Monday, September 29, 2008

Lisa Raitt Blog Watch

NOTE: The following update has been deemed suitable for viewing by candidates' children aged 7 and under.

Days since Halton Candidate Lisa Raitt's last blog post:    4

Days since Lisa Raitt's last blog post that Lisa Raitt wrote any of* (not including comments reprinted from local newspapers):    9

Days since Lisa Raitt's last blog post that Lisa Raitt wrote ALL of*:    10

Days since Lisa Raitt's blog stopped accepting comments:    10

Percentage of total words on Lisa Raitt's blog written by Lisa Raitt*, including titles:    44%

* giving her the benefit of the doubt, but not precluding the possibility that some or all segments were written for her by staff.

By Any Means Necessary

It's come to this.

After all my railing against strategic voting, and after spanking Garth Turner once for even suggesting such a thing, I have found myself spending the past few days on blog after blog actually defending strategic voting. All the while I kept telling myself that this was only me staying open to the idea, or playing devil's advocate or some damned thing, but after at least half a dozen comments I am forced to admit that I've finally crossed the Rubicon.

My name is Jennifer, and I support strategic voting.

I'm still reeling from all this, but let me try to explain my reasoning by collating some of what I've said elsewhere this week. This is going to be long and somewhat disjointed, so bear with me.

First off, when I say 'strategic voting', I'm not talking about that vote-swapping site or candidates dropping out or suggesting that everyone vote Liberal because everything else is a wasted vote. In fact, what has always put me off of the whole notion is that in its crude form it tends towards a two-party system, and that is most definitely not what I want to see. Diversity is one of the great strengths of both our country and our democratic system, and Canada would not be what it is today without the influence of its third and fourth parties.

What has turned my thinking around is the approach - and the numbers - presented on the Vote for Environment website I spoke about in my previous post. Because by voting in the way they suggest - strategically only in close races, for the candidate with the best chance of beating the Conservative regardless of party - we could actually increase the representation by non-Liberal/Conservative MPs by 20%. The NDP alone would potentially pick up a dozen more seats than they would otherwise, and the Greens would have a much better chance of getting a seat for their leader.

Now, I understand there are a number of people out there who seem to think that the Liberal party is almost as bad as the Conservatives and that they could never in good conscience vote for them. My opinion of that assessment is a debate for another day, but all I can say is that if you really feel that way then by all means, don't vote Liberal. Just understand that not everybody feels that way.

Other than a revulsion for the Liberal Party, the principle argument against strategic voting I've been seeing a lot is that democracy only works when people vote for their first choice of representative. While that is true in theory, my first question would be, what factors do you take into account when you make that choice?

There's the party itself, but how do you judge a party? By their track record? What if they don't have one, or if they're going through some significant changes? By their policy platform? Are they actually equipped to enact that platform once in power? By their leader? How are you judging them? Then there's the local candidate to consider.

Personally, if I were to just go by party platform, the closest to my wishes and beliefs would probably be the NDP. But I've seen what happens when a party with no experience governing unexpectedly takes power, and it's ain't pretty - plus, I just don't believe the country could afford everything on Jack's wish list. The local candidates? Garth rocks, although he's still got some rather annoying conservative tendencies like his fondness for itty bitty governments. The NDP guy is sweet but slightly naive. And the Green candidate apparently thinks that greenhouse gases cause peanut allergies.

So, should I vote for my favourite candidate, leader or party?

My point is, nothing is simple, least of all democracy. There are a whole lot of factors that go into deciding who to vote for, and I see no reason why one of those factors shouldn't be a calculation of the likelihood of defeating the candidate of a party you despise.

Unlike previous elections where calls for strategic voting were coming almost entirely from the parties which stood to benefit (not that some Liberals aren't above capitalizing on that sort of thing even now), this time it really does appear to be a legitimate and growing grassroots movement. As soon as the Conservatives started edging into majority territory in the polls, it seemed like a dozen initiatives and websites sprang up overnight, from the vote-swapping Facebook page to Danny Williams' "ABC" website to the highly focused "Vote for Environment" strategy.

And it's not just the political wonks who are looking for a work-around:

The Star poll found that more than half of Liberal voters (54 per cent), and almost half of NDP (47 per cent), and Green (44 per cent) voters would seriously consider "strategically" switching their votes against their preferred candidate if it looks like another party has a better shot at winning, and could block a Conservative.

Many have suggested that we should be fighting for democratic reform instead of 'cheating' like this. The thing is, I have fought for democratic reform in the form of proportional representation and have watched in frustration as the people in my province responded with a resounding yawn. There are other types of reform, of course - Dion has suggested preferential balloting - but in the end, any type of democratic reform is likely to take years or even decades to bring about. Because there is one way in which Canadians are inherently conservative: we are rather stubbornly resistant to institutional change. And frankly, we just don't have that much time.

Which brings me to the one overriding reason why I am supporting this specific form of strategic voting in this election: Stephen Harper.

I have lived through nine Prime Ministers, including four Conservative ones. I lived through Brian Mulroney. I even lived through the Harris years here in Ontario. I've voted Liberal, NDP, Green, and even Progressive Conservative once. And out of all those Prime Ministers and Premiers, some of whom I profoundly disagreed with and even protested against, Stephen Harper is the first one who has actually made me fear for my country.

If Harper's Conservatives win a majority, I don't think I want to live here for the next four years. How's that for a reason?

UPDATE: Some people are claiming that Vote for Environment might be Liberally biased. I have seen no evidence of this myself, but in case you don't like their numbers, DemocraticSPACE also has riding-by-riding analysis and seat projections, as well as a Strategic Voting Guide. Perhaps you'll find their numbers more palatable.

And just to make you even happier, DemocraticSPACE is specifically NOT endorsing strategic voting for the vast majority of Canadians. It's only in those very close races where it could actually make a difference that they make recommendations, and just to be fair they also offer advise for Conservatives who want to keep the Liberals out (no, not that...).

The vast majority of ridings in Canada are NOT appropriate for strategic voting whatsoever (in that it will not impact the outcome). There are only 13 ridings where it is appropriate for Conservative supporters, 16 ridings for Liberal supporters, 30 ridings for NDP supporters and 37 ridings for Green supporters.

So unless your riding is listed below, DO NOT VOTE STRATEGICALLY.

Halton is listed. Saanich-Gulf Islands is not. Go figure.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lakeview Terrace

There have been some great “creepy neighbour” thrillers over the years. 'Rear Window' and 'Pacific Heights' were two of the best, but 'Lakeview Terrace' certainly ranks high on the list, largely due to Samuel L. Jackson's performance.

Part of what makes his character so unsettling is his very specific racism. The reason for his loathing of the mixed-race couple that moves in next door is explained late in the movie, but it still doesn't ease our discomfort. Even more disturbing is that, as a police officer, he justifies his actions, however brutal, as being in the service of a greater good.

