Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Election speech/music videos

The US elections are over next week so bear with me. The fact is that there is just so much cool US election stuff out there that iIwant to share it all. So give me some credit for sifting through the pile and presenting you with only the very best.

This time, it's speech/music videos. . .

Communication is music. A great speech has rhythm and dynamics and introduction and theme development and climax and resolution and all the other qualities you find in a sonata or a ballad or, if truly great, a symphony. And there is no doubt that Obama is a great speaker. Don't take my word for it. Just check out his nomination acceptance speech or his speeches after the Iowa or New Hampshire primaries. They are truly awesome.

But back to communication as music. This video from intertwines Obama speech patterns with music and it's deeply moving.

And if great communication is great music, then disjointed, comical communication becomes disjointed, comical music. Yes, you guessed it, Sarah Palin also has a video which transforms her speech patterns into music.

Obama under my bed; Palin in the trash

This is just too funny.

More money than you can imagine

For an election campaign, anyways. Tonight will see the airing of Barak Obama's 30 minute infomercial - an extended campaign ad with both taped and live components. Some of the taped components were filmed by Davis Guggenheim, whose father was the campaign documentarian of Robert F. Kennedy. Considering that Obama's speeches are scripted by a man who worked closely with Ted Sorenson, JFK's speechwriter, it seems that Obama has a fondness for that particular school of Kennedy associated talent.

According to the NY Times, this ad will be shown on NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision, MSNBC and two cable networks that cater to African-Americans, BET and TV One. Ross Perot is that last presidential candidate to run 30 minute ads; eight long infomercials to an average of 13 million viewers, with one of them getting 16.5 million viewers.

This media shot will cost $3million although some reports peg the price tag at more like $6million. Just to put it into perspective, the entire national Conservative Party campaign in the past federal election came in at around $22million for everything. In the last provincial election, all the political party spending put together didn't come close to $3million (I suspect it was more like half of that, numbers have yet to be released).

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. In October, the Obama campaign spent more than $100million and is currently running about 7700 commercials a day. McCain, because he accepted public funding, is limited to a campaign spending ceiling of $84million for everything - he's only running less than half the number of ads and can't afford anything longer than 30 seconds. A detailed breakdown of who spent how much on what ads can be found here.

McCain has had to make choices in where he spends money and he's chosen to play defence. While Obama can spend big money everywhere, McCain, has had to reduce his advertising in swing states like New Hampshire and Wisconsin so he can advertise in states he must win, like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

If you are living in places like Washington DC, Virginia or Florida, you will find that almost every prime time show, daytime show and news program is saturated with political advertising. Mostly Obama's.

If money is the mother's milk of politics then Obama must be close to drowning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shepard Fairey

If you are following the Obama campaign (and what Offal reader could resist), then you will run across the Shepard Fairey Obama poster. He originally developed two: Hope and Progress. A first print run of 350 was sold out within minutes for $45 a piece. They started to pop up on eBay for as much as $10,000 in no time. What started as a poster of a politician had quickly become an pop culture icon.

And what becomes iconic quickly becomes a target for parody. Here are some of my favourites:

You can count on the other side not getting off easily.

There is a fine collection of other Obama poster parodies here.

Iceland hikes rates to 18%

According to this report from BBC NEWS, Iceland's interest rate up to 18% from 12% as they struggle to stabilize their currency. The IMF has already loaned them $2billion and the Icelandic central bank figures they need another $4billion to do the job.

Meanwhile, the Icelandic crown traded internationally for the first time for a week on Tuesday, with the value slumping to 240 to the euro from Monday's official fix of 152.

They have a deep hole to climb out of before they see daylight again.

My own Christmas book list - Frank Moores

Inspired by the Bond Papers Christmas book wish list, I offer my own choices. . . .

One of my earliest political memories was the provincial election of 1972 when Frank Moores defeated Joey Smallwood. The local newspaper printed a score card of all the candidates so you could track the results at home as they came in on the radio. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, keeping track of the results on the scorecard until I was shooed off to bed. By the next morning, the political world of this province had undergone a seismic shift. Smallwood was gone and Moores was in.

I never knew Moores although I met him once. I do know people who knew him very well. I know a lady in Manitoba who met Frank when she was young. Her father was a federal Tory politician and Frank would drop in from time to time for a drink and a chat. She recalls that he seemed to keep company with a variety of attractive female companions.

He seem to have inspired a fierce staff loyalty. My old next door neighbour was his private secretary (I believe that was her job, she didn't talk about it too much) except for a fierce glare at anyone who might utter any disparaging word about her former boss, even years later.

