So we get to have an election...

Today, as widely predicted, a no-confidence motion brought forward by Michael Ignatieff brought down the Stephen Harper minority government and triggered an election. So much for my uber-bold prediction from 2009 that Harper had 2 more years in office.

Yet it remains to be seen...was I really wrong? After all, I did throw in a little caveat at the end:

In other words, Stephen Harper's minority government could last a full 5-year mandate as the Liberals and NDP keep flipping positions on who wants an election and who wants the status quo. If we have an election soon and/or without a massive gaffe or mistake that drops Tory support, the only possible explanation is that somebody got really really bad advice. This one is a guarantee: in that event, look for one or more of the major parties to experience a very very rude awakening the morning after the election.

For the last couple of days, NDP supporters and analysts have been asking... "why did Jack Layton refuse to support the budget"? It has been noted that this budget has more carrots thrown to the NDP than even the 2009 budget that was intended to stave off coalitions. If Layton could sign off on the budget in 2009, why not this one? It seems they have started discovering what I noted in the 2013 post: that individual NDP MPs would have to worry about losing their seats seeing how the NDP is basically at the highest number of seats they could reasonably be expected to achieve. An election risks those seats, and by extension Layton's leadership. Dozens of competing theories have abounded why Layton would do this, most involving the word "cancer".

But then yesterday a bombshell dropped: Ipsos polling shows the Conservatives are pushing in on majority territory and the new question arises: is the party pushing for an election with bad internal polling numbers the NDP? Or should we instead be looking towards the Liberals?

After all, if the Ipsos numbers are to be believed the Liberals have had their support plummet to an almost inconceivable 24%. Is this poll an aberration, or does it jive with what the NDP number crunchers have themselves discovered: the Liberal Party of Canada is as vulnerable as it could ever be? Locking Stephen Harper into a majority now then seems perfectly sensible to the NDP: their current crop of 36 seats are going to survive this election more or less intact. Anything in the 32-38 range (some say 40, but I think this is pushing it) requires them to siphon huge quantities of Liberal votes, and that happens to be the seat totals that would keep Jack Layton in his position and his NDP cronies collecting sweet sweet Member of Parliament money...this time locked in for the next four years.

Meanwhile, the Liberals either didn't see this poll coming or found it to be an outlier...otherwise Ignatieff would have done what he did when his party was struggling in the polls last spring and begrudgingly back the budget to prevent an election.

Anyways, onto the actual election. I asked this morning what this election would be about, but didn't get much of a solid answer so far. Successful elections tend to be about big issues (Free Trade in 1988, the GST in 1993, Adscam in 2004). The 2008 election, where Harper squandered a majority by calling one for clearly self-serving reasons, serves as a prime example of the opposite. Whether in government or opposition, if you bring forward an election you need a damned good (and marketable) reason to do it. I just don't see that here. The scandals don't quite do it.

First we have the no-confidence motion itself. Contempt of Parliament sounds like a pretty intimidating phrase until you look into it and find out they just want to make exaggerated claims about Bev Oda again. It's hard to get worked up about a scandal that...
  1. Involves claims somebody "lied" and "deceived" by giving slight different answers to...slightly different questions
  2. Has one side insisting that the buck has to stop with the Minister while the Minister and her Prime Minister are both busy insisting...that the buck stops with the Minister
  3. Only came up in the first place because, as Maggie Thatcher once proudly noticed "advisers advise, Ministers decide" yet the Ottawa bureaucracy had a system designed where Ministers could only accept now or accept later. That very procedure had to change as a result of this "scandal" and the cure is not only worse than the disease but it in fact cures a far more serious disease simultaneously. Bev Oda, national hero to beleagured taxpayers.
Secondly we have the "In-and-Out" scandal. New financing rules for elections were brought out, and soon after an election was held. The Conservatives pushed the restrictions as far as the thought they legally could, and the enforcers disagreed. The rules were made more clear, the Conservatives stopped doing what they had done before, and in a lengthy process tried to make their case in a civil court. Ultimately, the narrow interpretation of the old rules were supported. The key problem about the In-and-Out scandal is that by the time you finish explaining what the background of the situation was, what exactly the Conservative Party did, and why what they did was wrong, the person you were explaining this scandal to has already walked away from you and is doing something far more exciting with a person they find far more interesting than you. Ultimately the executive summary of the In-and-Out scandal removes the entire "scandal" from the equation. It's the only scandal in history where when voters hear you explain it your poll numbers go down.

