Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Rudy's health care plan:

Fuck the poor:
I don't like mandating health care. I don't like it because it erodes what makes health care work in this country--the free market, the profit motive. A mandate takes choice away from people. We've got to let people make choices. We've got to let them take the risk--do they want to be covered? Do they want health insurance? Because, ultimately, if they don't, well, then, they may not be taken care of.
Of course, since Giuliani's sole health care idea is a tax deduction for medical care, if you're in the bottom tax bracket, pay no taxes at all or have a preexisting medical condition or insurance companies just don't like the look of you, then no health care for you sucka.

And when discussing any other system, anywhere else that operates on any other premise but fuck the poor - just make shit up:

OK, Rudy Giuliani has just released an ad claiming that the survival rate from prostate cancer is much higher in America than in Britain, thus proving the failure of socialized medicine.

The problem is that his claim is just plain false. In fact, mortality rates from prostate cancer are almost the same in America and Britain.

So instead of a health care plan, what Rudy offers is an ideological argument for why he shouldn't have to have a health care plan buttressed with flat out lies about countries that do have health care plans.

So any bets as to whether the so called 'liberal' media in America will call Rudy on his bullshit and provide some actual context for his non-plan? Aside from maybe Olberman or Krugman that is?

Hey, he's America's mayor! Asking hard questions and pointing out lies is unpatriotic! 9/11!!! 9/11!!!!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Linkblast - Oct 28

Thoughts on the demise of a rag

There's a meme emerging, that we'll all be sorry someday that we won't have the Western Standard to kick around any more. That with so little independent media in Western Canada especially, the silencing of any such lone voice diminishes us all.

I must respectfully disagree, I come not to praise Ezra, but... you get the idea.

My undeniable schadenfreude over the Standard closing it's doors stems not as much from glee at watching an unpleasant magazine run by an unpleasant person go under, although that's good stuff, but from the delightful irony of watching a particularly wonderful display of market forces in action.

In the marketplace of ideas, Ezra Levant's idiosyncratic quasi-libertarian Neo-Conservative authority worship (What kind of libertarian defends and minimizes rather than condemns the kind of things that happened to Maher Arar? What kind of libertarian looks at that set of facts and picks the government's side?) and reactionary scapegoating and fear-mongering is not a successful business model.

You can't keep a magazine afloat, even in Western Canada on these ideas. I submit that this is very good news. Ezra Levant has done us the great good service, alongside of the editorial staff of the shrinking, sinking National Post, of showing us the real support base for this set of ideological ideas arranged in this specific fashion.

It is an utterly toxic set of political and philosophical motifs; reactionary religious extremism, economic ideas that make a virtue of selfishness and call for virtually complete abandonment of any kind of social contract - and wading only shallowly into the swamp of the Standard's shotgun blog, deeply, unabashedly racist at it's core.

This is a political philosophy Americans are already beginning to decisively turn on - take a look at the US poll projections based on age, region and ethnicity some time. America, pending some kind of complete disaster, is about to turn sharply to the left in harsh counter-reaction to the utter failure of movement conservatism as a coherent philosophy or functioning ideology.

Not surprisingly it does even worse in Canada, even in the supposed right wing utopia of Alberta. Even Maclean's has clearly sniffed the change in the wind, recently portraying George Bush as Saddam Husein on their cover.

Which is to say, by the harsh rules of the market Ezra Levant professes so much adoration for, harsh unequivocal judgment was passed on the ideas behind the Western Standard.

In Canada, the invisible hand is apparently a left hand.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Try it

In order to carry tasers, most municipalities require police officers to experience being zapped with one themselves first.

The instinctive response one has when you hear this for the first time is 'yeah, that seems fair.' If it's so harmless and non-lethal a method of restraint, those using it should experience it first. To really be fair, it should perhaps be done after a five mile run or other extreme exercise to really match the likely condition of any suspect it would be used on in the line of duty.

By this logic then, any candidate for the US presidency not willing to commit to forbidding the practice of water-boarding, not willing to denounce it as torture and say unequivocally that it will not be used on his or her watch, should be strapped to a board and with wet towels or tanks of icy water repeatedly be brought to the point of drowning.

Seems only fair.

Friday, October 26, 2007

'Confess to something you didn't do or we'll have your family tortured in Egypt'

The Manhattan United States Court of Appeals forgets that the cover-up is always the bigger scandal.

The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy "confesses" and he's processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The bottom line in the Court of Appeals: Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice.

As I read the opinion I realized it was a 44 page epic, too long for me to print out. I blogged about the opinion while I read it online and then posted the blog as I ate lunch. Then something strange happened: a few minutes after I posted the blog, the opinion vanished from the Court of Appeals website! I had never seen this before, and what made all the more strange was that it involved a coerced confession over 9/11. What the hell was going on?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Blink!

