Sunday, November 30, 2008

There's no backsies in 'To the Death!'

Abject surrender. Cringing, fawning, on their knees, terrified surrender. In the movies, at this point the hero would shake his head in disgust, lower his sword and say 'You're not worth killing.'

Of course as he turned and walked away, the villain would then pull a poisoned dagger out of his boot and throw it at the hero's back.

But this isn't a movie. We don't have to wait for Harper's inevitable next attempt to crush any and all opposition and dissent, and we shouldn't.

Because he's backed down on political financing and taking rights away from public sector workers - but still hasn't backed down on pay equity and still stubbornly insists on delaying any real fiscal stimulus as economists say flatly that now is when to open the spigots wide while there's still time.

Because he's a spiteful, vengeful little tyrant who has had his will humiliatingly and publicly defied and if he ever does win a majority we know what his agenda will be.

Because Scott Reid is right and Harper is arguably the only thing holding the Conservatives together as an even halfway electable entity and he will never give us a better chance to destroy him.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pull the trigger

Scott Reid is a smart guy - just don't bring up beer and popcorn - and he bottom-lines it: If we're going to talk about unwieldy, unstable coalitions, Harper is the only thing holding together the SoCons, Neocons, Paleocons and Red Torys of the flimsy big tent of the Conservative Party. He is a vicious snake-mean autocrat dedicated to not just the defeat but the utter destruction of the very concept of political opposition.

He is vulnerable - hell if this was a game of Mortal Kombat we'd be hearing 'FINISH HIM!' right now. And we should.

First things first: take him out.

After all, Stephen Harper is the most dangerous animal lurking in the jungles of Parliament. He is a threat to the future viability of the Liberals. A blood simple opponent of the NDP and the only serious contemporary challenge to the Bloc Quebecois. Without him, his party is an unlikely combination of Reform Party leftovers, Harris refugees and Red Tory desperates. They don't matter or even exist without Mr. Harper. So before you think a moment longer, opposition leaders, think on that.

...

This becomes relevant because suddenly, he is weak. In fact, at this particular moment, he is almost unable to defend himself. Owing to a ridiculously ill-considered act of hubris, he has laid himself vulnerable to his opponents. Their imperative could not be more clear: kill him. Kill him dead. Do not, whatever you do, provide him with an opportunity to extend his hold on power. Because you can be damn certain he will never again be so reckless as to give you a chance to finish him off.

See how they run...

...like pigs from a gun.

Ahem

”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.

By the way...

At risk of straining the new found progressive amity at the prospect of a Coalition government:

See Greens, this is how you get influence over the political process - by clearly defining a distinction between your party and the alternatives and contesting for every seat possible.

Heard your party mentioned lately?

Too little, too late

The inevitable climbdown begins as Transport Minister John Baird signals surrender on the party financing proposal.

Transport Minister John Baird said the Conservative government has backed away from a contentious proposal to slash public funding for political parties, in an interview with CTV Newsnet.

The proposed Tory policy, which was announced as part of the government's fall fiscal update, caused a firestorm in Ottawa earlier this week and raised the possibility that opposition parties would form a coalition government or send Canadians to the polls.

"It's not worth going to an election over," Baird told CTV Newsnet Saturday.

Baird is one of Harper's chief consigliaris, and the message was delivered on Canada's answer to Fox News CTV Newsnet, so it can be considered an official raising of the white flag - apparently it won't take a week of carefully scripted propaganda warfare for Harper to realize they aren't going to win this battle in the court of public opinion.

But this titanic political miscalculation has already accomplished what many thought was impossible, including yours truly; finally uniting the opposition parties against him. Harper's long standing childish infatuation with scheming for its own stake has let the genie out of the bottle. The Conservatives are reduced to bleating that the parties that more than 6 out of 10 Canadians voted for actually running the government would be undemocratic.

As Liberal and NDP officials continued discussions about a possible coalition that would replace the minority government, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre dismissed their attempts as nothing more than an illegitimate power grab.

"In just over 30 days [Finance Minister Jim Flaherty] has got a budget that will come out that will include yet more [economic] stimulus," he told CBC News.

"By contrast, the Liberals, the separatists and the socialists, all of whom were resoundingly rejected in the last election, want to overturn that election and impose a coalition that they promised they would never entertain," he said.

