Friday, September 30, 2011

Ammo Doesn't Spoil

It is considered 'in vogue' lately to joke about the zombie apocalypse, even permeating into the commercialization and marketing world, which is the absolute last place to accept anything new, for fear it might be 'controversial'.

But let us be honest, and make no mistake, the zombie apocalypse will not be zombie-fied.

A small town of 2,300 apparently had a large mob storm the hospital, intent on freeing one of their own who was inside after clashing his vehicle. The trouble started when two large parties got out of hand, and the entire police force of 20 officers was called to respond to the crowd of 70 - 80. Imagine a town like Edmonton; the officers would have the ability to arrest and detain every single person present. Situation contained. But in smaller towns like these, when enough people get together, it turns into a sort of 'mad max' situation. It's not like the officers can put everyone in the one to two cells most small communities boast.

Why should this matter at all?
Well, in this age of the Internet location is no longer king. The situation will likely develop until such time that the deciding factor in where a family settles is the company. When people can band together with their own kind, invariably we'll run into larger and larger mobs, relative to the town size that can accommodate it.

Moral of the story?

The 'zombie revolution' we're all joking about is just a public-consciousness prediction about the global revolution that is forthcoming when we return to a tribal lifestyle.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alberta's PC Leadership Debate - Global News

The three contenders for the leadership race duke it out live on Global TV. Again, in case you've forgotten, they are Doug Horner, Allison Redford, and Gary Mar.

So the format is similar to the last one; one minute opening statements, 20 second question, one minute to answer, 30  seconds to rebut, then open to full debate and closing. Typical stuff. I always find it is a shame that they never address the issues that really matter such as how long one should be permitted to cry after a devastating question. I do like the subtle hint from the host that he will suplex anyone who goes over their allotted time.

Opening volleys
Doug Horner: Guys, this is about leadership. I've already put up with Ralph Klein, I can totally wrangle this province into shape.

Gary Mar: Thanks for coming out folks. We're here to pick the province's leader, and that's me. We need to support kids, seniors, jobs and all that other crap. I'll be totally good with money, I promise. Vote for me.

Allison Redford: Our healthcare rocks, but I'm going to make it better. We're going to be smart about spending money for education and healthcare. I'm tough. Come with me if you want to live.

First Question: Gary Mar you support rich people buying better healthcare, why don't you just support a better healthcare system overall?
GM: We can improve our system, and I'm committed to that. In other parts of Canada, others have a better system and we could too. It's legitimate.

AR: If we want to commercialize healthcare, it will no longer be a private system. We need to improve the system without undermining it from within.

DH: This public/private debate is overshadowing the real issues. We need to start paying for the complexity of patients rather than the number thereof.

GM: Primary healthcare has worked really well; Doctors working with teams of people for better access, but the funding hasn't changed and we've been bleeding the system dry. We need to deal better with diverse issues.

DH: If we don't change the 'gatekeeper' mentality, it will always suffer. it shouldn't be just about doctors.

AR: If others were as good as Doctors, this would be enacted, rather than being constantly debated. We need family care clinics.

GM: family doctors already cover the majority, let's just add more doctors.

AR: The primary care networks suck. No one knows about them.

Question two: Mr. Horner, there are unanswered questions about how you've botched our current healthcare so badly, why are you not ordering an inquest about this?

DH: The system is good to those within it, the problem is getting in. It's outdated. The clinics are still private businesses. It's based on volume rather than quality. There is a fundamental problem.

GM: The quality council is great, they ensure transparency. Their mandate could be extended to deal with individual issues.

AR: I called for an inquiry. The council also had an option to be independent but it isn't.

DH: That's true. We should give them more power. We need to publicize the results of the RCMP investigation into queue jumping.

AR: An independent quality council would allow us to have an objective discussion about healthcare.

GM: If people wanted that, they had the opportunity to bring it up while they were in cabinet...

Third Question: Ms. Redford, after the education cuts, you promised more money, but the teachers want even more, would you give them that?

AR: Absolutely. Money is no object. If we just give teachers everything they want, everything will be better.

DH: Not this crap again. if we deal with the labor issues, then we just need more equipment and we're set. Our plan for success should dictate the budget.

GM: We're so awesome I would also give them money, and also plan budgets for the future.

AR: This needs to be urgent because our system is suffering and we could fix it immediately since we can't squander a whole year.

