Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Guest Blogger: A Third Face for Ukraine?

Ruslan Tracz's internship at the Kyiv Post could not have come at a more propitious moment for an up-and-coming Canadian journalist. Tracz has been freelancing coverage of the aftermath of the fraudulent election in Ukraine to the Winnipeg Free Press, where his articles were on the front page all weekend. Now the pride of the 'Peg's Ukrainian community, Tracz is also working on a photography exhibit for when he returns in April. Here is his analysis of the situation a week into the Orange Revolution, as e-mailed to me last night and posted with his permission. The photo's his too.

Well, we've now entered week two of the Orange Revolution and it seems the crowds have dissipated somewhat from downtown Kyiv. That being said, there are still hundreds of thousands people roaming downtown Kyiv. The protestors meander from Independence Square up to the Cabinet Minister's building and Verkhovna Rada and to the Presidential administration - all of which is in a 5 block radius.

Met up with a group of Victor Yanukovych supporters over the weekend. Despite all the falsifications and corruption of the election, many people in fact did support the Prime Minister, but not the 15 million that the CEC reported.

"Who will be president it doesn't matter," said a Yanukovych supporter outside of the train station Nov. 29, who did not identify himself, but was from Dnipro'petrovsk, south of Kyiv.

"We need a third face, one that will stand for Ukraine. Not Yushchenko, not Yanukovych."

After talking with him for a long time outside, he offered to buy some coffee. This being Ukraine, I accepted and followed him into the train station. Expecting coffee, I was surprised to see that he carried a bottle of Cognac to the table and began pouring. He did make an interesting point though.

Who would that third face be?

Yesterday, Yanukovych's campaign manager and head of the national bank Serhiy Tihipko stepped down from both positions. Tihipko - too close to Yanukovych. [Yulia] Tymoshenko - too close to Yuschenko. The Speaker of the Rada [Parliament], Vladimir Litvin has definitely impressed me. He has conducted himself with poise, honour and has acted for the good of the country. He takes his job with the utmost respect and honour and refuses for anyone to dishonour the Rada, scolding both sides on as many levels as possible in an emergency meeting of the Rada. But there is no indication that he even wants the job of president. Who knows, but it's an interesting comment. With the country so divided maybe a third face is necessary.

Looks like there will be a third round [of elections] though, Kuchma spoke about it yesterday. Right now they are having a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister in the Rada. Although it would mean very little legally, a vote of no confidence would clearly show the winds of change blowing. (play Scorpions song here)

What else?

Rumours continue to swirl about Russian troops dressed as Ukrainian military walking the streets of Kyiv and guarding inside the Presidential administration. But besides, the Prime Minister in waiting, Yulia Tymoshenko's word and a few reports of Ukrainian troops with Moscow accents looking lost in downtown Kyiv - it's best to leave this as a rumour.

The situation hangs in uncertainty right now and it seems as though the crowd is conserving energy as they await the Supreme Court, the Rada and both camps to make the next move.

Since this was written, the Rada voted down the vote of no confidence and the standoff continues. Latest from the NYT.
Did you hear the one about JFK's assassination?
Perhaps you've heard of this JFK Reloaded video game that is causing such an uproar. Yes, you are Oswald and you too can assassinate Kennedy or, as Colby Cosh has suggested, shoot that "god-damned Halston pillbox right off Jackie's head." In a controversial recent post, Cosh noted too that:
If you like, you can just let the motorcade drive on past and shed a single tear for Camelot. Isn't it worth ten bucks to go back and add a happy ending to the story?

Naturally that's not what I did, but I'm kind of morbid. Moreover I was trained (sort of) as a historian, and with every round you play -- indeed, with every bullet --you can spin off bizarre new timelines in the American story. You can let the President's car go by and take leisurely aim at the Vice-President -- which, I suspect, is what Oswald would do now if he had it all to do over -- or if you're in the mood for a thorough shake-up you can try to bag both, and elevate Congressman John W. McCormack of Massachusetts to the nation's highest office.
Naturally, making light of JFK's assassination is not taken well in some quarters. Take Warren Kinsella, who foams:
A game in which you get to murder John F. Kennedy (or George W. Bush, for that matter) isn't even remotely "funny." That is so obvious it barely merits saying.

What isn't obvious is why the columnist in question is still employed by a reputable Canadian newspaper. If I ran it, he'd be gone, and pretty damn quick, too.
I find Kinsella's moral outrage a little over-the-top, especially considering he is a punk rock fan. Is he similarly perturbed by the insensitivity of a little band called the Dead Kennedys?

I've got to defend Cosh, here. I really appreciate how he has stepped out and admitted what so few journalists do: that we have a particular fondness for gallows humour. The fact is that people are always making jokes about the most horrible things in any newsroom. And when newspapers run articles about how people are "outraged" about something insensitive, it's usually something that the staffers were hypocritically chuckling about earlier in the day. It's a sensibility that comes with any occupation that has you constantly thinking about tragedy, I imagine... (Oh, who am I kidding? I'm an arts reporter.)

Like many other people I know, I am fascinated with the Kennedy Assassination and, in particular, the Zapruder video of it that has become so famous. A couple of years ago, I directed a production of Wendy MacLeod's The House of Yes, which was also made into a movie starring Parker Posey. (Named best play of the year by the McGill Tribune -- the rival paper of the McGill Daily, where I worked. Oh, yeah.) The play -- a dramatic comedy! -- includes a pair of incestuous twins named Jackie-O and Marty, who reenact the Kennedy assassination as foreplay.

Of course, these characters are very screwed-up and the play is not meant to condone their actions. What I found interesting -- and continue to find interesting -- about the play is what it has to say about our image-obsessed society. After you've seen the Zapruder video over and over -- and who hasn't? -- it loses all sense of context and meaning. Does anyone really feel pain or astonishment or loss when they see it now? It is as connected to these feelings as porn is to love. (Like it or not, the images of the Twin Towers collapsing are headed this same direction.)

And, on the other extreme, the image has become fetishized for a lot of people -- all of Camelot has been. For some, Kennedy's assassination is like a secular version of the crucifixion. Warhol was pretty much following in the footsteps of the many artists who have painted the Passion of Christ and the events leading to it when he created Jackie (The Week that Was), a silkscreen made from pictures of Jackie Kennedy taken before and immediately after the assassination.

Recent artists have tried to break down and/or reignite the power of iconic images by subjecting them to ridicule or humiliation. You want to scandalize a conservative, exhibit the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung. You want to scandalize a liberal, paint a picture the Kennedy Assassination nude (like Italian artist Gabriele Di Matteo did, see above).

You want to do take the assassination out of the world of the iconic and make it a real event again -- with actual causes and effects -- in a different, more substantial way? Write a musical about Lee Harvey Oswald and assassins through the ages.

Anyway, for Kinsella, Kennedy's assassination is tragedy. I understand his reaction to jokes about it. For Cosh, it's tragedy plus distance or time, a.k.a. comedy. I understand that too, and more directly. It's a generational and occupational thing, I suppose.

