September 2008 Archives

September 30, 2008

Simple answers to simple questions

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Larry Hubich (who has an accompanying video) asks: Why isn't the Canada/U.S./Mexico so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership an election issue?

Because the Conservatives and the Liberals have essentially the same position on it. This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.

But I'm sure Jason Cherniak will be posting shortly to tell us that the Security and Prosperity Partnership is just a conspiracy theory and anyone who thinks it's real needs to explain himself immediately.

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You know me -- I love cats. Cats R moi. I also love and respect and fight for women, for their right to be recognized as fully independent human beings, sometimes even smarter than men, sometimes just as silly -- equal, in other words, which seems still to be a bit of an exotic notion to some people I can think of.

So I feel a little bashful about the metaphor I'm about to slap on to two women who left me rolling on the floor laughing today, but regressive behaviour is regressive behaviour, and they asked for it. They made themselves stereotypes. You know that I would never use that word that rhymes with witch. I might call them Heathers, except I couldn't find a song for Heathers.

First thing this morning, there was Margaret Wente in the G&M baring her claws against a former colleague who happens to be a much more talented writer than Wente could ever dream of being. The whole story of the savaging of Heather Mallick (who is not a Heather, oddly enough) deserves an analysis that I'm not going to do here and now (is there world enough or time -- or space -- for me to write about the sexual inadequacy of Republican men or CBC bureaucrats?), but the nasty high-school mean-girl digs that Wente tossed into her column about Mallick deserve memorializing:

... a semi-obscure columnist named Heather Mallick.


The CBC's online commentary arm is not exactly the flagship of the network. It is a backwater that has served as a sort of semi-retirement home for aging lefties (think Judy Rebick) who could no longer find an outlet in the mainstream media and, one suspects, supplied copy cheap.

And there's more. Note how carefully Wente refers to the entirely obscure John Cruickshank as a former colleague while pretending that no one at the Grope and Flail has ever heard of Mallick?

And then Sarah Palin, essence of high-school mean girl, went after a guy as though he was another girl:

And I do look forward to Thursday night and debating Sen. Joe Biden. We’re gonna talk about those new ideas, new energy for America. I’m looking forward to meeting him too. I’ve never met him before, but I’ve been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in like second grade.

Like, honey, that is so totally not gonna work on Joe Biden. I mean, rilly. And see things disintegrate further in the chat that Sarah has with Katie Couric afterwards.

Here is a song for Margaret and Sarah to sing to each other. It's a great song, very funny, better than mean girls deserve and totally unfair to cats. But it is so them. (The first minute or so is an interview in Spanish; just be patient; the duet will come.)

Montserrat Caballé and Concha Velasco sing Rossini's Duet for Two Cats:

Thanks to k'in at Bread and Roses for reading Wente so that I don't have to, much.

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Oh, my paws and whiskers. Tsk tsk. Steve is a plagiarist.

Kady has the story. And much as it pains me to admit it, this press release from the goddamn Liberals is actually very good:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper must explain how it is possible that almost half of the major speech he delivered in House of Commons [20 March 2003] calling for Canadian troops to be sent to the War on Iraq was a word-for-word recitation of the speech Australian Prime Minister John Howard delivered less than a day and a half before, said Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae.

Mr. Rae pointed out that this is simply more evidence of how Canada’s foreign policy is now in lock-step with the right-wing foreign policy of the Bush administration. This ideologically driven approach is now rejected by the great majority of the American public and public opinion in the rest of the world. A new Liberal government will reverse this trend and ensure that Canada again speaks with its own voice on the world stage.

“We are proudest as Canadians when we’re setting a standard for the world,” said Mr. Rae. “Stephen Harper’s government has taken Canada down a foreign and defence policy path unworthy of our great country.”


Mr. Rae pointed out that a number of the lines from Mr. Howard's speech were also duplicated in guest editorials that Mr. Harper submitted to the Toronto Star, National Post, and Ottawa Citizen which were published under his byline on March 21, 2003 and in a guest editorial published on March 29, 2003 in the Wall Street Journal under the byline of Mr. Harper and then foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day.

And you can see the two speeches laid out side by side here (pdf).

Now, remind me -- isn't John Howard that guy who said:

"If I had been returned at the last election, we would not have been bringing (troops) home ..."

Quite. John still hadn't noticed that that was why he hadn't been returned at the last election, but then some guys are like that. Some guys are just bitter and pompous and vainglorious enough to say things like that, and oh gosh but wouldn't it be fun to give a certain Canadian who fits the bill the chance?

NB to Kady: Joe Biden had made that speech a number of times, attributing the quotes every time but one. He was campaigning and running on rote. That's different. And besides, he's Joe. Mess with Joe, and you'll have JJ and me and our irregulars (we must have eight or ten by now) to deal with. *wink*

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Taliban Hamid

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The title of this article pretty much says it all - Afghan president calls for peace talks with Taliban. I'm not sure but I think I have heard this suggested somewhere before.

