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Expect Fightin' Joe Anglin -- potential problem for Danielle Smith -- to be in for a talking to

Joe Anglin

There will be no sequel to The Big Lebowski, say the filmmaking Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan.

But don't get bummed out, man. The sequel -- to the Dude's friend Walter Sobchak, anyway -- is living large, right here in Alberta.

This province is, after all, home to Fightin' Joe Anglin, a guy so tough he's had a bullet crease the hairs of his … well, we'll get to that in a minute.

But first, before we discuss the Walter Sobchak of Alberta, the standard advisory and disclaimer is required: This blog post is not intended for children or squeamish adults. It contains explicit language and genuinely horrific images. Life and death situations, some of them involving, erm, ass hairs, will be described. So conduct yourselves accordingly!

Just in case you thought all the most eccentric Alberta politicians these days were members of Premier Alison Redford's Progressive Conservative caucus, well, guess again.

No, some of them, like Fightin' Joe, are members of the even-farther-to-the-right Wildrose caucus. Alberta voters did their best on April 23 last year to get rid of the most extreme or eccentric Wildrosers -- Pastor Allan Hunsperger, c'mon down! -- but, obviously, a few of 'em slipped through the net.

And so we say hello to Anglin, the former U.S. Marine, New Hampshire cop and sometime Canadian Coast Guard volunteer, who in an only-in-Alberta sort of way got his start in the turbulent beginning and ending of the provincial Green Party (now defunct) and ended up as a candidate for fringe of the Wildrose fringe in 2012.

Now that was back in the days when the Wildrose Party and its still newish leader, Danielle Smith, were in a hurry to line up a slate of candidates in case newly elected/selected Tory Leader and Premier, Redford, called a snap election.

Arguably, a number of selection errors were made, Pastor Hunsperger, the fervent believer that Alberta’s gays are fated to be cast into a lake of fire for eternity, being the best-known example.

More recently it has begun to appear as if Fightin' Joe -- although the Wildrosers were wowed by his resume at the time -- may have been another.

Nevertheless, in the 2012 general election he carried the seat in the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre riding for the Wildrosers, which was a good thing for them and him, since the election didn’t go nearly as well as they'd expected, thanks in part to the vagaries of campaign polling -- something that's getting to be a regular thing in Western Canada nowadays.

Fast-forward to the recent past, when a forest fire broke out in Anglin's rural Central Alberta riding threatening homes in couple of small communities, and things begin to heat up, literally as well as figuratively.

When Anglin discovered he wasn't on the email list of community leaders who the province was keeping up to date on the fires -- as, arguably, he ought to have been -- he asked the Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths' chief of staff to include him.

But when the official said no, and a titch snottily too, Anglin went all China Syndrome, melting through the earth like Fukishima Daiichi Units 1 through 6. The literary form taken by Anglin's riposte, once it was clear he wasn't going to get his way, simply begs to be quoted at length:

"I've crawled 200 yards on my belly through human excrement with a marine buddy on each side of me; with fire so close it parted the hairs on my ass. I fought forest fires as a young volunteer well beyond exhaustion, as many are doing today. I've stared down the barrel of a .45 wondering if it was my time, and I have pointed a .38 at the temple of an armed mentally disturbed individual wondering if it was his. I have boarded a sinking seiner in the black of night in the north pacific, to pull a captain to safely during a January ice storm. I've watched friends die, lose limbs, and crack up under the stress. Through it all, I still toss my lunch when I smell the burnt flesh of a corpse; and I always gag when I see the bloated body of a drowned victim, particularly when the water-soaked flesh separates from the bone after several days in the water. …"

"Had you only been around 41 years ago to tell me not to worry my pretty little head, and leave it up to the experts; my life would have been so much simpler! I'm so glad you are in a position to tell me what current information is important, and what information is not!" (Signed, Joe.)

Got that, Pilgrim? Capitals may not be "Joe's" strong point, but the message comes through clear enough.

When this correspondence was conveniently leaked to media, it prompted a lot of Chuck Norris derivative jokes. (When the bogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks under the bed for Joe Anglin.) But really, as noted above, Anglin's routine is really more reminiscent of the philosophy of Walter Sobchak, The Dude's well-armed friend in The Big Lebowski.

Either way, for the moment it'll probably be more of a mildly amusing curiosity than an outright cause for concern.

Still, it illustrates a real problem faced by Smith and the Wildrose Party.

Determined as they are to avoid a repeat of anything like the Lake of Fire fiasco when the 2016 election rolls around, plus enjoying more credibility than they ever have up to now, the party will certainly choose better candidates that it did in 2012.

Moreover, it has also vowed to enforce tight message discipline on its candidates -- and given who its strategists are, it is likely to succeed.

But some of the candidates who slipped through the net last time and managed to get elected -- perhaps like Fightin' Joe -- could prove to be a much bigger liability.

By now, Anglin has surely had a talk with Smith and some of her tougher assistants, not only about what to say in public in future, but with a keen reminder that in a digital age nothing is ever truly private.

And then someone, say like Press Secretary Vitor Marciano, will quietly advise him, as the real fictional Walter Sobchak, as it were, might say, to Shut The F*** Up!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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