Lakeview Terrace is a movie designed to make the audience uncomfortable. It forces us to confront issues of race and violence that most of us hope never to have to face. It's not necessarily an enjoyable experience, but it's one that will stay with you. I give it three and a half stars out of five. Your results may vary.

(and Murray liked it too!)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Resource Site for Strategic Voting. Not That I'm Suggesting Anything...

Let me say right off the bat, I am very uncomfortable with any discussion of 'strategic voting'. Not with the practice itself, but with people and especially candidates try to actively persuade voters to do it. In fact, the last time a candidate suggested something like that to me... well, I didn't react very well.

At the same time, I am not so naive as to think that everyone just voting for the candidate or the party they agree with the most is necessarily going to get the desired result - especially when you're dealing with our multi-party, first-past-the-post system. And especially when you're dealing with somebody like Stephen Harper.

As far as I'm concerned, it's up to each individual to decide whether or not they consider Harper to be enough of a threat to justify voting for a party that might not be their first choice. However, if you are considering a strategic vote this time around, there is an incredibly useful website called Vote for Environment that provides exactly the kind of detailed, riding-by-riding information you should have.

What Vote for Environment has done is identified potential swing ridings, analyzing likely results based on the previous election results adjusted by current poll results, and then recommending the candidate that has the best chance of beating the Conservatives - whether they be Liberal, NDP, Green or Bloc.

In this way, you can see whether or not your riding is 'safe' for any particular party, and if not, which party has the best shot at taking it. It's considerably more precise that just saying "don't waste your vote on ____" because it shows you exactly what the risks and benefits are for your particular riding.

Here is their argument. I'm not saying I agree with it 100%, but we live in extraordinary times and it's something that needs to be considered.

(big H/T to Impolitical)


UPDATE: Scott Tribe brings news that is putting together a targeted 3rd party advertising campaign pushing for strategic voting in three close ridings - one of which is John Baird's. And their fundraising acumen is evident in the fact that, within 8 hours of launching the campaign, they've raised over $40,000 of the $50,000 they're aiming for.

Also, thanks to commenters here and elsewhere who have put me on to several other strategic voting sites:

Anyone But Harper
Department of Culture (these are the folks organizing protests in swing ridings like the one in Oakville)
Democratic Space Strategic Voting Guide
Vote for Climate (possibly related to Vote for Environment - very similar)

I still thing 'Vote for Environment' has the best, detailed information on specific ridings.

Also, before the NDP supporters start piling on, let me point out that according to Vote for Environment calculations, real riding-by-riding strategic voting would actually result in a 12 seat increase for the NDP, as well as four more Bloc seats and at least one Green MP.

Ok, so I'm rapidly becoming a convert here. So sue me.

Bubble Boy

Harper a man who 'lives in a bubble'
Tory campaign goes to extraordinary lengths keeping him from public

OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper is shielded from the public as he criss-crosses the country, campaigning in a political bubble.

No handshakes on street corners or rallies in the parks. Only highly staged backdrops for his daily political message, and assemblies where Tory staffers and security officers closely monitor the crowds.

It's a classic "front-runner" technique – a safe, tightly scripted and controlled campaign – taken to a whole new level.

Rallies are off-limits for any member of the public who just shows up. Nobody gets in unless they have been pre-registered by the local riding association. Even local media are asked to sign up in advance.

...The Harper campaign keeps a short leash on national and local media, limiting questions and access to local candidates, sometimes calling on RCMP security to block reporters from doing their jobs.

Harper "hides from Canadians. He lives in a bubble," Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said last night in Winnipeg.

Just ask Stuart.

Stuart Service is a local reporter from the Halton Compass who attended the Harper/Raitt rally in Oakville last week. Stuart did his usual excellent job reporting on the event itself (although, oddly, he left out any mention of the protesters outside), but also wrote a fascinating companion piece about the experience of reporting on a Harper rally.

He talks about the reporters being 'cordoned off' within a perimeter of yellow tape at the very back of the room. He talks about getting to hang out with ohmygodohmygod it's David Akin. And he talks about how different all this was from what his bosses experienced when they covered the Dion event at the very same hall. Then, they got to ask questions, chat with the leader, and get some great close-up shots.

This time, it was behind the yellow tape, no questions please, and so far from the man himself that a telephoto lens was required to get a usable shot.

Stuart is very coy about how he really felt about all this, but it's a point that has been made before. It goes something like this:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Debate I Missed, and Klein on the Paulson Plan

I was very disappointed that I had to work on Monday night and wasn't able to ask my question of Conservative candidate Lisa Raitt in person. Happily, the event was recorded and the video should hopefully be available sometime soon.

In the meantime, here is a rather disturbing quote from Halton's new Con Queen:

"This to me, going through the electoral process, is nothing more than a job performance review and it is about whether or not you adhere to what the company’s goals were or what the party’s goals were, and how well you executed what you did in the community of Halton. and that’s what you should be judged on and that’s how you should move forward."

This, to me, is the essence of the Conservative approach to democracy. It's not about representing the people to the government - it's about representing the government (or the party) to the people. It's about convincing people that they should adhere to the party's position rather than adjusting the party's position to reflect the wishes and the interests of the people.

It's about falling in line, people. Write that down.


In other news... like everyone else, I have been watching the economic horror show south of the border and have been asking myself (as I'm sure you all have), "What does Naomi Klein think?"

Today, we have our answer:

Now Is the Time to Resist Wall Street's Shock Doctrine

by Naomi Klein

I wrote The Shock Doctrine in the hopes that it would make us all better prepared for the next big shock. Well, that shock has certainly arrived, along with gloves-off attempts to use it to push through radical pro-corporate policies (which of course will further enrich the very players who created the market crisis in the first place...).

The best summary of how the right plans to use the economic crisis to push through their policy wish list comes from Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. On Sunday, Gingrich laid out 18 policy prescriptions for Congress to take in order to "return to a Reagan-Thatcher policy of economic growth through fundamental reforms." In the midst of this economic crisis, he is actually demanding the repeal of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which would lead to further deregulation of the financial industry. Gingrich is also calling for reforming the education system to allow "competition" (a.k.a. vouchers), strengthening border enforcement, cutting corporate taxes and his signature move: allowing offshore drilling.

It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the right's ability to use this crisis -- created by deregulation and privatization -- to demand more of the same...

Or, as I explained it to my son today, it's all about reverse privatization. Instead of government selling off the most profitable portions of public assets and leaving us with the dross, they want to take indebted private business interests and sell the shitty end of the stick to the public. And it all has to be done now. Now! NOW NOW NOW!!!

He got it. I have the most politically astute sixteen year old on the planet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Those Gala People and Their Fancy Clothes

You can tell when Steven Harper is speaking to western Conservatives. He loses the sweater, and doesn't even bother to hide his contempt for those arugala munching, champagne quaffing elites who work in the arts and culture industry.

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up - I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people."

Excuse me? Ordinary working people?!? As opposed to all those non-working weirdos like, say, my husband and my sister and a large number of our friends?

