Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm your Boogieman

Happy Halloween from me and White Zombie

The stupid - it burns!

OK that post title has been used before - I think Canadian Cynic resurrects it once a month - but it's really appropriate for this story:
Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.
"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."
Ok, I'm not even an American and I seem to understand their constitution better than the Republican candidate for Vice President. That's authentically horrifying.

A question of experience

Clifford Orwin a well known Straussian and a Neoconservative who doesn't like being called a Neoconservative writes in the Globe and Mail today that Barack Obama will be elected with less experience than any American President in history. He's quite wrong of course, the most glaring example of a candidate with less experience when he was elected is the current occupant of the White House.

But George Bush was Governor of Texas, surely that counts as more experience than Senator Obama's extensive municipal, state and federal experience - not to mention his flawless campaign and impeccable ground game? Well no, the Governorship of Texas is an almost entirely ceremonial position - the real power in the Texas state system is the Lieutenant Governor. The Governor cuts ribbons at mall openings. The only real power Bush held in Texas was clemency for people on death row. He catered to his reactionary base by almost never using it. He even openly mocked the pleas of a woman who killed her abusive spouse and went to the chair on his watch.

Perhaps a believer in the Straussian noble lie just can't stand a politician who has based so much of his campaign on blunt honesty?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My new favorite blogger

Ladies and gentlemen: 82 year old Texan grandmother Helen Philpot:
I will stop calling Sarah Palin a bitch when she stops calling Obama a terrorist sympathizer. And I will stop calling Sarah Palin a bitch when she stops calling the parts of the country where I don’t live more Pro-American than the part of the country where I do live. And I will definitely stop calling Sarah Palin a bitch when she stops acting like a bitch.

Libertarians for Obama

I find the whole 'the financial crisis was caused by too much regulation rather than not enough' argument to be ridiculous on its face and just as risible as the 'Bush doesn't represent true conservatism' deflection but as those who followed the discussion at my other recent post about Libertarians know, Libertarianism contains many alternative perspectives.

Case in point, the majority of contributors to Reason, the US Libertarian flagship, are endorsing Obama.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The killing fields of Calgary's streets

At least 177 homeless people have died -- from poor health in hospitals to violent encounters on city streets -- in the past five years, according to numbers compiled by the Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre.
Officials at the downtown shelter have been compiling the list since 2003, when they decided to keep track of their clients who have passed away.

Almost certainly a low ball figure too, it doesn't include many couch surfers or those who died in hospitals.

As of 2006 there were more than 3000 people living on the streets or in shelters in Calgary. As shelters were overflowing and NIMBYism was keeping new ones from being built, hateful almost eliminationist rhetoric and official policy were being promoted by Calgary's business and political elite. The Calgary Sun referred to homeless people as 'polluted' and the city council was passing laws making being poor illegal. Taking their cue from the official tone, roving bands of thugs were gleefully videotaping themselves abusing the homeless and a Calgary business association launched a huge campaign to try to convince Calgarians not to give change to people begging for help.

Of course the kind of ideological every man (and woman, and child) for themselves attitude exemplified in the right wing politics of Alberta is casual policy sadism that isn't even cost effective. A study in BC proved that pushing people off welfare ends up costing the public many times more than keeping them on the rolls.

Now the homeless are being disenfranchised even more by new electoral ID laws that seem designed to purge the poorest from participating in society.

We can't afford an ideology that is unwilling to even concede there is a problem or that government has any role in its solution anymore. People shouldn't be freezing to death on the streets of the richest city in Canada.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

David Brooks is a Tory

The scary thing is, as David Brooks describes it, his ideal of a socially moderate and economically progressive technocracy party is a major improvement over the bankrupt, resentful mass mania that American conservatism has degenerated into.
It is for using limited but energetic government to enhance social mobility. This tendency began with Alexander Hamilton, who created a vibrant national economy so more people could rise and succeed. It matured with Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War Republicans, who created the Land Grant College Act and the Homestead Act to give people the tools to pursue their ambitions. It continued with Theodore Roosevelt, who busted the trusts to give more Americans a square deal.

Members of this tradition have one foot in the conservatism of Edmund Burke. They understand how little we know or can know and how much we should rely on tradition, prudence and habit. They have an awareness of sin, of the importance of traditional virtues and stable institutions. They understand that we are not free-floating individuals but are embedded in thick social organisms.

But members of this tradition also have a foot in the landscape of America, and share its optimism and its Lincolnian faith in personal transformation. Hamilton didn’t seek wealth for its own sake, but as a way to enhance the country’s greatness and serve the unique cause America represents in the world.

Members of this tradition are Americanized Burkeans, or to put it another way, progressive conservatives.

In practice either the progressiveness or the conservatism get short shrift as Canadians could attest. But note that in Canadian terms, Brooks is describing the kind of red Tory social moderation of a Joe Clark and the macroeconomic industrial ambition of a Liberal, C.D. Howe.

It's probably this or become nothing but a far right regional rump party reduced to ever more symbolic votes in the deep south like Reform languishing in Alberta in the 90's. And isn't it interesting that a major figure in the American conservative movement thinks that their only alternative is towards the Canadian style of conservatism from twenty years ago, before the red neck Calgary School prairie zealots with their wallet photos of Reagan, well thumbed copies of Atlas Shrugged and smug religious certainty replaced it.

A style of American conservatism that is about to deliver the whole movement in the U.S. to a certain fabled ash bin.

I submit that implacable electoral math means that Stephen Harper will soon be engineering another lurch towards the center within the Conservatives. And that his successor for leadership will be someone urban who trumpets moderation as his guiding principal.

