November 2008 Archives

November 30, 2008

Every party needs a pooper...

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... and that's why you invited me. Yes, the CBC is reporting that the Liberals and the NDP have reached a deal to form a coalition government for two and a half years. But we're at least a week away from the non-confidence vote in the Commons that would force the GG to have to consider that as an option. It's been said that in politics, a week is a lifetime. I'd say that applies to the coming week more than most and almost anything can still happen.

After spending years fighting for a majority government, Stephen Harper is now fighting for his political life. Don't underestimate him.

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Department of tiresome memes

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Since before Jim Flaherty tabled his disastrous fiscal update, the Conservatives have been yammering on about "leading by example." The latest to parrot this talking point is John Baird as recorded here.

How is it leadership if the example being set is dead wrong? The context is always one of tightening our belts and expecting less until our current economic situation improves which completely fails to acknowledge how serious the situation is and that there's a lot more the government can do to mitigate the effects of the current fiscal crisis.

The example that's been set is to trim the government's budget by what actually amounts to a very small amount of overall expenditures and then do as little possible while we continue to wait and see what others do. That isn't leadership and this talking point is just as nonsensical as all the nonsense about coups and juntas.

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Good morning, Canada!

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And welcome, citizens, to day three of the Maple Syrup Revolution.

Chandra Crawford, Torino Olympics 2006

I hate to be a scold ("No, skdadl, you don't. You love it."), but I really wish that our team (people who believe in democracy) could stop propagating Conservative lies about how parliamentary democracy works.

Now hear this: Canadians do not vote for a leader, a party, a mandate, or a government. Canadians vote for an MP, a representative of teh people.

Privately, of course, Canadians could be thinking all kinds of things as they vote for that MP. Me, for instance -- I actually do vote by party, but I believe we know that most Canadians don't. Some people are impressed by leaders and vote that way, although that seems kind of Disneythink to me, and besides, given the current menu, it looks a distinctly unappetizing political standard.

Canada is not Hollywood; it is not Disneyworld; and it is not Washington. A majority of the people's representatives in the current Commons do not support the Harper government, and that is what counts, as in counting, as in numbers. There is nothing unprecedented or difficult about this situation -- it is the way that parliamentary democracy works, peeps.

Let's hear it for the coalition. (And could people please stop calling the Commons the House?)

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Dear Mr. Harper: Please Stop Whining

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Conservative Vote Share, 2008: 36%
Liberal + NDP Vote Share, 2008: 44%

This might come as a surprise to those of you who have been hearing the representatives of Canada's Shortest-lived GovernmentTM whine over our airwaves. Naturally any reasonable observer would conclude that the totals were the other way around.

Now, I don't know if this rumored deal will hold together. I give it a real chance of not happening, even if it leads to an even more humiliating backtracking on the part of the Conservatives. I just don't have a lot of tolerance for the whining that the Liberals and NDP are somehow "subverting" the process. This IS the process, and always has been.

If the Liberals and NDP can get the support of enough MPs to win a confidence vote then they have the "right" to govern. In our system, that's what having the right to govern means. No more and certainly no less. The Conservatives did not win a majority and it is quite undemocratic of them to insist that the other parties give them what the voters of this country would not.

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November 29, 2008


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The CTV website is still flogging this story about experts who believe that a coalition government is unlikely to work. If you check their news page right now you'lI find it down in the politics section. In fact I think it's been revised since the first time I read it to add a third expert. The time stamp at the top of the article indicates it was revised yesterday evening at 8:55 pm ET.

The overall flavour of the article hasn't changed. The one expert whose opinion dominates the article is Barry Cooper and his opinion is clearly that any Liberal-NDP coalition is doomed. According to Cooper it would be disastrous.

The article still doesn't mention that Cooper is a long time associate of Stephen Harper, a supporter of the Conservative party, a member with Tom Flanagan and others of the Calgary School and a Senior Fellow at the Fraser Institute.

