Thursday, January 31, 2008


We've all heard stories about the Bush administration censoring government scientists, any conclusions ultimately vetted and edited by a former oil executive before release. Today, comes news that the Conservatives are once again imitating the disturbing practices of their American cousins. This is unbelievable:
Environment Canada has "muzzled" its scientists, ordering them to refer all media queries to Ottawa where communications officers will help them respond with "approved lines."

The new policy, which went into force in recent weeks and sent a chill through the department research divisions, is designed to control the department's media message and ensure there are no "surprises" for Environment Minister John Baird and senior management when they open the newspaper or turn on the television, according to documents obtained by Canwest News Service.

"Just as we have ‘one department, one website' we should have ‘one department, one voice,' " says a PowerPoint presentation from Environment Canada's executive management committee that's been sent to department staff.

The reality, says insiders, is the policy is blocking communication and infuriating scientists. Researchers have been told to refer all media queries to Ottawa. The media office then asks reporters to submit their questions in writing. Sources say researchers are then asked to respond in writing to the media office, which then sends the answers to senior management for approval. If a researcher is eventually cleared to do an interview, he or she is instructed to stick to the "approved lines."

Partisans will decide if scientific inquiry has value, based on their preferred talking points. Let that reality roll around your head for awhile, the implications are absolutely staggering. We have to get these backward assholes out of government, they are rotting our system from the inside, discreetly but systematically.

Tipping Point?

First John Kerry, then Ted Kennedy, will this endorsement put Obama over the edge:
But on Tuesday, as his home state headed to the polls, Florida resident Hulk Hogan announced his own presidential pick: Democrat Barack Obama.

File this endorsement under the "Who The F*#@ Cares" column.

Conservatives Hate McCain

One of the best things about John McCain, the way he drives the lunatic right-wing off the deep end. You can't be all bad, when you receive these glowing reviews:
"McCain has been an active promoter of the global warming hysteria -- for which he has been lauded by radical environmentalists -- and he is a co-sponsor of a leftist scheme for energy rationing."Rush Limbaugh

“I'm here to tell you, if McCain get the nomination, it's going to destroy the Republican Party. It's going to change it forever, be the end of it."Rush Limbaugh

"There’s nothing redeeming about John McCain,” Tom DeLay

"McCain has done more to hurt the Republican Party than any elected official I know of.” Tom Delay

“On energy bill, we’d be drilling in Anwar today if…and John McCain himself killed our ability to drill in Anwar.” Tom Delay

"I served 12 years with him, six years in the Senate as one of the leaders of the Senate, trying to put together the conservative agenda, and almost at every turn, on domestic policy, John McCain was not only against us, but leading the charge on the other side.” Rick Santorum

"“There’s nothing worse than having a Democratic Congress and a Republican president who would act like a Democrat in matters that are important to conservatives.” Rick Santorum

"There are decent, intelligent people who believe that equity or efficiency or both are often served by government setting prices. In America, such people are called Democrats." George Will

"John McCain is Bob Dole minus the charm, conservatism and youth.

Of course, I might lie constantly too, if I were seeking the Republican presidential nomination after enthusiastically promoting amnesty for illegal aliens, Social Security credit for illegal aliens, criminal trials for terrorists, stem-cell research on human embryos, crackpot global warming legislation and free speech-crushing campaign-finance laws.

I might lie too, if I had opposed the Bush tax cuts, a marriage amendment to the Constitution, waterboarding terrorists and drilling in Alaska." Ann Coulter

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Quebec Poll

The latest Decima poll had the Conservatives falling into third in Quebec. Fuddle Duddle's Antonio made the point that CROP had the Conservatives doing much better. I responded that CROP's poll was outdated. Well, wouldn't you know it, new poll today from CROP:
For the federal Parliament, support in Quebec for the separatist Bloc Quebecois shot up to 36 percent from 31 percent, while the Conservatives of Prime Minister Stephen Harper fell by four points to 27 percent. The federal Liberals were up two points in the province to 20 percent and the left-leaning New Democrats down two points to 13 percent.

The poll covered 1,000 people from January 17-27. Such a sample should give the same result -- within 3 points 19 times out of 20 -- as if the same questions were asked of the entire Quebec population. The last poll taken November 22 to December 2.

The poll also shows the PQ up provincially, in position to form a minority government.

The CROP numbers mirror Decima's findings for the Bloc and the Liberals. Both show an uptick for both parties, both show the Liberals out of the teen's. Both polls also show Conservative erosion, however CROP still has the Conservatives a strong second at 27%, almost half the Decima finding (14%).

Antonio was right to suggest the Tories are still in the mid-twenties, but the trends are down, and people have gone back to the Bloc. This boost for the Bloc seems to go in concert with the provincial PQ fortunes. Also, I don't think it a coincidence that the ADQ numbers are dropping provincially, in tandem with the Conservatives.

For the Liberals, this CROP finding is somewhat better news, in the 20's again, some distance from the NDP. For the Conservatives, any erosion in support, coupled with a Bloc rise translates to little seat gain, a desperate component of Harper's majority dream.

Here We Go Again

The Conservatives are threatening the Canadian Wheat Board once again, with ideological zeal, that attempts to usurp process, not to mention democracy:
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz issued an ultimatum to the Canadian Wheat Board yesterday, saying he intends to introduce legislation to end the board's monopoly on barley sales with or without its support.

After meeting with major players from the barley industry yesterday, Mr. Ritz urged the board to back the government's efforts to create an open market for barley at its meetings in Winnipeg this week.

Mr. Ritz said having the Wheat Board onside would remove any political barriers to getting legislation passed. At present, the opposition parties are in favour of maintaining the board's monopoly power.

The minister's request puts the board in a difficult position because it would be contrary to the Canadian Wheat Board Act for the board to approve deregulation.

Ritz, like his predecessor Stahl, presents a stunning lack of respect for democracy. The CWB board is ELECTED by members, it is not some detached regime that isn't representative:
A majority of the farmer-elected directors is in favour of keeping the monopoly,

If you want to change the monopoly, there is an easy route, a novel concept called ELECTIONS. If, as Ritz posits, the board needs to change, then the farmer have the means to bring that change about. The fact that the directors are mostly "pro" monopoly translates to a simple fact- the grassroots majority supports the status quo. Why the government can't get that basic truth through their ideological heads is quite amazing.

People can argue the merits, the pros and cons, but it all boils down to one fundamental- there is already a mechanism in place to bring about reform, and that mechanism is called DEMOCRACY. What the government suggests is really an affront to free choice, ironic given the arguments for opening up the system. When the farmers actually elect pro-choice directors, then the debate is real and honest.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Poll Regionals

Here are some regional results from Decima's latest offering. Bad news all around for the Conservatives, with the Liberal well ahead in Ontario, a solid second in Quebec:
In Quebec the latest week’s results find the BQ with 37%, the Liberals 21%, the Conservatives 14%, the Greens 13%, and the NDP with 12%. Over three weeks, the BQ leads with 37% compared to 21% for the Liberals, 16% for the Conservatives, 13% for the NDP and 9% for the Green Party.

• In Ontario, latest results show the Liberals with 44%, compared to the Conservatives 30%, the NDP 15%, and the Green Party 10%. Over three weeks, the Liberals lead with 40% compared to the Conservatives at 31%, the NDP at 15% and the Greens at 12%.

• In BC, three week averages show the Conservatives with 34%, the Liberals with 25%, the NDP with 20% and the Green Party at 18%. In Atlantic Canada, three-week averages show Liberals with 36%, the Conservatives at 33%, the NDP 23%, and the Greens at 6%.

The Liberal lead in Ontario is fairly impressive, if numbers like the above hold, then a Liberal minority isn't out of the question.

The Conservatives numbers in Quebec are depressing, in fact I don't remember results this low for quite some time. Also, a decent result for the NDP.

British Columbia is very competitive, but what is quite striking, the Green Party support. The Conservatives best chance seems to be vote-splitting, rather than impressive support for the party.

While the total poll numbers show the Liberals up a mere 2%, these regionals suggest better prospects. Don't be surprised if Dion starts talking tough again ;)

Nobody Buying

The good news, people can see through the veneer, the Manley "demands" nothing more than a false choice. Jeffery Simpson jumps in with an opinion that is starting to gain traction:
But 1,000 troops are what is being sought, and 1,000 will be found. The Manley panelists are all experienced, wise people. They knew from their private sources, and from reading the public sources, that the Americans would never allow Kandahar to go without troops. Nor would any of the panelists have accepted the invitation to serve, given everything we know about then, wanting to design an exit strategy for Canada.

They all believed this to be an important mission, the question being how to make it more operationally successful and politically defensible at home. They would not have thrown out that 1,000 figure, without, in almost certain likelihood, knowing the U.S. (and possibly other countries) would be prepared to help.