No surprise. Special Ed remembered he's here for the energy companies not the people of Alberta and watered down the already timid recommendations of the Hunter report to little more than a bad joke.

The Report called for an immediate increase in the royalties take by $2B. Stelmach will wait through two more years of a royalty regime his own government's Auditor General has basically called a giveaway before taking only $1.4b more. Two of the largest oil sand companies Suncor and Syncrude have side deals they get to keep, against the panel's recommendations to avoid grandfathering, and back room negotiations out of the public eye to discuss their futures.

One of the members of the Hunter panel has flatly described the Stelmach government's response to the report as a 'snow job'.

Sure the energy execs will bawl like branded calves, maybe even engage in some completely political layoffs, spitefully playing with people's lives for PR purposes.

But where are they going to go? Venezuela? Nigeria? Our resources are worth more because we have a safe, stable political and social environment with a developed infrastructure to move them with. The energy companies know this, and so do the people of Alberta.

The word is that Stelmach plans to call an election for early December if it seems his dog and pony show has gone over well with the people of Alberta. We can only hope they haven't fallen for this shameful sellout.

UPDATE: 'Blatant deceit.'

The definition of hypocrisy

If a Democratic candidate for the Presidency ever hired a priest onto his or her campaign after the priest was accused of molesting multiple children, the right wing media and blogosphere would literally go stark raving mad with terrible slavering joy. It would be all the Malkins and Limbaughs and O'Reilly's would be able to talk about.

When Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani, who Jimmy Breslin perfectly described as "A small man in search of a balcony." Not only hires an accused child molester, he then all but calls his accusers liars...

Silence.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Moment of truth

Tonight and tomorrow Premier Ed Stelmach will finally be unveiling his response to the Hunter report on energy royalties. Since it was released more than a month ago, it's conclusions were reinforced by the Auditor General's report that Albertans weren't even getting the insufficient benefits of the existing royalty regime.

Stelmach's talk of 'balance' and hints of a pick and choose approach to the Hunter report suggest that we're about to be sold out. The complaints of oil patch executives, expensive PR firms and bussed in renta-crowds with matching hardhats notwithstanding, the Hunter report was a cautious thing with conclusions that don't really go far enough. Now its likely to be watered down even further.

Will Albertans stand for more of the same of the oil patch calling the shots with our wealth?

On the plus side, the word is that Stelmach will drive the final nail into Ralph Klein's war on public health care.

EDMONTON - In his first televised address, Premier Ed Stelmach will talk tonight about energy royalties, Alberta's future, and a commitment not to flirt with health-care privatization the way his predecessor Ralph Klein routinely did, government sources says.

Although Stelmach has long embraced a publicly funded health system and Health Minister Dave Hancock has essentially declared the great public-private debate to be over, the premier's election-style promise will have a key role in his 20-minute talk, designed to erase any perceptions Stelmach might return to one of Klein's most divisive stances.

Since Klein's attack on the public system played a bigger role in his downfall than anybody among the Tories is willing to admit, this is simply a formalization of Stelmach not wanting to throw his political career into the wood chipper that is any attempt to privatize health care.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ezra Levant's vicious antisemitism

But...but... Levant is Jewish! How could he possibly be antisemitic?

Arabs are Semites too, and by now Ezra's hatred and fear for Arabs is unambiguous.

Exhibit A: Neither Ezra nor his thankfully defunct magazine have ever apologized for the months of drooling hatred directed against Maher Arar and his family, in fact their only response to the conclusion the government panel eventually reached, that Arar had been horrifically wronged, was to rail against the settlement he received.

Exhibit B: We just had a tragic school bus accident here in Calgary, a child died. To Ezra, the most important part of the story is that the driver might have been Muslim and might have been wearing a Muslim head scarf. Using a child's death to engage in shameless bigoted pandering is literally unforgivable.

Exhibit C: Levant is still proud of his decision to print hateful and bigoted anti-Muslim cartoons.

Exhibits D through Infinity: If anyone used the kind of vicious rhetoric and inflammatory language for the Jewish people that Ezra uses for Muslims he would quite rightly decry it as antisemitism. In fact, just engaging in even mild criticism of the state of Israel or the political philosophy of Zionism is antisemitism according to Ezra - so how can his much more hateful rhetoric for Muslims not be?

Call it Islamophobia or antisemitism - either way Levant's rhetoric about Muslims easily fits the definition of hate speech.