The Liberals, the party that brought in a $2,000,000 gun control bill in 1996 and discovered by 2003 that it was a $2,000,000,000 gun control bill, also wants you to know that the financial costs of proposed Conservative programs will increase. Increase by 1,000% you ask? Well, no, the Liberals will tell you (and ask why you picked such a curious number), but that's bad, isn't it? While the worry of cost overruns is serious, there isn't a party in Ottawa that can lay claim to the penny pinching defender of the public purse. Liberal attempts to be that party are laughable at best, insulting to the electorate at worst.

It's pretty clear at this point that not only has Stephen Harper gotten his hands on Jean Chretien's old Teflon Suit, but he's decided to wear it and roll around in some mud just to test it out. In early May there will be another General Election, but with the current poll numbers and Ignatieff's amazing track record of costing his party support with every summer tour, Jack Layton and Stephen Harper are the two leaders who aren't getting nervous ticks at night for reasons they can't quite explain.

Election 2011?

With a federal election expected today as Michael Ignatieff brings up a motion of non-confidence, it's time to ask the simple question.

What is this election about?

No, seriously. Any NDP/Liberal types who I have allowed to live long enough to read this post, please post in the comments: what is the election about?

Hint: "This election is about _______" is the way that any party, governing or opposition, scores a big win.


You think you've got problems...

Japan is at risk of meltdowns as it turns out their nuclear power plants have failsafes which fail to operate safely whenever there's an earthquake. Whoops.

Oh, even if the power plants survive the night, look to the price of gas shooting up. FTW...


Physics Fun with Big Dippers

I shouldn't pick on David Climenhaga too much on the Raj Sherman file, as he is one of the few reflexive anti-Tories to realize that Sherman's claims have collapsed into dust and his political career is basically over. Parties went from wooing him to shunning him faster than studios reacting to Mel Gibson screaming at that Jew cop who wrote him the unfair ticket.

But when talking about how some people want the affair to drag out -- or perhaps not drag out -- we get this curious passage:

Needless to say, it will suit some people in the system very nicely if this sad affair turns out to have a half-life longer than a plutonium isotope.
Well does this mean they want the affair dragged out or not? The choice of Pu, which does not have any stable (non-radioactive isotopes) would seem to indicate the timeframe is short (ie. people want this all swept under the carpet lest the 10% true part of Sherman's claims become too important). But when you think of plutonium you're usually thinking about Pu-239 who's half life is four times the timeframe of human civilization, so maybe we're supposed to be thinking a long timeframe ("they" want the Sherman political theatre in full swing to cover up their misdeeds)

But there are also far more unstable isotopes: Pu-237 and Pu-239 have half-lives measured in microseconds. Yet when questioned in this in the comments, Climehaga claims he was talking about plutonium's most stable isotope, Pu-244 (80,000,000 year halflife). But if your rhetorical intent is to quote a very very long time, why bring up plutonium (in general: no specific isotope) in the first place? Why not a more stable element with numerous long-term radioactive isotopes like samarium or lutetium?

Didya hear the one about Jason Kenney?

A clerical error put a political hot potato right into the lap of Edmonton's second most disgusting elected official, and Linda Duncan wasted no time this past week blasting Kenney for using government stationary to send out party-related correspondence. This is a Parliamentary no-no, and Duncan and the NDP have been routinely calling on Kenney to resign.

No word, yet, on Duncan's office when she will be resigning. Why would she do that, you ask? Because last month Alberta Aardvark caught her doing the exact same thing.

