Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preston Manning writes bad Science Fiction

It's 2018 and Canada has answered the call of the professional right wing's fondest wet dreams on healthcare:
It is December, 2018, and at long last Canadian health care has been reformed. Long waiting lines are a thing of the past. Universal coverage has been maintained and expanded. The numbers of doctors and treatment facilities available to serve Canadians has been significantly increased. Health care for the vast majority of Canadians has dramatically improved and at lower cost per capita.
How did they get to this heaven on Earth in Canada's green and pleasant land?  Let Preston guide you along through a future where Wikileaks exposes all the Canadian politicians and opinion makers who condemn private medicine but fly out of the country to use it when its their own health on the line.  On balance, trying to enlist Wikileaks in the cause of Canadian right wing politics is probably better than calling for the murder of it's founder like Manning's fellow Calgary school right wing insider Tom Flanagan - but also far less likely than some right wing western government actually following through on such threats and murdering Julian Assange the way Flanagan wants.

Then there's the finishing blow, after Manning conflates real and imagined courtroom victories against the public system and creates this condescending  final flight of fancy:
 Meanwhile, back in Ottawa, the Standing Committee on Health had invited Dr. Lars Aalborg, Nobel Prize-winner and a world-renowned expert on queuing theory, to propose means of reducing Canada’s health-care waiting lines. Dr. Aalborg said he would do so only on the condition that members of the House of Commons agreed to participate in a scientific experiment. Being near Christmas, the members were in a charitable mood and consented to this unusual request. When Dr. Aalborg arrived he closed all the doors to the House of Commons except one and then asked all 308 members to form a line outside that door. He then asked the members to enter the chamber through that door, one by one, while he timed the process. Approximately one hour and 15 minutes later, all the members had entered the chamber. Dr. Aalborg then opened two more doors to the chamber and divided the members into three uneven lines, one outside each door. Once again the members were instructed to enter while Dr. Aalborg timed the process. This time it took less than 45 minutes for all members to enter the chamber.

Leading members of the Liberal and NDP caucuses – those who could count, tell time, or both –  (This presumably is an example of the classy, gracious civility in politics that Preston Manning claims to support - Cliff ) immediately explained the meaning of the experiment to their bewildered brethren. By establishing three open doors to its health-care system – a public care door, a private not-for-profit door, and a private for-profit door – and with government responsible to ensure that the care available through each met acceptable standards, Quebec ensured that the average waiting time for getting into the health-care system and receiving quality care would be significantly lower than if everyone was forced to wait in a long line behind a single door.
Is it rude to point out the fairly glaring logical fallacy inherent in his snotty little fairytale, that whether entering the room through three doors or one there's still only one pool of doctors, nurses and hospital beds in the room serving all three doors?

In Australia and Sweden, the concrete evidence was that the two tier system created a 'perverse incentive' for doctors to cherry pick the easiest most lucrative patients into the profit door's line, while the more expensive and less lucrative public door's line got longer and longer because those who could afford to pay their way in front of them funneled through the profit door.

Of course to market ideologues like Manning, an inequity like this result isn't a bug in his preferred system it's a feature.

Adapted and expanded from a comment I made on Buckdog's quick out of the gate response to Preston's dribbling.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Like a dog returning to...

Ignatieff returns to the classic Liberal fear-mongering.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says that if an election is called in the coming months, his party is the only true alternative to the Conservatives.

In an interview with CTV's Question Period, Ignatieff says that a vote for Jack Layton's NDP or Gilles Duceppes' Bloc Quebecois is essentially a vote for another Conservative government.

"What I'm saying is, it's time for Canadians to make a choice between two governing parties," Ignatieff said.
They keep telling us we have no choice, that the two neoliberal parties that have been running the country in unofficial coalition the last few years are our only options, and then they wonder why there is so much disenchantment with politics as usual.

But there are alternatives and an increasing number of Canadians know it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Witch-Hunt Exposed

Hundreds of thousands of dollars spent, privacy rights trampled, harassment by private investigators and a good man driven to his grave.  Now clearly shown to have been nothing but a vindictive witch-hunt, a clearly political attack by a government with an 'Israel right or wrong' obsession on an arms length agency.
A closed-door parliamentary hearing has been cancelled before MPs got a chance to hear senior board members of Rights and Democracy explain why they spent $400,000 trying to discredit the now-deceased former head of the federally funded agency. Gérard Latulippe, president of Rights and Democracy, laughs as prepares to start his testimony before the Commons foreign affairs committee on April 15. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)After months of ignoring promises to release the findings of a commissioned audit, the Montreal-based organization that promotes human rights has finally handed over the report to the Commons foreign affairs committee.
The agency's new president, Gérard Latulippe, and its chair, Aurel Braun, were to appear before MPs on the committee in an in camera session later Thursday. But the hearing was cancelled because the House of Commons is adjourning for its holiday break at 3 p.m. ET.
A spokesman for Latulippe said the president would not comment on the contents of the report or any in-camera discussions with MPs "as it would be inappropriate to do so."
But the spokesman said Latulippe would recommend to the committee that a redacted version of the report be made public "in the days following the hearing." MPs on the committee are sworn to secrecy about the report's contents, but NDP MP Paul Dewar, who has examined the findings, said there's "nothing there."
"In fact, they went on a witch hunt," Dewar told reporters. "They found nothing."
Nobody in the blogosphere has followed this whole sorry story more closely than Dawg's Blog.  I strongly recommend checking out his posts on the subject.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A life dedicated to attacking the idea of the public good.

Rick Scott, the sleazy gangster who ran a private medical corporation that defrauded the US government out of billions, teamed up with Vancouver private clinic entrepreneur Doctor Brian Day to try to save Americans from public healthcare, who made the rest of his fortune selling surveillance technology to dictatorships around the world including Iran and is now governor of Florida sets his sights on destroying public education - or at least making it a lot easier to rip off.
Conservatives have been plotting for years to blow up the public school system. Now, Florida's incoming governor Rick Scott is poised to light the fuse.
During his campaign, Scott pledged to overhaul the state's schools while simultaneously reducing school property taxes by $1.4 billion. How to accomplish both? Privatization, of course. His plan, which promotes online schooling along with other educational options, may actually pave the way for the elimination of such pesky budget busters as buses, cafeterias, teachers, and, well, school facilities themselves.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Only accused of rape, but guilty of embarrassing powerful men

Naomi Wolf points out that Julian Assange is the only man on Earth accused of rape being pursued, arrested and held in custody with this kind of fervor.
But for all the tens of thousands of women who have been kidnapped and raped, raped at gunpoint, gang-raped, raped with sharp objects, beaten and raped, raped as children, raped by acquaintances -- who are still awaiting the least whisper of justice -- the highly unusual reaction of Sweden and Britain to this situation is a slap in the face.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Police Brutality

DOA were the soundtrack of my youth. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Call to Arms

A 15 year old British kid protesting massive tuition increases putting education out of reach for all but the elite says you can forget any ideas about a post-ideological generation.

Know hope.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Media Right finds its line in the sand

You know,  credit where credit is due: the conservative Canadian media has been surprisingly anti-police brutality of late. 