It's time for some honest questions, directed towards this panel and it speaks to credibility. Why does the Manley panel try to frame the debate on points which seem self-evident? Why present the argument as yes/no, our involvement is on the line, when you have some knowledge that the "must" is already in the works? The panel refuses to acknowledge the likelihood, which seems a deliberate attempt to skew the current realities and project a tough stand, when really you already have knowledge of a successful outcome. The fact the Manley panel fails to present an honest assessment, should make everyone suspicious of motivations. As the Manley panel conclusions are digested, it becomes increasingly obvious that the exercise is more public relations, than an actual fair assessment of the situation moving forward.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Duffy Questions Manley's "Demands"

Interesting discussion today on Duffy's show. Duffy had Conservative strategist Jeff Norquay on, lauding the Manley report for its "hard" demands. What was amazing, Duffy's response, basically arguing that Manley's conditions were only offered, because success was guaranteed. Here is the exchange:

Jeff Norquay: The Manley report is not talking about more of the same. It's talking about some very specific and some very hard conditions, which must be met if Canada is going to continue to be there. It's also talking about expanding the job.


In all fairness, do we really believe that John Manley put out the request for more equipment and a 1000 more troops not having had some back channel assurance that those troops would be available?

I don't believe it. Nice to know Duffy isn't lapping up the propaganda for a change, he can still smell a skunk from time to time. You need a combination of naivety and partisan deduction to take any of this process at face value. The Manley report is grand production, the actors chosen, the script pre-determined, the suspense fiction.

Decima Poll

So much for the Ipsos poll, that showed the Conservatives opening up a significant lead, Decima poll conducted through the weekend suggests otherwise:
A new poll suggests the federal Liberals have edged back into the lead over the governing Conservatives.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicated the Liberals were the choice of 32 per cent of respondents, compared with 29 for the Tories. The NDP stood at 16 per cent and the Green party at 12. The Bloc Quebecois was at nine per cent nationally but led the pack in Quebec with 37 per cent.

I can't find any internals yet, but for context the last Decima poll, conducted the week of January 6th had the Tories leading 37% to 30%, with the NDP notching 13%. One caveat, that poll was taken after the holidays, never a good indicator of real support.

Newman's roundtable tried to use the Ipsos poll as the baseline (taken mid-week), inferring the subsequent drop was due to the PMO scandal over the detainees. That may well be, and I don't doubt some damage, but the Ipsos offering was always suspect, so the drop might not be quite that pronounced.

Whatever the reasons, the fact the Liberals lead in this poll should ease the concerns of the "nervous nellies". I'll update when the internals come out, but I have a feeling the Conservatives DON'T lead in Ontario, as Ipsos suggested.

Breaking: The Sky Is Blue

In a shocking development, Harper has endorsed a process he engineered. The funny part, Harper's emphasis on "if", trying to present a choice, when really its all a ruse:
“The government accepts the panel's specific recommendation of extending Canada's mission in Afghanistan if, and I must emphasize if, certain conditions are met,” Mr. Harper said.

The first big "if" is more of a "when", as Harper later comments:
The report, which found security in Kandahar is deteriorating despite the efforts of 2,500 members of the Canadian Forces who are stationed there, also set the purchase of medium-lift helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles as a condition for the mission's continuation.

The government has already placed its order for helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles and is working with allies to secure them quickly, said Mr. Harper.

Fingers crossed ;)

The other "if", securing those elusive NATO forces, which everyone knows are already in the mix. I'm willing to take wagers on NATO (the Americans) finding some way to come up with 1000 (quite a massive force we demand) troops. We shall overcome!

Harper endorses Manley, the sky is blue. Anything less, now that would be news.

Harper Creates Leadership Vacuum

Very telling article, outlining the frustration of those in the business community, as it relates to climate change policy. Flaherty recently commented that a "patchwork" approach to climate change would lead to uneven regulation, harming the economy. This belief is re-iterated here, and serves as a testament to the leadership vacuum, the failure of the Conservative government to set the tone:
Some businesses are becoming hesitant about investing in Canada because of the "policy chaos" on climate change being created by the federal and provincial governments, says the head of the country's top business group.
In a letter to provincial leaders being released Monday in advance of the premiers' two-day meeting in Vancouver, Tom d'Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives chides the premiers for going it alone on climate change with "different objectives and often inconsistent policies".

" They're all over the map . . . it's policy chaos," he said in an interview.
"We're talking about issues that will have a profound impact on major industries and ultimately Canadian consumers, and if you (governments) all moving in different directions it means you have overlapping regulations, conflicting relations."

D'Aquino called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to convene a series of first ministers' conferences on climate change, saying the issue is among the most critical challenges facing the country.

The reason provinces are "going it alone", in a myriad of directions, is because Canada lacks a cohesive policy, the domain of the federal government. The Conservatives have failed to listen to the provinces, Alberta excluded, and this reality has forced different jurisdictions to adopt their own frameworks. In the absence of federal leadership, Canada is creating "chaos".

Further evidence of the disarray, Ed Stelmach can't even bother to show up for a Premier's discussion on climate change:
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach will attend today's portion of the two-day meeting in Vancouver, which will focus mainly on provincial trade barriers. But he will not be at tomorrow's session, where many of the premiers are hoping to strike a national accord on how to deal with the fallout from global warming.

Mr. Olsen said he is not attending the climate change talks because, "he has lots of work to do in Alberta."

The federal government's failure to deal with the elephant in the room, allows for such arrogance on the part of Stelmach, allows for other provinces to react unilaterally. This government needs to step in and set the agenda, hopefully the emerging complaints from the business community prompt some action, because that interest group would appear to have Harper's ear. What we see now, is a complete and utter joke, amateurish, and above all, anything but serious.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Clinton Lost More Than Just The Vote

South Carolina degenerated into a ugly spectacle of racial tension and political ambition. To say the voters in South Carolina were turned off by the tactics of the two-headed Clinton is an understatement, by all accounts many were just plain offended and angry. Obama trounced Clinton, beyond any one's wildest expectations, in every demographic, in all quarters. It's still yet to be determined how South Carolina helps Obama on Super Tuesday, but at the very least, he is clearly back in the game.

One aspect of Obama's campaign, that I had admired previously, his intentional resistance to playing the race card. A candidate first, not much emphasis on skin color, no sense of pandering to a demographic. Whether your candidate of choice or not, it was a fascinating statement on just how far America may have come, the first hint that the debate was moving forward.

That sense all changed after New Hampshire, as the stakes were raised in this dogfight of a nomination. Unfortunately, it was the Clinton's that decided to interject race into the equation, in response to the idea that African Americans might rally to Obama. A pre-emptive strike, which ultimately soured the entire process.

Last night, African Americans did rally to Obama's side, exit polls suggest a full 80%. Obama carried all groups, women, men, drew even with whites, but it was what happened with African Americans that was interesting, and it may have a lasting impact.

After Obama's convincing victory, Bill Clinton referenced Jesse Jackson, arguing that he too had won South Carolina before, which was an attempt to downplay any momentum. Bill Clinton's characterization is just plain offensive, it diminished Obama's achievement, but more than that, it makes the parallel, based solely on race.

I remember when Jackson ran, particularly the first time. Jesse Jackson never had very much appeal outside of the African American community, in many respects his campaign was more of a statement, than a realistic opportunity to become President. Jackson did well, but there was always this sense that the bid was "limited".

I see no parallels with the Obama campaign, apart from the superficial. The fact that Bill Clinton made the connection, knowing full well the nature of the Jackson bids, was very disappointing, not to mention quite petty. Bill Clinton, the man fondly remembered as the symbolic "first black President" is now reduced to playing politics along racial lines, uses words to fracture, all in the name of personal ambition.

If Barack Obama is now the "black" candidate, it isn't because of his deeds, but in reaction to those of others. If African Americans are turning against Hillary Clinton, despite her impressive historical ties to that community, it more to do with the unseemly, then it is Obama using race to his advantage. The way in which the Clinton's have conducted themselves in the last few days will have lasting impact, and it would seem, it's justly deserved.

Americans Leaving: "Don't Count On It"

Interesting column today by Greg Weston, which essentially supports the idea that Manley knew full well his troop "demand" was already in the cards:
So, do Manley and his panel of experts know something they didn't tell us in their otherwise frank and revealing report handed to Stephen Harper last week?

Maybe so.

Turns out the Yankees are coming in a matter of weeks, and the only question is how long they will stick around.

Sources tell us that at the very moment Manley was in Ottawa this week releasing his report calling for NATO reinforcements, high-ranking U.S. military officials were only a few blocks away, planning exactly that with their Canadian counterparts.

The answer, sources tell us, is our troops will soon be getting everything the Manley report says they urgently need -- and then some.

Manley must have been aware of these discussions, if not then his panel is incompetent, irrelevant to serious discussion.

