Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Stitch Up

From the brilliant British TV drama A Very British Coup.
"You show alarming signs of becoming a major statesman."
"And you can't allow that, can you?"

New Facebook group: Sanction the Toronto Sun for Electoral Dirty Tricks

It was clearly a late election hail mary attempt to undercut Jack Layton and the NDP.

An anonymous police officer with an axe to grind against a troublesome anti-poverty activist now trending to become the leader of the official opposition comes forward 15 years later and the Sun laps it up.  Jack Layton is a well known exercise enthusiast who went to a city licensed therapist for a massage and was surprised when it was raided by the police.  No charges were filed,  Now fifteen years later the Toronto Sun tries to use this innocuous incident to smear a popular leader of a party experiencing surging support with days to go in a tight election.

This kind of irresponsible scummy political manipulation and sleaze shouldn't be consequence free.  Join the new facebook group Sanction the Toronto Sun for Electoral Dirty Tricks to show how you feel about this kind of partisan manipulation.  And here's the link to the Ontario Press Council's complaint process.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

But..but...Ontario!

'Sure the NDP may be gaining some seats in Quebec and BC but it's Ontario that matters (Isn't it always?) and there those nasty NDP partisans are just getting in good Liberal candidates way!' - Or umpteen different variations of the same theme from the more reflexive and tribal of Liberal posters.

Not so fast.

Nationally, the EKOS poll has Stephen Harper’s Conservatives leading with 33.9-per-cent support. But the NDP are now clearly in second place – 27.9 per cent compared to 24 per cent for the Liberals. The Greens are 6.8 per cent, according to the poll of 2,532 people conducted between April 23 and April 25. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Mr. Graves, however, has detected something afoot in Ontario, which has been locked in a “seesaw battle between the Conservatives and the Liberals,” Mr. Graves said.

Now, he said, the two parties are hearing the “footsteps of the big orange wave (not to mix metaphors).”

The New Democrats are ahead, he said, of where they were in 2008, and “Ontario voters are flirting with the idea of jumping on the big orange bandwagon.”



al-Qaida bomber was working for CSIS

An al-Qaida operative accused of bombing two Christian churches and a luxury hotel in Pakistan in 2002 was at the same time working for British intelligence, according to secret files on detainees who were shipped to the US military's Guantánamo Bay prison camp.
Adil Hadi al Jazairi Bin Hamlili, an Algerian citizen described as a "facilitator, courier, kidnapper, and assassin for al-Qaida", was detained in Pakistan in 2003 and later sent to Guantánamo Bay.
But according to Hamlili's Guantánamo "assessment" file, one of 759 individual dossiers obtained by the Guardian, US interrogators were convinced that he was simultaneously acting as an informer for British and Canadian intelligence.
After his capture in June 2003 Hamlili was transferred to Bagram detention centre, north of Kabul, where he underwent numerous "custodial interviews" with CIA personnel.
They found him "to have withheld important information from the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service and British Secret Intelligence Service … and to be a threat to US and allied personnel in Afghanistan and Pakistan".

Monday, April 25, 2011

Liberal, Tory, same old...?

This is emphatically not directed at progressives who have greeted the sudden, self-reinforcing rise of the NDP with shocked but welcoming surprise,  This isn't aimed at the people who've been pushing the strategic vote to save us from scary Stephen Harper and have publicly accepted that now means supporting the NDP in more places then they ever imagined.

This is directed to those who are Liberals because that's where the power is in their community.  The people who'd be open Harpercon style right-wingers if they had grown up in Alberta instead of Ontario.  There's been some grand mal hissy fit frothing tantrums over the NDP's meteoric rise, but few as over the top impossible to parody as this one.

Do I think most Liberals think like this?  No, just some of the loudest ones.

UPDATE: Grasping at straws edition.  It's all about the cane.

I will show you fear, in a shiny graphic.

The problem I have with this minimum/average/maximum seat calculator that's become so popular is that the way the graphic lines up it seems to imply that the min/avg/max numbers all match up with every other parties min/avg/max - encouraging people to jump to the conclusion that a maximum seat count for one party coincides with the maximum of the other. 

This interpretation has been used to bash the NDP for committing the horrific crime of appealing to Canadian voters.  Of course the Cons and Libs have been throwing everything they can think of at the NDP all weekend in the desperate hopes that something will stick.


Of course they don't mean that, just the opposite in fact.  One of these parties getting it's average polling result or its best case scenario means the other two don't.  The drilled down regional numbers still strongly indicate Harper isn't getting his majority.