DH: We make decisions based on the percentage, we should be making them on our goals.

GM: Hey, you guys were there, why did you squander the opportunity to stop these cuts?

DH: So were you, eh?

GM: The point is that any money we give them would come from somewhere else. We just don't have it right now.

AR: We want change, however we have to do it.

DH: If you don't rearrange the money, it's just business as usual and that sucks.

AR: People want to know who they can trust. It's me, by the way.

DH: I wont change. I'm committed to that.

Fourth Question: Mr. Mar, A lot of people waffle on commitments. Didn't you say you'd reject the severance allowance, then take it?

GM: I just did what everyone does. I only said I would defer it, I never said I didn't want it. At least I told everyone when I took it.

AR: If I  said I wouldn't, I wouldn't.

DH: You said you would do something then did not follow through.

GM: I only said I would defer it, and I did defer it. Besides, I was entitled to it.

Announcer: Do you respect taxpayers money?

DH: Of course, I respect money too much to waste it.

AR: It's also about respecting the money. And Albertans.

GM: I agree. No one does not respect tax money, but the only money the government has is taxpayer's money.

Fifth question: The Oilers and the Flames; if they needed new arenas would you support that?

DH: That's municipal stuff. They can deal with that. We do support sports teams but we don't want to step on city toes. We trust them.

AR: That's true. They're important, but the municipalities need to stand on their own and make their own choices.

GM: I think Edmonton's arena is pretty cool. It'd be good for Calgary to have one too. We shouldn't give them money for it though.

AR: Seriously, that's municipal stuff. We can't go there. We just sling money at them and ignore them.

DH: The sustainability fund should filter out stupid requests, but we should loosen it's requirements so the cities can have more money. The arena is pretty good, isn't it? But, yah, that's city stuff.

GM: Totally city stuff.

Announcer lady: So what if the MSI is not big enough to cover something, would you add more to cover the loss?

DH: We've already said we would. We need to start re-evaluating the fund, maybe even sorting out the big cities for special treatment.

GM: I'm different. The current system is weird; we should just not take the education fund from the cities; we could just let them keep it.

AR: That's going to encourage inequality, and ignores the bigger discussion about goals for the province and cities.

GM: That's true some people would get less. They could just tax more.

DH: That's a terrible plan. The current funds work fine.

GM: The locally elected governments should just tax and use that money for stuff. It'll cut down on the bureaucratic expense.

Sixth question: Ms. Redford, have you dropped the ball regarding our international image with the Oilsands?

AR: It's the premier's job to get ahead of these issues. It started over three years ago. We have great standards and research but we need to tell people about these things.

DH: We make our living off the land. We need to be transparent and tell the world about our behaviour.

GM: Lots of the oil in the U.S is from Alberta, so they must like us. People actually DO support the oilsands, they just won't act like it. 

DH: It's not just the states. It's also about the rest of the world's market.

AR: Doug's right. Europe doesn't like us right now. Alberta needs to be proactive like the west.

GM: That's true. Even though we don't sell that much to Europe (Ahem.) but they might influence China.

Question seven: Mr. Mar, if you had to cut taxes, what would you cut to balance the budget?

GM: We want to be leaders; we should be fiscally responsible. We need plans. We don't need to cut anything, but nothing can require more money than it is getting right now.

AR: We've been too free with money. We need to follow our commitments. That will help us balance.

DH: We need to plan and be transparent. We need a bigger tax base.

GM: Few countries, except us, are truly self-sufficient. We have the world by the short and curlies because we produce food, we should abuse that.

AR: We should talk about what we 'want' and what we 'need'.

Announcer: Ms. Redford, who is number two on your ballot? (The answers to this question actually demonstrate everything I hate about political debate answers.)

AR: Why would I put a number two? I'm going to win. But I guess Mr. Horner because he sounds just like me.

GM: All six original candidates were so good; everyone is really cool. I'm not going to say who I'd pick for number two.

DH: Allison, you're really awesome, but I promised I wouldn't show favor. It SHOULD BE OBVIOUS who is my pick.

Closing statements.

AR: How we make decisions matters. We need trust to make change. We should be better; use our money to be better. Please vote.

GM: We'll listen and be a champion.

Here is where my connection died and reset the debate for the 14th time. I was not going to sit through the inane 15 second commercial they had at the start of the debate even one more time so I finally gave up. I am sorry, Mr. Horner, but your closing statement gets no air time.
Good luck everyone and don't forget to vote.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Historic Civil Disobedience isn't What it Used to be.

