Friday, October 29, 2004

Next President elected by Rock Paper Scissors, best two out of three

Political researchers come up with 14 scenarios where the U.S. doesn't know who has been elected President when Americans wake up on Wednesday morning.

Canadians shouldn't feel too smug about this. Our PM is traditionally the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons. In 1972, if I recall correctly, the Tories and Liberals were tied in their seat count totals until military votes gave the Liberals a two seat edge and a minority government.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A little birdie told me

Now that the Boston Red Sox have finally won a World Series after 86 years of futility, I think that lots of charismatic Christians will see this as God saying "It's time for losers to win." Expect modern-day prophets to hear such a cue, I predict.

I'll have to buy a newer edition of The Curse of The Bambino. A small sacrifice to pay.

Now, did the Chicago Cubs ever own ther rights to Babe Ruth? :)
A little birdie told me

Now that the Boston Red Sox have finally won a World Series after 86 years of futility, I think that lots of charismatic Christians will see this as God saying "It's time for losers to win." Expect modern-day prophets to hear such a cue, I predict.

I'll have to buy a newer edition of The Curse of The Bambino. A small sacrifice to pay.

Now, did the Chicago Cubs ever own ther rights to Babe Ruth? :)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Reaping the whirlwind

Earlier today, a slim majority of B.C.'s Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform expressed a preference for a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. The chairman of the assembly expressed the delegates' disappointment with our current first-past-the-post system on the grounds that many votes are "wasted".

The STV ballot system allows voters to rank all of the candidates in their riding in the order that they prefer them. If no candidate wins a majority on first choices alone (that is, winning in the same way one would win today), lower placing candidates are eliminated until second, third, fourth and fifth place preferences, from the ballots that picked them, select a winner.

Sound a little hard to understand? It was a little confusing in the 1952 B.C. provincial election when a similar system was used.

The Liberals and Conservatives, loathing each other to dissolve their electoral alliance, came up with the scheme. The plan was that anti-CCF voters amongst the Liberals and Conservatives would hold their nose and vote for the other party (Liberals for Conseravtives and Conservatives for Liberals) as their second choice. Their plan backfired, with the rise of the anti-CCF B.C. Social Credit Party, which won thousands of second choices.

Those complaining about the "democracy" of first-past-the-post shouldrecall the election night results of B.C.'s first STV election. The socialist CCF was leading with the most first choice votes and a plurality, but not a majority, of the seats. In a first-past-the post system, they would have won the election. But, as second and third choices were distributed, the Socreds eked out a 19-18 lead in seats over the CCF.

W.A.C. Bennett formed a minority government. In 1953, another STV election gave the Socreds a majority. Before the next election, the Socreds returned B.C. to first-past-the-post.

In an STV election we could have several political situations that should dismay electoral reform advocates. I can imagine the NDP and Greens making a deal where the Greens don't run candidates in 10-20 ridings in order to force NDP voters to vote for Green leader Adrienne Carr because there is no NDP candidate in Carr's riding. Green voters, under such a deal, might be forced to vote Liberal if they really dislike the NDP candidate in their riding.

I recall the last French presidential election. France's electoral system holds a runoff between the top two candidates if no-one wins the election. The main left candidate Lionel Jospin, finished third, forcing left-leaning French voters to face a choice between the conservative Chirac and the extremist Le Pen, a nauseating choice for them. Not a STV ballot, true, but one can imagine some dismaying final results in some B.C. ridings that no one could have foreseen.

Do British Columbians really want to roll the dice when they vote in provincial elections? One would hope not.
This week's winner of the Strange New Respect Award

David Frum writes that Canada's over-taxation has a positive consequence--forcing Canadians to be heathier by being able to afford less food that is bad for them:

....What accounts for this difference? Perhaps many things, but here is one that surely has a lot to do with it: food portions. Incomes are generally lower in Canada and costs and taxes are higher. Food vendors respond by offering smaller sizes in order to hold prices down. The market is still dominated by 10 ounce aluminum cans of soda, not 20 ounce plastic bottles. A “small” coffee contains six ounces not eight. At Canada’s best-known chain of sit-down family restaurants, the standard dinner is a quarter piece of roast chicken and about as many French fries as would comfortably fit inside a wine glass.....

The Super-Size Me school of conservatism!

I'll admit that Mr. Frum has a valid point, namely that as long as there is any form of socialized medicine, that the state has a right to keep costs down. Nevertheless, there are so many areas of policy where the state throws up its hands instead of imposing a set of moral standards on citizens. Why crack down on food?

Monday, October 18, 2004

Re-inventing Christianity. Again.

While surfing the net, I recently came across a blog operated by some of the people who frequent The Well, a hip alternative-y worship outreach by a Langley Vineyard, a charismatic church here in B.C..

I like their group weblog, despite my reservations expressed below.

One of the prominent people behind The Well--which would appear to be a swell thing in and of itself--is Jordan Bateman, a former journalist. This piqued my curiousity as Mr. Bateman freelanced for a couple months for B.C. Report, my old magazine. He's currently working on various writing projects.

Anyways, in this post here, Mr. Bateman argues that the Christian church has, in some ways "jumped the shark", and that "intelligent people" need to save Christianity from itself.

Here's most of the salient parts of what he writes. Emphasis is mine throughout:

....[The] modern church jumped the shark during the televangelist scandals of the late twentieth century. It was the moment that the Bride of Christ became a joke with most people, falling into a deep pit of mistrust and irrelevance. We forfeited God's deity and turned Him into a punch-line for late night comics. No local church was safe from the snickering. Christians left in droves. Any sermon on generosity--no matter how anointed, sincere or God-breathed--immediately raised the hackles of those who remained.

