January 2006 Archives

January 31, 2006

[It is time to start catching up on the backlog of posts built up during the election campaign. It only seems fair to start that process by resuming our regular pummeling of everyone's favourite eco terrorists - Monsanto. This is the first of three or four posts featuring Monasanto. It was actually written last fall but for one reason or another sat around until now.]

All of us here have posted at some point about Monsanto's efforts to dominate the global food supply with genetically modified seeds and synthetic hormones. We usually get to report major victories and minor defeats for the company. This time it appears that Monsanto and other GM seed producers may have lost a big one.


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The wheels grind slowly

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Enron fraud trial set to kick off

Prosecutors and defence lawyers are due to give their opening statements later on Tuesday in the trial of former Enron bosses Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling.

Mr Lay and Mr Skilling are accused of leading the giant fraud that brought down the former energy firm in 2001.

Both protest their innocence. Enron's collapse was the biggest corporate scandal in recent US history.
...
Mr Lay and Mr Skilling's defence is expected to be that they simply did not know about the giant fraud, which was instead carried out by more junior staff, led by former finance chief Andrew Fastow.

Mr Fastow struck a plea bargain with the authorities last year in return for a reduced sentence and is expected to give evidence against the two men.


Took long enough, didn't it? Note the incompetence defence. The company paid them millions but they had no idea what was going on.

Hat-tip to babble where it was noted that Lay's conviction should come just in time for Bush to pardon him on the way out of the White House.

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Warming globes and tipping points

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An interesting article in Washington Post recently highlights how climatologists and other scientists - having firmly established in their minds the reality of global warming and its attendant chaotic climate change - are turning their attention to identifying the tipping point, the time after which it will be too late to do something to halt or reverse human-caused climate change.

Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This "tipping point" scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would "imply changes that constitute practically a different planet."

Sounds like a call to action from the scientific community, but what chance does the public have to rally to their banner? Not much, really, with the Conservatives in charge. From a press release distributed by the Cooler Heads Coalition, a industry front established by ExxonMobil and other big players to scuttle the Kyoto Protocols and undermine the fight against climate change:

Canada could be the next country to put national interest above rhetoric in repudiating the Kyoto Protocol. The leader of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper, told the Canadian Press (June 9) that he would scrap the implementation of the Kyoto procedures and instead introduce a bill aimed at reducing air pollution by 2010. He said, "Kyoto is never going to be passed and I think we'd be better to spend our time on realistic pollution control measures."

The measures Harper would introduce instead would focus on genuine pollutants rather than carbon dioxide, but there are few details on the extent of the planned legislation. Canadian environmentalists have reacted with outrage to the suggestion, with the Sierra Club taking the ultimate step of ejecting him from its "eco-Olympics" in protest.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives have a wealth of disinformation to deploy in their ongoing battle to deny the seriousness of global warming and climate change. The Cooler Heads Coalition is just one organization created with the express purpose of muddying public debate on this issue.

Of course, with the Republicans in power in the United States, the energy industry has little to fear. The Republicans have made hostility to any action on global warming a central focus, and have schooled their troops in how to obscure the facts around climate change.

With the American public mostly confused or indifferent, politicians gave little time to the matter among the many demands for their attention. Global warming did not look like a winning issue for either party. During the election campaign of 2000, the candidates mentioned it only briefly in passing. When George W. Bush became President, some hoped that as a proven conservative he could get restrictions on CO2 through Congress more easily than his opponent, Gore, could have done. A few members of Bush's cabinet, and many foreign leaders, pressed the new President to take steps against climate change. But a furious lobbying campaign by Bush's friends in the energy industries and other conservatives drove the administration to renounce any restriction. The United States government repudiated the Kyoto Protocol. As for domestic initiatives that might reduce greenhouse gases, the administration considered them only so far as they might serve as public window-dressing for programs whose main aim was to strengthen corporations in the fossil fuel or other industries.

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January 30, 2006

Huh?

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The conventional wisdom for the last week has had Frank McKenna as the front runner in the race for the Liberal leadership. I guess the conventional wisdom was wrong.

Canada's outgoing ambassador to the United States, Frank McKenna, will not be running for the leadership of the Liberal Party, CTV News has learned.

"I don't have all the reasons for it, and there is a possibility that he will announce this today, that is what we are hearing," CTV's Robert Fife said of McKenna, who was touted as the clear frontrunner for the leadership race.


The CBC report on the same subject suggests McKenna will confirm this at a press conference in DC this afternoon.

If you're looking for some incisive analysis of what this all means, sorry. I'm as surprised as everyone else. I just thought you'd like to know.

This certainly opens up the race, though. From the CTV article at the top:

Others considered to be contenders for the leadership include former public works minister Scott Brison; recently elected Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff; former cabinet minister Belinda Stronach; and former Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin.

But I'd heard Tobin was working for Stronach. At this point I'd say all bets are off.

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Housekeeping

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I'm a little late to the party on both of these but I've finally gotten around to adding links to Andrew Anderson's Canadian Blog Exchange and Jay Currie's Canadian Bullet. They're on the sidebar under Media (yes, Media) and both offer a bird's eye view of the Canadian blogosphere though each has its own approach.

You'll also see a new link at the end of each post related to the Blog Exchange. If the post in question has already been added there then the link will take you to that category so you can see what other bloggers have to say on the subject. If the post hasn't yet been submitted you'll be given the opportunity to do so. Click on the appropriate link to go to a form which is mostly auto-filled, select the Area and Category, and then add the post. Simple as that.

Thanks to both Andrew and Jay for the work they've put into their respective sites.

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January 28, 2006

Latest Margolis

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It has been a while since I last linked to an Eric Margolis article. I should do it more often. Eric's latest piece is about Saddam Hussein's Soviet style show trial, why it should be moved to the Hague and why Hussein should have American and British co-defendants. There isn't much point in trying to excerpt a Margolis article so go read the whole thing and prowl around the archives while you are there.

Update: Repaired broken link.


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BMD Focus: Canada joins the BMD team

Did that get your attention? Well before you get all excited and wonder how Stephen Harper managed this before he's even been sworn in as prime minister, be advised that the headline is speculation and the article isn't a particularly good piece of journalism. Consider:

... Harper's decision to break the longstanding political consensus in Canada to steer clear of BMD appears to have won him a significant boost in support in what proved to be a tight race.

Really? I'd like to know how the author, Martin Sieff (Senior News Analyst, yet), figured that out. Missile defence wasn't even mentioned in the Conservative platform and Harper tossed off his comment about re-opening the debate on the same day he made a few other announcements.

It's amazing how every pundit with an agenda -- and Sieff's breathless enthusiasm for missile defence is palpable in this article -- can unerringly determine what was on the minds of millions of voters even when the voters themselves have already stated otherwise. (And why do I think I'll be linking to that post of Tim's for months?)


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January 27, 2006

Can we call this a flip-flop?

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After spending years berating the Liberals for corporate subsidies, it seems that Conservatives faced with both the reality of being held responsible for the Canadian economy and the likelihood of an election within a year or two are having second thoughts about that. Ian Welsh has the details, complete with pictures, but I can't resist teasing you with this from the Reuters article Ian points to.

Asked if plane and train manufacturer Bombardier Inc., a particular target of subsidy critics, could continue to benefit from federal government largesse, [Solberg] said: "We're reluctant converts."

That would be former Conservative finance critic, and possible Conservative Minister of Finance, Monte Solberg.

Now go read Ian because, as much as fun as this has been, he makes some serious points about the pain we may be in for.

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Arctic Dance

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Stephen Harper hasn't even been sworn in yet but has already managed to get into a dispute with the US government over Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.

