Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Conflicted about Foothills

#andp
This is hard, I'm conflicted and not happy to be writing this.

Bob Hawkesworth has thrown his hat into the ring for the Foothills by-election to replace Jim Prentice who took his ball and slunk home on election night resigning his seat before the votes that won it for him were even counted.

Bob is a stellar candidate, experienced, skilled and a great potential addition to Alberta's NDP government.  He kept the NDP fires burning in Calgary during some dark years and I'd be glad to see him in government now that the party is in ascendency.

BUT....

He had the chance to run in the general.  He could have put himself out there, back in the startlingly recent days when running as a New Democrat in Calgary was quixotic at best.  He didn't.  Anne Wilson did. 

Anne Wilson is a criminal lawyer specializing in legal aid cases who put her life on hold to make a kamikaze run against the leader of the mighty PC dynasty in Calgary Foothills in order to bring attention to starved social services in Alberta.  While Bob sat the General out, she was campaigning hard against the leader of the PCs.  And ultimately came within a few thousand votes of beating him as the orange wave crushed the Progressive Conservative Party.

Lots of commentators recognize that between the wave, the government's honeymoon and lingering anger at Prentice's punk move on election night Calgary Foothills is an extremely likely pickup for the NDP in the coming by-election.

And now, Bob Hawkesworth has thrown his hat in the ring.

And as much as I like him, as much as I think he'd make a great candidate and a great MLA that offends my sense of justice.

Anne Wilson put herself out there, she knocked on doors and put up signs and committed months of her life to give the NDP a voice in a riding that was an all but guaranteed PC win.  Bob sat the General out, there no shame in that, he's put himself on the line in a lot of elections and won some and lost some, he was in fact the guy who beat Jim Prentice the first time he ever ran for office decades ago. He had every right in the world to take a break from campaigning, maybe he was saving himself for the federal race or had family considerations or just didn't want to expend the energy on an all but guaranteed loss.

But Anne Wilson did.

She put her life on hold she campaigned hard and she came within a few thousand votes of defeating the leader of the PCs in the party's stronghold.

And now Bob Hawkesworth wants to, forgive the hyperbole, swoop in and benefit from the orange wave that Anne Wilson along with all the other NDP candidates helped create in the general.

Once again, Bob is awesome, he's a great guy, he'd make a great candidate, a great MLA and probably with his long experience a great cabinet minister.

But pushing aside the woman who put the work in during the general now that the byelection is a much better bet for an NDP candidate leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A week of big wins for Progressive Americans (But a very bad week is coming for abortion rights)

This was an amazing week of wins for progressive Americans. 

Obamacare has defeated what was probably the last chance to strangle it in its cradle and there's not just no path to kill it now, there's no time left to kill it before it becomes a beloved and untouchable program the way Medicare did.  In a few years the Republicans will be denying they ever opposed it.  Much the same story as their once fierce opposition to Medicare which they will now scramble to promise to support at every opportunity.

A horrifying massacre proved to be the tipping point for one of the most divisive symbols of the culture war right wing media hustlers are trying as hard to stoke as the race war terrorist Dylan Roof was trying to inspire.  Instead he was the catalyst to turn white southerners away from a divisive symbol of the war he was trying to start.

And then the Supreme Court declared once and for all and everywhere in the United States that gay Americans are equal and their love is equal.  A ruling met with public joy and public mockery of those who didn't share that joy.  A massive social transformation in America has brought gay Americans unambiguously into the American family.

Next week the other shoe will drop.

Expect the Supreme Court to savagely restrict the medical choices of American women, possibly just by declining to hear a challenge to a Texas law poised to wipe out abortion access in the state, the trend the last few years of massive growing acceptance for gay Americans has been darkly mirrored by ever decreasing access to abortion for American women, particularly poor and minority women. 

A look at the cases the Supremes have left to rule on and their voting history on abortion restriction cases indicate the right to abortion is in severe and immediate danger.

A week of victories doesn't mean the battle to sustain and expand progressive policies in America is over.