Sure there are absurd and hateful exceptions and it's been the more left leaning Toronto Star that has really pursued the G20 police riots. But the National Post recently complimented the Star's coverage and said they had changed their minds about the behavior of the police at the G20 and it's been the Ottawa Citizen, which no one will ever mistake for a left of center paper, that really spear-headed the Stacy Bonds case.

Even the Sun chain has broken out of the slavish blue line worship and thrown some elbows at the police.  Sure Christie Blatchford in the Globe and Mail can't bring herself to ever criticize police for anything but not busting more heads than they are, but who really cares any more?

Maybe the fact that a lot of journalists saw first hand what was happening on the streets during the G20 themselves is part of it, maybe they're finally actually applying the libertarian world view to something other than fiscal conservatism for a change.

I criticize the media in Canada for being out of step with the largely left of center consensus of the Canadian people, being slavishly supportive and unquestioning about the basic assumptions of neo-liberalism and actively suppressing opposing points of view.  When they start actually dong something right, attention should be paid and positive reinforcement promoted.

I'm interested, has anybody else has been struck by the same thing?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Strange Case against Julian Assange

Julian Assange is in jail in UK facing deportation to Sweden on charges of rape.  Many people, otherwise sympathetic to Assange and Wikileaks find this troubling and understandably so.

But the details are even more troubling.

Assange is accused of rape by deceit.  Violence and coercion are not alleged, just that by sleeping with one woman only a few days after sleeping with another he was committing deceit, and therefore a sex crime.  Yes, really.  Some reports state that he has two accusers, in fact there is only one as the second accuser withdrew her initial accusation - seemingly because she began to get the impression she was being used.

Which brings us to the now sole accuser - normally it would be appalling to even consider discussing her, in this case an even more appalling injustice may arise from not examining her background.
Swedish bloggers uncovered the full story in a few hours. The complaint was lodged by a radical feminist Anna Ardin, 30, a one-time intern in the Swedish Foreign Service. She’s spokeswoman for Broderskapsrörelsen, the liberation theology-like Christian organization affiliated with Sweden's Social Democratic Party. She had invited Julian Assange to a crayfish party, and they had enjoyed some quality time together. When Ardin discovered that Julian shared a similar experience with a 20-year-old woman a day or two later, she obtained the younger woman’s cooperation in declaring before the police that changing partners in so rapid a manner constituted a sort of deceit. And deceit is a sort of rape. The prosecutor immediately issued an arrest warrant, and the press was duly notified. Once the facts were examined in the cold light of day, the charge of rape seemed ludicrous and was immediately dropped. In the meantime the younger woman, perhaps realizing how she had been used, withdrew her report, leaving the vengeful Anna Ardin standing alone.

However, before we absolve the Swedish police as unwitting, if zealous, dupes, please note that Swedish law strictly forbids police and prosecutors to release to the media the details of any rape-connected complaint. The Expressen had all the details of the case, including the names of the accused and the complainant, within a matter of minutes. Please note further that the right-wing tabloid Expressen belongs to the Bonnier family, the biggest media owners in Sweden, who are not only pro-American but very much pro-Israel, too. As you know, the pro-Israeli lobby is warmly supportive of America’s Middle Eastern wars, while Assange and his WikiLeaks have the potential to undermine America’s weakening support for the war.
(Note Dec 8:  I will agree with Olberman in re: the above quote: "If the author of that article is a holocaust denier, I repudiate him and what he wrote, and apologize for retweeting the link."  There are enough reasons to be suspicious and critical of the Swedish prosecutions without the reinforcement of this one article.)

Then there's the disturbing reports that Ardin published a revenge how to guide on her blog in January, around the time of the alleged incident, specifically...:
...describing how to commit a complete character assassination to legally destroy a person who “should be punished for what he did”. If the offence was of a sexual nature, the revenge also must also be sex-related, she wrote.
All of this is disturbing enough, when you factor in her links to government and military including NATO otherwise rational cynical people might be reaching for a tinfoil hat.

The details of the accusation, the timing, the way Swedish confidentiality laws were almost instantly broken and a conservative western leaning news outlet was trumpeting them immediately and the highly disturbing writings of the accuser make the whole case against Assange deeply suspect.

UPDATE: Naomi Wolfe, who no one will ever accuse of being a pawn of the patriarchy pours scorn on the Interpol 'Dating police' - hat tip Le Daro

UPDATE 2: 'Sex by Surprise'  No allegations of force, one woman unhappy that a condom broke, another that he seemed to pay more attention to his computer than her on the trip to her apartment.  If EVERYTHING that can be legitimately verified to be part of the complaints actually happened -  he comes off as a bit of a jerk and a bit of a horndog - but by no stretch of the imagination a rapist.

Final Update, couldn't put it better myself category:

Monday, December 06, 2010

Kiss of Death

The media do the Conservative Party the great dis-service of reporting that they are in striking distance of a majority. 
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are headed toward a majority government without the help of Quebec, a new national poll suggests.

The Nanos end-of-year survey is significant, revealing an emerging Tory strategy in which the governing party is concentrating on winning groups of riding with focused issues. And it appears to be bearing fruit for the Prime Minister.

“The current configuration of national support for the Conservatives suggests that numerically a Tory majority government can be formed without significant breakthrough in the province of Quebec,” pollster Nik Nanos told The Globe. “In this paradigm, the Conservatives narrowcast messages to clusters of ridings on a diversity of issues such as crime, the long-gun registry and social issues that align with their base and which divide the opposition.”

The Nanos poll has the Tories seven points ahead of their rivals, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals – 38.1 per cent support nationally compared to 31.2 per cent. The NDP is at 17.2 per cent; the Green Party has the support of only 3.2 per cent of Canadians and the Bloc is at 10. 2 per cent. About a quarter of respondents, or 25.4 per cent, were undecided.
Nothing is more likely to immediately depress their numbers then these poll results.  You heard it here first, as soon as its reported that the Conservatives are actually polling high enough to possibly win a majority the Canadian people feel the gorge rise in their throats and reconsider the protest vote they were thinking of casting and the Tory numbers immediately crash again - look for a big drop in the next polls, cluster-fuck strategy notwithstanding.

But by all means Tories, if you're feeling your beer muscles please do test these numbers by calling a spring election.  I look forward to the results you'd achieve.

UPDATE Dec 10: barely a week later and fantasies of majority government disappear like a wisp of smoke.  What a surprise

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Uneasy Alliance

One of the most notable elements of the just concluded Alberta Legislature session was that the various opposition parties put aside their (very significant) differences and teamed up for the collective goal of torturing the Tory government over its handling of healthcare.

Certainly called for and frequently entertaining, it also helped lift the veil on the contemptuous dismissal with which the government treats opposition.  Albertans saw how the government responds to legitimate criticism from Raj Sherman, one of their own with banishment and  a whisper campaign to try to destroy him.  The opposition alliance fulfilled the will of the people in expressing the disdain and distrust the government is now held in.