Weston acknowledges the public uncertainty of deployments past seven months, but comes to the same conclusion I've argued:
"This is not meant to be an open-ended deployment," says one U.S. source. "It is limited to seven months, and hopefully by the end of the Bucharest summit, NATO as a group will have laid out a plan to fill those gaps that have been identified for a long, long time."

Don't count on it.

If, after 7 months, no other country is prepared to augment the American deployment, does anyone really believe the Americans would just pull out, leaving the south exposed? Me neither, which makes the Manley "demand" more a study in setting up favorable framing, rather than the frank choice the panel presents.

Ipsos Poll

The numbers:
Shows the Tories resuming their lead on the Grits, with 37-per-cent support compared to 29 per cent held by their main opposition. The poll shows a jump in support of four per cent by the Tories, while the Grits dropped six per cent since the last survey two weeks ago.

The NDP trail behind the two main parties with 14 per cent support while the Greens have 10 per cent.

Quebec, the Conservatives back in second place:
The Bloc Québécois, meanwhile, leads in support in their province with 35 per cent, while the Tories hold second place with 26 per cent, ahead of the Grits who hold 21 per cent. The NDP is at 12 per cent in the province, while the Green party holds only five per cent of Quebecers in the poll.

Conservatives ahead in Ontario:
the Tories enjoy the lead with 39-per-cent support while the Liberals trail at 33 per cent. The NDP is at 15 per cent in the vote-rich province while the Green party can claim 12 per cent of decided voters.

I don't necessarily buy the Ontario numbers, Ipsos is notorious for over-stating Tory support in the province, relative to other polls. In fact, Ipsos is the only pollster to have shown the Conservatives with a notable lead in Ontario.

The last Ipsos offering(January 12) had the Liberals leading 35% to 33%. The Liberals a solid second in Quebec, leading in Ontario.

I don't see much that has happened to explain the apparent turn in fortunes for the government.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Van Loan: I'm A Liar Too

Interesting defence of Sandra Buckler from Peter Van Loan. I lie too, and so do my colleagues for that matter:
"She acknowledged she misspoke, and she handled herself in a professional and competent fashion," said Mr. Van Loan. "If everybody up on the Hill who misspoke themselves once in their life had to resign, none of you would be here, I wouldn't be here, nobody would be here up on Parliament Hill."

Harper: Facts Are Irrelevant

Harper's speech yesterday contained one quote, which suggests unsubstantiated fear-mongering should shape policy, rather than those pesky "statistics", factual measurements, rooted in objective analysis. Referencing the government's "law and order" agenda, Harper criticizes other's for:
"(They) try to pacify Canadians with statistics," Harper said, suggesting emotion should outweigh empirical evidence.

"Your personal experiences and impressions are wrong, they say..."

Harper admits the facts on the ground don't support his claim of rampant crime, a society turning violent. Harper argues it is wrong for government to use empirical measurements to help guide policy. What matters, apparently, preying on people's fears to maximize political gain. We are irresponsible in our presentation, but we know the public psychology, so we can capitalize.

Harper advocates a war on reason, and when you extrapolate that mentality on the role of government, the implications are frightening. We know best, emotional response is more important that rational analysis. Those that mention facts are "apologists", those that point to the empirical are "soft". I'm sure that sort of crappy logic plays well to the minions, but it really is a pitiful characterization that defies the basic premise of "good government".

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ipsos Afghanistan Poll

Ipsos polled Canadians about their opinions on Afghanistan, in the wake of the Manley report. The conclusion:
"This is a report that has not fundamentally altered the underlying support of Canadians for their current positions," Wright, vice-president of Ipsos Reid, said Friday in an interview. "They've basically maintained the same thing for the last couple of years. But what it's done is opened the door to us staying there in another capacity."

"It's not hard against, it's not hard for," he said. "There's no mandate given here for anything except discussion about more details as to what they may do."

I read the above as supporting the idea that the Liberals, in particular, don't need to take their policy cues from the Manley panel.

The poll finds support for outright withdrawal weakening:
The portion of Canadians who want Canadian troops to withdraw from Afghanistan has dropped seven points to 37 per cent.

If you add the people who want the mission extended, the status quo, plus the people who support a presence, but different, you find a majority:
The portion willing to extend the mission if the role shifts from combat to non-combat, such as training Afghan soldiers or police officers, has risen five points to 45 per cent since October.

"Only 14 per cent believe we should be doing the combat mission as we currently are," he noted, "but when you add them to the people who say we should stay and maybe do something different, then you have a full majority of the people in this country believing that to be the case."

Overall support for the mission remains unchanged:
Ipsos Reid reported that Canadians received the Manley report "cautiously," given that regardless of the panel's recommendations, the country remains split - 50 per cent in support and 46 opposed - to the current counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan. Those numbers were virtually the same in August.

Afghanistan polls reveal a sophistication in Canadian opinion, opinions that aren't easily swayed. People are able to differentiate between a realization that Canada has a role to play and what that role should be. The poll credits Manley for generating further discussion about the future of the mission, and I suppose that fact is a positive coming out of Harper's public relations exercise.

Manley "Vindicated"?

Raphael is lauding a Toronto Star article as "vindication" of Manley's demand for more troops in southern Afghanistan. Manley wasn't "disingenious", as myself and others argued, and the proof is found in Gates comments:
Asked if he could see a scenario where the U.S. Marines headed to that area could stay beyond seven months to help the Canadians and others, Gates responded: "No."

"This is a one-time plus-up, this 3,200 Marines that we're sending over there," Gates said. "But I have started a dialogue with my NATO colleagues about falling in behind the Marines when the Marines come out, for others to go in and take on some of the responsibilities that they have – that they will have carried out."

Gates said he hopes that at upcoming high-level meetings, including the summit of NATO leaders in Bucharest in April, NATO allies will have "a more positive reaction and provide the kind of additional support that ... the (Manley) report has called for."

The Americans are trying to pressure other NATO countries to commit troops into the volatile south. Heading into the critical summit in April, does anyone really expect Gates to commit prior to negotiations? Taking Gates at face value here is naive. Do we expect the Americans to say- hey NATO, don't worry about those troops we asked for, we've got it? Do we believe unnamed sources or do we buy Gate's public face? In my mind, given the stakes, the posturing, the negotiations, anything less from Gates at this point is irresponsible. I think my friend Raphael needs to consider one word- leverage.

What A Croc

You've heard it a million times. One summer day, you're sitting in your backyard, enjoying a beverage with friends, minding your own business, then all of a sudden you're in the midst of burning embers, towering flames, as another rouge forest fire appears from nowhere. You try to flee, but your main escape route is blocked by an approaching funnel cloud, not to mention the earth tremors that betray your every step. You finally make it out of the apocalyptic scenario, while dodging gangs of thieves that tend to gather, only to find the road closed, as the Canadian military conducts one of its regular sweeps for hidden IED's. Welcome to Canada:
Australians considering a trip to the Great White North may find themselves quickly making other plans after reading their federal government's travel advisory on Canada.

"We advise you to exercise caution and monitor developments that might affect your safety in Canada because of the risk of terrorist attack," the website reads...

Tornadoes can occur in some areas of Canada between May and September. Bush and forest fires can occur any time in Canada."

The warning also mentions the threat of white "flake-like" material falling from the sky during "winter", which apparently has some co-relation to cold. Skiers from Australia may experience this bizarre phenomenon.

Canada, clearly not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New York Times Weighs In

For what it's worth, the NYT editorial board endorses Clinton and McCain. A nice boost for Clinton, a mixed blessing for McCain:

By choosing Mrs. Clinton, we are not denying Mr. Obama’s appeal or his gifts. The idea of the first African-American nominee of a major party also is exhilarating, and so is the prospect of the first woman nominee. “Firstness” is not a reason to choose. The times that false choice has been raised, more often by Mrs. Clinton, have tarnished the campaign.


Still, there is a choice to be made, and it is an easy one. Senator John McCain of Arizona is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe. With a record of working across the aisle to develop sound bipartisan legislation, he would offer a choice to a broader range of Americans than the rest of the Republican field.

What is interesting about this particular endorsement, how it plays with the respective base. I'm quite certain that Clinton's camp has released a memo to anyone who will listen. I've just read that on the Republican side, it is actually the Guiliani and Romney campaigns that are spreading the word.

Conservatives in American share the same martyr, paranoid delusions of their Canadian counterparts- the mainstream media is part of co-ordinated conspiracy to silence their voice, a threat. The NYT embodies the medium, which is why their endorsement is a double-edged sword for McCain. Many conservatives will view this endorsement as proof that McCain really is a closet Democrat, someone who can't be trusted.

The endorsement made its way to the Republican debate tonight, particularly a scathing reference to Guiliani:
The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.

Mr. Giuliani’s arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking."

Giuliani was asked to respond, and he seemed to relish the opportunity to paint the NYT as liberal, a biased operation that had an axe to grind. The response played well, the anti-endorsement spun as a plus in conservative circles. I thought McCain demonstrated some awareness of the dangers in the endorsement, because he came to Guiliani's defence, almost refudiating the paper who had heaped praise. Strange dynamic.