The people who run CTV are entitled to their political opinions and if they choose to support the Conservatives — even after this particularly disgraceful display of putting partisan politics ahead of the welfare of the country — that's their business. But to present Cooper's opinion while omitting all of the details of his own partisan leanings is nothing less than journalistic malpractice.

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November 28, 2008

Friday night

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Things were moving pretty quickly there for a couple of days. Too quickly for Stephen Harper, it seems, since he's now pulled rank and delayed the confrontation with the opposition parties by a week. We'll just have to wait and see whether his government backtracks and comes up with something the opposition can support.

Meanwhile, it's Friday night and I'm falling back on Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble. We may as well have some fun while we wait. This is Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).

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Conservatives Play Catch-22 With the Opposition

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The Conservative government of Stephen Harper has presented the opposition parties with a choice: castration or being in charge during the worst recession since World War II.

The Conservatives have presented a budget which:

1) has no fiscal stimulus to help the economy;
2) gets rid of public financing for political parties, since Conservatives don't need it and the other parties do; and,
3) which forbids public sector unions to strike for 3 years while they "reform", (read, get rid of) pay equity.

Harper figures this is a no lose bet for him. If the other parties bring him down, well, they get to be in charge during the upcoming recession, which will do nothing for their popularity. If they don't bring him down, he institutionalizes the Conservative fund raising advantage and gets to break the public sector unions. Rich people and corporations love giving money to folks like Harper who keep cutting their taxes, gutting regulations and letting foreigners make them rich by buying out their firms then gutting them).

Harper's strength last election was primarily in two places: the praires and non-urban southern Ontario. Oil is going to drop below 50 dollars soon, when it does the oil sands in Alberta are going to become unprofitable and the good times in Harper's western base will end. Likewise, southern Ontario has been taking it on the chin for sometime, and no matter what happens to Detroit, that's not going to end. While Alberta will vote Conservative no matter how bad things get, the rest of the prairies are not nearly so dedicated, and southern Ontario might well remember that the Liberal party was much better for them than the Conservatives, who have refused to do anything meaningful to help Canadian manufacturing.

If the Liberals and NDP decide to do this, then, they have to be in it for the long term—they need to expect to govern for at least four years. An election in the middle of the recession will doom then, they have to put in place policies to get through the recession and out the other side, or they will be slaughtered.

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What Paul Wells said

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This is a special edition of what Paul Wells said.

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Is that all there is?

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In an unsigned editorial, the Globe and Mail finds yesterday's Economic Update from our Conservative government wanting.

By destabilizing their own government, the Conservatives have placed Canada at a competitive disadvantage against other states. Through gratuitous partisanship, they have turned an economic crisis into a political one.

They should withdraw their cynical attempt to rewrite election rules and concentrate on what matters: the world economic crisis.

The Globe endorsed Stephen Harper and his Conservatives in the recent election. Six weeks ago this same editorial board told us that Harper had grown into the job. I'd say that demonstrating "gratuitous partisanship" in the midst of a serious economic crisis indicates exactly the opposite.

So where's the mea culpa? And the apology to your readers?


As soon as I get this post up I find out that Harper has backed down (for now) and will strip the contentious changes to political party funding out of the legislation to be voted on come Monday. That still leaves us with a plan that does exactly the wrong things in terms of stimulating the economy and violates collective bargaining agreements besides. And it still leaves us with a prime minister who's made a complete joke out of his own statements about working with other parties to actually try to guide us through a crisis.

H/t to Buckdog for that last link.

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November 27, 2008

And by the way, dear media

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None of the reports regarding the government's plans to end government financing of political parties are sourced. Those Conservatives who have been quoted on the record about the implications refuse to confirm that it's actually policy and those who say it's policy are only identified as "sources."

Obviously this is a strategic leak. There's nothing accidental about it. Why are you allowing yourselves to be played by protecting the identities of these sources? Why are you helping them to play us?