But we shouldn't let this brief concordance of intent and allied opposition to the Stelmach government obscure the very real differences between the opposition parties.  Danielle Smith has very helpfully provided an op-ed for the Calgary Herald where she makes it very clear that the Wildrose alliance's only real problem with the government's approach is that they aren't pushing privatization enough.
In Calgary, we've seen what private deliverers can do when the government gets them involved. Before AHS abruptly terminated their contract, the Health Resource Centre was performing hip and knee replacements at a fraction of the cost and in almost half the time as the public hospitals.
Former premier Ralph Klein, after leaving office, admitted his biggest regret during his 14 years as premier was caving to the special interest groups and letting them derail his plans to reform health care.
Clearly, Stelmach has learned nothing from his predecessor.
If this government won't do what is needed, it is time for a government that will.
Of course the Health Resource Centre she's rapturously praising here, was an expensive boondoggle that went bankrupt under the huge cost over-runs inherent in private healthcare.  Sunk under vast legal bills and gigantic executive compensation that even Alberta Health Services with its  infamously highly overpaid and top heavy administration found excessive, and when she complains that their contract was 'abruptly terminated' she means that despite the pleas of the supposedly 'free market' oriented Wildrose Alliance they weren't bailed out of the expensive hole that is the inevitable result of introducing the profit margin to healthcare delivery at even further huge cost to the Alberta public.  

Smith and I do agree though, that the Health Resource Centre is an excellent example of what private health delivery is capable of.

She also indulges in one of the popular hobby horse of the Canadian right by claiming that we should follow the example of Sweden in letting the private sector have more access to public health funding.  Of course, this is actually an example that in no way makes the point she thinks it does.
Sweden pays for about 85 per cent of health expenditures from public sources, in comparison to about 70 per cent in Canada. This includes public coverage not only for hospitals and physicians, but also for drugs and dental care (for kids up to the age of 20 it's free, and for adults it is subsidized).  While a sizable number of Canadians lack drug coverage, Swedes do not. Sweden also has generous sick leave coverage, great parental leave benefits for both mom and dad, a national child allowance until the child is 16 (with larger payments for more children), and even a pension system which counts time spent at home looking after the kids.
Oddly, Sweden has recently become the darling of Canadian commentators wishing to privatize how we fund and deliver health care. The picture they paint is often not recognizable to Swedes.
So, yes, for historical reasons, Swedes may pay user fees when they see the doctor or stay in hospital. These fees are capped and geared to income; computing them does add some administrative costs that Canada can avoid. But, in stark contrast to Canada, these patient fees account for only about four per cent of health-care costs in Sweden. They also have reference-based pricing to control pharmaceutical costs—the B.C. system, which Manitoba probably should adopt as well.
So, to be more like Sweden, we should probably be paying more of the bill publicly, not less.
In terms of delivery, Sweden began with publicly owned and operated hospitals, run by local governments (county councils). In Canada, by contrast, our "public" hospitals are not-for-profit private organizations, with considerably more managerial autonomy (although we do grant that attempts by provincial governments to induce "accountability" within regional health authorities may indeed be moving us closer to de facto public control.)
As the New Public Management movement confirms, publicly run institutions are often seen as cumbersome, and local officials may lack the skills to manage them. (On a visit to Sweden several years ago, one of us recalls complaints from hospital administrators that the county councillors kept coming in to count the sheets.)
Several years ago, some councils experimented with contracting out these services to private hospitals. Although reports are mixed, we note that Swedes were unhappy enough that some of the privatizations were reversed. In 2004, they banned further privatization of hospitals. Instead, the Swedes are seeking to move from the older focus on market-based mechanisms to approaches looking for greater co-operation among providers.
In fact the private sector experiments in Sweden were an unpopular failure, repudiated and rolled back the first opportunity Swedes had to vote on them.  Again, Smith and I agree, an excellent example of the real record of private health experiments, again, probably not in the way she intended.

The Wildrose Alliance joined the NDP and the Liberals in slamming the government purely for reasons of partisan gain, their opposition to the government's healthcare approach is simply that it doesn't go far enough down the road of privatization and this should be remembered.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Double Standards at the University of Calgary

The University of Calgary believes that students who criticize their teachers should be punished.  Teachers who publicly call for someone to be murdered?  Not so much.
Comartin said there are calls for disciplinary action at the University of Calgary where Flanagan teaches political science. He said the government should be very, very clear in denouncing that kind of comment.

University spokesman Grady Semmens indicated Flanagan will not be reprimanded. "At this point, the university is not considering any disciplinary action," Semmens said. Flanagan was representing himself, not the university, when he made the comments and had a right to his opinion, Semmens said.

Comartin said the government should repudiate his comments. "I mean he is . . . he is the prime minister's mentor," Comartin said. "I don't think anybody will deny that and for them, not to stand up and say not only that we do not support that kind of a comment, but we absolutely repudiate it, there has to be some sense that they in fact, are in agreement with him."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Fear in their Eyes

This week, a leaked government policy document suggested the Tories plan to broaden privatized medicine under the public health umbrella. Zwozdesky denies the government will take such steps.

In the midst of the turmoil, the health minister introduced a new five-year plan to cut surgical wait times across the board and bring more beds online.

Opposition NDP Leader Brian Mason said the session was telling.

"Certainly in the 10 years I've been here in this legislature I've never seen the government so disheveled, confused and off balance," he said.

"You could see on the faces across there just a different look in their eyes. One of real fear.

"Change is going to come and I think this government knows it."

Let Bartlet be Bartlet

I'd say it's time for Obama to be Obama, but sadly, I think he already is.

Manufacturing Consent with a Starvation Diet

Stephen Duckett's wife defends him by pointing out that he was dealing with a government intentionally starving public healthcare.
“In Stephen’s first year he was expected to balance the AHS budget by finding $1.3 billion in ‘savings,’” she said.
It's part of a strategy of starving the system of money "so that healthcare becomes so inadequate that electors reluctantly accept paying additional out-of-pocket costs to get decent health care," she said.
At the same time the province throws precious health-care money at building empty hospitals and clinics to make health budgets the villian in ballooning provincial spending, said Jackson.
Alberta can afford to spend more on health-care services, she said.
“Low tax rates and low oil royalties lead to an impoverished public health-care system, which will lead to more people opting out of medicare and the downward spiral of public care."
How many insiders need to say the same thing, that this government has a deliberate and unambiguous policy of undermining public healthcare in order to promote dismantling and privatizing the system before Albertans get it?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"A danger to themselves and to patients"

"(This government) is a danger to themselves and to patients.  That would be reason to certify this government under the Mental Health Act to the Alberta Hospital Edmonton, but guess what?  There's no room. They're going to blow it up." Former Tory MLA and Emergency Room physician Doctor Raj Sherman
Premier Ed Stelmach said he wanted no part of Ralph Klein's war against the public healthcare system.  Virtually his first act after winning the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership race was a firm renunciation of Klein's Third Way and a promise that the era of unending government assault on public healthcare was finally over.

