It is not hard to cast a ballot if you care.

 Yesterday’s federal NDP leadership convention was little less than a gong-show. The accusations are still flying over what caused the delays and disruptions to the online voting process. Whether it was an outside attack on the online system or whether the system was simply overwhelmed, the result is a loss of credibility on the party as a whole and questions will be forever asked rightly or wrongly wondering about the validity of Mulcair’s win. Quite a high price for a party to pay in the mad and premature rush to move to online voting systems.

The excuses that people make for not voting are endless as are the theories on how to get people engaged. I covered that in a posting here years ago. Personally, I think the reason that the vast majority of people don’t vote is that we are simply in a spoiled first world society that does not want to distract itself with paying attention to politics much less participate in them. The apathy is simply a form of intellectual sloth that only hard times will change.

Declining turnouts are a concern no matter what the reasoning is. Some folks have taken to trying to address the most lazy of excuses in not voting through making casting a ballot even easier than it already is. Online and telephone voting mean that a person does not even need to leave their house in order to vote. Vote casting periods can be extended as well so a person need not even set aside a certain day to spend a minute to vote. So how is that working?

 The federal NDP members had weeks to vote in the first ballot. Barely 50% of MEMBERS bothered to take the literal minute it would take to cast their vote. We are not even talking the general electorate here folks, we are speaking of members of a party.

 Closer to home, the small social media based Alberta Party held a leadership race last year. If twitter alone were an indicator, the Alberta Party would be a contender for the Premier’s office as their membership is indeed very active in social media despite being invisible on the ground. With such an internet engaged membership base one would think that this party would have a great turnout through phone and internet voting. Again barely 1/2 of the members took the minute required to select a candidate.

 The Wildrose Party did mail in ballots and got a much higher turnout in their leadership race than the aforementioned two parties. The Progressive Conservatives did better as well with balloting stations set up around the province. Why do more people actually bother to vote when it actually is more trouble to vote that way? It takes more time and effort to seal an envelope and find a mailbox and even more to set aside a narrow period to take yourself to a dedicated polling station than it would to log in online and vote. Despite that, the more troublesome methods of voting are pulling better turnouts than the easier means.

 I think part of it is that people used the ease of voting as a selling point when pushing memberships. People who claimed it was too tough to get around to voting found it hard to use that excuse when a dedicated partisan was trying to sell them a membership and pointing out that the person could vote online or by phone. These people bought the membership to get a salesperson off their back and in reality they simply did not care. When the window of weeks opened up with they could take a minute to vote they simply did not bother despite GOTV efforts.

 There is a video out there poking some fun at the well meaning by naive Alberta Party goal of targeting people who typically don’t vote. It is pretty blunt but pretty much hits the nail on the head.

 

 The bottom line is that a growing number of people simply don’t give a crap and don’t want to bother themselves with voting no matter how easy it may be.

I am not saying for a second that we should simply give up on addressing this growing disengagement. This is a very real problem in the evolution of our society and taking democracy for granted is never a good thing.

What I am saying though is that the difficulty of getting out to vote is not the problem. If people care, they will vote. Perhaps new online systems will indeed one day be superior to the old ballot box method. I can see many advantages in it with the efficiencies it could bring. The technology is not here yet though and if one thinks it will help improve voter engagement they are simply mistaken.

 Get out in election campaigns and try to get people engaged. That is a worthy effort no matter what your political stripe is. If the person you are working on claims it is too tough to vote though, I strongly suggest that you quit wasting time with them and move on to somebody else. Those people will not vote if you show up on their doorstep and put the pen and ballot in their hands. They simply don’t care.

 

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A cousin with a cause.

In many ways 2011 was simply not a good year in my family particularly when it came to cancer. Jane and I lost a sister-in-law to lung cancer (she never smoked a day in her life), a niece lost an eye to cancer and my cousin Shawn went through a gruelling ordeal and treatment for oropharynegeal cancer from which he is still recovering. Cancer is such a horrible disease and it effects everybody and every family eventually.

In 2009 I was found to have a tumour on my submandibular salivary gland. While it turned out the be benign, the waiting through multiple tests and the fear was life changing. I wrote on it here.   I still have that mass under my jaw but it still is not causing problems thankfully so we can continue to defer it’s removal.