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And furthermore...

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In the same article I linked to in the post below this one, House Leader Jay Hill is quoted talking about leading by example in the context of canceling pay raises, accepting lower salaries and benefits and reining in spending. It's as if this is the example we're all supposed to follow: accept less pay and stop spending.

If this is a proposed solution for our economic woes, it's dead wrong. The real economy is driven by middle class consumer demand. When economists talk about stimulus, they're talking about creating and sustaining well paying employment so that the position of the middle class strengthens and their confidence increases enough to spend.

You can certainly argue that in the long run our society needs to change our wasteful ways because we've been living in a way that's not sustainable. But you'll never convince me that the Conservatives are taking the steps they are in an effort to fix that problem. The problem the Conservatives are attempting to fix here is that they have no serious measures to propose at the moment but they want to appear to be doing something. And the signal they're sending is actually counterproductive.

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Shorter Jim Flaherty

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Since I have no clue about what to do concerning the economy maybe I can just change the subject.

It seems to be working.

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November 26, 2008

Offering most money = hiring best people

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Could we please put a stake through this notion? It was always stupid. Thinking for just a little while always made it clear that, particularly at the top where the idea was most typically applied, all offering huge gobs of money typically did was ensure that the most money-motivated people would apply. That is, the most corrupt, the most selfish, the most willing to cheat to get even more money than you were offering, the most committed to the idea that there is no such thing as “enough”. Such people generally have very little effort to spare from their major project of getting more for themselves, for such minor issues as doing the job you hired them for.

But even now, while all the “smartest guys in the room” (and I notice nearly all of them are guys) on Wall Street, the ones paid sums of money so ginormous that imagination and metaphors about dollar bills stacked to the moon fail, have been demonstrating a level of incompetence (from their employers’ point of view) so immense it nearly matches the size of their wallets—even under these circumstances, I see news such as the move here in BC to like quintuple the pay for the appointed cronies on the transit board, and I see that kind of thing defended on the basis that you have to pay more to attract the best talent.

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The CBC is reporting that opposition MPs are once again calling on the government to take action to repatriate Omar Khadr. The report includes this sentence in describing Khadr:

He is charged with murder in the death of the U.S. medic during the battle.

And further down:

U.S. officials allege that Khadr, at the age of 15, lobbed a hand grenade that killed an American army medic, Sgt. Christopher Speer, during the battle outside of Khost, located near the Pakistan border.

The U.S. soldier whose death Khadr is accused of causing was a special forces soldier who had paramedic training. Had he been acting as a medic that day and been wearing the appropriate insignia then he would have been entitled to protection as a noncombatant under the Geneva Conventions. But on that day, he was not. He was acting as a special forces soldier, not as a noncombatant.

In the context of the Khadr case this is a pretty important detail for the CBC to be getting wrong after all this time.

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There's an op-ed in the Washington Post that makes an interesting suggestion:

Amid the blizzard of résumés blanketing Washington as the Obama era dawns, there is a superbly qualified candidate for full employment whose name has been overlooked. We refer, of course, to William Jefferson Clinton, America's 42nd chief executive and commander in chief. Yet now, by a wonderful combination of circumstances, comes an opportunity to harness his unquestioned political talents to benefit his country, the Democratic Party, New York state and his spouse. If, as is expected, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes secretary of state, New York Gov. David Paterson could send her husband to the U.S. Senate.

I suspect even the mere suggestion will cause heads to explode amid fits of apoplectic rage. Might as well be prepared.

H/t to to Meteor Blades.

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November 25, 2008

Canadian Blog Awards

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The first round of voting has opened in the 2008 Canadian Blog Awards and someone has been kind enough to nominate this site in three different categories. If you've already voted then you probably know that you've done all the voting you can do until the second round next week. If not, by all means pop over there and acquaint yourself with more of the nominees. The real point of all this is introduce readers and blogs who might not otherwise meet. And if you end up throwing a vote or two our way, I suppose it couldn't hurt.