Harper rebukes US envoy over Arctic
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister-designate Stephen Harper, who campaigned on the need to improve relations with Washington, rebuked the U.S. ambassador on Thursday for rejecting Canada's claims to the Arctic.

Harper, whose Conservatives won a fragile mandate in Monday's election, said during the campaign that Prime Minister Paul Martin had needlessly exacerbated ties with the United States.

But Harper showed little hesitation in slapping down U.S. envoy David Wilkins for making critical remarks about Conservative plans to boost Canada's presence in the far north.

"The United States defends its sovereignty, the Canadian government will defend our sovereignty," Harper told reporters during his first news conference since the election.

"It is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the ambassador of the United States."


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January 26, 2006

Things that make you go hmmmmm

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Harper failed to meet ethics czar on Grewal

Stephen Harper failed to meet federal Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro despite repeated attempts over four months to interview him for an inquiry into the Gurmant Grewal affair, Mr. Shapiro noted in a report released yesterday.

Despite a code of conduct that says it is an MP's duty to co-operate with an inquiry by the commissioner, Mr. Harper's office told Mr. Shapiro he could not find time in his schedule to answer his questions between August and November of last year. Instead, Mr. Shapiro spoke to an aide.


This seems curious given Harper's enthusiasm for government accountability.

And what of the report itself?


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Manley won't seek Liberal leadership

The race to replace Paul Martin as leader of the Liberal party is already heating up, but John Manley said on Wednesday that he doesn't want the job.

"While I hope to play a role in the renewal, healing and unification of the Liberal party, I have decided for personal reasons that I will not be a leadership candidate," the former deputy prime minister wrote in an opinion piece published in the Globe and Mail on Thursday.


Manley was the Canadian chair of a trinational task force that looked at the future of North America. Amazingly enough, their recommendations looked remarkably like the vision of Tom d'Aquino's Canadian Council of Chief Executives, a vision that would have Canada be even more of a client state in the American empire hegemony than it is now. Or maybe not that amazing since d'Aquino was his vice chair.

So is this a sign that the Liberal party that emerges from the rebuilding process will be less disposed towards continental integration? Maybe not. It may just be a recognition that Manley is, to say the least, somewhat lacking in the charisma department. But I can dream, can't I?

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Fun with numbers

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Skippy the Wonderdog catches the evil Canadian liberal media doing a bit of mind reading about what voters were saying when they gave Stephen Harper a minority government last Monday.

So opines the Toronto Sun:

What voters collectively said on Monday was crystal clear.

They want to test-drive a Harper government -- one constrained, but not paralysed, by the opposition.

The irascible canine is rightly suspicious of this interpretation:

The fact that their aggregated votes allow Mr. Harper a minority government does not suggest that the voters want to "test drive" a Conservative government.

On the contrary: the record quite clearly shows that some 64% of Canadians would be quite happy if Stephen Harper was not Prime Minister. The suggestion made by the Sun, that voters will punish the opposition for interfering with Harper's clear mandate, is horseshit of the highest order.

In fact, the Canadian people were saying something quite different than what the Sun would have us believe.


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January 25, 2006

Manning New Ambassador to US?

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Apparently CBC Newsworld is talking about a rumour that Reform party founder Preston Manning might be appointed the next Canadian Ambassador to the United States.

At the risk of forever tarnishing my progressive credentials, I have to confess that, of all the leaders of the extreme right in this country, Manning is the one I like best. Stockwell Day was just the devil's gift to stand up comedians and Stephen Harper is ..well..Stephen Harper.

Of course, Manning and I agree on just about nothing but we do share a common background. I grew up in Saskatchewan while Tommy Douglas was premier and was constantly told by my relatives that Ernest Manning and those folks in Alberta represented just about everything wrong with the world. Preston grew up in Alberta at about the same time while his father was premier and, I'm sure, was told that Tommy Douglas and those people in Saskatchewan represented just about everything wrong with the world.

So I think it would be interesting to sit down with Preston over a beer (or whatever) and talk about the experience of growing up in that kind of prairie populist environment from two very different perspectives. I expect the shared background would likely overshadow the political differences. From that point of view, I think it would be a worthwhile experience and one that both of us might leave willing to repeat.

The foregoing not withstanding, there is no bloody way I think Preston Manning should even be in the running for that ambassadorship.

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Fox-ifying Canada's media

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Sometimes you read something that is so stunningly stupid, you have to re-read it several times before it sinks in that someone actually believes this. A case in point is Krazy Kate's final blather on her CBC site on the priorities that Prime Minister designate Stephen Harper must pursue. To her, the transformation of the Canadian media landscape into a right wing noise machine is among the first orders of business.

First, she waxes nostalgic about the destruction of the Fairness Doctrine in the United States, an act which made possible the downward spiral of the U.S media to the point where George Bush can break the law without fear of his actions becoming a media sensation, and right wing talking points establish the news cycle's narrative.

When Ronald Reagan passed away in 2004, the outpouring of emotion belied the fact that in his own day, he was as reviled and ridiculed by both the media and the left as George W. Bush is today.

Of his many and longlasting achievements, one in particular is largely overlooked - the profound effect he had on liberating the American democratic debate and opening the door to conservative thought and opinion in media. The explosion of talk radio led by Rush Limbaugh and the growing influence of the unapologetically pro-American Fox News were made possible by Reagan's determination to eliminate the FCC "fairness doctrine."

"The fairness doctrine ran parallel to Section 315 of the Communications Act of 1937 which required stations to offer "equal opportunity" to all legally qualified political candidates for any office if they had allowed any person running in that office to use the station. The attempt was to balance--to force an even handedness. [...] The doctrine, nevertheless, disturbed many journalists, who considered it a violation of First Amendment rights of free speech/free press which should allow reporters to make their own decisions about balancing stories. Fairness, in this view, should not be forced by the FCC. In order to avoid the requirement to go out and find contrasting viewpoints on every issue raised in a story, some journalists simply avoided any coverage of some controversial issues. This "chilling effect" was just the opposite of what the FCC intended."

After the courts transformed the policy into law, Reagan-appointed FCC chairman Mark Fowler publicly vowed to kill it. When both houses voted to reinstate it, Reagan vetoed and the political debate in America was transformed.

Transformed indeed, into the mess it is today. The Fairness Doctrine was a solid piece of legislation which ensured that the media could not simply push a preferred storyline (WMD, anyone?) without ensuring critical voices were included in the debate. It was occasionally used by both the left and the right to try to silence their opponents, but those attempts at intimidation had to be made openly, and often became part of the story, allowing the public to see the struggle going on between the opposing viewpoints. Despite attempts to kill the doctrine prior to Reagan, its legitimacy was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court:

A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a...frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others.... It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount. — U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969.

What Reagan and the U.S. right wing achieved with the destruction of the Fairness Doctrine was to place the rights of corporate media conglomerates ahead of those of the citizens of the United States. News coverage began to follow established narratives, tilting away from investigative reporting exposing corporate or (Republican) government corruption and focusing on trivial issues and agreed-upon talking points. Thus we had wall-to-wall coverage of Bill Clinton's blow job, but virtually no opposing viewpoints on the war in Iraq. Fox News is the ultimate product of the end of the Fairness Doctrine.


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January 24, 2006

An American's view

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Today's Globe and Mail story on the Conservative win in yesterday's election prompted a concerned comment from an American reader named Tim Kane:

At its core, the conservative movement here doesn't believe in Democracy. They believe in Aristocracy and they want to prove that Democracy doesn't work. To make that point they undermine its institutions. Looting the treasury served two purposes. They have not solved a single problem and have spawned numerous new ones. The Iraq war will cost us $2 trillion. Iraq may do to us what Afganistan did to the Soviets.