Don't fall for the hype.  Vote for the candidate and party you believe in rather than fall for the same stale strategic voting prisoner's dilemma again.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

60 Seats

Jack Layton and his surging New Democrats are poised to see their representation in the Commons increased from 36 to 60 seats, denying the Harper Conservatives their coveted majority, according to a new EKOS Research poll.

The survey, released Thursday, has the NDP tied with the Liberals – 24.7 per cent – while the Tories are at 34.4 per cent nationally. The Bloc is at 6.5 per cent and the Green Party is at 7.8 per cent.
I await with bated breath for all the Liberal bloggers to continue piously arguing the important thing is to stop Harper getting a majority, so Canadians should avoid splitting the vote by voting for the party currently poised to keep him from getting it:  the NDP.

Any time now.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Other Shoe Drops

Iggy comes clean and concedes that the path to him becoming Prime Minister lies with an 'arrangement' with the NDP.
Michael Ignatieff is saying clearly for the first time that he could defeat a minority Conservative government and make a case to the Governor-General that his party could govern with the support of others – and without another trip to the polls.

Until now, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has only said the party that wins the most seats on May 2 can “try” to win the confidence of the House of Commons. While the comment carried an obvious implication, he spelled it out for the first time Tuesday.

“Let’s run it right out so we’re all clear,” Mr. Ignatieff said in a live interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge.

“If [Conservative Leader Stephen] Harper wins the most seats and forms a government but does not secure the confidence of the House, and I’m assuming Parliament comes back, then it goes to the Governor-General. That’s what happens. That’s how the rules work.

“And then, if the Governor-General wants to call on other parties – or myself, for example – to try and form a government, then we try and form a government. That’s exactly how the rules work and what I’m trying to say to Canadians is I understand the rules, I respect the rules, I’ll follow them to the letter and I’m not going to form a coalition,” he said.
This comparatively simple declaration that the Liberals plan to follow the rules of parliamentary democracy tells us what to expect and makes it clearer than ever that progressives should be fighting for the most NDP seats possible to get the best possible terms for any such arrangement.

The New World

"I think you know that there's no such thing as an American anymore. No Hispanics, no Japanese, no blacks, no whites, no nothing. It's just rich people and poor people. The three of us are all rich, so we're on the same side"  - Deep Cover, 1992

No, YOU knock it off

Now that several realistic drilled down looks at the polling numbers by regions makes it clear that all the majority talk was smoke and mirrors and Harper is headed for another minority and probably a smaller one at that, can we call a moratorium on the frankly hysterical fulminating by those who once again profess to be shocked and dismayed that the NDP is actually being so gauche as to fight to win?

Some bloggers whose posts I usually respect and enjoy have been posting some truly ridiculous and condescending nonsense displaying the perennial and familiar displeasure that the NDP doesn't do what they think we should... and put the best interests of the Liberal Party first.

Once again for those who haven't been paying attention:  We aren't just liberals in a hurry, we don't actually believe that a Liberal minority would be a real and marked improvement over a Conservative one,  yeah, we're going to try to win everywhere and no, we aren't going to apologize.

To the casual observer, or the observer deliberately avoiding the details - liberals and social democrats may seem to have more in common than liberals and conservatives - but have you noticed that in provinces where the NDP is a legitimate, even default governing option that the provincial 'liberals' and 'conservatives' have long since merged into default chamber of commerce conservative parties?  Have you noticed that in the UK the two parties that felt their policies were most aligned to form a coalition were the 'liberals' and the 'conservatives'?  You don't think the same thing would happen in Canada in a heartbeat if it ever looked like the NDP was becoming a viable governing option?

When we say 'Liberal/Tory, same old story' that isn't just a slogan, we New Democrats really do believe that on the really important issues particularly on economics and social spending there is no real daylight between Liberal and Tory policy books.

So pardon us if we look for an alternative to either the 'liberal' or 'conservative' wings of the single corporatist Bay Street Party presented to us as our only options.  Pardon us if we fight for every seat where we have a chance - usually because the local progressives are tired of being wooed in an election and then pimped out as soon as the vaguely more progressive sounding corporatists who call themselves 'liberals' beat the vaguely 'conservative' sounding corporatists they agree more than disagree with.  Or don't.   fiercely resent every seat the NDP win with a repellent aura of thwarted entitlement and self righteous spleen if you prefer. 

We aren't going to apologize for fighting to win.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You don't like that quote? There are plenty of others.

Stephen Harper is very offended that the Liberals are attributing a quote to him that he claims he never said.
The Tories are demanding the Liberals pull their new health-care ad, arguing that the party misquoted Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.  The television ad asks if voters can trust Harper to be in charge of health care and says he once argued the federal government should scrap the Canada Health Act.