Axworthy on Uniting the Left

Lloyd Axworthy makes a serious argument for uniting the left. I've never objected to the kind of issue by issue cooperation Axworthy calls for here, but don't expect the current Liberal Party to take his advice.
First, the opposition parties must begin immediately to have direct conversations about the forthcoming parliamentary session. They must discuss how to combine and co-operate to ensure that Stephen Harper does not take advantage of both a split opposition and an imminent Liberal leadership race to force through measures that reflect his particular ideology, which is clearly very conservative. This de facto parliamentary alliance, while troublesome for partisans, is a must and is clearly mandated by their electors who were asked to vote Liberal, New Democrat, Green or Bloc to stop Mr. Harper. To return to the gamesmanship of the last Parliament would be a repudiation of those election vows.
He even squarely puts the onus where it belongs:

One major question mark in all this will be the Liberal leadership contest, already under way in sub rosa fashion. Will a leader emerge who is willing to take a chance and be ready to embrace, indeed take a lead in forming, a different kind of political constellation? Or will there be a push by that faction of the party that believes a return to right-of-centre politics will offset the present Conservative advantage.

To this death wish, I am reminded of the comment of Keith Davey, renowned Liberal party organizer, who said that Canadians given a choice will always vote for a real Tory, not a pseudo-Tory in Liberal clothing.

He's right about turning right being a dead end for the Liberals too, and some in the party seem to be taking the wrong message from the fall of Dion and contemplating exactly that (Cough... Iggy.). From a purely partisan standpoint if the Liberal Party wants to cede the Left to the NDP we'll happily give a home to the progressives the Liberals turn their back on.

We're not going to team up to abstain on Stephen Harper's whole agenda either.

Monday, October 27, 2008

God hates Republicans

Really, how much clearer does he have to be?
Beleaguered congressional Republicans woke up Tuesday morning thinking they’d gained traction with their focus on offshore oil drilling and hoping that they could pin the “culture of corruption” on Democrats.

By lunchtime, the longest-serving Republican senator in history had been indicted on charges that he hid $250,000 in gifts from an oil company looking for favors.

Can it get any worse for the GOP?

“This is very bad for the party,” a retiring Senate Republican told Politico as news of Ted Stevens’ indictment echoed across Capitol Hill on Tuesday. “The timing on this couldn’t be worse.”

One year ago today, Stevens pleaded with his Republican colleagues to “stay with me” as he rode out a Justice Department investigation and an FBI raid on his Alaska home.

Now, there’s an arrest warrant out for the 84-year-old senator. He’s been stripped of his top committee rankings. His iconic career is crumbling. His hopes for reelection are in serious doubt.
Republicans, God's a tornado and you're a trailer park. Just lie back and think of Reagan and it will be over soon.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A trick so sleazy even a Tory Speaker called his own government on it.

Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason continued to hammer away at the government's malign neglect of children in need this week:

"The government does not care or would have fixed the system years ago, and still the minister refuses to resign," Mason said. Mason noted that dozens of youths in government care are forced to stay in shelters, hostels and motels every night, and questioned why it continues.
"For some Alberta children, the system that was supposed to protect them has become a gulag," he said. Stevens reiterated the government position that Tarchuk, the minister of children and youth services, will not be fired. Tarchuk was in her constituency and didn't attend question period.
Instead, Stevens questioned why the NDP and Liberals have not signed on to confidentiality agreements that would allow them to view the quarterly reports identifying major issues facing children under the government's watch.

Mason fired back that this was a complete lie, and asked for the Speaker to rule on a point of privilege. Speaker Ken Kowalski had to admit that the evidence was clear that the agreements Stevens referred to - were only delivered to the NDP's office during the question period after the Deputy Premier sneered at the opposition for not having signed them yet.
Speaker Ken Kowalski, a Tory MLA, sided with Mason on the issue, noting the confidentiality agreement was received in NDP offices in the middle of question period, after the exchange occurred.

So the government's response to their own flouting of reporting laws, and the horrific state of child welfare in Canada's richest province is to play deceptive little distraction games to score points in the legislature that are so sleazy that even their own Speaker has to take issue with them

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Come to Jesus Meeting

Between lawyers and clients, a Come to Jesus meeting is akin to an intervention. "You aren't going to win. I'll keep taking your money if you like. We can double down and keep fighting if you want, but you've already lost. Accept it."

Among American conservatives Chris Buckley, who was just fired from the magazine his father founded for endorsing Barack Obama, more bluntly refers to a need for a 'Conservatism - What the fuck happened?' meeting.

Some of my readers may be stunned to discover that I actually believe in the need for a rational conservative movement. I don't think they should be setting the agenda, but that's my partisan view. I do think they are a necessary ideological counterpoint and at best an expression of real and valid concerns. There's a difference, of course between the rational tendencies of a Burke or an Oakshott and the fanatical revolutionaries of the movement conservatives - who in their truest expression in George W. Bush and his followers have been reduced to power lust, bile and intellectual stasis.

In Sweden, the left leaning Social Democrat Party lost power in 2006 after a decade of unchallenged supremacy and a rolling series of scandals - sound familiar at all? The right leaning Moderates won - but only barely, they need the support of smaller right wing parties, had to move their whole platform to the left and pledge support for social programs and needed a collapse of support for the Social Democrats to win at all. The political center is now several yards further down the field than it is in the US or even in Canada, but it's still there. The Social Democrats still have the most seats over all and their support has rebounded. The time in the wilderness has strengthened them in terms of policy and probably cleaned out some of the careerists.

Does anybody doubt that the NDP will be back in power again in Saskatchewan sooner or later? Even out of power they have real agenda setting power - Can you think of any other right leaning governments who can't safely oppose crown corporations or a social safety net as extensive as Saskatchewan has? The number of people expressing interest in taking Lorne Calvert's job indicates they expect it to lead to becoming Premier sooner rather than later. The NDP moved the center several yards down the playing field and even in power the right wingers in Saskatchewan are playing defence.

