This is obviously possible because the retailers were will to operate at the $20 profit level and therefore will be willing to compete with each to the point where the market clears. No good, save maybe cocaine is totally inelastic. If dealers are charging tax they will be able to adjust prices accordingly.

2. Even if we are sent through some sort of economic vortex and what you theorise happens that will still mean more profits for retailers. Which means either more dividends for shareholders or increased investment. Both good things for the economy, I'd say.

3. The reason that you shouldn't save this for an economic rainy day is that that's when the government needs more money. Don't you see how that would make your argument circular? You did after all, start by saying that this tax was introduced during a recession.

4. Speaking of which I'll take up that challenge if you'll define "worst". Longest? Highest unemployment? Aggregate GDP shrinkage? Frankly I'd pick the third measure.

Point 3 counters his statement that this cut should be saved for an economic rainy day. Point 4 deals with his claim that the early 90s had the worst recession in Canadian history since the Depression. I haven't looked at the unemployment data yet but I know that 82 was worse for GDP growth and 45-46 was just as long.

Some commenters on his site have stated the psychological barrier of prices that end in .99 as a reason why retailers won't increase prices by 2% (actually it's more like 1.85%). I'm not sure about this. Walmart markets their prices as being fairer because they don't do the .99 thing so there would no problem for them and Walmart is unfortunately where most people who would be helped most by this cut shop. Also, if retailers want to increase prices without seeming like they are they can just offer fewer sales or reduce prices less steeply when goods do go on sale. But, again, basic economic theory states that retailers will only take part of this cut. The proportion taken will depend on the elasticity of the demand for the good and the level of competitiveness in the particular market.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It's starting to look a lot like...a campaign

I was riding the Finch bus last night around midnight and saw the first tangible evidence that an election campaign has started. One of my fellow passengers, a young lady who couldn't have been older than 21 (I like those demographics, maybe I should publish a face-painting poll), had a Conservative "C" painted on her face. If you happen to be one of the thirty-or-so people who read this post, my apologies for staring but your "C" was backwards. Obviously we need to get it so that supporters don't have to paint their own faces, at home, in front of a mirror.

Monday, November 28, 2005

And they're off

By tomorrow we'll be into an election, timidly mind you, but an election. I watched the confidence vote tonight with two people who profess to generally dislike politics. Particular attention was paid to the caucus speeches that Martin and Harper gave. The feeling was the Martin made us uncomfortable with his attempts to seem youthful when trying to quiet his caucus. Delivery-wise his effectiveness is there, but limited--his emotion (and voice) only seems to have one volume. The report on Harper was similarly neutral. Hard to relate to but getting better on the anger thing--keep talking about hope, Steve, votes can't get enough of that.

I hope no one missed the shrewd tactic the CBC used to make sure no one saw anyone but Martin and Layton speak. Unlike CTV they were sure to get all but the die-hard flacks, hacks, and already decideds to switch the channel after Martin spoke by airing several minutes of Mansbridge and Boag (not this one) chit-chatting before going to a delayed Harper.

I was out of the room when Peter mentioned it so I'm not sure if I heard right but it sounds like the CBC intends to respect the sanctity of the season by not commissioning polls or reporting on them (unless they're newsmaking of course) until January. Well, here's a deal for you Peter, if you follow through on that I'll agree not to watch you guys (except hockey, of course) until...oh...you get off the public trough.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Face-licking and Heart Disease

I read an interesesting mini article in this month's Esquire about a theory on why African-Americans suffer a markedly higher rate of heart disease than African-Africans. The details were found boring by my test audience but suffice it to say that the qualities that make survival more possible on the Middle Passage make longevity less possible in modern America. If you want more check out the magazine.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

New Maclean's

I'm trying to avoid becoming too crotchety before my time and accept change but the new format for Maclean's just pisses me off.

The cover at first glance looks to have been generated by the type of web site where fourth graders can type in headlines about how their friends are nosepickers and their teachers smell. Coloured boxes for the highlighted stories? All of them with different border and text formats? Ugh, I have a headache.

Speaking of which those annoying in-story headlines that are intended to a. keep you from moving on before finishing the next story and b. help the production staff stretch out the physical size of an article (mainly b. though, trust me) are taken to a new height of absurdity. I suppose they are designed to look trendy like those in British tabloids but they only made the otherwise interesting feature on obtaining cell phone records over the internet, nearly unreadable. I mean seriously each word seems to be in a different size and colour.