In truth, when I heard about JFK Reloaded, I too thought it was funny -- morbid funny. I didn't laugh a loud, sustained, maniacal laugh, but I did chuckle and wince -- the way I did at "doing a Lynndie." . And, as a student of American history, I found Cosh's counterfactual investigations as explored through the game quite interesting. Sorry.

In any case, I'm glad Kinsella's not my editor or I'd get fired pronto.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Journalism Monday!

The Internet: More BlogIdealism... But this time it's in French! Le Devoir's Michel Dumais looks at Les Blogues and sees Le Futur. More BlogPessimism... Live Journal user hires two ex boyfriends to kill her mom. Murder Most Blog?

The Newspapers: Ottawa going through a journalist's trash? What kind of a Topsy-Turvy world are we living in?

The TeleVision: In Ukraine, a sign-language interpreter rebels. (This is last week's news, but I keep telling it to people vocally, so I thought I should perhaps also yell it bloggally.)

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Quote of the weekend

"What an old snob you are."

- Mark Starowicz, executive producer of The Greatest Canadian, to The Globe and Mail's John Allemang, after Allemang asked him why Mary Walsh appeared in only a towel in one scene from the much-maligned CBC series.

P.S. How annoying is it that The Globe and Mail site has different names for different sections from its print edition? Why "Entertainment" instead of "Review"? Very difficult to find what you're looking for, especially since the "search" function doesn't work well.

Speaking of...

An hour ago, I went and cast my vote for Lester B. Pearson, after a friend in Ottawa reminded me to vote via MSN. She, a biologist, voted for Suzuki -- as did the Sierra Club of Canada. Her boyfriend voted for Gretzky. Colby Cosh voted for Don Cherry. The University of Western Ontario, the Canadian Diabetes Association and the City of London supported Banting, and Terry Fox Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, B.C., supported John A. Macdonald.

Just kidding, the school is supporting Fox; the mayor of Kingston, however, sent out a press release last month endorsing Macdonald. Jack Layton and the NDP supported Douglas. As I just found out by googling "Nestruck" and "Greatest Canadian" looking for the piece I wrote about the show, my father is apparently supporting Trudeau.

Alexander Graham Bell? Well, not so many people are voting for eugenics-lovin' Bell, currently dead last in the standings. Even Branfort, Ontario -- The Telephone City -- is splitting its support between Bell and hometown hero Gretsky. Oh, some guy on the Royal Canadian Legion website voted for Bell, sure, but that's about it...

At the Pierre Berton Award dinner on Thursday, which I covered for the Post's Review and Books section, Starowicz told me that Douglas didn't have a sure lock on the top place. He said that there was a surprising push for Banting -- probably coming from the 2 million Canadians who live with diabetes.

I haven't had luck predicting ANY election results in the past year, so I think I'll keep my predictions of the winner to myself.

Oh, what the hell, I suspect Douglas is going to ride it out. But I'm not entering any more friggin' office pools...

Friday, November 26, 2004

Another inspiring media story.

Veronica Khokhlova. One week she's a freelancer with an obscure Ukrainian blog and a web site full of pictures of her cats. The next she's writing an op-ed for the New York Times and being reprinted in The Guardian.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the blogging story of the year.
Journalists reporting news.

Until yesterday, people in the West were getting more information about what was going on in the Ukraine than Ukrainians themselves. Then the government's control over nationwide television broke, AFP reports:
The pro-government private channel 1+1 said in a statement yesterday that it decided to begin providing "objective information" after having halted news broadcasts since Monday when journalists refused to operate under censorship.

The first reports of the mass opposition rallies in the country were aired in the dawn hours of today.

The channel is controlled by the powerful head of the presidential administration, Viktor Medvedtchuk.

Television stations which broadcast nationwide have provided extensive positive coverage of Mr Yanukovich, the declared winner of the election, while giving scant and negative attention to opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.
Despite nervous headlines like "Ukraine on brink of civil war" all week, a peaceful orange revolution really does seem to be happening in Ukraine. Just hours after Putin -- in a real tactical mistake -- told a news conference that, "From my perspective all issues concerning the elections ... should be addressed in accordance with the constitution. All claims should go to the court," the Ukrainian Supreme Court blocked Yanykovych's inauguration and ruled that the election results were not official until they heard Yushchenko's appeal. Now, there is much negotiation going on.

All very hope-inspiring, I must say.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

We are all Ukrainians...

Yesterday, Prime Minister Anne McLellan stood up in the House of Commons and announced:
Considering the allegations of serious and significant electoral fraud from international and Canadian election observers, the government of Canada cannot accept that the announced results by the central election commission reflect the true, democratic will of the Ukrainian people.
Canada rejects the announced final results.
Later that day, CTV reports, "MPs held an emergency debate during which they unanimously agreed to denounce the election outcome. According to the parliamentary secretary to the Foreign Affairs minister, Dan McTeague, that rare show of parliamentary solidarity underscores Canadians' concerns."
As David Mader wrote yesterday, "Hear, hear! It has been a long time since this government made me proud." Absolutely! I too was proud that Canada was the second country (after the U.S.) to reject the results.
I am also heartened by the determination of Yushchenko's supporters, not only to keep fighting, but to keep the struggle non-violent. The next steps they are taking are a nationwide strike and a Supreme Court challenge to the fraudulent election results.
Not much constructive happened at the EU-Russia summit, though, notably, Putin said, "From my perspective all issues concerning the elections ... should be addressed in accordance with the constitution. All claims should go to the court." That is a tad more flexible than his previous reaction to the election debacle, which was basically to repeatedly call Viktor Yanukovych and congratulate him... The courts are perhaps the key to overturning the results without Russia losing too much face.

A couple other quick things:

-- Novelist Andrei Kurkov has a comment piece in the Guardian today.

-- The Kyiv Post has smartened up and made its web site available to the world for free.

-- I spilt yoghurt on my bright orange sweater yesterday, leaving me with no clean clothing of an orange hue – or so I thought. This morning I triumphantly pulled an orange t-shirt out of the drawer that I didn’t realise was there. It doesn't match anything, but what the heck. Where's NDP paraphenalia when you need it?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Revolution will be blogged...

Everything is changing in Ukraine every few hours, so for up-to-date information GoogleNews is a better resource than this blog could ever be. One advantage of GoogleNews is that Russian news sources come up too -- as you can imagine they have a different perspective on things. Here's BBC's round-up of what the Ukrainian and Russian papers are saying, by the by.

I also encourage you to check out Maidan, which is described as "An Internet Hub for Civil Resistance to Authoritarianism in Ukraine." It is bloggesque in design and has its own XML feed. Neeka's Backlog continues to be a fascinating read and I wish she posted more often. The Periscope is frequently updated with new news, too, with one of their contributors in Lviv translating local news furiously. Colorado Congressman Bob Schaffer, who had been in Kyiv as an election observer, was updating the Denver Post via his Blackberry, but is now trying to get a flight out to make it home for Thanksgiving. [Hat tip: Maderblog.]