Given the darkness of conservativism in America, I find it hard to believe Canadians would hitch their star to the modern conservative movement.Today the U.S is under a virtual dictatorship of fear, paranoia, war, multilayered deceit and corporate journalism that serves the beast. Harper's is a minority government, but that's hardly any different than it was with Bush.

How Canadians could stare at the United States and vote conservative is beyond me. You may think "hey this is Canada, we are different." All I can say is we used to say "Hey this is the United States, Fascism could never find a home here." Their foot is in the door now. Given an inch...

With the 2000 election of Bush, America took its first step to fascism and a dark age of anxiety, fear, war, torture, and intimidation. With Harper, Canada may have taken its first step towards Anchluss. Having all that oil up in Alberta doesn't help either. Meanwhile, the Dark Age that Churchill so warned us about, continues to spread in the very heart of Democracry. T'is sad times we're living in.

Canadians still have warm memories of our own brand of conservatism associated with Robert Stanfield, John Diefenbaker and John A. Macdonald that even the unctuous Brian Mulroney could not kill. Mr. Kane reminds us that Harper and his brain trust follow a very different ideology whose malignant form can clearly be seen in the disastrous Bush administration.

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There is happiness in Conservative circles today, and why not? After all, their man Stephen Harper was written off a year ago as a spent man, and yet today he is poised to ascend to the highest office in the land.

But let us dissect this victory for a moment.

Paul Martin was the ineffectual head of a scandal-plagued and exhausted party, wracked by a decade of Jean Chretien's uniquely slimy leadership that left a coating of scum Martin simply could not scrub away. Every promise the Liberal Party made under his tenure was just that: a promise. Nothing ever got done, mind you, but the promises certainly sounded sincere, even with constant repetition. Despite the window dressing of progress and yet another painful Red Book full of even more promises, the Canadian public sensed the intellectual vacuity behind the Martin Liberals, and wanted change.

Within this turbulent political landscape, Martin ran what had to be the most disastrous campaign in recent memory, complete with gaffes, bad advertising, dodgy candidate selections and awkward sloganeering.

Against this, Stephen Harper ran a tight ship and a well-crafted campaign, and everyone seemed to agree he was the top of his form.

Yet the best result he could do was to squeak out a bare minority. You might call that a victorious defeat. Even his vaunted breakthrough in Quebec owes far more to Liberal rejection and referendum exhaustion than to an embrace of conservative principles.

Canadians are desperate for a viable option to the Liberals federally (I think they already have one in the NDP - but hey, that's just me). They have just given Harper a very tentative chance to prove that his party is a centre-right party in the Canadian tradition, and not a pack of pseudo-American neo-con shills waiting to dismantle the federal government and empower the corporate elite.

The future of Canadian conservatism rests on whether or not Harper can resist his neoconservative impulses, a shaky proposition at best.

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Hello, you must be going

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Paul Martin was supposed to be Prime Minister for ten glorious years. Instead he got two though it seems like ten to some of us.

I'm hearing a lot of Liberals screaming at people who betrayed the party. I'm even seeing a few yelling at New Democrats like it's somehow their fault.

Suck it up, guys. The Liberal party did this to itself. The damage was done when the party leadership was hijacked by a bunch of back room operators. And the deal was sealed by the Earnescliffe Stategery Group (or whatever they're calling themselves these days) who never met a focus group they didn't like even when the newest focus group contradicted the previous one. Ask a silly question...

When Dithers' reign of error began he talked a lot about the democratic deficit. As the Liberal party begins the process of rebuilding itself in the wake of his resignation as leader last night, maybe you ought to think about that. Democracy begins at home.

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Election blogging

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Lloyd Robertson just announced that Paul Martin has called Stephen Harper and conceded the election. In the morning, we will wake up to Prime Minister-elect Stephen Harper.

Let me get this out of the way, first: Ewwww.

I am now listening to Martin give a pretty good concession speech in his riding, where he was re-elected. He is being funny, natural and relaxed. If only he had let some of that come out during the campaign, his fortunes might have been better.

Here are the numbers as of 10:20 Mountain Time:

Con: 124
Lib: 103
BQ: 51
NDP: 29
Ind: 1

I am pleased to see the increase in the NDP caucus, and glad that the people in my riding have tossed out Liberal Ethel Blondin and elected my friend NDP candidate Dennis Bevington, a profoundly decent man who will serve the people of the NWT well.

Whoa...

Paul Martin just declared he would not lead the Liberal Party into another election. Ignatieff and Stronach will be swiftly putting together leadership teams. Let the race begin.

Some good news:

The Bloc lost seats. Fuck them and their "winning conditions".

The Conservatives were held to a weak minority. This government can be toppled, and I look forward to that day.

Belinda Stronach won her seat. What a great poke in the eye to the Conservatives.

Olivia Chow will join her husband Jack Layton in the House of Commons.

Some bad news:

See the first paragraph.

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January 23, 2006

No, dammit, we're not done

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From today's American Spectator ( and I don't link to wingnuts):

It's possible, though not likely, that the Conservatives will win an outright majority in Parliament. But even if they don't, and need to form a coalition government, they will have more of a chance to move an agenda than one would expect. As a political consultant explained to me in Washington a few months ago before heading north to work for the Conservatives, the leaders of the Tories' prospective coalition partner, the separatist Bloc Quebecois, are willing to give Harper several years of rule (but expect lots of Tory reforms to exempt Quebec). The Conservative victory will be a real one, and not just for Harper and his party but for Canada, for North America, and for the world.

American political consultants working for the Conservatives and a coalition with the Bloc to dismantle the country. Is this the vision of Canada you Conservative supporters want?

Move along now. No hidden agenda to see here.

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We're Done

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This is a joint post from pogge, Tim and mahigan.
We're done. The last updates have been made. All that is left is the voting and the counting. I think it's safe to say we are all glad to see the end of this interminable election campaign so we can direct some of our efforts to things we have been neglecting for the last few weeks.

We would like to thank all who dropped by (even though you burned off a month's worth of bandwidth in about a week;-). We have made some new friends and they will be hearing from us in the future.

We will wake up to whatever we wake up to on Tuesday. And we will work from there to decide what we need to do to further the cause of Peace, Order and Good Government.

So long for now.

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January 22, 2006

Latest Polling Data

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This post has been post dated to January 22 to keep it at the top of the page. Please scroll down for other posts that may be newer.

Posted @  10:45pm CST Jan.22

National Poll Results

Date Poll Lib CPC NPD BQ GRN MoE
*Jan. 22 SES 30 33 22 9 5 +/-5.3
Jan. 22 SES 30 36 17 11 6 +/-3.1
Jan. 21 SC 27 37 18 11 6 +/-2.2
Jan. 21 IR 26 38 19 N/A 5 N/A
Jan. 21 Ekos 27 37 20 11 5 +/-2.0

SES is SES/CPAC Nightly Tracking Poll.  SC is Strategic Counsel Tracking Poll.  ENV is  Environics Research Group.  DEC is Decima Research.  LEG is Leger Marketing.  Ekos is  Ekos  Research Associates.  IR is Ipsos Reid.  POL is Pollara Strategic Public Opinion and Market Research.  