UPDATE: As noted below in comments, The Sun appears to have belatedly discovered basic human decency and pulled the Levant piece blaming the bus crash on Islam.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Irony isn't dead

I haven't bothered to respond to any of the Fraser Institutes PR efforts on behalf of the Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries of late because there seems little point. Few aside from an ideological hard core even seem to pay attention to them any more and most of their wacky pronouncements on Canadian health care for example seem intended mostly to provide fodder for American right wingers fighting the increasingly desperate and hopeless battle against an increasingly inevitable universal system there.

Canadians, The National Post's dwindling subscriber base aside, simply aren't buying.

But the spat between Nadeem Esmail, who's in charge of the Fraser Institute's health care distortions and Health Minister Tony Clement calls for comment, if only because I really don't trust a Conservative Minister to defend public care, and because the National Pest appears to have made only Esmail's side of the fight available.

The right has jumped on wait times as their new health care bugaboo in their long war against the public system. Of course many of the wait time problems facing Canada stem from policy decisions by right wing politicians in the first place. Remember fifteen years ago when the big scare was that we would have too many doctors leading to policy steps being taken to reduce medical school class sizes? Seems like a lifetime ago, but we're still paying for these kind of panicky reactionary steps.

But trusting right wing numbers on wait times requires a certain amount of breathless naiveté. Esmail angrily defends the paltry 26% of ideologically self selecting responses from doctors to the Fraser Institutes's wait times study as 'not a small or unreliable sample'.

It is of course virtually the platonic ideal of a small and unreliable sample. Denying that fact in a loud clear voice doesn't change it. He also decries 'rhetoric and misleading information'. I know, hard to believe the ballsiness; rhetoric and misleading information are the Fraser Institutes bread and butter. Hence the title of this post.

Wait time lists are neither as large nor as wide spread
as the right tries to paint them, were largely the result of right wing funding decisions to begin with and have been dropping over the last few years.

And it's public sector solutions that are making them drop while across the border, the US utopia of private care faces wait times just as high or higher, with the added 'benefit' of double the cost per capita for their health care non-system that leaves millions with no coverage at all. Wait times are as bad or worse in the US, so moving towards American style private care would make matters worse.

Once the wait times bugaboo loses it's power, wait for the free market ideologues at the Fraser Institute to find some other avenue to battle public health care. Just don't make the mistake of thinking they actually care.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rowling outs Dumbledore

Not that the bonfire crowd needed another excuse but this should just add to the more fanatical of the fundamentalist crowd's distaste for the Harry Potter series.

Speaking at Carnegie Hall on Friday night in her first U.S. tour in seven years, Rowling confirmed what some fans had always suspected -- that she "always thought Dumbledore was gay," reported entertainment Web site E! Online.

Rowling said Dumbledore fell in love with the charming wizard Gellert Grindelwald but when Grindelwald turned out to be more interested in the dark arts than good, Dumbledore was "terribly let down" and went on to destroy his rival.

That love, she said, was Dumbledore's "great tragedy."

"Falling in love can blind us to an extent," she said.

The audience reportedly fell silent after the admission -- then erupted into applause.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Deadly Deficit


This is what happens when voters believe political snake oil salesman who tell them they can keep cutting their taxes forever with no ill effects.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thanks Stéphane

For helping sustain a government your party has described as 'right wing', 'Republican', and 'radical'.

For assuming Canadians are too stupid to see through cheesy parliamentary tricks like bogus amendments and cowardly abstentions.

For demonstrating once and for all how little difference there is between the Conservatives and Liberals.

For giving Canadians a clear demonstration of how much value to put on Liberal claims of 'progressiveness.'

For putting the final nail in your leadership's coffin.

Oh, and thanks Elizabeth May, for demonstrating that you believe your most important role and that of the Green Party is unflinching obsequious support for the Liberal Party, not the environment.

Throne Speech: First reaction

Question: What does Canada need two* center right parties for?

Answer: We really don't.

*Three, if you include the Greens with the Conservatives and the Liberals.

Calgary Municipal Election: 'What are you spending your left over political donations on?'

Calgary has long been criticized for what some call its "Wild West" campaign finance rules. There are no limits on what an individual or group can donate, what a campaign can spend or what happens to any surplus donations once the election is over.

Barry Erskine, who retired before the election, and the three aldermen who lost their seats Monday -- Helene Larocque, Craig Burrows and Madeleine King -- are all free to spend anything left in their campaign kitties as they see fit.

Welcome to the Wild West of campaign finance. It isn't just the Stampede that has the cowboys.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Calgary Municipal Election: Aftermath

The results.