And then he put far right ideologue and all around disgusting human being Ron Liepert in charge of the system and merged the highly effective and world recognized regional health board system into one bloated ineffective superboard because the regional boards kept noisily demanding the funding necessary to provide the care Albertans needed.  When Liepert managed to sicken and disgust all the health stakeholders and the general public with his intrinsic swinishness he was replaced with the more soothing and moderate sounding but utterly ineffectual former Liberal floor crosser Gene 'Mr Dithers' Zwosdesky.

An Australian health economist was hired who on paper at least looked like a supporter of public healthcare, but in practice turned out to be an arrogant, supercilious prat who seemed more concerned with chilling dissent from the front lines than giving them the support they needed.  The worst kind of bureaucrat, even if he was only enforcing the policies of the Alberta Government and working with the budget they gave him.

Now the mask has slipped.  One of their own has revealed the hidden agenda to manufacture the consent for the same old Tory anti-healthcare agenda.
EDMONTON — A leaked internal document from the Alberta government shows the ruling Tories plan to privatize health care after the next provincial election, opposition parties are charging.
The 27-page internal Alberta Health and Wellness presentation suggests the provincial government has a two-part plan to delist health services, legalize new kinds of private insurance and allow doctors to provide public and private health care at the same time.
Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky denied the allegations late Monday, but exiled Conservative MLA Dr. Raj Sherman confirmed its authenticity and slammed the government's plan.
"This is basically privatizing health care," said Sherman, who was Zwozdesky's parliamentary assistant until he was ousted from the Tory caucus last week for criticizing his own government's record on health care. "My understanding is that phase two is coming after the next election, and I absolutely can't support that."

For example, the presentation explains that health care providers don't have a level playing field, because doctors must opt in or out of the public system entirely while midwives and pharmacists can work in both sectors at the same time.
Consequently, the document calls for a "policy shift" that would "allow government the flexibility to regulate health provider commitment in the public system."
Another section — titled "Private Insurance Options" — says "there is no evidence that private insurance negatively impacts a public health system" and that "prohibiting private insurance limits choice in accessing publicly funded health services within Alberta."
The document then calls for a "policy shift" to "consider private insurance options for limited health services."
Finally, phase two calls on government to develop an "evidence-based process to determine health services that are fully funded, partially funded and unfunded services." Opposition parties see that as evidence the government plans to delist services.
"This shows clear evidence the government is entertaining notions of private insurance, a two-tiered system and a move toward what we believe is going to undermine the very foundations of the Canada Health Act," Liberal Leader David Swann said. "I think we should take this very seriously."
NDP Leader Brian Mason said the document is proof the Conservatives cannot be trusted with health care.
"This is, in fact, the smoking gun," he said. "In my view, this is more than a policy document. This is a strategic document, a political strategy, if you will."
This is a party with a deep ideological loathing for the very concept of 'public good'.  They hate Canada's 'socialized' healthcare system, not least, for just how effective, affordable and efficient it is.  It's an ongoing example of how the public sector does some things much, much better than the private sector does.  Plus it leaves money on the table that every fiber of their political DNA tells them should be in the pockets of rich insurance company executives and private clinic entrepreneurs.

They will keep trying this shit until they are driven from office. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

There's idiots in them thar hills

Neil Reynolds, The Globe and Mail's reliably goofy crotchety old libertarian outs himself as a gold bug, waxing rhapsodic about the good old days when men were men and a bank's only job was to trade paper for gold.
When World Bank President Robert Zoellick suggested the other day that the world needs to embrace a gold standard (of one kind or another) once again, he made Robert Mundell, the famous globe-trotting Canadian-born economist, look eerily prescient. Back in 1997, Dr. Mundell predicted a return to gold “maybe in 10 or 15 years” – in other words, by 2012. Here’s a distinctly improbable prediction that’s looking better all the time.
Of course Zoellick has been roundly mocked for this suggestion, including in the Globe itself a few weeks ago, and it really is a goofy idea, although a popular one with the magical thinkers who like to call themselves 'fiscal conservatives'.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), a top House Republican and possible 2012 presidential contender, gave a speech at the Detroit Economic Club this afternoon outlining his “prescription for a fresh start for the American economy.” The Detroit Economic Club is a “popular venue for candidates testing the presidential campaign waters,” and Pence is “working hard to cultivate support among the fiscal conservatives that are driving the tea party.”

The first item of Pence’s five-point plan for the economy is a “sound monetary policy.” Pence elaborated that he believes a return to the gold standard could create such a policy
The Thinkprogress piece links to an old article by Paul Krugman seeking to just scratch the surface of all the many and manifold reasons why this is an incredibly stupid idea:
 Very few economists think this would be a good idea. The argument against it is one of pragmatism, not principle. First, a gold standard would have all the disadvantages of any system of rigidly fixed exchange rates--and even economists who are enthusiastic about a common European currency generally think that fixing the European currency to the dollar or yen would be going too far. Second, and crucially, gold is not a stable standard when measured in terms of other goods and services. On the contrary, it is a commodity whose price is constantly buffeted by shifts in supply and demand that have nothing to do with the needs of the world economy--by changes, for example, in dentistry.

The United States abandoned its policy of stabilizing gold prices back in 1971. Since then the price of gold has increased roughly tenfold, while consumer prices have increased about 250 percent. If we had tried to keep the price of gold from rising, this would have required a massive decline in the prices of practically everything else--deflation on a scale not seen since the Depression. This doesn't sound like a particularly good idea.
Among other things, shifting to the gold standard would very quickly require rigid government price controls on the value of gold.  Not a very small government, non-interventionist idea.  But none of this simple logic keeps conservatives from pining for the good old days when things were simpler.
"Young man! I need to send this missive to the Prussian consulate in Siam - post haste! Am I too late for the afternoon auto-gyro?"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Don't call me Shirley."

Veteran comedian and actor Leslie Nielsen has died in a Florida hospital, his family confirmed to Global News on Sunday evening. The Canadian actor was 84.
Nielsen rose to fame with roles in the Airplane and Naked Gun film franchises. He had apparently been suffering from pneumonia for more than a week.
He parlayed a square jawed earnestness twice, first playing it straight in straightforward heroic roles like the courageous star-ship captain in SF classic Forbidden Planet, in a role that clearly inspired Gene Roddenberry when he was creating Star Trek and Captain Kirk.

Then, years later, he got a second act, still playing it straight and heroically square jawed but this time as a straight up lampoon of the B-Movie heroes he had played before in classics like Airplane and the Naked Gun series.

Leslie Neilsen RIP.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Alberta's Tories: The Vindictive Retribution Party

Raj Sherman accuses Alberta's Premier of trying to get Sherman's medical license pulled in retribution for criticizing the government.  If true it means the response of Alberta's governing Tories to a wait time crisis in Alberta Emergency Rooms - is to first get rid of the only Emergency Room physician in their caucus and then try to reduce the number of Emergency room doctors by one.

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has been accused of trying to take away the medical licence of a former member of his caucus, a physician who was given the boot this week after criticizing the state of health care in the province.

The accusation by Edmonton representative Raj Sherman — quickly denied Friday by the premier's office — ratchets up the rhetoric in an increasingly nasty health-care debate that's already seen heads roll in the province.