 

SEAT PROJECTIONS - Final**

 

Lib

CPC

NDP

Green

Bloc

Other

Total seats

94

128

29

0

56

1

Seat projections provided by democraticSpace
 

National Results From the SES/CPAC Nightly Tracking Poll

Undecided Voters

 

Best PM

Leadership Index   Change*

National

12.5%

  Martin

24%

Martin

71

+  13

Quebec

13%

  Harper

29%

Harper

70

 -  10

Ontario

14%

  Duceppe

  5%

Duceppe

25

+    1

Atlantic

13%

  Layton

16%

Layton

60

+  10

West

10%

  Harris

  2%

Harris

8

-    5

      None

  8%

None

26

-    9

      Undecided

15%

Undecided

41

+   2

         

*Change from previous day.

Comments are now in the extended.

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Strategic Voting: Last update

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Greg Morrow has the last update to his strategic voting guides on the site If you are thinking about voting strategically , do it right.

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January 20, 2006

Leopards and Spots

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The Conservatives have a simple policy in regard to Stephen Harper's past statements. If it was said more than a few months ago and Harper doesn't want to accept responsibility for it, it's old news, doesn't mean anything and we've moved on. Of course, this should sound terribly familiar because it is exactly the same response we have heard elsewhere.

But has the leopard really changed his spots? He would certainly like us to believe so. In the Globe and Mail from January 12 he tells us "Yeah, I don't think my fundamental beliefs have changed in a decade," he said. "But certainly my views on individual issues have evolved, and I deal with the situation as I find it."

This is not what some Conservatives wanted to hear. It means that every statement he has made in the last 10 years including those in his 1997 speech to The Council for National Policy is still in play. The approach might have evolved but the fundamental positions have not.


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Loonies for Harper

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The loonie is voting for Stephen Harper. Not, not that loonie, I'm talking about the Canadian dollar. It appears that the loonie's future health will depend on whether or not the Conservatives win the election.

The currency was worth 85.62 cents US when the Liberal minority government fell Nov. 28 and hit a 14 1/2-year peak of 87.21 cents on Jan. 4 before pulling back.

It was boosted Friday "as positive mojo for a possible Conservative majority in next week's election pervades the market," commented Andrew Busch, foreign exchange strategist at BMO Harris Nesbitt in Chicago.

Positive-fucking-mojo? Glad to see BMO Harris Nesbitt is using cutting edge economic theories upon which to base their judgments. The implied corollory of course, is that the loonie will sink should we decide to put anyone in office but the Conservatives. A nice bit of blackmail brought to you by corporate Canada.

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I won't dance. Don't ask me.

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Scott Tribe is having a little fun with the Globe and Mail and CTV who are scrambling to find reasons for the sudden drop in Conservative support as reported by the latest Strategic Council poll. Of course that drop is as compared to a previous poll by, wait for it, the Strategic Council.

It looks to me like the latest version of Declan's Media Failure Two-Step (a post that should probably be in a hall of fame somewhere). In this case it's:

1. Report on what may be a rogue poll as if it's infallible and fill your pages with reasons why Conservative support is surging.

2. When the next poll gives the lie to the previous one, fill your pages with speculation as to why Conservative support has fallen without ever suggesting that maybe the previous poll was just a crock.

It's certainly more fun than trying to seriously tackle, you know, issues.

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January 19, 2006

Fishing expedition

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Updated. Please see below.

This goes out to all those who have gmail accounts or a membership in one or more Google Groups.

Feds after Google data

The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

The move is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.

In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.


Yes, their interest is currently -- officially -- in Google searches and pornography but this is the Bush administration, folks. They tend to cast a wide net given any opportunity to snoop. Do you really expect them to play by the rules and exercise restraint?

You might want to keep an eye on this and consider sanitizing for your own protection at the appropriate time.

Hat-tip to Bump.

Yahoo! Update!
Uh! Oh!

Google competitor Yahoo Inc., which runs the Internet's second-most used search engine, confirmed Thursday that it had complied with a similar government subpoena.
...
Yahoo stressed that it didn't reveal any personal information. "We are rigorous defenders of our users' privacy," Yahoo spokeswoman Mary Osako said Thursday. "In our opinion, this is not a privacy issue."

Would they tell us if they had revealed any personal information?

Via emptywheel at The Next Hurrah.

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And so it begins...

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Wondering what sort of targets Harper and his neocon trust will level their guns at once they hold the reins of power. Harper gave us a glimpse today with his remarks about the Supreme court of Canada, which he expects to act as a barrier to his neoconservatvie makeover of Canada.

Montreal — Stephen Harper says some judges appointed by the federal Liberals are activists working to promote their own social agendas, statements that drew heavily from his tenure in the old Reform and Canadian Alliance parties.

The assertions by the Conservative Leader, whose party leads the public opinion polls, mark one of the few times during a tightly scripted election campaign that he has strayed far from the centre of the political highway.

They came a day after he said a Conservative majority government would be kept in check by the judges, senators and federal bureaucrats who owe their jobs to the Liberals.

"The courts are supposed to be independent," Mr. Harper said yesterday when questioned repeatedly by reporters in Toronto about his attempts to reassure those voters who still fear his party may change the Canadian social fabric.

"I am merely pointing out a fact that courts, for the most part, have been appointed by another political party. But courts are supposed to be independent regardless of who appoints them and they are an independent check and balance," he said.

When one reporter asked if he believed judges are activists with their own social agenda, Mr. Harper replied: "Some are, some aren't."

There you have it: any time the Conservatives run into a constituional wall, it will not be because they are in conflict with the highest written law of the land, it will be because activitist judges are subverting the will of Parliament.

Undermining the average citizen's faith in national institutions is right out of the neocon playbook. It usually begins with the media, and in the United States that process has been perfected to the point where Republican talking points gain direct entry into what was once the mainstream media, while right wing scandals have great difficulty gaining traction. The same process is well underway here in Canada, although to call our media liberally biased is laughable.

The courts are also a favourite target of the right wing. In the United States, this has led to death threats and attacks on judges by right wing loons who believe the courts are out to push a liberal agenda. They are spurred on by right wing authors who publish books detailing the imagined sins of the courts.


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January 18, 2006

Oops

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I think Nik Nanos at SES just delivered a subtle spanking when he published this.

Poll

Date

Lib

CPC

NDP

Bloc

SES Jan 14-16

30%

37%

18%

10%

Ekos Jan 15-17

27%

37%

20%

11%

Decima Jan 12-15

27%

37%

18%

11%

SC Jan 14-16

24%

42%

17%

12%

Can anyone spot the outlier?
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Strauss comes north

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The media is keen to talk about the centrist nature of the policies proposed by the Conservative Party in this election. They seem to think that the policies outlined in a election platform are absolutes once a party gains power. You would think that several hundred years of western democracy would have taught them the error of that kind of thinking. It is a truism that political parties say whatever needs to be said to get elected, and then govern as they see fit.

In my mind, the Conservatives' platform is largely meaningless, since it is not binding in any way and it does not reflect their philosophy of governance, which comes from a source completely at odds with the Canadian experience. Thanks to an illuminating article published in The Tyee last November, we have a detailed view Stephen Harper's philosophical wellspring:

What do close advisors to Stephen Harper and George W. Bush have in common? They reflect the disturbing teachings of Leo Strauss, the German-Jewish émigré who spawned the neoconservative movement.

Strauss, who died in 1973, believed in the inherent inequality of humanity. Most people, he famously taught, are too stupid to make informed decisions about their political affairs. Elite philosophers must decide on affairs of state for us.

In Washington, Straussians exert powerful influence from within the inner circle of the White House. In Canada, they roost, for now, in the so-called Calgary School, guiding Harper in framing his election strategies. What preoccupies Straussians in both places is the question of "regime change."