BTW - If you scroll down through the comments, you will discover that the popping sound you hear in the background is the sound of right wing trolls' heads exploding. Wonder how Steve's planning to sell the war now?

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BigCityLib points to the evidence that bullying works.

In a reversal of past practice, people wearing face coverings will not be permitted to vote in the upcoming election unless they swear a special oath.

The change is based on a policy directive from chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand. It instructs returning officers to ask voters with obscured faces to uncover or swear they are eligible to vote before being allowed to cast ballots.

As BCL points out, anyone who would be prepared to wear a veil in order to commit voter fraud isn't likely to balk at swearing an oath towards the same end. So all this move does is placate the bigots and legislate their bigotry into the system through a back door. The Conservatives have spent two and a half years bullying Elections Canada (among others) and this suggests that it's working.

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September 29, 2008

Battling Beatles

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I've had a hard day, ok? I have been reading the DoJ IG's report on the prosecutor purge. I have been watching the financial/political meltdown in the U.S. I can't go anywhere without running into Sarah Palin. And now I have to go clean the cat boxes and organize the recycling.

But I want Steve to know that I am a sensitive person too. I know what really counts in life, even if I don't have a sweater vest and I can only play air piano. It has been Dave, actually, who has recalled me to my true self over the last week or so, and I wanted to express my thanks for his campaign.

I also wanted to remind people that Steve hasn't always mused in sweater-vest avuncular fashion about the Beatles in quite the way he seems to be doing during this election campaign. Here is Steve pretending not to slander the Beatles by association just last fall:

In the summer of 1964, I sat through A Hard Day's Night three times non-stop, just riveted (and I had to survive two showings of a Paul Anka short to do that, so you can imagine the commitment). I already knew the songs and I'd seen the boys on Ed Sullivan. But right away, lives changed; the world changed. I remember hearing kids on the bus that summer reciting dialogue from the film at each other. Who knows why, but suddenly there was a crack in our world, and the light got in.

When that happens to people, masses of people, that is culture and that is change. We have to get that sense of culture back, and I don't think that warm fuzzies in sweater vests who speak out of both sides of mouth depending on the electoral circs are going to do that.

This is how I love the boys best now, even though it was a farewell. There are three parts to the rooftop concert; do find the other two at YouTube. Part of the fun is to watch people gathering in the streets and on fire escapes as they realize what is happening, and then, in part 3, to watch the solemn bobbies arrive and try to figure out WTH is going on. Damn, but we were cute in 1969. We were also beginning to feel the chill, a chill that has never really gone away since then.

"Get Back" / "Don't Let Me Down"

Thx always to pogge for the conversation.

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September 28, 2008

Election News Roundup

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In the US:
- Republican presidential candidate John McSenile showed this week that he is the best person to deal with the Wall Street meltdown --- by having a worse meltdown than the one on Wall Street

- Republican vice presidential candidate Caribou Barbie was interviewed Wednesday on ABC. She spoke coherently and, at one point, was actually caught telling the truth. The show's producer was taken to hospital apparently suffering from a heart attack.

- The Palin campaign said yesterday that Sarah Palin often refers to John McCain as "Gramps". The McCain campaign said that, using a term of endearment normally reserved for his wife, McCain often refers to Palin as "that c**t those religious idiots stuck me with who is costing me the election".

- the MSM criticized Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for wearing sunglasses saying it made him look "arrogant".
(And all this time I thought wearing shades made me look like a sexy senior. Damn.)

Switching to the Canadian election:
- Liberal leader Stephane Dion campaigned this week in Quebec. No one noticed.

- In an interview on Thursday, Liberal leadership hopeful Bob Rae said "Steven Harper looks like Rick Mercer's ass". Contacted later for his comment, Rick Mercer said "I resent that comparison. My ass doesn't wear more makeup than Tammy Fay Bakker." Mercer added, "If Bob Rae is going to insult my ass, I'm not going skinny dipping with him again."

- Green Party leader Elizabeth May campaigned across Canada by train this week. No one noticed.

- Conservative leader Steven Harper unveiled his party's environmental platform in Calgary on Tuesday. The nicely bound one page document is entitled "Screw the Environment".

- The NDP rose to unfamiliar territory this week rising to 22% nationally in the polls. Jack Layton's wife, Olivia Chow, is complaining that Jack is keeping her awake half the night asking "Do they love me? Do they really love me?"
(No, Jack, we all still think you're a dufus - its just that you're not Stephane Dion or Steven Harper.)

And that's the election news summary.

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September 26, 2008

Presidential Debate Liveblogging

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I'll be liveblogging the U.S. Presidential Debate tonight. Updates will be below the fold.

My feeling going into this is that Obama has the advantage. McCain needs to turn things around tonight, while Obama only has to keep the campaign in place.

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Friday night

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Our election campaign is starting to look more like a war of attrition. How many candidates in total have seen their attempts to get themselves elected come to an abrupt end so far? This is Queen with Another One Bites The Dust.