One camp is happy, the other will probably never mention it again.

"Small Man" Or "Great Man" Of Confederation?

I guess it depends who you talk too:
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says there's "something wrong" with federal legislation to redistribute seats in the House of Commons.

He says he agrees with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, who opposes a Conservative bill that would increase the number of seats for Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

Dion says he wants to be a good partner to McGuinty, calling him a "great man" of Confederation.

The right policy, not to mention playing to the Liberals base.

Globe And Mail: Whatever You Say Ed

Stelmach's fraud of a climate change plan was released today, which basically argues that Alberta will carry on unabated, leaving it to technological advances to make up the difference.
Most of the 200-megatonne reduction would come through the use of expensive technology to capture CO2 from power plants and industrial facilities and inject it deep underground, the premier added.

Stelmach plays the Harper/Baird game, using 2005 as the baseline, as opposed to the internationally recognized 1990. Obviously, this benchmark allows for the appearance of more progress than is really there, a decision which reveals much about intent. Stelmach argues that Alberta can reduce emissions 14% below 2005 levels by 2050. Stelmach then offers this logic:
The long-term goal of the plan is to reduce emissions to 14 per cent below 2005 levels by the year 2050, an effective cut of 50 per cent if emissions continued to increase at their current rate, Stelmach said.

All jurisdications could use this argument, just as a function of, economic and population growth. All that matter is the bottomline, 14% reduction, based on a dubious starting point.

The playing with the numbers brings us to the Globe and Mail, Canada's journalistic beacon. The Globe and Mail headline:

Alberta aims to cut greenhouse gases by half by 2050

Globe and Mail Update

January 24, 2008 at 2:54 PM EST

CALGARY — Alberta has set a target to cut its projected greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050...

A shining example of journalistic scrutiny there, the G and M intentionally misleads with this ridiculous headline. Someone should tell British Columbia's Campbell that no, he isn't committed to a 33% reduction by 2020, it's really more like 50-60% factoring in doing absolutely nothing, in a growing economy. Wait until Minister Baird does his own math- you thought Canada was leading the world now, just wait!! What rubbish.

WANTED- Journalists with critical eye, that don't parrot whatever is fed to them, able to distinguish themselves as something other than a conduit for political propaganda. Norval Scott need not apply.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Edwards Hair

John Edwards has taken considerable flack for his well groomed hair. Last night's appearance on Letterman provided a funny moment:

Manley's False Choice

The people who defend the Manley panel’s relevance, point to the report’s demand of 1000 NATO troops to assist Canadian forces in Kandahar, as evidence of a hard-nosed approach, evidence the status-quo is unacceptable, moving forward. Yesterday, I pointed out that this demand was more bluster, than actual position, because the panel already had indications that NATO, specifically the Americans, were already on side with this troop increase.

Today, it comes as NO surprise to read the following:
Sources at NATO headquarters in Belgium and in the United States have indicated in recent days that two marine battalions being sent to southern Afghanistan for seven months this spring with specific orders to assist the Canadians are likely to be followed by even more marine battalions in 2009 and 2010. This was possible because the Pentagon has begun to slowly wind down combat operations in Iraq and because the marine leadership has been pressing hard for a bigger role in Afghanistan.

The officer, who did not wish to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the issue, said U.S. help for the Canadians had been in the works for several months.

“In the works for several months”, which confirms the disingenuous demand. Manley presents the demand, as though Canada’s future participation is contingent, and yet he knew full well that the support was already in the cards. In other words, the threat was a ruse, designed to make it appear as though Canada was hardening its position, Canada would accept nothing less.

The fact that the Manley panel presented the NATO troop increase as an unknown, something to be decided, when the panel knew otherwise, speaks to the fact that this endeavor is nothing more than a public relations exercise. If the panel was honest, it would have acknowledged the reality that plans are already in place to provide Canada with what it requests. Instead, this point is omitted, which projects a false premise, clearly meant for political consumption, rather than an accurate read of the situation. This demand is nothing more than appeasement, present a stance which makes it look like Canada’s continued role is conditional, when really the path is already determined.

Instead of applauding this report, people should be asking why Manley presents a false choice, why he fails to acknowledge that NATO already has plans to do what he “demands”. This disingenuous choice speaks to credibility, speaks to motivations and is intentionally misleading.


Two panel members admit the demand is easily achieved:

In a meeting Wednesday with the National Post editorial board, Mr. Manley suggested it should be relatively easy to muster the additional troops.

"It should be achievable, it should not be that difficult," he said...

Derek Burney, another panel member and former Canadian ambassador, said both the United States and France are likely candidates to provide additional troops. He noted the U.S. last week committed to sending 2,200 marines to southern Afghanistan for seven months.

If just half of those troops were stationed in Kandahar permanently, it would fulfill the panel's proposal, Mr. Burney noted.

Translation, much ado about nothing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I can't remember the last debate I've seen, that was so full of animosity, exchanges that put both candidates in a poor light. Last night's Democratic Party debate highlighted, what has become a very unseemly nomination process. If you missed it, here is a particularly nasty exchange between Obama and Clinton:

Given the characters involved, plus the stakes, it is likely to get worse, before it gets better. The only winner that I saw last night, apart from Edwards trying to appear above the fray (the same guy who tag teamed Clinton in the New Hampshire debate), was John McCain who became a frequent talking point, as to who was most able to defeat him in a general election.

The big question, is this heated nomination, that is becoming increasingly racial in character, damaging the Democratic brand, weakening their prospects come the fall?

Nothing To See Here, Move Along

A couple of weak demands, vague timelines, aspirations we have heard before. The "highly anticipated", "independent" panel does its job, mirrors the Harper government, provides plenty of leeway, and above all proves it was over before it started.

Can we get our money back?

"Bush" League

I constantly marvel at the childish tactics employed by the Conservatives. Ignatieff is set to deliver an "academic" speech in Alberta, pretty benign stuff, and yet the soldiers are mobilized. It's disgraceful that a prominent Conservative is urging Albertans to "crash" the speech. In the grand scheme, hardly surprising, for this gang of paranoid adolescents:
A member of the Conservative national council is urging party members to attend a speech that Michael Ignatieff will give in Alberta on Friday so they can pepper the deputy Liberal leader with "skeptical" questions.

In an e-mail sent to the presidents of 14 Conservative riding associations in Alberta, Vitor (Victor) Marciano says the lecture was arranged by Anne McLellan, the former deputy leader of the Liberals who is now a distinguished scholar in residence at the same institute.

"We need a skeptical, questioning audience for this hypocrite - especially after his recent performance in Afghanistan," wrote Mr. Marciano, referring to the trip Mr. Ignatieff took this month to the war-wracked country with Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion.

"Hopefully many of you can make it out to this lunch time session. Please circulate."

Is this what it has come to in Canada? Can we now expect organized gangs of hecklers to follow leadership around, hyper-partisanship reigns? I'm pretty sure any Liberal MP would be subjected to a sceptical audience in Alberta, which makes this call to arms all the more unattractive.

There are constant discussions about partisanship in this country, and how it detracts from "good government". Conservatives often accuse others of "playing politics", and yet this government has set a tone which is unprecedented and regressive. My goodness, let Ignatieff have his little speech, that will be sparsely covered, in a region that poses no threat to Conservative fortunes. Instead, these rabid dogs are summoned to ensure an embarrassing spectacle, one that clearly does nothing for discourse. The brownshirts are coming.....

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rudy's Flawed Strategy

I don't think I've ever seen a more flawed strategy, than the one embraced by the Guiliani campaign. If Guiliani does manage to pull out a victory in Florida, it will be more accident, than sound chess. Guiliani has never controlled his own destiny, which in and of itself speaks to pure folly. In by-passing the first six contests, his fate was contingent on a series of events, transpiring in such a way, to provide opportunity. How anyone could characterize a strategy that voluntarily makes one a spectator, guarantees little free media, provides no momentum and leaves Guiliani dependent as wise is beyond me.

Today, we have three seperate polls of New York released, which provide the most graphic example of Guiliani's seismic blunder. Rudy Guiliani now trails in his home state:

McCain 34
Guiliani 19
Romney 19


McCain 24
Guiliani 21
Romney 14


McCain 36
Guiliani 24
Romney 10

Average- McCain leads by 10 points, which is staggering. One caveat, these numbers are quite fluid, although the implications are clear.

In addition, Guiliani has lost his big lead in New Jersey, McCain has a slight edge in the last two polls. Guiliani once commented that Connecticut was a firewall state for his campaign- latest results McCain 39, Guiliani 16. Trailing in Pennsylvania, well behind in California, states tailor-made for a moderate Conservative. Everywhere you look on Super Tuesday, Guiliani is decidedly weak. Factor in a campaign that can no longer afford to pay campaign staff, and its a gloomy picture.