Sherman was suspended indefinitely from the caucus of the ruling Progressive Conservatives on Monday after he assailed the premier, cabinet and Alberta Health Services over their handling of health care.

Speaking on a radio show Friday, Sherman, who now sits as an independent member of the legislature, alleged some Tory caucus members have questioned his mental stability.

He noted he received a call Thursday from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta telling him someone had phoned the organization and suggested his mental ability to function as a doctor has been compromised.

Sherman said his medical licence could be taken away if he doesn't submit to a mental assessment.

Sherman, elected in March 2008, still works part-time as emergency care doctor in Edmonton.

Sherman then launched into accusations against the premier, Children and Youth Services Minister Yvonne Fritz and Tory caucus whip Robin Campbell.

"I was told that the premier is going after my medical licence," Sherman said on the radio.

"Now I'm going to break caucus confidentiality here. That's exactly what the premier said on the day they decided to throw me out."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stay Classy Toronto Sun

The Sun's headline for the debate between former British PM and Christopher Hitchens who is battling cancer:

Tony Blair debates dead-author talking

That's the way the cookie crumbles

Stephen Duckett's decision to eat a cookie instead of answering questions about problems plaguing the province's health system has cost him his job as head of Alberta Health Services, the largest medical organization in Canada.
His departure, however, has fractured the superboard and has political observers saying it signals growing chaos in provincial health care.
Internet video of Friday's cookie controversy has been watched, and mocked, tens of thousands of times.
Premier Ed Stelmach characterized acterized Duckett's comments as "offensive," while Health Minister Gene Zwozdesky admonished him immediately upon hearing audio of the bizarre two-minute exchange with reporters, which occurred after a daylong brainstorming session on Alberta's emergency care crisis.
Duckett's apology Saturday failed to quell the backlash.
After a hastily called meeting ing to discuss his future, the 14-member board decided Wednesday to dismiss its chief executive.
Duckett had a pomposity and unwillingness to be questioned or challenged that made him a poor choice to head a public health service and had managed to alienate a large percentage of frontline health workers.  The aura of entitled arrogance to his "Can't you see I'm eating my cookie?" response to the media was just the icing on the cake.

But ultimately he was working with the budget, and enforcing the policies provided by the Progressive Conservative government of Alberta.  And now he's providing that same government with a convenient scapegoat.  Nothing changes with his removal, and Albertans have put up with worse from his bosses without 'firing'  them in a provincial election.

This is theater.  The same people are mismanaging and undermining Alberta's health system who were mismanaging and undermining it yesterday and as long as they're still in charge nothing will change.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

G20 all over again

In the UK, a familiar police response to outraged protestors:
Police risked controversy today as they "kettled" several hundred protesters after clashes during student tuition fee protests.

Demonstrators were penned in by riot squad officers in Whitehall after a stranded police van was attacked and vandalised.

Scotland Yard said it will bring in portable toilets and water but said it was unclear how long people would have to remain.

The tactic, which police call "containment", was heavily criticised after up to 5,000 people were held during G20 protests in April last year.

Denis O'Connor, HM Inspector of Constabulary, said the move carries risks, particularly if vulnerable people are caught up inside.

He called on police to show greater flexibility, including allowing a controlled release of people.

Hundreds of people chanted "let us out" as a line of police officers reduced the size of the Whitehall pen.

Many argued the police were punishing everyone, rather than the handful of troublemakers.

At some point, all over the western world, we're going to wake up, look around and go "Hey, where did this police state come from?"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Life of a Conservative Cabinet Minister:

Searching for exit strategies.
Other Parliament Hill insiders agree speculation about Mr. MacKay's possible departure, former environment minister Jim Prentice's resignation, a trial balloon from B.C. that touted Heritage Minister James Moore (Port Moody-Port Coquitlam, B.C.) as a possible contender for the leadership of the provincial Liberal party, and a trickle of Cabinet aides who have left the government are signals that all is not well under Prime Minister Stephen Harper's (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) leadership.

"With these numbers, there is no way they can deliver a secure minority Parliament," Mr. Graves told The Hill Times. "I don't believe there is any way, if the Conservatives have less than 103 seats, that the NDP and the Liberals are going to let them form a government. There would be an immediate confidence measure within that slender a margin, within six weeks."
The conflict is irreducible: Harper can't win them a majority, he likely can't even win them another stable minority.  He's also likely the only person who can hold together the fractious big tent of far right Alliance members, moderate ceo/politician business conservatives and even a few lone red Tories.

They've peaked.  They got almost all the benefits of a majority with the cover of Liberal enabling of the neo-liberal agenda the two parties share but with the Tories taking the hit.  They have razor thin governing margins - enough so that they had to humiliatingly repudiate all their pro-business 'anti-trade barriers' rhetoric rather than lose Saskatchewan.  The next election is their Waterloo.


What happens when the Liberals are forced into the choice of governance with the NDP and a truly progressive agenda - or following the lead of their ideological soul mates in the British Liberal-Democrats and siding with the Canadian political party they've shown they have the most in common with?

The Dignity of the Crown

What's going on with the prosecutor's offices in Ontario?
Emmily Lucas died seven years ago Tuesday.

Her battered body was taken off life support after 10 comatose days at the Hospital for Sick Children. She was 2 years old.

On Monday, the jury was dismissed in the second mistrial in the case against Erika Mendieta, Emmily’s mother, who was charged with second-degree murder in the toddler’s beating death.

A prosecutor from the first trial — assistant Crown attorney Paul Alexander — distracted the jury and intimidated the defendant by making faces while sitting in the gallery as a spectator.

“I’ve been involved in the criminal justice system for 30 years, and I can’t say that I’ve heard of a similar circumstance,” said Attorney General Chris Bentley. “It’s just very, very unusual.”

Last week, the jury wrote a note to Justice Nola Garton stating they wanted a man removed from the gallery. “We find him very distracting, and he is making strange faces all the time. We feel very uncomfortable with him.”

They did not know at the time who Alexander is.

The defence counsel brought forth a motion for a mistrial, and Mendieta testified — in the jury’s absence —that Alexander was rolling his eyes, shifting awkwardly, and making faces during Crown Attorney Allison MacPherson’s cross-examination.

“His look intimidated me a lot,” Mendieta said. “It made me feel very uncomfortable.”

Mendieta said it made her nervous, and changed the way she answered questions. She said she didn’t know she had the ability to challenge his presence in court until the jury wrote the note.
Factor in the bizarre and almost incomprehensible decision to proceed with prosecution against Stacy Bonds despite the clear video evidence of the abuse she had been subjected to by the police and we are left with a portrait of provincial prosecutor's offices seemingly being run without adult supervision.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The UK's lessons for Canadian Progressives

In the UK support for the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition plummets as Labour's new leader ushers in polls that would mean a slim majority for Labour if an election were held today.  The coalition the British public reject is the one between neo-liberals and conservatives, you know, like the government we have in Canada now in all but name.

Maybe its the natural result for any government in power in times of such intense economic uncertainty, or the afterglow of Labour electing a new leader and potentially heading in a more progressive direction, or maybe the UK public just figured out who's side the Lib-Dems have shown they are on the first chance they got for power.