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A good start

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Sign on Wall Street:

Thanks to transplant at Bread and Roses

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September 24, 2008

Tories use RCMP to block media from talking to candidate Cadman

The Conservatives called on the RCMP Tuesday night to block reporters from speaking with B.C. candidate Dona Cadman, in a scene reminiscent of the last election when they stashed a local candidate into a restaurant kitchen.
Reporters following the prime minister's national tour asked to interview Dona Cadman after a campaign rally in Surrey — a request that Harper aides initially laughed off in apparent disbelief that the media would even bother asking.

They later told reporters to go ahead and try speaking with her at the end of the rally, but when the media pack got too close, the prime minister's staff ordered the RCMP to block journalists from the exit door.

"Keep them out," one aide shouted at the guards.

There's a whole 'nother post to be written about candidates for public office who don't want to talk to the public which is who the media represents in these scenarios. But the immediate issue is this: why is the RCMP being used as a private security force? Their presence at these events is to ensure the prime minister's security, not to keep the members of the press corps from doing their jobs.

This looks like another trick the Conservatives have picked up from the Republicans and the Bush administration who have used both the Secret Service and local law enforcement to try to protect the party's image and not just their physical safety.

This isn't just partisanship run amok. These people are dangerous. So are law enforcement officials who cooperate with this.

H/t to The Gazetteer.

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September 23, 2008

Linda Keen resigns

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I guess this was just a matter of time.

Keen resigns from nuclear watchdog's board of directors

The former head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has resigned from the nuclear watchdog's board of directors.

Linda Keen sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday stating she no longer wants to stay on the board and be second-guessed by government officials.

If it wasn't for her ongoing lawsuit against the government I'm sure she'd have some very interesting things to tell us.

As things stand, it appears we've lost an extremely able public servant. How many more losses of this kind have there been that didn't make the headlines?

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September 22, 2008

If you were to be elected prime minister, would you put a hold on the negotiations of a new trade agreement with the EU as outlined here (with new commentary here) so that Canadians can be fully informed and have the opportunity for a proper public debate on the issue?

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Bad move

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Everybody gets one wrong once in a while and this is one that Impolitical gets badly wrong. Apparently Bob Rae is talking up the idea that NDP voters need to rally behind the Liberals in order to defeat the Conservatives and Impolitical's comment is:

Sending Rae out to make that case to NDP voters is a shrewd strategic move.

Here in Ontario, it's only a shrewd strategic move if your goal is to get at least a percentage of NDP voters to spit in your face.

And incidentally, I note the way Rae framed the issue today.

Mr. Rae called the Harper government "the house that Jack built," because the NDP helped topple the Liberal government of Paul Martin.

In the final analysis, the Harper government happened because voters decided to make it happen and that includes deciding that in large numbers they didn't want to vote for Liberals last time around. But thanks for showing voters your contempt, Bob.

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September 21, 2008

"The economic fundamentals are strong."

Now, there is a line that will go down in history. Really far down.

I've made jokes about pod people before, but srsly, folks, these guys must all have gone to the same survivalist retreat. Can you see Stephen Harper playing paintball in the woods and learning to talk like a bot? I knew you could.

From A Creative Revolution, via Unrepentant Old Hippie

Give the bots hell, Joe!

Oh, hell. Give the bots hell, citoyens! The crooks and liars are starting to get to me.

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I am a weiner!

I just happened to stumble into Zorph's place at a celebratory moment. We all know why Zorph has had 100,000 visitors and deserves every one of 'em.

Am I going to capitalize on my Sarah Palin moment? No, I am not, although the temptation to list all the supporting characters in the melodrama that is my life is very strong, let me tell you. And I think that I get quite a neat thing out of this, which is a portrait of Jack Layton looking very like Shakespeare.

The real congrats are due to our beloved Zorph. Long may he collect and clutch his nutz, and long may he remind us all that we get better when we remember that we are ... NUTZ!

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September 20, 2008

The Shock Doctrine in action

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Most people are probably aware by now that the financial system in the United States is in deep doodoo. There have been a series of interventions on the part of the American government — for example every American taxpayer now owns a piece of a rather large insurance company whether he wanted to or not — but those pale in comparison to what's on the table now (my emphasis):

The Bush administration on Saturday formally proposed to Congress what could become the largest financial bailout in United States history, requesting virtually unfettered authority for the Treasury to buy up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets from financial institutions based in the United States.

The crisis in question was created by loosening or eliminating the kinds of regulations that were implemented following the depression. So of course the way to solve the problem is to give an administration that has already taken every opportunity to consolidate power in the hands of the executive branch "unfettered authority" to do as it pleases with $700 billion. But this is how it works. Every crisis is an opportunity. It remains to be seen whether the Democrats will insist on more controls than the administration is requesting but if the recent past is any indication, it doesn't look good.

H/t to Atrios. After all the stuff I've stolen from him I should probably at least credit him with the link.

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There are a number of points I could make in riffing on this David Olive article in today's Toronto Star about the possibility of a "unite the left" movement in Canada. But to my mind the most important sentence in the whole piece was this:

Uniting the left is a notion in increasing favour with pollsters, pundits and pols ...