A couple measly points must be granted though for giving the page numbers of articles on the cover. I hate having to flip through eighteen pages of Ralph Lauren ads to find the table of contents in most magazines.

What really cheeses me though is that Paul Wells is gone from the back page and the replacement is (though quite tragic) abysmal. Instead of Well's erudite and witty commentary--that follows in the tradition of Alan Fortheringham (who originally got me hooked on Macleans)--we get an obituary for a gentleman who died when he was swept out to sea while brazenly ignoring "Danger" signs and walking on Cape Spear. Seriously, I'm quite sorry for the loss his family suffered (his second wife, by the way, calls him "Daddy" we're told) but if this is the sort of human interest stories that they're going to put on my beloved backpage I'm done with Maclean's.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Forbes on Blogs

I saw the most recent issue of Forbes magazine today. They have a ridiculous--I mean head-in-the-sand laugh-out-loud--article about blogs (it's pay, sorry).

Basically the argument was:
1. The number of blogs is growing exponentially;
2. Some blogs are used to attack businesses;
3. Blogs are bad.

Apparently some bloggers who, for instance, install Lotus Notes by day got pissed off at some analyst that (rightfully) trashed Notes and used their blogs to rally support behind a campaign of extreme nuisance against said analyst. Obviously this is not the sort of activity that the medium was designed for but these people are in the vast vast minority--a distinction the article paid only very bried lip service to.

Forbes offers such ridiculous suggestions as companies paying bloggers to pump their company in any attempt to pre-empt negative bloggage. Seriously. No wonder Fortune kicks ass.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Jarhead

Saw it last night in a surprisingly full theatre. I was, quite frankly, disappointed.

The creators of this movie took on an uphill task by producing another film whose message is: “Once you create these killing machines you have to do something with them.” This is of course in the same vein as those great Vietnam movies Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Good Morning Vietnam. Definitely stiff competition. Blaming the fact that wars post-Vietnam all seem to suck (movie-wise) was a somewhat convincing defense until Blackhawk Down firmly changed that pattern.

The movie’s structural similarity to Full Metal Jacket (edgy, funny first half and surreal in-country second half) created a comparison that Jarhead could not hope to win.

Other than Jamie Foxx the acting is tinny or over-the-top and there is a total lack of plot. Jarhead is neither exciting nor compelling.

In other news, stay the hell away from The Pilot (a pub/sports bar on Cumberland just west of Yonge). We went there for a post-movie beer and found the place almost totally empty despite the Leafs game on just about every wall in the joint. I know it was Tuesday but other bars like the Duke or Hemingway’s have been pretty full on similar nights. Just as I was speculating on why this place could be so very unpopular one of my companions points to the ground with a look on his face that I know all too well. Sure enough ten metres away there was a vile, pestilent mouse.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Game

Well, I have been away for quite some time and I'm not sure this is the best way to make a comeback but what the heck.

The last two issues of Esquire have played up Neil Strauss's new book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists and because the early lead I got on the Freakonomics craze from here I have decided to try this book out. Once I finish the book I may devote a separate post to the content of the book (for those already champing at the bit the author does make an early effort to cast his exploits in a mature, moral light--jury's still out though) but for now the bizarre experience of buying this book will have to suffice.

Last night I walk into my local Chapters and take a look at the New Release wall--no luck. I head upstairs and query the useful computer terminal and it tells me to look in Community and Culture--Men's Studies. Some sort of pre-congition tells me that this section will be far from monstrous so I ask a staffperson (more on him later) to point the way. As confirmation of my earlier suspicion I find that the Men's Studies section, supposedly located between "Black Studies" and "Women's Studies" is about two books in breadth--both of which, judging from titles akin to Being a Black Man in Contemporary America may have belonged to the former neighbouring section. I guess seeing my confused expression and empty hands the aforementioned staffperson suddenly appears. This gentleman was more than helpful throughout this escape but I kid you not he looked like a normal-sized version of Hagrid from Harry Potter--shaggy hair, posture, beard, the whole nine yards.