Stephen Harper and the current incarnation of the Canadian Conservative Party are movement conservatives but are handcuffed by the desire to retain power in a socially and economically progressive nation. They can do a lot of sub rosa damage to the social contract and are proud supporters of the neo-liberal project to democracy proof the economy and continue the wealth distribution upwards - but so are the Liberals.

Harper achieved his peak this election and even with the historic collapse of the Liberals that peak was still just a minority. I agree with those who suggest that sometime in the next year or two he will take the opportunity to leave on a high note rather than try again to get the majority that is forever beyond his reach.

Don't be surprised if the Conservative Party returns to its Progressive Conservative roots in its coming transition - if your essential ideology is power you make the adjustments necessary to serve that motivation. The center is further down the field than they would like and all the headwinds in the years to come will be pushing it even further.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The coffin of Libertarianism

Jacob Weisberg nails the lid on:

The best thing you can say about libertarians is that because their views derive from abstract theory, they tend to be highly principled and rigorous in their logic. Those outside of government at places like the Cato Institute and Reason magazine are just as consistent in their opposition to government bailouts as to the kind of regulation that might have prevented one from being necessary. "Let failed banks fail" is the purist line. This approach would deliver a wonderful lesson in personal responsibility, creating thousands of new jobs in the soup-kitchen and food-pantry industries.

The worst thing you can say about libertarians is that they are intellectually immature, frozen in the worldview many of them absorbed from reading Ayn Rand novels in high school. Like other ideologues, libertarians react to the world's failing to conform to their model by asking where the world went wrong. Their heroic view of capitalism makes it difficult for them to accept that markets can be irrational, misunderstand risk, and misallocate resources or that financial systems without vigorous government oversight and the capacity for pragmatic intervention constitute a recipe for disaster. They are bankrupt, and this time, there will be no bailout.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Running the World

Some emphatic NSFW home truths from Jarvis Cocker

McCain is screwed

Really, really screwed, because apparently Obama is even splitting off the bigot vote.

So a canvasser goes to a woman's door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she's planning to vote for. She isn't sure, has to ask her husband who she's voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, "We're votin' for the n***er!"

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: "We're voting for the n***er."

A mindset revealed

The McCain campaign pushed back against a New York Times article about about Cindy McCain's drug use, demanding to know why, among other things they:
...have not employed your investigative assets looking into Michelle Obama. You have not tried to find Barack Obama's drug dealer that he wrote about in his book, Dreams of My Father. Nor have you interviewed his poor relatives in Kenya and determined why Barack Obama has not rescued them. Thus, there is a terrific lack of balance here.
So everything else aside, rescue them from what exactly? Living in Africa? Living in the countryside? Is it the Republican Party's official policy now that subsistence farming is something to be rescued from?

Organizations like the World Bank crow about what they see as one of the big successes of Globalism, the drop worldwide of people living on less than a dollar a day, but as John Ralston Saul points out in The Collapse of Globalism:
After all, people at $3 a day could be living a life of pure despair in a savage slum of Lagos, a life far worse than at $1 a day in a stable slum like Klong Toey in Bangkok, where there is a societal structure.
Or sometimes an even better life of stable subsistence farming without using money at all. Reducing poverty has alternative pathways to just moving everybody into the cities and incorporating them into the existing economic structure at the bottom rung.

Where the votes are

Hey look, the leader of a formerly leftist and now mushy middle and trending rightward party has tacked sharply back to the left - on economic issues no less. And look at the polling numbers: in a matter of just weeks Gordon Brown's Labour Party have doubled their lead over the Conservatives.

Labour has nearly doubled its lead over the Tories on economic competence, according to the latest opinion poll, published on the day in which David Cameron accused Gordon Brown of presiding over a "complete and utter failure" of economic policy.

Cameron used a hard-hitting speech to the City of London to shore up his economic credentials following another week in which Brown received widespread praise for his handling of the banking collapse both in Britain and abroad.

But Cameron's attempt to steal the limelight today was undermined by the findings of a ComRes survey for BBC2's Daily Politics show that showed the Tories trailing by 11 points.

Of the thousand people surveyed, 42% considered Brown and his chancellor, Alistair Darling, the politicians they "trust most to steer Britain's economy through the current downturn".

While Labour went up two points, the Conservative leader and the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, dropped three points to 31%.

So we've been told for years that left wing parties need to get over the left wing part and just concentrate on defending social programs or something else harmless if we really must. But look, here's a nominally leftist party and leader re-discovering some degree of left wing economic principals and experiencing a massive surge in popularity.

Kind of looks like that whole message of grow up and leave the socialism behind was classic concern trolling doesn't it? In fact we have an economic framework to explain the last month considerably more in touch with observable reality and prescriptions for dealing with it considerably more likely to succeed than the Laissez-faire model can offer.

On the issues the majority of the Canadian public as well are consistent believers in such economically left wing ideas as a strong public sector, regulation of the private sector and economic fairness. The NDP should be glad of it's economic platform; the economic transition we are heading for will bring people to it in droves.

Now if Britain's Labour could just get over their infatuation for authoritarian social control...

Friday, October 17, 2008

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

It seems Glenn Beck has a solution for all that ails John McCain: He wants McCain to take off the kid gloves and start calling out Obama and "all of these guys" as Marxists:

He's bringing up these topics in the wrong way. Not as a political strategist or a politician or anything else, just as a guy who says, OK: The problem with all of these guys is they're all Marxists -- they're all Marxists. They're all spread the wealth. So look, I'm not going to tie you to these people any more than they have to, but -- but -- I mean, all the way from Frank Marshall Davis to your Reverend, they all preach Marxism. Now, you say to Joe the Plumber, I'm going to take some of your wealth and give it to somebody else, that's Marxism.

Holy Crap

October 17, 2008 at 9:44 PM EDT QUEBEC — French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave a ringing endorsement of Canadian unity Friday, ushering in a new era in France's relations with Canada that strikes a blow to the Quebec sovereignty movement.