Is it me or did he leave out voters? And why the hell do pollsters have any special credibility in determining how our democracy should work?

A two party state reduces our choices rather than increasing them. And of course the merger being discussed here completely ignores the possibility that sooner or later, some disaffected group will break away from one or another of those two parties to form a third. Are we going to legislate to prevent it? Or make it even more difficult than it already is for a new party to get off the ground because some self-appointed elites have decided on our behalf that a two party system works better? And better for whom?

So I have a suggestion: instead of discussing ways in which a small group of influential people can decide how things work, how about electoral reform that would see actual voters have a more representative legislature and let the pols adjust themselves to what we want?

Hat-tip to Mr. Sinister for the link. And a hat-tip to Wilf Day at babble for this one: Fair Vote Canada has a new website called You might want to take a look. Because you ought to have as much say in this as the "pollsters, pundits and pols."

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September 19, 2008

Friday night

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Apparently Stephen Harper recently revealed his life long love of music. If I'd know that I would have dedicated an episode of music blogging to him long ago. In his honour, here's something from the Cream's 1968 farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall. It's called Politician. I wonder if this is what Harper had in mind?

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To our national shame

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Under normal circumstances, I would today be wishing Omar Khadr a happy twenty-second birthday.

But these are not normal circumstances, and it would be cruel of me to flutter balloons and party hats at a youngster who has spent one-third of his life captive to a system that will, one day, I live in faith, be hauled up before the courts that are the last defence of those who believe in democracy. National courts, international courts, I don't care, but that must happen if the most basic principles and structures of democracy are to survive anywhere.

"If jurisdiction is exercised over Mr. Khadr," the defense team explained, "the military judge will be the first in western history to preside over the trial of alleged war crimes committed by a child. No international criminal tribunal established under the laws of war, from Nuremberg forward, has ever prosecuted former child soldiers as war criminals … A critical component of the response of our nation and the world to the tragedy of the use and abuse of child solders in war by terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda is that post-conflict legal proceedings must pursue the best interest of the victimized child – with the aim of their rehabilitation and reintegration into society, not their imprisonment or execution."


The results of either election – or both – may be significant to Omar, but it makes little difference to him today, as he passes his sixth successive birthday in Guantánamo, alone. Historic though his case may be, it's doubtful whether the ripples of indignation that have been steadily building over the last three years, as his lawyers and other supporters have sought to humanize this lost child, will touch him in his solitude.

Worthington's article feels long to read because it is so chock-filled with fact, but as far as I know, all of those facts matter.

As always, I write also in tribute to Lt-Cmdr Kuebler, Mr Edney, and Mr Whitling, Omar Khadr's exceptionally committed attorneys. One day there must be justice and there must be an accounting -- from the members of three Canadian governments, from CSIS, and from DFAIT, for what was done in our name.

Thanks also to Toedancer at Bread 'n' Roses.

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Dion Puts Liberal Campaign Out Of Its Misery

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So, Dion today has apparently decided that he doesn't want to be Prime Minister after all. I suspect the Liberals wish he'd told them that a year or two ago.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dioin [sic] said today that his Green Shift plan featuring a controverial carbon tax is not a major part of his election platform.

"You have said it was but never me," Dion told reporters.

His surprise declaration follows by a day campaign appearances in the Toronto area where he failed to mention it once in his speeches.

As I've said before, the Green Shift is a terrible platform for a campaign. It doesn't lend itself to a simple explanation and the effects are indirect, which makes it a harder sell. However, backing off it like this plays right into the Conservative portrayal of Dion as weak and indecisive. I don't see how his campaign or his leadership survives this, and I don't see how he can get things back on track now since he's abandoned his one idea.

Unless Harper gets caught with a live boy or dead girl, we're probably looking at a Conservative majority now.

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September 18, 2008

Sign of the times

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It's considered newsworthy that our prime minister will "allow" the release of a government report without someone having to file an Access to Information request.

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Nice touch

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This pops up in the midst of the coverage of Gerry Ritz's attempts at humour among other issues so it may it not get the attention it would otherwise merit. Hopefully the Liberals will keep pushing this one. It certainly hits a nerve for this Ontario resident.

Earlier Wednesday, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said the first act of a Liberal government would be to ask for an audit of public finances to see whether Canada is in deficit already.

He said he would take his cue from Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who asked for an independent audit of his province's books after taking over in 2003 from a Progressive Conservative government in which Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had served as a cabinet minister. The audit revealed Ontario had a $5.6-billion deficit.

“The first thing we'll do, we'll ask for an audit, an independent audit … and we'll see if Mr. Flaherty did to Canada as he did to Ontario,” Mr. Dion said in Kitchener, Ont., during a stop in the campaign for the Oct. 14 election.

H/t to Robert at Take off, eh?.

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September 16, 2008

"The very few wealthy and powerful have a seat at the table, and the rest of us are on the menu."