 I still am not a health nut but I still don’t smoke. While cancer can be unavoidable, there are many life practices and other things that can be changed or done to reduce our chances of getting hit. There is no sense inviting this terrible disease into our lives.

 This brings us back to my cousin Shawn. HPV is a virus that we really are only beginning to learn about as a modern society. It has been known for some time that it can cause cervical cancer in girls and a vaccine has been developed. Currently only girls are covered for vaccination though as proven by Shawn’s battle the virus can cause horrific damage to men as well. Shawn and his family are recovering. Shawn’s wife Susan however is not stopping at simply their own recovery. She is now working to help fight preventable cancers through increasing the scope of HPV vaccination.

 Below is the story and plea from Susan. Please take it under serious consideration:

 

My husband Shawn Morgan was diagnosed with Oropharynegeal Cancer August 17, 2011. Stage IV. His cancer is the result HPV. They found a tumour at the base of his tongue (also common with HPV cancer) and the cancer cells metastasized to his lymph nodes. He is 43 years old and has never been sick. He actually was the picture of health – worked out daily – coached our boys’ sports teams – ate well – social drinker.

Now our lives have been completely changed by this cancer. Shawn endured 7.5 weeks of treatment chemo and radiation. For this type of cancer the radiation is all in your mouth. For 35 days your mouth is essentially burned. These patients have open sores in their mouth, on their tongues; some lose the ability to properly swallow. Most end up on a feeding tube because they cannot endure the pain of eating. Most patients lose 20 – 50 lbs. Once done treatment they slowly have to try and eat again – however they now have thick mucus in their mouth that they constantly gag on when they try to swallow food and they have no saliva.

Currently my husband is slowly recovering – what are his side effects: no taste buds, no saliva, no appetite, a constant sore throat and thick mucus in his mouth. He forces himself to eat and one meal can take up to 90 minutes. Without saliva you have to chew your food very fine before you can swallow it. They cannot tell Shawn how much better he will get so at 43 he is left to wonder is this as good as it gets… eating is a form of torture.  

When I realized Shawn’s cancer was the result of HPV– I could be a carrier – can be transmitted skin to skin – or touch not just sexual activity I was ASTOUNDED!! Then when I was told girls get the vaccination in grade 5 but not boys I was angry……. I want to make a difference I want to put a face – a family to HPV so the general public understands what it can cause and why vaccinating boys is so important.

This year I want to spread the news about HPV vaccinations and why the provincial government needs to vaccinate boys. The cost factor does not make sense… if you think about how much money the Tom Baker Centre spent treating Shawn and several others in his group who had HPV– the cost of their treatment has to be harder on the health care system then direct the cost of vaccination program. Then there is the basic truth you will save young men from suffering a horrific cancer – seems very straight forward to me!

I know over the next several years we are going to see more cancers related to this virus and I do not want any families to go thru what we have. I WILL NOT STOP until my story is heard, told many times over and MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

I know the Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization will be meeting shortly to review the HPV vaccination program for boys and I want to make sure Dr. Corriveau remembers my story. I want to make sure Dr. Corriveau our Chief Medical Officer for Alberta does what is right and supports the public interest. 70 % of the population are carriers of HPVthe majority of us fight off the virus and nothing happens. Those whose immune system cannot fight the virus get cancer. My Husband, Shawn Morgan was one of those unlucky few and I will not stop telling our story until someone listens.

Susan and Shawn Morgan

 

Please email Dr. Corriveau directly:  andre.corriveau@gov.ab.ca

 

CC: our Health Minister Fred Horne: health.minister@gov.ab.ca

 

In the subject line put: It’s okay for boys to get cancer. THE HPV VACCINATION PROGRAM DISCRIMINATES

 

In the content put:

 

The HPV vaccination program should not discriminate. Both boys and girls are HPV carriers and both can get cancer. Do what is right!

 

We want the HPV vaccination program provincially funded for boys. Shawn and Susan and their boys have suffered and still continue to suffer as many others do as a result of HPV cancer. I do not want that to happen to my family. The Provincial government should stop discriminating and support a HPV vaccination program for boys.

 

 

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Laugh a little people.