Nick Clegg bleats about 'new progressives' being more about social mobility while 'old progressives' are about 'reducing inequality'.  This after he announced his coalition's massive increases to tuition costs drastically reducing access to higher education for anyone below a certain economic level.
The deputy prime minister claims that Labour, under Ed Miliband's leadership, is becoming the new conservative group of British politics, wedded to outdated ideas and stuck in an anti-pluralist rut.
Labour, he says, is in danger of turning high marginal tax rates, a large state, and "snapshots of income inequality" into shibboleths. For old progressives, personified by Miliband, "reducing snapshot income inequality is the ultimate goal", he maintains, and for new progressives it is "reducing the barriers to mobility".
What else is education, expensive beyond the range of the few without starting life in crippling debt, but a barrier to 'social mobility'?

No, there's nothing new about Nicholas Clegg's warmed over quasi-libertarian Thatcherism with a dose of sunny Reaganism.  Revealing that you are just another neoliberal who has abandoned Keynesian economics and progressive policy because you're still captive to the long since discredited cult of deregulation and starved government trickle down economics doesn't make you a 'new progressive' just an old fashioned sell out.

Speaking of Michael Ignatieff,
The Liberal caucus is clearly split over Mr. Ignatieff’s decision to support the Harper government. The leader’s support was given even before the details of the new training mission were announced.
The government formally laid out its plan on Tuesday. Last Friday morning, however, Mr. Rae told The Globe and Mail he supported the government, saying there was no need for a debate or vote in the House of Commons. Later that day, Mr. Ignatieff supported Mr. Rae’s view.
Liberal insiders believe Mr. Ignatieff would not win a vote and that is why it is being avoided. The Liberal leadership does not want to reveal a split in the ranks.
“If there was a vote, I think Michael would lose the vote,” the insider said. “He would lose the vote. I don’t think caucus would support him.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010


From the album Meiso - DJ Krush with Black Thought and Malik B. remixed by DJ Shadow

Abuser with a badge

Ottawa Police officer Steve Desjourdy appears to have a serious problem with any woman who gets 'uppity' with him.
On Wednesday, we heard about an Ottawa-woman subjected to an illegal arrest and a beating by Ottawa police officers for no apparent reason at all. After being stopped while walking to a friend’s house, and then let go, Stacy Bonds …

… stopped and asked them why they’d stopped her in the first place.
That got her handcuffed, thrown in the back of a cruiser and spirited off to the police station, where police pulled her hair, kneed her in the back a couple of times, slammed her to the ground with a riot shield, cut off her clothes and bra while a few male officers watched, and strip-searched her.

The officer who used scissors to cut off this terrified woman's clothing and underwear? Officer Steve Desjourdy who had only four days before been temporarily demoted for repeatedly tasering and kicking a woman in a cell.  The vicious assault on Stacy Bonds - who is black, giving the story even more disturbing overtones of racism - was videotaped in full.  The officers involved and the Crown had to know that any claims that Bonds at any point resisted or assaulted her abusers were flatly contradicted by the video record showing a terrified and unresisting girl being horrifically abused.  The Crown still chose to press charges against Bonds.

They apparently didn't expect the judge to actually watch the video.
Now, how big a moron do you have to be to pull a stunt like this? These cops are on video — which one assumes they are aware of, it being a police station and all — and they molest an innocent woman, then lay false charges, which can be easily disproved. Did they think Bonds would just go away and not mention the experience to anyone? Did they think no one would notice the video? Did they figure three male cops and one female cop was appropriate force to use against a lone, 100-pound female?

Or, being clearly of limited mental capacity, did they just figure the rest of the world was as stupid as they are?

The judge, rightly, denounced the whole episode, noting there was ”no reason, apart from vengeance and malice, to have left Ms. Bonds in the cell for a period of three hours and 15 minutes half-naked and having soiled her pants, before she received what is called a blue suit. That is an indignity toward a human being and should be denounced.”
Never thought I'd be approvingly quoting a Kelly McParland column but miracles do happen.

Officer Desjourdy must be fired.  That's just the bare minimum for the Ottawa Police to restore the trust of the Ottawa public.  Otherwise any Ottawa woman stopped by an officer would have to wonder if it's this vicious predator behind the badge. 

Anybody else without a badge would probably be facing a long prison term for physical and sexual assault - why should a police officer be any different?  Shouldn't the standards in fact be higher?

Dawg has been covering this extensively and made a public offer to help finance any suit Stacy Bonds wishes to bring against the Ottawa Police.

UPDATE: The Ontario Special Investigations Unit has taken over the investigation of the police officer's behavior.  Well, good thing we have no reason to believe the investigation will be a farcical whitewash.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Self Destructing BC Liberals

Meanwhile, the freshly fired Mr. Bennett – his cellphone and cabinet credit card cancelled before he could hop on a flight to Victoria – arrived in the capital for an extraordinary 35-minute gathering in which he described what it was like to serve under Mr. Campbell for the past decade.

“He’s not a nice man,” Mr. Bennett said.

The Kootenay East MLA said Mr. Campbell has reduced members of his caucus to tears, and recounted an incident when he was left wiping the Premier’s spittle off his face after Mr. Campbell leaned close to yell at him.
Mr. Campbell is a bully whose intimidation tactics have created a government caucus and cabinet that suffers from “almost a battered-wife syndrome,” said Mr. Bennett.

“I’m tired of the bullshit that goes on in politics and I’m really tired of the way that Gordon Campbell thinks that he can just run on people,” he said.

“I’m a tough guy, I can take it. But I’ve seen him do it to other people in caucus.”
I'm getting flashbacks to the last days of Bill Vanderzalm.  He brought the BC Social Credit party down with him through scandal, extremism and completely losing the public trust.
With Gordon Cambell though, the level of public loathing is really quite remarkable.  He's despised as a liar, a bully and an arrogant autocrat with a contempt for the public.  After announcing it only weeks after the election where they denied any plans to introduce it, nobody believes the Campbell and the Liberals weren't planning to bring in the HST even while they were denying it. 
There's a meme developing, promoted by Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail, among others that Campbell has been mistreated by the public, and the hatred and opprobium he's received is deeply unfair and part of a trend that discourages qualified people from wanting to serve.
On the contrary, I suggest that the contempt and disgust Campbell is held in by the BC public is a healthy sign of an engaged and socially concious population rejecting a lying, contemptuous bully who treats them like easily bribed children who can be convinced to believe transparent lies. 
That's a good thing.