It's never over.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Crazy Train


Words from CEO Hunter Harrison that residents of Wabamum Lake who remember what his tenure meant for safety at CN will be gritting their teeth at.

The culture he presided over was all about speed and cost cutting over safety, ever longer, heavier trains hitting  corners at ever faster speeds with predictably disastrous results.

Followed by arrogant and outrageously exploitive attempts to buy silence from victims with quick cheques and gag orders.

The government needs to accept that the ideological decision to let rail companies self regulate their safety standards was a disastrous mistake and reinstate a vigorous regulatory regime over the industry.

Absent that, all the kabuki shadow play of the hapless Lisa Raitt huffing and puffing is just smoke and mirrors.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Shock Doctrine doesn't work if you wait until the shock has worn off

The 33% who say terrorism is the most important issue facing Canada are the bottom floor hardcore Conservative base plus a handful of weird neo-con Liberals.

C51 preaches exclusively to the choir.  As the details become more widely known even soft Tory swing voters are coming to hate it.  The Conservatives made the classic error that always trips up right wingers, of assuming everyone else will see and respond to events the way they do through what they assume is universal but is in fact an exclusively conservative lens. 

They thought they had one of Naomi Klein's shock treatment moments after a mentally ill man attacked parliament.  He was a drug addled paranoid who just as easily could have been commiting mayhem in the name of fighting alien invaders as jihad.

The Conservatives assumed their visceral response to the event would be shared by all Canadians and maybe it was... For a month or so.  The frustratingly long time line of pushing legislation through parliament even for a majority came up against the rebounding natural skepticism of Canadians who watched aghast as George Bush engaged in similar legislative fuckery after 9/11.

We may be watching what political historians will someday call one of the greatest political miscalculations in Canadian history.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The magic number is 40%

#NDP #ABNDP
 Any single party that can get 40% of the electorate behind them wins. Federally or provincially. And the test isn't just that they can, its that no other party can. 

This is why, sad and horrifying as the prospect is, that the Conservatives have an excellent chance of winning the next federal election.  It's also why the Alberta NDP have an excellent chance of being reelected in four years and starting a new Alberta dynasty.

A three way tie means the Conservatives probably win federally.  Of the two progressive parties the NDP have a better chance of solidifying the progressive vote than the Liberals but very probably neither has the time to do it before October, The progressive split will probably continue and if it does, Harper wins.  I will be delighted to be proven wrong but I'm afraid I'm probably right.

In Alberta, frustrated right wingers like to harp on the fact that 60% of Albertans didn't vote for the NDP.  But of course the point is that no other single party could come close to that 40% the NDP won.  

'Ah ha!' They say, but its only because the right wing is divided between the Wild Rose and the PCs.'  Of course this is based on the highly questionable conclusion that Wild Rose and PC voters are generic right wingers who could end up following one party and this is of course nonsense.  The real vitriol and bile in the recent Alberta election was that between PCs and Wild Rose.  They are NOT interchangeable voters.  The many reluctant progressives who supported the PCs to keep out the Wild Rose will throw their support to the NDP or the Liberals or the Alberta Party.  That's assuming the PCs don't keep staggering on, and if they do they certainly won't win back the Wild Rose voters.

The electoral math favours the NDP, and so does the cyclical nature of petroleum prices.  The NDP will probably be going into the next election on the heels of a boom, and voters reward governments lucky enough to match the boom bust cycle to the electoral cycle. That's at least part of why Prentice called the early election that was his downfall.

The Alberta right wing split and renewed boom should be enough to get the ANDP another 40% at least next time, and that's all any government needs barring bringing in proportional representation.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The MRA movement is the primal whimper of a bunch of pathetic inadequates

The psychology of anti-feminist men is absurdly simple and straight forward: they hate strong, confident, intelligent women because there is no way in hell they would ever meet the standards of such women and they wouldn't know what to do with such a woman if they 'had' her.

That's really all there is to it.  They view the feminist goal of raising the consciousness and confidence of all women as an existential threat.  The less insecure, submissive women with low standards out there the less women even conceivably sexually available to them. 