Nice of them to give us their script

Conservative MPs have been given their marching orders and will be fanning out across the nation's talk radio shows and community forums with a detailed script of the Governments reaction to the prospect of being overthrown by an opposition coalition.
In an e-mail obtained by the Globe and Mail, Guy Giorno, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Chief of Staff, set out a strategy to shift public debate ahead of a potential confidence vote in the House of Commons next week.
...

Mr. Giorno's message also includes very detailed scripts MPS are expected to follow while delivering radio interviews that include the following lines:

  • We're not even two months removed from the last election, and a group of backroom politicians are going to pick who the Prime Minister is. Canadians didn't vote for this person. We don't even know who this person will be.
  • Not a single voter voted for a Liberal-NDP coalition. Certainly not a single voter voted for the Liberals to form a coalition with the separatists in the Bloc.
  • This is what bothers me the most. The Conservatives won the election. The Opposition keeps saying that the Conservatives have to respect the will of the voters that this is a minority and so on.
  • …how about Liberals, NDP and Bloc respecting the will of the voters when they said "YOU LOSE".
  • And what's this going to do to the economy. I'm sorry, I don't care how desperate the Liberals are — giving socialists (Jack Layton) and separatists (Gilles Duceppe) a veto over every decision in government — that is a recipe for total economic disaster.
  • But how more phony could these guys be?
  • I mean, I follow the news, virtually every single day you have Harper or Flaherty out there telegraphing exactly what they plan to do with the economy. And not once did you hear the Liberals, NDP or separatists talking about toppling the government in response.
  • No — do you know what set this off. When Flaherty said he was going to take taxpayer-funded subsidies away from the opposition. Now there is a reason to try and overturn an election— because the Conservatives the audacity to say "Hey, it's a recession, maybe you should take your nose out of the trough."
  • And I wish the media would be more clear on this point — the opposition aren't being singled out by this fact the Conservatives stand to lose the most money of all. The only difference is that Canadians are voluntarily giving money the Conservatives, so they don't need taxpayer handouts. The only reason the opposition would be hurt more is because nobody wants to donate to them. They should be putting their efforts towards fixing that problem.
  • I don't want another election. But what I want even less is a surprise backroom Prime Minister whom I never even had the opportunity to vote for or against. What an insult to democracy.
So, provided with this embarrassingly detailed outline of everything you can expect out of your Conservative MPs mouth for the next week your options include an amusing drinking game or an even more amusing prepared and engaged audience to this scripted mendacity.

These arguments are farcical at best and would probably fall flat regardless, but now we can all be prepared to counter them with the facts.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Heh.

Broadbent twinkles and mentions a certain long walk in the snow.

I'm beginning to think this is actually going to happen. Stephen Harper figured he'd either mortally wound the Liberals by ramming through this deliberate governmental suppression of political opposition, or it would trigger another election and give Harper a chance at a majority do-over.

He didn't count on the opposition deciding that they hated him more than they did each other.

Is Conrad Black on the list too?

Over all, this Canwest piece about how the proposed public financing cancellation would cripple the Opposition is unobjectionable aside from the palpable glee at the prospect. The measure is a nakedly partisan attempt to knee-cap political opposition. It would be appalling in a majority government - in a minority it can only be considered a deliberate poison pill.

But the article hits a wall with the jaw-dropping assertion that Gwyn Morgan was until recently a contributor of the yearly maximum political donation to the Liberal Party and only in recent years had switched that allegiance to the Conservatives.

Fast forward to 2008. The Liberal party is financially devastated, burdened with election debt and flagging contributions.

Symbolically, of the 305-member list of top donors from 2005, a mere dozen have contributed the maximum amount to the Liberals this year, even though the limit is far lower.

Some of these high-profile donors are giving instead to the Conservatives. Among them is Peter Munk, head of the gold company American Barrick, who gave the Liberals the maximum $5,000 in 2005.

This year, he gave to the Tories. So did former Liberal donors Nezhat Khosrowshahi, of the company that owned Future Shop, and Gwyn Morgan, former chief executive of EnCana Energy. As the power donors went, the smaller donors followed. Contributions to the Liberals fell from $8.3 million in 2005 to $4.5 million last year.

If you know anything about Gwyn Morgan, you know that's just all kinds of crazy.