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Was that in the script?

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This is tucked into a CTV article that discusses the latest on our finance minister's plans regarding budgets and stimulus packages.

Government sources say other countries may be ahead of Canada in announcing plans partly because their economies are in worse shape and partly because last month's federal election delayed planning here.

Emphasis added. You mean that election that was called strictly at Prime Minister Harper's discretion? The one he called in violation of his own fixed election date legislation? The one he called strictly for reasons of political expediency? That federal election?

I'm betting there's a frantic search on right now for "government sources" who will be given new talking points as soon as they're identified.

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November 24, 2008

Follow the money

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Update: I'd like to thank the CBC for completely changing the story at that first link in a way that makes this post nonsensical. Thanks, Ceeb! It seems Flaherty is now talking about moving his budget up or even announcing a stimulus package in advance of a budget. In other words, he doesn't really know what he's going to do. Update ends here.

Jim Flaherty seems to be delivering a mixed message at the moment. He's in the news section telling us that he has no immediate plans for a stimulus package and that we'll have to wait for a budget in February or March for that kind of action. But he's in the business section delivering a slightly different message.

Ottawa plans to use spending on infrastructure as a key initiative to boost the economy, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Monday, vowing to move as quickly as possible to get projects up and running.

Of course the latter message was delivered to a specific audience which is revealed when the context is set for some of Flaherty's subsequent remarks to reporters.
Speaking after his address to a Toronto conference on public-private partnerships...

As I recall, the $33 billion infrastructure fund that Flaherty is promoting here was geared towards just that: public-private partnerships (P3s). That money was to be doled out over quite a few years and a big chunk was actually to be rerouted from other places rather than being new money.

Traditionally with the kind of stimulus packages that are being discussed by various governments, the government ends up owning the infrastructure. That's not necessarily the case with P3s and even at the best of times such projects have earned a reputation for being much better for the private partner than the public one in the long run. Add to that the fact that the reason for talking about government-funded stimulus right now is because we're in the midst of a credit crunch. How much of the funding can we expect the private sector to come up with when the banks don't want to lend money? So does the push our finance minister is talking about here involve the public providing even more of the funding without an ownership stake?

I'd keep a close eye on Jim Flaherty. What I'm anticipating here is an accelerated move to shovel a lot of public money into private hands. It's something that Flaherty and his cronies have some experience with. I'm not the only Ontario resident I know who refuses to drive on Highway 407.

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November 23, 2008

'Technical' recession possible: Flaherty

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty predicts that Canada may be headed for a "technical recession" on projections that the country's economy will shrink both this quarter and the next.
"We may well be in a technical recession the last quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year," Flaherty said. "It's quite possible that Canada will be below the line slightly in both of those quarters, which technically would be a recession."

Got that? So if you're laid off in the next six months, you're only technically unemployed. Isn't that inspiring leadership? I wonder how long it'll be before Flaherty and his boss decide it's safe to assume that all that optimistic rhetoric from the recent election campaign is safely down the memory hole so they can stop playing this game.

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November 21, 2008

Friday night

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The theme for this evening is that thing that everyone's been talking about lately: money. This is Pink Floyd.

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Stunning is one word for it

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Why wouldn't the Canadian government want the cooperation of a witness in the death of Zahra Kazemi? Go read Michael Petrou. H/t Paul Wells.

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November 20, 2008

When I saw this headline I was all set to get very excited (and not in a good way): CRTC allows Bell to continue internet throttling.

As it turns out, all the CRTC ruled on here is the narrow question of whether Bell's practice of throttling the bandwidth it sells to wholesale suppliers is an attempt to limit competition. And since Ma does the same thing to her own retail customers, she'll be allowed to continue the practice. At least for now.

The really important part of the story is here:

... the CRTC also announced it was opening a new probe into the larger issue of throttling, which is also done by other large internet service providers such as Rogers Communications Inc. and Shaw Inc. Interested parties will have until Feb. 16 to submit their thoughts and a public hearing will be held on July 6 in Gatineau, Que.