So, I tell Hagrid what I'm looking for and he grumbles something about muggles looking for newly-released books and trundles off to the "Staff Only" stockroom. A couple minutes and a phone call later he has determined where the book is and very specifically directs me to the "New Release" wall that I checked on my way in. While I'm patiently re-scanning this display my shaggy new friend re-appears (and for someone of his stature he definitely has a knack for popping out of thin air) and adds his two beady eyes to the search. It turns out that the book was shelved in a different "New Releases" section--way to go Chapters, thanks Hagrid.

I have to say that the publishers have done a good job of producing something that looks like a manual for a secret society. We're talking black (fake) leather covers, embossed gold type on the spine and front, gilded page edges and a crimson ribbon for a bookmark. If nothing else, this book at least looks cool and seems well-suited for some subway reading.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Summer Hours

Between the nice weather and work I have found increasingly less time to post recently.

This may change, it may not. We'll see.

For anyone really in need of a deep political debate take a look at what Cherniak has to say about first-past-the-post and electoral reform.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The at least once list

With summer now in full-on hot mode I'm sure everyone is thinking about anything but politics. Seems like a good enough idea to me.

In the part of my life free of blogs and politics (well mostly) I have a couple of friends who maintain that one has not truly lived life to its fullest without, at least once, being totally and inexcusably hammered. They're talking about the kind of drunk where it seems perfectly reasonable to try and continue a conversation with a potential (longshot) bedmate after having vomitted down the front of one's tuxedo shirt or the sort of inebriation that leads rather normal individuals to pass-out face first into the birthday cakes of total strangers. This is not just the wearing of silly hats and dancing to Mexican music drunk.

In general this argument has a sort of appeal to me in a ying-yang way of not appreciating the good (being pleasantly under the gentle control of a few glasses of wine) without having seen the bad (see tuxedo story above). What I really want to explore though is: What else should be on the list of must-dos?

Candidates must be rather non-specific (i.e. "kissing a Roman brunette on the Spanish Steppes in May" would not make the cut) and as universal as possible. Over the next couple of weeks I'll consider this: What experiences are necessary, or at least desirable, to be able to say you have lead a rich life?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Rona Ambrose on Childcare

Macleans has this article on childcare that I'm sure most people have (like me) gone to from Paul Wells's page.

I'm waiting to see how the plan would accomplish directing more help to lower income families but so far it looks like an excellent idea. At first I thought that this debate was dividing along the tired lines of city vs. country with each of the two major parties playing to their respective strongholds. The Liberal plan would give a better programme to those living in centres with populations big enough to support centralised care while the Tory plan would allow for more flexibility for rural Canadians. Ms. Ambrose makes the interesting points that families from ethnic minorities (more likely to live in cities) seem to choose relatives as caregivers and therefore would benefit more from the Tory plan. Seems pretty accurate.

I'm wary about this idea of emphasising workplace daycare because I feel, quite strongly, that when very necessary auxillary benefits like childcare, and health benefits are attached to employment we see economic distortions because people are forced to hold onto their current job for dear life. It also makes retraining and continuing education more difficult.

That being said on balance this plan is much better than the piecemeal, government controlled idea that the Liberals have been driving for the last decade or so. As it is the public education system (especially at younger levels) is saddled with a desire to be (unsuccessfully) consistent instead of effective. Children (and their parents) have enough pressure to meet the social desires of government through education; there is no good reason to force them into similarly socialist society-building roles at an earlier age. Leave parents with a choice before this becomes another out-dated sacred cow that no one is ever allowed to consider changing.

This is one policy area where I quite wholeheartedly support the CPC position.

P.S. I tend to agree that Ms. Ambrose is a bright light in the party. I don't mean to objectify but she looked particularly fetching during QP yesterday when she was grilling the Liberal goalie on this issue.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Economic History Tidbit

Burkean Canuck has a very interesting article here on what could have developed, in 1995, into quite the crisis for the Canadian dollar.

I take two things from his article: The bonds of Commonwealth may have saved us from an economic disaster; and I'm not quite sure I'd give all the credit for the political pressure to the Reform Party.

Update: Note the "not" that has been inserted above.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Things you can't say in Canada

Things have been pretty slow around here lately so it must be shocking to have two posts in one day, oh well.

Margaret Wente had a particularly good article in the Canadian Reader's Digest about Canada's own sacred cows. (HT: Daifallah)

As I posted in Adam's comment section my addition is that I really really prefer fake maple syrup to the real stuff.