Looks like I was wrong, Madeline King wasn't as safe as I thought. On the down side, it looks like we're getting Conservative Party insider John Mar in Ward 8. On the plus side we aren't getting far right candidate Steve Chapman, who I snarled at quite churlishly when he visited my building yesterday (I was in a bad mood.) For Mayor, Bronco won by a commanding 60% as Alnoor's huge war chest gave him only a distant second place.

Craig 'unions should lose the right to go on strike' Burrows lost his seat in Ward 6, but Helen Larocque, the most union friendly councilor couldn't get past the narrative that she was unfriendly and unresponsive to her constituents and lost in Ward 3. How much of that was true and how much was the creation of the PGIB folks running some of the community associations is an open question.

Bob Hawkesworth retained the well deserved overwhelming support of his constituents in Ward 4 with no competition from the wild-eyed Internet troll running against him.

One of the most pleasant outcomes of the night was progressive candidate Brian Pincott's decisive win. We were part of the Calgary NDP class of '04's provincial election squad together. There's no doubt in my mind that the people of Ward 11 have elected one of the most serious, hard working and environmentally committed Councilors this city has ever seen.

So all in all, a night that could have been better, but sure as hell could have been worse.

Hit the Calgary label for the rest of my Calgary election posts.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Calgary Municipal Election: Polling Day arrives

The day has arrived. I'm working an evening shift tonight and I'll be getting out the door a little earlier today so that I can hit my polling station on the way to work. Find out where yours is by inputting your address here.

Ultimately decided to vote for Lindsey Luhnau in my ward as Mar and Chapman will probably split the conservative vote and hopefully neither are a risk of winning. Madeline King is vaguely progressive, barring a tendency to NIMBYism, but hard to get excited about.

For Mayor there's certainly worse options than Bronco but the word seems to have gotten out about Alnoor's shifty past and record as a gouging landlord so I don't think I'm risking him by picking somebody like Jeremy Zhao or Elizabeth Fielding both of whom certainly seem to have their hearts in the right place.

I miss Jimmy 'the con' Carleton. Former felon, father of dozens of children, perennial mayoral candidate and poverty advocate. There was somebody you could get enthusiastic about voting for. His last kick at the mayoral can he got more votes than some of the serious sitting council member candidates. Of course Jimmy was always serious about running, if not necessarily about winning.

Hit the Calgary label to see all my civic election posts.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Economic idiocy

Dion's promise to cut the corporations already low tax burden even further isn't just bad politics, it's bad economics. It's premise, like all Liberal Party efforts to cut Corporate Canada's responsibilities to civil society, is that big business will re-invest these savings in the economy, in new industry and new jobs.

Except that despite record profits due largely to past Liberal giveaways, Canadian corporations have a lousy productivity record.
Canadian corporations are riding a wave of record profits and sitting on an unprecedented pile of cash, according to a bank study released yesterday.

The TD Bank report, which comes amid outbursts of anger by corporate Canada over the minority Liberal government's shelving of their promised tax cuts, raises questions about whether, in fact, they need or would make productive use of further tax relief.

"Certainly that would be the conclusion, looking at their cash flow," said TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond, a co-author of the report.

Canadian Labour Congress economist Andrew Jackson said the TD report also reveals that the surge in profits, which are in part due to the tax cuts businesses have enjoyed over the past half decade, have not led to a matching increase in corporate investment.
That was two years ago. Their record hasn't improved.

So Dion's giveaway would probably help the bottom line of boardroom fat-cats and finance even more obscene executive compensation. That's about it. Given the anemic state of corporate investment this is rewarding low productivity. Hardly looking after the concerns of ordinary Canadians.

Only 40%?!?

I must be slipping.

This site is certified 40% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Sunday Linkblast - Oct 14

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Vive la Résistance!

Naomi Wolf on resistance:

Today the New York Times reports that the State Department is not cooperating with Iraqi or FBI investigators into the matter of the Blackwater massacre of seventeen Iraqi civilians.

Pay attention to this. Readers who know `the blueprint’ will be horrified but not surprised. `Step Two’ in the closing down of an open society is for the State to showcase to civilians the fact that a paramilitary force is outside the rule of law. When SA began — still illegally — beating citizens in Germany, National Socialist strategists made sure that photographers and reporters were present. We must consider: if the State showcases to Americans the fact that it is protecting its own cadre of violent criminals in Iraq — will Congress be courageous in confronting Blackwater violence when Blackwater manifests its well-documented plans to deploy more aggressively here at home? Or will this penumbra of unaccountable, State-defended violence be enough to intimidate lawmakers — and the rest of us? Remember that Mussolini directed Blackshirts to intimidate Parlimentarians even before Italy was a dictatorship and Hitler used the same tactic in lining the halls of the still-functioning German Parliament with Brownshirts — paramilitary forces that had established a reputation for brutality against civilians. And that was enough to cow lawmakers even as the trappings of democracy were still intact.