Blinded by Ideology

We're at the beginning of an economic crisis that is expected to rival the Great Depression, every Finance Minister on Earth is planning stimulus packages and accepting that old fashioned Keynesian counter-cyclical 'pump priming' is not just prudent, it's vital.

Except in Canada where, Harper's recent promises of responsible non-ideological economic management forgotten, Joe Flaherty spins the same old ideological pap about tightening belts and avoiding deficits at any and all cost.

As Paul Krugman has been pointing out repeatedly, when it comes to government stimulus in an economic environment like this the worst thing you can do is err on the side of caution; there's no such thing as too much stimulus right now but there is such a thing as too little and emphatically there's such a thing as too late.

Flaherty clearly hopes to ride the coat-tails of world wide stimulus spending while Canada avoids doing it's part but still reaps the benefits. Simultaneously, inequitable, deceptive and irresponsible. A Conservative economic policy hat trick.

The Conservatives seem shocked that the same old bully boy 'our way or the highway' behaviour they've gotten away with for so long has a very real chance of ending their new minority on Monday before it really gets a chance to even begin. Canadians may be stunned to wake up on Tuesday with a Liberal/NDP coalition running the country.

The Conservatives will keep bleating about how undemocratic such an event would be but they have only themselves to blame for economic mismanagement that it would be irresponsible of the opposition NOT to them bring down over.

The 'non-ideological' Stephen Harper

The press bought into the idea of a kinder, gentler Stephen Harper hook, line and sinker. As recently as a week ago the CanWest chain was frantically spinning the reasonable, affable Steve who wants everybody to pull together in the face of economic crisis meme.

A contagion of niceness appears to be sweeping the political landscape, with a once-bellicose Prime Minister Stephen Harper leading the way.

Harper explained the new posture at a news conference last week: "It is clear for the foreseeable future we have a very significant problem and politics as usual just will not cut it."

.....

This sudden more positive thrust surely is born of the self-interest of all parties involved.

At a time of job losses when people are losing their savings, politicians have correctly concluded the public won't put up with the partisanship that normally characterizes the political process.

Initiatives like rescuing the auto sector, improving financial odds for pensioners and funding infrastructure programs thus will be supported by every political party interested in its own survival.

....

No slouch when it comes to the art of politics, the PM understands the imperative of softening his image and losing the bare-knuckle partisanship that in the past earned him the name Mr. Nasty.

It's unlikely today's throne speech -- outlining the government's blueprint for action -- will feature divisive issues. The focus will be on the economy and cooperative approaches to ease prevailing pain.

That was then. Instead we got a blueprint of inaction on the economy as the Conservatives inexcusably stall the stimulus that is needed sooner rather than later in an attempt to burnish their ideological correctness and obfuscate that they were heading for deficits even before the economic crisis. And instead of the 'non-ideological' more civil approach to dealing with the opposition we get an unabashed poison pill in the attack on public election financing.

Harper wants an election do-over in yet another stab at majority government.

University of Ottawa political historian and constitutional expert Michael Behiels is convinced Harper is determined to trigger his own defeat to take another stab at winning a majority before a deep recession sets in.

"He's got the Liberals on the ropes and he's using the funding of political parties as a way to provoke the crisis," he said. "I think he's angry he didn't get the majority. He came so close, and now the longer he waits and the deeper the recession gets the chance of coming out smelling like a rose is diminished. So it's best to catch all the opposition off guard, force them to defeat the government and browbeat the governor general into giving him another election as soon as possible."

Will the media now catch up to the reality that their cherished narrative of cooperation and pragmatic governance has fallen apart only days later?

As to the rumors and speculation about an opposition coalition - I'm like anyone else, I'd enjoy seeing Harper outfoxed as much as anyone but I'll believe it when I see it. The Liberals won't accept Dion leading the way and I don't think the NDP can partner with a neo-con in sheeps clothing like Ignatieff.

Interesting times.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Christmas Miracle!

...and it's not even December yet!
She’s usually one of the most opinionated women in the nation, but Ann Coulter’s going to be keeping her mouth shut for the next few weeks.

The 46-year-old was forced to get her jaw wired shut after taking a nasty tumble last month, reports the New York Post’s Page Six.