Of course, all of the trends could change, should Guiliani manage to win in Florida, a state in which he once had a huge lead, now slightly behind. However, even if Guiliani does take Florida now, his rivals are still in good position.

Let's say Guiliani does win, for arguments sake. All I ask, that the pundits and press don't endorse this flawed strategy as successful, because at the heart Guiliani's plan was never a good one. If Guiliani does lose, his campaign will rightfully go down as one of the most confounding in American history.


I completely disagree with the Liberal position, articulated by Ignatieff, as it relates to the Manley panel. Why are the Liberals giving this Harper construct validity?:
Ignatieff hinted that the Liberals might fine-tune their own policy in light of recommendations, expected Tuesday, from a panel headed by Manley, a former Liberal cabinet minister appointed by the Conservative government to study the mission.

"My sense is Manley is not in the status-quo business," Ignatieff said. "My sense is Manley is very critical of how the government has managed the mission. He will, I think, say things that suggest we need to refocus the mission, manage it better, work with our allies to make sure we're getting some results there."

..."I think I'm going to take Manley seriously.

To be fair, obviously the Liberals are privy to some of the Manley conclusions, particularly portions that criticize the Harper government. However, while the Liberals may score some political points, I don't agree that they should endorse the process, which was flawed from the onset. I certainly don't think the Liberals should take their policy cues from a panel, who's sole purpose was to neutralize the issue for Harper.

I suppose I pre-judge, in not waiting to see the final recommendations. The Liberals may be calculating that the report can be used for advantage. That said, I've never taken Manley "seriously", nor has the official party line until now, so this type of validation seems like a departure. There's a difference between policy pragmatism and endorsing an uneven process, hatched, not because of the desire for genuine debate, but electoral prospects.

The Denier Response

I don't take myself too seriously, but I'm pretty sure Lorrie Goldstein's latest column is a response to a series of email exchanges I had with him late last week (there were more, mostly name calling ;) ). Goldstein used data from one source to argue that global warming had stopped, to which I provided him with NASA's data, data that showed 2007 as the second hottest year on record. Goldstein responded that three organizations had found differing results- which is it 2nd, 5th or 7th?. Goldstein now acknowledges the NASA findings in his column, although he still twists the arguments:
Since the debate over man-made global warming is "over" and a "consensus" has been achieved, how hot was last year anyway?

NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, headed by James Hansen who is an advisor to Al Gore, says 2007 was the second warmest year on record.

Meanwhile, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it was the fifth warmest.

And Britain's Meteorological Office (the MET), which does its analysis in conjunction with the University of East Anglia, and which at the start of the year predicted 2007 would likely be the warmest on record, says it was the seventh warmest.

NASA says 2005 is the warmest year on record and 2007 tied for second with 1998.

Goldstein acknowledges other data, and even offers this mature tidbit:
NASA, the NOAA and the MET agree the Earth has been steadily warming in recent decades, that the most recent decade contains the hottest years on record, that it is very likely man-made global warming is driving climate change and that the Earth is responding to these changes. But even here, a caution.

He was doing so well, up until the last sentence.

Goldstein actually acknowledges the denier camp doesn't speak for mainstream science:
This is a minority view in the scientific community, which argues such phenomena as ocean and aerosol cooling explain recent minor temperature variations.

It ends here, because Goldstein proceeds to manipulate the warming data, to show that temperature changes have remained static in the last few years, no evidence of warming. What Goldstein fails to acknowledge is the basic truth, all the recent years he cites are well above the global mean average. The Goldstein argument demands that for global warming to be real, 2007 must be warmer than 2006, 2006 must be warmer than 2005, 2005 must be warmer than 2004.... No scientist worth his salt would endorse this piecemeal approach.

Ignoring the general trends, Goldstein plays the isolation game, akin to when deniers point to a cold day, somewhere in the world, and extrapolate that irrelevant sample as proof of a hoax. Instead of following the scientific model, Goldstein makes objective warming look irrelevant.

We are already seeing papers released that suggest 2008 might not set a record for warming, due to real phenomenon like El Nino and other natural fluctuations. In fact, a British paper suggests a couple years of "relative calm" (above average), followed by more acceleration. With that in mind, we can expect people like Goldstein to continue their misguided crusade, as though they the clever ones, who see through the ruse. What a waste of energy, the search for the flat earth continues.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Not Worth The Risk"

That is the Conservative Party website's new favorite line, in reference to Dion. I marvel at the way the Cons develop a talking point, and with Borg-like zeal, the troops begin to utter in unision. There are signs that "not worth the risk" has become the new Conservative mantra, which can be used in almost any circumstance.

In responding to Dion's Afghanistan comments, Jason Kenney offers:
"Either way, he is out of his league on the world stage and not worth the risk.

Proof that the phrase has made it to the minion level, an Anon commentator offered this to one of my posts:
You do not remember that the Conservatives already have an eco trust plan as we speak for the exact same thing...Dion...too little too...late...Dion is NOT worth the risk

Repetition is a Conservative strategy, indoctrinating the faithful with the catch phrase is key. The new election slogan?

It's A McCain World

Last night finally brought some clarity to the Republican presidential campaign. You can't understate the significance of John McCain winning in South Carolina, particularly when you consider this was the state where his campaign imploded in 2000. Much remains to be decided, but if you had to pick a pony is this race, it's hard to look anywhere other than McCain.

McCain broke through the psychological ceiling, winning a southern primary in the conservative heartland, a state that always picks the eventual nominee. A tight contest doesn't detract from the headlines, nor the pundit's digestions- McCain is now the frontrunner.

Looking ahead, the next contest is pivotal. Florida is the last state before Super Tuesday, should McCain win there, his momentum will be unstoppable. The last batch of Florida polls have already given McCain a slight edge (RCP average: McCain 23%, Guiliani 20%, Romney 18%, Huckabee 17%). Common sense dictates a bounce for McCain coming out of South Carolina, the trends are positive. Guiliani's misguided strategy has focused on Florida, deciding 5th and 6th place finishes in the first contests don't matter- they clearly do and his Florida firewall has eroded over the last few weeks. Too early to say how Florida will vote, but all things considered, you have to like McCain's chances.

We are already seeing positive movement towards McCain in the national polls, where he now enjoys a full 10% lead over his closest rival. Couple this overall support with Super Tuesday states, and the frontrunner moniker seems justified. McCain has moved well ahead in the biggest state, California, a full 10 point lead. McCain is competitive in Guiliani's backyard, polling well in other southern states, looking strong in the southwest. Win Florida, and these numbers only get better, the idea of a brokered convention much less likely. At the moment, fluidity aside, it's clearly a John McCain world.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Clinton Takes Nevada

With Obama poised to win next week's South Carolina primary, today's results in Nevada give Clinton a much needed victory:
CBS and CNN are projecting Hillary Clinton as the winner over Barack Obama of the hotly contested Nevada caucuses.

With 52 percent of precincts reporting, Clinton led Obama 52 percent to 44 percent, with John Edwards a distant third with 4 percent.

That gives Clinton a second straight win over Obama, following her comeback win in New Hampshire, as Democrats point to the South Carolina primary on Jan. 26. She won despite the 60,000-member Culinary Workers Union endorsing Obama.

Clinton 2, Obama 1, Edwards fading fast.


The Manley panel is set to release its conclusions. In a surprising turn of events, the panel will effectively endorse the Harper government's approach. Was there every any doubt?:
the independent commission created by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to advise his government on the way forward is not expected to recommend any significant scaling back of Canada's commitment of 2,500 soldiers in the Kandahar region, or any profound change in their current marching orders.

It is expected that the panel's findings, to be released as early as Tuesday, will emphasize the need for Canada to continue contributing to the training of Afghan national army and police personnel.

Many people who have contributed submissions to the panel say they came away with the impression that Mr. Manley and his fellow members are essentially in favour of staying the course in Afghanistan. That is, continuing combat operations while simultaneously training Afghan security forces toward the mutually agreed NATO endgame of withdrawal at a later, undetermined, date.

The media has seemingly forgot the rules here, calling this an "independent" panel, we "eagerly await" the findings. This panel was never independent, what it was a pre-ordained, public relations exercise, that would solicit the desired response. Three of the five members are Tories, the token Liberal well known for his support of the mission. To now characterize this group as "independent", giving the government political cover, is a combination of revision and media incompetence.

I wrote on Oct 18:
The argument that we all need to cool our jets and see what Manley comes up with is interesting, if irrelevant, because I can sit here right now and I already know the outcome. Is there any doubt?

There was no chance that this panel reached any other conclusion, it was over before it started. What the media should focus on- why the government wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money on a propaganda exercise. Harper was shrewd, putting Manley as the face, because it achieved the appearance of neutrality, even though the views were already vetted.