"The broader issue of internet traffic management raises a number of questions that affect both end-users and service providers,” von Finckenstein said. “We have decided to hold a separate proceeding to consider both wholesale and retail issues. Its main purpose will be to address the extent to which internet service providers can manage the traffic on their networks in accordance with the Telecommunications Act.”

Net neutrality advocates are unhappy about the immediate decision to allow Bell to continue current practices but, not surprisingly, are pleased about the new investigation. Michael Geist comments:
"A year ago, the net neutrality debate focused on whether rules were needed. Today, the debate is changing from whether there should rules on network management to what those rules should be," he said. "We are in the early stages of the more difficult questions of what constitutes reasonable network management practices and the opening of a formal proceeding puts those tougher questions squarely on the table."

I guess we have to take whatever progress we can get for the moment.

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November 17, 2008

Toga! Toga!

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If the Liberals lose the ethnic vote, their Evil Empire will go the way of Carthage, razed to the ground by the rising power of Rome.
-- Tom Flanagan

Because one can never have enough Tom Flanagan Alison (see comments to that post). Picture, if you will, the gnu Conservative caucus as cast for us by Tom Alison:

And there's more Canadian toga on the turn.

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Harper's, um, brain, musing on Harper's Three Sisters electoral strategy:

The strategy appeared to work, as the Conservatives won 10 seats in Quebec in 2006 and were poised in the 2008 election to win the additional Quebec seats that might give them a majority. Conservative support in the province, however, unexpectedly collapsed over small budget cuts to a few arts and culture programs, and the party was lucky to hold its 10-seat beachhead.

But was it really the petty culture cuts that torpedoed the Conservatives in Quebec? If your wife divorces you because you leave the toilet seat up one night, something else is probably involved.

Now, lessee. If Flanagan does not believe that the cuts to the arts were the reason for the collapse of Conservative support in Quebec, then why would he raise them so prominently as the cause only to dismiss them? Beyond the attraction of gross oversimplification (straw men are like that, although that's Flanagan's straw man, not one I'd accept), could it have been the sheer pleasure of closely associating culture with derisive terms like "small," "a few," and "petty," and then more or less identifying culture with your toilet and domestic squabbles all at once? Dr Freud? Paging Dr Freud?

Flanagan goes on, in one paragraph, to pronounce on the real reasons Quebec remains "difficult" for the CPC: those pesky Quebeckers have an "instrumental" view of Canada "as simply a source of benefits to the province." In other words, he's calling Quebeckers opportunists. Naughty Quebeckers. Imagine: opportunism in politics. So unlike the MO of our beloved Steve, for instance.

So what does our Tom go on to endorse as a Fourth Sister to be added to the CPC electoral strategy?

Ethnics! Teh ethnic vote! I know you're surprised, just blinded by the originality. Me too. The genius of the man. And no opportunism there, neither. In fact, not much deep thought beyond that worn epiphany, just a chance to stereotype and condescend to new Canadians and then to slag and threaten the Liberals.

Actually, that last part, the slagging and threatening of the Liberals, suddenly gets interesting in a weirdly baroque closing sentence that just seems to come out of nowhere:

If the Liberals lose the ethnic vote, their Evil Empire will go the way of Carthage, razed to the ground by the rising power of Rome.

Run that by me again? Carthage and bricklefritzin' Rome? The LPC and the CPC? And that has what to do with teh ethnics? Or Canada?

I'm not sure that Tom Flanagan ever had a grip to get back, but he would be an interesting subject on some analyst's nice leather couch. "Tell me about your fantasies of salting the earth of Ontario and Quebec, Tom. And don't be afraid of the toilet, Tom -- sometimes a toilet is just a toilet." I'm also not sure why the Globe and Mail publishes this puerile, faintly indecent stuff, or how Canadians could have fallen for a political vision as crass, crude, soulless, and brutal as the one Flanagan is supposed to have engineered.