The Canadian Embassy in Kyiv has a good list of Ukrainian media sources. Infoukes has an excellent list of sources too, including a link to the disputed electoral map that shows the, uh, yellow states versus the browny-orange states...

As far as I can tell, things are remaining upbeat. The rumours of riot police beating protestors and Russian army tanks converging on Kyiv seem to be just that: rumours. Again, people on the ground in and around Maidan Nezalezhnosti -- Independence Square -- or elsewhere seem to be optimistic. I just heard Andrew Robinson, the Canadian Ambassor to Ukraine, on CBC Radio saying, "The mood is positive, not one of violence or antagonism."

What I would like to read more about is what is going on in the mainly pro-government East, but most Western journalists are stationed in Kyiv covering the gigantic demonstration. That, understandably, is where all the attention is right now.
Back in my day, you had to walk 10 miles through the snow barefoot to find the nearest convenience store...

The American Senate Commerce Committee's Science, Technology and Space Subcommittee is hearing testimony about how Internet porn is the New Crack, Wired reports. Some of the most intelligent minds in the U.S. –- thinking men like Jeffrey "Cracking the Bible Code" Satinover, who bills himself as a psychiatrist and advisor to the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality –- are testifying to the addictive nature of porn:
"Pornography really does, unlike other addictions, biologically cause direct release of the most perfect addictive substance," Satinover said. "That is, it causes masturbation, which causes release of the naturally occurring opioids. It does what heroin can't do, in effect."
The unfortunately-named Republican Senator from Kansas, Sam Brownback, expressed astonishment at what he was hearing and said it was the most disturbing subcommittee he’d ever chaired. He also said that, back in his day, masturbating to pornography was a lot tougher than it is for kids today: “[S]ome guy would sneak a magazine in somewhere and show some of us, but you had to find him at the right time.”
I saw Kinsey this weekend and thought, "Boy, how far we've come..." I guess not so far after all.
But what about the theatre?

Just a reminder that my posts about Toronto theatre are now to be found over at Torontoist. You can find the archive of my theatre posts here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

"This is a wonderful time here in Kyiv."

Sorry to go All Ukraine, All the Time here at On the Fence, but I’m just finding the actions of Yushchenko's orange-clad supporters truly inspiring. I was just a wee lad when the Berlin Wall started to come down, you see, so I'm just starting to feel the excitement now that the last bricks are being pulled away...

I don’t want to be too optimistic, but as the peaceful crowd soars to 200,000 people I’m crossing my fingers that the will of the people will be honoured and the crooked election results overturned. Here in the West a lot of people have been jumping to conclusions about inevitable bloodshed, but what I’m hearing from people on the ground is very hopeful.

Neeka’s Backlog is turning into the Salam Pax of Ukraine, with some riveting personal reporting from her residence near Independence Square where the protestors are massed. While she sounded scared last night, she is very positive today: “You should've seen the crowd walking past our windows, along Khreshchatyk and towards the Central Election Commission... This is a wonderful time here in Kyiv.”

My friend Ruslan Tracz, a young Manitoban who is currently interning at the English-language Kyiv Post, sounds like he’s having a wonderful time, but, of course, he’s a journalist and they have a weird sense of wonderful. He sent me a quick update while I was sleeping:
Bunch of cities across the country; ivano-frankivsk, vinnytsia, lviv, have gone against the CEC ruling and have stated that Yuschenko is now president. Kyiv city council has asked parliament not to accept the CEC results - ie. vote of no-confidence in the Central Election Committee.
On the main drag in the city a tent city has been erected - also in a symbol of solidarity around the main monument in independence square, a tent for each oblast, or region.
Unfortunately, most of the Kyiv Post original content seems to be for subscribers only. Though it has nothing to do with the election, you can read Ruslan’s interview with the man who started the first Avis Rent-a-Car franchise in Estonia in 1992, then expanded to Belarus, Lithuania, and finally Ukraine. It’s actually an interesting read as "Westernization and Liberalization of a former Soviet Republic as Seen Through the Eyes of Avis."

So, yes, I’m feeling like the situation is hopeful, albeit tenuously so. One of the few frustrations from my vantage point is that a lot of left-leaning bloggers have been looking at the situation in Ukraine through the distorted prism of anti-American or anti-Bush sentiment. Posts like this -- just one of a dozen similar ones I’ve come across -- point out the "irony" that President George W. Bush’s envoy has condemned the electoral fraud and is threatening to reevaluate the U.S.’s relationship with Ukraine if voting irregularities are not dealt with. Because, you see, Bush stole the election in the United States... Sigh.

And more radical commentators – those who clearly don’t have a clue – aren’t just pointing out the "irony," but seeing this as old-fashioned neoimperialistic interference by the West. This article on CMAQ, the Centre des médias alternatifs du Québec, is particularly foul. This is how messed up their worldview is: Their headline on their story about a sketchy election in Ukraine is “Republicans Cry ‘Election Fraud’ in Ukraine.” Yeah, Republicans… and Democrats, and Canadians and the Baltic States and the entire E.U.

I don’t think I realised until today how insidious the conspiracy theories about electoral fraud in the United States were. Until now, I mostly thought they were harmless sore-loser grumblings.

The fact is, the Bush administration is doing the right thing in regards to Ukraine, (Yes, I know, Bush foreign policy that I support unequivocally… What is the world coming to?) while someone like Putin has outright interfered by calling Viktor Yanukovych the winner before the results were even official. All these snarky insinuations about Bush give a misleading impression of equivalence...

UPDATE: Yushchenko declares victory, is symbolically sworn in as President.
Clearly Canadian reactions to the situation in Ukraine: Compare and Contrast

"The preliminary reports that you're referring to are certainly disturbing. And if they are found by the OSCE to be accurate, then clearly I think that the international community will want to examine its options."
-- Prime Minister Paul Martin, yesterday, during his official visit in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

"It's quite clear to me that Viktor Yushchenko is, in fact, president of Ukraine."
-- Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, international observer, on stage at Independence Square in front of 10,000 to 100,000 protestors yesterday.

[Both quotes taken from reportage by The Globe's Mark MacKinnon, who is having a very eventful last few days in his Eastern Europe assignment.]

Monday, November 22, 2004

Blogging from Independence Square

Einsodernull is keeping track of some of the Ukrainian bloggers writing in English. There's:

-- Blog de Connard, an American in Kiev or Kyiv or however you want to spell it, has been down to Independence Square and taking pictures of the peaceful pro-Yushchenko protest there.

-- Neeka's Backlog has been down there too and says that reports are saying that he protestors number close to 100,000 now.

-- Obdymok seems to be writing right from Independence Square, but I'm not sure...