Remember that under current arrangements, the Department of Homeland Security can deploy Blackwater in your town tomorrow.

With this kind of messaging about the State’s protection for what is its own paramility force of torturers and murderers, if Blackwater massacres seventeen civilians in Times Square — or turns their guns on protesters at an antiwar rally — in spite of the trappings of democracy, will anyone be brave enough to hold them accountable?’

It is clear yet that violent retribution, torture or maybe worse, seems to go right up this chain of command? Is it clear yet that these people are capable of anything? Is it obvious yet that criminals are at the helm of the nation and need to be not only ousted but held accountable for their crimes?

Is it treason yet?

This is an open invitation to honorable patriots on the Right and in the center to join this movement to restore the rule of law and confront this horror: this is not conservatism, it is a series of crimes against the nation and against the very essence of America. Join us, we need you. This movement must transcend partisan lines. The power of individual conscience is profound when people start to wake up. TK Comey said No; history will look at this torture and disgrace the torturers. A judge today ruled that the US can’t just ship prisoners out of Guantanamo to be tortured at will — she said No. The Center for Constitutional Rights is about to file a civil lawsuit — against Blackwater: they are saying No.

In Germany, according to historian Richard Evans, in 1931-1932, if enough Germans of conscience had begun to say No — history would have had an entirely different outcome. If we go any further down this road the tears will be those of conservatives as well as progressives. They will be American tears.

The time for weeping has to stop; the time for confronting must begin.


The Seed 2.0

The Roots
"Now about nine months ago..."

'Our charity means we own you.'

Digby has an excellent post about one of the lessons of the Graeme Frost hideousness: the right wingers really do believe that if you take any government money you have forfeited the right to privacy.

Digby goes on to connect the dots to why public support was brought in to supplant private charity in the first place:
Charity robs the recipient of the dignity and personal liberty to which all people have a claim, rich, poor or in the middle. Using government to act as the safety net instead of the good will (or good mood) of those of means allows that. Citizen pays in, and someday, god forbid, if he needs some help, he won't have to kiss the ass of some rich busybody or self-righteous hypocrite who thinks he or she has a right to dictate his behavior on the basis of a couple of bucks.
Krugman chimes in that Digby is more right than she knows, there was an explicit movement among 'charitable' organizations in the 19th century to use charity for social control:
The Bush administration has proved adept at what the British call “dog-whistle politics,” the art of sending out messages that only the intended audience can hear. A classic example is Bush’s description of himself as a “compassionate conservative,” which most people heard as a declaration that he wasn’t going to rip up the safety net. It was actually a reference to the work of Marvin Olasky, a Christian right author whose 1995 book The Tragedy of American Compassion held up the welfare system of 19th century America, in which faith-based private groups dispensed aid and religion together, as a model - and approvingly quoted Gilded Age authors who condemned “those mild, well-meaning, tender-hearted criminals who insist upon indulging in indiscriminate charity.”
The thousand points of light Bush Sr wanted to replace the public sector with are glinting off the shiny probing noses of the reactionary busybodies who want to dictate how their aid can be spent. When the right wingers decry the oppressive control of social welfare programs, the Stalinist totalitarian diktat of government health care or any kind of public safety net program, they are really revealing their own mindset. It's what they would do, so they assume it's the inevitable nature of any kind of government support.

I recently received an email from a family member - one of those 'forward this along the internets' samizdat things that can be jokes or rants or pleas to find missing children. This one was the modest proposal righteously demanded by a 'hard working oil rigger' that anyone on welfare should be forced to undergo urine checks in order to receive the checks 'I'm helping pay for.'

I'm sorry to say I flew into a fury, responded with a long, bitingly sarcastic response, suggesting that 'yeah, the poor should have to wear tracking anklets and have video cameras in their bathrooms too' and have been in the doghouse with that branch of the family ever since.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Doctor Day and the facts

The National Review of Medicine administers the truthiness smackdown:

Dr Brian Day is wont to make dramatic, unsupportable statements about Canadian healthcare - such as his assertion we placed 30th in the world in a WHO study, a statistic that has been widely discredited. And then, in this publication, he claimed we're "fighting it out for last place" with the US among developed countries.
Fortunately few Canadians are likely to believe that the owner of the largest private hospital in the country is a disinterested party. Dr Day would like to bring two-tier medicine to Canada, with one service for the rich who can afford to pay — and qualify — for private insurance, another for the rest of us.