Strauss defined a regime as a set of governing ideas, institutions and traditions. The neoconservatives in the Bush administration, who secretly conspired to make the invasion of Iraq a certainty, had a precise plan for regime change. They weren't out to merely replace Saddam with an American puppet. They planned to make the system more like the U.S., with an electoral process that can be manipulated by the elites, corporate control over the levers of power and socially conservative values.

Usually regime change is imposed on a country from outside through violent means, such as invasion. On occasion, it occurs within a country through civil war. After the American Civil War, a new regime was imposed on the Deep South by the North, although the old regime was never entirely replaced.

Is regime change possible through the electoral process? It's happening in the U.S., where the neocons are succeeding in transforming the American state from a liberal democracy into a corporatist, theocratic regime. As Canada readies for a federal election, the question must be asked: Are we next?


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January 17, 2006

Here we go again

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The latest issue of Maclean's was just dropped into my mailbox. The cover is a head shot of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the headline in bright yellow letters is: THE SCARIEST MAN ON EARTH. That would be the role formerly played by Saddam Hussein.

There's certainly no doubt that Ahmadinejad is a nasty piece of work. So consider the fact that the American invasion of Iraq strengthened the role of Iranian extremists by fostering anti-American feeling in the Middle East and will likely end up by strengthening Iran itself by giving it a friendly theocratic neighbour and client state instead of a mortal enemy.

But never mind that now. As American midterm elections approach you can expect the rhetoric on Iran and the need for immediate action to escalate. It takes the focus off the Bush administration's many sins. And apparently Maclean's is going to help them.

I'd wonder how Stephen Harper feels about all this but frankly I'm afraid to ask.

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From the Conservative values file via the Winnipeg Free Press:

Tory Candidate's PhD comes under scrutiny

A Winnipeg Conservative candidate is misleading voters by indicating on her biography that she received a doctorate from an accredited university, her NDP opponent says.



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Strategic Voting Update

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The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that, I have to say. And forgive me jesting again, but the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men.---Stephen Harper

Well Stephen, we'll just have to see if NDP voters are willing to forgive you for that kind of jesting.

Dippers, it's all on you now. Greg Morrow has updated his post on strategic voting.


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January 16, 2006

And so it begins

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A big tip of the hat to Declan at Crawl Across the Ocean who caught this by Andrew Coyne.

What the Tories can't say, but I will, is this: even if we do run a small deficit, we do not all turn into pumpkins.

Yeah, right. Unless it's a Liberal or NDP government that runs a deficit in which case it's the end of freakin' life as we know it.

Harper isn't even in Sussex Drive yet and already his supporters are making excuses for his commission of what would be a cardinal sin on the part of anyone else. And in case it's not clear, it isn't the deficit - it's the hypocrisy.

Now go read Declan who lays it all out more calmly and completely than I have the patience to do right now.

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The law and order agenda

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Shorter Tony Blair: Due process just makes things too difficult so we're scrapping it. You're now guilty until we decide you're innocent.

That speech was made 5 days ago. Here's some fallout:

Tony Blair is preparing to scrap a 40-year ban on tapping MPs' telephones, despite fierce Cabinet opposition, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

He is expected to formally announce to the Commons within weeks that MPs can no longer be sure that the security services and others will not intercept their communications.


It's no wonder he and George Bush get along so well.

Maybe it's time mahigan ran that Mouseland post again.

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Of humour and hidden agendas

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Andrew and Bound by Gravity points us to a Paul Wells' bon mot about the laughable Conservative hidden agenda meme.

Thank the gods that Paul Wells is on the case. The Conservative Party's hidden agenda has been located:

"Oh, one more thing: the third [campaign] bus is also where they keep the spare hidden agendas. There are cases of the things back here. They're bound in black leather sewn together with real human hair, and when you get too close to them, you can hear an ominous humming. I'm just saying."


Whew.... and here I thought that the CPC was being up front with its policy. Everyone knows that's poor strategy!

HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! ha! ha...er...wait, except the Conservatives aren't really being up front with their policies are they?


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Running the numbers

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The Conservatives' proposed child care allowance has already been much maligned on the left. $100.00 a month simply doesn't pay for quality child care. But it turns out the Conservative proposal may be even worse than I thought. The East-End Underground points us to a study done by the Caledon Institute. If the CI's numbers are right there are a lot of families who won't see anything close to that $100.00 a month.

Take the example of a two-earner couple in Ontario raising two children (one under 6) and earning $36,000 (only a few thousand dollars above Statistics Canada’s estimated after-tax low income cutoff of $33,152 for cities of 500,000 or larger in 2006). That family would end up with a net Child Care Allowance worth just $388 − only 32.3 percent of the $1,200 face value payment.

That would pretty much make a joke out of the Conservative proposal. Go read.

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January 15, 2006

Strategic Voting

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To expand on a comment by DougP on another post, strategic voting is an option for some people in this election. For example, if you would normally support the NDP but your candidate has no chance of winning, you might still be able to have an impact on the outcome of the election by voting for the party that is your second choice.

Whether or not you vote strategically is a question of your own personal philosophy. Some people believe you should never do it - that you should always vote your conscience. I have voted strategically on occasion and would probably do so again under the right circumstances. However there is no point in voting strategically if doing so will have no impact on the outcome.


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In a post yesterday at Tilting at Windmills in which he took a scalpel to the recently released Conservative platform, Ian Welsh wrote:

As usual the sycophantic pro-corporate Conference Board of Canada has fallen down on the job by certifying this crap as leading to a balanced budget.

Maybe somebody heard him.
A prominent economist commissioned by the Conservatives to assess the financial soundness of their election platform says major items were omitted from the version he was given.

Paul Darby, deputy chief economist of the Conference Board of Canada, originally concluded that Stephen Harper's Conservative platform "is affordable in each fiscal year from 2005-2006 through 2010-2011."

The Conservative party promoted that conclusion last week as evidence its election platform had been "independently verified" by the Conference Board, an Ottawa-based think-tank.

But Darby says the version of the platform he was given to vet didn't include a Conservative party health-care guarantee which states patients will be transported to another jurisdiction if they can't get timely care at home.

It also omitted a Tory platform promise to redress the so-called "fiscal imbalance" between Ottawa and the provinces.

Darby wouldn't comment on whether the timely health-care guarantee would bear a significant cost.

"Talk to Harper," he said. "It is not in the platform I received from them."


So the Conference Board is hereby off the hook. Cute.

And I would highly recommend Ian's post.

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There was an interesting article in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen. While ostensibly about a new hotline that links Canadian military commanders directly to the U.S., it's really about the secrecy surrounding the conduct of Canada's military policy.

Critics have warned about a new wave of secrecy at the Defence Department. Officials there are censoring information in official documents released to the public even though the same material is already available on government Internet sites. Some critics say this blanket of secrecy raises questions about government accountability and openness.

Last week, the Citizen reported the Defence Department is withholding information about the Pentagon's missile shield that is already on the U.S. government's websites, while at the same time claiming the security of Canada could be harmed if the names of senior American officers treated to a taxpayer-financed reception more than a year ago are released.

In addition, the newspaper obtained two missile shield briefing notes sent to Defence Minister Bill Graham. The department had originally told both the newspaper and an investigator with the Office of the Information Commissioner that those records, one of which discusses U.S. efforts to develop space weapons, never existed.


There was no doubt about the motivation for Dithers publically backing away from participation in the American missile shield: he knew that the majority of Canadians didn't want any part of it. But despite throwing us a bone in the form of a public withdrawal it's been evident that, behind the scenes, his government has quietly done everything possible to support it and has apparently gone to great lengths to keep it secret. All the more reason to toss him out on his ear.

