Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Shuffling of the Deck Chairs

Meet Steve's new cabinet:

Agriculture - Gerry Ritz
Defence - Peter MacKay
Environment - Jim Prentice
Finance - Jim Flaherty
Fisheries - Gail Shea
Foreign Affairs - Lawrence Cannon
Health - Leona Aglukkaq
Heritage - James Moore
Immigration - Jason Kenney
Intergovernmental Affairs - Josee Verner
International Trade - Stockwell Day
International Cooperation - Bev Oda
Industry - Tony Clement
Justice - Rob Nicholson
Labour - Rona Ambrose
National Revenue - Jean-Pierre Blackburn
Natural Resources - Lisa Raitt
Public Safety - Peter Van Loan
Public Works - Christian Paradis
Transport - John Baird
Treasury Board - Vic Toews
Veterans Affairs - Greg Thompson

Government House Leader - Jay Hill
Government Whip - Donald O'Connor

Ministers of State:

Atlantic Opportunities - Keith Ashfield
Democratic Reform - Steven Fletcher
Economic Development (Quebec region) - Denis Lebel
Foreign Affairs - Peter Kent
Science & Technology - Gary Goodyear
Sports - Garry Lunn
Transport - Rob Merrifield
Western Diversification - Lynn Yelich
Women - Helena Guergis

And what was that about Conservatives hating big government?

Harper expanded cabinet to 38 members from 31 to make room for new and veteran MPs alike.

Source: The Star

Throne speech: Nov 18

Update::

I missed a few (temporary laptop meltdown) but you can find them here.
 

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What about the poor?

When I read personal stories by Americans who have been hit hard by the economic meltdown like this, I can't help but have a visceral reaction to this type of obscene campaign spending:

Obama, who raised a record $150million in September, has bought ads just about everywhere – even in the virtual world of Xbox video games. At 8 p.m. tomorrow, he will run a 30-minute commercial on NBC, CBS and FOX. Cost: about $3million.

I know this race is still close and, with less than a week to go, getting the message out is crucial for both candidates but what would speak more loudly? Obama yapping on teevee for half and hour or donating that $3 million to charity to help the poor?

Oh but there's a payoff if he wins, his supporters will surely tell you. He plans to lower taxes for some 95% of working families which, as Bloomberg's article points out:

The ``working'' caveat turns out to be crucial: The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that, including tax filers with no wages or business income, 81 percent would get a tax cut.

Still, that sounds like good news, doesn't it? Perhaps until you try out a few examples on Obama's tax cut calculator. Let's say you're a single parent with 2 children and your adjusted gross income is $15,000. Your tax savings under Obama's plan would amount to $486.21 which, according to that site, is much more than the $18.69 you'd get under McCain. Quite the difference - but with the price of absolutely everything skyrocketing these days, how much of a difference would $486.21 make in that single parent's life? And don't they have the right to be just a little pissed off at this $3 million ad buy? And what about that $600 million Obama has spent on his campaign?

Having been a poor single parent, I can tell you exactly what it feels like to drown in financial depression while government decides to throw you a sponge as if that's some sort of a life-saving device.

I'm not letting McCain off the hook here - a man who can barely get the phrase "middle class" out of his mouth without choking on his spit. But I do expect more from a presidential candidate who calls himself a progressive and acts as if he alone will lift the struggling out of the stormy seas to stop them from perishing in this flood of financial ruin.

Sure, he has a tax plan (and don't get me started on his refusal to push for true universal health care) but, in these times when there's a global recession looming and he pledges to make more war in Afghanistan, just how much of his platform will he be able to accomplish? And if he's so focused on helping the middle class, what will happen to those who are already living below the poverty line? They seem to have been lost in all of this. Many of them have bought the "hope" and "change" messages and will cast their votes for Obama. But it seems, at this point, that's really all they have left. Frankly, it's just an insult to think that that's enough when the man they're voting for blows another $3 million to promote himself.
 

Monday, October 27, 2008

Attack in Syria: A Late October Surprise?

Lest we forget, as much as we may want to, Bush, Cheney and Gates are still busy plotting and carrying out various random attacks on sovereign countries while most of America is focused on the election and the accompanying financial crisis. I have to add though that, even if nothing else was happening, I suspect the majority of Americans wouldn't even blink at the fact that the US military has continually invaded Pakistan's territory in recent months and has now completed an air raid in Syria's boundaries. USA! USA! and all of that... The desire to win something, somewhere is overwhelming.

Depending on who you believe, the attack on Sunday either "killed a major smuggler of foreign fighters into Iraq" according to some anonymous "US official" and/or resulted in the deaths of 8 civilians.

Killing innocent people is a nasty habit the US military has yet to shake as it continually happens in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq - to list the countries that we know of where such "mistakes" involving "collateral damage" take place. We have no idea what other covert operations around the world might be "accomplishing" in this failed war on terror.

I don't think it's a stretch to see this latest US show of militarism in Syria as perhaps a signal favouring the election of Netanyahu over Livni after she admitted this week that she had failed to form a coalition government in Israel and was forced to call an election. Netanyahu has flatly stated that he has no interest in compromising to further the Israeli/Palestinian peace process (such as it is) and if Livni manages to win, media reports characterize the situation as having now delayed that process for at least a year.

While this certainly isn't a good outcome for Bush, who had expressed that he wanted to find some finality on the I/P issue - but who, in reality, along with Condi had stalled progress repeatedly for years - aggression towards Syria could serve as a favour to McCain. We'll have to see how or if he plans to handle this news if his campaign can manage to get the focus off of Palin's wardrobe (an issue she can't seem to let go of).

As Marc J. Sirois writing in Lebanon's Daily Star explains, after analyzing the futility of attacking Iran:

Then came another kind of "surprise." The global financial crisis that broke out earlier this month did not just damage McCain's campaign by exposing his fundamental (and openly acknowledged) ignorance on economic matters ahead of an era in which such abilities are likely to be at a premium. It also forced the US government to take on trillions of dollars in new liabilities in a bid to restore confidence in the markets. Given the gargantuan deficits and debt already amassed by Bush's profligate spending on wars against Muslims, tax breaks for the rich, and subsidies for large corporations, a costly war with Iran is simply no longer a viable option.

For all of these reasons, Syria must look like a more attractive target, especially if Washington can maintain a level of hostilities that is sufficient to pique the average American's "patriotism" but not so intense that it incurs significant costs. There is no guarantee, however, that the Syrians would cooperate with such an approach, even though any form of response in kind on their part would only invite the Americans to escalate disproportionately, especially with their overwhelming advantage in air power.

The ball seems to have gotten rolling in a Syrian village near the Iraqi border shortly before dusk on Sunday. According to Damascus, US troops arrived in helicopters and assaulted a building under construction at a farmstead, killing eight civilians - half of them children.