Though she’s on the mend, the injury’s making it difficult for Coulter to record the audio version of her latest tome, The New Ann Coulter.
God bless us, every one!

Fear of a Universal Health Care Planet

More American conservative gloom over the impending arrival of universal health care. Ramesh Ponnuru bemoans:

"Obama’s health-care plan is designed to evolve into a national health-insurance program along the lines of Canada’s. The resulting government monopoly or near-monopoly on health insurance would stifle innovation, require bureaucratic rationing, and infringe on freedom. But it would also move American politics permanently leftward ... the inevitable disappointments and failures of a nationalized system would just as inevitably be blamed on underfunding, creating a bidding war that liberals would usually win ... the creation of a new system would make free-market alternatives look more radical to the public than they do now, because they would be more radical. The public’s aversion to risk, which now hurts advocates of liberal policies as much as it helps them, would only help them. So national health insurance could be a lasting political success for liberals even if it is a colossal policy failure; it could, indeed, succeed politically because of its failures."
Let's address the falsehoods one by one:

Universal public health care stifles innovation.
False. In fact the major driver of medical innovation in America is already, and always has been the state:
The single biggest source of medical research funding, not just in the United States but in the entire world, is the National Institutes of Health (NIH): Last year, it spent more than $28 billion on research, accounting for about one-third of the total dollars spent on medical research and development in this country (and half the money spent at universities). The majority of that money pays for the kind of basic research
that might someday unlock cures for killer diseases like Alzheimer's, aids, and cancer. No other country has an institution that matches the NIH in scale. And that is probably the primary explanation for why so many of the intellectual breakthroughs in medical science happen here.
Public health care would 'require bureaucratic rationing, and infringe on freedom'.

False. As Canadians know this is simply nonsense. Despite wait lists caused by policies of underfunding and deliberate medical school enrollment suppression, essential medical treatment gets to those who need it and Canadians have plenty of choice when it comes to medical treatment with far less bureaucracy to deal with than Americans grappling with multiple insurance providers all looking for excuses to refuse to honor their customer's policies. And the US rations health care far more savagely, simply based on who can afford it and who goes without completely.

Ponnuru also blithely predicts 'inevitable disappointments' with public care - while just as blithely ignoring how utterly dysfunctional and inequitable the current non-system of American health care is. He justifies the inevitable, that Americans will embrace public health care no matter how much a 'policy failure' it is - but his biggest fear is clearly that it will be a huge policy success.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ben Stein should stick to talking about economics

He makes more sense on the subject than he does when he tackles evolution and he comes off as less of a douche than when he attacks minor celebrities.

Stein: The Federal government is the only one that can stabilize this economy.

Cavuto: It is a slippery slope Ben...

Stein: Then otherwise we fall into a great depression. Maybe not a problem for you, but a problem for everybody else.

Cavuto: Oh, stop the nonsense.

Stein: It isn't nonsense.

Cavuto: Where do you draw the nonsensical line.

Stein: We go in for as much Federal stimulus as it takes keep us out of a great depression. That is basic common sense ... We need to bail out the auto companies, we need to have a massive stimulus package. This economy is about to fall off a cliff. We need major stimulus.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why conservatives hate and fear universal health care

Bill Kristol made the argument to Republicans in the early 90's the last time the Democrats held power, and the Cato Institute makes it again now that the Democrats are in power again:

Universal health care is lethal to conservatism.
A "single payer" national health system - known as "socialized medicine" in the rest of the developed world - should be an essential part of the change that the core constituencies which elected Obama desperately need. Britain serves as an important political lesson for strategists. After the Labor Party established the National Health Service after World War II, supposedly conservative workers and low-income people under religious and other influences who tended to support the Conservatives were much more likely to vote for the Labor Party...
Which is of course why Conservatives here in Canada, while unable to attack it too blatantly undermine universal health care at every opportunity.

Revolting thug

Alberta Health Minister Ron Liepert gloats publicly about keeping an advocate for public health care off the new Alberta Health Services Board and violates confidentiality and privacy in the process.

This week, however, Liepert crossed the line. In question period Thursday, Liberal health critic Hugh MacDonald was grilling the minister on his appointment of eight new members to the Alberta Health Services Board. The Liberals wanted to know why there were no people from the former Capital Health board on the new steering committee, and why the board was loaded with business executives, as opposed to medical professionals and public health-care advocates.