Right-wing Echo Chamber

When I start to feel too confident about Tory chances in the next election or forget why I never joined the Reform Party I turn to one website: Freedominion.ca.

The amount of vitriol and naked hatred expressed on the various forums of that site are truly unequalled. Before I get into further details I should note that there are a number of intelligent, tolerant posters and results of many forum polls indicate that there is a quieter more moderate faction of visitors--definitely a minority though.

First some general impressions:
1. The term "red Tory" to many fd posters means "communist spy in the Conservative Party". I kid you not--many of these people are still fighting the Cold War in their minds and the sneer when they so much as type the word "red" is palpable even through an online message board.

2. Almost without exception these people love those childish nicknames for their political enemies. You know: Fiberals, LIEberals, Libranos (or alternately with a "$"), etc. Frankly, I have a strict policy of ignoring any argument that resorts to such churlishness.

3. Victimisation and inferiority complexes flow like water on a flooded Alberta farm field (sorry bad choice of metaphor). If, like me, you thought that the existence of western separatists had the same logical support as the existence of the Easter bunny take a look at these forums (well, more for the existence than the logical support). A large number of the site;s visitors strongly feel that the western provinces would be better off on their own.

4. A curious contradiction: Jounalists and pundits who speculate about a hidden so-con CPC agenda are bigots; politicians from Ontario and eastwards are, by nature, corrupt.

Now some specific examples (I'm not sure how permanent these addresses so my apologies if links fail):

1. Racism: Some guy named Lenny says:
I think Morgantaler and his kind should go live in the third world. He could be busy 24/7 with abortions over there, where they truly need it.

Morgantaler would be doing them a favour...
2. Sexuality Intolerance: A couple of weeks ago a thread entitled "I'm a Homophobe" appeared and lasted for quite some time. This thread essentially comprised of people discussing both why they don't want to have any contact with homosexuals and why this isn't in fact a fear (phobia) but rather simple intolerance.

Now a thread called "Happy Pride" is drawing attention from the more reactionary posters. A snippet from ABC:
And the freak show continues. These are supposed to be well-balanced and mentally stable. Yeah, sure.
3. Anti-Quebec sentiment: in a thread called "One Nation, One Language" a poster named brianwalsh (a particularly offensive creature, btw) said:
Yes, english should be the official language of Canada.

Quebec should be allowed to do what they want and Ottawa has to deal with Quebec in French when needed.

I rarely can tolerate more than ten minutes worth of reading the dreck that spews from these forums without feeling sick. I am quite disappointed that bloggingtories.ca choses to feature a box that links to recent topics on their frontpage. Just another reason not to join that particular blogroll.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Light Summer Reading

I'm reading A Killing Joke by Mark Daniel right now and loving it. It's a mystery/thriller type book that is doing an excellent job of filling my books-that-don't-make-you-think quota for the summer.

The combination of unpredictable action and quirky English characters has, so far, made this the most entertaining book I've read in a long time. I never fail to be amazed at how much better the English (and the fictional characters they create) are at using the language we and the Americans share with them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Longest Yard

Saw the newest Adam Sandler movie last night. I admit that going in I wasn't expecting much. Maybe just the usual sacchrine sports movie mixed with some of Sandler's usual bathroom humour. Unfortunately this movie was totally, unabashedly horrible.

The Longest Yard had a headstart with me because I have become, for the most part, desensitized to the usual failings of the amateur sports genre. I spent many rainy summer days of childhood at the cottage watching such classics as The Sandlot, Angels in the Outfield, Little Giants, and The Mighty Ducks. (What was it about the early nineties that made these movies so popular?) I'm also a fan of the more adult-oriented sports movies like Rudy, Bull Durham, Tin Cup, and Field of Dreams. That all being said I simply hated The Longest Yard.

It managed to fail on all possible counts. It got the football part wrong. For instance, you'd think that with Michael Irving--a celebrated NFL receiver--starring in the movie he might have mentioned that so long as a play starts before the clock runs out it gets to be completed. The self-effacing humour (e.g. Burt Reynolds as the grizzled coach who ends up putting himself in for that big play) falls flat. Worst of all, Sandler more often plays the dopey, downtrodden chords of his repertoire (like we saw from him in Spanglish) than the over-the-top funny we got in The Wedding Singer, Happy Gilmore, or Big Daddy.

