Friday, September 10, 2021

Nuance, a political rant

Imagine a strip of paper, purest white. As white as white can be, through and through. Look at one end of the strip, either end, take your pick. As you travel along the strip you notice a faint grey dot, then another. As you travel along the dots gradually get bigger and darker. It isn't just an ink stain on the white paper, the paper itself is that colour. Then you realize it isn't just grey but actually black, and there's more and more of it. Then you realize its white dots getting smaller and fainter, till the paper is as black as black can get, through and through.

What colour is this strip? You could label one end white and the other black.
Or, yes and no.
Or, us and them.
Or, for and against.
Or, left and right.
You get the idea.

Mostly it's shades of grey, and that's mostly what the real world is like. There are few cases where it's absolutely one or the other. Typically making a rule based on such extreme cases makes for a bad rule for the rest of the world. 

When you hear someone arguing for that absolute position, your first thought ought to be they are a demagogue trying to recruit followers into their cult. They are trying to get you to take a simplistic view of the world to enhance their own position. Don't fall for it. The world is more complicated than a tweet. There is always nuance.

Then we come to politicians. These guys are masters at spinning and simplifying a situation to gain votes, and that's the best view of it. Often what they say are outright fabrications and lies designed to push your buttons and suspend thought. Their purpose is much like the priesthood; to get and keep a job where all they have to do is talk, and hang in long enough to reap that sweet pension. The rule is to recruit your base and pander shamelessly to them. It's that or get a real job. Look at Jason Kenney, he is a perfect example of this. He left Jesuit school because they weren't hard-core enough on abortion for him. He's never had a real job.

That brings us to the current Canadian elections. For me in Alberta just now, that's a federal election and a civic election. Let's start with the federal, just because.

You need to know my riding is one of the safest Conservative seats in Canada. Stephen Harper (Remember him, former Prime Minister?) was my MP. Not that we got anything out of it. Never saw him here, though for a while I worked down the hall from his brother.

There are 7 candidates.
Bob Benzen, Conservative, incumbent (Duh! I don't know how he lucked into this.)
Scott Forsyth, Liberal
Kathleen Johnson, NDP
Malka Labell, Green
Bailey Berdard, PPC
Mark Dejewski, Rhino, (yes, really)
Annelise Freeman, Maverick
I'm actually a little surprised we don't have a Libertarian candidate running. They'd be sure to get a few votes here.

Now, it would be extraordinary, country-wide headline news if Benzen didn't win. That is certainly the way to bet. He could rape a sheep on the steps of City Hall and not lose a vote. Why? Alberta loves beef. (You only think I'm joking.) He could lose a third of his votes to PPC and Maverick and still win. Not that he's ever shown up here.

There's lots of people here who can't pronounce Liberal (capital L or lower case) without spitting. They flat out don't believe the Liberals under Chretien/Martin not only balanced the budget but produced a surplus to pay down the debt for 10 years running. Don't ask how they feel about Trudeau unless you're wearing a hazmat suit.

I'm not a big fan of the left / right political model (see above). Traditionally the Conservatives are considered centre right, the Liberals centre left, the NDP left (ranging from overlapping the Liberal position out to whackadoodle left territory. Those are the main parties, two big ones and one smaller one. While the NDP say they want to form government, their best outcome is to hold the balance of power in a minority government, like they have since the last election.

The Greens take an environmental approach. They currently hold 2 seats and have internal troubles. They may not get elected again. I've voted for them in the past because there was a subsidy paid to all parties based on the number of votes they got. I almost wish parties weren't allowed to accept contributions, and got paid for the number of votes they get. Their position is a little harder to map left to right, but most place them in the Liberal to NDP area.

PPC stands for People's Party of Canada, which sounds like many Communist states, but these guys think that the Conservatives are much too far left. The leader is Max Bernier, a disaffected former Conservative. His nickname is Mad Max, and he is anti-mask, anti-vaccine, anti-immigration, and a climate change denier. I'm not sure if that's the party's official position, but it might as well be. One of his party posted and deleted a tweet saying Trudeau should be assassinated. That person is still a candidate.

Maverick is really a provincial party, and this is their first election. They aim to emulate the Bloc Quebecois, touting western separatism to try to gain power. These people cannot count. Even if all 29 candidates get elected (as if!) That's 29 seats out of 308. They say they want the best for western Canada without any consideration of, or to appease voters in the rest of Canada. On a parallel track they want to pursue separation from Canada. That does not sound like a good negotiating position. The best analogy I can think of is a child threatening to hold it's breath till it turns blue or explodes. These people are breathing a different kind of air than the rest of us. A seat for them is one fewer for the Conservatives and is essentially a vote for the Liberals. Any of them that do get elected will be the lepers of the House. In followup news, they booked our community association hall the night of our Board meeting. Nobody showed up.

The Rhinos are a joke party, the closest thing we have to None Of The Above. 