In the first speech ever delivered by a French President in the Quebec National Assembly, Mr. Sarkozy said the days when France was always asked to choose between Canada and Quebec are over.

“We [Quebec and France] are equal partners … and we don't have to exclude anyone. Our relationship is consistent with the place that France occupies in the European Union. You don't ask us to choose Quebec or the European Union. And our relationship is consistent with the friendship that ties France with Canada,” Mr. Sarkozy said.

A number of dignitaries looked on from the gallery, nodding their approval, including Power Corp. of Canada founder Paul Desmarais, a staunch federalist and close friend of the French President.

“What France knows deep within itself is that within the great Canadian people there is the Québécois nation with whom it has fond relations like those that exist between members of the same family,” Mr. Sarkozy stated. “Canadians are our friends and Quebeckers our family. And the French and Québécois people are like two brothers.”

Music Mega-Post

You can only almost exclusively rage about fun subjects like the politics of hate, voter suppression, fear and loathing and the death of truth for so long before you become Ranty Jack McHatey muttering about cleansing rains. This will be my gigantic music post, disregard if you're just looking for more kicking against the pricks.

Albums. The way we buy and listen to music seems to have come full circle back to the single after decades of dominance by the album and single tracks can be a perfectly sized unit of music sometimes. Maybe a future post will feature favorite songs.

But I still love the coherent package that a well constructed album can be, so here's some of my favorites.

Dedicated experimentalists, Radiohead's sound has ranged from the jangly, guitar laden morose indie rawk of their big hit Creep to the challenging Aphex Twin influenced electronica of Kid A but OK Computer is their masterpiece, the Dark Side of the Moon of post punk prog. In the top five of any decent list of the best albums of the 90's. A gorgeously bleak broadside against the bourgeois self satisfaction of Tony Blair's England (A pig, in a cage, on antibiotics) and by extension the whole western world's consumerist soul death emptiness. Sonically austere while being extraordinarily complex musically. If you own or owned this, it probably got heavy rotation in your music listening last decade. I almost wore out my disc and still pull it out periodically. It's on my MP3 player in its entirety. The standout track is probably Paranoid Android, but this album has to be judged and appreciated as a whole.

Narrowing down which Cash album to put in this list is a wrenching decision. Live at Folsom Prison is probably one of the greatest concert albums ever made, closely followed by Live at San Quentin. American IV The Man Comes Around, the last album completed while Johnny was still alive with it's stunningly powerful and enormously successful cover of Nine Inch Nail's Hurt is another masterpiece. But Solitary Man got me back into Cash in a big way, though he had never disappeared from my personal musical pantheon from the time I discovered him in childhood in my Dad's record collection. His cover of U2's One on this album elicits a visceral, physical reaction from me that is hard to describe. It has, on occasion, made me weep and I am not an emotionally demonstrative person.

Josh Davis has never quite managed to escape the dense aural shadow of this, his first full length album. You can tell from his public pronouncements that he veers from pride to resentment at how it has created a fan base that worship it so rabidly that they demand he repeat it endlessly. Check out his other works like Private Press or his collaboration with James Lavelle and Radio Head's Thom Yorke the fascinating UFO concept album UNKLE to see just how deep and wide his musical range really is. But Endtroducing is as dominant a part of his catalogue for a reason. A dense creation made up of literally thousands of layered samples and influences, attempts to pigeonhole it as Ambient or Trip Hop miss the point that it is really an almost completely unclassifiable artifact. Put on the earphones and start nodding. Standout: Midnight in a Perfect World.
When he was invited to the White House, Davis dryly advised a high society lady at dinner who asked him what he'd done to be invited that "I've changed music four or five times. What have you done of any importance other than be white?" Not American Jazz by the way, American music. It was the simple truth. He helped create Hard Bop and cool jazz with Birth of the Cool and Kind of Blue and Round About Midnight are authentic masterpieces of trumpet jazz composition and improvisation. With Bitches Brew he essentially invented Jazz Fusion. It's a controversial album, even among fanatical Miles Davis fans and led to a much maligned musical movement, but if you care about music, this savagely brilliant, confused yet disciplined experiment into turning improvisation into a new kind of composition is essential listening.
Along with Rum, Sodomy and the Lash and Hell's Ditch, this is the genre defining touchstone of the uneasy marriage of Celtic Folk and Punk sensibility. Inspiring bands like The Dropkick Murphys, Canada's The Mahones and one of my favorites Flogging Molly. The Pogues created a drunken, rollicking pirate shanty sound that will endure as long as people want to get blitzed and howl Erin Go Bragh until they start weeping into their beer - whether they're Irish or just wish they were. Standouts: Turkish Song of the Damned, Fairy Tale of New York (My personal favorite depressing Christmas song) Bottle of Smoke and Lullaby of London.
If it's atmosphere you value in your music you can't go wrong with Tom Waits, whether its the smoky 3 AM jazz troubadour period of Small Change, Closing Time and The Heart of Saturday Night, the brawling bluesy shouters leavened with sly humor like Rain Dogs and Big Time or the clanging gothic carnival industrial nightmares of The Black Rider soundtrack and my personal favorite Bone Machine. Murder ballads, freak show curiosities, tubercular growling laments from lovable losers and darkly disturbing spoken word creepiness. This one has it all. Standouts: In the Coliseum, Murder in the Red Barn, Going out West, I Don't Want to Grow Up - hell, just the whole album really.
The California college dorm that gave birth to the Bay Area Hip Hop collective originally known as Solesides and later as Quannum must have been one happening place. We're talking DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Lateef the Truth Speaker and of course Tom Shimura AKA Asia Born AKA Lyrics Born. He's amazing live, and with a multitude of guest appearances and side projects he pumps out genre defying funkified Hip Hop tracks at a dizzying clip featuring smart growling raps that shake your mind as much as his beats shake your ass. Deserves more renown than he gets. My favorite song by this, my favorite rapper is I Changed my Mind the ultimate kiss-off song, and is actually on this albums remixed sister album Same !@#$, Different Day as well as his label's mix album Quannum Spectrum. Just buy them all.
This disc and The Animal Years run neck and neck for the pole position as my favorite album by this fascinating singer/song writer. This guy is where folky jukebox musical story-telling is happening now. An artist who constantly rewards repeated listening and another one who should be much more popular and well know than he is. In a different era he'd be the Bruce Springsteen/Bob Dylan of his generation. If you've already heard him than you already know that. Standouts: Wings is the song that got me into him, Snow is Gone and The Bad Actress are great too.
The story of Vancouver's hometown boys DOA is the story of west coast Punk and this short, savage barrage against Reaganism's march into the 80's was the soundtrack to my youth. I still have it on vinyl at 45 RPM. Joey Shithead and the boys have gotten older but they didn't do it gracefully. Check out their Latest disc Northern Avenger and Joey's autobiography I, Shithead. Standouts: War, Liar For Hire and I Hate You.
Producer Dan the Automator and rapper Kool Keith created a sonically dense, lyrically filthy concept rap oddity here. Call it voodoo space rap. Check out the Automator's conceptual sequel with Del tha Funky Homo-sapien Deltron 3030 and Kool Keith's solo Sci Fi hip hop craziness Black Elvis/Lost in Space.
From I was Walking through the Woods to Sweet Tea his catalog is all great Chicago Guitar Blues at it's finest, but this disc demonstrates why artists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan sat at his feet. He can make his guitar weep or rage and he's amazing live. Standout: The title track.
I could keep going, winnowing down the selections was surprisingly painful, but these have been some of my favorites.
I've had an MP3 player for a couple of years, a cute little generic one barely more than a one gig flash drive with an earphone plug and an SD Card expansion slot that my girlfriend got for me. I remain fond of it's DRM free interface (Open folder. Drop songs into folder. Done.) But now I'm making a bit more money and so I picked up an 80 Gig Zune. Spare me the anti-Microsoft rants. I dislike the iTunes software intensely and so does my computer, the Zune interface is cleaner and simpler and the player itself is a minimalist masterpiece. I adore the almost Soviet era brutalism of it's brick-like design. I like being able to listen to music (mp3s, podcasts and an excellent FM tuner that no other player offers.) it's data capacity (20,000 songs or 250 hours of video - and they've got a 100 gig one now.) and even it's basic gaming function has saved me from boredom on long trips.
And now I've developed an addiction to podcasts. Here are my favorites.