But it wasn't Harper who spoke the words cited in the ad — it was his then-boss, National Citizens Coalition president David Somerville, a Conservative spokesman said Monday.

The ad cites an Aug. 26, 2010 Globe and Mail piece for the first statement, and runs it with a headline that says "It's Past Time the Feds Scrapped the Canada Health Act.

But while that line did indeed appear in the Globe and Mail last year, it was in a column by writer André Picard. Picard was citing Harper from a 1997 statement he made as vice-president of the NCC.

A Google search makes it clear the line is oft-cited but never with a link to a recording or speech text. It's usually sourced to a famous speech Harper made in Montreal to a conservative American group called the Council for National Policy (where he calls Canada a northern European welfare state).

Now it appears Harper didn't use the line at all.
Now of course, quotes should be attributed carefully - if Stephen Harper did not say those exact words the record should be corrected.  But it should also include the context that this was and is the clear and unambiguous position of the National Citizens Coalition - an organization started by an insurance executive specifically to battle public healthcare - and was the ideological raison d'etre of the organization while Harper was Vice President of the organization. 

There are more than enough easily verified quotes from Harper, specifically on the subject of how awful publicly administered and delivered healthcare is, to make his beliefs clear:
“Monopolies in the public sector are just as objectionable as monopolies in the private sector. It should not matter who delivers health care, whether it is private, for profit, not for profit or public institutions, as long as Canadians have access to it regardless of their financial means.” (Stephen Harper, Hansard, October 1, 2002)

“We also support the exploration of alternative ways to deliver health care. Moving toward alternatives, including those provided by the private sector, is a natural development of our health care system.” (Stephen Harper, Toronto Star, October 2002)

“Each province should raise its own revenue for health care – i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points.” (Stephen Harper, ‘Firewall’ letter, January 24, 2001)

“What we clearly need is experimentation with market reforms and private delivery options [in health care].” (Stephen Harper, then President of the National Citizens Coalition, 2001)
The Conservatives may have miscalculated here, by screaming and yelling about the one quote that cannot be 100% verified as coming from him rather than specifically his boss at the time at the organization where it was clearly the institutional policy position.  At the same speech:
"Then there is the Progressive Conservative party, the PC party, which won only 20 seats. Now, the term Progressive Conservative will immediately raise suspicions in all of your minds. It should... They were in favour of gay rights officially, officially for abortion on demand. Officially -- what else can I say about them? Officially for the entrenchment of our universal, collectivized, health-care system (emphasis added.)  and multicultural policies in the constitution of the country."

- Conservative leader Stephen Harper, then vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, in a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American think tank.
Stephen Harper's own words have always been his greatest enemy.  Now he has opened the door for all those words to become center stage again.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Voter Supression: Another page from the Republican playbook

The ties between Stephen Harper's CRAP (Conservative, Reform, Alliance Party) and the American Republican Party are deep and intricate.  A shared network of 'think tanks', action funds, pressure groups, 'student exchange' programs and a deeply shared set of ideological tropes, attitudes, assumptions and tactics.  The days when the Canadian Progressive Conservative Party was still to the left of the American Democratic Party much less the Republicans are long since over.  The current incarnation of Canadian Conservatives has more in common with the American Tea Partys than the PCs of Joe Clark and Brian Mulrooney.

Now they appear to be taking a very noxious page from the Republican voter suppression handbook and attacking the voting rights of students.
The Guelph students say the poll was organized correctly, with a Conservative scrutineer on hand. But Hamilton's letter suggests there was no scrutineer and that campaign material was present at the polling station, which is prohibited.

According to a published report, an attempt was actually made to end the vote as it was happening.

Citing several students who were there at the time, the Guelph Mercury reports that the communications director for the Guelph Conservative Party candidate turned up at the balloting site, claiming the process violated the Elections Canada Act. He reportedly tried to snatch the ballot box away, but left empty-handed.
These kind of tactics and the underlying hostility to the voting rights of students has a long ignoble history in the US, from both the Republicans AND the Democrats (The Clintons did enormous damage to their credibility during the bitter primary battle with Barack Obama when they attacked the rights of college students in Iowa to vote where they went to school.) but it's been an overwhelmingly Republican tactic, particularly in older white communities with young racially diverse or majority black schools in their borders.

How much of a backlash the Conservatives face from this thuggish attack on student voters will affect how much of this tactic we see in the future.