The Bush administration's official reaction has been painfully slow in coming, but according to an Associated Press report, a US military officer has confirmed that an attack was carried out by special forces. "We are taking matters into our own hands," AP quoted the officer as saying on condition of anonymity because of what the reporter described as the "political sensitivity" - no mention of patent illegality - "of cross-border raids." Pointedly, the comments came in Washington, not from an officer on the ground in Iraq, where the US military professed to be in the dark about the attack in Syria.
[...]
So why now? The timing has got to be instilling a sense of deja vu among senior members of the Syrian regime. They recall with consternation that even after US diplomats publicly acknowledged the value of Syrian intelligence assistance in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Bush and other senior figures kept up their menacing rhetoric about Damascus. [even though they used Syria as a dumping ground for suspects they wanted tortured, like Canada's Maher Arar -catnip]

This looks to be different. Even if Damascus were still a target in Bush's so-called "war on terror," the timing is so vulnerable to accusations of an attempt to influence the election that only a dire threat could possibly justify taking the risk. Even if it turns out that what the Americans hit was indeed tied to the insurgency, therefore, hitting it now makes no sense - unless the real objective is to capture the hearts and minds of undecided voters in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

While Sirois "hope[s] that Obama wins the White House and then makes good on his promise as a conciliatory figure", Obama's fealty to AIPAC may supersede any possible progress with Syria's government on the I/P and Iraq war fronts. The Bush administration's decision to launch this latest attack has only complicated matters but hasn't that been its legacy around the world since day one?

No matter who wins the US election, the dangerously shifting sands in the Middle East will no doubt see the US government involved in extremely complex deliberations for years to come - especially once the Pentagon finally admits that military might is not the answer and that might not happen unless the US finally goes completely bankrupt. A new Great Depression might provide exactly the amount of humility needed to finally reach that point.

But who am I kidding?

Update:

Baghdad condemns 'US Syria raid'

Speaking after a Baghdad cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh also explicitly criticised the US over the unconfirmed helicopter strike.

"The Iraqi government rejects the US helicopter strike on Syrian territory, considering that Iraq's constitution does not allow its land to be a base for launching attacks on neighbouring countries," he said.

 

'Wrecked Iraq'

While both US presidential candidates are fond of using the same talking point about the fact that $10 billion per month is being spent in Iraq, no one seems to have asked the logical follow up question: On what?

Michael Schwartz, writing for the Asia Times takes a look at what that money isn't being spent on in his article, 'Wrecked Iraq'. He also debunks the myth that the Iraqi government has free and unfettered control over its oil revenues, which McCain and Obama both use to chastise Iraq's leaders:

Much has been made in the US presidential campaign of the $70 billion oil surplus the Iraqi government built up in these last years as oil prices soared. In actuality, most of it is currently being held in American financial institutions, with various American politicians threatening to confiscate it if it is not constructively spent. Yet even this bounty reflects the devastation of the war.

De-Ba'athification and subsequent chaos rendered the Iraqi government incapable of effectively administering projects that lay outside the fortified, American-controlled Green Zone in the heart of Baghdad. A vast flight of the educated class to Syria, Jordan, and other countries also deprived it of the managers and technicians needed to undertake serious reconstruction on a large scale.

As a consequence, less than 25% of the funds budgeted for facility construction and reconstruction last year were even spent. Some government ministries spent less than 1% of their allocations. In the meantime, the large oil surpluses have become magnets for massive governmental corruption, further infuriating frustrated citizens who, after five years, still often lack the most basic services. Transparency International's 2008 "corruption perceptions index" listed Iraq as tied for 178th place among the 180 countries evaluated.

The Iraq that has emerged from the American invasion and occupation is now a thoroughly wrecked land, housing a largely dysfunctional society. More than a million Iraqis may have died; millions have fled their homes; many millions of others have been scarred by war, insurgency and counterinsurgency operations, extreme sectarian violence, and soaring levels of common criminality. Education and medical systems have essentially collapsed and, even today, with every kind of violence in decline, Iraq remains one of the most dangerous societies on earth.

So, when McCain and Obama complain about the $10 billion per month being spent there, instead of both of them refusing to consider lowering the Pentagon's budget while they promise a new and improved military effort in equally ravaged Afghanistan, someone needs to ask them what they plan to do about the wretched state of Iraq's infrastructure and why private corporations like KBR, Dyncorp, Blackwater, and Halliburton will still be allowed to flourish under their administrations while the Iraqi and Afghani people continue to suffer.
 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Food for Thought


“Men will lie on their backs, talking about the fall of man, and never make an effort to get up”

- Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, October 25, 2008

10 More Days



I have to hand it to you - you yanks are a colourful and eclectic bunch. How else could you possibly stand election campaigns that last almost 2 bloody years? As a voyeur from the frozen tundra above, gazing down (and over at Alaska) from a place where eating poutine while watching Hockey Nite in Canada on a Saturday is aboot as exciting as it gets (according to every known Canuck stereotype) and being one of basically a handful of ye frozen people who actually puts up with covering our 37 day federal election campaign in any detail (and believe me, 37 days is more than enough), I know that it takes a special kind of political junkie (and I do mean "special") to sustain an interest in a race between 2 American parties that are virtually the same (in too many ways) for any length of time.

Rah rah patriotism, character flaws magnified and examined to the nth degree - sort of a colonoscopy of the mind, if you will, hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the US election industry (probably more than the entire economies of some small countries and certainly enough to eventually end world hunger), promises, promises, promises - just waiting to be broken, wild-eyed partisans who for some insane reason "love" their candidates and who are willing to do practically anything to get them elected, weary-eyed extremely monotonous pundits and journalists from hell who actually think they contribute something of worth to the national conversation; and stump speeches - spoken and shown over and over and over and over again by candidates who, after all of that oratory, still need teleprompters to guide them when most of their followers could recite their words verbatim for them.

It's a modern-day traveling circus: freaks and snake-oil salesmen included, not to mention the revival tent set up on the side for those who may have strayed from The Way (or The One). The curious are drawn in and suckered, leaving with smiles on their faces but feeling vaguely ripped off at the same time - prepared to shrug that off because they need to believe that they actually got value for their money. And besides, maybe it'll be better the next time. (But it never really is, is it?)

Just 10 more days...and then it starts all over again. Enjoy the show.
 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Italian Barber, The Gas Station Attendant, and Jim

As I was coming home on the bus on Wednesday - a long, long bus ride from the other end of the city where I had checked out yet another place to rent (that I won't be taking) - I was slightly nodding off as the bus stopped downtown during rush hour to pick up riders heading home from their work day.

The seat beside me was filled by a man who was probably somewhere in his 50s. Having spotted someone he knew who had just embarked, he called out to him, "Jim! I have a bus ticket for you."

As it turned out (as I snooped on their conversation which I couldn't help but overhear), Jim was apparently a client of the man next to me, who, bantering in his heavy Italian accent, was clearly identified as his barber. They chit chatted about this and that - Jim is off to Cancun next week for 5 days to get a house ready for his annual trip to Mexico where his 80 year old mother who lives in Winnipeg is scheduled to meet Jim's family over xmas. The Italian barber said he wasn't going anywhere and paused - informing Jim that he'd lost half of the money he'd invested in his RRSPs because of the economic meltdown. "It's bad, Jim. It's bad," he said. Jim sympathized and said that, as far as he was concerned, all anyone could do was to try to enjoy life in the moment, regardless of what's going on. That's the type of response I would probably have given but it wouldn't alleviate the Italian barber's long term concerns considering that he may now have to delay his retirement. It was a sad conversation.