-- Windowglass has put up a "STATEMENT OF THE UKRAINIAN DIASPORA ON THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN UKRAINE," declaring that the Ukrainian World Congress and Ukrainian Canadian Congress recognize Victor Yushchenko as the rightful President.

-- Sue and Not U isn't actually in Ukraine, but she was an observer in the first round of the elections and has lots of interesting reportage on abuses she witnessed first hand.
Why I'm wearing orange today...

A divisive Presidential election between two contenders with two very different views on where the country should be headed, especially in terms of foreign policy. Exit polls show the opposition candidate will win by a comfortable margin. After the votes are in, however, the continuity candidate is declared the winner. Allegations of electoral fraud abound.

Unlike in the U.S., however, the allegations in Ukraine have serious substance. The OSCE is saying the vote was fixed and two Canadian MPs -- Conservative Peter Goldring from Edmonton East and Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj from Etobicoke Centre -- who have been there monitoring the election are alleging "systemic and massive fraud" in favour of the pro-Russia Prime Minister Viktor Yanykovych:
"One particular location, when we checked the documentation on it, it appeared that 50 signatures in a row were done in the same hand. Well, those sorts of things indicate, when it happens in multiple locations, it's systemic," said Borys Wrezesnwskyj. [Sic.]

"This is a poor showing and of great concern, not only to many Ukrainians, but also to many of the democratic countries of the world, too. Everybody is watching this," said Peter Goldring.
There may still be hope however for pro-Europe challenger Viktor Yushchenko:
Tens of thousands of demonstrators contesting the tally brought the city centre to a halt, pitching tents in the middle of Khreshchatyk, Kiev's tree-lined main thoroughfare.

Yushchenko addressed the crowd, saying he had no confidence in officials conducting the count.

"Remain where you are," he told the 50,000-strong gathering in Independence Square on Monday. "From all parts of Ukraine, on carts, cars, planes and trains tens of thousands of people are on their way here. Our action is only beginning.

Supporters braved sub-zero temperatures in orange scarves, sweaters and headbands -- the colour of his campaign. Banners with the candidate's portrait hung from buildings and a bridge.
I have high hopes that the truth will win out. Perhaps we'll see a repeat of Georgia's Rose Revolution... Good luck to the demonstrators! I'm wearing Orange today to support them.

Kudos to The Globe and Mail's Mark MacKinnon who has doing an awesome job of covering the election for Canadians. Here's his report today and an excellent backgrounder from Saturday's paper. (That's his piece on the aftermath of the Rose Revolution, too.)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Gag

I realise this is a somewhat self-centred reaction to the blockbuster news in the New York Daily News today that Alfonso Gagliano is a made man in the Bonnano crime family, but what really bugs me isn't so much that we had a mob associate as our minister of Public Works and ambassador to Denamrk, but rather that it was an American journalist who broke this story... Sigh.

Anyway, is it too late for Peter MacKay to take his apology back?

Gag II

And she's out! I think CP got it right: "Parrish's cardinal sin appears to have less to do with her repeated, undiplomatic outbursts against the George W. Bush White House than her comments on the prime minister himself."

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Helmet Hair: An International Perspective

What, I wonder, does Andrew Coyne think about the Australian debate over mandatory helmet laws... for jackaroos. The issue arose after a 23-year-old jackaroo died from a head injury after falling off his horse while rounding up cattle in 2001:
The jackaroo mates who found Daniel Croker's body still do not wear helmets when they ride a horse. But his parents hope one day everyone will wear one, whether riding a bike or a horse.

And any farmer whose jackaroos don't don a hard hat might think again after Mr Croker's boss was fined $96,250 for safety breaches yesterday.
Certainly, it should be mandatory for underage jackaroos to wear them, but adult jackaroos -- they can make up their own mind about whether to wear a helmet or not...
Forcing them to wear helmets could lead to a jackaroo shortage, of course, because the primary reason jackaroos enter the trade is to wear broad-brimmed Akubra hats, which are hip, but provide little protection to the cranium. And imagine what effect a jackaroo shortage would have on the nation, and the world. A world without jackaroos: Now that's a scary thought.

Poor, deluded Mr. Croker, whose son would be 26 this year, is more worried about safety than looking cool:
"I think we can still have that fantasy of romantic, wild west-type attitude but with safety added on," Neil Croker said.
Bah! What has become of Australians? How did they contract this morbid aversion to risk? When did they turn into such wusses?

[Previously on On the Fence: Helmet hair sucks, but what can you do?]
Coming to Terms with Bush: Time to Drop the Conspiracy Theories

I was cleaning up my room yesterday evening – don’t gasp Mom, it’s true – when I came across this article about 9/11 conspiracizing that I had put aside from the New York Times last week. Here’s the bit I wanted to post:
A Zogby poll of New Yorkers' opinions about the 9/11 investigation, released last month, indicated that 49 percent of New York City residents and 41 percent of New York state residents believed that some federal officials "knew in advance that attacks were planned on or around September 11, 2001, and that they consciously failed to act."
Okay, now the reason I put this stat aside was I wanted you, the reader, to compare and contrast it with a statistic that I heard repeated ad nauseum in the run-up to the election: “72% of Bush supporters continued to hold to the view that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%).”
And then, for good measure, I wanted to throw this statistic at you, too: 11% of Americans think that the American moon landing was faked.
Do you see what I’m getting at here? Americans of all political stripes – like people of all political stripes in all other nations – are misinformed, unsure about facts, believe in the tooth fairy, etc. And this especially seems to come out when they are quizzed by pollsters.
If the Democrats or the Left or the Anybody But Bushies want to win power in the States, they need to look at their supporters’ delusions, not just mock those on the other side. Conspiracy theories that are currently sapping energy and credibility from this side include: The War in Iraq is All About Oil, and The Republicans Stole the Election with the Help of Diebold.
And then there’s the idea that “moral values” was the deciding factor in Bush’s election, the Jesusland Theory. While subsequent analysis has proven that this had little or nothing to do with Bush’s win – see previous post in my CTTWB series – folks are clinging to this argument and it’s being repeated as fact all over the place by people who should know better.
For those of us concerned with some semblance of the truth -- rather than simply wanting to make ourselves feel superior -– the perpetuation of this myth is a problem. It’s also a liability. If the Democrats want to get elected to the Presidency again, they’re going to have to study the real reasons why they lost instead of simply calling the other side stupid and misinformed…

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Annals of Bad Website Design, Part XVII

This satanic elf does not make me want to go see the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. If I were five, it would make me cry.
Introducing... Torontoist.

All the cool kids are talking about it.

Yes, Jake Dobkin's -Ist empire of blogs (Gothamist was the first) has spawned a Hogtown subsidiary with the somewhat awkward title of Torontoist. Run by some fab folks like Sarah Lazarovic and Joshua Errett, it will also feature the occasional post by yours truly. As some of your longer-term readers of On the Fence know, I used to post fairly frequently about local theatre... But then -- through a series of readership surveys -- I determined that what the consumers of OTF (not to be confused with the late ODB) really wanted was my spurious opinions about Canadian and American politics...