It goes on from there and doesn't get a lot better for Dr Day's grasp of the realities of patient care.

A relevant quote

A line to remember in the coming weeks and months:
”It’s not the responsibility of the Official Opposition to support the entire program of the government. Two-thirds of Canadians did not vote for this government. The Liberal party can’t expect to walk in and simply propose its own program that only one-third of Canadians supported and expect that everybody’s going to vote for it.”
Stephen Harper - Oct. 5, 2004.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

As go the provinces?

In light of the elections in Newfoundland and Ontario, Harper should be re-thinking the wisdom of provoking the opposition with an impossible to swallow throne speech.

Danny Williams is a classic Red Tory and is vocally, unambiguously opposed to Harper's dark blue Tories making Newfoundland unfriendly territory for Harper. McGuinty's win in Ontario can't be considered a good sign for the federal Conservatives there and even in Alberta the Conservatives are showing some wear and tear.

A campaign in Quebec that hammered away at the unpopular Afghanistan mission and the even more unpopular Conservative environmental record could quite easily either hold them to their current seat count or even reduce it, and a national campaign could be the very thing Dion needs to re-invigorate the palsied Liberal brand.

Bottom line: No matter what he does, Harper can't make substantial, sustained improvements in the Conservative poll numbers - if he was ever going to be in majority territory, he would be by now. The stark central problem for the Conservatives is that Canada isn't a conservative country.

A campaign without well-timed RCMP announcements or the sponsorship scandal fresh in everyone's mind could as easily deliver a healthy Liberal Minority as a Conservative one. The Conservatives didn't win the last election, the Liberals lost it and enough voters may have decided to take them out of the penalty box to send the Conservatives back to the opposition benches.

If Dion plays attendance tricks to sustain the government over the throne speech it would be gutless and unprincipled, and he could also be outsmarting himself.

Liberal travails aside, it's Harper who should be nervous about facing the voters.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Wisdom of the Crowds and MMP

I've been watching the MMP debate in Ontario with interest. I've held off on commenting because it's not my province. Of course a win for MMP in Ontario vastly increases the probability of the idea spreading and would in fact probably be a tipping point for the electoral reform movement nationwide.

So what the hell, here's a diverse decentralized opinion on the value of diverse decentralized opinions.

First, those who say the results of the MMP referendum are more important than the provincial election are quite right. The sideshow of John Tory shooting himself in the foot has been entertaining, but a distraction that insured 'I don't think an election is the time to discuss serious issues.' was the prevailing opinion, yet again.

MMP however, has the potential to radically transform Canadian society, for the better.

In The Wisdom of Crowds theory of James Michael Surowiecki, he argues that there are rules of statistical probability that make the right kind of crowd more accurate at estimation and even better at decision making than elite expert opinion, but that it relies for it's effectiveness on diversity of opinion.

Here's a good post about why democracy should be the most effective application of the wisdom of the crowds and so often isn't.

I submit that the MMP system would harness the three rules of effective crowds, Diversity, Independance and Decentralization more effectively than does the current system.

For the same reason that the arguably greater propensity to deliver minority governments is in fact an argument in its favor. The greater diversity of opinion involved in the aggregation process, the greater likelihood of the most effective solutions being found. MMP would produce a sample that would more accurately reflect the diversity of opinion of the whole.

This is a math argument not an ideology one.

The big parties oppose MMP because they see in it the end of the unfettered power of unchallengeable majorities. It would indeed mean the end of such governments, but their end is near regardless. Federally the default has passed from virtually one-party rule to minority governments as far as the eye can see. Provincial legislatures will increasingly begin to reflect this and MMP would let them take the lead.

This in itself, would be an excellent application of crowd-sourcing the process of finding the best way to navigate this new world.

UPDATE: Well that's a shame.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Stalker Right

If you are an American family and you speak out for health care for kids, right wing bloggers will drive-by your home, sniff around your work place and do price checks of your kitchen appliances in order to accuse you of making too much money to deserve help getting health care for your kids.

No, really.

Nicaragua: 'Pro-Life' law kills 82 women and counting

Those who only remember the Sandinistas as the secular leftist guerrillas of the 80's will be disappointed to learn that they've formed common cause with the most repressive and reactionary forces in Nicaragua. President Ortega made alliances with far right politicians to escape charges of raping his step-daughter and he made alliances with the Catholic church by banning abortion even in cases of rape. Or incest.

Or even the health of the mother.

82 women have died because of hospital refusals to treat women with ectopic pregnancies or other obstetric conditions that might require terminating a pregnancy. Doctors are scared even though the law theoretically has medical exceptions.

As in North America, the Pro Life movement angrily denies that there is ever a need for therapeutic abortion.