Having done that stretch of my trip, I got off the bus to transfer to the one I needed to take to get home. That's where I met the 40ish, female gas station attendant. We talked as we stood and waited for the next bus. She informed me that the last bus ran out to her place at 4:40 pm. Because her stint that day had ended after that, she had to grab my bus and walk from 68 St to 84 St NE. I told her that I'd just spent 1 1/2 hours getting from Abbeydale to Bowness and the same amount of time getting back. (Yes, I've complained to Calgary Transit that they need to update their runs. Having lived here for over 20 years and having watched the city's population almost double in that time, the system's services are now horribly antiquated.) When the conversation turned to the economy, she told me bluntly that, "the Bible predicted all of this". Not being a Bible believer and being way too exhausted to even get into it, I just let the comment pass. I really wasn't in the mood to have a discussion with a Rapture Ready person. She'd found her way to cope with the crisis. Who was I to argue with her? I guess we all find comfort where we can.

Home, finally, I mentioned the trip highlights to my roommate who told me that her 40 year old boyfriend had decided to pull his money out of his RRSPs because they were losing money as well. I guess my poverty status (ie. not even having any money to invest in the first place because I'm on permanent disability) has left me immune to those kinds of concerns but it's painfully obvious that Stephen 'the fundamentals of the economy are solid' Harper has badly misjudged the impact of this crisis on average Canadians.

The Bank of Canada announced today that "the Canadian economy is on the razor's edge of recession". No doubt. Interest rates may be going down but so are oil prices (bad for Alberta's economy), the loonie, housing prices, and consumer confidence - which is at 1982 levels. Food and rent prices are still high and are probably expected to stay that way. Everyone I've met who has a room to rent has said that they need help with their bills.

I'm currently spending 60% of my income on rent and that doesn't look like it's going to change considering the few options I have available to me in this city - and that's for shared accommodation. And 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day? Are you kidding me? So much for trying to be as healthy as possible while I fight my illnesses.

There's a reason times like this are called "depressions".

Don't worry about the banks though. They're getting direct help from the feds, even if the rest of us aren't.

Related:

Video interview: Chomsky on the economy
Wall Street's 'Disaster Capitalism for Dummies'
 

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stephane Dion: 'I failed.'

The big Canadian news of the day is that Liberal leader Stephane Dion will resign once a new leader is chosen. Dion acknowledged that the Liberal party was unable to sell its Green Shift plan to Canadians and blamed the Conservatives for framing him as someone he wasn't through their use of negative campaigning.

He also said the Conservatives had a "massive financial advantage" to "distort" his Green Shift plan and that the Liberals did not have the resources to fight back "given our existing financial crisis."

"It has been a mistake to go ahead with the Green Shift because we are not equipped to explain what it was," he said.

Dion said Tory "propaganda" about the plan was cemented in the minds of Canadians and "was the main reason why we lost."

Here's the deal: the Liberals unveiled a novel platform that they simply didn't have time to sell properly - despite the amount of money and "propaganda" the Cons employed. We have short election campaigns. That's a fact of life.

Secondly, the Liberals' campaign was disjointed, focused too much on Dion, and was continually playing catch up. The Cons waited until the last week to spring their platform on Canadians who didn't even have time to digest it. Their message was simply, 'trust Steve' and, for many voters, that worked. It wasn't a brilliant strategy since they still have a minority government but it was enough to convince at least some Canadians to turn to the Cons like a warm glass of milk before bed time after a long stressful day.

Thirdly, as I've said before, I really don't think the Liberals' 'vote for us - we're centrists' was a winning message. People understand left and right, liberal and conservative. Centrism is what, exactly? Just how many left-leaning voters did the party sacrifice to that meme - even if the fact that they are centrists is the truth?

So, regardless of the nice guy that he is, Dion has to go. Let's hope the Liberals don't take absolutely forever again to choose his successor. I damn near pulled my hair out the last time around - not because I'm a Liberal, I'm not. These long leadership races (like the excruciatingly nails-on-a-chalkboard-like race in the US) are wearing and are enough to make even seasoned political veterans want to take a vacation in some place peaceful by comparison - like Iraq.
 

Call me paranoid because I am...

So, how did it come to pass that the US economic crisis suddenly came to a head forcing congress to take action when it was right up against its deadline to break so incumbent candidates could go home to run for re-election? And, in Canada, why did our PM suddenly feel the need to call for an election just a week or two before the meltdown happened? Did Harper know what was coming - thinking that Canadians would trust a Conservative government to steer the economic boat (or Noah's ark, as he put it) while conveniently trashing the Liberals' plan to move forward with a green economy - something Harper abhors? And, how is it that the brightest international economic minds who saw this coming were just ignored?

Further, why did the Paulson plan - porked up by congress - fail so miserably that now the US is basically nationalizing its banking system? Why did US congresspeople buy into a plan that Paulson admitted in committee might not work thus allowing the Bush administration to then put together more singularly authoritative patchwork solutions that might also fail?

What's going on here? And why did I have to waste my time learning economic terms that I never wanted to know about in the first place? And just who or what is really going to fix this colossal mess?

Am I the only one who feels like strings are being pulled somewhere behind the scenes by powerful people who have some sort of plan that we, the peons, have yet to find out about?

This isn't really about you and me or 'Joe the plumber' (no tax breaks for plumbers until they really tackle the butt crack epidemic). I think this is about the international powers that be rearranging the financial system in a way to give them far more political power and I don't think you have to be a conspiracy theorist to believe that.

Just look at the history here: the secretive Bohemian Grove meetings, the sequestered, undemocratic, so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) gatherings, the exclusive APEC and G8 globalization conferences. What exactly are these politicians planning for our future and why aren't they telling us about it as they hide behind the cloak of 'national security concerns'? Is it really a stretch to think that there's something coming down the pike that the public will be powerless to avoid? How many people would have believed that the neocons' PNAC agenda would be fulfilled? Yet, here we are.

And where are we?

Canada has re-elected Stephen Harper (at least his is a minority government) who will just go along with whatever the economic powers that be dictate. The US presidential campaign has stifled the minority voices of dissent by exalting two candidates who are also more than willing to follow whatever Paulson and Bush want in terms of a fix even though these are Bush's final hours and his judgment has been abominable.

Unless those of us who seriously question the big picture monitor every single step and gravitate towards the voices who are warning us with loud, ringing alarm bells about what's really going on (those so-called scary 'radicals' who are always marginalized by the status quo), we will all be left following the hypnotic pied pipers of capitalism into yet another extremely disastrous era.

It's taken far too long for the majority of the US public to finally admit that Iraq is un-winnable and it will take even longer for it to accept the fact that the Afghanistan war and the so-called war on terror are black holes as well - especially considering the fact that both presidential candidates have promised to ramp up military efforts there, no matter what. And the sustained public outcry against torture? Where is it, exactly? Muted, just like all voices of dissent that dare to expose the war crimes of an administration that has bludgeoned the rule of law to the point that public complacency has now become acceptable - replaced by the idea that if we just show up and vote, everything will change. That's not enough. It never has been.

So, in the end, will we just allow ourselves to float dreamlike through this restructuring of the global economy hoping it all works out in the end? Or will those of us who have very justifiable paranoia about these massive shifts in policy - just as we did when the Bush Doctrine came to be realized - continue to provide some consciousness to this situation?

Seek out the dissident voices and pay attention. I may still not completely understand what a credit default swap is but I sure do know what it feels like when I'm being screwed over. How can anyone who's lived through the last 8 years not? We may not know the destination but that doesn't mean we shouldn't watch the map that's being laid out before us very carefully.

“Sometimes paranoia's just having all the facts.”
-William S Burroughs

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Food for Thought: Soldiers of Humanity

 
Soldiers of Humanity

Once a division of the Japanese army was engaged in a sham battle, and some of the officers found it necessary to make their headquarters in Gasan's temple.