Well this morning began in a pretty typical way. I was walking around in the bush checking on some survey while peripherally checking twitter in case some issue demanded my attention and input. I noted a couple tweets regarding the Wildrose Campaign bus from some people. I knew that the bus was being unveiled today so didn’t think much of it. I just assumed that the usual suspects were adding their critique on the shade of the color or something. Still tweets kept popping up on the bus so I knew something was up. I paused and had a look at a picture of the bus and saw what is pictured below:

  Yes. In an epic failure of graphic design Danielle Smith’s torso was pictured on top of a pair of bus wheels which caused some rather unintentional imagery.

  As an unabashed partisan supporter of, founding member of and multiple term member of the provincial executive of  the Wildrose Party, how was I to respond to a twelve foot depiction of our leader like this?

 As a socially liberal man married to a strong political woman (aka @Jaanikka) how was I supposed to respond to this image?

Well I will tell you: I laughed my head off!

I am not talking the obligatory LOL that I give on twitter when somebody says something moderately amusing. This was a deep, rich and real outright laughing fit in the middle of the trees. I then jumped in on some of the growing laughs and jokes about the whole thing on Twitter.

Face it people. The picture is hilarious and there is nothing wrong with laughing about it or making good natured jokes about it.

I understand that elections and politics are serious business by their very nature and importance. That is why distractions and laughs like this are indeed so important. I take politics very seriously. I have put thousands of hours and dollars into politics over the years. Rest assured I don’t take the issues and policies lightly. I still however can laugh at myself and the party I support when the situation calls for it.

 In past election campaigns my fondest memories are not of the knockout punch delivered in a church basement all candidates forum. I remember the fun/funny things. I remember a car chase with a black Saab driven by a supporter of an opposing candidate while I drove a mobile billboard though the suburbs of Calgary (it was a low speed chase). I remember asking for Mr. Korea at a door due to poor walking papers only to be told by a young lady in perfect English with excellent sarcasm “We are Korean but nobody named Korea lives here.” (awkward but I still got a sign placement). I remember 3am stakeouts to try and catch a serial sign vandal (and we did catch him).

 Campaigning and campaigns can be fun. They have to be. It is tough and important work being on a campaign. A person can wear themselves physically and emotionally out very quickly if they will not let themselves relax and have some fun at times. To do so a person has to lighten up and be able to laugh at themselves first and foremost.

 I see that some people immediately labelled all of the banter about the bus as being sexist. I say with all sincerity: Kiss my butt. It is not. Geeze. People can make jokes about Obama without being racist and people can make jokes about female politicians without being sexist. I despise people trying to shut down humour and discussion by claiming sexism or racism when it is not really there.

I have seen many who keep saying that this would not have gone viral like this had it been a male candidate. I say BS people. Below is a picture that somebody tweeted. It is funny too. Now, had that bus had a male political candidate pictured, I assure you that the banter and the jokes would have taken off and been just the same.

 

 

 Look, sexism does exist and women in politics get terribly abused unfairly in public life. There is a double standard when it comes to critique of their appearances, their attitudes and even their voices. We saw it in a recent repugnant headline about the Alberta election in the Huffington Post, we saw it when people commented on Clark’s cleavage in BC and we saw it in the utter character assassination of Palin. I hope that we can grow out of it as many great women are indeed staying out of politics due to not wanting to endure that scrutiny and abuse.

 The above being said, that has nothing to do with the current Wildrose bus affair. There are some individuals who went too far in their comments such as Progressive Conservative campaign manager Piotr Pilarski tweeting about tassels and such but that is to be expected by nuts like him. He would have been just as offensive on something else had this issue not popped up. The majority of the banter was good natured and it was fun.

 Danielle responded excellently. I can only guess that she was not immediately amused by the error. It is expensive and certainly distracts from the campaign.

 All the same, Danielle put out a tweet saying:

 “Glad to see everyone is so interested in our bus. 😉 Guess we’ll have to make a couple of changes huh?”

Nothing more needs to be said. This is a passing issue. Some embarrassment was had as well as some fun. Hopefully some lessons were learned and there is likely now a better system of checking on things being implemented by the campaign team.

 Some people have complained about all of the joking being childish. Well nobody knows how to relax and have some fun better than a child do they?

Pull the stick out of your arses and laugh a little people. Be a child for a moment. It is going to be a long campaign.

 

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Some pics of what I get up to when not doing political stuff.

