April 2012 Archives

April 30, 2012

Disclosure for thee but not for me?


This op-ed in the Globe and Mail depends in large part on the uncritical acceptance of the conclusions of a Fraser Institute report. So it might have been nice if the Globe had disclosed that the column's author, Gwyn Morgan, is both a serious financial donor to the Fraser Institute and a member of its board of directors. Perhaps if we spread a rumour that Morgan is secretly a political blogger, the paper's editors would take more interest in these things.

Let's take a quick look at one small part of Morgan's column:

Germany has given away $130-billion, mostly to solar-power companies. Yet solar power makes up a minuscule 0.3 per cent of German power supply, while doing almost nothing toward the original objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In February, Germany's Minister of Economics and Technology, Philipp Roesler, announced a pullback from green-power subsidies saying the cost was "a threat to the economy."

It's true that Germany is making serious reductions to their feed-in tariff rates but Morgan makes it sound as though it's because the original policy was a failure. There seems to be another side to the story.

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April 27, 2012

Friday night

Good evening. Have some blues. As Chris Smither mentions in his intro, Statesboro Blues was originally written and recorded by Blind Willie McTell.

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Friday morning Robocon blogging


I don't often write about polls but I'll make time for this one. In support of their lawsuit contesting the results of last May's federal election in seven ridings, the Council of Canadians commissioned EKOS Research Associates to do a study. EKOS investigated the occurrence of fraudulent phone calls in those ridings and the political leanings of those who received them. To establish a baseline, the company also looked at 106 other ridings where there have been no reports of fraudulent calls.

Here's a summary of the results from the Globe and Mail:

Ekos president Frank Graves said the survey found voters in the seven ridings were 50 per cent more likely to have received illegitimate calls than those in 106 surveyed "comparison" ridings... And about three times as many Liberal, New Democrat and Green supporters as Conservative supporters claimed they were given false or incorrect information about polling station locations.

In a report on the same story in the Ottawa Citizen, Graves described the possibility that those results could be merely coincidental as "completely statistically improbable." The reaction from the Conservatives was entirely predictable: they ignored the evidence and attacked the messenger. Frank Graves must be a Liberal. There is no other possible explanation.

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April 20, 2012

Friday night: RIP Levon Helm

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Levon Helm, best known as the drummer for The Band, passed away yesterday from "complications of cancer." He had already come back from throat cancer once to resume recording and performing until very recently.

I would imagine you'll find lots of retrospective looks at his career (like this one at the New Yorker) so I thought I'd just put up some of those recent performances. This is an appearance on the David Letterman show in 2009 where he performed a song called Tennessee Jed from a newly released album. If you want to skip the introduction the song actually gets under way just after the 1:00 mark.

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Friday morning Robocon blogging


The story of vote suppression in last year's federal election has moved ahead this week on two different tracks.

Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher, the journalists who originally broke the story of the Elections Canada investigation, delivered another installment this week. They're reporting that EC investigators have now shifted their attention to Conservative Party headquarters because they're satisfied that the party's CIMS database was the source for the information used to drive the robocalls that misled voters about polling station locations. And in the course of examining the logs to see who was behind the calls...

... the agency is trying to determine why database records provided by the party appear to be missing entries that could help identify who downloaded the phone numbers used to make fraudulent robocalls...
Aside from the comparisons to the infamous Nixon White House Tapes and the missing 18 minutes, that bit of news also prompted this:
The Conservatives say it's impossible to delete logs that keep track of access to CIMS.

Really? Tell me more.

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April 19, 2012

Burke campaign paperwork could have aided Guelph robodialling

A mysterious operative known only as Pierre Poutine could have obtained the ammunition he needed to launch his election-day attack on the electorate simply by walking into the campaign office of Guelph Conservative candidate Marty Burke.


...sources close to the Burke campaign have told the Mercury hard-copy versions of the CIMS data suspected to have been used in this case were routinely printed off and used for legitimate campaign purposes, such as canvassing or arranging rides to polls.

Someone who passed through the Burke campaign office on York Road could have picked up a copy of these printed lists, sources say.

On Twitter, Kady O'Malley already pointed out one problem with this theory: the information would have to be supplied to RackNine, the service that hosted the calls, in digital form.

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April 18, 2012

Your move, Vic.


Omar Khadr formally requests transfer home from Guantanamo

Ottawa has received an application from convicted war criminal Omar Khadr to transfer from Guantanamo Bay to Canada.

A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the federal government is now making a decision "in accordance with Canadian law."

I'd be willing to bet that the formal request for transfer was made some time ago. What's new here is the acknowledgement from our government. Let's see how long it takes Toews to either grant the request or figure out how to say no when the Americans want this to happen.

One source maintains the United States is asking Canada for a diplomatic favour in taking the Toronto-born citizen back.

The source says Washington wants to "get rid" of Mr. Khadr for their own reasons.

I'm not sure why the Globe is leaving it at "for their own reasons" when other articles have already spelled it out.

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April 17, 2012

This is a guest post contributed by frequent commenter Jared Milne.