Like many other people, I heard stories about Frank Moores. Lots of stories. Some very funny stories. And more than a few profane and ribald ones. He was the kind of guy around whom stories swirled.

The publisher's blurb says:
Thirty-five year old Frank Moores, retired millionaire, woman-loving, scotch-drinking sportsman had never been to a political meeting when he announced his candidacy as a Newfoundland Member of Parliament in 1968. Moores was a likable, unlikely politician, and the people of Newfoundland were ready for a revolution. Moores won the popular vote in the provincial election of October 1971 but the number of seats was tied. For three months Smallwood clung to power amidst constitutional wrangling, bribery, intrigue and adultery, but Moores triumphed. He immediately called another election and won a substantial majority. In an administration beleaguered with controversy, he introduced sweeping legislative reforms and restored democratic process to Newfoundland, then retired, and began his third career as a powerful Ottawa lobbyist in the Mulroney years.
I'm hoping this book will have a fuller sense of the story; I figure it's worth the $25 or so to find out.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sign Wars (a little more)

I mentioned before about the dark side of sign wars - simple theft of the other campaign's signs. But just like every other competitive exercise, as soon as one side tries to seize an advantage (in this case by lifting signs), the other side will compensate somehow.

In the US McCain-Obama sign wars, one creative fellow decided that if they were going to keep taking his lawn sign, the next time they would have to take his whole lawn too!

Meanwhile, across the trenches on the other side of the battlefield, the thinking is that if a small sign is easy to steal then a big sign is hard to steal. So he put up a big sign!

Friday, October 24, 2008

New York Times makes endorsement

From today:

Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems.

In the same time, Senator John McCain of Arizona has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism. His policies and worldview are mired in the past. His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgment that eclipsed the accomplishments of 26 years in Congress.

Obama in Virginia

Here are some photos and audio of an Obama rally in Virginia.

So what, you might ask.  Well, in the presidential election of 2004, Bush won their 13 electoral votes over Gore by 52.2% to 44.4% (Nader took 2.2%).  The most recent poll results have Obama up 51.5% over McCain's 44.5%.

That's a turnover of 15.1% points in a very reliable Republican state.

Nationally as of today, Obama has raised $621,984,626 in total with $133,696,693 cash on hand and just 12 days to go. 

Obama is no longer a campaign - he leads a movement.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

US election images

There are lots of great US election images out there - here are just a few of Obama.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Barack Obama - the early days video is worth checking out: it's a series of interviews from 2001 to 2004 which provide some sense of Barack Obama before he became a political god.

Back then he sounded more like the constitutional prof that he was than the national figure channeling Martin Luther King before teeming crowds of thousands.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Political reaction(aries)

I would have thought that the US white power nazi and assorted groups would have been very active in this US presidential election. It seems not so much. The New York Times reports that they are doing the best that can but mostly they are too marginalized, weak and divided even on the issue of whether Obama is really all that bad.

On the other hand, more mainstream groups like the Chaffey Community Republican Women, Federated, seem to be filling the gap with foolishness like an illustration of "Obama Bucks" -- a phony $10 bill featuring Obama's face on a donkey's body, labeled "United States Food Stamps."

More creepy is this report from the Washington Post which tells the story of the racism encountered by Obama campaigners:
They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.
Meanwhile, some local rednecks get themselves organized in West Plains, Missouri. These local enterprising political stars put up a billboard reflecting their sophisticated political views.

Not too far away is the obligatory hanging-in-effigy incident. USA Today notes that:
The hanging of the effigy around the neck is seen as racist symbolism because it harkens back to lynchings of black men by white mobs, especially in the U.S. South, decades ago. Obama is aiming to become America's first black president.
No kidding.

And then just when you thought you had seen and read it all, you come across this huge steaming pile of absurdity., which received a secret copy of Michelle Obama's Princeton dissertation says that:
The excerpts show that Obama identifies with black militancy, utterly obsessed with race in America and her own blackness. It is a fundamentally racist document, shocking when considering that this scholarship is the product of a presidential candidate’s wife at a great university.
In the land of free speech, anything goes.

Thank you for your service

I hope he stays near.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sign Wars update

I received an email:
You wrote: "I always looked on sign damage as the unimpressive work of political campaign amateurs. Clearly others disagree."

Would you mind explaining what you mean by "others disagree"? I am in agreement with your thought on that it's opposition campaign followers who are doing the destruction/vandalism.
Interesting question.