This is the stark ultimate truth of the 'Pro-Life' movement all over the world: Getting their way is all that matters no matter how many women have to die in bloody agony. Because their ideology denies the existence of these women. Medically necessary abortions don't exist.

Therefore presumably these 82 women don't exist, or at least, never did.

Like María de Jesús González, who was refused treatment despite the fact that her ectopic pregnancy could end only in agonizing death. And did.

And the same people denying the legitimacy of therapeutic abortion would still be doing so with ten times as many victims.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The next huge Republican scandal

Allegations against Republicans and Democrats in Alabama, but the US Attorney, wife of a Karl Rove crony chooses to exclusively target the Democratic Governor. She resists attempts to take her off the case until she's told outright to do so - but her recusal papers can't be found and she's still fighting any attempt to see over 500 pages of files about the case.

This is both a new and egregiously grotesque story of abuse of power while also being a continuation of the ongoing scandal of the Bush White House's politicization of the Justice Department. The Alabama media has been almost disgustingly sycophantic to the US Attorney's office but the national media has now taken notice of what's happening.

Time Magazine has just done a piece on the story. This will be the US political news cycle this coming week, and probably the next as well.

Iran in the sights

Despite all the evidence that there is overwhelmingly more support for Sunni insurgents by Saudi Arabia then of Shia insurgents by Iran, the administration continues to agitate for support for widening their Middle East disaster to Iran.

Now much like what happened in the buildup to the Iraq war, the US intelligence community is poised to release three different reports, apparently designed to undercut the administration's case for war and slow the drumbeats.

The drumbeats have gotten loud enough to force the administration to issue denials that they intend to launch attacks, of course they said they were relying on diplomacy when the Iraq invasion was already a foregone conclusion.

Sunday Linkblast - October 7

Found my Daemon

I love the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. It's probably one of the best young adult fantasy series of the last twenty years, and yes I'm putting it up against Harry Potter. In terms of sheer literary power and quality of writing I give the edge to Dark Materials.

The first book The Golden Compass is about to become a movie and so far looks pretty good. One good thing about the huge success of the Lord of the Rings films, the Potter movies and the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe may be the message to film-makers that following the books as closely as possible is the avenue to artistic and commercial success.

The His Dark Materials trilogy is in many ways the anti-Narnia. While Narnia was very strongly a Christian allegory - despite C.S. Lewis's denials - the world of His Dark Materials is very definitely not. There are enough cogent critiques of the organized religion mentality in this series to put it on the top of your average fanatic's bonfire list.

In the world of The Golden Compass, human souls are externally projected in the form of daemons, animal spirits almost always the opposite gender from their human with strong personalities of their own. At the film site for The Golden Compass you can do a quick personality test and get a daemon of your own. Here's where to get yours:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

George Bush: The fine line between mere villainy and cartoonish super-villainy

George Bush protects the defenseless health insurance lobby from the ravening hordes by vetoing the expansion of health care for millions of poor sick kids. This one calls for this classic painting by Alex Ross:

Let me get out my dancing shoes


Spotted at Red Tory

Calgary Municipal Election: Limping to the finish line edition

There's been a lot of hot air, a lot of money collected and spent - and earmarked for purposes other than the election? Apparently.

We have a popular mayoral incumbent in Dave Bronconnier who engaged in a noisy war of words with the increasingly unpopular provincial government which it is widely agreed he won. He also won the last election by a huge margin but some polls have suggested the margin may be thinner this time.

Alnoor Kassam, the leading contender for his job, appearing out of nowhere with a million dollar war chest, has faced an increasing public awareness of some noisy skeletons rattling in his closet. Ambiguous and conflicting stories of fraud and bribery in Kenya are one thing - less ambiguous is his status as one of the predatory landlords making life in Calgary so hellish for renters. Kassam increased the rent at one of his properties by almost 300% - almost $2000 for one tenant.

Yes, he gave the tenants three months rent free when the story of the initial increases made the news, but he didn't retract the increases and really, do you think he would have been so generous if he hadn't been running for mayor when the story broke?

The other contenders are a mix of oddness and earnestness, from a university student who suggested it was run for office or spoil his ballot or not vote at all, to a 'serious' candidate who with the huge strains on Calgary's infrastructure has as his main transportation suggestion the hugely expensive proposal to turn the downtown portion of the c-train into a subway.

The Better Calgary Campaign liked Alnoor Kassam's platform but had serious reservations about his past and his judgment and are reluctantly endorsing Bronconnier.

Hit the Calgary label to see all my civic election posts.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Supertheory of Supereverything

Once again Gogol Bordello,
and this one's going out to my favorite Gypsy blogger Chironboy.