I've got news for you, Mr. Harper. The vast majority of people who work in film and television in this country aren't the Sarah Polleys and the Paul Grosses you see on the red carpet at TIFF. They're writers, and carpenters, and computer programmers, and electricians, and seamstresses, and tens of thousands of other ordinary, hard working people performing all the myriad functions behind the scenes that have made Canada one of the major film production centres of the world. Or at least it was before you and your ilk decided that it really wasn't important enough to "ordinary Canadians" to warrant your support. Now, most of those carpenters and prop makers and electricians are out of work.

I won't even get into the constant repetition of the lie that the Conservatives have increased funding for "the arts" (I'm sorry, but Olympic hockey isn't art, and you'd be hard pressed to call it culture). I've dealt with that nonsense before, and Impolitical does so again quite eloquently today. Go read.

Oh, and about those galas. Funny story. My sister does film compositing and digital effects, and was part of the team that made Shawn Ashmore's leg disappear in "The Terry Fox Story". They were nominated for a Gemini for their efforts, so my sister bought a fancy dress, got her hair done, and went down to the awards gala. And they won!

The thing is, in Canada, when you win an award like that as part of a team, you only get one statue for the whole team. If you want one of your own, you have to pay for it. I think it was around $300. And the reception after the awards ceremony? CASH BAR.

Nice. But hey, at least she got to be serenaded by Walter Gretsky as they lined up to get into the room.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy (almost) Car Free Day!

Ok, here's the thing. I had to do laundry. No - I really had to do laundry. Like, a full bag and an overflowing basket full. At least 60 pounds worth, and I don't have a functional washer & dryer at home and it's a long haul to the laundromat. Ok, so there's actually another one closer to my house, but it's kind of scuzzy and besides, the one I go to is SOLAR!


Aside from the laundry run, I rode my bike the rest of the day - to the grocery store and to work and back. Nothing like the haul that Hazel did today, though. I mean, holy crap! 87?! Wow. I am in awe.

Go Hazel!

Blog Wars Part 2: On Candidate Blogs

Halton is blessed (or cursed) with having the Canadian House of Commons' most prolific blogger as our MP. It's fascinating, informative, often embarrassing, and never, ever dull having Garth Turner represent us in Parliament and in the blogosphere.

Perhaps that's why Lisa Raitt's shortcomings as a blogger have stood in such stark contrast, and why so many have chosen to mock her (with my encouragement) even though her style of non-blog blog is more the rule than the exception among candidates. But given today's unceremonious removal of blogging candidate Chris Reid by the Conservative Party, it's not hard to understand why most candidates might be reluctant to risk the exposure, and why some parties might want to actively discourage the practice.

The thing with blogging is this: sooner or later, it bares the soul.

You can try to be good and stick to the party line. You can try to conceal who you really are. But if you are really doing it, day after day, putting your thoughts and opinions out there for all the world to see, sooner or later you're going to say something you wish you hadn't.

We've all done it. You get on a tear, you word something poorly, you say something that might reflect your real feelings at the moment but still isn't something you'd ever want to have to justify publically. But even these errors, understandable as they may be, say something about us. We may be embarrassed by them, but we cannot deny them. They are part of us.

Politicians are no different. They're human. They fuck up - but HOW they fuck up can be very instructional. They can either say something we can imagine ourselves saying under the wrong circumstances, or they can reveal a rot that goes to the very core of their being.

Garth Turner has fucked up plenty over the years, but his flaws and his errors in judgement are out there for all the world to see. Like him or hate his guts, you can't say you don't know what you're getting when you vote for him. Lisa Raitt and all the other candidates who hide behind boilerplate press releases and cookie-cutter talking points - I have no freakin' idea who these people are. They might be perfectly descent people, but I find their silence disturbing.

So, to all you candidates out there, of all parties: blog away. Please. Because if the only way you can avoid saying something bad enough to end your political career forever is to say nothing at all, then frankly I'd rather vote for the copy machine that prints out your press releases.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Blog Wars Claim Another Victim

Congratulations to BigCityLib for digging up that nasty hairball Conservative candidate and handgun fan Chris Reid coughed up and subsequently tried to shove down the memory hole.

(Note to Conservative bloggers: the internet never forgets.)

Reid has now withdrawn his candidacy, claiming that he "would not be able to "commit" to a four-year term in office". Right. Because he apparently realized just this weekend that he had about a .042% chance of beating the incumbent - Bob Rae.

I find it curious that Reid chose this particular time to shut down the comments on his blog, and then delete the blog all together. It makes me wonder if he and Lisa Raitt might have received the same memo from the Ministry of Truth that Garth Turner got two years ago.

More later...

Dueling Experts

Impolitical raised an interesting question today as she surveyed the numerous highly qualified economic experts who have concluded that Harper's whole "The Green Shift will destroy the economy" meme is utter bollocks.

She questions whether the Liberals are doing enough to inform people of these expert opinions, and asks
"whether such independent expertise will be legitimately valued by the Canadian public as the election proceeds or whether there will be lazy succumbing to Conservative fearmongering".

In short, no - I don't believe such expertise would be valued by the public even if the Liberals ran ads featuring it a hundred times a day from now until the 14th. But is it laziness? I thought about it, and while that is undoubtedly part of the problem, I'm not sure that's all there is to it.

I suspect it has more to do with an inability to think critically.

Critical thinking requires not only an analysis and synthesis of available information, but an ability to discern between varying qualities of information based on the quality of the source. A critical thinker would, for example, give more weight and consideration to multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies on the effects of fluoridated water than, say, something your friend sent you in an email.

This would seem to be self-evident, but the persistence of such idiotic notions as "Global warming is caused by sunspots" and "Obama is a Muslim" in public discourse speaks volumes about the public's inability to distinguish fact from rumour, and expertise from hackery.

(I'm sorry - I've been sitting here watching "The Grapes of Wrath" on CBC, and the next thing I know I'm having to suffer through not one, not two, but THREE consecutive sweater-wearing Steven Harper ads during the commercial break. The cognitive dissonance just made me throw up in my mouth a little. Anyway...)

I'm not sure who or what is to blame for this shocking inability to tell the difference between smart people and idiots. Part of it may be a failing in our education system. Part is a creeping anti-intellectualism that started with Nixon at the end of the sixties and has infected North American consciousness ever since. Part may well be the media's insistence on giving equal time and weight to both sides of any given issue, even if one side is entirely out of its weight class. As in, "Next on CNN, physicist Stephen Hawking faces off against the President of the Flat Earth Society".

Jim Travers ran an op-ed in the Star today that may offer some insight.

Beating up elites is almost always better politics than talking down to voters. So if it weren't for extraordinary events it would be no surprise at all that this election's question mark is the size of the approaching Conservative victory. But these are suddenly turbulent times that in theory should be raising doubts that Harper's preferred role for government, a role drawing heavily on coffee shop wisdom, is the best one to pull Canada through.