In any case, from henceforth you should be able to find those posts about theatre over at the Torontoist, a fine e-publication that I urge you to check out.

Monday, November 15, 2004

More Wire Bashing!

Bourque is linking -- tongue firmly planted in cheek, I think -- to this AP story today, AP's leader says Internet represents the future of news:
LOS ANGELES -- The future of news is online, and traditional media outlets must learn to tailor their products for consumers who demand instant, personalized information, the head of The Associated Press said Friday.
The growth of high-speed broadband connections is leading to a future in which computers are always on "and so are the users," Tom Curley, president and chief executive officer of the world's largest news organization, told the Online News Association conference in Hollywood.
Ignore for the moment, the inherent metaridiculousness of a news story about the wire service that has generated said news story. Instead, focus on the head-shaking ridiculousness that AP's president and CEO has only figured this out now. (If you like, you can also chuckle at the fact that most people who read this story today will be reading it online.)

It never ceases to amaze me how far the media CEOs of the world are behind the journalists they employ and those who consume their product. The future is a good four years ago, Mr. Curley.
Cyberlibel Chill

This story should have a pretty chilling effect on Canada's blogging community:
An Ontario judge has awarded an archeologist $125,000 in damages after a native man used e-mails to smear her as a “grave robber.”

The archeologist's lawyer is calling the ruling a precedent-setting one in the emerging field of Internet libel, a notion that may eventually have a chilling effect on the freewheeling ways computer users send messages.
Earlier this fall, Warren Kinsella caused a minor ruckus when he demanded that a couple of bloggers take down insults about him. He threatened to take these bloggers to court and, since he is a lawyer, it was pretty clear that he could and would.

While Kinsella's actions were justified, it pissed off a lot of bloggers. I can understand. Somebody that I wrote about unfavorably last summer threatened to sue me for libel. Even though I knew what I had written was provably true, I took it down -- an act of self-censorship that still bugs me. But blogging is only fun for me so long as it doesn't involve going to court or costing me money...

I think the average blogger, when threatened with a lawsuit, will take down whatever has been written as soon as they become acquainted with libel laws. If slandering an archeologist as "grave robber" is worth $125,000 (watch out rabble.ca!), then I can only wonder what some of the profane insults I've seen traded on blogs are worth in this eyes of Canada's judges...

Even with all the resources that it has, the mainstream media is sometimes victim to libel chill -- self-censorship over the fear of lawsuits from large corporations or rich individuals. The problem is exacerbated with bloggers, individuals who usually don't have the resources news organization have to defend themselves.

Just because someone writes on the Internet, they shouldn't get a free pass. But frivolous threats of libel as an attempt to silence bloggers are going to be more of a problem now that people have clued in to what kind of impact blogs can have... This is an issue that has been completely left out of the endless discussion of "MSM vs. bloggers".

Post-script

I just used Blogger's spell-check function for the first time... Isn't it ridiculous that it doesn't know the words "blogs," "blogger," or "blogging"?

Friday, November 12, 2004

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick...

Republicans everywhere are going wild over Big Little Dick Cheney. [Via Wonkette, as enthusiastic about political phalluses as ever.]
Death of a Newspaperman

Theatregoers and gossip-seeking journalists will have a chance to catch a first glimpse of former Globe and Mail columnist David Macfarlane's new play this weekend. Fishwrap, a barely-veiled autobiographical tale about a washed-up newspaper columnist unable to find a job, is being workshopped publicly at Tarragon Theatre on Saturday at 8 pm as part of the admirable WorkSpace program put into place there by newish artistic director Richard Rose.

Back when Macfarlane wrote his Review column for the Globe, I used to regularly curse and spit Cheerios of anger at him while reading him in the morning. I would snort in disgust everytime he mentioned: a) the opera he was listening to while writing; b) the wine he was drinking; or c) his wife. He represented everything that I found annoying and pretentious about the Globe and its steadfast Boomerism. Once, I was so peeved by a condescending comment he made about readers under 30 that I wrote a long diatribe to his editor demanding that he be flogged. (This was, obviously, before I became a calm, level-headed professional journalist myself and realised that it is publishers who wield the cat o' nine tails.)

Anyway, there have been three press releases about Fishwrap so far, and in each one Macfarlane's play has seemed sadder and sadder, so I don't have the heart to make fun of him anymore. From a theatrical point of view, it's really interesting to read them to see how his conception of the play has changed as he's figured out different ways to dramatize a personal story. The first press release in March described Fishwrap thusly:
One minute you're at the top of your game. The next you can't get 500 words on bathroom fixtures in the Real Estate section.
There is no lonelier soul than a freelance writer who discovers, belatedly, that he is no longer wanted by the magazines and the newspapers by which he has eked out his living. Angry, funny and cruelly accurate, the play asks the question: how can a man make sense of a life that has never been anything more than yesterday's paper?
Okay, so at these point it seemed kind of funny, self-deprecating... Then, in September, a new release was put out and you can tell that the play has evolved to something a little more substantial and tragic in a Willy Loman sort of way:
In Fishwrap we meet Kingsley Fitzhenry – a man who always had pretension beyond newspaper and magazine writing, but who, nonetheless, earned his living on Grub Street. He has come to the offices of a newspaper for which he used to write with some regularity in order to pitch an idea for a column, but because nobody really wants to see him, he has been shunted down to a junior editor. He is humiliated by this treatment, but too desperate for work to let it deter him. What unfolds is less a pitch than an avalache of caustic autobiography. Angry, funny, bitter – and cruelly accurate in its portrayal of the lower rungs of print journalism – Fishwrap asks the question: how can a man make sense of a life that has never been anything more than yesterday's paper?
Now, for the latest press release (not online), check out the shift in focus as Macfarlane begins working with a dramaturge who seems to be wanting him to make the show more absurdist, more depressing, and, thus, apparently more relevant to the post-9/11 world:
Nothing is forever. Not life. Not love. And certainly not work. In an age of insecurity, few have a more tenuous hold on employment than the freelance newspaper writer. Fewer still have bigger egos. But when the axe falls, even the proudest old hack and the most deluded columnist are obliged to confront what all of us must someday face: no matter how important we believe ourselves to be, there will come a time when there is no space for us anymore.
In Fishwrap, comedy and anger, defiance and lonely bewilderment are woven together in a monologue that continually bursts beyond the confines of a single character. Stuck together in a single room, a blocked writer and his crusty, verbose persona mourn the loss of the only thing that gave their job meaning: an audience. Now, they have nobody to rant to anymore. Except themselves.
At this point, Fishwrap seems to have completed its evolution into a horror play for journalists, some sort of Endgame for scribes. "I can't go on; I'll go on..."

What a great business the media is, eh?

If anyone goes to the workshop this weekend, I'd love to hear back from you.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Helmet hair sucks, but what can you do?