Which brings us to Stephen Harper.


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Cabinet Speculation

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Well every one is doing it except, he claims, Stephen Harper. Rick Mercer did his list. I seriously speculated on a Justice Minister Vic Toews and Foreign Affairs Minister Doris Stockwell Day. There was a certain logic to my speculation - both had held those positions in the shadow cabinet and Toews had been Justice Minister in Manitoba before he lost his seat in the 1999 election.

Now the Winnipeg Free Press has gotten into the game with at least one unintentionally funny result.


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January 13, 2006

A new friend for George Bush

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One of the worst aspects of a Conservative government (there will be many, of course) is the new cosiness we will have with the thuggish and corrupt Republican administration in the United States. Stephen Harper said in Halifax today that he will reopen the file on the missile defense shield, the rejection of which was one of the few decent moves of Paul Martin's government, and he'll scrap the Kyoto Protocols, two moves which should delight U.S. corporations and their paid-for Republican shills

HALIFAX—Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says he's ready to reopen the debate over Canadian participation in the American missile defence system.

The missile defence initiative, combined yesterday with a Harper pledge to turn his back on the Kyoto accord and his refusal to endorse a $5 billion deal for aboriginal aid, could signal the type of major policy realignment Canadians can expect under a Harper government.

This will put Canada on the hook for billions of dollars for a defense system that does not work and is the wrong strategy for the modern threat of nuclear attack. It would also lend at the very least tacit Canadian approval to the Bush administration's dream of weaponizing space.

There are three principal reasons that I oppose participation in BMD. First, participation in BMD will constitute Canadian endorsement for the weaponization of space. The government has denied this, arguing that the system the U.S. will begin deploying later this year involves only ground- and sea-based missile interceptors. This is wrong. It involves much more. Ballistic missile defence is like a house. Ground- and sea-based interceptors are the first and second storeys. Space-based missile interceptors are the roof.

The U.S. Missile Defence Agency, charged with developing missile defence, is perfectly clear on this point. BMD will be an integrated system. The system is to involve a layered defence, capable of intercepting missiles in boost phase shortly after launch, in mid-course in space, and in terminal phase as they near the target. As a recent study by the American Physical Society pointed out, a land-based missile defence system will be incapable of intercepting missiles in boost phase launched from distant states. To account for this deficiency, the U.S. will have to deploy weapons in space.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the Missile Defence Agency has requested funding for research in 2005 aimed at developing space-based weapons, with the stated intention of deploying a test bed in space in 2012. The deployment of such a test facility will smash the long cherished and widely held norm against weapons in space. Canadian involvement in the current missile defence program, which may include space research as early as next year, will be an endorsement of activities that directly counter Canada's policy on space weapons.

The government is not ignorant of U.S. intentions for missile defence. An internal report done by our Department of National Defence notes that a - ...significant risk associated with BMD...is its reinforcement of trends towards the weaponization of outer space. Despite these concerns, the government has not developed any contingency plans to guide Canadian policy once the United States consummates its desire to place weapons in space. Canadian officials argue that we can better influence U.S. policy if we are inside the missile defence tent. However, if we cannot extract an American guarantee not to weaponize space before agreeing to participate, how will we be able to obtain such a guarantee afterwards?

Add to this misguided policy the rejection of the Kyoto protocols, a flawed but fundamentally important project, and you can see the crocodilian smiles on Bush administration faces growing wide at the thought of having Harper to do their bidding.

Now I can already hear the chorus of outrage from conservatives: "Far-left whacko Tim has turned out another anti-American rant!" To which I say: "Piss off, you knee-jerk Bush apologists." You don't work with Bush-era Republicans, who have transformed the United States into a bankrupt land of military misadventure, illegal surveillance, searches and detention, unverified elections and unchecked presidential power. You work around them, until there are reasonable people voted into office in Washington.

So my question is simple: how much like George Bush's America do you want Canada to be?

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13 Cabinet Ministers in Trouble

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Greg Morrow, whose seat projections I am using in our polling updates, has posted that fully 1/3 of the ministers in the Liberal cabinet are now trailing in their constituencies and are in danger of heading for the electoral off ramp.

The list is in the extended.


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January 12, 2006

The evolution of Stephen Harper

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A buoyant and relaxed Stephen Harper has declared that he has "evolved" on many issues, and is not the man he once was.

"I think I'm a normal, thoughtful person," Mr. Harper said after delivering a speech to a convention of road builders. "Over the course of a decade, people's views evolve somewhat and situations change."

I for one find that a relief, since his beliefs once caused him to say things like this:

"I was asked to speak about Canadian politics. It may not be true, but it's legendary that if you're like all Americans, you know almost nothing except for your own country. Which makes you probably knowledgeable about one more country than most Canadians."

- Conservative leader Stephen Harper, then vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, in a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American think tank.

Ah, such respect for the people he would lead. But hey, that was eight years ago. I suppose it is not really fair to bring past past quotes, especially when he tells us all how much he has evolved over the years.

"Mr. Speaker, the issue of war requires moral leadership. We believe the government should stand by our troops, our friends and our allies and do everything necessary to support them right through to victory."

- Stephen Harper, supporting the American invasion of Iraq, House of Commons, April 1, 2003.

Hmmmm...it sounds to me like Harper is still in touch with his inner wingnut. Still, that was almost three years ago. How about recently?

"It will come as no surprise to anybody to know that I support the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others, as expressed in our traditional common law."

- Stephen Harper, Hansard, Address in the House of Commons on Bill C-38, February 16, 2005.

Sorry, but that's just not any better. How about Harper's thinking today then?

For example, he addressed the question of Quebec and his policy to cede to the province more room to raise taxes and an increased voice in international affairs. Ten years ago, he said, no one wanted to discuss the issue, particularly members of the Reform Party, of which he was an MP.

"The public was fed up with debating the Constitution and debating how many orders of government and how many powers would go to whom," Mr. Harper recalled. ". . . [But] we have a different situation with a premier in the province of Quebec who is more open and [has] shown the ability to provide unique solutions that I think all Canadians can rally to."

So is this Harper's evolved vision: more power to Quebec, and encouragement for other provinces to aspire to the same thing?

This is not a vision for Canada. It is a plan to create a collection of powerful fiefdoms clustered around a hobbled federal government. It would be the end of Canada as we know it today. Once powers are devolved to the provinces, they don't get returned again. I would encourage everyone to remember this when casting their ballots. This is not a Progressive Conservative government-in-waiting like the old days. This is a pack of right wingers with destruction on their minds.

Despite Harper's claims of evolution, I still find his politics very much the product of unintelligent design.

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Flashback

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As I contemplate the meltdown of Dithers and Company I can't help but recall the M*A*S*H episode where Hawkeye and BJ stuck a toe tag on a sleeping Frank Burns and shipped him off to the front. Hands up everyone who remembers what the toe tag said.

Emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupt.

It's going to be a looooooong year.

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January 11, 2006

Goin' to Mouseland

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When it looked like we were going to have a spring election, I threatened to post this once a week thoughout the election campaign. I probably should have posted it once a week throughout this campaign. Canadians need to read this story on a regular basis.

The Story of Mouseland

It's the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.

They even had a parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.

Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for the last 90 years and maybe you'll see that they weren't any stupider then we are.

Now I'm not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws -- that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren't very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouse holes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds -- so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn't put up with it any more, they decided that something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: "All that Mouseland needs is more vision." They said: "The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouse holes we got. If you put us in we'll establish square mouse holes." And they did. And the square mouse holes were twice as big as the round mouse holes, and now the cat could get both paws in. And life was tougher then ever.