The Conservative Cackle

Paul Krugman on the movement conservatives and their...unique...sense of humour:
...if you’re poor or you’re sick or you don’t have health insurance, remember this: these people think your problems are funny.
They aren't as blatant about it here in Canada, but I'm sure my readers can all think of examples of conservative commentators making light of suffering or getting a chuckle out of homelessness and poverty. I can think of a half dozen examples off the top of my head. But of course anyone who snickers at the travails of Conrad Black is engaging in vicious class war attacks.

Question

Here's a joke: What do you call an eight-year-old Iraqi kid with no arms, surviving family members, or unblackened skin below his waist? I don't know. I was shouting at the TV and I didn't catch his name. Don't worry if you don't get it. We'll no doubt be telling it again in another dozen years or so. And still not getting it.
-So begins Alan Moore's Rolling Commentary, an essay originally published in Arthur No. 5 (July 2003)
and recently re-printed in Yuggoth Cultures.
In this furious but rigorously precise run-down of the historical interaction between the Western and Islamic worlds, Moore lays out the thuggery, deception and slaughter that has been the two cultures preferred means of conversing with each other. Its as good a run down of the whole sorry mess as you'll find anywhere and only months after the 'shock and awe' Moore predicts the pinned down insurgency war of years and decades the 'serious' thinkers among western policy makers insisted couldn't happen.

He also wrote a Swamp Thing comic back in the mid-eighties that featured an evil corporation made up of damned souls who had escaped from the bowels of Hell called, wait for it, Blackwater.

Appropo of nothing:

The rest of Yuggoth Cultures is some previously under-collected short works by Moore, some interviews and some visual adaptations of Moore prose that was never intended to be so adapted, but fair warning: More than half the thick trade paperback volume is a competent but uninspired Lovecraft pastiche written by someone named Antony Johnston. Competent but uninspired work really doesn't belong between the same covers with the work of Mr Moore. It can only suffer by comparison.

Still worth getting the book though.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dion should write to Charles Atlas...

...because Harper just kicked sand in his face.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

Daveberta has an excellent piece of elementary investigative journalism up at his place - the kind that 'real' journalists in Alberta hardly ever do - about the big money pros behind the organized efforts to convince Albertans that, all evidence to the contrary, we aren't really in a seller's market for fossil fuels right now.
"Oh no! Big energy companies with multi-billion dollar profit margins might actually have to pony up close to realistic royalty rates for the resources they are extracting! This will make them all fuck off to Venezuela!"
This is the level of respect these people have for your intelligence Albertans. To be fair, your voting patterns over the years have given them every reason to believe they are justified in their contempt.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

In any other province...

...the sheer overwhelming profusion of one huge scandal after another would be government killers. Auditor General Fred Dunn's report has at least half a dozen examples of malfeasance that are - or at least should be - front page stories for months. On resource royalties alone Albertans have been cheated out of billions, something this government has known about for years and deliberately suppressed.

Calgary Grit has a rundown of the breathtaking scope of waste and abuse contained in Dunn's report - this makes the Fraser Report that Conservatives howled about with such vigor look like a catalog of responsible government practices.

Add in the EUB espionage
that forced the supposedly impartial arms length board to back down on a power line that had already been gift-wrapped for industry. Don't forget the ongoing environmental devastation of Alberta's shrinking natural beauty. It can't be seen as much from the highways or campgrounds but it can be seen from space.

Hey Albertans are you getting at all tired of being pimped out by these comically corrupt tools yet?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Half the truth

EDMONTON -- The head of Alberta's energy regulator has scrapped a scandal-plagued application for a proposed power transmission line between Edmonton and Calgary in an attempt to restore public trust in the government agency.

"This [Alberta Energy and Utilities Board] decision is the equivalent of a mistrial," EUB chairman William Tilleman said in a statement released yesterday. "Mistakes have been made on this file, and I believe the only way to re-establish public confidence is to go back to square one on this process."

More precisely, Mr Tilleman, it's the equivalent of a mistrial due to prosecutorial misconduct. Generally speaking when that happens independent investigations are launched, careers are ended and people sometimes go to jail.

Plus, the phrase 'mistakes were made' is the ultimate in passive aggressive blame evasion. Borderline - arguably over the borderline - criminal acts were committed by specific people and a specific agency under the authority of a specific government Minister named Mel Knight. They weren't acts of God appearing out of a clear blue sky. There are doors these actions can be laid at and haven't been, yet.

Saying 'Okay,we screwed up, forget the whole thing and can we stop talking about it now?' is nowhere near enough and this isn't going away.

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