In the last couple of years, various Canadian commentators have remarked on the new conservative narrative of Canada that Stephen Harper and the federal Conservatives have been creating. Much of this narrative centres around a new form of patriotism that emphasizes support for the military, the Canadian North, hockey and Tim Horton's coffee. Now, with the Harper Conservatives having formed a majority government in the 2011 federal election, progressive Canadians like Murray Dobbin, Jim Stanford and Andrew Jackson are calling for a new progressive narrative that provides an alternative to the narrative offered by the Harper Conservatives and the more general political right. Carol Goar has written about an anti-poverty movement that she says is "out of step" with the people it tries to help, and Reilly Yeo talks about the need for innovative thinking in how government can work in a networked and global society.

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April 13, 2012

Friday night

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore

This is James McMurtry with We Can't Make It Here.

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A little Friday morning Robocon blogging

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This will be a short post for the simple reason that there hasn't been a lot of movement on this story in the last week. The most dramatic development was the claim by Brian-Michel LaRue at #CDNPOLI that the real identity of Pierre Poutine is Andrew Prescott, who was the deputy manager of the Conservative campaign in Guelph. It might be worth noting here that early in March, Prescott was to meet with Elections Canada and then canceled the meeting, apparently on the advice of his lawyer. I can't find any reaction in the establishment media to LaRue's claim.


Last week I noted that Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand wanted to beef up the penalties assessed for violations of the Canada Elections Act. What a good idea:

... newly released documents show that taxpayers spent more than $2.3 million on an investigation and five-year legal battle with the Conservative Party over the "in-and-out" affair.

The Conservatives ended up admitting to violations of election law and paid a $52,000 fine. We can draw two conclusions from this. The first is that on a strictly financial basis it's not worth our while to prosecute violations like that. The second is that it definitely is worth their while for political parties to carry on violating the law. They have far more to gain than they stand to lose even when they're subsequently prosecuted and found guilty.

What's wrong with this picture?

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April 9, 2012

Just for the record


So the good people at Dammit Janet! are having an argument with certain other bloggers who apparently also belong to "Progressive Bloggers", and with the site administrators of "Progressive Bloggers", and have left "Progressive Bloggers" as a result.
OK, I don't have anything to add to what has already been said about that. Just wanted to say that in my never-humble opinion, Dammit Janet are right, and those two guys (it would be guys) are wrong and so are the site admins at Progblogs. This would seem to be a post without much point, but I didn't feel I could fail to speak up in solidarity, so here we are.

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April 6, 2012

Friday night

This evening I think we'll do them in chronological order. This is The Fabulous Thunderbirds performing on Austin City Limits in 1986. Look At That, Look At That.

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Since the dramatic revelations in last week's committee testimony by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand, there has been very little additional movement in the main robocon story. For the moment, it's up to Elections Canada to keep digging. But journalists and bloggers are trying to fill in some of the blanks in related stories.

McGregor and Maher, who originally pushed all of this back into the spotlight, have written a couple of articles on RMG, the company described in one piece as the Conservative Party's "main call centre company for fundraising work." The fact that the company employs high pressure tactics to squeeze money out of low income donors really shouldn't come as a surprise. But considering the CPC's reputation for being so much more successful than its rivals at raising money, should we now be asking ourselves how much of that success is a result of being ruthless as opposed to inspiring generosity?

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My $2 billion on F-35: How much really? and Why?


First, that figure the auditor general has been talking about, that $25 billion. While it's a useful number to know about as a demonstration the Cons were hiding things, we shouldn't take it as a serious guide to how much the damn things would cost. Sure, it's a figure for internal use, but it's still a happy happy figure produced by a defense establishment in groupthink mode trying hard to sell the particular plane they wanted. It was there to reassure the rubes in the upper echelons of the bureaucracy that they weren't rubes, only the public and the Mushrooms of Parliament were rubes. Who knows, maybe the defense guys were even fooling themselves and cabinet and Harper. But it's nonsense. Even the figure the parliamentary budget officer gave a while ago, $29.7 billion as I recall, was a very polite one. It relied on Pentagon figures and other blandly reassuring official US documents.

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April 4, 2012

QOTD: On the F-35

Michael Harris writing at iPolitics in the aftermath of the Auditor General's report on the F-35 fiasco:

Since the finding that the Harper government was in contempt of parliament, it has all been downhill. The committee system is now like a perpetual meeting of the Skull and Bones society. When asked a question, no member of the government front bench seems to understand either of the official languages. When ministers are found in conflict of interest, the prime minister blows it off as unimportant. And now, after six years of stonewalling over the same issue that led to the contempt of parliament finding, the facts show that the government continued to mislead parliament on the F-35 file. Of course, it was somebody else's fault. This government has not only politicized public servants, it has turned them into cannon fodder.

The rest of it is good too.

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April 3, 2012

Light blogging ahead

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Sorry for the lack of content for the last few days. And the next few. Have to take care of business. I'm sure you've all noticed that people who send you bills actually expect to get paid. Funny that.

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