As everyone who reads the blog is familiar, I have a stance on the oilsands. The stance is this: Piss off. It's our damn oilsands and if we want to run them, or shut them down, or keep them open for the sole purpose of wearing bitumen on our heads like some sort of T-zone ruining crown, that's our damn right. I rankle every time someone from America shows up with a little sign and a song in their heart. I clench my fists every time some big shot director schedules in time away from making Pocahontas rip-offs to come down here and tell us 'hicks' what's-what. What is worst is every time I have to read some news article about how mean and bad we are for continuing to use resources that are well within out rights to use, as if anyone on the planet, ever, has deliberately NOT taken advantage of an extremely lucrative situation.

Alright, now that I have that out of the way, I'll admit, since the use of the oilsands causes environmental issues we should probably consider other people's opinions, but on our time, not when forced down our throats from the parliament lawn. Or so the media would like us to believe.

The CBC, who I had previously trusted, wrote this article about a protest on parliament hill that sounds formidable.  Phrases like, "Several hundred people flocked to the Hill" and "The event featured more than 20 environmental and indigenous organizations and boasts the support of a dozen Canadian celebrities." descriptions of protesters jumping barricades and pictures of a large crowd of security (police, RCMP, etc.) were interspersed with sound bites like, "Protest organizer and Greenpeace Canada spokesman Peter McHugh promoted the event as 'a historic mass act of civil disobedience over the tarsands,' ."

Did you get that? Historic.
Sounds like shit just got real.

However, since I was unable to wander over to Ottawa for the day, I checked out the webcam. (Well, to be precise, stole the screenshot from Small Dead Animals.)

The 'massive crowds' must have stepped away for a quick brunch, I guess. Just in case you think this was before or after the 'protest', this is Sept. 26th - 12:43pm, two and three quarter hours after the protest started. We had bigger crowds on Canada day. Keep in mind, of course, this includes reporters, security, and people off getting their lunches.

It seems we cannot even trust our own media to tell us the real story regarding the oilsands and the public support thereof.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Free Hats for URLs", says CIRA

The CIRA is taking an important first step into internationalizing the Internet for Canadians soon. Although currently accents are all considered the same domain, for example versus fą, this new policy will differentiate between these names, and allow them to be separately registered.

Some people are concerned this will lead to phishing, even though the CIRA has identified this problem and is already taking steps to prevent it. As some 'net savvy individuals have already pointed out, the URLs render in typable format, for example www.pàypà turns into, and insist people should be paying attention to the domains they type anyway.

The last objection raised is that people won't be able to type these alterations and so the sites will end up dead in the water. But those who have, presumably, the greatest interest, will be the most likely to have a french accented keyboard, and so will not notice the problem.

The process they plan for the launch includes a "Sunrise" period to allow existing registrants to register alterations of their domain name, and will run for 12 weeks until opening up to the "Landrush" period, in which domains are issued on a random basis. After this process ends they will be issued on a 'first come-first serve' basis.

It's an important step in acknowledging the fact that Canada actually does have two official languages, and helps the Internet become less Americanized. To be honest, though? I'm just excited about having a domain with Umlauts in it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coffee and Tobacco; Complete Repose

I was first made aware of the disparity in attention to questionable substances in my first year of university. My psychology professor went off the rails discussing how he could not understand why people go to a party to drink a depressant (alcohol), he capped it of by triumphantly slamming the board with his hand and hollering,
"Have a damn coffee!"

The idea has stayed with me ever since, and has recently risen to prominence in the media again.
Bill C - 10, known as the crime omni-bus, is proposing to increase the maximum sentence for production of marijuana from 7 years to 14 years. That means someone growing a plant in their basement could serve 2/3rds of the time that Anders Behring Brevik (The mass murderer in Norway) will serve. It also means that marijuana production convictions can no longer be given an absolute or conditional discharge, which is considered beneficial in cases where the public is not at risk. This change is simply because the maximum sentence is now 14 years. The cases themselves have not changed one tiny bit, but the courts are now forced to see and respond to them differently.

Compare this to the minor developments surrounding cigarettes. Despite being highly addictive and dangerous to one's health, they are still widely available. The only substantial differences to their control has been the prohibition of smoking in public buildings and the restriction on advertising. There has been no change to the actual product or people's view of it, just change to the way the non-smoking public is presented with it. 