UPDATE: Elections Canada: The poll was valid and the votes WILL be counted.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

'Kettling' Declared Illegal in UK

Yes, the same controversial police tactic infamously used in Toronto during the G20.  This precedent should be swiftly argued in Canadian courts.
Police are to appeal against today's High Court decision declaring unlawful controversial "kettling" tactics used against demonstrators during G20 protests in central London two years ago.

The judgment led to a call from human rights lawyers for an "immediate change to police attitudes and tactics".

But the Metropolitan Police expressed concern over the impact of the ruling on its ability "to prevent disorder within protests".

The judgment was a victory for Hannah McClure, a student, and Josh Moos, a campaigner for Plane Stupid, who had challenged the legality of the "violent" restraint methods used against them at the Camp for Climate Action in Bishopsgate on April 1 2009.

It was the day newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson died after being struck by a police officer at a separate G20 protest at the nearby Royal Exchange.
UPDATE: Didn't take long for lawyers for victims of Toronto's kettling incidents to jump on this:
“This case is very important and will be used by us in the court,” said Murray Klippenstein, who has filed a $45 million class action lawsuit against the Toronto Police Services Board over the G20 in Toronto last June.
UPDATE 2:  As a result of the High Court ruling, 'thousands' of people illegally detained may sue for false imprisonment.  Maybe the only way to get the police to not do this kind of thing is to make it incredibally expensive when they do.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Multiculturalism's success

PARIS — Canadians are the most tolerant people in the developed world, are terrific readers, enjoy more "positive experiences" than everyone but Icelanders, and don't produce many babies, according to a new report released Tuesday.
The conclusions were contained in the latest edition of Society at a Glance, a broad-brush analysis of social and economic indicators among the 34 member states of the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
"At 84 per cent on average, Canadians report the highest community tolerance of minority groups — ethnic minorities, migrants, and gays and lesbians — in the OECD, where the average is 61 per cent," said a summary of Canada-specific findings.
Such widespread acceptance didn't happen automatically just because we are so much nicer - not completely anyway. It took deliberate and intentional public programs and initiatives.  Social engineering in other words.

It's an unpopular contention, bringing up connotations of bloated bureaucracy and the discredited legislation of political correctness.  But remember a lot of those connotations have been deliberately spawned and nourished by the same people trying to brand every progressive policy or program as 'Failed Big Government Run Amuck!'   There, I just boiled down every Financial Post editorial headline ever.

But while Canada was welcoming and integrating newcomers into our society and crucially, our economy with an inclusive respect for cultural differences, Germany was openly renouncing multiculturalism and France was standing on the principal of 'secularism'  another great, enlightened idea but used too often as a cudgel.  At least that's how they've used it.  They just outlawed veils that cover a woman's face and have started rounding up and arresting women who refuse to take them off.  Short sighted, mean-spirited and counter-productive, but portrayed as high minded defense of feminism and liberty.  This while the large French Muslim community remains disenfranchised, excluded, disproportionately underemployed and ghettoized.

We've had our own flare-ups, largely but by no means solely, in Quebec where a entrenched majority manages to transform isolated friction points into an argument that multiculturalism as a whole is a failed model and a sign that they are under siege from a small minority.

But in general I would argue that the huge success Canada has had integrating every Canadian into our society is the proof that multiculturalism is an unheralded success story.

'...not intended to be a factual statement'

So a Republican Senator responds to being caught outright lying about Planned Parenthood spending 90% of their budget on abortions (the real number is about 3% the other 97% that Republicans want to strip away going to pap smears, cancer screenings and other basic healthcare for under served American women.) by saying that the claim 'wasn't intended to be a factual statement' and was supposed to merely illustrate that Planned Parenthood subsidizes abortions.

Does that mean I can call Senator John Kyl a habitual pig$#%^er, and my defense can be that it wasn't meant to be a factual statement that he literally has relations with farm animals, it was just intended to illustrate what a remarkable douchewaffle he is?