Oh, wait -- we didn't.

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November 16, 2008

The great void

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Maybe it's just me. This could just be a passing mood. Absolutely I know and believe that Canada is connected to the rest of the globe, that we are not going to escape the recession or worse, that we are still implicated in misconceived military adventures overseas, that serious violations of international law have been committed in our names -- I know and believe all that.

But then I turn and look at our current field of the people's representatives, especially the ones who could conceivably form a government any time in the foreseeable future, and the only feeling I can summon for any of them is a Great Yawn.

Even Steve and Iggy, both of whom used to make me angry for different reasons -- I figure that their worst impulses of every variety have pretty much been neutered pre-empted by the economic crunch in the first place, and then the great question of Obama in the second.

It isn't up to us to figure out whether Obama really can or will lift the pall of paranoia that settled over the U.S. and much of the rest of the world during the Bush regime. But so much of what has gone wrong in our own country and in others has happened because of the neuroses of that regime, because the leaders and agents of most Western governments were infected by fears or ambitions manufactured and spread by BushCo criminals of world-historical proportions.

Me, I'm not usually in love with leader-think, but I'm kind of amazed that we have yet to hear a clear voice in Canada speaking to the phenomenon we witnessed two weeks ago in the U.S., not the phenomenon of Obama himself but the outburst from so many people who just could not stand the neurosis any longer and figured that Obama might be the way out. For them, he may be; maybe not. But who is speaking for us?

Do we have a single interesting politician in this country? Anyone who can speak to the several pickles we are in and yet convince us that the crimes of the past will not be repeated? That our government is something more than your standard meeting of semi-competent members of the board?

Me, I'm not seeing or hearing that.

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November 15, 2008

Facts are stupid things


And our government doesn't want us to have them.

Ottawa seeks to block hearings in detainee transfer controversy

The federal government is trying for a third time to block public hearings into whether it allowed the transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities, despite having knowledge they could be tortured, according to a Globe and Mail report.

The hearings, which would be conducted by an independent federal policing watchdog, the Military Police Complaints Commission, were due to begin Dec. 4.

The Justice Department filed an Oct. 30 application seeking a Federal Court order "prohibiting the chairperson [of the MPCC] and the commission from investigating" the allegations, the Globe and Mail reported Friday.

The chair of the MPCC is Peter Tinsley who, thus far, has refused to back down from his intention to fully investigate this matter. I'm really hoping they don't wear him down or find a way to make him back off. Previous posts on this issue are here, here and here.

So is this just Stephen Harper's knee jerk tendency to obstruct anyone who wants information about how his government functions at work? Or have there been war crimes committed?

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November 14, 2008

Inspired by mattt who lives at bastard.logic. This has nothing to do with the news of the week. I just felt like it.

This first clip is a sample taken from that vast library of popular music generally known as Scottish Funk. This is Average White Band which recently celebrated their 40th anniversary. Cut the Cake.

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November 12, 2008

Prime Minister Rae?

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Can anyone explain to me why it is that Bob Rae is running for the leadership of the Liberal party, and what makes him and his supporters believe that he is electable as Prime Minister under any circumstances that would not also result in a Liberal win if the party was led by a ham sandwich?

Look, in all seriousness I can get that people aren't enthused by the alternatives either. That's fine. It's just that, given that Rae's last time in power...did not go well, I can't see where the support to elect him is supposed to come from. I know a lot of people in Ontario on both the right and the left who dislike him intensely, and the people who are somewhat sympathetic say things like "well, it would have been difficult for anyone to be Premier at that time". I'm also not aware of any strong support for him outside of Ontario that would clear up this mystery.