Gasan told his cook: "Let the officers have only the same simple fare we eat."

This made the army men angry, as they were used to very deferential treatment. One came to Gasan and said: "Who do you think we are? We are soldiers, sacrificing our lives for our country. Why don't you treat us accordingly?"

Gasan answered sternly: "Who do you think we are? We are soldiers of humanity, aiming to save all sentient beings."

Source: Zen Koans
 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Documentary: The U.S. vs Omar Khadr

This past week, CBC's Doc Zone presented the documentary, The U.S. vs Omar Khadr. It will rerun tonite at 10 pm ET but you can watch it in its entirety here as well.

It makes for painful and frustrating viewing because Khadr's case has been so badly handled - from the fact that he's a child soldier who shouldn't be prosecuted in the first place, to allegations of torture, evidence that just doesn't add up and a Canadian government that refuses to repatriate him.

You can check out the Doc Zone's site (linked above) for links to the relevant documents and history.

Although both US presidential candidates have promised to close Gitmo, the fact that some countries don't want to repatriate their citizens being held there creates a major stumbling block since too many Americans are unwilling to see these detainees housed on American soil where they may also acquire some actual legal rights denied to them now while they're imprisoned in a foreign land.

There's no doubt that the Bush/Cheney "military tribunal" experiment has failed and that their administration's disregard for human rights has been abominable. That, more than the failure of the economy which has put US militarism and torture on the back burner, should be enough to make sure that the Republicans and any complicit Democrats who supported such overt, inhumane fascism are thrown out of office.

(Total run time: approximately 44 minutes in 5 parts - no commercials.)











(h/t reader ghostcatbce)

Related:

Amnesty likens Canadian held in Ethiopia to Khadr case
CAMPUS: Students protest for Khadr's release
Lawyers call for Omar Khadr's repatriation to Canada
 

Friday, October 17, 2008

Joe McCarthy in a Dress

 

Yes. Just how many anti-American congresspeople are there, Ms Bachmann?

Drop her a line and ask her yourself. (Be civil and sane, even if she can't be.)

We liberals are so incredibly scary. Watch out or we'll eat your kittens.

Related:

Palin Explains What Parts Of Country Not "Pro-America"

But wait, there's more!

From Larry King's show: Yay fascism!

KING: Lars, what would you advise him?

LARSON: Larry, he's got to be bold. He's got to tag Obama as the Marxist that he is. Again, from --

KING: Marxist? Hold it. He's a Marxist?

LARSON: That's Marxism.

KING: Does that make the right wing fascist?

LARSON: No.

KING: You can't have it both ways.

LARSON: No, fascism is about celebrating the country. America has always been about the individual. And conservatives really are about the individual. But saying we want to spread everybody's wealth around and giving tax rebates to the 40 percent of Americans who don't pay federal taxes, that's Marxism. That's redistribution of wealth. And John McCain should be bold enough to tag him.

Barack Obama doesn't believe in drilling for oil. He doesn't believe in nuclear power. He does believe in spreading the wealth and redistributing Joe the plumber's wealth. That's just dead wrong and Americans know it.

Fascism is about celebrating the country? Really?

fas·cism (fāsh'ĭz'əm) Pronunciation Key
n.

1. often Fascism
1. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.
2. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a system of government.
2. Oppressive, dictatorial control.

Hmm...that sounds familiar...
 

What would you do with $300 million?

The CBC's Quirks & Quarks guy, Bob McDonald, has a post up on his blog listing some of the things he'd do with the $300 million that the last useless election cost Canadians:

Our latest federal election, which effectively changed nothing, is estimated to have cost somewhere around $300 million. After playing with my calculator, here’s a short list of what else we could have done with that money:


* Built 3 planetariums or major science museums.

* Built 4 research laboratories for alternative clean energy.

* Installed 100 wind turbines.

* Provided full university scholarships for 6, 000 students — $50,000 each.
* Provided clean drinking water to northern communities.

* Built 10 high schools.

* Built three regional hospitals.

* Funded 100 13-part educational television series.

* Sent me on 10 tourist flights to the International Space Station.

This is just a partial list; I invite you to add to it. Have fun with your calculator and think hard about where some of our government spending priorities really lie.

What would you do with that enormous amount on money?

My list would start with one huge cheesecake to munch on while I tried to imagine where else to splurge.
 

Friday Fun: Canuck the Vote

From The Daily Show:


 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another Fine Mess

During his victory speech on Tuesday nite, Mr 'I have to call an election because parliament is dysfunctional' Harper said, "we know how to make a minority government work". Cognitive dissonance anyone? Or, more plainly said, lies?

The local CTV station reported here on Wednesday that they've been getting a lot of calls and e-mails (and remember - this is a staunchly Conservative city) asking why an election was held in the first place. They should be calling Harper for that answer. Comments in the Calgary Herald echo that anger.

CTV also showed a clip of Harper laughing about the fact that he's basically been Mr Non-stop Campaigning Man the last 6 years. That's something to boast about? After he just cost Canadians $300 million for an unnecessary and non-game-changing election?

And, once again, Alberta had the lowest voter turnout in the country. Maybe if some of those Conservative sheeple actually cared about those hundreds of millions of wasted dollars, they would have shown that by kicking out these useless bastards. But Dog forbid Canada should turn socialist - never mind that Harper is planning on sinking billions into the banks in a socialist kind of way. Cognitive dissonance abides. Maybe they should be forced to hold telethons instead.

The only bright lite in this province last nite shone from Edmonton-Strathcona where NDP candidate Linda Duncan took the seat from Rahim Jaffer. (Who can forget Rick Mercer's "will the real Rahim Jaffer please stand up?" Jaffer should have been turfed for that fraud when it happened.) CBC reports that Jaffer is asking for a "review" of Tuesday's results - not a formal recount though. Regardless, buh bye.

On the Liberal side, we now have to put up with yet another round of leadership races once Dion is convinced to step aside or is forced to do so. There's no way he'll survive this:

Stéphane Dion's future as Liberal Leader is the key post-ballot question as final results from Tuesday's election show his party sank to its lowest level of popular support since Confederation.

Ouch. Buh bye to you too, Stephane.

We all know what the next however many months until the next election will look like: continued verbal food fights in the house highlighted by willful mental constipation and verbal diarrhea. In other words, meet the new parliament, same as the old one. No one even bothered to talk about anything like "restoring dignity" to the place this time around. They all know what a farce that is. They can't help themselves so why bother? If you're really looking to invest in stocks of some kind to get through the coming recession, stock up on popcorn for Question Period. At least popcorn is still affordable, unlike so many other things.

Yes, it's just another fine mess and the "fine" descriptor is certainly questionable. Thanks, Ollie Steve.

Related:

Complete riding results from CBC.
Voter turnout lowest on record (59.1% nationally)

Update:

The Calgary Herald reports that Nfld/Labrador had the country's lowest voter turnout. Alberta was next in line.

"I don't think any of us have really clear ideas as to why that is happening," Harper said.

Seriously, Steve? Mon dieu. Talk about clueless.

 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Election Nite Open Thread & Liveblogging



So, here we are. Finally.

I asked 3 people today if they were going to vote.

The first one said she didn't think it would make any difference.

The second, a store owner, said, "I'm not happy". His main issue is crime and punishment because of the gang violence and he was quite adamant that the person whose recent gunshot blinded an innocent victim in Calgary should be forced to donate his eyes and to "live in darkness" for life. I didn't have to guess who he might have voted for and I told him that I believe in karma instead.