Now we watch, as the final report is released, and people digest the findings, as though a genuine process has concluded its admirable work. Harper has duped the media, who give this panel credibility. Harper has succeeded in his political goal, he can now argue that the "independent" panel has reached his conclusion, he will take his cues from their findings. The panel's real purpose was to neutralize, provide cover, endorse the governments arguments. Mission accomplished, optics trump truth, the media played like a fiddle.

Obama Tries Comedy

Nothing like some biting sarcasm to make your point.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Mother Nature And Democracy

Candidates spend months on the trail, trying to convince people to give them their vote. Who has the best organization, who is the best leader, who represents change, who has the endorsements, who has the momentum, who has the advertising, who has the ideas, who has the demographics....all factors in the ultimate outcome. I find it both humbling and quirky that in the final hour, the course of democracy isn't about the examples listed above, it can be trumped by a single force- mother nature.

In trying to decipher the pundit and poll meltdown in New Hampshire, the role of the weather may actually have been the deciding factor. Almost record highs, a meteorological oddity, translated to an exceptional turnout of older voters, which just so happened to back Clinton in a way that was never factored.

Tomorrow's Republican primary, by all accounts a close race, that could well determine the ultimate winner, is now at the mercy of nature:
Snow is forecast to fall Saturday as far south as Columbia, with accumulations up to 3 inches in northern parts of the state. Where it doesn't snow, a cold rain is expected. The bad weather could put a damper on turnout for the GOP primary, with first-time voters, senior citizens, independents and those still wavering staying home, according to political experts.

"It's not going to deter the party activists who will vote come fire or hail storm or 4 inches of snow," said Blease Graham, a University of South Carolina political scientist.

Any snow tends to bring South Carolina to a slow crawl at best. The state has little snow removal equipment and during a light snowfall earlier this week, some schools closed or delayed opening for two hours before the first flakes fell.

"We shut down in the South," said Julie Thompson a spokeswoman for Pickens County schools in the northwest corner of the state, which closed Thursday and opened late Friday after a couple of inches of snow fell. "Simply because it's such a rarity, citizens here are not accustomed to driving in those situations."

But the polls will stay open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. no matter how bad the weather gets, state Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said.

Low voter turnout could help former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, because his base is comprised of evangelical Christians, who could represent roughly a third of the voters in the primary, said Neal Thigpen, a Francis Marion University political scientist.

"Those folks will come out, it doesn't matter whether tornadoes are whipping out there," Thigpen said.

But wait, where the snow falls is equally important, it could favor McCain:
Up to two inches of snow is forecast to fall in the Upstate between midnight and 6 a.m. Saturday -- and some political observers already are saying that could help rival John McCain carry this state.

Snow, they say, would hurt turnout in the Upstate, where Huckabee has campaigned hard and has spent a lot of time reaching out to social conservatives. That means higher turnout would come from the coast, where clear skies are forecast and McCain has the strongest connection with voters.

"The snow could determine it," Robert Jeffrey, a political science professor at Wofford. "If the vote up here is suppressed in any way shape or form, it's going to hurt Huckabee."

There's a lesson in there. No matter the effort of men, their fate is always tied to the whims of the earth. Maybe it is as it should be. I guarantee, when the candidates wake in the morning, they won't speak with their "team", they'll urgently look out the window searching for their destiny.

Dion: One Step Forward, One Step Back

Today, Stephane Dion effectively out-flanked the Harper government in Ontario and Quebec. You can argue the economic merits of an aid package for the manufacturing sector, but the optics of a pro-active Liberal Party vs the Conservatives "don't expect anything" approach offers a welcome distinction. Dion will aid the manufacturing sector, in a way that works in concert with a green economy:
A Liberal government would establish a $1-billion fund to help manufacturers move into green technologies, Stephane Dion pledged Friday.

The Liberal leader said his proposed Advanced Manufacturing Prosperity Fund would help pay for research and development projects aimed at boosting the hard-pressed manufacturing sector.

He told a Hamilton Chamber of Commerce meeting he has met business and union leaders, premiers and environmentalists over the last year to discuss the troubled manufacturing sector.

"They all bring different viewpoints to the table, but there is consensus on one thing: they all want to see Canada's manufacturing sector become a world leader in green technologies,'' he said. "The . . . fund is designed to help accomplish precisely that''.

Thousands of factory jobs have disappeared in recent years and Dion says it's time to go beyond simple tax corporate breaks.

"Tax cuts alone are not enough,'' he said. "The federal government must partner with the manufacturing sector as it adjusts to recent economic shocks. That requires strategic investment''.

In addition to the prosperity fund, the Liberals would provide tax credits to support private research which doesn't translate into immediate profits.

Harper offers:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper further dampened expectations of a similar boost for Canada, warning in his bluntest language yet not to expect major tax or spending measures in the 2008 budget.

Mr. Harper said he delivered the bulk of new goodies in October's mini-budget, which offered annual relief worth up to $6-billion for corporations, $1.5-billion for income tax filers and $6-billion for shoppers.

"We are not anticipating taking on in the spring any kind of significant, ongoing additional tax or expenditure commitments," he said yesterday, referring to the budget expected in late February or early March.

A one billion dollar package is hardly enough to solve the problems, but it demonstrates a recognition of the need to intervene. Contrast that with the Conservatives relative indifference, and it is pretty easy to accesss which approach will play well with voters. Dion's commitment isn't large enough to justify the howls of fiscal irresponsibility, but enough to send a clear message. The fact that the fund is in keeping with the overall theme of modernizing the Canadian economy gives the Dion message a consistent thread. The Liberals are clearly winning the battle of appearances, when it comes to the economic concerns in central Canada.


The other day, I posted on Dion's Afghanistan comments. While the details of Dion's statements needed to be fleshed out, it seemed pretty clear to me what Dion meant. If Pakistan can't deal with insurgents coming across the border, then NATO would. Pakistan is already under tremendous diplomatic pressure, from all quarters, to deal with the tribal regions, eliminate the sanctuary for terrorists. I'm quite certain that the NATO high command is already in constant contact with Pakistani authorities to try and deal with the problem. I read Dion as understanding the need for a military component to deal with the situation in Pakistan. If Dion meant moving Canadian soldiers from the south to help seal the eastern border with Pakistan, that is a proposal that may have merit, something worthy of debate. If Dion meant moving forces into Pakistan, then that is an entirely different animal.

I heard Dion today on a talk-radio show, discussing the controversy over his Pakistan comments. I must admit, Liberal membership aside, there seemed an element of backtracking from statements which seemed fairly transparent. Did Dion mean "diplomatic"? I suppose, but Dion didn't specify at the time, and if so, his declaration was really a given. To be frank, I find the revisions somewhat confusing. Whatever your opinion, this issue was handled badly and doesn't achieve much on the "leadership" front.


One step forward, one step back.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Are Republicans This Dumb?

While Republicans try to decide who is their frontrunner, there is a background story developing that should make the choice simple. I'm curious that the McCain camp doesn't highlight "electability" on the stump, because he soars above his opponents. If anyone wonders why the Democratic National Committee has already begun attacking McCain, while ignoring the rest, these head to head poll numbers explain the rationale in spades.

Zogby poll today:


McCain leads Obama 45%-43%
Obama leads Romney 53%-34%
Obama leads Huckabee 51%-36%
Obama leads Guiliani 51%-34%


McCain leads Clinton 47%-42%
Clinton leads Romney 47%-37%
Clinton leads Huckabee 47%-38%
Clinton leads Guiliani 46%-35%

These numbers are mirrored in other recent polls. CNN:
McCain 48% Clinton 50%
McCain 48% Obama 49%

Romney 40% Clinton 58%
Romney 37% Obama 59%

Huckabee 42% Clinton 56%
Huckabee 39% Obama 59%

Guiliani 42% Clinton 55%
Guiliani 40% Obama 56%

Three or four more outfits with the same trends, but you get the drift.

I'm starting to believe one thing- the GOP race is really a referendum on just how tone deaf the base has become. Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and to a lesser extent Guiliani, are a Democratic wet dream. While the purists debate who is the mostest conservative, zealots get distracted by the trivial, groups react with monolithic zeal, Limbaugh calls McCain a "liberal", nobody seems to understand the big picture. If the goal is to get a Republican in the White House, stop the Democrats from taking over all the branches of government, there really isn't anything "muddled" about this field at all. Democrats are acutely aware of who they should fear, Republicans seem more content to engage in fantasy.

It might be a tight race (the latest batch of polls show Huckabee closing in South Carolina, just as he starts talking about homosexuality being equivalent to beastiality, why the confederate flag has a place at the capitol building and how the constitution should be changed to better incorporate the bible), but it sure isn't a close race, if you step back and see the horizon.

So Much For Global Cooling

I wonder if Lorrie Goldstein will do a follow-up to his assinine column last week, where he tried to argue in favor of "global cooling". Goldstein said:
In fact, not only was 2007 cooler than 1998, it wasn't statistically different from any year going back to 2001. None came close to 1998. How many media outlets which gave the original story such prominence will correct the record? We'll see.

