Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Correction on Wells

So, Paul Wells has on his blog a little note I wrote last September/October and sent to him last night after we shared a pint. He basically suggested that everyone's predictions about the outcome of the Liberal leadership were just full of wild assumptions and countless unknowns. And he's quite right. So, I sent him the memo I drafted which I think demonstrates that if you were betting on the convention with no knowledge of the preceding campaign, but a knowledge of every other leadership convention that's occurred, then you have to bet on Ignatieff. History is quite clearly in his favour. And I think the memo demonstrates why, particularly that the ratio of his support to the second place candidate, Bob Rae, is quite high. However, one statistic I did include is incorrect.

I stated that "In the history of federal leadership conventions, the largest first ballot first place showing of an eventual loser was Claude Wagner (22.5). Michael Ignatieff is fully 7.5 points above that number." This is incorrect. In 1983, Joe Clark scored 36% on the first ballot, only to lose to Mulroney three ballots later. I missed this case, though it is in my dataset. So, I was wrong. Fortunately, I think it does just about nothing to take away from the core argument, for two reasons:

* 1983 was not really an open convention so much as the defense of a leadership and a referendum on Clark, which suggests delegates where much more polarized. This is a substantive difference, but an important one nonetheless.
* More importantly, Clark's ratio to Mulroney (1.24) was much smaller than Ignatieff's, and I think that remains the most important number. This means Mulroney needed much less time (i.e. ballots) and coordination (i.e. the undiscounted support of other candidates) to push over the top. None of Ignatieff's opponents have that in this case.

So, I apologize profusely for the mistake, and I shall be more slope-shouldered than usual this evening. But the facts remain.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Am I Québécois?

Would someone mind bringing me up to speed on where I fit into tonight's motion? I moved to Quebec in 2002 to attend grad school. I've learned some French, but not much. Senneville might be my favourite place on the Island. I'd love to stay here and teach for the rest of my life. I'd even raise a family here, though I think my kids would speak English at home. Pray tell, am I Québécois? Why or why not?

On the Nation(s)

A quick post before I dash for the early bus. Gordon Campbell has said that natives should now be recognized as nations. This certainly has as much merit as recognizing the Quebecois. And, as he argues, it almost certainly confers more power on them. Whether the solution to inequality in our country - and especially among aboriginals - lies in parcelling them out from the population further is quite open to debate. But, either way, Campbell's declaration is clearly demonstrative of the direction this type of talk takes. We're down to founding nations or peoples, however inconsistent this is with historical fact and however marginalizing it is of all the other Canadians who have built this country. I am not keen to start a movement for the recognition of some Mennonite nation in Canada, but I sure know that my ancestors are as deserving of it as anyone else: they have a language, a more or less identifiable territory, a unique culture, and an ocean of blood and sweat spilled clearing land and settling the Prairies. But, unfortunately, it wasn't the right blood, so I suppose it will be a futile endeavour.

Update: Whatever.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Seven thoughts on a Montreal Saturday

Today's a great day. It's cool and crisp outside, but soon the streets will be full. Seven thoughts before I write and then head to breakfast:

1.) The Small Sins are a great Toronto band. Stay, their single, is ringing in my head.
2.) Today's Alberta Tory contest could be a nailbiter. And all bets are off if Morton finishes first. If it comes down to their campaign songs, Morton is clearly ahead of Dinning.
3.) Justin Trudeau's endorsement of Gerard Kennedy can only be good news for GK. Still, for a guy who evokes his father at every turn it's hard to believe that Kennedy's French is not a dealbreaker. But, then again, Kennedy represents youth and renewal and revitalization. Whatever all of that means.
4.) Duceppe must not feel terribly clever this morning.
5.) This is good news for Dion. I think.
6.) Bobby is worth the price of admission. Provided you have a student card.
7.) Finally, this is an extremely interesting paper by one of the smartest people I know.

Friday, November 24, 2006

And I'll wear underwear

I spent Wednesday in Waterloo with my sister and brother-in-law and their great family. The highlight was listening to my 2 year old nephew's reasoning. It basically goes like this: "Uncle Pete, my mom has a baby growing in her belly. When it comes I'm gonna be a big brother. And I'm going to wear underwear." Naturally, as the baby will need diapers. I am still smiling thinking about this.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Greatest Democratic Convention Speeches Ever

I've turned my mind lately to what I think would constitute a great speech at the Liberal convention. I've already stated that I thought Dion's closing in Toronto was the best political rhetoric I had yet heard in the campaign. I am anxious to see what happens at the convention.

Until then, these two speeches (here and here) should be enough to hold anyone over. Jesse Jackson delivered the two greatest convetion speeches of the 20th century. He is alternately apologetic, bold, poetic, angry, arrogant and humble. He has lost, but he's not fighting a losing cause. These are speeches so great that I remember one summer when I lived with Pierre Poilievre - no soft heart he - we listened to them over and over again, always chilled by his words. I have my favourite parts, but I encourage you to listen and find your own. This is great stuff.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Stan Rogers and David Myles

This may be the first time those two names have been used in the same sentence. But certainly not the last. My good friend, David Myles, has been nominated as Best New/Emerging Artist at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. It's well-deserved. David's written bagfulls of great songs, including Something I Can Feel, which for me captures the wistfulness of being a young man better than most songs I know:

I wanna build a house
Up on a hillside
I wanna sing my songs
I won't need money
I'll just need time

And no song, I think, is as great as Stan Rogers' Northwest Passage in capturing the young man's desire to leave home-bound pleasures and security for a heroic adventure only "to find there but the road back home again."

If you've not listened to either of these guys you are poorer for it. But now you can be a rich man.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More on Advance Polls

This article on advance voting in the US midterms suggests that of the estimated 25% of electors who are casting early ballots many are doing so because they prefer the certainty of paper ballots over machine voting. Great. The unreliable nature of voting machines is driving advance voting. Whatever you make of advance voting, this reasoning should give us pause. When are Americans going to get better and more consistent electoral administration?

Monday, November 06, 2006

On Voting Machines

While I am writing about electoral administration, I thought I might point you to this great video, which is the key part of a recent HBO documentary on voting machines.

I don't think many things are simple, but this is: the best way to run an election is with simple paper ballots for one office at a time where vote choice is made by a written mark and ballots are later counted by hand. Fact. Voting machines are a disastrous technology which increase the rate of spoiled ballots, disadvantage the less informed, and increase arbitrary effects.

These guys do a lot of really interesting and sophisticated work on ballots. But you can learn most of what you need to know by watching this.

Advance Voting: the early bird doesn't get the worm

This is disturbing. The trend of releasing advance vote participation rates is going to soon be followed by releasing advance vote results. For various ethical reasons - persuasively articulated by Dennis Thompson - this is a bad idea.

I've written a little bit about advance voting in Canada and I think that the benefits of it are fairly unclear: it hives off part of the electorate from a potentially important 10 days of campaigning, it decreases the coherency of the mandate conferred by the election, and it doesn't seem to increase turnout. And while election results wouldn't yet be different in the absence of advance voting, you can bet that the potential for that (in Canada at least) would definitely increase if we started reporting exit polls from early voting. I have a nice paper on this for anyone interested.

For those not interested, check out this guy. He must be one of the the most productive academics going. This guy, as well. And check out these guys. They're mystery men, but given the productivity of their blog I will suggest they are slightly less productive academics than Bostrom or Fowler. But aren't we all? Alas.