The third, a young clerk, said of voting, "I don't care for it. Sorry." Well, I didn't think he needed to apologize to me and I told him that not voting was his right.

I voted and, like the store owner I spoke to, I'm not happy either. I know the Conservative candidate Deepak Obhrai will win again in my riding and I actually didn't decide to vote until yesterday - not because his win is assured but because I'm not satisfied with any of the parties.

So, here we are.

I'll be following the Election Act on this site:

“No person shall transmit the result or purported result of the vote in an electoral district to the public in another electoral district before the close of all of the polling stations in that other electoral district.”

In other words:



I welcome whatever's on your mind about tonite's happenings but any comments that violate that act (or the counting of the holy hand grenade) will be deleted.

Laugh, cry, yell, dance...have at it.

I'll post updates as they come in.

Reminder: There are 308 seats and winning 155 constitutes a majority.

Results:

Atlantic Canada

- The Cons lost 3 seats in Nfld/Labrador.
- Peter MacKay won his seat beating Elizabeth May, who came in second, by some 5,000 votes.
- Independent Bill Casey won his seat.
- According to CBC, the Grits and Tories are both down 4 seats (?) in the region.
- The Cons won a seat in PEI for the first time since 1984.
- Conservatives shut out by ABC campaign in N.L., make gains in N.B., P.E.I.

The Liberals were set to hold on to 17 seats out of Atlantic Canada's 32 ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as of about 10 p.m. ET.

The Conservatives earned 10 seats and the New Democrats took four. One Independent will also be going to Ottawa from the region.

In the 2006 election, the Liberals won 20 seats, the Conservatives nine and the NDP had three.

10:45 ET from Elections Canada

Leading: Cons 142; Popular Vote 36.7%
Leading: Libs 78; Popular Vote 28.6%
Leading: BQ 47; Popular Vote 7.1%
Leading: N.D.P. 29; Popular Vote 19.6%
Leading: Other 3; Popular Vote 8.0%

Total: 299; 100%

CBC projects a MINORITY Conservative government. (Take that, Steve!)

11:55 ET from Elections Canada:

Leading: Cons 143; Popular Vote 37.4%
Leading: Libs 76; Popular Vote 26.7%
Leading: BQ 50; Popular Vote 10.1%
Leading: NDP 37; Popular Vote 18.0%
Leading: Other 2; Popular Vote 7.8%

Total: 308; 100%

For comparison's sake:

2006 results

Cons 124; Libs 103; BQ 51; NDP 29; Other 1

More from Elections Canada:

Polls reporting: 61,438/69,632
Voter turnout: 11,875,370 of 23,401,064 registered electors (50.8%)

more to come...
 

Harper's Secret Bank Bailout Deal

How's this for transparency?

As Canadians go to the polls, the Conservatives have privately told the country's biggest banks they are ready to step in and guarantee new borrowing because of fears financial institutions will be frozen out of international credit markets for "months," according to people familiar with the discussions.

The extraordinary pledge was made behind closed doors after Canada's banks disclosed they were being starved of desperately-needed financing and could not continue to fund normal operations without government help, despite signs of a rebound in stock markets.
[...]
Confirmed on the eve of the election, the implicit public guarantee of private debt by the Conservatives represents a historic departure from free-market principles and signals a profound loss of confidence in the global banking system.

It means Ottawa is prepared to publicly guarantee repayment of any new money banks borrow from each other and from foreign banks, to make sure Canada's financial institutions do not fall behind their peers.
[...]
Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader, is reluctant to officially declare this policy, but is likely to do so if Washington moves first because of the detrimental impact a U.S.-only guarantee could have on Canada's financial institutions.

Before pulling the trigger, the Conservatives first aim to try and meet the funding needs of Bay Street directly by aggressively expanding a scheme to buy up mortgages from banks.

After initially putting up $25 billion of public money to buy mortgages, the Department of Finance is prepared to increase that limit as needed up to $225 billion, at which point the risk of taxpayer losses starts to rise sharply.

After spending weeks trying to reassure Canadians that "the fundamentals of the economy are solid", it's obvious that Stephen Harper has completely misjudged the impact of the global economic meltdown in our country and has lied to us about the state of our financial institutions. The fact that he and his incompetent finance minister Flaherty have chosen to use vague, lofty and nasty rhetoric to fool Canadians into believing that the Conservatives are best suited to handle this crisis is an absolute sham.

Unfortunately, the news of this secret bailout deal comes on a day when we're headed to the polls with virtually no time for fiscal, free market conservatives to examine how this might affect their support of a federal government that is violating, in their estimation, core conservative principles. It's also an insult to swing voters who've moved towards the Conservative party after being told that every other party is bound to destroy our economy.

Just one more slap in the face brought to you by Harper and the Conservatives. Whether this is a necessary move or not is debatable. What isn't, however, is the fact that this has been dropped in our laps on election day by way of leaks to the media.

Related:

Bush Defends Government Bank Investment
 
 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Canadian Election Watch - Day 37

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow politically-disgruntled Canadians. Turkey for dinner tonite. Turkeys to vote for tomorrow. At least the dinner comes with mashed potatoes and gravy - palatable extras that we just can't seem to find in our politicians. Let's hope one of the other major party leaders makes dessert out of Harper since he fancies himself to be a fruit.

I was pondering today whether Canada needs a longer campaign season. Yes, I know that would involve an increase in the already insanely excessive election budgets of Elections Canada and the parties but as I've watched the downward trend of the Cons, I've wondered if more damage might have been done to their party if the other parties had had more time. I'm also aware that there was, apparently, a little spike upwards for the Cons over the weekend but if Steve had been given even more time to shoot himself in the foot, especially as he has in Quebec, might his fortunes have been diminished? Hard to know. Lastly, would an extended campaign season increase interest and participation in our elections as more Canadians had a longer stretch of time to really study and discuss each party's platform?

As it stands now, and as I've written before (yesterday, for example), too many people vote based on ideology that the politicians they choose don't even stand for anymore. That is a problem and is one of my core complaints about singularly devoted partisanship that forgives far too much when parties don't live up to their agendas. That's why I'm now an independent. I don't expect perfection but I do expect meaningful battles - not political games - to push for more civil and human rights and justice.

None of the current leaders exhibit anything nearing greatness. They're all very milquetoast characters who are too willing to compromise core principles for political gamesmanship. I'm not talking about rigid ideology here - just some passion for really helping Canadians to live a better life. It is our government, after all.

I'm sure as I write this that there are partisans reading who are thinking unequivocally that their leader is exactly what I've described. I've chronicled that belief in writing about the US election. We don't need shiny objects and we deserve to be treated as intelligent voters who absolutely refuse to be lied to anymore. But, if we don't demand that, as George Bernard Shaw wrote:

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.

I guess we'll find out what we deserve on Tuesday nite. Enjoy your turkey(s).
 

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Canadian Election Watch - Day 36

I'm suffering from an attack of WMT: Weapons of Mass Turkey, so I'll keep this one short.

One more day of campaigning and then those of us who give a damn are off to the polls. Although there are certainly those of us who give a damn who aren't going to vote as well, considering the lousy options. As I've said before, I'd rather see an educated non-voter than an uneducated voter. I think we have far too many of the latter who just think they're following their ideology while they vote for people and parties who don't even really represent them.

