Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


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#Elxn42: This shit’s making me crazy

This shit’s making me crazy
The way you nullify what’s in my head
You say one thing, do another
And argue that’s not what you did
Your way’s making me mental
How you filter as skewed interpret
I swear you won’t be happy til
I am bound in a straight jacket

— Alanis Morissette, “Straightjacket”

So, it’s that part of the Canadian federal election where everything seems stupid and awful, we semi-hate everyone now, and when will it be over?!!

At least, I’m pretty sure it’s not just me.

Fortunately, I was able to decide who to vote for in the early and considerably less awful part of this extra-long campaign. And I’m not even primarily voting against something.

On balance, I just found that I like the Liberal platform the best. Things like, banning taxpayer-paid government ads (much as we’ll all miss those “Canada Action Plan” ads). And making the Senate non-partisan (one they’ve already walked the talk on). And, amending the Access to Information Act so it actually provides access to information. Ending omnibus bills. Trying to make Question Period better (it can hardly be worse). And yes, legalizing marijuana.

I also found Trudeau the most appealing leader overall. He’s shown more passion and boldness than the others. And I’m not concerned about his competence to govern.

As well, I am really impressed with the Waterloo Liberal candidate, Bardish Chagger. She’s smart, well-spoken, experienced in working in federal government. And she’s bound and determined to vote for Waterloo interests first, her party second. “I’d like to meet the person who succeeds in telling me what to do”, she said, credibly, at the debate I attended.

So good luck Ms. Chagger!

But I hope you’ll excuse while I now do my best to ignore the rest of the campaign. Because it’s not that I’m not interested. It’s just that me being interested has the unfortunate side-effect of me starting really care what happens. And I have no control over what happens—what politicians do and say, how the media reports it, and ultimately, how everyone else votes.

And that shit makes me crazy (then angry, scared, and finally kind of depressed and hopeless). I need off this emotional roller-coaster.

So bye-bye news radio, hello iTunes. See ya Macleans; the new Entertainment Weekly is in. Watch a leader’s debate? Are you kidding me? It’s the fall TV season! (Plus, I just discovered iZombie and Mozart in the Jungle on Shomi. Seriously, so fun.) Political bios? Not when I have a fresh copy of Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance.

Now, Twitter remains a minefield. And I’m not ready to give that up, but I guess I can mute / unfollow a few politicos until November or so, eh?

By then, hopefully this will no longer be my anthem:

Straightjacket on YouTube


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Me and JT

So here’s a back story: I signed up to be a Supporter of the Liberal Party of Canada so that I could vote in their leadership campaign. It was a ranked ballot, meaning you number the candidates in order of preference, and I did not put Justin Trudeau as my number 1. I went with Joyce Murray (who? I know) as my first choice, because I liked her proposal on electoral reform.

But when Justin Trudeau was announced as the winner by a large margin (Joyce Murray came second, for the record—because I wasn’t the only one who liked her electoral reform platform), I was… totally good with it.

The victory was completely expected, of course, but it wasn’t just that I’d expected it and figured he would do. I felt really happy and excited about his election.

And when he gave his victory speech, I only became more so. And honestly, I was surprised by that.

Justin Trudeau and Candian flag

Photo by Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

But Justin Trudeau speaks well. And yes, he looks good. And he looks good speaking well. He most definitely has that sort of charm and charisma that draws people in. I am not immune to it.

But that does not mean that he would be a good Prime Minister. And him taking that post is certainly a possibility, given that his party’s polling numbers have risen, and have stayed high, ever since he assumed the leadership.

So when he came for a Waterloo region visit, I had to go. The local public meeting was at 5:30 in Cambridge, which is two cities away from me. But in the afternoon, he stopped in on the university campus that was just down the street from my office. That was way easier for me to get to, though it meant mingling with the young ‘uns.

UW is a very math-and-engineering–focused school, and voter turnout among that those age 18–25 is dire, but nevertheless, the “Great Hall” was packed awaiting his arrival. (Which was precisely on time, by the way.)