Yesterday the much more truly foxy VP candidate spoke to working people in Michigan. He went after McCain, tied McCain to Bush and the Bush record, and he spoke non-stop about the lives of the people before him, the practical details of their lives. Only once in passing did he mention Palin's name. The focus was on "John," whom Biden cleverly keeps off a pedestal even while he's emphasizing how dangerously out of touch John is.

The speech was a classic, and if there were any justice in the world, this is the veep candidate the media would be swooning over. So people: swoon! I have; JJ has. And look at those French cuffs.

The video is about half an hour long; it starts slow (well, what can you do with Bush?); and it is serious all the way through. But it's worth it -- promise.

Full text at TPM. Biden does some interesting variations on the text in delivery.

I'm skdadl, and I approve this message.

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September 15, 2008

“The Tumbrils Roll at Dawn”

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Wotta title. I saw the article here.
It’s a description of the nigh Revolutionary Terror scale of the slaughter of the financial giants as the big trading boyz continue to self-destruct. I don’t have much to say that the article doesn’t.

Bank of America is buying Merrill Lynch for $45 billion, AIG needs an emergency $40 billion bail-out from Uncle Sam to stay afloat, and Lehman Bros is kaput. Whew!

. . . The funny thing about capitalism is that you need capital to play. When the bank-vault is full of nothing but worthless mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and overvalued junk bonds; the whole thing goes belly-up fast. That appears to be the case with Lehman Bros,

. . . Lehman travails are not much different from anyone else in the banking fraternity. The problem is that the entire system is under-capitalized and over-leveraged. When Bear Stearns went down last year, it was levered at a ratio of 26 to 1. When Hedgie Carlyle Capital blew up, it was levered at 32 to 1. And when Fannie and Freddie were finally taken over by the US Treasury; the two behemoths were levered at 80 to 1, which is to say that they had a one dollar capital cushion for every $80 they had loaned out.

. . . Securitization has failed. The cuts to the Fed's Funds rate have failed. The auction facilities -- TAF, PDCF, and TSLF -- have all failed. The off-balance sheets operations, the debt-pyramiding asset-inflation, the Enron-style accounting, the SIVs, the CP, MBS, CDOs, have failed. The subprimes, the piggybacks, the option-ARMs, the Alt-As have all failed. Structured finance has failed. The system doesn't work; won't work; can't work. It's built on the misguided assumption that capitalism can thrive without capital; that one dollar can be infinitely magnified by complex debt-instruments and mega-leveraging to generate real wealth and keep the wheels of finance and industry humming along. It can't be done. The system is under-water.

Fun times ahead. And lest we forget, the Cons support all the idiocy that got us this far and continue to claim that the government has no business doing anything useful.

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September 14, 2008

Campaigning in Newfoundland on Thursday, Jack Layton said:

“This horrific practice of coming in with planes and strafing villages and having civilians killed, it’s turning the civilians against the mission.”

-- CBC Newsworld, 12 September 2008, via Kady and Cameron

So yesterday, up on the folksy Harper Leadership site goes this edifying response:

Jack Layton insults troops

NDP Leader Jack Layton made the disturbing suggestion yesterday that coalition troops are targeting and recklessly killing Afghan civilians.

And so we learned that our prime minister does not know what the Canadian Forces or anyone else's forces are doing in Afghanistan, or something very like that. Either that or he's lying, and of course we don't want to go there.

Everyone else knows that the strafing and bombing in Afghanistan are being done by the surging Americans, who are transforming the NATO ISAF mission in disturbing ways. Layton was obviously referring to the American aerial strikes that NATO's own allies in the Afghan government have protested, although I've never before read anyone but Harper claiming that those attacks were "targeting" civilians.

The Karzai government and almost everyone else except Stephen Harper and his minions, however, have indeed begun to wonder about the recklessness of American strategy and behaviour in Afghanistan. The whole world knows now that the U.S. military leadership will lie about disasters they have caused until they are caught in their lies, as they were last weekend, when they were forced to face the fact that they had slaughtered scores of innocents but still made excuses for the original lies. Oliver North, that famed "independent journalist" from Fox News, embedded with the U.S. forces, made them do it.

Kady and Cameron (and by now I hope scores of others) deconstruct nicely the lies that follow on the Harper Leadership site.

Harper opened this campaign with a prediction that is chilling to anyone familiar with the cynical manipulation of human feeling that is the specialty of dirty tricksters south of the border:

"To be really honest, I anticipate a very nasty, kind of personal-attack campaign."

And he's keeping at least that promise.

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September 12, 2008

Friday night

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I hung up on Jack Layton this week. It wasn't the real Jack Layton, of course. It was RoboJack. And I can't tell you what was on his mind in any detail because, as I said, I hung up on him. If robocalling is to be a permanent feature of our politics I'm taking a fifteen pound sledge to the phone.

And now, in Jack Layton's honour, here's Little Village with Don't Bug When I'm Working.

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Early Days

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It's a bit early to sit here and confidently predict where this campaign will go. However, based on the first few days I have to say that my initial thoughts--that it was going to be a crapshoot for all parties--seems to be holding up pretty well. I doubt that the events of the first week are going to cause any major moves in the polling numbers of any of the parties, but I can't think that any party other than the Greens would count this week as a success.