Easily one of the most entertaining. Host Brian Ibbott produces regular editions featuring entertainingly odd covers like lounge versions of Motorhead and reggae Radiohead covers. They recently had their 500th episode so my girlfriend donated to get the giant DVD music collection of all the first 500 episodes and we both eagerly queue up every new episode as they download.
Satisfying my fondness for down tempo electronica, trip hop and acid jazz. Great stuff.
We almost gave up on this one as every time our systems tried to download it we'd just get a short message in a plummy British accent advising us that they'd exceeded their bandwidth for the month and to please send money. They seem to have increased their capacity or my timing has been better. I got the last two 'casts and they kick ass. It's a long program from a radio station in San Antonio Texas and offers a raucous mix of blues, surf guitar, R&B, indie rawk and unclassifiable oddness. Great music picked by people with great taste.

Excellent way to hear new Canadian indie music. Ranges from short sets of a two or three songs to extra long coverage of the Polaris Music awards.
There are also some great news, culture and commentary pods out there, but that's a whole other post altogether.

God Save Capitalism

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Organize against Voter Suppression

So I proposed that someone - not me as I'm all thumbs with Facebook - should create a group much like Michael Geist's Fair Copyright group to oppose Canada's restrictive new Voter ID laws. Such a group should also promote awareness of its requirements and even provide a kernel of a Canadian ID drive much like the voter registration drives progressives do in the US - Anything that pisses off right wingers as much as those American programs do has to have some value.

So I mentioned this idea in multiple places and Casey from the enMasse forums took me up on it.

Here's his just started group Stop Voter ID required Law, Stop Voter Suppression

I encourage those concerned about this issue to join - maybe even start more groups as well. Let's see if we can make this snowball folks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Voter ID means Voter Suppression

The lowest voter turnout in Canadian history coincides with the first election with stringent new voter ID rules. You are encouraged not to draw any obvious conclusions.

At my polling station I handed over my voter card I got in the mail and was asked to say my name out loud. I wasn't asked for more ID until I incredulously offered it. It seems like the rules were very inconsistent from poll to poll though.

Rick Salay's 21-year-old son and 25-year-old daughter both tried to vote in Toronto yesterday using their voter identification cards and passports. Mr. Salay said his children were told that wasn't enough. His son managed to find a piece of mail with his address, and could vote; his daughter did not, and couldn't vote.
"It just seems ludicrous to me that with those two pieces of ID [voter registration card and passport], it's still not enough," Mr. Salay said.
"A passport is good enough to get them out of the country."