The world-weary, cynical students behind me predicted his speech would be full of promises that would appeal to students, such as lower tuition (and that he’d then go on to an age old home and promise them better mentions). But it wasn’t that at all. He just talked about the importance of harnessing the passion for the world that youth feel, but do not find expression for in partisan politics. That it’s not that they are apathetic, but that they are turned off by all the negativity. Which is why he’s trying to be positive, to listen, to change the tone.

It was a short talk, maybe 10 minutes (no notes, no teleprompter), and then he took questions.

While I won’t try to recap everything (in fact, I didn’t stay til the end, since it was the middle of the work day), a few moments did stand out.

Electoral reform

This was first question to draw applause, and Mr. Trudeau’s response that he wasn’t entirely in favor of proportional representation was the closest he got to being booed. So don’t tell me people don’t care about that issue. Trudeau said his problem  with proportional representation systems is that they often involve selecting members of a parliament, rather than to represent a particular riding. And he did win some people over with his support of ranked ballots.

Ranked ballots might be an interesting change, but it likely wouldn’t change that much, in the end, and it certainly doesn’t give you proportional representation in a party system. Furthermore, I remain a bit frustrated that he doesn’t fully address:

a) That members of parliament don’t really represent their constituents now, at least not in terms of voting in the House of Commons, because all parties demand that all of their members vote along party lines almost all the time, whether their constituents like it or not.

b) Not every type of proportional representation requires picking members from a list who don’t represent anyone. One of the most interesting forms, in fact, wouldn’t require electing any more MPs; it would just weight their confidence votes based on the constituency’s party votes.

(Maybe I should write to Justin about this.)

Israel / Palestine conflict

I couldn’t quite hear the question, but I know it was very critical, and I thought Mr. Trudeau’s response was good. He said that it was needed, ultimately, is a two-state solution, and that speaking in a polarizing way on this issue doesn’t help achieve that. But then he pointed out, quite sensibly, that this is not an issue that Canada can solve. We’re destined to just be background players in this.

Better access for people with disabilities

A prime example of how, sometimes, his responses were just vague platitudes. Those world-weary students behind me grew pretty snarky as he just went on about the ideal about giving everyone an opportunity to succeed, without ever saying what he might do specifically to achieve that. “Just make something up, even if you won’t do it!” was the students’ spectacularly bad advice.

I have better advice: Look into the US regulations for people with disabilities, and look to adopting some of those. Believe it or not, the US has some of the best standards in the world—much better than Canada’s.

(Maybe I should write to Justin about that, too.)

Childcare

But here’s an example where he had a pretty good response, even though there is no solid Liberal platform on this issue. He reminded everything that Liberals had a plan in place for this, but it was never implemented after the defeat of the Paul Martin government. But that it was a complicated thing to negotiate with the provinces, and he couldn’t promise that he could just revive it if elected. “I just don’t know what fiscal situation we’ll be facing then,” he said.

Legalizing marijuana

A moment of humor, as the person asking the question really seemed to be high as a kite. “You wouldn’t have vested interest in legalization, would you?” Trudeau quipped. I like to remind people, “It’s not legal yet!” But then he went on to the solid argument that Canada’s current prohibition approach simply isn’t working. Marijuana is not good for the developing brain, but Canada is #1 in youth pot smoking. But with regulations, that would be easier to control, as we’ve seen with tobacco and alcohol. And that the extra funding, instead of going to organized crime, could be used for better drug rehabilitation services.

Canada is currently being led by a man who cannot deliver a speech without a teleprompter, who never takes unscripted questions from the public, who rarely even takes any from the media, and who shields himself behind a wall of security. Who was once advised: “You don’t have to like people to be in politics. But you can’t hate them.”

Justin Trudeau has proven he’s different on all these counts. How much that matters is for the Canadian public to decide.

But I like it.

Trudeaumania floods SLC (article from UW’s Imprint, including a video interview with Mr. Trudeau)

Trudeau impresses students during whirlwind tour of region (from Waterloo Region Record)

Video montage of Trudeau meeting people across the country, including in Waterloo:


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The Orwellianly named Elections Act: Comments and questions

When the federal Conservatives drafted Bill C-23, the so-called “Fair” Elections Act, did they expect it would garner so much attention, becoming a major topic of conversion among politic geeks? Did they anticipate the near universal condemnation the bill has received? Or was this all a nasty surprise?