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September 11, 2008

The Green Peril

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"Be careful what you wish for; you might get it."

It's an old cliché, to be sure. But right now Elizabeth May is in exactly that situation. The Greens are about to get what they've been asking for for the last three elections: a place in the leadership debate. They certainly needed this if they want to grow beyond a protest party. However, it also carries a big risk for them.

The Greens aren't like the last two parties to emerge on the national stage. Reform and the BQ were both regional protest parties, at least to begin with. This brought a number of challenges with it, but it also gave them a reliable, solid core of supporters.

I'm not sure the Greens have that. Outside of a core of supporters, most Green voters are a) unhappy with the other parties and/or b) concerned that the other parties don't take climate change seriously enough. Dion's Liberals are already working to address b) and I expect to see other parties following suit. That leaves a). Let's face it; if Elizabeth May does poorly in the debates, do the Greens really have a strong core of committed voters who will support the party anyway? Or will they drift back to one of the other parties that is more or less acceptable?

I think it's fair to say that the future of the Green Party may be decided on October 2.

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September 10, 2008

Greens In Debate After All

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The NDP dropped their objection to Green participation, and the Conservatives then did the same. Although some of my colleagues here obviously disagree, I think this is for the best. Let's see what happens next.

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Welcome to the end of rational thought about democracy (which means a lot more than voting) in North America.

I know there's a bit of a difference between those two narcissists: one is a Clinton offshoot and the other is the ill-begotten spawn of the Reagan and Cheney years, but they are both children of the culture of self-absorption, and it is amazing to watch two national elections being taken down at the same time by such parodies of principle.

This mess has been foretold to us for years by more than one sadder but wiser prophet. Here is one example.

Robert Altman and Barbara Harris, the conclusion of Nashville (1975): "It Don't Worry Me"

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Off To A Rocky Start

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The first few days of this election campaign have not been kind to Stephen Harper. I think it would be seriously overstating the case to imply that his campaign is in trouble, but this is not the carefully-managed machine he ran in the past.

So far, he's been knocked off message by the debate flap, a pooping puffin, and now by a cut of 500 jobs at Ford Canada and his tin-eared response to it (which, if his opponents know what they're doing, should come back to haunt him later in this campaign):

"I think you have to be honest with people. The government can't go in and say 'we can guarantee your job.' We can't guarantee your job," Harper said.

If you're going to say something like that in politics, you'd better be following it up with an announcement of a new program to help the people who just got laid off. Instead, Harper's just telling people not to worry, it's all going to be OK in the end:
"But in most areas, people have been able to get other jobs and in most areas, disposable incomes continue to increase. So it isn't just that they're getting new jobs. They're often getting new jobs that pay just as well or better," he said.

Yes. I know that would make me feel so much better.

The other parties aren't doing much better, to be sure. All I'm saying is that this level of preparedness suggests that nobody really has a well-defined plan and the outcome may be a little more random than anyone was expecting at the start.

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September 8, 2008

If True, This is Disgraceful

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According to the Toronto Star, Stephen Harper is refusing to let the Greens participate in the debates:

In a just-announced decision, network officials said that one or more of the other party leaders would refuse to participate in the debates on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 if May took part.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion has said he would welcome the chance to debate May on television.

But Prime Minister Stephen Harper said today letting May into the debate would be in essence allowing a second Liberal candidate to participate.

In past elections, I have argued that the Greens should not be allowed into the debates until they had an MP. That has been the bar in the past (for instance, with the Reform Party) and I think it's a reasonable standard. Since that standard has been met (even if it is through a sitting MP switching) they should be allowed in. No party leader--whether it is Harper or someone else, although the Star certainly implies that it's Harper--should have or attempt to exercise a veto over the participation of others, and certainly not because he thinks they have "the same platform" as the Liberals.

UPDATE: The CBC report indicates that the NDP and the BQ also opposed May's involvement. My objection stands.

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So Rumsfeld and Haynes and Feith and their minions are gone (although we're never quite sure where), and that was supposed to be a good thing, yes? Cooler heads prevailed. The real generals, the ones who know there are reasons that a good officer never lies to himself or his political bosses about an actual military situation, even when the political bosses are ordering him to lie -- those guys got their balance back, yes?

Very early this morning I read in the Guardian the news that the U.S. military had decided this weekend to review its conclusions about the air strike in Afghanistan last month that locals claimed had killed ninety civilians, many of them women and children. And I read why the U.S. has decided to do that: "it emerged that film recorded on mobile phones showed rows of bodies of children and babies in a makeshift morgue." (Don't you just love the passive voice?)

And then, via Siun at firedoglake, I read this report from the Times of London, with the following bit of gobsmacking news about the U.S. military's original lies about the strike:

... US commanders and Pentagon officials have said repeatedly that seven civilians died alongside 35 Taleban militants during a legitimate combat operation, the target of which was a meeting of Taleban leaders.