Generally, I think there always a percentage of signs that get knocked over or punched in or taken due to any of random vandalism, the disgruntled and bored or special cases of metal illness or what have you or the casual bump that knocks down a poorly planted sign. That happens all the time in every election to one degree or another.

There's a big difference between those random acts and deliberate predation. That is uncommon, though not rare. It's not common enough so that when it happens, you notice it and vice versa. It's the damage that falls way outside the norm that's the tip-off. When a whole parkway disappears or all the 4x8s in an area are spray painted the same way, it's not an accident. Often, but not always, it's predation. If it happens a second time, that confirmations predation.

Search media reports and the stories pop up. Some are whining candidates making baseless accusations, no doubt. But there are also the cases documented by legal action or even just videos and photos of people caught in the act.

And I'm leaving aside the issue of fair comment versus vandalism. I know the "record of lying" case took in more issues than just simple vandalism. The line is not as thin as you would think. On some levels, some cases straddle that line between vandalism and free speech. A fundamental underpinning of civil disobedience is "do the crime, serve the time".

I still think sign damage is the unimpressive work of political campaign amateurs not necessarily attached to a campaign though they might be. It's an unusual campaign that tolerates it; some candidates set explicit derectives prohibiting it.

It's just foolish on a whole bunch of levels for all concerned.,of which the ethical and criminal problems are just two.

Campaigns need to keep their eye on the ball and remember that the goal is to get your point across to the voters. But as obvious as all that might be there are people who think otherwise; signs just don't self-destruct or evaporate.

Wholly bizzare

This video sent chills up my spine.

This is how the Arab/Muslim world will frame this US election. Did you catch the fact the clip came from the Aljazeera tv network?

Sign wars

Barack Obama for President Yard SignPolitical signs around here are free; campaigns just give them away. Locally, these are usually the first advertising expense of the campaign (after design).

In the US, signs are sold to raise money for the campaign. They are not an expense, they are a profit center. The handsome sign on the right can be yours for a measly US$8 ($3 for 500 or more) plus appropriate taxes and shipping.

These cost the campaign less than $1 each in volume. And I can guarantee you that the sign company who hooked the Obama contract will retire after this on the volume they will order before the campaign is done.

There are many fronts on which campaign wars are fought. The air wars are the media advertising and talk radio appearances. The ground war is the volunteer house-to-house canvassing organization. Then there are the sign wars: who gets them out the firstest to the best spots and the mostest by election day. They are erected by the campaign corp of engineers. who can pop up vertical 4x8's across the city like mushrooms after a summer rain.
One of Kevin Breen's campaign signs was altered to showcase the words 'a record of lying.'
That's the overt part of the sign war. The dark side this war's covert exercises are the signs that evaporate in the night, destroyed, marked up (a la Ray O'Neill) or otherwise defaced. In the Federal St. John's West By-election held in May 2000, I remember that all the campaigns (except the Reform, oddly) saw massive damage to signage.*

Now that we've come out of a nasty federal election in which sign wars played a part again, I think it's worthwhile to keep in perspective that sign wars happen in other places too.

But when you are making $7 per sign and people are willing to replace them, the crime is a whole lot less financially traumatic to the campaign.

* I always looked on sign damage as the unimpressive work of political campaign amateurs. Clearly others disagree.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Insurance for bloggers

The Media Bloggers Association is now offering the same training, legal support and insurance previously only available to traditional media organizations. This will include BlogInsure, a first of its kind liability insurance program for bloggers which provides coverage for all forms of defamation, invasion of privacy and copyright infringement or similar allegations arising out of blogging activities.

NL bloggers should be quick to follow up on this.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Federal Election ABC Aftermath

Two interesting articles on trying to foretell the effects of the federal election of federal-provincial relations.

The New Brunswick Telegraph figures their province is in the catbird seat. They just elected 6 Cons out of 10 seats so they predict they can plough ahead with their "energy hub" projects with full federal support. The NL future is not so bright:
A major factor was Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams' acerbic campaign against the Harper government, which succeeded in shutting the Conservatives out - with six of that province's seven seats going to the Liberals and the other to a New Democrat. But Mr. Williams has also shut his province out of any representation in the new government. That's where revenge gets you.
Then there is Ontario and the contrast between the incendiary Williams approach and the more low-key McGuinty tactic. The Globe figures that while McGuinty has some room to play with, Williams has not so much:
But what if the day isn't done and what if Mr. Harper has a long memory for those who have crossed him? What does Mr. Williams have left the next time he wants to be threatening? Will the Liberal and New Democratic MPs from Newfoundland be able to protect his offshore energy accord when the equalization scheme is reviewed again?
Life has become no less interesting.