(If you need a primer on the Bill, see Everything you need to know about the Fair Elections Act, courtesy Globe and Mail.)

But shouldn’t you need ID to vote?
Apparently feeling this is their best defense, the Conservatives’ talk about ID issues a lot: That vouching is too open to voter fraud, that 39 different pieces of ID can be used instead.

What they fail to mention is that the ID you present must contain your current address, and most ID does not. The only common piece of ID that does is your driver’s license—but not every Canadian drives.

Most non-drivers currently back up their address-less government ID with the Voter Registration card. However, Bill C-23 would make that card inadmissible. Vouching has been another backup, but again, Bill C-23 would ban that practice.

This bill would make ID requirements more stringent than those in any province, or in most other countries. But voting is a right, not a privilege, and up until 2007, we could vote in federal elections without any ID at all! Provincially, many of us still can:

Voter ID requirements by province

So, arguably, you should not need ID to vote, actually. But if a government decides to require it, they must do it in a way that account for circumstances such as have recently moved, living in an institution, having a PO box as a mailing address—or being unable to drive. Not doing so is voter suppression, and is likely unconstitutional.

What if they fix the ID thing? Then we good?
No, this Bill has other issues, such as:

  • Severely limiting what information Elections Canada can share with Canadians, and specifically preventing them from promoting voter turnout. This will kill certain educational programs such as Student Vote. It also may mean that they can’t share the results of their investigations.
  • Allowing the ruling party to nominate poll supervisors for local voting stations—positions that clearly required neutrality, not partisanship.
  • Increasing spending limits, and allowing parties to exclude the costs of contacting anyone who has donated to them in the past five years. Can you say loophole?
  • Requiring that robocall records to be kept, but only for a year—not enough time for a full investigation (as the still-ongoing investigation into the fraudulent robo-calls of 2011 demonstrates: three years and counting).

(Handy YouTube video on bill’s issues at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ht_sOeGJJG4)

During hearings, the Conservatives have been unable to come up with a single expert who agrees with this bill. (One they had been quoting testified that they were misrepresenting his report.) In fact, I don’t recall such universal condemnation of something they tried to do since they banned the long-form census.

So they have taken to dismissing all their critique as “self-described experts” or “celebrities”, and personally attacking them: Election Canada’s Marc Mayrand (appointed by Harper) is power hungry. Sheila Fraser (praised by the Conservatives for her work as Auditor General) is a paid shill. It’s been really nasty.

Fair Elections Act: Because Elections Canada has a hidden agenda, and Harper's Conservatives don't

Also, having delivered the bill two years after they said they would, not having consulted ahead with anyone on its contents, they are now trying to rush it through as quickly as possible, limiting debate through time allocation.

Why are the Conservatives doing this?
That is the question.

Other controversial policies, such as GST tax cuts or harsher sentencing laws, are very popular with some people. They are policies that will win them votes, and help raise money. So no mystery why they propose those ones.

But electoral law? Not motivating like money and safety. Sure, diehard Conservatives agree with them, as they do on everything, but this issue just isn’t going to be a big vote-getter or money-maker.

So, why?

a) Is it revenge?
That’s one theory. That Conservatives are angry they were found guilty of electoral fraud in 2005, that several of them have been charged with over-spending during the last election, that they are still under investigation because their voter database was used to commit electoral fraud (the robocalls directing people to the wrong polling stations) in 2011.

They feel picked on, so they want to take power away from Elections Canada as punishment.

b) Is it fear?
About those robocalls: Another theory is that Elections Canada is finally, nearly ready to give its reports on what happened with those in 2011. And the Conservatives, being in government, have an idea what’s in that report, and it’s not good.