Liepert couldn't resist.

"Mr. Speaker," he shot back, "ironically enough, the former member, who did not win his seat this past spring, who is now involved with Friends of Medicare, actually applied to be on the board, and our search firm who did the interviews interviewed him and determined that he was not among the best candidates."

The comments were a clear reference to David Eggen, the former New Democrat MLA for Edmonton-Calder, who now serves as executive director of Friends of Medicare.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Real Free Speech Heroes

No not Ezra Levant and his puerile bigoted cartoons, not Maclean's Magazine for publishing the neurotic race terror of Mark Steyn and certainly not the various racist webmasters and homophobes the conservative blogosphere rushes to defend.

No, I speak of course, of Maclean and Maclean.

They were brought to mind by yesterday's Globe and Mail featured obituary of Blair Maclean, the older brother who died at the end of October.

As half of the entertainment team MacLean and MacLean, he played the 12-string guitar. Gary played the banjo. The two were famous for their raunchy and often scatological language, and entertained millions around the world with their ribald comic parody of popular songs.

Their language also made them famous in legal circles. They were arrested twice but persevered in defending their right to free speech, a cause that took them all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Their fight - reminiscent of the struggles of American comics Lenny Bruce and George Carlin - helped open the door for today's comedians to use off-colour language freely on stage and on late-night television, said Mr. MacLean's wife, Marcia.

I think fighting for the right to exuberantly sing 'Fuck Ya!' at the top of your lungs beats fighting for the right to say hateful things about Muslims or Gays.

Here's some classics, do I even need to say that these are NSFW? That you shouldn't listen to them if you're humorless, easily offended or believe you'll damn your soul to hell if you hear the 'f' word?

I've seen pubic hair

The entire album Toilet Rock

Oh God

Yeah, so this was my job. For a couple of years.

Another chance to get it wrong

There's always a silver lining: For the market ideologues running the Alberta government, an economic crisis is just another excuse to take another run at public health care.

As provincial Liberal leader Kevin Taft put it, within weeks of oil prices dropping the government is already talking about slashing away at health care again and hiring private health care proponents to run the Alberta Health Services board.

Most of the governments new appointees to the board that replaces the regional health boards are oil men with no experience in the medical system - no actual health care professionals of course - plus appointees with links to American private health care corporations.

Most of the board members have extensive business backgrounds in the oil and gas, financial and legal sectors, and as developers. While a few members previously sat on health region boards, critics questioned why there were no health professionals included or people with direct expertise in delivering care.

The list of board members includes Edmonton's Tony Franceschini, president of developer Stantec Inc., which the NDP highlighted has several contracts with Alberta Health.

The appointment of Jim Clifford, an Alberta native now working for a communications firm in New Jersey, also raised some eyebrows. Clifford's company has several clients with private-sector interests in the health system, the opposition noted.

NDP Leader Brian Mason claimed the composition of the board is "the clearest signal yet" the government intends to move toward an American-style private health-care system.

Never mind that most rational economists consider an economic downturn to be the time to put more money into public spending and never mind that Albertans have signaled over and over again that they expect the public health care system to stay public.

Any opportunity to undermine it will always be gleefully jumped at by the callous profiteers running Alberta.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shocker

The Alberta government backtracks on their much touted plan to make oil companies pay a fair price for resources owned by Albertans.

All those surprised please raise your hands, and then seek medical treatment for terminal naivete.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Swan dive into the ashbin of history

Stephen Harper at the beginning of the Conservative Party convention this week pleaded for a sensible non-ideological approach to governing during an economic crisis. Observers said they didn't expect anyone to rock the boat at the convention and introduce any radical new policies.

But instead the response from the party's membership was a radical right-wing agenda of attacking human rights protection and chiseling away at reproductive freedoms. Harper clearly saw this coming with spokesmen stating at the beginning of the week that the government wouldn't feel bound by a platform other than the one they just went to the voters with.

But its an excellent reminder why the Canadian people won't give the Conservatives a majority even with an historic collapse of Liberal support. The activist base of the Conservative Party of Canada looked at the Sarah Palin rallies last month and said 'Those folks, those are the base we should be playing to!'