In another case energy drinks are becoming more highly controlled. Instead of energy drinks they will be labelled "Stimulant drug containing drinks", include a warning about cardiac irregularity, and may move to be sold only in pharmacies.  This in the face of drinks that are typically about the equivalent to a tall coffee or two cans of cola. Coffee and espresso drinks, of course, will not need such warnings, despite the fact that it is the same stimulant and since it is normalized, it is easier to overdose on. 

Compare these restrictions and developments to recent developments made against alcohol, despite the abysmal drunk driving record Canada holds, or to issues surrounding the obesity epidemic, where I have never seen a label warning people about the dangers of the high sugar or calorie content in a food.  These dangers have become 'normalized' in our society and so to introduce changes would be seen as unusual despite the fact that we know more about them now than we did before. Changes are good, apparently, just so long as they don't interfere with 'NORMAL' people; let the delinquents suffer, we have our rye.

The title, "Coffee and tobacco are complete repose" is a Turkish proverb.

Monday, September 19, 2011

PC First Ballot Results

It is not often that I will argue in favor of streamlining procedures - there's something about bogging everything down in nonsensical garbage that appeals to my inner procrastinator - but the PC leadership vote is definitely one of those times.

Since the top candidate, Gary Mar (Gary. Mar.) failed to garner at least 50% of the vote there will be a second vote on October 1st to decide between the top three; Mr. Mar, Ms. Redford, and Mr. Horner. What I don't understand is why they did not simply include the option for a second choice. I have no math to support it, but I suspect that it could have made enough of a difference to save us the multiple election obnoxiousness.

In fact, if I were to put my Paranoid Pants on for a moment, I would even suggest that the process was intended to favor one candidate over another...

I have tried to maintain a non-partisan stance for this blog but in the face of this development, I will cast aside the veil. Mr. Mar's campaign is running on two strengths: selling memberships ("My job is very clear over the next two weeks, I've got to get out there and sell more memberships and our team is going to do that.") and appealing to emotions (Albertans working on Albertans). This stance completely benefits from the extra two weeks to sell memberships (His volunteers were even accused of selling memberships illegal) and the sad fact is that people who are motivated by emotions, rather than rationality, are more motivated to get out and vote multiple times and more motivated to push their views on other people (passion begets passion). I can make no secret of the fact that his rude treatment of the debate announcer bothered me.

Ms. Redford, the next most likely candidate, is running a campaign based on intelligence, something I suspect even the other candidates know; there were several points where Ms. Redford silenced the room just by speaking, a privilege the other candidates were not afforded. She was the most effective at deliberately answering questions put to her, although I suspect this will not help her in the campaign since actually answering questions in politics is 'not done'. The two weeks will be useful for her to get out and start knocking on doors to sway folks over, but will make it hard to maintain her original voting base, since the brain does not motivate people to get on out and vote with the same intensity as emotions do. To be honest, she is my choice of candidate, and perhaps the threat that she may not win might be enough to push people like me to the voting booth.

In my opinion, the difference between these candidates is who we want to become. So far the "Angry Albertan take-back-what's-ours" stance has not served us very well, and I think Mr. Mar is promising more of the same, but using more people and money to do it. As Ms. Redford has said, "We're going to keep talking to every one of our supporters and make sure people know change is possible." In essence, she's the candidate we deserve, but not the candidate we want.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CBC's PC Leadership debate: Part 2

Despite heavy opposition from the weather, gorgeous blue skies and just a hint of breeze, I managed to push through the next section. Just remember that; I stared at old guys in suits, rather than work on my tan, just for you.

Ted Morton's question: How will you make sure we Albertans get our fair share of the oil revenue?

We need to control our environment in the north. Growth is the key. We will do so through the land stewardship act.

DG: It's not fair -We need the right balance, jobs, environment, and help.

RO: It's not the stewardship act - that can control the revenue too much. Development needs to come through repeal of bill 36 and proper infrastructure.

TM: We need improved activity in the north, since we're global now. Bill 36 must be good because industry supports it.

AR:  It's ultimately about community and programs, we need to manage these better so we feel proud and successful, regardless of our actual share.

(Gary mar talks over the announcer) That's not it - it's about being competitive. We need to undo the royalty change that happened four years ago (was boo-ed at this point)

Doug Horner's question: How will you make sure government is open, transparent and accountable?