With his latest column, Andrew Coyne has not convinced me that there are not compelling reasons to make it mandatory to wear a helmet while bicycling. He cites sketchy statistics that say that bicycle helmets aren't "great lifesavers," but there are plenty of sketchy statistics that say otherwise. For example, two thirds of bicycle accident deaths are from traumatic brain injury and "a very high percentage of cyclists' brain injuries can be prevented by a helmet, estimated at anywhere from 45 to 88 per cent."

Po-tate-oh, po-tat-oh... Anyone who has ever gone spiralling head over heels off their bike and landed on their head (me!) knows that a helmet is probably all that stood between them and living in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives.

More annoying than Coyne's stance is his machismo about the issue. "What has become of us?" he writes. "How did we contract this morbid aversion to risk? When did we turn into such wusses?" All right, all right... Go shoot a deer or something.

It's one thing to go all adolibertarian and rebel against authority and decide that you're not going to wear a bicycle helmet in order to Fuck The Man. It's another to say that those who value their safety are wusses...

The way I figure it, if the government can make us wear seat belts, they probably have just as much right to make us wear helmets. I guess it's rationalized as a cost to Medicare or something...

Anyway, what interested me about Coyne's article was this bit:
Is there, first, an epidemic of bicycle deaths that demands this legislation? Are children and adults cracking open their heads with appalling regularity? No, they are not. Across Canada, cycling deaths in the last 15 years have averaged 78 per annum. That's 78, out of something in excess of 10 million cyclists (defined as people who had ridden a bike in the last three months), or about one death for every 128,000 cyclists. There are more deaths, most years, from falling out of bed. [Ed. note: I'd like to see Coyne's strong statistical basis for this.]

What is more, the rate has been falling steadily for most of the last 30 years. (From 1975 to 1987, cycling deaths averaged 128 per year.) Is that because of mandatory helmet laws, enacted in six provinces over the last decade? No -- pedestrian deaths have fallen by almost exactly the same proportion in that time, notwithstanding the scandalous absence of pedestrian helmet laws, and for the same reason: because fewer cars are crashing into them. Most traffic deaths are caused not by cyclists or pedestrians falling on their heads and killing themselves, but by motorists in large, heavy vehicles, against which helmets offer little protection. Drunk-driving laws save lives. Bicycle lanes save lives. Helmets do not.
Okay, ignore that last line about helmets not saving lives and let's talk about the smart part: Yes! Most bicycling deaths are caused by collisions with motor vehicles. I agree entirely that the effort being put into making helmets mandatory -- frankly, if people don't wear them, well, too bad for them -- should be put into making cities safer for bicyclists.

Bike lanes save lives. The helmet law is a patronizing and unimaginative solution to our problems, somewhat akin to putting parachutes in office buildings to prevent death by terrorist attacks. Let's attack the problem at the root and make our cities more bicycle friendly.

Post-script

I have an admission to make: Though I bicycle as my main method of transportation in Toronto, I don't wear a helmet. Why? It's uncomfortable and gives me helmet hair! That's the truth! Also, I think I'm invincible and smarter than cars! True, also! Even after a near-death experience where a helmet probably saved my life!

So, really, who am I am fault Coyne for his machismo? I'm a vain idiot!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Arafat's dead

For real this time. I feel bad for the various night editors currently scrambling to change tomorrow's front pages... He couldn't die before the national edition went to print?
War Thought of the Day

"Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime."
-- Ernest Hemingway.

I came across this quote earlier this week, while doing some research for my interview with Valerie Hemingway, Ernest's personal secretary who went on to marry his estranged son Gregory.
Lost the war, but won the battle...

Attorney General John Ashcroft has resigned. Serotonin levels lift across the country in those people who have been catatonic for a week.

Writes Ashcroft in his Dear George letter: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

Sweet! War on Terror: Objective Achieved! It's over, baby! It's VT day! Let have a ticker tape parade! Let's grab our girlfriend's head in the crook of our arm, bend her over backwards in the street, and kiss her so hard our sailor hat almost falls off!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

What's next? Grand Theft Auto: Falluja?

In some newspapers, the big news isn't the real-life video game we call Falluja, but the release of a, er, real video game you may have heard of called "Halo 2."

Take the National Post. (Please! Heh, heh...) I urge you to pick up a copy of the Toronto edition and look at it above the fold.

Imagine you are a slipper- and dressing-gown-clad me shivering as you pick the Post up off the ground outside my door this morning. There's a picture of a green-armoured soldier (an actor dressed up as Master Chief, the blandly-named lead character from "Halo 2") with the surtitle "Latest blockbuster not a movie." This photo appears right next to the lead article headlined "U.S. Fury Unleashed on Falluja." Of course, in your half-awake state, you might not realise the photo and the "blockbuster" surtitle is related to "Halo 2" and not the Falluja assault until you pick up the paper and see what is beneath the fold.

An inappropriate bit of layout, don't you think? Or, perhaps, a very appropriate bit of layout... (Paging Dr. Chomsky!)

I don't think that the positioning of the picture and the articles was intended to make an ironic statement on modern warfare (or that Microsoft timed the release of "Halo 2" to coincide with the Falluja assault), but the juxtaposition is priceless. And sad. And worthy of study by a Communications student!

Halo, too!

While on the subject of "Halo 2," I must post the first two paragraphs of the Reuters' story on the video game's release:
It takes a special kind of person to stay up all night and stand in a line nearly 250 people long just to buy a video game -- but for rabid fans of the first "Halo" on the Xbox video game console, it was well worth the wait to buy the new "Halo 2".

"It's just addicting," said Brady O'Connell, 22, a college student who joined hundreds of others late Monday night -- and early Tuesday morning -- at the L.A. pedestrian mall Universal CityWalk for the West Coast launch of the new "Halo."
Sigh. "Special," indeed...

Look, college student Brady O'Connell -- if that is your real name -- it's "addictive." The video game is "addictive."

I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. Or to laugh-cry. Or to craugh.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when you learn English from video games. Picture the troops in Falluja, at this very moment, shouting through loudspeakers at Iraqi insurgents: "All your base are belong to us!"

Here is a poem I will write in a few short decades: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Halo, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the mall parking lot at dawn looking for an angry fix..." I will be ripping off Ginsberg. And, because I didn't attribute properly, I will be fired from my job as Parliamentary Poet Laureate.
Post-script

Bonus irony! When you look up "addicting" on dictionary.com, they offer this example of the proper use of the verb "addict": "2. To occupy (oneself) with or involve (oneself) in something habitually or compulsively: The child was addicted to video games."
Questions

Once everybody knows that the Falluja operation is code-named Phantom Fury, can it still truthfully be called a code name?

And could you name a military assault any more like a video game?

(Though, to be honest, my first thought was, "Wasn't that a Tragically Hip album?")

Monday, November 08, 2004

Who were those undecided voters? Homer Simpsons.