That's why the one big idea of the so-called 'pick up artists' is 'negging', attacking the confidence of women with putdowns and self esteem crushing remarks - its very revealing; they are flat out admitting with this tactic that no woman with any self esteem will have anything to do with them so they need to crush it.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Crime of Opposing a Crime

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Yes, it's still an occupation when you pull your settlers out but retain full control of a territory.) is illegal under the fourth Geneva convention and constitutes an ongoing war crime.

Even Israel's own courts have ruled that its a belligerent occupation.  The tough on crime Harper government is trying to make protesting and resisting an ongoing crime illegal. 
The Harper government is signalling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel.   

Such a move could target a range of civil society organizations, from the United Church of Canada and the Canadian Quakers to campus protest groups and labour unions.

It is absolutely unacceptable to treat the peaceful advocacy of boycotts as hate speech. 

The Harper government knows this could not survive a charter challenge and hope just the expense and stress of a group or individual having to defend themselves till the point it was overturned will be threat enough.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

A clear contrast

Straight up; I am glad the Wildrose is the opposition.  I disagree with them about practically everything but they are clean compared to the PCs. 

Also I quite like the stark ideological contrast.  There will be two clearly defined, diametrically opposed viewpoints in governance and opposition.  Far more illuminating then the mushy but nasty neo-liberal corporatism of the PCs.

I predict a honeymoon as the NDP government and the Wildrose opposition cordially agree on campaign finance reform and a brisk sweep out of entrenched cronyism.  Then we can get down to articulating clearly defined opposing positions. 

I welcome Brian Jean, leader of the official opposition.

The Road Ahead

I've had this blog for, holy shit, nine years.

In its earliest days it was mostly ranting about PC Premier Ralph Klein's unrelenting war on the public sector in general and healthcare in the specific.  He went from being a nominal liberal to a hard right partisan against anything that smacked of cooperation or the public good.  In the end his all out assault on medicare ended up contributing to his tumble from power as rural conservatives thought about how Klein's proposed two tier healthcare system would drain small town doctors to the more lucrative practices in the city - and turned on him.

This was significant, in a way the seeds of tonight were laid when the doctrinaire movement conservative market ideology of right wing economists, Shotgun blog commentators and Fraser Institute leadership cadets like Ezra Levant and Danielle Smith ran aground on pragmatic Albertan fondness for decent public healthcare.

After Klein the open assault on healthcare in Alberta became the slow motion death of a thousand cuts, delistings, organizations and reorganizations.  If you were trying to manufacture consent to slowly chip away at public healthcare by degrading it to the point people let you privatize it - you would run it pretty much the way the Tories have.  Fixing healthcare and rebuilding the relationship with healthcare workers will be high on everybody's list. 

Alberta has the most anti-worker labour laws in Canada - a lot of current Alberta labour law is ultimately not even enforceable when looked at through the lens of recent Supreme Court decisions.  Expect major changes, including the removal on the absolute ban on farm workers even being able to join a union.

Education.  Students are an important part of the NDP coalition, I think we can expect education funding and tuition to be on this government's radar.  Higher education is becoming a luxury accessible only to the rich and that contradicts NDP egalitarianism directly.

The environment.  The NDP wouldn't have to pass one new law to change this file dramatically.  Just enforcing existing environmental regulations  and  laws would drastically challenge the free ride elite polluters have enjoyed.  Look for incentives to encourage projects like ENMAX's Shepard Energy Centre gas powered power plant.  Coal is cheap but dirty and breaking our reliance on it would go a long way towards rehabilitating Alberta's environmental image.  The only wrinkle maybe the fracking and ground water threat shale gas poses.

The number one issue, the one the NDP can probably find a lot of common ground with the Wildrose on, is the democratic deficit.  As Rachel said in her victory speech, for too long the agenda and conversation of this province was a red rope affair, the elites decided and the rest of us were used to our concerns being ignored.  Entrenched, unethical partnerships like the one the Stettler PC establishment had with local government are repeated all over this province, right down to one party's control over the levers of the democratic process itself and there is a crying need to have years of cronyism, and close party/state fusions  swept away.  The Progressive Conservatives have a secretive slush fund of a kind that is illegal for every party in Alberta, except them.  That's emblematic of an attitude of entitlement and authority PCs believed was there's by right. 