Several senior citizens in Saskatoon were turned awayand turned off Tuesday after they didn't have proper identification to vote in the federal election.
"I'm very, very angry -- pissed off -- especially when I made an effort to come when I can barely walk anymore," said Phyllis Harms after she left the polling station at Bedford Road Collegiate.
Harms and her daughter, Marina Hopkins, were flabbergasted when told Harms couldn't vote because the identification she brought -- her health and social insurance cards -- didn't include Harms' address. A clerk at the poll suggested Harms use her driver's licence.
"Obviously she doesn't drive. She's legally blind," said Hopkins.
The clerk then suggested they return to Harms' home to find an approved piece of ID such as a telephone bill. That wasn't an option for the 78-year-old whose son looks after the finances and pays bills online.
Across town, in Saskatoon's downtown, several senior citizens experienced the same frustration. A special polling station was set up Tuesday afternoon for residents of The Palisades. The only problem was many don't have identification with their address. John South and his wife Doreen moved to The Palisades about six weeks ago.
"You feel pretty degraded. You feel pretty small," said John South, who is 79 years old.
"I was a little hot under the collar," recalled South of his encounter with Elections Canada officials.
The Souths returned to their apartment and eventually found a document with their new address.
"We have very few things left in this country that is sacred and voting is one of them," said South.
"I'm tired and I'm old, but I'm not going to back away from something like this."
Several other residents in the complex, including more than 20 residents in The Palisades' intermediate care unit, were refused their right to vote. The administrators had hoped their documents would be sufficient to prove these people did indeed live at The Palisades.

In Calgary-Centre, a homeless man said he was denied his right to vote because he does not stay at a shelter or visit soup kitchens.
Lawrence Oshanek said because he uses a commercial address to receive personal mail, does not stay at shelters and does not have someone who can swear they know him, he was turned down at the polling station.
"I'm a non-person," he said.
Under Elections Canada rules, homeless voters need to have proof of identity or can register on election day as long as another person from that electoral district -- who can prove their identity -- can vouch for them.

So an absurd over-reaction to the non-existent problem of voter fraud has helped contribute to the very real problem of low voter turnout - particularly among young people, seniors and the homeless.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that's by accident.

UPDATE: This post struck a nerve and got a lot of comments, hits and links since I posted it this morning. Over at POGGE's place I made this proposal:

You know Michael Geist's Facebook group Fair Copyright for Canada has something like 100,000 members now I think, and has been part of a very effective campaign to advocate for fair copyright and petition against the Canadian version of the DMCA.

It occurs to me that this could be a very effective model to educate and advocate about this issue - petition to repeal these regulations, educate people about what their rights are and network ID drive efforts.

I confess my Facebook Kung Fu is shamefully weak - anybody want to start a Voters Rights for Canadians group? Let us all know if you do so we can all promote and contribute.


Ask and ye shall receive

It doesn't have to be the only one of course.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Alberta Blues - with one splash of Orange!

As of 11:20 PM MST in Edmonton Strathcona with 222 out of 223 polls reporting, Elections Canada shows Linda Duncan with a lead of 459 votes. Unless that lone, last poll was to break overwhelmingly for Rahim Jaffer it seems fairly decisive whether CBC wants to admit it or not.

Congratulations Linda!

UPDATE 11:45 PM MST: Why does Ian Hanomansing keep announcing a Tory sweep of Alberta - by wide margins no less! Has he drunk the kool-aid at Tory headquarters tonight? Is nobody telling him Elections Canada is reporting something different?

UPDATE 6 AM MST: The final poll came in after I went to bed:

Linda Duncan - 20,076 and Rahim Jaffer - 19,634

I guess a 442 vote win might be subject to a recount but it seems pretty durable. The big blue wave is not a clean sweep in Alberta - remember that the next time you are tempted to think we're one big reactionary monolith.

FINAL UPDATE: And more good news: Apparently a certain self aggrandizing hyper partisan Liberal blogger is taking his ball and going home.

If true, good.

I'm not saying there would have been no sniping between NDP and Liberal bloggers without him, but his slimy smears and contemptible lies poisoned the atmosphere to a degree it wouldn't have been. I can't pretend to be gracious to someone who engages in casual libel, trying to destroy the reputation of decent engaged people for partisan purposes and to stroke his own ego as 'a 'player' who gets to go on TV and everything!'

Don't change your mind and don't let the door of the internets hit your ass on the way out.

Shock the Monkey

The current economic crisis may be about to lead to some of Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine - only this time it could be the free market ideologues at the end of the electrodes.

One eminent economist widely credited with accurately anticipating the economic meltdown, New York University's Nouriel Roubini (AKA 'PermaBear' and 'Dr. Doom'), now argues that there will need to be massive government-funded public works and social welfare expenditure programs to revive the economy, actions which would have substantial political implications:

The federal government should have a plan to immediately spend on infrastructure and new green technologies; also unemployment benefits should be sharply increased, together with targeted tax rebates only for lower income households at risk; and federal block grants should be given to state and local government to boost their infrastructure spending (roads, sewer systems, etc.). If the private sector does not spend and/or cannot spend, old-fashioned traditional Keynesian spending by the government is necessary. It is true that we already have large and growing budget deficits; but $300 billion of public works is more effective and productive than spending $700 billion to buy toxic assets.....The financial and economic conditions are extreme; thus extreme policy action is needed now to save the global economy from that very ugly prospect.
Bill Kristol once privately told his fellow Republicans that the biggest risk of public healthcare wasn't that it wouldn't work, but that it would, and by providing effective universal health care the Democratic party would gain the kind of durable semi-permanent realignment that the GOP was trying to engineer for themselves. With the kind of control over the legislature Americans seem poised to give him and a demoralized opposition Barack Obama has a chance to prove him right.

Here in Canada we should be hammering away at the reeling proponents of deep integration; Harper has made a big deal the last few weeks about how insulated Canada is from the crisis engulfing the Americans - but remember the Conservatives and the Liberals have been engaged in a long term project to strip away all that insulation. Now's the time to draw the connections and keep the pressure on. The blogger who's my primary resource for deep integration news and analysis is Creekside - I suggest you read her if you aren't already.

And from now on the next time somebody blurbles on about how great deregulation is and how we should just get out of the way of the genius of he market and let the private sector control every aspect of our lives remind them that was the thinking behind what has happened the last few weeks.