"Rae: He Did As Well As Could Be Expected Under The Circumstances" is not a winning campaign theme. Nor are some other slogans I can think of:

  • "Rae: In Retrospect I Would Have Done It Differently"
  • "Rae: After Harris I Didn't Look So Bad After All, eh?"
  • "Rae: Look, I Said I Was Sorry"

Feel free to contribute other slogans in the comments...

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November 11, 2008


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Although this was written in remembrance of Australian soldiers, I think much of the sentiment holds true.

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November 9, 2008


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This is from an open letter to Barack Obama written by long time Daily Kos contributor Meteor Blades. (And when I read the last sentence in this paragraph the first person I thought of was my co-blogger skdadl. I could hear her shout "Bravo!".)

On January 20, I want you to announce to the nation and the world your first steps in restoring the rule of law. Tell everyone that before the sun sets you will sign an executive order renouncing torture and commanding any and all government employees and contractors to cease any torture as defined by the Red Cross, other international organizations and the Geneva Conventions. And say that the United States will never again train, fund, encourage or otherwise assist governments of other nations to engage in torture as it has cravenly done during several administrations. I want you to announce a second order that abolishes the Guantánamo detention center and all the secret prisons elsewhere. A third that ends rendition. I want you tell us that you will immediately seek repeal of the reprehensible Military Commissions Act that tried to paper over lawless rule with legislation that you and most Democrats voted against in 2006. Finally, I want you to announce an investigatory commission – a bipartisan commission – with subpoena power, access to every secret memo and all the time it needs to uncover the whole story of torture and all the associated acts, to fill the gaps in what has already been learned. The first step in keeping these acts from being repeated in the future is to fully understand them and those who ordered them.

Emphasis in the original.

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November 8, 2008

Updated. Please see below.

Obama 'to honour' missile plans

US President-elect Barack Obama will go ahead with plans to build part of a controversial missile defence system on Polish soil, Poland has announced.

President Lech Kaczynski's office said the pledge was made during a telephone conversation between the two men.

I haven't seen anything in the media about a statement from Obama himself on this so I suppose we have to allow for the possibility that President Kaczynski is doing a little lobbying. But my own read on Obama is that trying to manipulate him into a decision he doesn't want to take will get you spanked. It's difficult to believe that Poland's president would think he has anything to gain from this unless it's true. (And he still might get spanked for leaking the contents of that phone conversation.)

Aside from being needlessly provocative, the missile defence system is still nothing but corporate welfare for military contractors. It doesn't work. I'd say it's actually a solution looking for a problem but it's not much of a solution if you have to rig the problem to guarantee success. I would also argue that continuing to pump billions into this turns much of Obama's campaign into mere rhetoric. Unfortunately I'm talking about the good parts of his campaign.

Of more immediate concern, if Obama proceeds with this misbegotten project expect it to renew enthusiasm among its Canadian defenders. The argument will be that support for this from an American president who isn't George W. Bush somehow negates all the other arguments against it. Even though it doesn't.

H/t to Alison at Bread and Roses.

Good news:

US President-elect Barack Obama has not given a commitment to go ahead with plans to build part of a US missile defence system in Poland, an aide says.
When asked about the declaration, [Obama's foreign policy adviser Denis] McDonough said that the US president-elect had had "a good conversation" with Mr Kaczynski about the American-Polish alliance and discussed missile defence, but "made no commitment on it".

Thanks to Robert McClelland in comments.

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November 7, 2008

Parliament may not have reconvened yet but the Conservative government has resumed standard operating procedures. That includes making announcements that might generate negative publicity late on Friday to minimize the attention they'll receive.

After seven years of planning and several million dollars of public investment, the federal government has scrapped a project to build a national portrait gallery, Heritage Minister James Moore said late Friday.

The abrupt abandonment of the plan to build the gallery is the result of unstable economic times, said the minister.

"In this time of global economic instability, it is important that the federal government continue to manage its own affairs prudently and pragmatically," he said in a press release.