It is getting near breakup from a long season. I am tired thus have not kept up at my normal rate of ranting and raving unfortunately. With a stretch of time off coming soon and a provincial election, I don’t doubt that I will be brightening the world with a record number of political postings. Today to shake things up though I am going to post a series of pictures of things I have run across in the field in the last few years. I keep losing/breaking computers so I should document these things somewhere out of my hands as the world would certainly miss out should these shots be lost.

 I have spent most of my adult life working in oil exploration survey. In just the last few years I have worked as far North as literally on the ice of the Beaufort Sea, on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Pennsylvania and pretty much everywhere else in between. When I get lucky I work in Western Canada as I have been this last few months. No matter where I go I find strange things. Unfortunately, it is only in these last few years that I have had a camera/phone on me at all times to document some of the stuff I find. I found an entire standup phone-booth deep in the woods of upstate New York for example. No trail or road or indication on how it possibly got there. Alas, I didn’t get a shot.

 Here are some shots that I did get. They range from interesting, to weird to gross.

 Below are a few shots from here in Central Alberta from this last couple months.

Today deep in the bush I found the rust covered remnants of a recliner chair which is what inspired me to post some shots. From  the overgrowth, rust and moss I would guess it had been there for decades. What is most odd though was that somebody had put casters on the bottom so it could be rolled, a small table on one armrest and most disturbingly foot and hand restraints. It really weirded me out so I only took one picture and moved on. The pic does not show the details well though one of the foot restraints can be made out on the bottom. It gives an indication of just how weird things can be out there. I don’t really want to know the story behind this one.

In the middle of the trees I found the wreckage of a pedal boat. There were no ponds for miles. Who knows who dragged it there and why.

On the edge of a field with nothing really to look at and no reasonable access I found sets of stands.

 

 Texas was a great place to find odd things. Below is a shot of an occupied hillbilly compound near Waco that I had to map. While walking around the outbuildings I had a near heart attack when I encountered the stuffed dog pictured below. Lassie had not weathered well outdoors over the years. The occupants of that place were photo worthy as well but I really didn’t want to pause to ask if I could take shots of them.

 Going farther south in Texas, I encountered a bull with a metal plate hanging from it’s horns by a chain so that it covered it’s eyes. It could see side to side but not straight ahead. I am guessing that perhaps this bull was aggressive and this kept it from charging. As this area was only a few miles from the Mexican border in an area that was indeed loaded with runners, I am sure that the aliens appreciated the effort of the rancher if indeed it was an aggressive bull. The poor devils I encountered down there had enough hardship without being chased by livestock.

 

 I have encountered all sorts of wildlife from polar bears to alligators. I tend to take that in stride. When the creepy crawlies get into my living quarters though it can get a bit challenging. While working near Corpus Christi I awoke to find that my roach trap had ensnared a sizable scorpion. The lights were never turned off for the rest of my stay at that motel and I am sure my sleep was reduced by 30%.

 

 While working deep in the hills of West Virginia, myself and another fella were staying in an isolated cabin. Due to roach infestation, we bug bombed the place to try and keep the walls from crawling. Now, while dozens of roaches died, the fella pictured below apparently was unphased by the mass toxic gas attack within the cabin. It came out and was likely ticked off at us for having killed off it’s food. We moved out shortly after.

 Heading north to the land less creepy I found a memorial to a sunken bulldozer in the muskeg in Northern Alberta last winter. I guess while the operator got out, they never managed to recover the machine.

On a smaller scale, he is the outcome of one of my less than wise compatriots when he decided to quad across thin ice.

Now below is a barge-camp that I lived in for several months on the edge of the Beaufort Sea. It was towed out in summer and anchored. Once frozen in, we built an ice-road to it from Inuvik. The picture was taken at peak daylight.

Finally, here is a shot that everybody should keep in mind whenever they complain about some snow in Calgary. It is a truck buried after a storm at the camp pictured above.

 Well that is it for now. I am sure I will acquire and share more shots as time passes and I end up working in other odd spots. I hope these photos at least draw a picture of what contributes to my own lunacy. 😉

I will get back to my usual political ramblings in further posts. Now nobody can say I don’t post about anything but politics.

This is the crap that makes people quit voting.

 Well, the Canadian Taxpayer Federation came out with their annual “Teddy Awards” for waste in government.