Behind the scenes at "I have a dream"

From the New York Times obituary of John R. Reilly, a close adviser to a string of Democratic presidential candidates since the Kennedy years:
On Aug. 28, 1963, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech before 250,000 civil rights supporters in Washington, Mr. Reilly was given an unusual assignment by the Kennedy administration.

As the television correspondent Roger Mudd wrote in his book “The Place to Be: Washington, CBS and the Glory Days of Television News” (PublicAffairs), Mr. Reilly told him that “he was stationed at the Lincoln Memorial, equipped with a cutoff switch on the sound system if the rhetoric got too inflammatory. ‘We had a turntable hooked up to play music, if necessary,’ Reilly said.” Mr. Reilly had picked a 78-r.p.m. recording of Mahalia Jackson singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

Imagine if he had hit that switch. . . "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty he's got the whole world in his hands!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Unite(?) the Left

This election, the NDP ran as good a campaign as it was possible to run under the circumstances. It was tight, well-scripted, logistically near-flawless and fully funded for the first time. They had a leader who, arguably, made fewer mistakes than the others (outside the occational skinnydipping dopehead) and reached out to people and places ignored by previous NDP campaigns.

The national NDP results were pretty good. The party attracted 2,517,075 votes or 18.2% yielding 37 seats and 67 second places. Compare this to the 2006 general election where the party attracted 2,589,597 for 29 seats and 53 second places. And the budgets? $13,524,525 in 2006 compared to an estimated $20,000,000 this time.

But after spending almost 50% more money, or $6M, the party attracted a mere 8 additional seats and a relatively minuscule number of additional votes. And they never broke the 20% barrier.

Have they, as one comentator put it, hit the orange ceiling?

It's time for the NDP to explore the idea that they have gone as far as they can under their current party structure. The question is Are theose in charge of the NDP is willing and able to pay the required price for greater success.

Can they cut the formal structural ties the party currently has with the Canadian union movement.

To put it another way: Would you vote for a party which reserves 25% of policy convention delegates to affiliated union organisations? Or would you vote for a party which reserves 25% of leadership convention delegates to affiliated union organisations? Yet that's standard operating procedure in today's NDP party.

Would you feel any better if 25% of your party's delegates came from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce? Or maybe the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League? Isn't one special interest group equivalent to any other?

Tony Blair, early in his tenure as leader of the Labour party faced this choice. He had the courage required to make fundamental structural changes to his party. He cut ties to the British labour movement and thus modernised his party to turn it into a real alternative to the Conservative party.

Is Jack Layton ready to do the same?

Which brings us back to the Unite the Left movement. This is a popular trope among casual political observers and the argument is a simple one: in order to confront the menace on the Right, the Liberal party and the NDP (and possible the Greens) must and should unite under one banner in order to prevent vote splitting.

After all, didn't Reform and the Progressive Conservatives successfully unite? Sure they did. And it took years of negotiations, talks and compromises to make ithappen. Couldn't the Liberals and NDP do the same?

In the long term, it's possible.

But Canada does not want or need the further polarisation of national politics between the hard-right to center-right umbrella that is the national Conservative Party on one side and a creature of the Canadian union movement on the other.

No responsible federal party should ever be as beholden to national organised labour as the NDP party is now.

If there is to be a true Unite the Left movement, the NDP will have to agree to shed it's formal union ties as a precondition to those talks.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not just around here, it seems

I've been looking for a good term for the degradation of public debate that's occured in NL over the last few years.  I've finally found one.

Chris Buckley, son of US conservative great Bill Buckley, has resigned from The National Review, the conservative magazine founded by his father.  After he endorsed Obama, he and the publication have been flooded with vitriolic, vicious reaction from the US right.

His conclusion: "(it's) part of the calcification of modern discourse".

It's a good line.

Space and Russia

Two subjects that have always fascinated me are the space program and the USSR. So when I run across stories about the Star City cosmodrome at Baikonur in Kazhakztan, the former super-secret Cape Canaveral Russian equivalent, I'm hooked.

These days Star City is no longer supersecret. In fact, due to the closure of the US shuttle program, for a fiver year period until the US gets the replacement vehicles ready, the only way to get to the International Space Station will be through Star City. It was huge Russian Proton rockets launched from Star City which transferrred the ISS into space.