The neglect hits home

"I'm sick and tired of throwing my father in the pickup truck every time he's dying. My own father has had to go to the ER five times and almost died in the waiting room." -    Dr. Raj Sherman, Edmonton Tory MLA, Alberta's parliamentary assistant for health and an Emergency Room Doctor
Sherman crated a stir by circulating a letter harshly attacking the government for a string of broken promises to fix the province's Emergency Room system.  He writes that his trust in Premier Stelmach “is severely tarnished”.
“The premier made a promise to the ER doctors in writing and has broken his promise not only to the ER doctors, but also to the seniors, the 1.8 million Albertans who present for emergency care, and their two million family members, and to all frontline healthcare professionals.”
After recounting his efforts to pass on ER doctors’ concerns to government, Sherman added: “It’s time that I also take one for my team that I trust, the front-line ER doctors. Please stay tuned for my public comments.”
Having lost the trust of the one medical doctor in their caucus, the Tory government's attention to the health file still seems focused on their new Health Act, shaping up as just another incremental attack on public healthcare.  
It's pathological really; when Stelmach won the internal vote that made him premier he firmly and publicly renounced Ralph Klein's open war on public healthcare and those who supported it.  There was an all but open acknowledgment that the ideological fixation with delivering Alberta's healthcare system into the waiting clutches of the insurance industry was spectacularly unpopular and helped end Klein's career.  
But then he put health in the hands of the repulsive Ron Liepert.  A far right, bullying ideologue on a file that the public manifestly does not trust the government on.

When Lipert finally alienated every stakeholder and the public enough that the clamor grew too loud, he was replaced with Gene Zwozdesky, former Liberal turned floor crosser and one of the token moderates in the government.  Zwozdesky is a much more soothing presence, but is famous as a Mister Dithers who never actually accomplishes anything.  

Now after years of neglect the system has reached its breaking point.  The government bleats that we're spending more on healthcare than ever, more than every other province, but that ignores the massive structural damage caused by the criminally stupid cutbacks of the Klein years that much of the recent spending has been used to paper over and repair.  And it ignores that as a percentage of the province's GDP, a far more useful measurement of need and affordability, the province is spending much less than it used to.

This government will forever by synonymous with a healthcare system undermined and under attack.  Thinking anything is ever going to change with them is purely pathological.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Scenes of Horror

Our government and right wing media worked overtime to whip up fear and contempt for the Tamils who huddled in a ship's hold for weeks in a desperate effort to escape from their former home to Canada. Some of you probably remember the Toronto Sun's inexcusable and unforgivable 'Lock and Load' editorial.  Most especially, every effort was made to avoid  giving any validity to considering Tamils escaping Sri Lanka refugees.  The preferred terms were criminals and terrorists.

Now, new footage has gotten out of the final war zone making it quite clear why desperate Tamils were willing to cram their whole families into a ships hold for an uncomfortable and dangerous flight to escape the clutches of victor's justice in Sri Lanka.  Warning the following footage is graphic and horrifying.

Doubtless conservatives will consider the source of the story, Al Jazeera, to be reason enough to discount it, but the pictures speak for themselves.

And they speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Poisoned North

In Canada, it's in very remote places, it's 40 below zero, nobody is going to that neighborhood. In the U.S., in West Texas, people live where the oil reserves are and so you couldn't have the type of environmental impact that they are doing in Canada, where they are basically destroying the environment. If a bird flies over a river near the oil sands, the bird dies just from flying over the river. It's that toxic. They are just dumping all the waste into the waterways. If you did that in the U.S. you would be in jail.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Will George Soros end up owning Fox News?

As Ezra Levant and Sun Media learned to their regret, George Soros and his lawyers DO NOT stand idly by while deeply irresponsible media figures and outlets tell despicable and horrific antisemitic lies about him.  Are Glenn Beck and Fox News about to learn the same painful lesson?
George Soros survived the Holocaust. He is Jewish and when the Nazis caught up with his family his father saved his life by bribing an agricultural official to pretend Soros was his Christian godson. At one point, that man took the fourteen year old Soros to survey and appraise the property that had been confiscated from another Jewish family. Obviously Soros did not have a choice in the matter. Soros eventually survived the Holocaust.

To most this would be an amazing and harrowing story of survival during the Holocaust. To Beck it was an opportunity to paint Soros as an anti-Semite and smear him with one of the worst lies I have ever heard.

First Beck started by horribly warping this story on his Fox News show. He said of Soros:

[When he was] 14 years old, he had to help the government confiscate the land of his fellow Jewish friends and neighbors.
That's not what happened at all as you can see from above. He didn't help confiscate people's land. He didn't actively participate in betraying his Jewish neighbors or friends. The implications are horrible. But what Beck did next is much worse. He twisted the story further until he came out with this inexcusable lie on his radio show:

[H]ere's a Jewish boy helping send the Jews to the death camps.
That lie takes my breath away. That is a lie that cannot be told.

The ADL has now condemned Beck's statements as "horrific."

Michelle Goldberg has a terrific article in The Daily Beast explaining how Beck's two part series on Fox News Channel about George Soros was classic anti-Semitism. He even named the series "Puppet Master." Nazi propaganda used to call Jews the "wire pullers."
Cenk Uygur goes on to say that Beck has finally crossed a line with a horrific lie that should end his career permanently.   Fox employees should be resigning en masse in protest and guests cancelling appearences if Fox does not firmly and immediately repudiate this despicable racist lie- unambiguously reminiscent of Nazi propaganda - by ending Beck's show.

Godwin's law doesn't apply if the lie told comes right out of Joseph Goebbels's playbook

Monday, November 08, 2010

Victims of Crime, Victims of the State

It's almost beyond belief.  Politically active engaged citizens fighting to expose a cancer of white supremacist gangsters operating with impunity in their city, the hate crimes capital of Canada.  Assaulted in a vicious home invasion, very likely by members the violent far right organizations they are fighting to expose, and the state...

...comes into their homes and threatens to take their children if they don't cease their political activities.

No, really.
Words fail. Apparently the Devines, by engaging in anti-racist work, have been "asking for it." When they are attacked, Calgary Social Services steps in to blame them, rather than the bums who assaulted them. Perhaps--I wouldn't be surprised--they also go after the children of rape victims, threatening to apprehend the kids if their mothers insist on wearing "provocative clothing." - Hat Tip Dawg's Blog
Right wingers make a fetish of opposing oppressive state intrusions into the lives of Canadians.  Here we have brave Canadian citizens fighting to make their city a better place by exposing terrorists, and being subjected to vicious criminal assault as a result, and the government's response is to threaten to take away their children.

So much for concern for the victims of crime.  Or does that not include lefty activists fighting far right wing terrorists?

Update: In Jason Devine's words:
Social services have just visited the Devine' residence to investigate whether to remove the children into state custody. Jason, a grad student at the University of Calgary pointed out that "[I am], being condemned as a father for doing good work". Jason says "I will be calling on Calgary police protection of my home to satisfy social services concerns for the safety of my children." 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Bringing the War Home

The new Call of Duty: Black Ops commercial titled There's a Soldier in All of Us is disturbing.

It's unnervingly effective and immersive. Ordinary people, adults, kids, in school clothes and work clothes rampaging through a generic dessert town shooting and blasting away to the Rolling Stone's Gimme Shelter.

Lots of operatic slow motion action movie tropes like the 'shooting both directions and dropping your guns' thing.  Everybody's smiling and having a good time.