How many times have you heard someone identify themselves as a conservative because they like small government while they ignore the huge government bureaucracies their parties have created? And during this time of financial turmoil, one in which nobody seems to know exactly what to do (how's that $700bn American bailout working out so far?), can we trust any of the major political parties who are all connected to the system to really look out for the best interests of the peasants? Obviously not. They all lie and they're all corrupted in one way or another by the smell of power. Grim, but that's where we are.

Elections Canada spent $277.8 million on the 2004 general election.
[...]
This time around, Stephen Harper's election call cancelled four by-elections which were set for September. According to Elections Canada, a federal by-election costs an average of 892,000 per riding. That means taxpayers will pay $3.5 million for the cancelled by-elections, since spending tallies are restarted once a general election is called.
source

How's that for so-called smart, Conservative fiscal management? And Stephen Harper, who initiated this unnecessary election with the hope of winning a majority, decided that gambling away hundreds of millions of our dollars was worth it - all for the sake of his overblown ego.

Call it fate or karma or whatever you will but, whatever it is, it looks like it's about to hit him in the ass on Tuesday. The only saving grace in yet another minority government under Harper is that his more right-wing tendencies can be kept in check. Do we really need a leader again who has to be tempered by the opposition because, if allowed, his social and fiscal conservatism would no doubt run wild? Haven't we got better ways to spend our precious time, money and resources?
 

Sunday Food for Thought


So, is this the beginning of the end? The end of the beginning? The beginning of the beginning? The end of the end? The end of the beginning of the end? The beginning of the end of the end? Or is this just life?

- catnip


Artist: MC Escher

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Canadian Election Watch - Day 35

Just 3 more sleeps until we know if Harper is toast. Can I just add that I'm glad I haven't been doing daily updates on the never-ending US election campaign? My head would have exploded long ago.

Alrighty, well this has to be the quote du jour (h/t Danielle Takacs):

Stephen Harper, looking to stem the dramatic slide of his party in Quebec, reassured Quebecers on Saturday that he is not the "devil incarnate."

Hahaha. Wow. You know things are bad when you have to try to convince people you're not Satan.

Obviously poor Steve was having a really bad Luciferish kind of day:

Earlier Saturday, in London, Ont., Harper scoffed at the possibility a Conservative government would have to cut programs to balance the budget if the economy continues to slump.

"This is a ridiculous hypothetical scenario," Harper told reporters when asked what his priorities would be in terms of program cuts.

"What it really comes down to is you're asking me to say what would Canada do if our economy went to hell in a handbasket. This government is running the economy so it can't go to hell in a handbasket."

And with that, he grabbed his pitchfork and made his way out the door.

I was quite surprised this afternoon to see the covers of the Calgary Sun and the Calgary Herald both carrying prominent doom and gloom stories about the economy. This is, after all, Harper country. But you know how Con supporters are around these parts, you could prove that Steve is the "devil incarnate" and they'd still vote for him anyway. Partisanship kills crucial brain cells.

On the heels of the revelation that the Cadman tape was not doctored, Dion is after Steve to explain himself.

Harper sued the Liberals for defamation in 2008 based on comments on their website about the situation with Cadman.

Harper said the tape had been edited, but a court-appointed expert in the defamation case reported Friday that the key portions that the prime minister had contested contain "neither physical nor electronic splices, edits or alterations."

Harper needs to explain "what he meant when he said on the tape that Conservative officials offered Mr. Cadman financial considerations for his vote," Dion said.

You betcha. That might have done a bit more damage if it had been revealed earlier in the campaign.

Poll smoking: Decline in support spells minority government for Tories: poll

Nationally, the poll of 1,000 Canadians conducted on Friday suggests the Conservatives had the support of 35 per cent of decided voters. That's down from the 39 per cent that the party garnered when the same poll was conducted on Sept. 28 and 29.

The Liberals climbed from 24 per cent to 28 per cent over the same period while the NDP remained steady at 19 per cent and the Green Party fell from 10 per cent to 9 per cent.
[...]
Other polls conducted over the past two or three days had different numbers for the national race. Harris-Decima put the Conservatives at 36 per cent across the country and the Liberals at 25 per cent, a gain of one point for the Tories and a loss of one point for the Grits.

A Nanos Research survey, meanwhile, suggested that there was just a four-point spread between the two parties, with the Conservatives at 32 per cent and the Liberals at 28 per cent. The New Democrats were selected by 22 per cent of respondents in that poll while the Green were chosen by 8 per cent.

As always, it's hard to know which is the most accurate poll so try not to bite your nails too much the next couple of days (especially if you're a carpenter).

To the bunker! Harper's handlers warn he may no longer take questions from media. [insert more laughter here]

Photo credit: Reuters
 

Friday, October 10, 2008

Canadian Election Watch - Day 34

Tonite's election news is brought to you by Pink Floyd:



'Nuff said.
 

Friday Fun: "C'mon, Move to Canada!"

 


 
(h/t to reader Raj)
 

Palin Abused Executive Powers

As I noted here last week, she's Cheney in a dress - in more ways than one.

From the NYT:

Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, a investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded.

A report on the bipartisan inquiry that was released Friday by lawmakers in Anchorage, concluded, however, that she was within her right to dismiss her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, the trooper’s boss.

The public portion of the report concluded that Ms. Palin violated the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act by allowing pressure to be exerted to get Trooper Michael Wooten, her former brother-in-law, dismissed.

In the 263 pages that were released, the independent investigator, Stephen E. Branchflower, a former Anchorage prosecutor, said that Ms. Palin wrongfully allowed her husband, Todd, to use state resources as part of the effort to have Trooper Wooten dismissed.

The report says she knowingly “permitted Todd Palin to use the governor’s office and the resources of the governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired.”

Further, it says, she “knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda.”

I think this proves that Palin is more than qualified to fill Cheney's shoes. You betcha!

Related:

Palin’s Troopergate scandal was fabricated by Bill Ayers — really, read it here first! (h/t bayprarie)

Palin pre-empts state report, clears self in probe

Highlights of and a link to the full Alaska inquiry report
 

On the Globe and Mail's Endorsement...

I might be annoyed by the Globe & Mail's (underwhelming) endorsement of Stephen Harper if their so-called reasoning wasn't so incredibly laughable (and if I cared about newspaper editorial boards endorsing candidates). Really. I don't know how anyone familiar with Harper could possibly read that drivel and take it seriously.

Paraphrasing: Oh sure he's mean and nasty but he's keeping his emotions in check (if you don't count his pit bull temper and think prime ministers should be soulless automatons). And he hasn't pushed his right-wing extremist Reform-style roots (because apparently he's reformed - forget about the fact that he's had to dial it back because he led a minority government).

I don't know. What can you say about the G&M's editors when they throw out illogical assumptions like this?

Some Liberals already have taken aim at Mr. Dion in the midst of the campaign, but they should engage in a more sophisticated diagnostic. The party-writ-large has failed to reinvent itself for the 21st century and public opinion research shows, perhaps as a result, that fewer and fewer Canadians identify themselves as "liberal."

That's a big "perhaps" and they had to word it that way because what they've tried to do is to lump "liberals" with "Liberals". Those of us in tune with media and conservative manipulation know better. I'm not a Liberal party supporter anymore because they made the wrong decision when it came to endorsing Canada's involvement in the Afghanistan war, but I certainly haven't dropped the "liberal" identifier as a result. Why? Because being "liberal" and "Liberal" are two different things. You'd think the G&M's editors would know that that dog just won't hunt but I guess when you choose to support such an incompetent candidate as Stephen Harper for prime minister, the kitchen sink strategy and shaded nuance is really all you have.