So says Politics Watch:
Conservative MP Andrew Scheer, a 25-year-old MP who admits to trying to come up with a way to make a Simpsons reference in the House, said he thinks Homer is a Bush backer.

"As a middle-income earner, 2.5 kids type of guy, I suspect he's probably a Republican. He sort of fits that demographic pretty well," said Scheer. "And there was that one episode where he was quite enthusiastic about his gun ownership."

But Homer's employment at the Springfield nuclear plant puts him in a union. He was even president of the union in one episode. Exit polling data hurts Simpson's chance of being a Republican, as 61 per cent of union members supported John Kerry.

And he's no fan of the Bush family, having once attacked George Bush senior during an escalating feud when the former president moved to Springfield briefly to write his memoirs.
So who did Homer vote for? It's the biggest Springfield mystery since the Who Shot Mr. Burns? episode.
Coming to Terms with Bush: First in a Series

Like most people who were desperately hoping that Kerry would win, I have been spending the past five days trying to come to terms with the election in the United States.

At first I bought into the so-called "moral values" argument: That the religious right showed up to vote in unprecedented numbers for the state gay marriage bans, thus pushing Bush over the top.

At this point, however, this argument has been proven essentially false. See here and here for a few details. Here’s the gist from David Brooks in the NYT on Saturday:
Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life. Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily....

Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote, voters were given the option of saying "moral values." But that phrase can mean anything - or nothing. Who doesn't vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That's hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.
So, let’s roll up our Jesusland/United States of Canada maps and start thinking about this dispassionately. Those of us who oppose Bush's policies had better drop the "moral values" business quick and accept the fact that a lot of Americans -- more than we have been led to believe -- have warmed to the President and support him. We need to stop focusing so much on the hearts and the minds of the Iraqi people and a little bit more on those hearts and minds at home in North America...

I’ve always been better at being self-critical than critical of the other side, so I’m devoting this week of On the Fence* to Dumb Things that the Left in the United States Have Done That Have Resulted in Another Four Years of George W. Bush. But I’m going to title this series Coming to Terms with Bush, because that’s a little nicer.

*Note: The expression "On the Fence" does not apply to American presidential politics.

Post-script

While the evangelicals weren’t necessarily responsible for Bush’s election, the President is certainly shoring up his support there. Yesterday, it was announced that he’s going to try to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage again.

Given the increased Republican majority in Congress, gay Americans seeking legal protections for their relationships -- and the allies of said gay Americans -– must hope that: a) Bush will reiterate his support for civil unions for same-sex couples; and b) that Republicans with a conscience and/or who believe in the integrity of the constitution will vote against this.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

And another thing about the Greatest Canadian...

...is that fewer and fewer people are watching it each week. So there, naysayers!

Ah, er...

Look! Over there! It's Carolyn Parrish!
The Greatest Big Whiners

The CRTC has contacted On the Fence to complain that -- with all this Future-of-the-Free-World Election business -- I've been neglecting to fulfil my CanCon obligations of late. In order to bring the original Canadian content up to the regulated levels and not have my blogging licence rescinded (there's only so much bandwidth, you see), I hereby reprint an opinion piece I had in the National Post last Thursday. A little piece I like to call... In Defence of the Greatest Canadian.
There's something genuinely ironic about the attacks being levelled against CBC's The Greatest Canadian series: The show's many outraged critics -- from every wavelength of the political spectrum -- are getting into the spirit of the series without even knowing it.

Andrew Coyne's column last week, for example, was exactly the kind of intelligent response that The Greatest Canadian is designed to stir up. Coyne highlighted those people in the top 100 that he admired -- Sir Arthur Currie, Gordie Howe, Sir William Logan -- and suggested names that weren't on the list such as Cornelius van Horne, Samuel de Champlain and Louis de Frontenac. Rather than being pleased to have a reason to discuss some of his historical heroes, however, he lambasted the show for "shallowness and triviality" -- even as it gave him an opportunity to engage with our country's rich past in a forum usually reserved for the new and now.

Considering that the very concept of "great Canadians" is part of a conservative view of history, it's bizarre that right-wing voices in particular have been so loud in their criticism of the series. After all, after years of bemoaning the displacement of the Great Men theory of history by a politically correct social history of seamstresses and street cleaners, they should welcome a prominent acknowledgement by the state-funded broadcaster that individuals -- not just peoples or classes -- shaped the world we live in today.

And this is exactly why the left is up in arms about The Greatest Canadian, too: There are no women or aboriginals and only one non-white person among the top 10 finalists. All those years of promoting multiculturalism and Canadians still have the gall to admire dead white guys like John A. Macdonald! In a typical response on Rabble.ca, Gina Whitfield wrote that the series "works to reinforce the dominant myths of the white settler society of Canada." Then, getting into the spirit of the show even as she expressed disdain for it, she suggested Emily Murphy, our first female magistrate, and Mary Ann Shadd Cary, the first black female newspaper editor in North America, as great Canadians who should have made the cut.

But while political pundits of the left and right have united to rage against The Greatest Canadian, viewers at home have been eating it up. One hundred and forty thousand people visited CBC's Web site to nominate contenders and 600,000 tuned in to the premiere of the series. (By way of comparison, the average viewership for Hockey Night in Canada is 584,000.)

Why aren't Canada's opinion-makers weighing in positively with their suggestions, rather than tearing apart a show that's trying to get kids interested in history? Because the nominees and the finalists were voted on by average Canadians and the results poke big holes in both the left and right's claims of representing them. Their Greatest Canadians -- Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Margaret Atwood -- didn't make the final list, but David Suzuki (tree-hugging hippie!) and Don Cherry (jingoistic bigot!) did.

Sure, The Greatest Canadian series is corny and would be more accurately titled The Most Popular Canadian Among English Canadians. But it has sparked a national conversation about our heroes in an age where the very idea of heroes is derided. And one of its episodes featured Deborah Grey riding a Zamboni. There are worse
offenders in the television wasteland.

Lester B. Pearson all the way, baby!
How bout them apples OshCosh, B'Gosh!

P.S. Speaking of Mr. Cosh, check out this recent post of his on the sheer weirdness of the big-event-that-did-not-take-place-in-Canada. Good question. Who can explain it?
I Never Meta Man I Didn't Like

Want to read what a bunch of bloggers who also work in the mainstream media blog about blogs when asked to blog about blogs? Well, then check out Ryerson student Samantha Israel's Blog on Blog blog, featuring guest appearances so far from Paul Wells, Aaron Wherry, and yours truly.

Just when you thought we had finally tired of talking about how innovative/annoying/ revolutionary/puerile/partisan/snarky/ unjournalistic/journalistic/sexy/ pyjama-clad/boring/worthless/ worthwhile blogging was.
Useless piece of information to help the bitter pill of defeat go down a little easier...

Listen up naysayers: More people voted for John Kerry on Tuesday than any other American presidential candidate in history... except for George W. Bush.