Counter intuitive perscription

Drug costs are sky-rocketing while in the public sector of health care hospital costs are declining and doctor costs remain stable.
Hospitals still make up the largest component of Canada's health-care spending but their share is steadily declining, says the group, created by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to monitor industry trends.

Hospitals are expected to account for 28 per cent, or $48.1 billion, of total health-care spending this year, down from 30.7 per cent in 1998 and 44.7 per cent in 1975.

Spending on both prescribed and non-prescribed drugs will account for 17.4 per cent of health-care spending, or $29.8 billion, the study predicts. That's up from 15 per cent a decade ago and 8.8 per cent in 1975.

The study says payments to physicians will account for about 13.4 per cent of total spending in 2008, or $23 billion. That share has remained relatively stable since 1999.

At 8.3 per cent, spending on drugs is expected to grow faster than spending on hospitals (5.8 per cent) or physicians (6.2) this year.
To be completely clear: The private sectors of Canadian healthcare are making up the lions share of surging health costs while the public sector costs are stable or declining - and the usual suspects still insist the solution is more private healthcare.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hollow laugh

Prison walls a border can make

As sure as God made little green apples, George W. Bush is going to go pardon happy in the next two months. There are rumours of huge blanket pardons of thousands of government employees and the most criminal administration since the Nixon White House forever going beyond the reach of justice.

What can Obama do? If he was to use his own presidential authority to set aside some of this impending immunity for lawbreaking he will be accused of partisanship and suck oxygen away from his own priorities. If he lets Bush get away with immunizing his whole grotesque regime he'll infuriate his own base.

However there is one way this lawless group of war criminals can be at least partly penalized: Obama can and probably will, sign the US on to the International Criminal Court. Bush made 'unsigning' Bill Clinton's ratification of the Hague process one of his first presidential acts. Obama could reverse that decision with an executive order.

And then those pardoned by Bush would be immune from American justice, but would never be able to leave the borders of the United States again without wondering if the gendarmes will be knocking on their hotel room doors.

It's not a sufficient punishment but its better than nothing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Uh Oh

There's an old saying: When your neighbour loses his job its an economic downturn, when you lose your job its a recession and when economists lose their jobs its a depression.

And when The Economist magazine starts laying off staff?

Sure we're corrupt, violent and taser happy, but that's no reason not to trust us.

The RCMP commissioner admits - because really, what choice does he have? - that the national force has had a series of 'inappropriate behaviours and violations of core values' like electrocuting Polish people, killing bicyclists while driving drunk (The same officer in both incidents!) and trying to suppress evidence of wrong doing. But the commissioner wants the public to have patience and, "It's also important for the public to have faith in the independent systems we have in place to review our activities with respect to all those incidents,"

That would be the same independent systems that determined that it was possible for an officer, while lying face down on a couch with a big heavy guy kneeling on his back throttling him from behind to pull out his gun, reach behind the guy kneeling on his back and shoot him in the back of the head. In self defense.

Well why on earth would anyone not have faith in such a clearly 'independent system'?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What is it about...

...the kids in the Rogers Cellphone commercials, you know dumb guy, hip guy, entitled blond girl and bitchy brunette girl, that makes me want to reach for a flamethrower?

Are Rogers trying to corner the douchebag market?

Looking for someone to lead them out of the wilderness

A trait of the right: When a right wing party like the Republicans gets utterly spanked, removed from all the levels of power, repudiated and cast into the wilderness they aren't big on self reflection.

With few exceptions they don't examine or adjust policy, develop a consistent and logical framework to base their opposition on and adapt to changing times or changing public moods.

No, they go looking for a hero. A heroic leader who's teeth go 'ting' when they smile and excite the voters into forgetting why they kicked them out in the first place. American Republicans just can't stop hoping for another Reagan, and don't want to talk about the specific policy steps he might take. Older Republicans never got over their Reagan worship, and they still believe that with someone like him they won't have to change at all, Americans will just be drawn to their essential conservative perfection.