These issues are critical so we can engage our citizens. It is not our job to have great ideas, but to lead and let citizens have great ideas. We can't do it without you or without showing you what we're doing. Not just in finances, but also decision making.

DG: There is a tendency to withhold info, and lead the people to the decisions we want them to make.

GM: We're already open on electronic tools, town hall meetings. We should use live streaming.

DH: Connection should be in person too, a live dialogue.

RO: Why haven't we been open? 4 members here, who have previous been in, will uphold the status quo, if you want that.

AR: We need a long term policy plan; there must be dialogue. I will hold cabinet ministers accountable to conversation with the public.

TM: I plan to strengthen the auditor general to reduce government waste and scandal.

(Was reminded by the announcer the question was about openness, reminding him he had been in the news lately for reason similar)
TM: That wasn't me, that was Frederick Lee (his legal name).
AN: (laughs)
TM: I am working with the privacy minister, on the case about internal communication. I have email.

Announcer asks the people who have been on cabinet, "Are emails shredded when you resign?"

AR: The next day after resigning the accounts have been closed. I never considered it before.

DH: It's true, the emails are either transferred to the new person or deleted. Relevant ones may be saved.

TM: how do you shred email?

AN: We know what they mean.

TM: All emails are achieved. Every thing's documented. It would be illegal, a FOIP issue, to wander out with confidential paperwork.

RO: I just want to know why were there confidential emails and a pseudonym? I think you were disenfranchising metis people about their rights.

TM: I was repeating legal advice, the same you get from a lawyer.

Allison Redford's question: Why, in a wealthy province like ours, are our class sizes expanding and we are reducing the number of teachers. What are you going to do about it?

Eliminate the cut. Classrooms matter. Why are we making these decisions based on a fiscal imperative, rather than our values?

DH: We need to change our view; need to budget for the outcome that we want. Not a cap. Teachers need to be honored, and given resources. (applause)

RO: So why were the members not making this argument when they were making policy? Don't sign contracts you can't uphold.

DH: That's what I'm saying. You voted for it too.

RO: You were deputy premier!

DH: That's why I hate this!

GM: We end up like this because we don't have adequate long term planning.  (talks over announcer) It seems like terrible planning.

TM: I proposed a $2000 tuition credit for post-secondary students.

Next Question to Rick Orman: This week we welcomed 6000 students who could predict their tuition thanks to the tuition freeze. Will you maintain this freeze as premier?

I can't say if we will or not, but I know that institutions need funding. I plan to give them a long-term funding structure so they can stabilize.
GM: Absolutely I would, I will also look at student financing. No more parental income requirement. Look at housing situation.

DG: I would totally get rid of it, it just limits the money that goes to post-secondary institutions. I would rather give students more loans then offset their income tax.

DH: Students need the money upfront, and the cap is reasonable. We could allow the students to take part in this decision. I agree with RO, which surprises me, it's not just about tuition. We could use digital textbooks to save money and such.

AR: We need the cap to establish predictability for students. We do need incentives to keep graduates here but we need predictability more.

Friday will wrap up the whole debate, with some single question directed at individual candidates that all are invited to answer. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CBC's PC Leadership debate: Part 1

After having burned out for a week, trying to get back into the swing of writing posts, while resuming classes and working a double shift, was pretty arduous. In fact, I did not really believe I would even get one out. But then I started to watch the debate. Bless the candidate's little hearts, they have motivated me to write. They were hilarious to watch; squabbling, talking over each other, ignoring the moderator, and failing to answer the question in the best tradition of politicians everywhere. To be frank they (*wipes away tear*) taught me to believe in politics again.

In case it isn't painfully obvious I have abbreviated the candidates' names to their initials for brevity. The announcer even dipped in so far that I felt the need to give her the title AN, since she becomes rather involved. So the actors are; Doug Griffiths: DG, Doug Horner: DH, Gary Mar: GM, Rick Orman: RO, Ted Morton: TM, Allison Redford: AR, and the announcer: AN.

The phrase, "Tories at forty" feels wrong for some reason that I can't put my finger on, but we don't dwell on it long since CBC leaps right into the questions with a blisteringly pandering query, "Why should you be the next premier?" The candidates are afforded one minute each.