I hope that Michael Irving and Chris Berman both are razzing for their wooden performances as much as possible by their broadcast colleagues once football season starts.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Private Healthcare

I admit it, I'm a Canadian who considers himself well-informed on the topic of Canadian politics and yet I don't have a well-defined rapturously held view on the future of our healthcare system.

Here are the rather disconnected pieces of a conclusion that may at some point lead me to a more solidified opinion:

1. If someone can pay for healthcare and is willing to do so elsewhere (i.e. the US) than they should not be denied the opportunity to do so in Canada.

2. In the States it seems that, other than the insurance fiasco, quality of care is the biggest disparity between the services given to those who pay top dollar and those whose bill is footed by the government. The best way to avoid this is not by caring about who the payor is but by paying attention to who the payee is. In other words if the government maintains it's monopoly on healthcare infrastructure there will be no future situation where those unable to pay for healthcare will be able to look to the shiny, efficient, private clinics with justified indignation while they fend off drug dealers and hookers in the waiting rooms of public hospitals.

3. Directly connected to point (2) is my feeling that I care much more about protecting the (constitutional) right of citizens to be healthy than the potential right of potential private providers to make a profit. I know that it's fashionable to suspect governments and their employees of gross inefficiencies that can be solved by privatisation but I don't think this applies here. The public good will not be served by allowing private companies to offer the same health services now offered for free.

4. Instead the government should fill any and all excess capacity (I know there isn't much) with patients willing to pay for certain services. The profits from this should be immediately invested in increasing capacity. Also, the federal government should be given jurisdiction to coordinate this effort. It is better that someone in Winnipeg who is willing to pay for their MRI be sent to Calgary than to Cleveland.

Monday, June 06, 2005

I've Been Tagged

1. Number of books I Own

Probably somewhere between 300 and 400. As a kid I collected an entire (unfortunately for its value, slightly mismatched) set of the original Hardy Boy books. I've since added a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction to my library.

2. Last Book I Bought

I recently bought William Kaplan's second book that deals with the Airbus scandals: A Secret Trial, Brian Mulroney, Stevie Cameron And The Public Trust. I'm reading it right now and I definitely am finding it quite illuminating. I haven't read either Stevie Cameron's book or Kaplan's first book that is basically a response to Cameron. I understand though that in Secret Trial Kaplan takes a more balanced approach to the scandal.

3. Last Book I Read

I'm ashamed to admit that I decided to take a break from intelligence and read one of John Grisham's books--Runaway Jury. Oh God, it was absolutely horrible. I foolishly remembered Grisham's novels (like The Firm, Pelican Brief, and The Chamber) to be exciting, compelling, or suprising--if not challenging or enlightening. Runaway Jury was just boring and basically uneventful. I hear that the movie is even worse.

4. Five books that mean a lot to me

No Surrender; Reflections of a Happy Warrior in the Tory Crusade by Hugh Segal
More than any other book this inspired my current political affiliation. Segal is one of the biggest name politcians that I have had the opportunity to meet and talk to for more than a quick exchange of pleasantries. He's compelling both in person and through this book.

Rebel Angels by Roberston Davies opens my eyes to the bright side of CanLit. Throughout school no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't swallow the novels we were forced to read by the likes of Atwood, Munro, and Mowat. Either the male characters were total one-dimensional tools, everyone raised silver foxes, or there were more animals as characters than people and while this may constitute life in Canada for some I just couldn't believe that no one was writing about the vast number of interesting experience going on around me in a Canadian city. I suppose Fifth Business and The Manticore are better examples of Davies at his best but Rebel Angels earns bonus points because the first edition cover featured Trinity College's Episkopon Tower.

I have read almost everything Richler has published but Barney's Version is by far my favorite. I suppose I'm drawn to the fatalistic mischief that all of Richler's characters--no matter what their age--exude. Also, I can identify with the Jewish/WASP romantic entanglements with which Richler seems obsessed.

At one point in my life I could not get enough of historical accounts of First and Second World War battles. I read many of the the best such as All Quiet on the Western Front, Rise and FAll of the Third Reich, and A Bridge Too Far but the one that reasonates most with me is The Guns of Normandy by George Blackburn. This exhaustive account of the Canadian artillery as they valiantly supported the Allied push through northern France is unequalled. Well, maybe only by The Guns of Victory which is Blackburn's account of the rest of the road through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany for those brave Canadians.