As for failing to "reinvent itself", I'd say the Green Shift plan is a huge change. What's Steve offering that's so breathtakingly different? Absolutely nothing.

The absurdity continues:

Meanwhile, the supposedly obstinate Mr. Harper has been nothing if not open to adjusting as circumstances change. He was masterful in building a "big tent" centre-right alternative to the "natural governing" Liberals. His vision, determination and adroitness restored political competition to Canada, not an insignificant accomplishment.

Open? Adroitness? He hid the fact that Afghan detainees were being tortured. He hid the real cost of the war. His buddies continually shut down committee business as they were instructed to via a 200-page Tory manual that outlined how best to disrupt committees. He's hidden from the press. He's muzzled his own cabinet members and MPs. He lied about the income trust promise. Do I have to go on? I sure don't think so. It's all been very heavily documented and stories about the way he's mismanaged his authority have even been broken by G&M reporters.

Mr. Harper has done well on other fronts, too. He has spoken with refreshing candour and courage on foreign affairs, especially on the Middle East,

And there it is: Israel. Is that one of the main reasons the G&M board members prefer Harper? They agree (as James Laxer pointed out in July 2006) that the decimation of Lebanon, which Harper called a "measured response", was entirely acceptable. Most of the rest of us don't.

And just how courageous was it to parrot John Howard talking points supporting the illegal Iraq war? That's not courage. That's dangerously flawed neocon ideology.

Regardless, I will not succumb to calls in the Canadian blogosphere by Liberals, liberals and others to boycott the G&M. Some of their reporting has been invaluable - especially about what this Conservative government has attempted to keep from the public about the war and human rights abuses. We need all of the investigative reporting we can get in this country. As with all media sources, we need to read and watch with a critical eye.

I'd suggest that those opposed to Harper and his party boycott Mike Duffy's show and his sponsors instead. Low blows like that should not be rewarded. And it's quite ironic that the G&M's editorial was published the same day that Harper et al took their campaign (even more) into the gutter. It wasn't planned that way, that we know of, but it definitely makes the G&M board look more than a little less insightful today, to say the least. Or maybe they're all snickering behind the scenes about what happened. Who knows? I do know this, however: Stephen Harper is a desperate man and desperate people don't make good prime ministers.
 

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Canadian Election Watch - Day 33

Another day, more bad news for Steve: Afghan mission will top $18B by 2011: report. You can see the video of the press conference here followed by Kevin Page answering questions about the scope of the report and the problems he encountered as his team tried to compile the relevant information (damn near impossible thanks to shoddy departmental accounting practices).

The bottom line is that this was a war run on the fly despite the fact that these departments could have used 'best practices' accounting from other countries and the revelation that it will end up costing twice as much - or more - than Harper predicted is bound to have at least some Canadians deciding that they simply can't trust that guy anymore.

Page also noted, of course, that these problems occurred under both Conservative and Liberal governments since the Afghanistan war began and Steve made sure to emphasize that point when he was questioned by the press today but the buck for what's happened since the Liberals were in power stops with him. After all, this is the party that sold its way into the last election by promising accountability and transparency - both of which Page found extremely lacking. No surprise there. Steve and the Cons have been anything but open and transparent in too many areas.

Meanwhile, back at the US military ranch, Gates has not only been out globally panhandling for more money for the Afghanistan war from whoever might have any (in this economy? who's he kidding?), he's also now begging for non-NATO countries to send troops. No matter who wins the upcoming US election, a surge similar to that in Iraq is definitely on the table. Both Obama and McCain support that strategy and plan to divert US troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to attempt to recreate what they (haven't really) pulled off in Iraq. Read my lips: the war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily. Just how many more years do we have to stick around there until somebody in charge figures that out? So why are we still paying for what has been an incredible failure until 2011?

$18 billion...$20 billion...who really wins? Not "peace in our time" since that's not going to happen. No, the winner is - just as it's been in every US presidential and vice-presidential debate - the military-industrial complex. Corporate America. Corporate Canada. All of those huge companies that it's unpatriotic to complain about. Does anyone really believe that the number one concern of conservatives in the US or Canada is health care (as Steve was trying to convince Canadians on Thursday)? Not a chance. Throw a little money at it here and there but spend, spend, spend on war like there's no tomorrow while they fearmonger that there won't be a tomorrow unless you let them "protect our interests overseas". Right. Well, the majority aren't buying that anymore but apparently we're still buying military equipment.

Related:

U.S. Study Is Said to Warn of Crisis in Afghanistan
Petraeus: US Should Talk With Talk With Taliban, Other Enemies
US, Pakistan Torn Apart Over Terror

PS: Have I mentioned what an absolute asshole Stephen Harper is? He's using the same failing tactics as McCain and his lady pitbull: when you can't handle talking about the issues, use some nasty distraction to try to impeach your opponent's character. Let's just ship Steve to the US and be done with it.

Update: I see even Don Martin writing for the National Post is pounding Harper, Duffy and CTV for their incredibly bad judgment.

In the end the incident they hoped to use to define Mr. Dion as a confused ditherer may actually provide more telling insight into the character of Stephen Harper.

Oh we're well aware of Steve's character, Mr Martin. That's one thing he hasn't been able to hide from the Canadian public.
 

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Canadian Election Watch - Day 32

Stephen Harper is confused. Following a quick little speech on Wednesday in BC, the press gave him more than one opportunity to explain the comments he made about the bargains to be had in the stock market in the midst of this crash. His response?

Harper defended his comments, saying it was obvious to anyone who saw the interview that he was "specifically talking about the fact that many Canadians have seen big losses in their portfolios in the last couple of weeks."

"I know that because, as I say, my mother is one of those people, and I hear about it every single day. And we know that people are worried ,and they have a right to be worried about what's going on in financial markets," Harper said in a campaign appearance in Victoria.

He then repeated it wasn't appropriate for a prime minister to "join in a wave of stock market panic and pessimism around the world," but rather to ensure the government prepares in advance and make long-term investments to protect Canadians' interests.

"We had a plan," he said. "We do not get caught up in market panic."

See, here's the deal, Steve. If you don't want people to panic, you tell them not to panic. You don't tell them, with a wink and a nudge, that now's the time to buy low so you can sell high later. First of all, that does absolutely nothing for seniors like your mother who don't have much later left and who can't afford to wait for the economic sun to start shining again (not to mention that it's doubly insulting to seniors who lost out because of the Cons' income trust flip flop).

Secondly, you are not the Prime Stockbroker. You are (for now, anyway) the Prime Minister. And, as one reporter pointed out during the Q&A period in BC, you are not the chair of the Bank of Canada. It's not your job to hint about possible rate cuts any more than it is your job to offer investment advice.

Who would vote for this guy considering that he doesn't even know what his job description entails?

Here in Alberta:

Alberta's Progressive Conservative premier wants to meet with his provincial counterparts to discuss the state of the Canadian economy, even though Stephen Harper called the same proposal by Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion "panicking."

This is how this is all rolling out: anything not proposed by Steve and his federal Cons is "panicking". Maybe he shouldn't send Flaherty to the G7 meeting in Washington on Friday. Surely that's "panicking" as well?