... Only voters can decide and it's to Harper's considerable advantage that they don't have much time to mull variables. Consensus forms slowly around complex issues – balancing the federal budget took nearly a decade to rise to the top of national priorities – and the issues now muscling their way into public consciousness weave tightly through the very nature and purpose of 21st-century government.

Harper's other advantage is Dion. Electioneering isn't primarily about policies, it's about character and identity, and Conservatives are far superior to Liberals in making voters comfortable with their leader. Harper is positioned as Everyman driving kids to the rink in a Chevy minivan – as if he didn't have a chauffeured limousine. Dion is the nerd carpooling academics to a symposium in a Volvo wagon – as if he didn't have a government Prius.

There's more to Harper and Dion than either stereotype. Still, there's no evidence yet that Conservatives were wrong to assume that voters are happier being told what they already know by politicians than what they should think by experts.

Someone else (I wish I could remember who) also pointed out today that people are always more inclined to accept information when it serves to confirm that which they already think they know. He got himself ragged upon as I recall.

Al Gore has a lot of answers in his extraordinary book, "The Assault on Reason". Go. Read. I'm going to bed. I can't take the end of "The Grapes of Wrath" right now.

It looks too much like the future.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Was it Something I Said?!

Yesterday, I paid a visit to Lisa Raitt's new blog. It was mostly press release-type posts, but there were a few comments (well, four) basically saying, "Great blog, Lisa!" and "Liberals sure are stupid!" and the like.

So I left a comment under her post entitled "Keep your Universal Child Care Benefit". I asked how many of the 125,000 new child care spaces the Conservatives had promised would be created through employee tax credits had actually been created so far. Just so. I used my real name, email and URL. I was very nice, I thought. Polite. Non-threatening. And it's a legitimate question, because although the last time I checked the answer was 'zero', I honestly don't know if that's still true.

As of this morning, my comment was still awaiting moderation.

As of tonight, all previous comments have been deleted, and all further comments are closed.

I'm sorry, should I have asked an easier question? Or perhaps tried to hide my identity and pretend to be a supporter? Because Ms. Raitt, if you can't handle one simple question on a website from a non-Conservative without shutting down all lines of communication, then it's probably a good thing you haven't had to put up with the threats, the stalking, and the intimidation your opponent and his staff have had to deal with over the past couple of weeks. Seems to me you might need to develop a thicker skin.

The first debate is on Monday, in Oakville. I look forward to meeting you and asking my question in person.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harper Does Halton. Raitt Does Turner.

I really wanted to attend last night's Harper rally in Oakville. I really did. I might have even been willing to sign in with my name and address and have my bags searched and whatever the hell else they're requiring of those deemed worthy of being admitted into His August Presence.

Sadly, Mr. Handel required my attendance at choir practice.

Coincidentally, the event was being held at the same hall that hosted the Turner and Dion Town Hall and Road Show a few weeks ago. You know, the one where 1,200+ people showed up during summer vacation when there was no election on? Well, Harper got about 400. To be fair, though, the location wasn't officially released until the day of the event, so it wasn't like they were actively promoting it to the public.

Still, with that handy removable wall there to cut the space in half, it looks like it was quite cosy.

Lisa Raitt was there to introduce her boss and take a few shot at her opponent, Garth Turner. I thought this was priceless:

"Halton deserves a good MP, one who puts you and your concerns first, but instead, warming Halton's seat in Parliament right now, we've got a guy who likes to blub a lot, likes to call people names and who also attacks the news media when they don't agree with him," said Raitt.

"As I mentioned, I am a parent of young children, so I know how to deal with this sort of behaviour and looking around the room, I see lots of parents and grandparents and you do, too. You give your child a time out. You teach them how to behave like a big boy. On election day, let's do what's best for Halton, lets give Garth Turner a permanent time out."

Oh. Please. Do feel free to use the 'time out' line in the debates. Maybe you can threaten to give him a spanking. No, wait...

Honestly, I would have loved to hear what else she had to say. Perhaps she spoke about the economy. Or business concerns. Or the transportation industry. I suspect I would have been disappointed, though. From everything I've read so far, her years of experience as President and CEO of the Toronto Port Authority, being the first female harbourmaster in Canadian history, her law degree and legal training in international trade, commerce, transportation and arbitration - all apparently make her eminently qualified to be the official Conservative point-person on the subject of... Mommy Stuff.
Help for First-Time Homebuyers
Extending Maternity and Parental Benefits to Self-Employed Canadians
Keep your Universal Child Care Benefit

Still, good on her for putting up a blog that actually allows comments, even if her posts so far are mostly regurgitations of press releases fed to her by mommy bird, and her... four commenters are all party faithful. I'm sure she'll get the hang of it eventually. Maybe.

Feel free to wander over there and liven things up for her - she looks a little lonely. I left a rather respectful question there tonight under (shock!) my real name and URL. Let's see what she does with it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Personal Political Focus Group

I sing with the Milton Choristers, a local community choir of about 30-45 men and women here in Halton. When I first joined 14 years ago I was the youngest member by about a decade, and the only one wearing jeans. These days, it's not quite the blue-haired crowd it once was, and we actually have a wide range of ages, incomes and even ethic origins represented now.

Consequently, the Choristers have become my barometer of the political climate of Milton, as we sit and drink beer and engage in animated conversation about a wide range of topics at Bryden's Pub after rehearsal every Tuesday.

This evening I was conversing with my rather conservative friend Jim. Jim reminds me of a younger version of my dad: professional, moderate to high income, old school family guy. Intelligent. Well informed. Traditional Conservative.

Despite this (or maybe because of it), I consider him a friend. Which is not to say that he doesn't make me want to tear my hair out sometimes.

Jim is of the opinion (and I'm paraphrasing here) that Canada really only needs two political parties, and that they just need to trade places every few years so they don't become overly entrenched and corrupt. Right now it's the Conservatives' turn at the helm, and that's probably the best thing for the country right now as it will clear out the deadwood of too many years of Liberal rule.

Twenty years ago, I might even have agreed with him.

What traditional Canadian Conservatives like Jim fail to understand - and which I cannot for the life of me manage to convince them of - is that the Conservatism they have known all their lives does not bear the remotest resemblance to what Steven Harper and his ilk are calling Conservatism.

They are not moderate. They are not fiscally responsible. They are not patriotic. They do not believe in smaller government - they believe in NO GOVERNMENT AT ALL. In fact, Harper calling his party 'Conservative' is a little like Hitler calling his party 'Socialist'.

I am further convinced of all of this because I finally got tired of waiting for Milton's sole pathetic chain bookstore to stock copies of Thomas Frank's "The Wrecking Crew" and got mine by mail order. I'm one chapter in and already I'm getting a much clearer view of the coming apocalypse should Steven Harper win his majority.

Here is just one excerpt:

There are plenty of good conservative individuals, honorable folks who would never participate in the sort of corruption we have watched unfold over the last few years...