Literally Never

The model of responding to economic downturn with austerity measures has a perfect record... of utter failure. It has literally NEVER worked. Freidmanites sneer at 'spending your way out of recession' but the countries that do it thrive and the countries that start slashing at spending end up like Ireland with their economies in tatters.
Even more spectacular than the failure of Ireland’s “efficient business regulations” and “competitive tax rates” is the failure of its austerity measures in what seems like record time. Not only did Ireland become the first Eurozone country to enter recession, it also became the first to test its status as a petri dish for conservative policy by becoming the first country to respond to the economic critics by enacting severe austerity measures.
The government’s 2008 emergency budget was the kind of economic medicine that even now conservatives are clamoring for here in the U.S. — a package of cuts in social programs from education to medical care, combined with a bailout of the country’s banks. The idea was that making such severe cuts would increase confidence and produce growth by assuring investors that Ireland was serious about it’s economic problems.
Ireland’s austerity measures were an “epic fail” on two fronts. The country was rewarded with shrinking economy, and a sharper downturn than if the government had spent more to keep people working. The suffering that austerity measures brought the Irish people sparked a series of public demonstrations in 2008, 2009, and 2010.
But austerity did not inspire confidence nor deliver the growth its proponents promised. Fiscal austerity failed to reassure the markets, and Ireland’s credit rating was lowered. Most recently, the country found itself in need of a bailout from the E.U. to make up for the economic grown not delivered by earlier austerity measures. The size of the bailout keeps growing, but recent reports said that it may amount to €85 billion ($145 billion).
The Irish people were left alone and unled, in a way that laid bare the cost of austerity in Ireland, exacted from the working and middle class taxpayers made to finance the bank bailout.
You'd think the media would report that when the wise 'serious' thinkers confidently state that the only option is to cut and cut and cut some more, that such a program HAS NEVER WORKED.  That wherever it is tried it leads to short term misery for the poor (to pay for the wild unregulated parties of the rich) and long term stagnation for the economy as a whole.

But the mainstream media is marked by an almost unbroken consensus of pro-business neo-liberalism that believes deficits are morally wrong and making people suffer in the name of fiscal probity is morally right.  From the elite point of view, making the public pay for your excesses resulting in a nice big recession that lets them bring the fear of unemployment to the negotiating table and slash away at wages and benefits is the only highlight of an economic downturn.

A challenge:  Find one unalloyed, incontrovertible example of austerity measures doing anything but making the economy worse.  Expect to be looking for a long time.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Exporting Terror

We've all watched fascinated and repelled as America's political right shambled off a cliff in unison.  A political movement captured and overwhelmed by its own lunatic fringe as the 'Foxification' of America's politics bears its bitter fruit.

Hitherto the ignorance, thinly veiled racism, drooling hatred, religious intolerance and quasi-fascist authority worship in service to economic elites has been traits we can only shake our heads at and be glad it doesn't affect us.  But even without a Republican in the White House this is a malevolent influence on the whole world.  Here in Canada, we know there are strong links between America's network of right wing politicians, 'think-tanks', lobbying groups and foundations and our own.  This network of connections is duplicated to a greater or lesser extent in countries all over the world.

And that's just places where they're satisfied with only undermining working within democratic structures.

Exhibit One:  When the legally elected President of Honduras was overthrown by an elite led military coup the whole world condemned it as an illegal abrogation of democracy.  Republican Senator Jim DeMint, extremely influential on the far right wing of the American Republican Party on the other hand, supported the coup.
"The people of Honduras have struggled too long to have their hard-won democracy stolen from them by a Chavez-style dictator. The Honduran Congress, the Honduran Supreme Court, and the Honduran military have acted in accordance to the Honduran constitution and the rule of law."
Now another Republican senator shows his contempt for democracy by throwing his support to a President refusing to leave power after losing an election.
The west African nation of Ivory Coast has been in turmoil ever since incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after losing an internationally certified election in late November. As forces loyal to Gbagbo have killed civilians and been accused of crimes against humanity, and as the number of refugees from the country has ballooned to as many as 1 million, observers have described the situation as worse than the Libyan conflict.
While the crisis has gotten substantial press attention, one aspect of Gbagbo's past -- and present -- has flown under the radar: his longtime ties to the Christian right in the United States, a movement in which he still finds at least some support.
That includes a U.S. senator and acquaintance of Gbagbo who declined to intervene in the crisis when asked by the State Department earlier this year, a former congressman who was hired by Gbagbo as a lobbyist, and a Christian right TV network that ran a fawning profile of Gbagbo, even as violence engulfed Ivory Coast. The senator, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, today released a letter to Hillary Clinton calling for new elections in Ivory Coast, putting him in direct opposition to the view of the Obama administration, the United Nations and the African Union that Gbagbo lost a fair election.
In the case of Gbagbo, apparently long a pet project of the American Christian Right, the fact that his opponent is a Muslim appears to trump the fact that Gbagbo actually lost an election.  Religion and ideology trump democracy.

If Stephen Harper somehow loses this election, will his network of American right wing supporters be calling for the military to step in to keep him in power?    They seem to react badly when their preferred candidates lose power.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Warning to Other Bloggers

If you get a Netflix free trial at the same time your girlfriend finally convinces you to join her in World of Warcraft you nuke your bandwidth caps and eventually discover you haven't blogged in three weeks.

Normal service will resume shortly.  Just have to finish a Mad Men episode and grind out this next quest level....

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