RO: Talks about the two levels of leadership experience he carries: business and government. He believes that people will value his experience. He also says he can identify good ideas, make discussions about them, implement them, and communicate the outcome, which could prove to be tautological; if he doesn't win, obviously running was not a good idea to implement.

GM:  He also talks about his experience as various ministers but also pledges to be a champion for Alberta and have a passion for the province.Also his family has been here for a hell of a long time, before 1905 when we were still part of the NWT, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

DG: plays on his youth by saying he understands the youth vote and will be someone the province can rally behind to leave something for the next generation. I don't want to be mean, but 38 is only a 'youth' in politics. If you attempt to claim youth outside that arena, people will look at you funny.

TM: Gets a bit off track after saying the next 40 years should be as good as the last 40, then discussing how we are leading Canada's economy, but comes to roost talking about how the north is the new frontier.

DH: He plans to shake things up by redefining the party by the existing principles, (is that really redefining?)but he wants to unify for decision-making, improve our presence on the global stage, invest for the future with energy and healthcare to make a make a province people stay in, because as we know emigration is killing us.

AR: Back to business as usual, talking about her experience, while saying she wants a good province to raise her family in.

People were invited to write in with questions. Each candidate drew a question at random, then had forty-five seconds to answer it before it was opened for panel discussion. Gary Mar picked the first question: Should Albertans be given more opportunity to pay for faster healthcare?
He responded that he is a strong supporter of our healthcare and is strongly in favor of a public system but we can find other delivery methods. He wants to restrict care locally and mentions Albertans working on Albertans, a point that only works if there is no one present to call you out on your bigotry.
AR: No, what Albertans want is care for all people equally.
GM: So you won't allow people who want to pay, and have been doing so, to continue?
DH: We should never focus on a private system without a solid public system in place first.
TM: Sure, but we can still have a private system that's publicly paid.
DG: We need to make some real substantial change.
DH: We need to explore other delivery methods - emails etc. without focusing on 'in person' treatment.
GM: We do need a strong public system, but there are other options. This could be a resource to use.
DH: There are better ways to do that (rather than private) We should open to other types of healthcare professionals, such as nurses, etc.
TM: We could keep the public system but allow more private delivery, why not?
(I was discussing this question with Victor when he wondered what a 'publically paid private system' would be. He settled on the idea that everyone would pay it but only rich people would get it.)

Doug Griffith answered the next question: How will you make sure there are enough public, long-term care beds for seniors?
He says it's a matter of priorities; 'there are other opportunities but this is long term care. It is important to do this rather than leave people in hospital beds.' which is not really an answer, but if I started to expect actual answers from politicians I'd be lying in bed clutching my wubbie after two days.
RO: Long term care facilities are expensive to build. So we would use old government lands like inner city schools to build facilities..
GM: There will be more seniors in the future. We need to commit to better senior care now like home care, etc.
AR: The practical problem is defining service and support. We need a better healthcare model. moving people less. We need to have the authority to 'rein in' Alberta healthcare (She received a second round of applause here - did she bring her own audience section?)
TM: We need to let seniors stay home by allowing a property tax deferral.

I was hoping to  include more questions, since this is scarcely a quarter of the way into the debate, but the next question revolves around the Land Stewardship act, and so I want to do some reading up before writing on it. I'll be back Wednesday, when a member of the panel gets booed.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: Everyone's Surprised!

I found this video at some point in the day, liked it so much that I copy and pasted it into a new blog post, then got so distracted by the rest of the day that I have forgotten what it was. So I figured I would just post it anyway and then we could all be surprised. 

Friday, September 02, 2011

Doug Griffiths: The Average Award-winning Teacher

When I first found his site, oddly the second link rather than the first on google, I had to double check that it was not the home shopping channel, since the top right said "6 easy steps to help" and included the number 1-855-GO-GRIFF. Then I noticed he had only three policy sections and I decided I didn't care if it was his site or not, I was using it anyway.

He presents his theories in three short videos, and includes this gem at the top,  
"If you have heard him speak at one of his hundreds of community building events, you will likely understand his values and principles clearly"
It places the burden of finding and understanding his policies on the reader, rather than on him, the onus to present them.