If you read on in the article you'll find that at one point the Conservatives tried to go in a different direction with this and it sounds as though it would be a done deal by now if they'd finished the plans that were already in place. Instead their alternate plan met with serious resistance so now they're taking their ball and going home. And doing it as quietly as possible.

I guess break's over. It was nice while it lasted.

H/t to psa at Canadian Cynic.

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Friday night

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Barack Obama certainly has one very important thing going for him: he's not George W. Bush. The end of 43's reign of error isn't here just yet, but it seems a little more real after this week. It feels like we have at least a little more room to breathe than we did on Monday. So the only real theme I had in mind for tonight's post was to relax a bit and find some joyful noise.

Found some. This is the Derek Trucks Band with about eight minutes of Joyful Noise.

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November 5, 2008

Congratulations, America

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One week before Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States, my wife and I should be bringing our first child into the world. I've never talked about this here because it's not been relevant, but we are a mixed-race couple--I'm white, she's black. It's good to know that it's a world where a mixed-race kid, just like ours, can be elected President of the United States.

I didn't want Obama to win because of his ancestry or the colour of his skin. I wanted him to win because our neighbour to the south needs change and I believe he was the best candidate available to bring that change. But that said, I can't help but think about what he's done to lower the barriers that my son or daughter will face, and I cannot help but be grateful for that.

Thank you, President-elect Obama. And thank you, America.

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November 4, 2008

US Election Liveblog

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Mentarch at Another Point of View alerts us to this:

A government document found on an Ottawa street last summer might be more sensitive than the environment minister John Baird initially led the public to believe, the CBC has learned.
The papers provide a risk assessment of an Environment Canada enforcement database that tracks polluters and law-breakers and the steps taken to enforce environmental and wildlife-protection legislation.

What? You mean Angry McPointy may not have been scrupulously honest with the media in his assessment of the significance of this incident? I'm truly shocked. But that's not what I want to draw attention to. Baird's claim was that the information in the document would already be available to anyone who took the trouble to make the appropriate Access to Information request. So the CBC did just that.

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Dear America

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Please don't f*ck this up again.


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November 3, 2008

As your mother would say, Joe, God love ya, and you know that I do, and man, am I holding my breath for you and Barack tomorrow. The whole world is, actually. Last time I looked at If the World Could Vote, the rest of the world was voting 87 per cent for you guys, and you will know why.

But Joe, Glenn is right. You said a bad thing in Ohio on Saturday, and friends don't let friends drive over democracy that way. So here comes the scolding.

Citizens of a democracy do not have a commander-in-chief. Even in your republic, as Glenn says, only the military, and then only when they are activated, have a c-in-c. I was really sort of disappointed that you would reinforce the power-loyalty meme that has damaged your political culture so terribly over the last eight years, that has even crept into the public rhetoric of my mild country, where citizens have traditionally been proud that only those taking on public service are ever required to take loyalty oaths.

I worry about this because I fear that popular understanding even in Canada of the sovereign dignity of the citizen has been eroded by the last eight years of free-floating paranoia, so easily manipulated by the crooks and liars. Even here, any well-informed question about our involvement in the NATO ISAF mission to Afghanistan can be shouted down by cynical cries to "Support our troops!" -- as though intelligent thought about where we are sending our troops and support for them were incompatible.

Anyway, Joe, I figure that you know all this stuff already. I know that you have a son now deployed to Iraq, and I can imagine how that weighs upon the mind. But Joe, please read through Glenn's fine essay. He is right, isn't he? You don't want your country any more militarized than it already is, and I don't want mine militarized at all. You don't want your free press or your proud citizens afraid to question any move made by those to whom we have lent our sovereign power for a time, do you? Even if you're the one in power? Look at the shame of your major media during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and then meditate on the rhetoric of loyalty.

I so do not want to jinx the Obama/Biden campaign tomorrow by wishing you all the best, although I do -- so many around the world do. So, y'know, break a leg. And then, remember: on Wednesday morning, we all become critics again.

Your friend and fan

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