But Church has survived. It hasn't flourished, and it hasn't returned to the prominence it once held in society, but it has lived on. Like the post-apocalyptic survivors in The Postman or the little ants in A Bug's Life, we limp through life, oppressed by the thought that, at any moment, the world might lash out against us again. We think that the evil soldiers of pop culture are at our gates, wanting to annihilate us, once and for all.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Church, for the most part, has dropped off the world's radar. God, however, has made a comeback. Film and television is littered with references to a patient, kind God. The Jim Carrey movie, Bruce Almighty, cast Morgan Freeman--one of the world's most respected and gentlemanly actors--as the Divine One. God was treated with respect and dignity. Dogma's Alanis Morissette portrayed God as fun and alive (shocking!). The voice in Field of Dreams restored the relationship between a father and son--what greater gift can God give than that? Even the God of The Simpsons' Ned Flanders is full of grace.....

....Music, film, art, literature, the Internet--God is busting out all over and the so-called "Christian" world is beginning to recognize it.

Now, we must ask God for the right answer in how He wants to use this new move. If the Church has jumped the shark, what spin-off does God have in mind for the next period of time? Where does He want to take His bride next?

"Intelligent people are always open to new ideas," Solomon added in Proverbs 18:15. "In fact, they look for them." Christian leaders who desire to be "wise as serpents and gentle as doves," as Jesus ordered us to be, must now look for new ideas. If we do what we have always done, we'll get what we have always gotten: Nowhere.

The future of the Church is now--it's time for the intelligent people to listen to God's heartbeat and take some risks.

I would like to make some observations on this.

I am well aware of the irony of using something new, the Internet, to stand up for the "old time religion". But the subtext here, that what is new is often inherently better, is a bit troubling to me.

I usually am content to concede that new technologies and new methods of doing church are worth trying. But the Christian church should be careful to kick the tires of any new theological ideas before describing them as sound.

Take the example that Mr. Bateman cites, that of the excesses of the televangelists. These televelangelists were grounded in theologically "new" ideas that only came into prominence in the Protestant wing of Christianity after World War Two.

Jimmy Swaggart--an Assemblies of God Pentecostal.

Oral Roberts, who needed $7 million U.S. lest God "call him home", was a prominent faith healer in the 1950s. Much of his theological underpinning springs from the radically new "Latter Rain' movement of the late 1940s.

Although Jim Bakker is sometimes self-serving in his autobiography "I Was Wrong", he has realized some of the errors in the "prosperity gospel" message that he used to prominently feature on his PTL broadcast. He now believes that treating God as a celestial ATM machine is misguided.

One could argue that the excesses of these men was partly due to a lack of spiritual balance and a lack of grounding in the historical tenets of their faith. The "new spiritual wisdom" may have led them to a mindset where morally dodgy behaviour was now acceptable in their own minds.

If we concede that these men were theologically wise, the Bible does note that a man should take care when he thinks that he is standing, lest he fall.

I would advise those of us in the church, who consider that we are the "intelligent people" in Christendom, to take particular note of this Biblical admonition. I have a sneaking suspicion that the televangelists who fell into scandal felt, at the time, that those who were critical of them were dumber than a bag of hammers.

Let's not make those mistakes again.

More online distractions while you are supposed to be working

The Internet Archive has 326 short subject and feature films, which have lapsed into public domain, available free via streaming video here.

Includes the complete Reefer Madness!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

When small town reporters go bonkers

The Muckraker: a tale of Robert Marquart's erroneous discovery that a heating duct company in his small Missouri town was using their products as teleportation devices.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Conservatism can be hip?

So argues Dawn Eden in this post here.

Thursday, October 07, 2004


My old colleague Jeremy Lott has been hired to write for

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

He still gets no respect

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield has died.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

"Elderly Man River/That Elderly Man River..."

I'm listening to Tip Of the Freberg, the four CDStan Freberg compilation.
Mr. Byfield has his work cut out for him

From a CP story on Alberta's upcoming election to pick a senator-in-waiting:

....None of the mainstream Alberta parties is running candidates in the Senate elections, including Ralph Klein's Tories. The premier says his party - reported to have more than $4 million in its war chest for the provincial election - can't afford to run a Senate campaign.

"If the mainstream parties won't take it seriously, the voters won't take it seriously and it has the potential to be Ralph's version of a Gong Show," says Faron Ellis, who teaches political science at Lethbridge Community College.....


So far the only candidates to come forward are Link Byfield, former editor of a defunct conservative newsmagazine, and Gerry Pyne, running under the banner of the right-wing Social Credit party. The right-wing Alberta Alliance party plans to nominate three candidates at an Oct. 16 nomination meeting in Red Deer....

One of the things that I liked about Alberta/B.C. Report in the 1990s was its advocacy of a Triple-E Senate--one that is Elected, gives Equal representation to each province, and has Effective political powers.

In making the case for a Triple-E Senate, Ted Byfield compared the histories of the United States and Canada. He noted that political and economic power has been shared amongst the regions and states of the U.S., while Canada's Toronto-Montreal economic axis was able to treat the Maritimes and the West like glorified colonies. Ontario and Quebec were able to dominate the House of Commons and thus dominate the country.

Tired of catering to the political prejudices of the Liberal-loving Central Canadian media elite? Perhaps an institutional counter-balance is the answer.