So they need this law to pass now so Elections Canada can’t talk about it and they won’t face any repercussions.

c) Is it a nefarious plan to rig the next election?
The Conservatives aren’t so popular right now, remarkably so given that the economy isn’t doing too badly. And there is no doubt that many provisions in this act favor them: They could put biased people in charge of polling stations; they could reduce voter turnout among youth and aboriginal, who don’t tend to vote Conservative; they could spend more money than ever advertising themselves and attacking other parties (and they do have more money than other parties). They could even do more fraudulent calls, with even greater hopes of getting away with it.

Maybe they think this bill is their only chance of winning in 2015.

d) Is it megalomaniac belief that every bill they put forward is pristine and perfect and that anyone who disagrees with them is a silly poo-poo head?

Given this party’s incredible fondness for time allocation to suppress debate on every bill they introduce, combined with an unwillingness to entertain any amendments from any other party, ever: Entirely possible.

Whichever theory you prefer, none of them makes the Conservatives look very good here.

I’ll close with a reminder that if you think this bill maybe has some issues, you can:
Contact your MP about it
Fill in this handy-dandy petition at Democracy Watch
Join the NDP’s opposition
Join the Liberal’s opposition
(And the Greens are also against it.)

And also, you know, vote. Preferably for a party that cares about your right to do so.

Full text of Bill C-23


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Canadian democracy is broken, but you can help fix it (in 140 characters or less)

Canadian democracy is in trouble. Governments won’t give straight answers to questions in houses of governance, they limit media access, they routinely impose time allocation on debates, they pass bills to limit the rights of independent MPs, they delay and censor access to information requests, they conduct business in secret, they refuse to provide budget information to civil servants.

I think the root problem with Canadian democracy is our federal and provincial voting systems. Most people’s votes elect no one and therefore have no other effect (now that the federal per-vote subsidy is gone). Only votes for the winning candidate matter, and whether it’s by 11 votes or 11,000, the winner still gets the entire riding. Votes for all other candidates are wasted. (More at Fair Vote Canada.)

As a result, a party needs only 35% to 40% or of the popular vote to win the majority of the seats. They can and do narrowcast their appeal, so they don’t really care if most citizens don’t like what they’re doing. It disincentivizes parties from working together, as everyone is chasing the 35% dream of absolute power. And it encourage abuses of the electoral system, in overspending (as with Dean Del Mastro and other MPs), expense schemes (“in and out”), and outright fraud (robocalls), because such illegalities can give that small percentage extra needed to win it all.

Realistically, though, I don’t think the voting system is going to change any time soon. I think it’s worth trying, but it’s natural for parties to love the current system. Having nearly a one in three chance of winning it all is pretty hard to resist.

But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done.

Great Britain, for example, uses the exact same voting system as Canada, with the exact same distorted results in seat numbers. But nevertheless, many have observed that government works better than ours. British MPs quite often vote against party lines, something Canadian MPs almost never do. British ministers, unlike ours, actually answer the question during Question Period. MPs seriously debate issues using their own words, not party talking points.

British MPs are much more empowered than Canadian ones. And it makes all the difference.

Somehow, gradually over the last 30 or so years, Canadian MPs have lost more and more of their ability to make much of a difference in Parliament. Here are a couple of accountings of their sad lot, by Andrew Coyne’s in The Walrus, “Repairing the House” and in this blog post from On Procedure and Politics: The real problem is MP irrelevancy.

But right now, this week, Tuesday, a private member’s Bill is being presented that could change this. Michael Chong, of the Conservative party (yes!) has been working on a it for a couple of years. Andrew Coyne (him again), endorses it  as A bill that would change Canada’s Parliament forever.

It proposes that MPs get to decide who sits caucus and who gets to be leader, and removes the provision for party leaders to sign off on all electoral candidates. Doesn’t sound like much, and by itself, certainly would not fix everything. But it does lay the groundwork for reform, by once again empowering MPs to actually represent us, the citizens, and not just their parties, in Parliament.

So if you’re in favor democracy and would like to see it working again in Canada, tell your MP to support Michael Chong’s Reform Act.

If you’re on Twitter, you need only 140 characters and this list of Canadian MPs on Twitter. You can also follow the discussion via #ReformAct.