Community Development Policy
I'm not sure I agree with his opening sally that success globally doesn't matter if each of our communities is not successful, sometimes it can be the other way around. He wants to focus on four pillars to build strong communities; Education, healthcare, economic development, and quality of life. he talks about balancing our weaknesses amongst each other, but that's not a plan for a community; humans can't care about an entire huge community in the same way they care for their close family. There's a really pandering moment where he pauses in his speech, delivered while sitting on a back porch, to tousle the hair of a chubby cheeked little boy drinking a glass of juice. I had to stop for a minute to check for my insulin shot. I was going to base this post simply on the strengths of his video, but since the only information I could glean was, "strong communities are good, mmkay?" I simply have to crack open his policy document and have a gander.

All right so, he wants to clearly define each government's responsibilities, give healthcare and education power to the municipalities, encourage communities to work together, and find a way to stop paying municipalities. I'm not sure why this man wants to be elected to the provincial council if he is going to dissolve it all. At least he points out his criteria for success; too bad it's 'bigger communities'.

Fiscal Responsibilities
While nonchalantly checking his mail, he lets us know that provinces need to know where money is coming from, and where it's going. Dude, it's coming from the people, and going to ... the people. That wasn't so hard.
He tells us that we take in 12 Billion in taxes, but spend 39 billion elsewhere (healthcare taking 15 billion of that). He makes it seem like this is a dire situation, then says we rely on things like property taxes and fuel taxes and, since we take money from the federal government, we rely on other people. The two options he feels we have, then, are to 'blow up' the programs or to leave things the way they are (I must confess, I favor this option). He calls the other payment options (property taxes etc.) are 'good fortune', but I don't understand why he feels this is different from personal and corporate taxes. This is, though, the first time a candidate has focused on how much money we get from the federal government, rather than banging the table about how much we give them.

So the policy manual breaks this down into: refilling the heritage savings fund, fund non-essential services with service fees and donations, talking to Albertans about the province's money, not making drastic changes with the spending vs. revenue dynamic, reforming the corporate tax structure to keep it the same, reducing welfare programs, and getting Albertans to solve their own problems. That last one is my favorite; we are such a bunch of big babies about not doing our own healthcare. One further thing I want to point out is that he advocates spending money on infrastructure during recessions, which I fully support but tends to be unpopular since it looks bad (see. Obama's stimulus package).

Education Policy
I love being in the homestretch after only three sections.
He points out that during his tenure as a teacher no-one ever said that Alberta spends too much on education; shame he never learned about sampling bias. The whole education = good video is topped off with some off-putting finger shaking at the end. It's really unsettling.

The same old tune, not even brushed up; Support teachers, meet educational needs, stable funding.
He does suggest rewarding good behaviour for teachers, and opening community schools, to encourage a bit of spice. His ideas about revamping the CALM (career and life management) course, establishing mobile shops, and fostering other curriculum delivery methods seem to suggest he might be better suited as minister for education, rather than premier. 

Anyway, that's all for Mr. Doug Griffiths, which is pretty concise. To be honest, since everyone is saying the same thing with only minor variations, the vote should be pretty tame and will likely come down to who has the most friends. I can't wait.

Oh my goodness. Hold the phone. I just found his section titled, "Why Doug?" which, if you insert a comma, sounds like a heart-filled plea. In this section he includes all the reasons we should vote for him, entwined with compelling pictures of himself in rolled up sleeves and clip-on microphones. "No sales pitches or hype" he says, "100% Volunteer" (yes, but is it from concentrate?), and "Father of two young kids". I have to go apologize to Mr. Canadian Pun'd it because I think I was just suckered into reading some guy's dating profile.
See you all next week! Don't forget; September 17th!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Doug Horner Throws in One More, FOR FREE: Part Two

When I lunged into the second half, with renewed vigor, I got completely derailed by one word that took me a half an hour to recover from: Mavericks. I kid you not, he says the people of Alberta are mavericks. I'm not sure if I want to make a Palin joke or a Top Gun joke, either way poor word usage.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship
The first policy actually grabbed me right from the start: Teaching entrepreneurship to kids in the K-12 system. I really like this idea as, typically, starting a business seems quite daunting without instruction, and so those who would like to start one tend to wait until age tempers them. This with his mentorship program, venture funding program, and increased funding for engineering programs, could turn out to be highly successful at boosting the innovation in our province. The only part that confused me was the plan to "liberate the latent intellectual property that resides in universities to the free market for adoption and commercialization". Does he genuinely think that if there was some easy way to extract money from anything in the university, that the university wouldn't have exploited it already? Or is he talking about kidnapping professors?