The US military said that its findings were corroborated by an independent journalist embedded with the US force. He was named as the Fox News correspondent Oliver North, who came to prominence in the 1980s Iran-Contra affair, when he was an army colonel.

Bloody hell! Who are these people -- the Undead?

And what are responsible officers in the U.S. armed forces doing relying for anything on the word of a proven liar like Oliver North?

The first horror of this story is the escalating carnage that the U.S. "surge" in Afghanistan, of which Canadian forces are now a part, is wreaking on an increasingly outraged civilian population, as documented in the Human Rights Watch reports cited by both the Guardian and the Times.

The second is the criminal stupidity that is going to remind many of us of the self-destructive conduct of the U.S. military elite during the Viet Nam war. An honorable officer never -- never -- allows political pressure to force him to lie -- to himself or to anyone else -- about actual military realities on the ground, and there's a reason for that. Do that long enough, give in to the politicization of a combat situation, and sooner or later you are going to get your own troops killed.

I was about ten years old when my dad, a captain in the Canadian army during the Second World War, taught me that. An officer's first duty is to his troops, and an officer does not lie, because lies put his troops in danger.

That is what the U.S. military are doing in Afghanistan, endangering the Afghans, their own troops, and ours. Our soldiers are now under their command. Sooner or later, they are going to get their own guys killed and they're going to get our guys killed. They have no honour, and we are fools to collaborate with them.

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September 7, 2008

Compare and Contrast

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Since the election got called this morning, I've already been hit with emails from the Liberals and the Conservatives. The difference between them is instructive.


This is our opportunity to right the course of Canadian history. There is important work ahead for you and me, in getting this country back on track. That work starts today.

The road from here to election victory will not be an easy one, but I am privileged to share this journey with an outstanding team of Liberal candidates from coast to coast to coast. These are your people – your community leaders – and with your support, they will be your Members of Parliament under a Liberal government.

Of course, our opponents in this fight will do everything they can to ensure that doesn’t happen. As we move forward together, we will need all the support you can muster.


Canadians are presented with a clear choice; the strong, principled leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper or the weak and out-of-touch leadership of Stéphane Dion. Prime Minister Harper offers leadership and certainty. Stéphane Dion only offers financial risk. He's a risk to our economy with his carbon tax…He's a risk to our country with his centralizing ideology. A risk to our security with his soft on crime themes. Stéphane Dion is a risk to our reputation around the world with his reckless suggestions of bringing the Taliban to Canada and NATO invading Pakistan. We can't go back.

The Conservatives have described a clear rationale as to why I should support them, even if it is just "Dion sucks". The Liberals...not so much. If I didn't know better I'd think the Liberals were ahead by 20 points and the Conservatives were fighting for their survival. Since that's not the case, I can only say that Dion and his team need to do much. much better than this if they want to have a shot.

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September 5, 2008

Shut up and pass the duct tape

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There have been a number of reports that McCain's shiny new vice presidential pick will not be allowed to talk to reporters although she might be available for interviews with such journamalistic bastions as Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. From Marc Ambinder:

A senior McCain campaign official advises that, despite the gaggle of requests and pressure from the media, Gov. Sarah Palin won't submit to a formal interview anytime soon. She may take some questions from local news entities in Alaska, but until she's ready -- and until she's comfortable -- which might not be for a long while -- the media will have to wait.

Interesting that Palin is supposed to be ready to be President and deal with the Russians, Chinese, Iraq etc. if Codger McCain gives out but isn't up for handling the bruising questions she might get on "The View".

There really isn't much of a surprise here. The McCain campaign rarely lets McCain himself talk to reporters any more because it has become embarrassing having to issue a "clarification" every time he does. On the up side, at least Palin is discovering first hand what it's like to be a member of Steve Harper's cabinet.

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Friday night blues blogging

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I tried to get that Joe Biden guy to drop by but apparently his schedule is a little full for the next couple of months.

This is Eric Clapton with a solo performance of Key to the Highway.

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Fair question, eh? As Biden says, they talked about the other guy, and it felt like being back in high school.

Give 'em hell, Joe -- to which Biden snaps back with Harry Truman's line without missing a beat: "I'm going to tell them the truth, and they're going to think it's hell."

This is the official opening of JJ's and my campaign to turn Joe Biden into a sex symbol. And he even did that without the French cuffs.

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McCain's Speech

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Wow. Except for the part where he talked about his experiences as a POW (which, to be fair, is a strong enough story to still cut through his campaign's over-use of it), and a couple of snide digs at Obama, that was really...boring. As I said in regards to Palin's speech, I'm not the best judge of these because my own personal opinions colour my responses. But I really can't see this speech exciting many people.

The joke of the night is that Palin may be thinking of dropping McCain from the ticket.

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September 4, 2008

Palin's Speech

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I wasn't impressed--I thought it came across as snide and nasty, and Palin seemed awkward. However, after the beating she's taken in the media the last few days she just needed to not embarrass herself to get praised, and that's what's going to happen. On that level it was a success, no question. It's hard for me to tell how it will come off to undecided voters down in the U.S., although frankly on that front the media reaction is what matters more than anything else.