 Usurprisingly Alberta won the provincial category. This is not surprising as our entitled and entrenched Progressive Conservative government really has shown utterly no regard for their expenditures of the hard earned tax dollars of Albertans.

 The highlight that won Alberta top honors in waste is that we have a legislative committee with 21 members on it who have been paid $1,000 per month for being on that committee. This committee however has not even met in over three years!!!

Now government waste of tax dollars is far from new and it has never failed to irk me. I will tell you something that angers me far more than government members lining their pockets on the backs of the taxpayers; there were members from every opposition party serving on that committee!!

Alberta Party: Dave Taylor

NDP: Rachel Notley

 Liberal: Bridget Pastoor (since crossed floor) and David Swann.

Worst of all in my view, Wildrose Party: Guy Boutilier and Heather Forsyth!

How are all of these people who took $1000 per month in pay for a committee that never met for years going to be able to justify this?

Was it impossible for an opposition committee member to put out a press release decrying this waste? I assure you it would have been picked up.

 I wish there was a good excuse for this but I see none.

All of us who support opposition parties expect better than this from our MLAs. We have come to expect waste and entitlement from government MLAs. It is hard to claim we are better when our own MLAs apparently will sidle up to the trough without hesitation.

 More offensive than the wasted dollars is the damage done to an already cynical electorate. It is damned hard for me as a volunteer to knock on doors to respond to a person who says: “They are all the same.” when indeed our bloody MLAs are all acting the same on this.

 I still support the Wildrose Party and do feel that they hold infinitely more promise and principle than the governing PCs. I will continue to do so. I sure as hell hope that some of our MLAs and MLAs to be learn something from this.

 We should be exposing government waste, not indulging in it! Brighten up guys. It will be at least four more years before we get another crack at this.

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Peeling the bandaid off ever so slowly.

In reviewing the events and behaviour in Alberta politics in the last few weeks, it becomes clear that the need for fixed election dates is more acute than ever.

For those who watch twitter, the traditional hashtag #ableg has become almost completely dysfunctional as partisan supporters of all stripes from literally cabinet ministers to anonymous accounts engage in an ever-heightening  vitriolic battle to win the hearts of the one or two undecided people who may follow that hashtag.

 In the news, editorials are becoming more harsh and investigative journos have been engaged in an ongoing game of “gotcha” as increased general political scrutiny exposes slips and scandals of varying degrees of severity and importance.

 Alison Redford broke her promise for fixed election dates and instead substituted this “fixed election period” which has led us to this politically toxic mess. For weeks now we have been in an election that is not officially an election. Frustrated opposition members watch as a Progressive Conservative campaign bus tours the province, tax funded radio ads for the government of Alberta fill the airwaves and taxpayers fund fancy election planning retreats in Jasper for PC candidates while non-PC parties can’t even place a lawn sign yet.

 Doors are being knocked as they have been for months but the early contacts are becoming stale as an easily distracted populace forgets a past candidates visit.

 Candidates are being worn down and frustrated as their literature goes out of date and signs gather dust in garages or expensive campaign offices that can’t be fully opened yet. Expensive phone lines sit idle while volunteers tire and lose interest. The human cost can’t be understated here. While many don’t participate in politics it has to be kept in mind that the vast majority of people who do are volunteers whether candidates or campaign managers. These people are taking time off work and time out in their lives in order to pursue political change and having no real schedule makes this nearly impossible and terribly taxing physically and emotionally.

 Elections Alberta tries to maintain the temporary staff that they have trained and they pay for booked office spaces while they wait for the formal election call that Redford appears afraid to make.

 Worst of all an already cynical and increasingly apathetic electorate is becoming disgusted with politics as we live in this circus of a hybrid almost-campaign period. A fixed election date would not solve everything but it at least would put a light at the end of the tunnel and a deadline to the show.

 Simply picking a day and sticking to it would have been Redford’s easiest promise to keep yet she broke it. The reason for this is clear. This election date tinkering provides a huge advantage to the party in power while it demoralizes and tires out opposition campaigns. It also however abuses and tires the electorate. Unfortunately Redford has demonstrated like so many other PC leaders that she cares about the retention of personal power far more than the interests of Albertans.

 Just call the election and get it over with already Redford. Show a little glimmer of principle for the first time in your short leadership.

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