And when they couldn't take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black one's in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.

You see, my friends, the trouble wasn't with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, "Look fellows, why do we keep electing a government made up of cats? Why don't we elect a government made up of mice?" "OH," they said, "he's a Bolshevik. Lock him up!" So they put him in jail.

But I want to remind you: That you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can't lock up an idea.

--Tommy Douglas, 1944


There was an addition to the original story made by By Christopher Levan at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Unitarian Council on May 19, 2000.
The proverbial cats have gotten wiser and fatter, hired new spin-doctors and reverted to some old ways.

They have declared that enlarged mouse holes are the wave of the future. Too many mice have been cheating—holding back or hiding. We make the mice more self-reliant and vigorous if more cat paws are scratching their otherwise lazy behinds. Implementing programs using politically correct vocabulary — "opportunity" "skill sets" "retooling," "life style enhancement," we open up the mouse colony to all comers.

When the dust settles, these inspired initiatives add up to more wounded bodies and frightened rodents. Any mice that complain are of course, just a special interest group and can be disregarded as hopelessly biased. After all, the cats can no longer afford to subsidize small pickings from the mice population and without larger mouse holes the whole feline economy will collapse.

In addition to inspiring more vigour among otherwise recalcitrant mice, the country's cats have joined with cats around the world and agreed that some important issues need to be taken out of the claws of local authorities and given to international feline societies. So mouse hole sizes, feeding rates, local micely customs and other important matters will now be handled at a higher council. So, it won't matter if the mice elect themselves into government the really important issues will still be decided by fat cats—most of whom don't run for office anywhere.

In concert with these new reforms, the cats sold the responsibility to regularize certain more minor domestic issues—care of sick mice for instance— to dog syndicates who function as profit centres. They have no interest or responsibility in the welfare of the mice population—not really. They are just offering a service—pay as you go. If canines get too greedy, their avarice will be checked by the market—supply and demand—as the mice decline in health and numbers the dogs will naturally adjust their standards.

Finally, some of the cats are appointing cat public corporations to carry out all new mouse hole protection and maintenance. The elected cats are no longer in charge—it's specially appointed cat committees that all have a few token mice one them, that make the decisions on whose claws to clip. So when the mice complain about the lack of surveillance or protection of their mouse holes. "Gosh," say the fat cats, "That's a terrible pity, but its no longer in our hands. We don't make decisions, just set general policy."

"You see, my friends, the trouble wasn't with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice." There are those among us who believe that electing a Conservative goverment in this election will change something. It will - it will change the colour of the cats.

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January 9, 2006

Max Pointy Gets It Right

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I view Rex Murphy's appearances on CBC's National with some trepidation. I sometimes agree with him and sometimes he drives me crazy. But Rex, true to his upbringing on The Rock, is also a source of many of the great lines in Canadian political commentary.

In his January 3rd editorial, Murphy not only nails the current situation in the election campaign but manages to exceed quota on the quips as well. The piece is too short to excerpt so here it is in its entirety.

Voting for the one because you can't stand the other Jan. 3 2006

Now that Santa is safely out of the way, the campaign begins in earnest.

A lot of this election is already settled. The Liberals, for example, are not going to sweep Alberta, and the Conservatives are not going to storm Quebec.

The polls show that nationally, the two major parties are in a rough draw, and with three weeks left in the campaign, only a few regions are in real play.

The Liberals probably won't agree with me, but this is really quite a remarkable tribute to their party. Liberals have suffered or brought upon themselves almost every misery known to politics. Couple of years of Gomery, David Dingwall's aria of entitlements and the entitled, the-beer-and popcorn ruminations of strategist Scott Reid, and now, an investigation into potential leaks from one of Ralph Goodale's continuous rewritings of the 2005 budget. Any other political party after all that and more wouldn't just be down for the count, they'd be calling up the funeral home and doing rough drafts for the obituary, but the Liberals have the tenacity of lichen, and the durability of granite, and even after an avalanche of troubles, they remain a good prospect of stretching a fourth-term minority into a fifth-term minority. The Liberal Party may be battered, defensive, divided, and uncharacteristically without focus, but it has a ferocious instinct for survival, and hard times bring out all its determination and its every well-honed guile.

Against that, the Conservatives an Stephen Harper have spent the first five weeks trying to pre-empt what they expect to be thrown their way by the Liberals in the remaining three. The Liberals would like Canadians to see Stephen Harper as somewhat less cuddly than Dracula, and the Tory Party is an engine of reaction and repression compared to which the Spanish Inquisition was the early Vatican's idea of a quiz show. But for five weeks now, Mr. Harper has been in full soothing mode. He does not have fangs, and actually campaigns in daylight. More Marcus Welby than Vlad the Impaler. The Harper campaign, with its issue-a-day bulletins, has really had but one intent: To make bland a virtue, to take bland and beat charisma over the head with it. Stephen dull is better than Stephen scary, and it might be a hard compliment for Mr. Harper to digest, but he's good at dull, and, well, we've seen him at the punching bag - he's not that hot at scary. Incidentally, first rule of the photo-op, keep the boxing gloves off the chess club president.

So here's where we are: The Tories are pitching themselves as the bland alternative. It doesn't make for a great slogan - "Choose us and you won't be startled." The Liberals are offering amnesia and alarm. Forget sponsorship; save Canada from the Tory zealots. You can string these pieces of zirconium any way you please, but they won't turn into a pearl necklace.

Each of the two leading parties of a presumably great nation are arguing you must vote for them because of the defects of the other. Won't make for a stampede in either direction on polling day as well, voting for the one because you can't stand the other. If this is a vision for Canada, wallpaper is a movie. For The National, I'm Rex Murphy. (empahsis added)

Thanks Rex. Wish I could have said it that well.

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Flu news

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All eyes are on Turkey right now where there's been an outbreak of human cases of H5N1.

Five more people have tested positive for the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in Turkey, the Health Ministry said. Four of them come from the center of the country, suggesting the infection is moving west.

This brings the total number of human bird flu cases in Turkey to 14, including two deaths. A third person is thought to have died from bird flu, though tests haven't confirmed it was the H5N1 strain. Another 45 have been hospitalized with flu symptoms, Fehmi Aydinli, deputy chief of planning and health care at the health ministry, said yesterday.
...
The World Health Organization and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control sent experts to Turkey last week to help assess the situation and stem the outbreak.

``It seems that the epidemic has been spreading among animals in Turkey for much longer than believed,'' Klaus Stoehr, who heads the WHO's global influenza program, told German radio, according to AFP.


That comes by way of DemFromCt at The Next Hurrah (and Flu Wiki) who writes:
What's lacking in the reports? well, if there's any good news, it's that these all seem to be bird exposure and B2H (bird to human) rather than H2H. OTOH, the virus may be 'learning' how to spread to humans.

In 1918, the virus spread directly from bird to humans before reaching pandemic status, so this may have happened before. But there's more we don't know than we know.


Not surprisingly, traffic at Flu Wiki is surging again.

Meanwhile, the CBC's Fifth Estate is running a docudrama on a potential flu pandemic on Wednesday at 9 pm. Melanie, our publisher at the wiki, saw an advance copy for review and wasn't impressed. Just sayin'.

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January 7, 2006

Test Post #2

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Okay folks. This project is about ready to go live. Or, at least, I have spent about as much time on setup as I can afford. This time I would appreciate your input.

The object of the exercise is to put the maximum information in the minimum space and still have something I can update fairly quickly.