It's time, at long last, to put a fork in the Reagan revolution.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Well deserved

Paul Krugman, who has been ringing the alarm for the last several years about how basing an entire economy on everyone borrowing money from the Chinese to sell houses to each other might not be a great plan, has just won the Nobel prize for economics.

For a dark little chuckle, here's a right wing rodeo clown in 2005 mocking him for his transparently silly concerns about the housing bubble popping, which clearly are just a symptom of his irrational hatred of Bush.

The wheel turns...

UPDATE Oct 20: Those unethical douches at Powerline are literally moving the article around to frustrate those inking to an example of them humiliatingly being wrong about something. Here's the new location. Let's see how long it lasts there. The next step will be for them to slip it down the memory hole altogether.

Take some responsibility for Christ's sake!

So the predictable wails and gnashing of teeth are coming from the predictable spots in the Liberal blogosphere; their impending electoral spanking is once again all the NDP's fault you see.

It's the NDP's fault that Liberals have alienated progressive Canadians through constant betrayal, the NDP's fault that the Liberals have an uninspiring leader, a platform that hasn't clicked with the public and a record of malfeasance that has eliminated their base in Quebec.

But of course all of that's really the NDP's fault and we should all be very ashamed.

Complaining that the party that does oppose the government is sustaining them is just insulting. You asked the Canadian people if they were going to believe you or our lying eyes - and you're going to get your answer tomorrow.

Here's some free advice, which I don't mind giving because Liberals are so unlikely to take it. Tomorrow night, when the results are in and we discover we have much the same parliament we started this campaign with, Stephane Dion should go on TV and say that Stephen Harper can't expect the feeble acquiescence of the last almost three years to continue; That the Liberal party won't sustain Harper through another 43 confidence votes while feebly complaining about how radical he is.

Dion should announce that if Harper wants to make every grotesque piece of legislation he brings forward a confidence vote than he should be prepared to go right back to the polls, in a new economic environment that will continue to eat into his support long after this campaign is over. Dion should announce that his candidates will stay in place and his party will be ready to fight this fight again - immediately if necessary.

Yes I know the Liberals are massively in debt, but that's because you don't inspire the kind of donations that the Tories and NDP do - think about that, think about why.

And because I will probably get multiple comments asking this, sure I'd prefer a Liberal minority with a Conservative opposition to a Conservative minority with a Liberal opposition. But those are not our only options.

Increasing numbers of Canadians are seeing that and Liberals, that's nobody's fault but your own.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Last Hundred Days

As of midnight tonight George W. Bush has only 100 days left in The White House.

He destroyed his country's standing in the world, destroyed his country's economy, very probably destroyed his party and tried very hard to destroy the legal protections and traditions of the American constitution. He will be remembered in history books alongside Nixon and Hoover for a record of incompetence, corruption and belligerence that the world can only hope we will never see the like of again.

We can only hope that Bush and his glowering, sneering consigliari Vice President Cheney will not attempt to roll the dice and redeem their vicious worldview with an all out attack on Iran before being evicted from the White House.

These aren't just supporters of bad ideas and bad policies, these are bad people and the world will be repairing the damage they've done for years to come.

Let them huddle in their bunker under the rubble as their long night approaches. When they're gone may we never see their faces again unless its from the dock.

America: Learn from this, learn from the drooling hatred and loathing we're seeing now in the crowds at McCain and Palin's Nuremberg style rallies. Banish these inclinations from your system and rejoin the wider world.

We're waiting for you.

Blogroll goes down the bog

As most have you have probably noticed, your blogroll has been gone since yesterday. appears to have been hacked. Now down altogether, the site was briefly replaced with a page of Islamic slogans which has brought out the predictable drooling hatred from some quarters of the blogosphere, hysterically blaming Islamic Jihad or some other terrorist group. It's more likely some bored teenager in his parent's basement hugging himself with joy over the fuss he's caused.

Assuming their databases are intact when blogroll is back up again I will be doing what I should have in the first place and making a back up of my blog links so that I can replace the roll with hardcoded hyperlinks if this happens again. I respectfully suggest my fellow bloggers do the same.

UPDATE: Back and intact

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The RCMP VS Insite

Just a little reality check clarification: The scandal isn't that the RCMP paid for research, it's that they paid for a specific conclusion.
VANCOUVER — Newly released e-mails show the RCMP tried to discredit Vancouver's supervised-injection clinic and are part of a pattern of interference in science by the federal government, a renowned AIDS researcher says.

“Now we have documentation of what we sort of knew,” said Julio Montaner, the director of B.C.'s Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, referring to RCMP e-mails released this week by Vancouver's Pivot Legal Society.

One refers to the “Centre for Excrements” and another, in relation to an RCMP-commissioned report on Insite, notes that “as per our request, the report has no reference to the RCMP.”

That 2007 report by Colin Mangham concluded that Insite-related research was skewed and that the clinic was having little or no effect on drug-overdose deaths or public disorder.

Detractors have slammed Dr. Mangham's report as an opinion piece and noted his role as director with the Drug Prevention Network of Canada, which takes a hard line against use of illegal drugs.

Shorter Canadian Banks: 'Thanks for the gift and no, we won't be passing it on to our customers.'

The Bank of Canada slashed its key lending rate to 2.5 per cent Wednesday, one of many central banks making the move around the world. However, Canadian banks only cut their rate by a quarter of a point.
It is the first time in 10 years they did not mirror the Bank of Canada's cuts.


What a difference an economic collapse can make. In the States, a likely slim win for Barack Obama now seems to be trending towards a landslide. In Canada a romp for Stephen Harper that briefly seemed like it might even give him a majority has morphed into a different beast altogether.