It is to be hoped that they wrap themselves in this comforting delusion and avoid all the messy self examination that is their only hope of avoiding ever more limited and receding regional rump status.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Lone Nut Party

Gary Kamiya succinctly sums up the few gruesome options the Republicans have left because of the demographic trap that has snapped around them.
When you add all these things up, there is nowhere for the GOP in its current form to go. Any action it takes to shore up one group will hurt it more with another. If the right continues to make the culture war its main strategy, it will shore up its base with working-class white men in rural areas. But this "Deliverance" strategy, in which the GOP lets the Democrats have every part of the country where large numbers of people live together and targets lone white men surrounded by vast open spaces, is only a ticket to dominance in places like Utah, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma, with their rich treasure trove of 22 electoral votes. The post-election map already shows a weird correlation between unpopulated areas and Republican votes -- not a trend the GOP should be encouraging.
It's change or die, and the too proud to change brigade are virtually all the Republicans have left.

Returning to the scene of the crime, to sell insurance.

Hi, Fraser Institute here. Our ideology and fetish for spending cuts has pushed healthcare to the brink, but pointing that out is just rude and old fashioned. What you should really do is listen to us some more about how to fix it.
CALGARY, ALBERTA, Nov 10, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) -- Canadian patients are enduring greater risks because the country's health care system regularly employs aging and outdated medical technology, concludes a new report from independent research organization the Fraser Institute.
...
"It's time to consider alternatives to the status quo if we want to achieve a world-class, universal access health care system. Unless we allow more competition into the both the financing and delivery of health care services, Canadians will continue to be burdened with lengthy waiting lists and outdated medical equipment.
It's a great scam really: Help create massive destruction through constantly advocating for funding cuts to social services like healthcare - then argue its the nature of universal healthcare that's the problem and like any good PR firm masquerading as a think tank, promote the services of your clients as the solution.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Tin-foil hat time

Parsing the story, Paul Palango the former national news editor of the Globe and Mail apparently believes everything Maher Arar went through was so the FBI could infiltrate the NDP:

In 1999, Arar went to Boston to work for a company called MathWorks, which Palango said was a contractor for the CIA and the U.S. defence department. Palango said that Arar appeared to have no difficulty obtaining work permits for the U.S., adding that it’s unlikely Arar was ever linked to terrorism.

“You can only infer from this that there is a special relationship between the U.S. government and Arar that had to be protected,” Palango maintained. “So what is that relationship? And why I lean towards the American angle is because of his access into the States. He can renew his work permits. He goes to work for MathWorks. You know, it seems all orchestrated to me.”

In a 2005 article citing unnamed CIA sources, the Washington Post reported that of 39 people who were sent to jails overseas through a process known as rendition, about 10 were later found to be innocent. Palango said that they all shared similar stories, which increased his suspicions about the true nature of the Arar case. As well, he claimed, all later got involved in left-wing politics. Arar’s wife, Monia Mazigh, the sister of Mourad Mazigh, ran for the federal NDP in the 2004 election. “So where does the FBI or CIA or U.S. intelligence want to be?” Palango said. “Where do they want information? It’s from the left wing.”

This wouldn't make a lot of sense even if it was particularly difficult to become an NDP candidate.

Staying Classy

"I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too." - From President Barack Obama's victory speech

“Do the 18 million aborted black babies support Obama?” - The Free Republic's headline the next day.
There are two pathways ahead for the Republican Party:
  • They take the hint and tack back to the center, back to the careful moderation of an Eisenhower or a Ford. A path that will lead them back to power sooner rather than later.

  • They retreat to the resentful sullen fantasy that they lost because they just weren't right wing enough, becoming a deformed and angry Christianist regional rump party.
My bet is that they'll take the easy comforting path of option B, catering to an ever smaller base and fading into irrelevancy. That Free Republic headline is a symptom of a party in almost clinical denial of reality.

It's not like they didn't try

We all wondered about it didn't we? Would purged voter lists, easily hacked electronic voting machines, vote caging, phony fraud claims and outright intimidation of voters steal another election?

In the end Obama's win was too substantial to be stopped and the Republican vote suppression strategy was as disorganized and dysfunctional as every other part of their approach to this election.
  • In Indiana, for instance, a Superior Court judge declined to support a GOP bid to shut down early voting centers in Democratic-leaning cities in Lake County, and the state Supreme Court chose not to immediately intervene.
  • In Wisconsin, a suit brought by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen -- which he later admitted had been requested by the Republican Party -- seeking to force the state election board to re-confirm all newly registered voters was thrown out by a county court.
  • In Michigan, a federal appeals court today blocked the Republican secretary of state, Terri Lynn Land, from throwing 5,500 newly registered voters off the rolls because their registration cards were returned as undeliverable, after voting-rights groups sued.