Those are my choices, like it or not. Now, I'm not thrilled about any of them for one reason or another. I think the Liberal as a person would be the least damaging. He's educated (a doctor by profession) and a professional photographer, which makes him my kind of person. As a Liberal though, I'm not best pleased with them. Trudeau bailed on a promise to reform our electoral system by bringing in some form of proportional representation. The rumour is that both Liberals and Conservatives know they would never hold majority power under any form of proportional representation. He also handed out billions of dollars to Canadians in the form of CERB and related programs as a GIFT not a LOAN to be repaid when possible. He's also had problematic relations with some of his female ministers.

Benzen is a nothing personally, just a spouter of the party platform, a reliable vote. The Conservatives are straying from centre right off towards right wing whackadoodle territory to placate their Trump-sniffing base. Look at what Jason Kenney has done to Alberta, and that's what you'll get if the Conservatives gain power. Them and their buddies get the gold mine, the rest of us get the shaft, to quote an old song. 

Federally, the goal is to form a majority government, that is, to gain 170 seats. Because of how voters and seats are distributed it's not only possible to gain that seat count with less than 40% of the overall votes, it's happened several times. Vote splitting and huge vote surpluses for Conservatives in Alberta are the biggest culprits. Once a candidate has one more vote than their closest rival, they are in, and every further vote is a waste. Proportional representation tries to fix this in various ways, but this is not about that.

So, for example, it's theoretically possible in my riding for the Conservative, PPC, and Maverick party to split the right wing votes, have some bleed off to Rhino, and NDP voters hold their nose to vote for the Liberal, and he sneaks up the middle to win with about 30% of the vote. Highly unlikely, even more so than hell freezing over, but theoretically possible. I'd love to see it happen, mainly to see Conservatives totally lose their shit. Just about everybody that loses an election in Canada blames vote splitting. 

And no, as I write this I don't know who I'm going to vote for. My usual tactic of voting against only goes so far. I've got a couple weeks to think about it. 

I did the CBC vote compass thing. I ended up kind of between the Liberals and Greens, which isn't a big surprise. But lots of the poll questions are more than a little dubious. One in particular caught my eye, referencing Indigenous influence on resource development, should there be less or more? Well, it depends on if the proposed development is on treaty or otherwise un-ceded land. Which, to be honest, describes at least most of Western Canada.

This post has been brewing (festering) for several days. Today was the first day for advance voting, and we went and did so. There were always about 30 people in line, and things stalled a little while for an undisclosed reason, but we got it done. And so should you.

If you are eligible to vote, get your butt out there and do it! 

Whoever you vote for, I don't care, though I'm generally in favour of voting the rascals out. And the diaper rule, don't forget that. One term is usually enough. Hold your nose if you must. If politicians get the idea we aren't going to vote them out, we'll get even worse behaviour.

At the municipal level there are 3 candidates for councillor.
Diane Colley-Urquhart, incumbent. 
Dan McLean
Jay Unsworth

I've met all three in person, and chatted with them. DCU has been our councillor for about 20 years, and my personal opinion is that it's time for her to retire. I have not yet seen a lawn sign for her.

DM is a UCP (the current provincial conservative government) shill. He's part of a movement to "Take Back City Hall.) I really dislike that slogan, as it implies that his group used to control it, and should again. He has a ton of signs up, and if you go by that, will win. Sigh.

JU sounds like a change candidate and says council should work for the citizens. I need to look into his platform in more detail, but he seems like a plausible vote. He has lots of signs up, but not so many as DM.

I shake my head. Last I looked there are 27 candidates for mayor. 27. The incumbent is not running, and probably just as well. I'm not going to list and discuss them here. There's a few with name recognition, both for good and bad. Some are former councillors, with a reputation for good and bad depending on how you look at things. Most candidates are riff-raff, running with no relevant experience, no relevant education, and essentially no platform other than their bleat about their issue. Maybe they think adding mayor candidate to their resume is a good thing. One of them has pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and been found guilty of contempt of court in Ontario. One of them runs for every elected office and is a religious lunatic. Such is life in the modern world.

I will have to go through the plausible looking ones, but that's probably a dozen or so. I'll almost certainly need to shower after.

There isn't a related photo today, even though I've been photographically busy having fun.

Of the Day






Owl, but first a serendipity bird from 2017. No idea what it is, or where I was at the time.

Random trip photo
This was shot near the Carmangay railway bridge. The opposite sides of coulees can be interesting, especially when something is in it. Even more so if it's old, semi-destroyed, or unfathomable somehow. None of us had any idea what that really was. At first I thought it was a canoe but the scale is all wrong.
You can tell me what you think it is, if you like, but there are no prizes. 


  1. Great rant and I loved the pics too!

  2. Grant rant and now nearly 3 weeks later we are back where we began. I can only hope that politicians actually go back to work instead of posturing. A man can dream can't he? Cheers, Sean


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