So here's a piece from the New York Times outlining the US experience with Star City. In part:

Those early days (1994) were also marked by wariness and distrust, and the first Americans had a strong impression they were being watched. Mark Bowman, an early contract employee in Russia who is now back in Moscow as deputy director of NASA’s human space flight program in Russia, recalled a weekly teleconference with his boss in Houston. “Thirty minutes into the call the line would go dead,” Mr. Bowman said. “And that would happen every 30 minutes.”

One day during the teleconference, Mr. Bowman warned 28 minutes in that the line was about to go dead and said testily, “I sure wish these damned KGB guys would get longer tapes.”

“The next telecon we had,” Mr. Bowman recalled, “I swear to you, it went 45 minutes and then it went dead.” Apparently, he said, his hosts had upgraded to 90-minute cassettes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More federal election information

While Trendlines might be the ugliest website ever (outside the first dozen or so that ever went online) it has some interesting seat predictions based on averages of polls and available seat prediction models. It is sort of an aggregate seat predictor.

As of today, they predict C131, L105, BQ42, NDP28 and 2 independents.

It's worth a look.

So very tired

One of the very best political movies of all time is The Candidate starring Robert Redford. It's a great film with keen political insight (it won an Oscar for best screenplay written by Jeremy Larner, a speech-writer for Senator Eugene J. McCarthy during McCarthy's campaign for the 1968 Democratic Presidential nomination).

Political chronics will know the film but for those who don't, it's about a young political candidate for Governor of California. There are many twists and turns in the story but a great moment occurs late in the campaign. Redford is in the back of the limo heading to election event number 1,654,385 or so when he starts repeating his stump speech to himself. He has delivered it so many times that the speech becomes meaningless to him; the words come out in a meaningless and bizarre jumble of phrases and ideas. His handlers, listening to him from the front seat, look at each other with a look that tells you they think he's lost his mind.

That's what happens in long campaigns: candidates gets punchdrunk and silly because they get tired. Ever take a flight across Canada? Now take one every day, back and forth, for a month. Then try to pass any kind of test of concentration.

Wondering if Peter MacKay knows what candidate he's stumping for today? Of course he does. But after 30+ days on nonstop travel, he's lucky to know his own name.

Wondering if Dion knows his own economic plan? Again, of course he does. Again, after 30+ days on nonstop travel, he's lucky to know his own name.

Are Harper's efforts to seize on Dion's mistake to his own advantage underhanded? I don't think so - it's just politics. Maybe, as a political tactic, it's not as effective or as smart as it could be. But it's still just politics nonetheless.

Is it bad journalistic ethics to run the flubs on the air in toto? I'm not sure because I'm not an expert in the area. But I'm not sure what journalistic purpose was fulfilled in doing that.

I'm not excusing the flub on tiredness or hearing or language. After a campaign this long, there are no new questions and the answers should become automatic. Somehow, in this case, the autopilot went on strike and his brain locked up. It is not a comment on his competence; it's a confirmation of his basic human fallibility.

This is not a good way to end the last week of the campaign.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

What happened in Iceland?

BBC has a great analysis piece on what happened to cause Iceland to collapse. In short, inappropriate monetary policy and an outsized banking system made for a toxic combination.

Long terms prospects are good; short term prospects not so good with Icelandics seeing payments on loans increased by up to 50%, and inflation which may reach 30% or more this year, with salaries frozen and mass layoffs to come.

Stay tuned

The image of change (or the changing image)


Spot the narcissist

Research shows that narcissists like to become leaders.  But while they really want to become leaders, they are not any better than anyone else at being a leader.

Anyone closely involved in watching politics could have told you that.

A sobering commentary

From the Globe today:
At worst, we could wind up like Italy - broke, with a pizza parliament, but without the food, art and fabulous shoes.

The importance of being ernest

Image from “Mr. Harper's empathy deficit”

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Great image

Image from “Harper offers policy, not an empathetic ear for Canadian concerns”

 . . . although Mr. Harper may not agree.

The Canadian Polity

Tom Flanagan is not just the Prince of Darkness of the Reform/Alliance/Conservative braintrust, he is also a respected political scientist. And he has interesting things to say today in the Globe including:
My long-term prognosis: Whether the Conservatives win a minority government (a majority now seems out of the question) or the Liberals stage a comeback to win their own minority, we are in for years of fragmentation. Usually, a period of splintering would be followed by consolidation, as happened with the Canadian Alliance-Progressive Conservative merger, but our system of finance tends to turn advocacy groups into parties and keeps them alive even after they have outlived their usefulness.
Also in the Globe today is a quick overview of the role of provincial premiers in this federal election:
Then there is Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador - a Conservative who legally registered his "Anyone But Conservative" campaign with Elections Canada, calls the Conservative Prime Minister "intolerant" and predicts a "dark age" if the Conservatives get a majority.