Expanding Population
He provides a bevy of interesting immigration policies, that run the range of good to bad. Programs to encourage successful immigration are good, negotiating directly with the federal government for a tailor-made immigration program could be good or bad, and funding an Alberta equivalency program in foreign countries so that people can graduate directly with Alberta approved education is downright terrible. The cost would be significant, while the result would be either negligible interest or the burden of providing equivalent education for anyone who wanted to work anywhere in Canada. The only way it would be effective is for doctors, since we are so desperate it would be worth it almost regardless of cost. 

Brand Stewardship
This whole section reads like a mash-up of a kid's third grade introduction and that time a down-and-out day trader slept on your couch for a month, even though you tried to help him find work with your sister's former roommate as a receptionist. It waffles between throwing our 'stories' in the world's face and asking them for help with our problems and networking, with a soupcon of redecorating our foreign offices thrown in. I think the best approach right now, considering our negative press, might be to just lay low and negotiate directly with business partners, ie. people who don't give a crap about how 'nice' we are, they just really want to get paid.

Building Capacity
The main goal stated in this building capacity section is to promote development of government officials and other people who work in the public sector. He plans to remove 'self-imposed restrictions' such as hiring freezes, but even though I am not familiar with all the various reasons for the freezes, I am pretty sure they serve some purpose. Aw, who am I kidding? The man said the golden words, " Enhance Alberta’s post-secondary programs focused on public policy and provide opportunities for meaningful employment in public organizations". He could have drooled the rest of the section into a Mondrian of phlegm and I'd still like it.

Excellence in the Arts
I am unsure what occurred recently, but the over-emphasis on courting the hippie-liberal vote has me standing amazed and stupefied. Sometimes it makes me so proud to be an Albertan I can almost overlook the bumper sticker I saw the other day that read, "My truck was built with wrenches, not chopsticks". (True story. I even had my collapsible chopsticks a foot away; I could have grabbed them and given her the finger and she would have known EXACTLY why I was pissed, but I was at work and apparently that kind of behaviour is 'unprofessional'. TL;dr Being a grow'd up still sucks.) Stable funding for the arts foundation for three years, connect businesses with the arts, encourage community arts; it's like a dream! Oh, be still my fluttering heart.

Direct Communication
There are three sections he promises within this section, I'll disseminate them in order of least to most funniest. The least funniest, of course, being his plan to pass down an itemized priority list so everyone is on the same page vis a vi the gameplan for the province. It's a good idea to put everyone on the same cloud nine, but the problem is less that people don't know, and more that they disagree on the order of priorities. The second funniest is that he plans to tell everyone of all the decisions that were made and the reasoning behind them. This back and forth, informing everyone of all moves, is going to bog down the process worse than a pound of butter in a vegan. The funniest point is that he plans to say what he'll do, and do what he'll say but, of course, in order to believe that, we first must believe that he'll do what he says, ie. doing what he says he'll do. It's delightfully intrinsic.

Empowering Seniors
To be honest, I'd be surprised if most seniors managed to make it this far in his policy program - I aged about fifty years just reading this saga. He aims to separate seniors care from healthcare, which would be a sensible move that I believe would empower seniors but would also cost millions in taxes, let alone the millions required to boost the blue cross healthcare provided and force seniors to take advantage of every service they are eligible for (Note: that is not hyperbole. That is his policy). The mentoring and couple's housing are great ideas, but there is simply too much money required for a sector that never returns a profit (and, to be honest, should not be expected to)

Principled Governance
I suspect that this man might be just rehashing the same thing over and over: This whole section consists of communication, openness, and opportunities. The same principles brought up in the direct communication section. Perhaps he has two different campaign managers?

Structural Effectiveness
Let me break this down really nicely:
1. Make departments work together.
2. Find out what these 'Inter-tubes' are.
3. Run thought experiments in case of zombie apocalypse.
4. Make the provinces work together.

Top 100 Employees
It may be just my waning patience, but the final section reminds me most of a kindergarten class: Ideas, community, healthy environment, progress, and being a role model.

More glurg and sugar everywhere, but to be honest there are some good ideas underneath this candy-coating. I would like to actually meet Mr. Horner in person to get a better idea of his personality, especially when he promises to "Do what he says and says what he does". A noble idea that stronger people have lost in the face of the furnace that is provincial politics.