If you’re on Facebook, you can Like this page (or whatever the heck it is you Facebook people do): https://www.facebook.com/TheReformAct

If you’re on email, you can email your MP — here’s the list: http://www.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/MainMPsCompleteList.aspx

Parliament in Ottawa

Let’s make this place work again


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Twittering through the US election

On the night of the US election, after blogging about dresses, I decided to avoid all forms of news. Though I felt fairly good about the odds, particularly from Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, I found I was overreacting to speculations of Romney victories. And I knew the results wouldn’t be known, for sure, until kind of late. And I was alone. I just didn’t need the solitary anxiety.

So no web, no TV, no radio for me. I just watched my new DVD of The Who Live in Texas 1975, which was awesome! Then I went to bed, knowing that my alarm, tuned to CBC Radio One, would give me the news upon awakening.

… Though in fact I had to wait, like, 5 minutes while they did traffic and weather and stuff. But then Matt Galloway read the night’s most popular tweet:

Barack Obama ‏@BarackObama

Four more years. pic.twitter.com/bAJE6Vom

It seems apt that, even though it was through radio, I got the news via tweet, as Twitter as truly been my main source for following this election. The details were in various New York Times, Mother Jones,  etc. articles. Directing me to those were tweets.

So of course, I couldn’t wait to get on and read all the ones I’d missed the night before, when I’d been in avoidance mode. It was kind of like reliving the whole thing in condensed time. Here’s a sampling.

The watching begins

God ‏@TheTweetOfGod

If Romney wins I’m moving to hell.

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @rkgill: Here we go! May the best man or Mitt Romney win! #22USAVotes

Results start to come in

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @markcheck99: RT @roofer_on_fire: Canada secures borders in case Obama wins, anticipates stampede of up to 2 million morons. #22USAvotes

Nate Silver ‏@fivethirtyeight

On The Wall, The Writing.

But Florida remains inconclusive

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @mypolishface: RT @MrBobKerr: Man, remind me not to go out to dinner with Florida. Takes ’em FOREVER to decide. #22USAvotes

Republicans lose some big ones

Alex ‏@AlexCarpenter

“The Rape guy lost” “Which one?” Your party has serious issues if people have to ask “Which one?” #GOP #itstheTwentyFirstCentury

The Daily Show ‏@TheDailyShow

#TDSBreakingNews Detroit votes to let @MittRomney fail. #DailyShowLive

Ricky Gervais ‏@rickygervais

Romney loses Pennsylvania. Apparently The Amish thought he was too behind the times.

And… they call it

God ‏@TheTweetOfGod

You’re welcome.

Jon Schwarz ‏@tinyrevolution

Nate Silver being right brings up the very real and terrifying possibility that climate scientists are too

Gladstone ‏@WGladstone

Your party doesn’t believe in evolution. RT @McCainBlogette Heartbroken. My party has to evolve or it’s going to die.

But Romney seems to dawdle on the conceding

Tabatha Southey ‏@TabathaSouthey

Romney still not conceding. Possibly he’ll build a White House near the real White House & start governing. But his house will be bigger.

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @robbierobtown: Romney, concede. The WORLD wants to go to bed. #22USAvotes#Obama2012#CanadaIsSleepy#TheWorldVotes

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @heyitstva: “Wait…can I just buy more states?” – Romney #election2012#22USAvotes

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

Tell it like it is, bro! #22USAvotes RT @stefquaglia: “The only time we’ve looked forward to a Mitt Romney speech” #markcritch#USvotesCBC

And there is cheer

ThisHourHas22Minutes ‏@22_Minutes

RT @thedarcymichael: America tonight you voted for weed, married gays & a black dude. Basically my sex bucket list. Thanks. #22USAvotes

whedonesque ‏@whedonesque

“Guys, take a moment to deal with this. We survived.”


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Byelections are hard

My riding is one of two in the midst of a byelection for the Ontario legislature. And I am Undecided.

I have decided against the Progressive Conservatives (I know, you’re all shocked) and the six fringe candidates that are running. That leaves three options: Liberals, NDP, and Greens.

Recently I’ve just been voting for whoever appears to have the best chance of defeating the Conservative candidate, and in this riding, that’s normally Liberal.