Let's see if Goldstein "corrects the record" now that NASA has released the global temperature data for 2007. Compare this sentence, with the above:
Climatologists at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City have found that 2007 tied with 1998 for Earth's second warmest year in a century.

I wait for Goldstein to do a follow-up piece, in the spirit of fairness.

"Beyond The Call Of Duty"

Generally, when you are telling the truth, you don't need to hire someone to "coach" you. Besides being appalled at the waste of taxpayer money, what does it say about competence, that Minister Lunn can't appear before Committee, without a propaganda firm feeding him lines? Amazing:
Taxpayers shelled out to pay a private image consultant to coach Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn for his televised appearance before a Commons committee in Ottawa yesterday.

"I think that it is a little pathetic that a minister of the Crown needs to turn to an image consultant before going before a committee hearing," said John Williamson, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

"This is the kind of spending that not only was the Reform party opposed to in opposition but it's also the kind of business taxpayers were told would end under a Stephen Harper government," he said.

The consultant used was the Ottawa firm McLoughlin Media, the same company the Mounties paid $25,000 to help former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli prepare for his appearance before parliamentary hearings.

Quite telling, that the government went the same route with Zaccardelli, who's every changing testimony suggested complete deception. In hiring this firm for Lunn, it demonstrates that the government was well aware of the need to protect Lunn from incriminating himself.

This debate has been reduced to public relations exercise. Lunn's need for a image consultant tells us that he needed help, the simple facts his adversary. What a damning revelation, that speaks to competence, knowledge of the issues, the need to spin and a concerted effort to mitigate damage to the government. Based on Lunn's appearance, and Zaccardelli before him, I recommend the government ask for a refund and find a new puppeteer.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Dion The Hawk?

I have to admit, Dion's latest comments come as a surprise. That said, I don't necessarily disagree:
Mr. Dion hinted NATO could take action in Pakistan, which has a porous border with Afghanistan, if the Pakistani government doesn't move to track terrorists.

"We are going to have to discuss that very actively if they (the Pakistanis) are not able to deal with it on their own. We could consider that option with the NATO forces in order to help Pakistan help us pacify Afghanistan," said Mr. Dion in Quebec City, commenting after his two-day trip to Afghanistan last weekend. "As long as we don't solve the problem in Pakistan, I don't see how we can solve it in Afghanistan."

The Liberal leader explained that Afghan officials told him they know where the extremist strongholds are in Pakistan. But he said the Afghans don't take action.

"One day, we are going to have to act because our soldiers are cleaning out some areas, but in fact very often they are only clean in principle. The insurgents go take refuge in Pakistan and they are going to come back (to Afghanistan) at the earliest opportunity. This could last very long if we don't tackle the problems that often originate from Pakistan," Mr. Dion said.

I've argued previously that I would be open to Canadian forces moving towards the Pakistan border, in the next phase of our participation. Infiltration from Pakistan is clearly undermining any progress, leading to the "whack a mole" routine we see in the Kandahar region. Dion's latest comments endorse a combat role, or at the very least, acknowledge the need to secure a porous border. It is hard to interpret Dion as anything less than activist on this front, a stance that tends to distance itself from the "non combat role" argued previously.

Is this a reversal in position? Not necessarily, in the sense that it is consistent with the Liberal position that argues Canada needs to revise our role in Afghanistan. A mission that focuses on training the Afghan army, while simultaneously limiting the ability of foreigners to reek havoc in the country achieves the goal of security, without engaging in the present vicious cycle, which leads to nowhere. Dion seems to be focusing on the source here, which has far greater potential for success.

I see these latest Dion comments as an evolution, which recognizes the challenge in a pragmatic way. The trick, selling Canadians on what amounts to a combat component, albeit it entirely different from our current role.

Who Harper Should Can

When you think about, partisanship aside, the case is really pretty cut and dry. Dion states the obvious, Guergis should be canned:
The Liberals are calling for the firing of junior foreign affairs minister Helena Guergis for imperilling the lives of their leader and his deputy by giving advance notice of their visit to Canada's provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar City.

In a scathing letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion called for Guergis's removal as secretary of state for foreign affairs because she sent an e-mail to journalists giving advance notice of the Liberal leadership's trip to the PRT.

"In publicly revealing in advance the itinerary of the delegation which included Deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and myself, Ms. Guergis violated the news blackout put in place for our protection, jeopardizing the security of the Afghan and Canadian military and civilian officials who welcomed and accompanied us during our trip," Dion said Thursday in a letter to Harper.

As such, I am requesting that she be removed as secretary of state for foreign affairs and stripped of her privileges as a Privy Councillor."

The usual practice for such visits by foreign dignitaries is to keep the details of their visits out of the public domain until they are safely out of harm's way.

Journalists were, for instance, forbidden from publicizing in advance details of Harper's March 2006 trip to the PRT for security reasons.

If Harper were to fire Guergis (never happen), I hear there is an opening at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Why just limit yourself to endangering the lives of two men, when you can endanger an entire nation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Canadians Favor Carbon Tax

People hate taxes, so any question on that topic comes with a built-in negativity. Despite that dynamic, a new SC poll shows Canadians favor a carbon tax. This finding is even more remarkable, when you consider the article title "Anxiety grows about economy, jobs, poll finds". The economy is more of a concern, yet people still favor a tax, which assumes an economic cost. IMHO, that reality makes these numbers all the more impressive:
Do you support the idea of a carbon tax?

Support 49%

Oppose 44%

Of note, the "western canada" subset favors a carbon tax 47%-45%

The SC poll details the growing pessimism on the economy. However, when Canadians are asked to list issues of importance, the environment rating is almost double that of the economy:
Environment 20%

Health Care 13%

Economy 11%.

The environment is the number one issue, in all regions of Canada. Economic concern is most appreciable in Ontario, and yet the environment still tops the list.

Given the findings of the government advisory board, which argued for a carbon tax, coupled with an apparent openness on behalf of Canadians, it would appear the "climate" is ripe for the Liberals to evolve their position and adopt a carbon tax as part of the environmental policy.

Michigan Primary

From all indications, tonight's Michigan primary looks to be a tight contest on the Republican side. With the Democrats by-passing Michigan, Clinton the only candidate on the ballot, the only question is whether people vote for her or "uncommitted", which frees any delegates at the convention.

Two rolling polls released late last night, show different results. Mitchell Research, which has a good track record in Michigan, gives Romney the edge:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has taken a 6% lead over U.S. Sen. John McCain according to results of a tracking poll conducted Saturday, Sunday and Monday, January 12-14, 2008. Romney leads with 35% to McCain’s 29%. Mike Huckabee is third at 12%. Rudy Giuliani (3%) and Ron Paul (4%) have both dropped while Fred Thompson (4%), and Duncan Hunter (2%) have stayed the same since last night’s tracking.

Two days ago, this outfit had McCain by 1 point, yesterday Romney by 2 points, today Romney by 6 points. This trend suggests momentum for Romney.

Zogby also released a late poll, which shows a dead heat:
McCain, the Arizona senator, held a statistically insignificant 1-point edge over Romney, 27 percent to 26 percent, well within the margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, gained 2 points overnight and McCain held steady in the tracking poll. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was in third place at 15 percent.

Pollster John Zogby said Romney's movement in the final day was slight and polling over four days revealed a stable and exceedingly close race between the two Republican rivals.

Other polling, which didn't include Sunday measurements show differing results, some with Romney ahead, others McCain slightly ahead, still others a deadheat.

The key, what role do independents and crossover Democrats, who can vote in Michigan, play in the final outcome. Those voters are the great unknown, but clearly McCain needs a good turnout from this voters to have a chance. Zogby:
McCain leads Romney among Democrats 30 percent to 15 percent and among independents 33 percent to 24 percent. Romney, whose father was a former Michigan governor and auto executive, leads among Republicans 31 percent to 22 percent.

"This could come down to whether Democrats and independents turn out for McCain, and how engaged Republicans are for Romney," Zogby said.

The Zogby findings are mirrored in other polling. If Democrats and Independents do decide to vote in the Republican Primary, then McCain has a chance, if there is voter apathy, Romney is in good position.

Prediction- should be interesting ;

Monday, January 14, 2008

Flaherty Acknowledges Federal Government Failure

Flaherty's latest pitch argues that Canada needs a "common" carbon tax regime, environmental strategy. Flaherty sees problems for industry, with a unilateral, disjointed approach, individual provinces with differing regulations. What Flaherty essentially acknowledges, Canada has a leadership vacuum on the issue, which has lead to a piecemeal approach:
A patchwork of carbon taxes and greenhouse gas rules across the country isn't a good solution to Canada's environmental woes, the federal finance minister says.