What's ironic about this stance is that Steve is fearmongering by claiming everyone else is panicking and that is causing more panic because, at the same time, the Cons aren't providing anything resembling a long-term, stable vision that makes sense. Instead, their platform is a piecemeal offering that isn't cohesive. There is no grand picture besides stay the course.

And, speaking of Flaherty, he disclosed on Wednesday that his department had warned "a couple" of Canadian banks last year "that their capitalization levels were on the brink of falling below accepted standards". He wouldn't reveal which banks were on the receving end though and we have no way of finding out so how can we even know 1) if that's true or 2) what happened?

Meanwhile, no word so far from Flaherty on the settlement reached between RBC Capital and the SEC.

RBC Capital Markets, the investment banking arm of Royal Bank of Canada, also neither admitted or denied wrongdoing. It said the buyback would cut into its fourth-quarter earnings by about $30 million on a pretax basis. That estimated loss includes the $9.8 million civil penalty the company agreed to pay to Cuomo's office and the North American Securities Administrators Association, which represents securities regulators in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The SEC, Cuomo's office and other state regulators have been conducting a wide-ranging investigation into banks' marketing of auction-rate securities. The regulators have alleged that the banks misled customers into believing auction-rate securities were safe, cash-like investments.

If you listen to Steve tell it though, Canadian banks are squeaky clean with basically no problems and that's the problem with people being lulled into a very false sense of security by all of this stay the course talk the Cons are trying to sell. We're not panicking. We just want the truth along with assurances that the next PM actually understand what his job is - and we certainly aren't getting that from Harper.
 

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Canadian Election Watch - Day 31


Let's play "Spot the Contradiction".

Steve, on Monday:

"Our position in Canada, of course, is that we don't have a crisis in our financial sector, in our banking sector," he said, ahead of a meeting of G7 finance ministers in Washington on Friday.

Steve, on Tuesday:

TORONTO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper, acknowledging that Canadian banks were facing a credit crunch, said on Tuesday the government would probably take some steps soon to alleviate those.


And, what's this? Sales of Canada Savings Bonds put on hold amid market confusion

Federal officials would give no reason Tuesday for the delay, which presumably relates to the difficulty of setting interest rates under current conditions.

The bonds, a Canadian tradition since 1946, are backed by the government and promoted as a foolproof way for small investors to save. They are put on sale each fall.

David Gamble, public affairs director of the Department of Finance, which is responsible for CSBs, confirmed that the 2008 campaign has been delayed but would not say why.

The left hand obviously doesn't know what the right hand is doing because Flaherty came out later and said the bonds "should" be on sale on Wednesday. (And Canadians trust this guy and his master to take care of our money?)

And what about this? TSX closes 400 points lower amid official efforts to avoid disaster

Not to worry though, Steve's seeing the silver Tory Blue capitalist lining:

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday he is concerned about the sharp falls in Canadian stock markets but said there may be some good stock bargains out there now.

He told a news conference that it is clear that a lot of investors have panicked, and he said members of his extended family have been shocked by developments in the market.

But he added: "I think there's probably some great buying opportunities emerging in the stock market as the consequence of all this panic."

Good to know but who the hell has money to buy any stocks? And who are these mysterious members of his extended family? Maybe somebody should track them down and interview them - unless Harper has them cloistered in a monastery somewhere for the duration of the election. Wouldn't want them to be attacked by that nasty Press virus.

Remember last week when Steve attacked Stephane because he presented a new 30 day economic platform in the middle of his campaign? It seems pretty handy that the Cons released their platform on Tuesday so they could take advantage of the timing to shift their economic policies and promises in response to the global meltdown. But Steve is busy pretending that he's just stayin' the course, you betcha (as Sarah Palin would put it).

Gilles Duceppe is right:

Stephen Harper is a "fragile" and shaky leader who is incapable of making decisions that will protect the economy, says Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe.

And what's with all of this boat talk?

Duceppe said the Tory proposals would do little to help people in the battered manufacturing and forestry sectors, especially older workers.

"I think he's just missing the boat. He talked about Noah's boat. They're still looking for it nowadays."

Duceppe was referring to Harper's comment in Toronto earlier in the day when he said now is not the time for Canadians to eschew his party.

"As the saying goes, it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark," Harper said. "Which is why when the rain came, Noah didn't need to panic and he didn't switch boats."

Which, of course, reminded me of this:


 
Somebody needs to ask Steve if he knows what a cubit is because, if he wins, he'll obviously be busy doing one massive construction project.

But wait, did he include funding for that in his new platform? Whoops.

And do we have to call him Noah now?
 

Monday, October 06, 2008

Canadian Election Watch - Day 30

One week to go and one more sleep until the Cons release their platform. It's like Xmas Eve except, this year, Santa's wearing a sweater vest and visions of sugraplums deficits are dancing in the kiddies' heads...and Santa's.

So, what is Santa Steve planning to do about the economic problems? Why do I get the feeling that either:

1) he knows and doesn't want to tell anybody

or

2) he has absolutely no idea because Bush/Paulson have been too busy to advise him.

Maybe I'm not sure because of news like this:

Earlier Monday, Harper said the government is considering "secondary" plans to stabilize the Canadian financial system. But within hours, his chief spokesman said the government wasn't planning any extraordinary measures.

Does that mean that if our economy starts dying, Steve will issue a do not resuscitate order? (Or will he page Bill Frist for a second opinion first?)

And, shouldn't we be a tad concerned that Steve's now channeling McCain and calling people "my friends" in his speeches? I'd say so.

In related news, the TSX dropped more than 1200 points and ended the day at -572 points on Monday while Harper played hide and seek with his party's policy. We're going to need more than some Santa dropping off gifts one nite of the year to fix the upcoming economic mess. A bespectacled, soft-bellied, invisible, jolly guy (who doesn't like to talk to the press) just won't cut it - and the latest polls show the Cons' support slipping. Andrew Coyne has the handy, colour-coded trend charts. It looks like there won't be a majority under Steve's tree Xmas morning.

Okay, enough of that metaphor...

The CBC has the opposition leaders' reactions to Steve's no man/country is an island day. (And can I just add that several countries actually are islands? Steve's geography grade - F)

Moving on, The Star has a great pic of the CAW "putting the boots to Flaherty" on Monday. More civil disobedience, more often!

Don Martin has a roundup of 10 incumbent MP seats that are "in deep doo doo". (Yes, he really did use those words in his headline. The story is in the National Post after all and you have to write for the intellectual capacity of your audience.)

Frankly, I think Canadians are tired of the bickering and worried about their economic futures - TD announced rate increases on Monday and the loonie and oil prices are dropping. Even if Dion hasn't sold his party's Green Shift plan, we do have a collective memory of the fact that Cons usually bring deficits at the federal level and Libs dig their way out of the mess they leave. We're not quite at that point but that may have an effect on your average voter's psyche if he or she isn't really paying attention beyond the gloom and doom economic headlines each day. And if voters are uncomfortable about the Liberals' "shift", they also have the NDP to choose from - which may explain the growing support for that party's platform. The Cons' little dribbles of inconsequential financial aid to Joe and Jane Canuck may not be enough to sustain that party's fortunes, such as they are, but leading a minority government is better than leading the opposition. And the Cons don't want to end up back in that position.

We'll see what kind of crap promises they fork over on Tuesday when they release their so-called platform full of promises they're sure to break anyway.

Related:

Why Stephen Harper is unfit to govern. (What he knew about this crisis and when he knew it.)