But put conservatism in charge of the state, and it behaves very differently. Now the "values" that rightist politicians eulogize on the stump disappear, and in their place we can discern an entirely different set of priorities - priorities that reveal more about the unchanging historical essence of American conservatism than do its fleeting campaigns against gay marriage or secular humanism.

The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school. Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action.

Frankly, I fear for both our nations. Because even if the Democrats win there and the Liberals (by some miracle) win here, the damage may well be so extensive and so deep-rooted that it will take years or even decades to repair, and the price to be paid for reversing so many years of irresponsible reductions in federal revenue and mortal blows to our respective democracies, may well be more than the electorate is willing to bear.

In which case, I may not see the end of this within my lifetime. Pray Gods my son sees it in his.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Harper's Ministry of Truth Has Been Busy

Not content to merely control the message coming out of their MPs and candidates in the present, the PMO has been busy re-writing what they 'said' in the past:

Conservative messages undergo 'severe' editing
'New quotes' even added to better reflect Harper's stance, documents reveal

... The documents show the media release and background documents handed out were massaged by several officials and communications officers in the departments of Industry and Fisheries and Oceans. Then they were forwarded to the Privy Council Office where senior analyst Kevin Mills did what he called a "severe edit" on the release.

Much of the information about the scientists and project was cut, but the names of three ministers -- Mr. Toews, Maxime Bernier, who was industry minister at the time, and Fisheries and Oceans Minister Loyola Hearn were retained.

Mr. Mills then asked for "new quotes" to be attributed to Mr. Toews and Mr. Bernier. "One comment I received is that the ministerial quotes do not reflect the comments the PM has made in speeches on the north," Mr. Mills advised Jennifer Davies at Fisheries and Oceans. She and Ms. Boudreau came up with new lines for their ministers.

The documents show Ms. Davies and Ms. Boudreau repeatedly revising quotes that were cleared by their ministers' office, then sent to different "analysts" in Privy Council Office for approval. It is not clear whether the ministers had input into what they were eventually quoted as saying.

Oceania is at War with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at War with Eurasia.

An Open Message To: (you know who you are and what you did)

I was going to leave a comment on the blog post in question, but there would be no point. I won't link to it or even name the son of a bitch other than to say that he's a member of Blogging Tories because he doesn't deserve a single lousy hit from this. I won't even get into the details in deference to the person whose family was targeted (no, it wasn't mine), and if you want to respond you can bloody well email me.

But this really, really must be said:


But hey, thanks for showing us all what the Conservative idea of political debate is. It's been a real education.

We win.

Conservatives to Target NDP, Greens

I'm not at all sure what to make of this:

Tories change campaign target to aim at NDP, Greens

OTTAWA - The Conservatives said Sunday they are refocusing their primary aim on the NDP and the Green Party, citing them as a bigger threat to their reelection than the Liberals.

The Tories explained their dramatic shift in strategy, coming as the second week of the federal election begins, as being due to NDP Leader Jack Layton's rising popularity over that of Liberal Leader Stephane Dion - Prime Minister Stephen Harper's main target last week.

But the Conservatives also said that the NDP and Green Party are making significant inroads, not only in British Columbia and parts of the Prairies but in northern and southwestern Ontario.

I'm trying to think of any way in which this would actually benefit the Conservatives. After all, of all the NDP supporters I know, I can't think of one of them who wouldn't rather gnaw of their own leg than vote for Stephen Harper. If they suddenly became disenchanted with Jack Layton (and some of them have), they might vote Green or Liberal, but never, ever Conservative.

The only thing I can think of is if some of the hardcore union types would consider the Conservatives a viable alternative. I don't know. Perhaps some of you Blogging Dippers can enlighten me. I've probably been a little sheltered in my GTA cocoon, but most of the NDP supporters I know are more latte than lunch bucket.

BTW, I've mentioned this before but I should probably say it again. I have no problem with the NDP. I used to vote NDP on a regular basis, and would happily do so again. I have some problems with Jack Layton, but if it even came down to a choice between him and Harper, I'd pick Layton in a heartbeat. So if things ever got to the point where the NDP became the official opposition and voting for them became our best chance of getting rid of Harper, then... well...

Happily, I don't think we're there yet. But things sure are getting interesting.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Other Blog is the Milton Champion

Milton is blessed with not one but two local newspapers that almost everyone in town actually reads and is influenced by. One is the Halton Compass (formerly the North Halton Compass), which is one of the few surviving independent local papers left in the GTA. It's small, but mighty.

The other is Milton Canadian Champion - a Metroland paper that nonetheless has enough of a history in town (150 years) that it's managed to maintain its own character.

Not long after moving to Milton fourteen years ago, I discovered the power of a well written Letter to the Editor of the Champion. Over those years I've written several - the most effective of which was one decrying a proposed increase in the speed limit on my street. That one inspired a petition started by a little girl up the street, a series of supporting letters, and an invitation by my town councillor to speak as a delegate before council.

I brought maps, and photos, and traffic calming studies - and consequently my little stretch of road is still a school zone.

My point is, despite the emergence of the internet and the blogosphere as potent tools for political change, sometimes nothing beats a good, old fashioned letter in the local dead trees media for reaching the local masses. I highly recommend it.

Sometimes, though, these things take time.

I don't think I've ever written a letter to the Champion that was never published, but they have often delayed publication long enough for the subject to lose its relevence. Such might be the case of my response to this letter, published two weeks ago, from an emissions control specialist who claimed to have attended the Turner / Dion extravaganza last month and yet somehow came away with the impression that The Green Shift was a cap-and-trade system. I sent my letter immediately, but so far the only response they've published was one from... Garth Turner.


So, in case they never get around to printing my (vastly superior) letter, here it is in full:

To the Editor,

Jon Komow's recent letter critiquing the cap-and-trade system of pollution control was fascinating and obviously based on professional expertise. However, I'm not sure if he actually attended the same town hall meeting that I did because Stephane Dion's 'Green Shift' plan is not, in fact, a cap-and-trade system.

Perhaps he's thinking of another party. The NDP is proposing a cap-and trade system, and Jack Layton has criticized the Liberals for not doing the same. The Conservatives have brought in a sort of cap-and-trade system, although the 'cap' is actually an 'intensity target' and the 'trade' system has not actually been set up. And of course neither plan provides tax relief to individuals and businesses to offset the resulting cost increases.

I am also curious about his complaint that the U.S. pollution control credit system brought in 15 years ago (I'm assuming he's referring to the Clean Air Act of 1990) just allowed major polluters to keep on polluting. It's my understanding that that program directly resulted in a 40% reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions and a comparable reduction in acid rain levels. Even he cites the massive reduction in conventional air pollutants over the past four decades, so I'm not sure exactly what his argument is.

One other correction: previous Liberal governments (and a couple of Conservative ones) have, in fact, provided Ballard Power Systems with hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and R&D funding over the past two and a half decades.