Jim Flaherty said Monday the country needs to work toward a common set of regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"Generally speaking, the consensus I would say is that it is desirable in Canada not to have multiple regulators in various areas of the economy,'' the minister said.

Flaherty said the auto sector in particular is concerned that multiple regulators would mean different environmental standards on imports in different areas of the country or for vehicles manufactured in Canada.

"All that does is drive up costs to the consumer, ultimately, without any overall benefit. So what we need to do is co-ordinate and co-operate within the federation, within the Canadian economic union to work toward a common set of regulations,'' he said.

Flaherty laments the circumstance which his government created. Historical revision aside, people will remember that Quebec and British Columbia devised targets and plans, in the absence of any leadership from the federal government. As it became apparent that the government wasn't willing to act, provinces decided to act, on their own, to try and tackle the problem.

If industry is confused, if we have uneven regulations which confuse the auto sector, the blame rests squarely with the federal government for abandoning its responsibility to show national leadership and mandate national standards. If Flaherty wants cohesion, then maybe he can tell Minister Baird to quit blowing smoke and give the provinces some guidance.

Liberal Position Finds Validation

If I were a Liberal strategist, I would commit to memory the following news item. The Liberal policy for Afghanistan finds validation, from a central source:
The ultimate goal of the NATO mission in Afghanistan is for the Afghans to take the lead, with NATO troops transitioning to a support role, says a spokesperson for the international organization.

James Appathurai discussed the NATO position after Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and deputy leader Michael Ignatieff visited the war-torn nation and called for Canada to stay on beyond February 2009 when the mission is scheduled to end, but in a non-combat role.

"I think actually we all agree on the end state -- NATO and I think probably the political parties here too -- and that's transition," Appathurai, a Canadian, told CTV's Canada AM on Monday.

"We want to move to a phase where the Afghans are in the lead and we provide support, training, close air support, emergency support but let them do the frontline fighting. It's a question of when."

A question of when is clearly the caveat, but the basic approach is entirely consistent with the Liberals position. The thrust of the Liberal argument, troops must "transition" to a training and support role, a recognition that the ultimate security situation can only be resolved when the indigenous force demonstrates capability. Appathurai clearly recognizes the end game, which insulates the Liberal position from the obvious Conservative criticisms.

The only point that might be in conflict, just how long NATO troops need to remain in their current role. Appathurai hedges on a specific date for the next phase, whereas the Liberals are firm. That said, if NATO is really a collection, then the Liberals can argue our role should be advancing the next phase. Canada's participation will focus on ensuring that the Afghan forces are prepared to act with unanimity. You don't just stop combat one day, then move everything over to training, it is a progression, and Canada can focus on the ultimate "transition".

The Liberals have carved a niche, which will be acceptable to Canadians, who have conflicting views about our participation. We have honored our military commitment, now Canada will focus on progress towards the ultimate goal, under the NATO umbrella, as part of a consistent strategy. Sounds like a winner from here.

Blog Awards

I'm not much for self-promotion, but a couple people were kind enough to nominate this blog for the Canadian Blog Awards. I was nominated under Best Political Blog and Best Progressive Blog, so if you feel inclined, you can vote HERE.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lorrie Goldstein: Dipshit Denier

Goldstein's column for Sun Media today "Cooling The Hot Air" attempts to argue, using absolutely insane logic, that earth is actually "cooling":
Let's examine the flip side of global warming -- global cooling.

Inconveniently, while Al Gore was accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, 2007 became the seventh straight year in which there's been no global warming, despite increasing concentrations of man-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

And for Y2Kyoto believers, 2008 isn't looking good.

In fact, not only was 2007 cooler than 1998, it wasn't statistically different from any year going back to 2001. None came close to 1998. How many media outlets which gave the original story such prominence will correct the record? We'll see.

Apparently, Goldstein skipped science class, maybe all classes for that matter, because he uses 1998 as the baseline, from which all other years are to be judged. Never mind the simple fact, every year since 1998 has been statistically warmer than the global mean average:

Yes, the world is cooling because the average rise in global temperature was only .5 degrees since 2001, as compared with the .6 degress recorded in 1998. Let's extrapolate Goldstein's tortured logic. If you were investing your money for the last ten years, and you recorded a 10% profit in 1998, but only a 8% profit in all the years since, does that mean you have lost money? Exactly, you ignorant dipshit of the highest order.

Anyways, back to harsh reality that will never see the light of day in one of Goldstein's moronic columns:
But a new study released today, based on some of the most extensive measurements to date of the continent's ice mass, presents a worrisome development: Antarctica's ice sheet is shrinking, at a rate that increased dramatically from 1996 to 2006.

"Over the time period of our survey, the ice sheet as a whole was certainly losing mass, and the mass loss increased by 75 per cent in 10 years," the study said.

"I see that as the main driver for the change in ice mass. And this means that we are not in a natural cycle but in something that is related to global warming or global climate change, whichever you want to call it," he said.

What do scientists know?


Anyone who thought the controversy in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River would wane should think again, local Liberals are fighting back:
More than 140 disaffected party members voted to create a new riding executive they hope will in turn hold a nomination runoff to decide who will carry the party banner for the northern riding of Desnethe-Misinippi-Churchill River in a March 17 by-election.

The move has left provincial party brass shaking their heads, given, they say, that the riding already has an executive and that any final nomination decision rests with senior party officials in Ottawa.

The members at Saturday's meeting — including area mayors and native leaders — also decided to formally petition and write to Mr. Dion and urge he retract the Beatty decision. They will also ask Ms. Beatty to step down and run in a nomination race.

What is really concerning for the Liberals, this mess in Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River threatens to overshadow what should be a big night for the party on March 17. The Liberals are well placed to possibly win the other 3 by-elections, but what happens in this riding has the potential to be the story of the night, undercutting any perceived momentum.

I don't like David Orchard, and I would fully support a concerted effort to help Beatty win the nomination. However, the Liberal brass has shown a complete lack of sensitivity, a disdain for the grassroots, revealed a fundamental problem with the idea of quotas, by unilaterally deciding to circumvent a democratic process. How anyone couldn't see the obvious pitfalls in this approach is frankly beyond me. It seems pretty reasonable to assume that the Liberal brass had full knowledge that local Liberals would react in a negative fashion. That reality should have been factored in too the decision, head office should have backed off.

What is happening now, is a self-inflicted wound, that denotes a worrying sense of detachment. In the end, this controversy has the potential to derail an otherwise stellar night for the Liberal Party.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Ipsos poll, which contradicts the Decima poll earlier this week, that showed the Conservatives reclaiming a sizeable lead. The Ipso poll, done between Tuesday and Thursday, gives the Liberals a slight lead:
The national survey, conducted by Ipsos-Reid exclusively for Canwest News Service and Global National, found the Liberals switching places with the Conservatives since the last poll two weeks ago. The Grits gained two points to 35 per cent while Tory support slipped a similar margin to 33 per cent. The NDP also dropped two points to 13 per cent while the Greens bumped up one point to nine.

In Ontario, Grit support was 41 per cent, a decline of two points, compared with the Tories with 37 per cent, an increase of four points.

Quebec, Liberals in second:
Bloc Quebecois maintained their lead with 35 per cent support, gaining four points from the last survey. The Grits slipped a point to 26 per cent while the Conservatives stayed in third place with 21 per cent.

The bizarre part of this poll, which frankly I put no stock in, the apparent Liberal "surge" in Alberta:
Darrell Bricker, president of Ipsos-Reid, said it appears that most of the Grits jump in support, and subsequent slump for the Tories, is a result of the Conservatives declining a remarkable 23 points in Alberta.

But the troubles Premier Ed Stelmach faces in Alberta due to his government's decision to charge higher royalties and taxes in the oil and gas sector are hurting the federal Tories polling numbers in that province. Meanwhile, the Liberals have jumped 20 points to 30 per cent in the federal poll.

I can't find the margin of error for the Alberta results, but generally they are quite high (9-10%). Ipsos offers nothing really to justify such a remarkable turn in fortunes, for both the Liberals and Conservatives, so take this result with a large grain of salt.

On the whole, Bricker offers this analysis, which seems to bait the Liberals:
"The only difference is that it's likely to be lead by the Liberals. This is very good news for Stephane Dion. Even the slimmest minority would be a major victory for him and his party," said Bricker, adding that the Grits would be "foolish" not to try and trigger an election.

Foolish? Let's not get carried away, with full knowledge that this was the polling outfit who consistently showed the Tories with a double digit lead, on the verge of majority, on a couple months ago, while every other poll disagreed. That said, good news for the Liberals to have Ipsos delivering these type of numbers.

While the Decima and Ipsos polls differ on the Libs and Cons, both suggest the same for the NDP, namely a lowly 13% support number. I wonder if Dion's leadership, which has tended to move the Liberals left, is starting to erode the NDP's support, coupled with the Green appeal? Whatever the reason, these type of numbers translate to official party status scenarios, definitely a concerning trend.