The "fighting for you" game worked well for Joey Smallwood, Frank Moores and Clyde Wells, and it's been working for Mr. Williams.

The national view? Williams is same-old-same-old.

No more talk of Iceland

Not long ago, the NL government was full of talk of the Icelandic model as the one to go by. This was after the period when government was smitten by the Celtic Tiger model.

Like us, these places they were small and plucky. If only we were more independent then the match would be complete and we could be just as successful as they.

Last August, I wrote here that the Iceland as a model was deeply flawed and that it was just a matter of time and the right circumstances before Iceland tipped over into the economic abyss.

Turns out I was right; they are the country worst exposed to the credit crunch with banking debts several times bigger than its economy, their central bank have ditched a currency peg after failing to convince investors it could maintain it, IMF officials are flying in to offer help, Britain is threatening to sue and and now they are in loan talks with Russia!

The goal of the Icelandic government is to stave off complete national financial collapse. Like NL in the 30's, Iceland is staring national bankruptcy in the face.

Maybe the NL government was right to look at Iceland as kindred spirit after all - we can send them a delegation to consult on how to set up and operate a Commission of Government.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New (to me) election info sites

If you are looking for even more information sources about the federal election (and who isn't?) check these out:
  1. Chronic political junkies are already familiar with RealClearPolitics, an American site with great polling data for all the different US races going on.  Well, now there is a related site, that tries to do the same thing for the rest if the world, including the Canadian federal election.
  2. This is one of the most interesting political info sites I've seen in a long time.  Pundit's Guide is an embarrassing wealth of political data broken down all different kinds of ways.  Want to know about Floor-Crossers and Party Affilliation Changers or Nominated Aboriginal Candidates To Date?  This is the place to be!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Sarah Palin debate instructions leak

This just in. . . Sarah Palin's leaked debate instruction notecard!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Everyone has economic jitters

Somebody is on the ball

It was just a matter of time.

Very impressive

It takes quite a story to pop up simultaneously on BBC, CNN, the New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Bloomberg, The Telegraph (UK), Irish Times, Reuters, China View, Press TV (Iran), Hindustan Times, The Observers (France), TVNZ (New Zealand), never mind the Australian media.

The Harper communications/speechwriting staff should be very proud.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Dion in French and English

Too many times in the course of the day I hear complaints about Dion's English and too many times I have to leap to his defense.

I think my sensitivity to the issue comes from the fact that mom was a francophone who only learned English late in life, much like Dion. I understand him perfectly well because it's an accent I'm used to.

It turns out that part of Dion's problem is a common congenital hearing problem.

I've argued that Dion's English, minus his accent, is more sophisticated in structure and vocabulary than that of most native English speakers. Just look at this quote from the story noted above:

But he said it (the hearing problem) affects his ability to "catch the music of the beautiful language of English."

"I hear everything when it is isolated, but when it is confused with other sounds it is completely confused," Dion, 52, said Monday during a campaign stop. "My mother has the same problem. It is kind of a hereditary problem, but it does not stop me from listening to Canadians.
When was the last time you heard a politician refer to catching the music of the beautiful language of English? Need I make the comparison with the local politicos who drivel endlessly about "piece of due diligence drill-down on a go-forward basis at the end of the day, to be honest"?

And that seems to be part of his problem. Because he does not dumb down his remarks when he switches to English, native English speakers are caught trying to follow complex and sophisticated remarks on top of hearing them in an unfamiliar accent.

Maybe he should just dumb done his remarks in both official languages. He could do that. But then he would not have attracted my attention or my support.

This article goes some way to help explain the issue of Dion and his English.

Biden and Palin face off

Tonight is the French language Canadian leader's debate.  And as much fun as that will be, more fun will be the debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin.

As expected, there are lots of material and analysis about the participants and how the debate might play out.  Here is some of the best commentary thanks to the old grey lady (New York Times)

This is a short video outlining the styles and expectations of the two.  There there are these two articles dealing with Biden and Palin separately.

This will be a great show.  Without sticking my neck out too much, I expect Palin will be pulverized.