As for Mr. Komow's concerns about the business impact of a carbon tax, he would do well to consider what the impact will be when Europe and even the U.S. stop doing business with us because of our high carbon emissions. Or when Canadian businesses can simply no longer afford the carbon-based fuels they've come to depend on and find themselves with no alternatives.

In the coming years, businesses that cling to the past instead of embracing the new low-carbon economy are going to find themselves in dire straits, with or without a carbon tax. With the Green Shift, they will at least have some resources to help them adapt.

I strongly recommend that Mr. Komow and anyone else who is interested in the facts actually read the Green Shift plan at Read it, work out the costs and benefits, and decide for yourself if you find it sound. But please, base your decision on the facts and not on rumours or political fear mongering.

- Jennifer Smith

My only regret is that I didn't have access to that carbon tax economic impact study the Conservatives commissioned and subsequently buried in a drawer - along with that TASER report.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Halton's New Tory Candidate Has Been Assimilated

How fascinating. Not only are Conservative MPs completely interchangeable when mailing 10 percenters into other peoples' ridings - apparently the same applies to quotes from candidates.

For example, today's Milton Champion quoted newly anointed Conservative candidate Lisa Raitt speaking about child care:

"When they compare leaders, parents face a clear choice," said Raitt. "With Stephen Harper they'll keep their $1,200 universal childcare benefit. With Stephane Dion, they'll lose it..."

But Raitt contended there's nothing false about the Conservatives' ad campaign.

"This ad is fair and factual," she said. "It serves as a public service announcement that reflects the true Liberal position on the $1,200 universal childcare benefit and it clearly demonstrates what's at stake in this election campaign."

Aside from the fact that this is a bald-faced lie, it's nice to see that the Conservative Party chose to quote our little local paper's interview with Raitt on their website.

Unless... wait a minute... Let's check the French side:

« Quand ils comparent les leaders, les parents font face à un choix clair, a dit la ministre Josée Verner. Avec Stephen Harper, ils garderont la prestation pour la garde d'enfants de 1 200 $. Avec Stéphane Dion, ils la perdront. »

« Cette annonce est juste et fondée sur des faits, a dit Mme Verner. Elle reflète la vraie position des Libéraux sur la prestation pour la garde d'enfants de 1 200 $, et démontre clairement ce qui est en jeu au cours de cette campagne électorale. »

My French is, well, pretty much non-existent, but even I can tell (and the Globe & Mail confirms) that that is precisely the same quote - verbatim - attributed to Josée Verner.

Of course, Verner and Raitt are both woman, so naturally they would have exactly the same things to say on the subject of child care. Or abortion. Or pay equity.

This isn't just talking points being repeated. This is a multi-sentence quote being presented as the words of a specific candidate - in fact, two specific candidates - where every single word and comma is obviously coming straight from Party Central. Even worse, the Champion article gives the impression that this was all from an actual interview with the candidate, when in all likelihood (unless Raitt has a photographic memory) it was just copied and pasted from a press release.

How sad. Not just for the state of local journalism, but that Conservative candidates are apparently not trusted to speak for themselves, and are so firmly controlled by party headquarters that any individual strengths or weaknesses, ideas or opinions, are completely subsumed by the hive mind.

You have been nominated. Resistance is futile.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Greens Gone Wild

I personally think Buckdog has been a little over zealous in his attacks on Elizabeth May and the Green Party. And even he has more or less acknowledged that the audio of May on the "Canadians Are Stupid" YouTube video he embedded in his blog is taken badly out of context.

But c'mon, this is ridiculous:

From: John Bennett
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 2008 12:37:56 -0600

Please be informed that the if the video

Canadians Are Stupid!" - Elizabeth May

is not removed from your site with the hour the Green Party of Canada will seek means to prevent legal proceedings further slander.

John Bennett
Director of Communications
Green Party of Canada

Not only is this a completely over the top response that looks suspiciously like suppression of free speech - it's not even proper English! Neither is their subsequent email responding to Buckdog's understandable "piss off":

You are knowingly asisting in slander get it down or you face legal action us & TVO.

Journalism is more than repeating. You have a responsibility to verify the facts.

Get get it down now.

Seriously, if their grammar, spelling and syntax aren't any better than that, I don't think I'd be too worried about the keen legal minds they've got working for them.

So, let's see. The Harper war room has been taken over by a bunch of Red Bull-crazed 20-somethings whose idea of cutting edge political strategy is puffin poop and insulting the parents of our war dead. The NDP think the multi-party system in this country is just fine and dandy as long as they're the only alternative party that gets to play. And now the Greens have apparently decided to emulate Harper's knee-jerk litigation approach to political debate.

If this keeps up, Dion might just win through attrition. This way to the Moral High Ground, boys!

Conservatives Unhappy in Halton

If the Halton Compass' website wasn't currently down (and didn't completely suck when it was up) you could read the full version of an article about the Conservative candidate nomination coronation meeting that saw "Lisa Who?" installed as the national party's favoured choice to go up against the democratic juggernaut that is Team Turner.

Interestingly, it's former Reformer and Turner nemesis Rick Malboeuf who has been the most vocal about his disgust at the parachuting of Lisa Raitt into the Halton race.

"We had candidates prepared to run, we had the memberships - we had everything necessary to hold a nomination meeting," he said. And now they're (Conservative Party of Canada) using the guise of an election... to impose their candidate."

"This was planned months ago," he concluded. "They knew that Lisa Raitt was going to be our candidate months ago. Even I heard up to a year ago this was decided."

Raitt's candidacy was made official on September 5, with the announcement made by the president of the Conservative Party of Canada, Don Plett, at a Halton riding association board meeting.

During the meeting, Malboeuf said that questions he asked the candidate went unanswered.

"I asked her (Raitt) why she chose not to put her name forward earlier and go through the nomination process and face the membership and seek their support," he said. "She asked Don Plett if she should answer and he told her 'no.' So she wouldn't answer."

Congratulations, Rick. You have just entered... the Harper Zone.

Interestingly, the other hopeful for the candidacy, D'Arcy Keene, was ultimately hired by Raitt as her campaign manager. Both men had tried to dethrone Garth Turner two years ago in a rather bitter battle in which Turner emerged intact but not unscathed as Halton's Conservative candidate. In fact, Keene is commonly regarded as a sock puppet for Turner's old foe Charles McVety.

So... an ex-Reform Party member and a proxy for a rabid right-wing televangelist. Hmm. Suddenly the Conservative Party's reluctance to allow the local riding association to elect its own candidate is made crystal clear.

Oh, and in case you were wondering what our other local paper had to say about the contentious nomination meeting, well...

Raitt -- who's taking an unpaid leave from her position with the port authority for the campaign -- told The Star the nomination process was "unfortunate," but said she has the full support of the riding executive.

"The people in the room want to get on with an election campaign and they want to get out there and make sure the Conservative ideals are put forward," she said.

Association president Will Stewart said a number of people in the local group were "frustrated with the way the process unfolded."

"But once we discussed the process, we had a unanimous vote of support for Lisa as our candidate," he said.