She narrowly pulls ahead of Rachel Notley, but remains stubbornly behind Don Ivseson


Is Minesweeper winnable?

This is the question posed here.

The quick answer is yes. For one, the first click is programmed not to hit a mine. For two, theoretically you can randomly click on empty squares each time and get them all.

On a practical matter, however, the answer is no. Given a perfect algorithmic system you still can often be placed in "pure guess" situations.

For example, in this game I was just playing I had two unexplored squares, one of which contained a mine. Either the space between the 4s contained the mine, or the space along the edge between the two and the one. However, both squares met the mathematical conditions expressed in the four adjacent cells.

Naturally given my 50-50 chance, I guessed wrong. I've guessed wrong facing 2 mines remaining with roughly 1/3rd of the board uncovered, so this shouldn't surprise me.


Raj Sherman: The MLA so crazy they named a tank after him

Today has been a day followers of Alberta politics have been waiting for since...Thursday.

In the Alberta Legislature last Monday, Dr. Raj Sherman announced on the floor of the assembly that Capital Health was paying millions to hush doctors up from speaking out against wait times.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It has been brought to my attention that due to fierce competition for finite operating time between surgeons about 1,200 Albertans are on a wait list for lung surgery, and 250 died waiting on that list, many with lung cancer. I've also been told by others that this happened under Minister Mar and the hon. Member for Sherwood Park and that Dr. Trevor Theman of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and Capital health and Sheila Weatherill knew about this. Is the Minister of Health and Wellness aware of this, and will he call the Health Quality Council of Alberta and carry out a fatality review?
Given that it has also come to my attention that physicians who raised these issues were either punished or driven out of the province or paid out in millions to buy their silence and the costs buried in the books under the former Capital health region, I'm not surprised that this was never made public. Will the hon. minister commit to investigating and auditing these payouts in addition to the deaths and delays in cancer care?
Given that people dying on cancer wait lists is absolutely inappropriate – and I agree with the minister; he is an honourable, caring, and honest man – will the minister conduct an independent forensic audit of AHS and Capital health records as it has also come to my attention that there were two sets of books while I was in the ministry, one balanced and the other with the details mentioned that may have contributed to the $1.3 billion deficit inherited by Dr. Duckett when he took over?

Today was the day that, at the behest of the Speaker, he was to table his evidence to the Assembly.

And he did. Sherman provided copies of his speeches and powerpoint presentations, emails he had sent to other MLAs, and people with healthcare sob stories they had emailed to him.

And what, you ask, about his damning claim that Capital Health and various Ministers of the Crown cooked the books to hide hush money paid out to doctors?

So, yeah, he can't back that up. He doesn't have proof, or evidence, or anything like he had claimed for the past week. He won't make the statement in the lobby he made in the assembly (where he is afforded infinite legal protection. Seriously! If during a session an arrest warrant came out for Ed Stelmach on suspicion of murder, the police could wait outside or ask the Speaker to be let inside and hope they don't get refused), he won't present the proof of the statement, and indeed now never claims to have had or insinuated to have had.

It's at this point we should probably turn back the clock to November, when it was revealed that Raj's caucus colleagues (as they were at the time) had been asking about his mental health. Now with Raj Sherman about three-quarters of an inch away from standing on a soapbox wearing a tinfoil hat, doesn't this story seem a lot different than the "creepy conspiracy" that was the common interpretation just 5 months ago?


A Brief History of the Time of the Rest of The Big Bang Theory

If the last few episodes of The Big Bang Theory have started feeling a little odd and derivative, and one of the primary relationships seems oddly familiar, you aren't alone.

Though the lead characters would be more suited to the maths portion of an SAT exam, they surely had to do well on the analogy portions as well. As such, anybody who's curious [if you don't know who some of these names are, search them on Google Images. Turn off safe search. You're welcome. -ed] can see the following analogy and instantly understand.

If you didn't like it the first time, then you might just want to end with your Season 3 DVD set and pretend the show got canceled.