Hercules had an easier job cleaning the Augean Stables.

And make no mistake, the sabotage starts tomorrow if not sooner.

Entrenched forces in industry, labour and media will be attacking from every angle, political and economic success will be steadily redefined to exclude anything the NDP accomplish.  Red scare rhetoric will, if anything, get worse.

Keep your powder dry.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Flowering of Progressive Alberta

#abvote

Canada's Texas.   The prairie bible belt.  The queer hating, union busting, healthcare privatizing redneck with a copy of Atlas Shrugged home of the Canadian Conservative movement.

Stereotypes that have never represented anything more than the most superficial understanding of this province.

North America's most successful socialist movement was founded in Calgary in 1932 when the CCF, later to be known as the NDP held their founding convention here.  Over the years Alberta has frequently flirted with socialism, both directly through the NDP and the early days of the United Farmers of Alberta's dozen years in power and through the mirror crack'd version of Social Credit.  Today's NDP has morphed into a center left good government party and the Alberta version in particular is a very pragmatic and centrist party, but socialism wasn't always a bad word in Alberta.

Social Credit was on its last legs in 1971 and people forget the Progressive Conservative insurgency of Peter Lougheed really was a somewhat progressive alternative.  They swept away embarrassing Social Credit weirdness like the forced sterilization of 'defectives' that was still going on in 1971 and DOUBLED oil royalties.

Lougheed's pragmatic mix of conservatism and progressiveness and flashy battles with the federal government and oil corporations made him a superstar and the Tories have coasted on his reign ever since while abandoning all his best ideas.

The NDP have been the official opposition multiple times in Alberta and many still believe only the untimely death of popular NDP leader Grant Notley kept them from becoming the government in 1986.

His daughter is now poised to become Premier according to poll after poll, but even if she doesn't Progressive Alberta is out of the bottle now and showing off our magic.

Alberta will never be the same

Friday, May 01, 2015

VOTE!

#abvote

 Alberta Progressives, 

The right wingers, the dedicated small 'c' conservatives, the people who think going on strike should be grounds for firing, the people who know better than to say out loud certain things, but who still hate gays and immigrants and public workers and YOU and know the dog whistles to look for, the people who make you sad and mad and ashamed when you think of them running our province or being catered to....

They are going to vote. They are intensely, incandescently motivated to vote now that it really does look like Canada's conservative heartland is about to be delivered up to the socialist hordes, they will be more likely to vote than in any election in YEARS in this province. They desperately want to cancel out YOUR vote.

And they still might. Riding a wave election must be like surfing a tidal wave and wiping out at the last minute is more than possible.

If you think your vote doesn't matter IT DOES, in 2004 the election of MLA Thomas Lukaszuk came down to a half dozen appeals and THREE votes. That kind of knife's edge could be repeated in any riding in this province right now.

VOTE!

And donate to the NDP, the Conservatives are reaping  last minute panic donations from Corporate Alberta. Don't let the PCs saturation ad buy their way out of their hole without the NDP being able to fight back.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Wave of Mutilation

And now we will get a solid week of frantic red scare fear mongering.

Dark mutterings about socialism, fictional versions of the NDP governments of BC and Saskatchewan... Last night a well known right wing blogger implied on twitter that an NDP government would make it illegal to own a phone.

Yes, really.

Its all based on the assumption that Albertans are idiots.  That we can't see that NDP 'socialism' is more the subject of one of the CBC's historical heritage minutes than any element of modern NDP policy.

Rachel Notley is the sensible, cautious leader of a moderate left of center good government party.  There was enormous push back to early PC campaign efforts to portray her as extreme, enough so that they hurriedly dropped it.  Expect it to return because the stink of desperation from Tory central suggests that if anything, their internal polling is even worse for them than what the public is seeing.

Fear and loathing and lies are all this tired, corrupt decaying government has left.  Choose hope and truth instead.

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