One of my deepest interests, that I don't blog nearly enough about, is cooking. I'm fascinated by how a little effort and scientific thinking can so dramatically change the food we eat every day. The bible as far as scientific cooking goes has to be On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee. No one more completely dissects the principles of biology, chemistry, and physics at work in the kitchen.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Exclusive: Transcipts of Unedited Grewal Tapes

That's right folks I have a transcript of the unedited Grewal tapes. I got this, like, oh, two weeks ago but it was on a Mac disk and I was too lazy to convert it until now. I swear I have not in any way altered it and I think it would be best if I release what I have in ridiculously unrepresentative small portions.

I have taken the liberty of bolding the sections that seem to have been re-arranged to produce parts of the tapes released by Grewal.

UD: Well, Gurmant I thought I should have you over so that we can discuss how there is no offer on the table, never has been an offer, and never will be an offer.

GG: Uh, okay. Hey, Ujjal do you like my tie pin?

UD: Yeah sure, it's hella cool.

GG: Great, would you mind talking clearly and directly into it?

UD: Uhhhh, sure...

UD: Oh that must be the pizza, excuse me.

UD: Oh wow, it looks like the pizza delivery boy is Tim Murphy, the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff. What are you doing delivery pizza, Tim.

TM: Oh, hi, Ujjal, I'm just trying to pick up some extra cash on the side. That is a nice doormat you have there. It is a welcoming mat that has a lot of nice comfy fur on it.

UD: Yes, thank you. I'm sure rewards are there at some point, right. No one can forget such gestures but they require certain degree of deniability. Right, you understand things.

TM: Yes...deniability. Please don't tell the PM that I am moonlighting. The big guy would demand free pizza and you know how mad Sheila would be if she found out I was helping him cheat on his diet.

UD: Hey Tim, why don't you join us for some pizza. I was just talking to Gurmant here about how we can make absolutely no deals for him to cross the floor. [whispers] He seems to have reached a zen acceptance of this and seems to enjoy shooting the shit so what the hell, right?

TM: Yeah, sure.

[Eating noises heard in background]

UD: This is good pizza. You know who really likes pizza? Joe Volpe, Belinda Stronach, and Scott Brison.

GG: Hahaha...what a rascal Joe is. It is good that I don't think he libelled me with those accusations and I definitely will not be suing him.

TM: Yeah, it would definitely be inappropriate for us to ask the Ethics Commissioner to issue an interim report on your behalf, Gurmant. Well, I should get back to work now.

[to be continued...]


Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Polling: Updated Numbers

It has been about two weeks since I first posted moving averages of the national polls that have been released. I want to post now an update of the two moving averagers (7 poll and 15 poll) because things have changed quite significantly from my last post. These tables and charts are based on the polling data posted on Nodice.ca up to and including the poll for May 28, 2005 from Decima. For a more complete explanation of methodology please see my first post on this topic.

DateLib 7MACPC 7MANDP 7MABQ 7MA
April 11, 200535.8630.0317.3611.23
April 12, 2005 (3rd)31.5731.618.0711.66
April 23, 2005 (2nd)29.2334.717.9912.28
May 3, 2005 (2nd)31.3631.517.4313.14
May 11, 2005 (2nd)32.5130.7118.2713.31
May 17, 2005 (2nd)30.7131.1419.1412.57
May 19, 2005(1st)29.7232.4319.212.51
May 28, 200533.9629.918.7712.37
Note: The ordinals (e.g. 1st) listed above distinguish between two polls listed on Nodice.ca with the same date. Lower ordinals are further down the page.

And the 15-poll moving average:

DateLib 15MACPC 15MANDP 15MABQ 15MA
April 20, 200532.2432.1417.6911.69
April 29, 2005
29.31
33.4718.0312.43
May 17, 2005 (2nd)
31.37
31.218.2612.81
May 28, 200532.5230.3218.7512.79
Note: The ordinals (e.g. 1st) listed above distinguish between two polls listed on Nodice.ca with the same date. Lower ordinals are further down the page.