I'm guessing Rick Malboeuf had stormed out before that 'unanimous' vote was taken.


And in that OTHER election, Keith Olbermann once again speaks truth to power.

Canada needs someone like Olbermann.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Am Jack's Indignant Capitulation

“I have only one condition for this debate, that the Prime Minister is there, because I want to debate the issues with him. I don't want to be debating the debate forever.” - Jack Layton

“Let the record show we were on the side of the angels" - Liberal Senator Jim Munson


Holy Birdshit, Batman!

Geez, try to take a day off from blogging and just look what happens!

We got news of the Pooping Puffin yesterday morning at Garth Turner's campaign office shortly after Esther arrived, checked her email, and we suddenly heard her scream "OH MY GOD!!" from her office.

At first we thought the screen capture had to be a joke - something someone had Photochopped and tried to fob off to make the Liberals look dumb. There was certainly not sign of poop on the actual website any more, and who could believe that Mr. Iron Fist of Doom would ever have allowed such a juvenile piece of poop to see the light of day? But then I ran across K-K-K-Katie's sneering reference to it at SDA and I knew that it was really, truly true.

Best news I'd heard all day.

Oddly, after all the fuss and bother over pooping puffins, there is still one detail of this repulsive piece of web art that has gone virtually unnoticed:

FYI for you non-hunting types: that's not a shotgun, or any other type of gun one would ever use for hunting - puffins or anything else.

That, my friends, is Michael Ignatieff holding a military assault rifle. Much like the type of weapon that Kimveer Gill used in his rampage at Dawson College. Much like the ones the Quebec coroner in the case recently recommended, and Dion agreed, should be banned.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Garth Turner: Raw and Uncut

Today was the official launch of the Garth Turner Campaign here in Halton. Esther was positively giddy with delight at the crushing numbers of volunteers, board members and dignitaries who packed the new campaign office. Senator Betty Kennedy was there. Former Provincial Liberal candidate Gary Zemlak was there (sorry, Gary - nothing personal). The candidate's papers were signed, the signs were bagged, and team members were assigned to spread them out across the land.

Meanwhile, Garth handed me his camera and asked me to record the whole thing for posterity. Which was quite a trick given that I already had my own still camera and my camcorder to juggle - but hey, anything for the cause. I snapped a few shots, noticed the thing kept shutting down in between, checked the display and... the batteries were very nearly dead.

Sigh. Note to self: always bring spare batteries for the boss.

No worries, though. I took a few more still shots with my own camera and [gulp] handed my data card over to Garth so he could post them on his blog.

I'm gonna want that back, Garth.

In the meantime, here's some quick video of today's festivities:

BREAKING NEWS! Brent Fullard to run against Jim Flaherty

Word came today to Garth Turner's campaign office that Brent Fullard, activist and founder of CAITI (The Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors) will be the Liberal candidate in Whitby-Oshawa and will run against his nemesis Jim Flaherty in the October 14th election.

Photos and video from today's campaign launch in Halton will be posted later today. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

By now, most people following the meteoric rise of Republican superstar Sarah Palin have read the email written by Wasilla resident Anne Kilkenny and circulated amongst the blogging rabble in recent weeks days (my Gods, has it only been a few days?).

Now, many supporters of the Republican ticket have pointed out (and rightly so) that this is just one person saying these awful, awful things. One voice in the wilderness, when there are apparently millions thousands of Alaskans out there who think Sarah Palin is just the bee's knees.

Today, that one voice has grown to a somewhat soft-spoken chorus.

Alaskans Speak (In A Frightened Whisper): Palin Is “Racist, Sexist, Vindictive, And Mean”

“So Sambo beat the bitch!”

This is how Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin described Barack Obama’s win over Hillary Clinton to political colleagues in a restaurant a few days after Obama locked up the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

According to Lucille, the waitress serving her table at the time and who asked that her last name not be used, Gov. Palin was eating lunch with five or six people when the subject of the Democrat’s primary battle came up. The governor, seemingly not caring that people at nearby tables would likely hear her, uttered the slur and then laughed loudly as her meal mates joined in appreciatively.

“It was kind of disgusting,” Lucille, who is part Aboriginal, said in a phone interview after admitting that she is frightened of being discovered telling folks in the “lower 48” about life near the North Pole.

Then, almost with a sigh, she added, “But that’s just Alaska.”

It may well be. But really - a waitress? That's the sort of thing that someone with an agenda might say because, well, you can't really verify it. But then there's this.

Something else has a familiar Republican ring to it: Her tax policies, and a “refund surpluses but borrow for the future” attitude.

According to Kilkenny and others in Wasilla as well as Juneau, Palin reduced progressive property taxes for businesses while mayor and increased a regressive sales tax which even hits necessities such as food. The tax cuts she promoted in her St. Paul speech actually benefited large corporate property owners far more than they benefited residents. Indeed, Kilkenny insists that many Wasilla home owners actually saw their tax bill skyrocket to make up for the shortfall. Two other Wasillian’s with whom I spoke said property taxes on their modest, three bedroom homes rose during the Palin regime.

To an outsider, it would seem hard to do, but an oil-rich town with zero debt on the day she was inaugurated mayor was left saddled with $22 million of debt by the time she moved away to become governor – especially since nothing was spent on things such as improving the city’s infrastructure or building a much-needed sewage treatment plant.

And this:

En route to the governor’s igloo, Palin managed to land what Anne Kilkenny says is the plumb political appointment in the state: Chair of Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (OGCC), a $122,400 per year patronage slot with no real authority to do anything other than hold meetings. She took the job despite having no background in energy issues and, as it turned out, not liking the work.

“She hated the job,” an OGCC staff member who is not authorized to speak with the news media told me. “She hated the hours and she hated what little work there was to do. But she couldn’t figure out a way to get out of the thing without offending Gov. Murkowski” and the state Republican Party regulars, some of whom were pissed off they didn’t get appointed.

But ever the opportunist, Palin quickly concocted a way. First, she waged a campaign with the local news media claiming that the position was overpaid and should be abolished – despite the fact that she lobbied Murkowski hard to get it. Then, mounting what she saw as a white horse, Palin raised a cloud of dust by resigning from the OGCC and riding away with an undeserved reputation as a “reformer.”

And this one I found particularly amusing:

“The GOP is kind of like organized crime up here,” an insurance agent in Anchorage who knows the Palin family, explained. “It’s corrupt and arrogant. They’re all rich because they do private sweetheart deals with the oil companies, and they can destroy anyone. And they will, if they have to.”

“Once Palin became mayor,” he continued, “She became part of that inner circle.”

And... well, it just kinda goes on and on.

The thing is, having seen her on television and hearing her speak and based entirely on my entirely subjective but usually reliable first impression, I have absolutely no problem believing any of this.

We all wait with bated breath for the chorus to become a deafening roar from the 49th state. At which point the wags may well be vindicated when Sarah Palin suddenly drops from the race citing a "family crisis" or "personal issues".