I have tested this in Opera, Internet Exploder 6 and Firefox and it seems to work in all of them. In my opinion, it renders better at 800x600 but is still all fine at 1024x768. I have not been able to test it in all browsers at all resolutions. I also suspect it will be unreadable in any RSS feed reader. Please let me know in comments where it doesn't work. I probably can't do anything about it but I will try.

I have deliberately left some things out. I have left regional data out at this point. While I find it more interesting in many ways, the price of the regional breakdown is a margin of error 2 - 3 times what it is for the national polls. What that mean is, nationally, 35% means a range of 32 - 38% but 29 - 41% in most regions going as high as 25 - 45% in others. Interesting but not particularly useful.

I have also left out seat projections although I am still researching this one. So far, all I have seen have flaws - they are too slow in responding to changes, overreact badly to changes within the margin of error, fail to adequately handle the large numbers of undecideds, require unreliable regional data or some combination of the above. There is one I will probably add soon but I want to do bit more work on this area first.

Let me know if there are things you would like to see added keeping in mind the objective stated above.

Posted @ 12:45pm CST Jan.7

National Poll Results

Date Poll Lib CPC NPD BQ GRN MoE
Jan. 5 SES 33 34 17 11 6 +/-2.9
Jan. 5 SC 31 33 17 13 6 +/-2.5
Jan. 5 IR 31 35 18 n/a 5 n/a
               
               

SES is SES/CPAC Nightly Tracking Poll.  SC is Strategic Counsel Tracking Poll.  ENV is  Environics Research Group.  DEC is Decima Research.  LEG is Leger Marketing.  Ekos is  Ekos  Research Associates.  IR is Ipsos Reid.  POL is Pollara Strategic Public Opinion and Market Research.  

 

National Results From the SES/CPAC Nightly Tracking Poll

Undecided Voters

 

Best PM

Leadership Index   Change*

National

18%

  Martin

25%

Martin

62

-10

Quebec

23%

  Harper

26%

Harper

72

+6

Ontario

16%

  Duceppe

4%

Duceppe

25

+4

Atlantic

17%

  Layton

14%

Layton

43

+6

West

16%

  Harris

2%

Harris

9

-1

      None

10%

None

41

+7

      Undecided

19%

Undecided

59

-10

         

*Change from previous day.

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January 5, 2006

Test

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This is just a test for a blog project. Please disregard it.

Date Poll Lib CPC NDP BQ GRN MoE
Jan. 5 SES 33 35 15 12 5 +/-2.9
Jan. 4 SC 32 32 17 13 6 +/-2.5
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Historian calls Liberal MP's fundraiser a worry

An upcoming fundraiser by film, video game and music executives for Liberal MP Sarmite Bulte has drawn the ire of a prominent Canadian historian.

Jack Granatstein says the $250-a-plate bash is inappropriate for a politician who could spearhead key changes to copyright law if she is re-elected on Jan. 23.

"I worry when any politician, at any time but particularly in an election time, is given a fundraiser by a lobby group,'' said the noted author of more than a dozen books on Canadian politics.

"Politicians should be somewhat more careful than to be seen to be in the pocket of a particular collection of lobbyists on a matter of public importance.''


I've had my differences with Granatstein in the past but in this case he's not only on the mark, he's understating the situation. A search of this site on "Bulte" will yield two posts: here and here. Bulte has been working very hard to give the entertainment industry everything it could ask for on a plate and consumers' rights be damned. And consumers in this case would be another word for citizens. You remember them, don't you Sarmite? They're the ones you're supposed to be representing.

One of Bulte's benefactors, the president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association, is quoted thusly:

This is part of the political process. This goes on in every democracy in every country of the world.

Well it must be alright then. Everybody buys legislators so it's OK if we do it, too.

Maybe this is why democracy is in so much trouble.

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The polls turn

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I'm sure there much joy in Conservative quarters these days. They have finally taken the lead in the polls.

I will leave it to the dedicated sheep entrail readers to determine the overall signficance of this turn of events, and instead zoom in on one aspect of the poll from which I draw much solace: Quebeckers are looking at the Conservatives as an option instead of turning automatically to the Bloc Quebecois.

In Quebec, where Harper has spent an unusual amount of time, the two parties are in almost a dead heat with the Liberals at 21.9 per cent and the Conservatives at 20.2. The Bloc Québécois is well ahead at 43.8, but the increased Tory support has come at the Bloc's expense. The shift shows Quebec voters are eyeing a federalist alternative other than the Liberals.

*snip*

And in Quebec, the poll showed a startling rise in fortunes for Harper, who has been busily announcing a series of Quebec-friendly policies in recent weeks while playing down his opposition to same-sex marriage and to the Kyoto accord on climate change, both of which draw support in the province.

If the numbers hold, they would suggest that Bloc support is soft and that Harper is succeeding in convincing Quebecers his party is a worthwhile federalist alternative.

It is refreshing to see Quebeckers turn to another federalist party instead of to the Bloc, even if it is the Conservatives. This shows not a loss of faith in the country, but rather a need to send a strong signal to the Liberals that their votes are not be taken for granted. As much as I believe a Conservative government would be bad for the country, an entrenched Bloc Quebecois is infinitely worse. Their demise as a politcal force cannot come soon enough.

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January 4, 2006

Musings on a New Year

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Good heavens. Is the first decade of the 21st century half over already? I hate to bring a cliche to bear so early in the New Year, but where does the time go?

In 2005, I passed a half decade of parenthood when my son turned six years old. Six years, gone in the blink of an eye. The baby boy I so vividly remember arriving on a sweltering hot Yellowknife summer day has his first hockey tournament this weekend, a milestone of Canadian childhood he and I are both looking forward to. His little sister is hurtling towards her third birthday, and her emerging feisty personality seems to offer a chilling preview of what I will face in her teen years. I still remember hovering nervously over her bassinet in Royal Alexandria Hospital in Edmonton, a special lamp shining on her tiny body so yellowed by jaundice. Time doesn't fly, it moves through hyperspace.

I need to accomplish what I can in 2006 before it too is history. In the spirit of the new year, I have made a heroic personal sacrifice: I have given up cigars, my beloved companion on the golf course, around the poker table, and truth be known, in more and more places as time went by. The missus didn't like the whiff of cigar on my clothes, and at age 40-plus, I have to admit it is well past time to reconsider some of my long-held bad habits. Smoking was certainly chief among them. With that spririt of renewal in mind, I have a few other personal changes I would like to make.

I vow this year to spend more time enjoying the company of my family and friends and less time combing through the minutia of politics. If the history of this country has taught us anything, it is that Canadians can make this country work quite well despite the mischief wrought by the knobs in the House of Commons. So I will try to take a more sanguine approach to politics, while never forgetting that Gilles Duceppe is not a respected leader but rather an agent of destruction, and that Stephen Harper is an extreme right wing dweeb, no matter how polished his new social skills are. I promise to remember how Paul Martin has completely failed to live up to any promise, and how Jack Layton is not as bad as I feared he would be when he got his job.

I want to care more and obsess less. I want to be kinder to my opponents and more supportive of my friends. I want to make constructive concern for my community and country priorities in my life, rather than add-ons that come when work allows. I want to watch more classic films, read less crappy prose, and fill my children's world with a love of good literature and the giddy thrill that comes from a well-turned phrase or a new perspective on an old idea. I want to appreciate nature more outside, rather than just through my lviing room window. I want to walk more and drive less, talk more and blather less, and exercise more and eat less. I have a lot of wants to squeeze into one new year.

But most of all, I want a cigar. Personal sacrifice sucks.

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