As promised for those who are graphically minded here are illustrations (click the images for larger versions):


Graph of seven poll moving averages. Posted by Hello

And the longer term representation:


Graph of 15 poll moving averages. Posted by Hello

Conclusions:
1. For both averages the Liberals have pulled ahead. In both cases their lead is not yet as significant as the Tory lead was at its height in April.
2. This point very well could be a turning point. If the Liberals solidify their lead and manage to break the 40 point barrier in an individual poll they will definitely have the momentum solidly behind them. Conversely if they cannot maintain their lead for more than four or five polls (the Tories led in 13 consecutive polls in April) the situation will remain volatile (both tactically and strategically) and the impetus for the CPC to force an election will not have been lifted.
3. I imagine that the summer recess will cause a sharp drop in polling frequency and unless an election call again becomes imminent (not likely) we will not have enough data to assess the permanence of this Liberal break-out until well into September or October.

Polling: My (Further) Analysis

It seems that my earlier post on polling in federal politics has attracted the attention of a commentor who apparently is Glen P. Robbins of ROBBINS SCE RESEARCH. In the comment section for that post he made some comments that have made me think some more about polling and my analysis. I will be posting, sometime today, an update of the moving averages I posted earlier along with some nifty graphs.

Mr. Robbins makes two points that I would like to deal with in this post. First he says:
We think the snapshot in time idea has outlived its usefullness, and often serves to be as much an apology as anything else. "Nailing" the numbers is important because we are measuring the relative values of art and science in a poll. The science is of course the statistics which can be as complex as one wants it to be. The art is understanding, or getting a sense of what is happening over a particular time in history.
I have to agree that in some cases the "snapshot in time" characterisation is what he claims--apologism for inaccuracy, or worse. The problem is that when a company like his conducts a poll before an election has even been called they can't possibly expect that poll's results to hold for an indefinite period of time. Perhaps, the compromise that I see is that as polls are conducted closer to the election day they should move (quite naturally) from being useful as a "snapshot in time" to a predicted outcome. I'm not really sure what he means in the last sentence where he talks about the art of polling. I view polls as a tool that represent themselves as scientific. If he is saying that they should be an end onto themselves and that hard data should be re-interpreted by either changing the methodology of asking the questions or of presenting the results I would have to strongly disagree. I may be confused as to what his point here is though.

His other interesting argument is:

One thing that has to be considered, and I present this as a critic of the current polling culture, is the relationship between the establishment, including government, and the media.

...

Accordingly, it is our contention that there are more pollsters who have had historical relationships with Liberal governments and if polls are inclined to lean towards one party over another, it would be the Liberals (the establishment party), than the Conservatives, or the N.D.P.

Between these two main points of the argument he makes specific claims about the biased nature of the media and the polls they comission. If you like, see the comment section of the post linked to above for his argument in toto.

Frankly, this argument that Conservatives (and others outside of government) have made popular is growing very tiresome. There may be a media bias against the CPC. Some reporters and commentators definitely display a flagrant bias. Polling companies may be complicit. The problem is that it is a foolish argument to make because it is not at all testable. I firmly believe that some reporters or commentators or even entire media outlets have a definite bias. The argument depends on a convulated, and circular path that goes something like this: 1. When in government the Liberals reward their friends (put aside the obvious Adscam corruption style of reward for now) in media; 2. This media helps the Liberals stay in power by pumping them while dumping the opposition; 3. The voting public, for whatever reason, does not perceive or is not critical of these biases; 4. This uncritical voting public re-elects Liberals and the cycle perpetuates. The counter is: 1. People generally agree with Liberal policies; 2. Media is just trying to sell more product by giving people what they want; 3. Governments are only trying to use the best tools available to communicate with the population about important programmes. This boils done to an unresolvable chicken or the egg problem. Which came first: People agreeing with Liberal policy or Liberals pre-disposing people to like their policy?

Furthermore, no one is willing to recognise that biases go both ways. For every right-winger who accuses the Toronto Star of bias there is a left-winger who says the same about the National Post. They are both wasting their time and energy arguing unproveable arguments.

It just seems like people making these sort of conspiracy arguments are refusing to "play by the rules". Whenever they lose an argument by being presented with data like an opinion poll they claim that data is biased. And then they claim that these biased polls create biased election results. My point is that both sides will cheat and it seems like people are more or less equally divided in their opinion between the Liberals and Tories and therefore the resources for cheating will be equally distributed. And that's why I feel that the averaged result of these polls will provide a clearer picture of where public opinion really lies.