Otherwise... well hey, at least Alaskans would be rid of her.

(oh, and a big H/T to my S/O, who always finds me cool stuff like this:)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Learning From the Master

Today's debate appears to be about "should the Liberals should go negative?" in the upcoming election, and if so to what degree. I'm sitting here watching Barack Obama speak in Pennsylvania, and I think I've found the answer.

To me, Obama is striking exactly the right balance between strong criticism of Bush/McCain and presenting specific, positive solutions. He calls out McCain and Palin for lying about him wanting to raise taxes, and points out that his plan would actually reduce taxes for 95% of Americans. He mocks McCain's health care advisor for suggesting that all those 'uninsured' aren't really uninsured because they can just go to the ER - and then explains how he would help employers reduce insurance rates for their employees and allow average Americans to access the same type of plan members of Congress have.

This is the way to do it. Criticize the policy, not the man, then present a clear alternative. Left, right, keep your gloves up, stay on your toes.

Or you could just go with the sweater vest and kittens approach.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

You can tell you're a real party when...

... people start digging up dirt on your candidates.

John Shavluk will not be a Green candidate

NEW GLASGOW – The Green Party has announced that John Shavluk will not be the candidate for the party in Newton—North Delta, following revelations that he made comments in 2006 on an online discussion forum that could be construed as anti-Semitic.

“Respect for diversity is a fundamental principle of the Green Party,” said leader Elizabeth May. “We condemn anti-Semitism and our members work to encourage respectful dialogue, diversity, peace and cooperation.”

Kudos to David Akin for giving credit where credit's due - to a blogger who picked this up when none of Akin's colleagues did. And for displaying just the right mix of amusement and disgust at Robert McClelland's comments insisting that someone explain to him exactly what's racist about the term "Jewish world bank".

I recommended teh Google (actually, "Zionist world bank" works even better).

It's quite fascinating to go in and read the original context of this and other comments that Shavluk has made. In fact, it's remotely possible that the "Jewish world bank" comment really was some sort of attempt at irony or sarcasm or... I dunno. Something. Unfortunately, it's impossible to discern his intent because the man's writings are all rambling, incoherent and borderline illiterate. One would think that that alone would disqualify him from running for public office.

Oh, yeah - and he's a 9/11 Truther. Groan.

The Green Party of Canada has struggled with the paradox of being both left-wing and right-wing ever since the Harris regime, so I suppose the idea of an anti-semitic conspiracy theorist who supports legalized marijuana appearing among their ranks isn't quite as bizarre as it might first appear. I also suspect this won't be the last time this sort of thing surfaces. But kudos to May for dealing with swiftly and efficiently.

The Green Shift Shift, Sarah Palin... and Kitties!

I was thrilled to hear that Stephane Dion and the Liberals have listened to the legitimate concerns of farmers, fishers and truckers, and come up with a way to help them bear the costs of the Green Shift by giving them subsidies for equipment and technology to help them actually reduce their emissions. And all within the financial leeway already built into the Green Shift plan.

Win, win - right?



I am getting seriously fed up with all the "You hate her because she has a vagina" crap coming out of the Republican Party. I got news for you guys - we hate her because she's a religious right-wingnut with a gun fetish and a propensity for using her powers for evil.

How about this. Every time someone criticizes Sarah Palin, let's apply a little test and ask ourselves, "Would [X] be an issue if she were a man?" Let's try it, shall we?

Would the fact that she's anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage be an issue if she were male? Of course it would!
The fact that she's being investigated for abuse of power? Oh yeah.
The fact that she tried to have a librarian fired for not removing 'offensive' books from the library? You betcha.
The fact that she's a supporter of abstinence-only education who now has an unwed pregnant teenaged daughter? Rightly or wrongly, yes. Absolutely.

Even this would still be funny if she were a man. Ok, maybe not quite as funny...

In fact, the only person who seems to be treating Palin any differently because she is a woman is John McCain. Because if she were a man, would McCain have even considered picking her? Uh...

Oh, and check out the shenanigans on Wikipedia today:



And just for fun, here's my cat Max watching a YouTube video called "The Kittens discover the crack under the door":

Monday, September 1, 2008

If I Ran the Campaign...

Politics is my favourite spectator sport. I find it far more entertaining than... well, sports. So, in the tradition of armchair quarterbacks everywhere, here are a few suggestions for the Liberal campaign team.

Pay attention, boys.
1) Stick to the high road.
Dion's dignity is one of his best attributes ("I'm a big boy" was the best line ever), so let Harper and his minions rant and spew and taunt all they like. It just makes them look like assholes. Not to say you can't rightly point out the many, many failings of his government and his policies - just make sure you don't get personal. Except for Danny Williams. He can be your Insult Dog.

2) Use your Grassroots and NetRoots.
Learn from Obama. Use every tool you have to engage people and keep them engaged. In fact, you should have had a big, obvious button on your 'Green Shift' website from the first day you launched it where people could register for 'updates' or 'Green Shift News' or something - and then used those contacts for fundraising. Do it. DO IT NOW.

3) Make lemonade.
I know, you're still mourning the loss of all those millions from your Corporate Overlords. Get over it, and turn it to your advantage - as in, "Yes, we used to be under the financial thumb of the corporate establishment, but now... we're not!" (you're not, right?) And give Dion more self-deprecating jokes. I wish I could remember the one where he apologized for his "Australian accent" - it was hilarious.

4) Use your proxies.
The country is full of people who are pissed off at the Conservatives. Let them have at it so you can stay above the fray. Like Danny Williams. Or how about all those Canadian celebrities who testified against C-10? I'm sure Sarah Polley and Paul Gross and all their friends would be more than happy to put together an ad reminding everyone about just how badly Harper has screwed the arts & entertainment industry. Same with supporters of the Wheat Board. Or those CMA members that Tony insulted. They don't have to support you - just remind people of what Harper hath wrought.

5) Work the regions.
Nationally, you guys look bad. But the Maritimes have a long list of their own grievances against the Conservatives. Quebec has a bunch of Bloc seats up for bid, and most of them are really unhappy about arts cuts and Afghanistan. The arts cuts will play in Ontario too, as will food safety deregulation. There, you need to woo both NDPers who think you're no different from the Cons, and old PCers like my dad who are fed up with Harper but not ready to vote Liberal yet. The Prairies... well, do what you can. And in BC (or at least, urban BC) you have the arts cuts plus those insulting 'junkie' flyers.

6) Above all, have a plan, and a vision.
Not a plan to get elected - a plan for what you're going to do after you are. The 'Green Shift' is a start. Now we need to see the rest of it, front and centre. No band-aids. No lollipops. No envelopes of cash. A solid, integrated, bold plan to help us weather the coming storms and emerge with a resilient, transformed economy and a renewed social contract. And a vision of Canada like the one the Liberals talk about but never manage to quite bring about. Progressive. Compassionate. Prosperous. Generous. Trusted and respected on the world stage. Supportive of its citizens at home.

You guys can manage all that, right?