Pollsters agree, a majority is now out of Harper's reach. We will come out of this hugely expensive and deeply cynical process with much the same parliament we went into it with. Liberal fantasies of a complete reversal aside, a minority win is still, and will continue to be out of Dion's reach.
But the news they had for the Liberals wasn't full of unalloyed goodness. The party, they said, has wrung just about every vote-switch it can get out of the Conservatives and must now start big-time poaching NDP and Green supporters if it hopes to make significant gains.
However the kind of last minute poaching of soft NDP support that Liberals have counted on in so many elections is dependant on being able to scare people with a Harper majority. It is now common knowledge that such a result is not going to happen. The economic storms now engulfing the world and Harper's icy, clueless reaction (it's a good time to shop for bargains in the stock market!) have saved Dion from his own gormlessness but they've also taken away any basis for a fear-mongering fishing expedition for NDP votes.

On Tuesday progressive Canadians have a golden and rare opportunity to take their ideals into the polling booth without fear and vote for the party that's actually been standing up to Harper instead of the party that spent the last few years enabling him.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

'My Fellow Prisoners'?

Most revealing Freudian slip ever?
In most political speeches, the common refrain is "my fellow citizens". John McCain just referred to the country as "my fellow prisoners."
"Across this country, this is the agenda I have set before my fellow prisoners and the same standards of clarity and candor must now be applied to my opponent."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Wait times and The Fraser Institute

Wait times for healthcare have dropped dramatically, so dramatically that even the Fraser Institute has to admit it, albeit with sulky bad grace.

They don't want to talk about how wait times have been reduced through innovations within the public system or the underfunding and medical school enrollment suppression that created the wait times in the first place, and they still push for greater private sector involvement despite the extensive evidence showing it would increase wait times rather than reducing them (PDF).

The biggest laughs in their rather pissy press release come from the last paragraph:
The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization with locations across North America and partnerships in more than 70 countries. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research.
So no government funding, but massive corporate funding now, that's a whole other kettle of fish. They solicited and took massive wads of cash from big tobacco, and then fought tooth and nail against anti-smoking legislation. Massive donations from Exxon help pay for a long history of global warming denial. They get huge contributions from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries and surprise surprise they oppose publicly run healthcare. Oh and a lot of money from this charmer.

This isn't the resume of a think tank, but that of a well paid PR firm acting on behalf of their paying clients.

UPDATE: Hey look, the more healthcare privatization in your area the longer you have to wait for care:
The health coalition also noticed that wait times appear higher in areas with the most privatization as health-care workers stretch their time between hospital and private clinic. For instance, Montreal is one of the hardest spots to get a family doctor, yet has quite a few private "boutique" clinics selling two-tier care for wealthy executives and companies, the report notes. The vast majority of people can't afford to pay the private clinics' prices so they wait longer to see a doctor.
"For-profit clinics siphon out scarce specialists' time and (schedule) medically unnecessary procedures," Mehra said.
Queue-jumpers who can afford to pay at private clinics do so, and that means people in the public system wait longer, she added. In Ontario and Manitoba, Mehra said, they found local hospitals have reduced MRI hours because technologists have gone to for-profit clinics.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Pollster's bad news for McCain

Any bets on McCain melting down completely at the debate tomorrow night?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday Linkblast - October 5

The Jackal by Ronny Jordan
You might remember this slick piece of acid jazz sexiness from The West Wing

Friday, October 03, 2008

Stevie and the Base

Steven Chase in the Globe today has a big article all about how Harper fully realizes that his base is only about 30% and his plan to shift the Canadian public rightward will have to be incremental.

Of course that doesn't explain how Harper thought he could get away with slashing arts funding and talking about throwing 14 year old children in prison with violent adult prisoners making them, as Duceppe so memorably put it, fresh meat for the perversions of older convicts. These are positions that may have excited the primitive emotions of the rednecks (I live in Alberta, I know whereof I speak.) but in Quebec particularly, are likely to end any hope Harper may have had of a majority this election.

Last year a British Tory had some advice for American Republicans already facing support that was bottoming out:
You have to be very honest with yourself about what voters think. It may not be the same as what you think. Confusing these two things is very easy. Untangling them is vital.
Despite their claims to the contrary, Harper and the Conservatives really do overestimate the support their reactionary program has. That overestimation has cost them 10 to 20 potential seats minimum in Quebec this election and any lingering hope of a majority, and with the American voters seemingly about to put a capstone on the Reagan revolution the trend here in Canada is also likely to be leftward rather than towards Harper's base.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Gaming the system

Despite poll numbers that are dropping off a cliff with little time to make any game changing comeback - historically October is no time to make up the kind of deficit the McCain campaign now has - Republicans may be quietly sanguine about their chances.

For the very good reason that they aren't leaving the results to chance.
Although exact figures are difficult to obtain, the report notes that one election official in Mississippi was recently found to have purged 10,000 voters "from her home computer." Another 21,000 voters have been purged in Louisiana. Increasing the concerns, another study cited by CBS has found that "nineteen states are ignoring a federal law banning systematic purges within 90 days of a federal election."Blogger Brad Friedman comments, "So CBS News has noticed. Where the hell are the Democrats, and why aren't they raising holy hell about all of this stuff everywhere. ... In the meantime, the Republicans are out with phony 'reports' and lawsuits damned near every day --- and not just on Fox 'News' --- declaring 'evidence' of completely non-existant 'voter fraud' by "Democrats". Yet, in the meantime, the Dems continue to bring a knife to a gunfight, and, as we've noted many times of late ... seem to have no clue that they are in a War on Democracy being waged by their GOP opponenents."

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bring back Jim Crow?

The new American right wing explanation for the financial collapse? Don't blame Wall Street greedheads or conservative Republican lawmakers intent on reversing all the regulatory protections brought in after the Great Depression to try to keep it from happening again.

No, the real problem is that thirty years ago Jimmy Carter forced banks to loan money to a bunch of shiftless darkies.

You only wish I was kidding.

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