In other states, Democratic state officials or voting-rights advocates have held the line:

  • In Nevada, Secretary of State Ross Miller denied a request from the state GOP to require voters to cast provisional ballots if they fixed mistakes in their voting information at the polls.
  • In Colorado, a bid by Republican Secretary of State Mike Coffman -- who himself is running for a seat in the U.S. House -- to purge 14,000 voters from the rolls was only partially successful. After voting-rights groups sued, a settlement was reached yesterday allowing the voters to cast provisional ballots. According to the Rocky Mountain News, those ballots would "be presumed to be valid unless state and county officials prove otherwise." A lawyer for the voting-rights groups called the deal "a win-win."

In still other places, it's been a combination of both factors:

  • In Ohio -- perhaps the most high-profile example of voter-suppression this cycle -- the state GOP sued to force Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to provide local election officials with the names of new voters whose registration information didn't match other government documents. Brunner resisted, arguing, it appears correctly, that the information would be used to challenge large numbers of voters and cause chaos at the polls. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately sided with Brunner. (The Department of Justice deserves some of the credit here, too, for declining a request by the White House to intervene.)

And in some states, the Republicans appear to have done themselves in through the sheer chutzpah of their behavior, and the resulting outcry:

  • In Montana, the state GOP announced plans to challenge 6000 voters in predominantly Democratic counties, based on discrepancies between in their listed addresses. But after even Republicans in the state denounced the ploy, the party backed off, and its executive director resigned.
  • In New Mexico, the state party held a press conference at which it released the names, and some personal information, of ten voters, almost all Hispanic, that it said had voted fraudulently in a Democratic primary in June. It was later established that they were all legitimate voters. The U.S. Department of Justice is now investigating reports by TPMmuckraker and others that a lawyer attached to the party sent a private investigator to the homes of some of these voters to question them about their voting status -- potentially violating federal voting laws.
In many ways the battle against Republican voter suppression in this election cycle was won two years ago. State governments run the elections and Democrats won a majority of statehouses in 2006 - including Ohio where the last Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell seemed determined to deliver victory to his own party by reducing the poor and minority vote any way he could. His replacement Democrat Jennifer Brunner saw off multiple attempts by the Republican Party to drive down the vote.

Additionally the Republicans were hamstrung by the associations their various voter suppression strategies had to the U.S. Attorneys firing scandal - which was all about the White House trying to purge the Justice Department of any employees who pointed out that voter fraud was essentially non-existent.

Obama and the new Democratic majority in the house and Senate should protect voters going forward with a new Voting Rights Act - perhaps even a constitutional amendment. In every country that the US has occupied in the last century they've required a right to vote be enshrined in law. A right that isn't guaranteed in American law.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Onion: Nation finally shitty enough to make social progress

Carrying a majority of the popular vote, Obama did especially well among women and young voters, who polls showed were particularly sensitive to the current climate of everything being fucked. Another contributing factor to Obama's victory, political experts said, may have been the growing number of Americans who, faced with the complete collapse of their country, were at last able to abandon their preconceptions and cast their vote for a progressive African-American.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President Barack Obama

Salon calls it. With Iowa, Pennsylvania and Ohio and victory in California assured, Obama is the 44th President of the United States.

Congratulations Americans welcome back to the world community and the reality based community. It is so very good to have you back.

That's the ball game

CNN just called Pennsylvania for Obama, a state McCain's faint desperate hopes for any come back depended on. It's all over but the Obama victory party.

Monday, November 03, 2008

If you can't stand the heat, etc, etc...

Proposition 8 in California would amend the state constitution to eliminate same sex marriage. It's on the knife's edge in the polls and no one has a satisfactory answer about what it would do to the rights of gay couples who are already married. The primary organizing force and most of the money - $20 million - behind the yes on Prop 8 operation is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The Mormons are committing considerable time, effort and money to an attempt to strip away existing legal rights of gays and lesbians in California.

The context for this ad from the No on Prop 8 forces:

The Mormons are deeply offended that the 'no' forces would stoop to such bigotry in response to their own deeply respectful attempt to make them second class citizens.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Trouble

Ray LaMontagne

Sunday Linkblast - Nov 2


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