That's right. It goes a little something like this:

1) Bush 2004: Approximately 58 million votes.
2) Kerry 2004: Approximately 55 million votes
3) Reagan 1984: Approximately 54.4 million votes.

How do you like them apples, Zombie Reagan? Huh? Huh?

Sigh. This doesn't make me feel any better at all. Stupid Sad Tree. "I was in Vietnam! I was in Vietnam!" Shut up, you idiot!

[Source: AFX, Gunter.]

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Google Me This...

I've noticed that several people have arrived at On The Fence this afternoon having Googled "Could Kerry win?" (with or without the quotation marks).

The answer, fair Internauts, is no.

For some reason, I'm the fourth result for this question after Slate, CNN, and a blog called Swing State Project.
Rock, Paper, Bush.

I've been trying to formulate a post today, but I've been having trouble. Yeah, I'm disappointed. I wanted Kerry to win. But it's not Bush's election that I'm so down about, per se. Rather it's that:

a) Young voters didn't end up showing up in great numbers like I had hoped. My age group is still lazy/apathetic;

b) The increase in voter turn-out seems to be mainly due to people motivated to pass state gay union bans -- all of which passed. "Moral values" was the most important issue for voters.

I understand people who vote a certain way out of fear of terrorism. I understand the Bush Doctine, understand its appeal, and have a certain respect for people who believe in it, even if I think it is largely a mistake and being applied in an ill-conceived manner.

I don't, however, understand people who vote a certain way based on a hatred of homosexuals and a fear of gay and lesbians expressing love and committment the way they do. This is why I'm sad today.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

E-mania! Cynicism, then Optimism!

Optimus Crime has an excellent observation about the market as predictor of elections:
Apparently the stock market dipped today because early exit polls showed Kerry up in key swing states. No, wait, wait: the stock market dipped today because bloggers said early exit polls were favouring Kerry. I love that the invisible hand of the market is apparently moved by the two least reliable forces in the universe: early exit polls and blog gossip.
And now for a little electoral happy-happy:
At the Earle Brown Elementary School in Brooklyn Center, where about 130 people voted per hour through the morning, one woman got to skip to the front because she was in labor, election judge Nancy Carlson said. "Two minutes labor and she's still in line to vote," Carlson said. Once the woman cast her ballot, she was put into a wheelchair and wheeled away, Carlson said.
Awwwwww.... A baby! [Via A.S.]

No, seriously. That made me tear up. I'm such a dork.
Democracy is the new hockey!

By the way, my official Electoral College Office Pool bet is: Kerry 297, Bush 241.

I originally had bet Kerry 277, Bush 261, but someone had picked that already. The way the scuttlebutt is going, however, I think the new prediction may be more accurate... (Ouch! I've got splinters in my knuckles from all this wood-knockin'.)
But forget about the election for a moment!

Uncle Cam, a frequent commenter here, has a blog where he discusses iPods, cats, and his lovely little son Lucas.

Okay, now think about the election again. Obsessively.

Whoa! I almost forgot the obligatory, "Get out and vote!" message. Alas, I can't vote in the United States. I can vote in Canada, however, and did so last June 28. My candidate didn't win, but it was a rewarding experience. Here's what I wrote at the time:
This morning, I went to the local polling station, marked an X on my ballot, folded it in three and -- under the watchful eyes of two clerks and a scrutineer -- slid it right into the tight slot of the ballot box.

Look: You can be cynical and hate politics and think all the candidates are crooks and think our electoral system is a bunch of garbage. You can think all of these things and still vote.

Just do it. It's a rush. It makes you feel good, like when you pick a piece of garbage off the street or say hello to a stranger in the park or any other number of moments when you connect with your offline community.

I held the long, thin ballot by its very end and pushed it deep into that box until my fingers hit cardboard. Then I let go and it made a satisfying, soft clunk like a watch dropping to the floor off the side of your bed.

I made sweet love to my country today and it felt good.
Go on. You know you want to.
As the Sun Rises on E-day...

...I am crossing my fingers and hoping for a Kerry victory. And -- if turnout is high -- I think it'll happen. Zogby and Electoral-vote.com, the two sources I inexplicably trust, tell me so. Knock e-wood.

Should Kerry indeed win (more nervous knocking), I urge those conservatives among my readership not to despair.. I honestly think you'll be better served by Kerry than Bush. But, as my little fence usually leans a little to the left, I'll forgive you for not believing me. I do, however, urge you to consider the opinion of some of the right-wing, (neo)conservative and/or hawk writers and bloggers and politicians who are supporting Kerry:

- David Aaronovitch
- Andrew Sullivan
- Francis Fukuyama
- The Economist, The New Republic and the Financial Times editorial boards
- Walter Olson (who advised on the first Bush campaign)
- Steve Chapman
- Bob Barr
- Daniel W. Drezner
- Jesse Ventura
- Josh Chafetz
- Marlow W. Cook
- Kevin Phillips
... and there are many others I'm too lazy to look up.

[After consideration, I have removed the unclassifiable, on-the-fence heroine Camille Paglia from the list...]
Osama bin Bloggin'

Away in Montreal this weekend, I awoke on Saturday to read Osama's pre-election little rant. When I had heard about it on Friday, I thought, "October Suprise!" But the real surprise was that the video was treated so... so... so... calmly by the candidates and the media. No one blew it out of proportion. It was just silly ol' Osama, doing his thing. (Of course, I've been away from the blogosphere for the weekend, so I don't know what's going on here.)

Good on everyone... But the video is not dismissible. It's absolutely fascinating. I encourage you to read the full transcript and discover for yourself how strange and surreal Dirty ObL's video is. He references the Bush-reading-to-children scene in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. He throws in a casual reference to Sweden and how he has no plans to strike there. Then there are references to interviews he granted to Time and Robert Fisk in days gone by... The Fisk bit gets particularly odd:
[Fisk] is one of your compatriots and co-religionists and I consider him to be neutral. So are the pretenders of freedom at the White House and the channels controlled by them able to run an interview with him? So that he may relay to the American people what he has understood from us to be the reasons for our fight against you?
Is Osama bin Laden asking the American networks to interview Fisk, so he can represent the terrorists' side of the story?

ObL also an interesting line that makes it difficult to see how people thought he and Saddam ever had anything in common: "[W]e [the bid Laden brigrade] have found it difficult to deal with the Bush administration in light of the resemblance it bears to the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half which are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents." Bush and Saddam: birds of a feather, says ObL.

But this could just be part of his scheme to co-opt all of the talking points from root-causeions and those opposed to Bush. Iraqi sanctions, Palestine, the Patriot Act, ballooning deficit... It's all there. I hope no one is falling for the ruse. ObL'll say anything. Remember when he used to blame 9/11 on the CIA and the Jews?

Anyway, all in all, an extremely interesting document, whose multi-layered meaning I will leave to others to dissect. Effect on the election, however: little to none, I suspect.