The one thing this made clear, if there was any doubt, is that the Republicans have nothing left but attempts to co-opt Obama's message combined with culture war. The next 60 days are going to get very nasty indeed. In the end, I don't think it will be enough. They've already conceded the need for change. Attacks on Obama do nothing to convince people they can deliver it.

Finally, John McCain still has one major problem he has to solve. Until now the talk has been all about Sarah Palin--how bad exactly was his decision to pick her? Tonight's performance will probably quiet a lot of that talk, although the issues are likely to continue to be a distraction to his campaign. Tomorrow, John McCain has to stop people talking about Palin and get them to talk about him instead.

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September 3, 2008


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This is something I’ve occasionally thought for some time, and I just saw an economist type saying the same thing so I thought I’d jump on it and post it up.

Michael Hudson: . . . Quite simply, the price of home ownership tends to absorb all the disposable personal income of the homebuyer.

I’ve often thought that must be the case. When it comes to markets, people often talk about supply and demand, but it’s rarer these days to see the same sentiment in the less friendly form “What the market will bear”. That’s where prices tend to end up, though. Real estate prices are dropping in the US right now because of overbuilding, because of a crisis of confidence, and particularly because those prices had already gone rather beyond what the market really could bear. They’d just kinda camouflaged that fact with weird lending policies and propaganda. But in general, it always seems like anytime average people maybe have a little extra cash, some necessity like shelter will go up in price to make up for it—because what are you gonna do, refuse to buy any? For years and years, economics had this thing called the Iron Law of Wages, which was more about wages falling to subsistence than prices rising until subsistence is what people had left, but it comes to the same thing. Nobody’s talked about that in ages; in modern times it seemed to be dead. But I think it was only staved off by strong unions. When people’s collective action is strong, that law goes away, but when they are weak—when unions are crushed and popular organization co-opted—it comes back again. This guy has some interesting conclusions flowing from that:

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ABC News Gets Punked

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ABC News has a story up about teenage "baby daddies", discussing the situation with Sarah Palin's daughter. On said page is a picture which purports to be Levi Johnston's MySpace page. I somehow doubt it's authentic...

You'd think the gigantic Barack Obama logo would raise a few flags...

(Just FYI, I did some searching earlier and found both the page in this picture and what I think is the real Levi Johnston's page. Both have since been deleted, which only makes sense under the circumstances).

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Testify, sister!

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I can't believe I'm still fucking protesting this shit.

You'll see that sign held up by a very sweet-looking older lady towards the end of this video from the Guardian, taped yesterday in Minneapolis/St Paul at various protests around the Republican National Convention.

Some of us DFHs have pretty convincing disguises, eh?

There are many links to the tougher scenes of stormtrooper thuggery at the RNC building up at Glenn Greenwald's place and at the Campaign Silo at firedoglake. And Amy Goodman's discussion at Democracy Now! of her own and their arrests with her producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar is not to be missed.

So many goons in full riot gear in the streets of two of North America's most peaceable cities.

I can't believe I'm still ...

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September 2, 2008

John McCain's official blogger had a chat about Sarah Palin with the press yesterday. I don't think it went particularly well.

...when one interlocutor (not me) accused McCain of not having properly vetted his nominee, Goldfarb dropped the M bomb. "He's a maverick," he said. "That's the way mavericks do things!"

And I'm sure that's what a lot of voters look for in a president.

H/t to Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money.

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The CBC has a fairly long story this morning on changes to the aircraft safety inspection system. The gist of it is that government employed inspectors will be spending more time reviewing paperwork while the actual inspecting will be done by employees of the airlines themselves and these changes are already underway. Now doesn't this sound like another industry that's been in the news lately?

The article makes it clear that there are critics who think this is a horrible idea but I doubt that will change anything. They're resolute and unwavering, these Conservatives. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert discussing George W. Bush: you can be sure that on Wednesday, Conservatives will believe the same thing they believed on Monday. No matter what happens on Tuesday.

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Not necessarily, no and no

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This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions. The invitation to reply was extended to Blogging Tories but I thought I'd chime in anyway.

It occurs to me that some might think "not necessarily" isn't all that straightforward an answer. But in this context I think it is. We're talking about something that would provoke outrage on the part of the Blogging Tories if anyone else did it. But when Stephen Harper does it, it's different.

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September 1, 2008

The U.S. Election

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Hi there.

I suppose, despite having my name up on the masthead over to the right, it's been long enough that I ought to re-introduce myself. I'm Kevin, and a few years ago I used to blog pretty regularly over at Tilting at Windmills, along with Ian Welsh (who's now a regular at FireDogLake) and Mandos (who is mostly focusing on his academic career, but till posts from time to time at his blog). I dropped out of blogging due to a combination of real life and blog fatigue, but with elections gearing up I felt the need to pop up and comment again.

So in general--John McCain's in serious trouble, but a lot can happen in 90 days. More below the fold.

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