If you have the nagging feeling that something seems to be missing, you may notice the complete absence of whoever it is they are annihilating.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Escaping the Clutches

The Catholic church is upset with the waning of their influence in Spain, the country is going through the same kind of accelerated transition from a reactionary, church dominated society to a progressive, majority secularist society that Quebec did in the 60's with the Quiet Revolution.  The new government has removed mandatory religious instruction from public schools, legalized abortion, and liberalized divorce laws. 
Pope Benedict XVI has warned of an "aggressive anti-clericalism" in Spain which he said was akin to that experienced during the 1930s.
You mean when the Church was siding with Spain's fascists in the Spanish Civil War? 
Correspondents say many Spaniards turned away from the church following the rule of General Franco, as democracy and secularism became synonymous.
So become associated as an institution, with supporting dictatorship, brutal tyranny and elite control of politics, economy and culture and identified as the main cultural opponent of democracy and progress and then complain when it ultimately leads to large scale social rejection.

This is authoritarian and hierarchical cluelessness of an epic scale.

UPDATE: The Christian Science Monitor, predictably, digs a little deeper.  Spain is the only European country that officially does not have separation of church and state.  The state is officially neutral on religion but in practice the Catholic church has legal advantages over other faiths and state supported control over large chunks of the education system and other areas of social spending - to the tune of over nine billion dollars a year in taxpayer funds.  The current government has been proposing serious functional reforms that in practice would start bringing Spain's balance between church and state in line with the rest of the industrialized world. 

Short of Vatican City, Spain is the last refuge for Vatican control over state structures in a country that does have a large majority who identify as Catholic but where only about 20% of the population consider themselves practicing or observant. 

The fact that the Pope is fighting tooth and nail to keep that dominance is revealing.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Evolution of Palin?

Sarah Palin writes off the Tea Party candidate in Alaska and quotes a shout-out for evolution.

It seems unlikely that Palin is aware that Darrow was a big wig at the American Civil Liberties Union given her penchant for scoffing at...civil liberties. And one wonders whether Palin knows that, in the Scopes trial, Darrow defended John Scopes, who violated Tennessee law by teaching evolution. But there you have it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Deep Cover

Dr Dre's title track for the brilliant 1992 crime film Deep Cover.  Introducing a rapper who called himself Snoop Doggy Dogg at the time. NSFW as fuck.

I review Deep Cover and the Jarmusch classic Ghost Dog over at the other side of my blogging brain Bourbon and Bongwater.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How they got suckered. Us too.

Myriam Miedzian has an excellent piece at Huffington Post for all those who are continually baffled by working class people who vote against their own interests to protect the tax breaks of multi-millionaires.
In his recent book, After Shock, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich argues that the economic downward mobility of American workers, has "to do with power...income and wealth in fewer hands." Apparently, many working class Americans want to keep it that way. A recent SEIU poll reveals that, 38 percent of American voters are opposed to rescinding Bush's tax cuts for the 2 percent who earn $250,000 or more annually. 2 or 3 percent of taxpayers probably earn close enough to $250,000, to think they might be affected someday. This leaves about 33 percent voting against their self-interest -- higher taxes on the wealthiest would reduce the national debt, facilitate spending on levies, bridges, schools, healthc are, and create jobs. Similarly, an AP-GfK poll found that in the upcoming election, 58 percent of white working class Americans favor Republicans who opposed rescinding the Bush tax cut, and fought every Democratic bill benefiting low income earners including extending unemployment benefits.
On the other hand, a 2005 study by Dan Ariely of Duke and Michael Norton of Harvard, reveals that when presented with unlabeled pie charts representing wealth distribution in the U.S where the richest 20 percent control about 84 percent of wealth and Sweden where the top 20 percent control 36 percent, 92 percent of respondents -- who reflected U.S. ideological, economic, and gender demographics -- stated they would rather live in a country with Sweden's wealth distribution.
"Why don't more Americans -- especially those with low incomes advocate for greater redistribution of wealth?" the authors ask. Their answer: Americans drastically underestimate the disparity between the very rich and the rest of the population, are overly optimistic about social mobility, and there exists a disconnect between their attitudes toward inequality, their self-interest and public policy preferences.
And they didn't get to the point where they drastically underestimated that disparity by accident:
Instead, as Reich points out "rich and powerful think tanks, books, media, ads" were designed to convince Americans that free markets "know best" and operate in the interest of working people. They also convinced them that their enemies are not the heads of large corporations and the Republicans who represent them, but rather the Ivy League quiche eating, Eastern elite -- people like Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, outspoken supporters of policies beneficial to working class Americans. This has fed into a "Real Men Vote Republican" reaction among many white male blue collar workers.
Lest you conclude we are immune  to such mythology here in Canada, remember that organizations like the Fraser Institute have the unambiguous goal of making us just as ignorant about where our best interests truly lie.  If they weren't having great success at that project would we have the government we have now?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quality Journalism

The Calgary Herald's idea of an unbiased News headline:

The article itself is adoring hagiography about Harper's jaunts about Europe repeating stale announcements about past initiatives.  Much is made of his 'blunt, highly symbolic message' during his visit to the Ukraine where he played to the Ukrainian Canadian community concerned by the Moscow tilt and authoritarian tendencies of their new President Viktor Yanukovych - but it was a trade visit and he still announced $36 million in aid to the same government.

'She should apologize for attacking my boot with her head.'

Tim Profitt, the Rand Paul supporter behind the white sneaker that notoriously stomped on a MoveOn activist's head in Kentucky, sought to play down the importance of the incident Tuesday, and went so far as to ask the victim for an apology.

"I don't think it's that big of a deal," Profitt told WKYT. "I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you."

UPDATE: Sister Sage points out that the goon who tackled the victim in the first place, identified as one Mike Pezzano pretty unambiguously also sexually assaulted her on camera.

UPDATE 2:  That video probably has the perpetrators consulting lawyers and hoping to avoid sexual battery charges.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sour Grapes

The Calgary Herald's Mark Milke thinks Naheed Nenshi only won because of right wing vote splitting:
On the first phenomena, Nenshi should be congratulated. He ran a smart campaign, albeit occasionally negative (few are not), and he used social media to thump front-runner Ric McIver and the big blue federal Conservative machine. That was no small task in a Tory town. Still, Nenshi won with 40 per cent of the vote. McIver scooped 32 per cent and Barb Higgins won 26 per cent. That McIver-Higgins total of 58 per cent was arguably drawn mostly from Calgary's centre-right voters. Thus, had the centre-right vote not split (as it regularly does in local politics), the headlines this past Tuesday morning would have been starkly different.
Except Higgins was endorsed by, among others, CUPE and the most left leaning candidate Bob Hawkesworth when he dropped out.  Blogger and Rabble columnist David Climenhaga, who no one will ever mistake for a conservative argued a vote for Higgins might be the best way to keep hard right candidate McIver out and was by no means the only one making the same argument.

The percentage of Higgins votes that were of the 'anybody but McIver' motivation rather than the desire to vote for a mainstream moderate conservative would be instructive here, and fatally undermine Milke's argument.  Add in those who only voted for her for reasons ranging from wanting to vote for the sole female candidate or just because she was a local TV celebrity and it becomes purely ludicrous.

Popular Posts