But a byelection is not the same. For one thing, I do not have to fear the Conservatives in the same way, because even if they happen to win both seats up for grabs, they will still not form government.

For another, it’s not really so clear the Liberals are the next leading contenders. The NDP have a strong, well-known local candidate, and with voters not having to fear an NDP government resulting from her winning the seat, they might just vote for her. There’s no knowing for sure, but all indications are that this is a three-way race.

So, another strategy I sometimes take when struggling to decide is to just pick the best local candidate. In a byelection, this seems a particular sensible approach. Therefore, I watched the local debate, and came to the conclusion that… All the candidates I’m considering are quite good, really.

The Liberals Eric Davis and the NDP’s Catherine Fife both speak very well and knowledgeably. He’s a lawyer and she’s local schoolboard trustee, and they both already have the politician’s ability to seem like they’re answering a question when they haven’t, really. And it’s in this respect that the Green’s Stacey Danckert was quite refreshing, even though she was soft spoken and less assured. But she was also clearly very smart, informed, and sincere.

Plus, the Greens have some cool policies. Combine the Separate and public school boards? Yes, we can! (Wait, that’s someone else’s slogan.) Reduce income taxes and increase pollution taxes? Sounds good to me. Proportional representation? Bring it on.

But do the Greens have any shot at all in this thing? That is unlikely. Do I consider them anyway, for supporting the candidate and the policies? I’m undecided.

This byelection is also unusual in that actually could change the shape of the Legislature. If the Liberals happen to manage to win both byelection, they’d end up with a very slim majority. Do I want this? Majority governments—including this one—tend to be rather arrogant and undemocratic. But minority governments are all gamesmanship, with everyone threatening elections at every opportunity… All dreaming that majority they might win.

Basically, we have terrible political system, in which both majority and minority governments kind of suck. I can’t change that with my vote. (Ontarians could have changed that in a referendum a few years ago, but they didn’t. I may never forgive you for that, Ontarians. But I’m digressing.)

So… Not much point in voting strategically, no clear favorite amongst a set of good candidate, not really sure who I want to win the seat (except I’d prefer not Conservative or a fringe candidate).

Gosh, I may actually have to read the party platforms, or something.


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I wrote a letter to my love

OK, not really.

In fact, I wrote an email to the Record, in response to today’s editorial. It remains to be seen if they publish it. In the meantime, here is either a preview (or just a view, I guess, if it’s never published anywhere but here):

Record Editorial Board, I feel you’re letting the Conservatives off too lightly.

How could they have found out the true cost of the F-35s when bureaucrats were withholding that information? Well, for one, they could have listened to Kevin Page, and the Opposition parties, instead of mocking them. For another, they could have read the many media stories outlining concerns about F-35 cost overruns. From those sources, I knew perfectly well that the F-35s were going to cost a lot more than had been budgeted, and I have considerably fewer resources than the Minister of Defense.

So if the Minister didn’t know, he was either completely incompetent, or was being willfully ignorant.

Do you even remember why the Conservatives were found to be in contempt of Parliament? It was for refusing to give Canadians financial information—including, very specifically—the true cost of the F-35 program. One suspects they didn’t want to provide that information for fear it would show that they were wrong and their critics were right.

If the Conservatives had looked into the matter then, instead of launching into an unnecessary election, they could have dealt with this issue months ago, instead of waiting to be embarrassed by an Auditor’s report.

Why should the bureaucrats be blamed for not answering questions the Conservatives refused to ask?

If anyone gets fired, it should the politicians who, instead of effectively managing the country, chose to hold it in contempt by refusing to find out the facts.

————————–

And you know, it’s not even an issue I care that much about. At least the military actually needs jets, unlike say, the prisons in a time of declining crime rates. But it’s just emblematic of the things I generally hate about this government: the arrogance, the disdain for facts, the disrespect. And that’s not even getting into all the bald-faced lies Harper told, in parliament and at press conferences, about how we had a contract for the F-35s. Even one that protected us against price increases.

And their defense now? Thank God we have no contract! “As we have said repeatedly!” (More at Maclean’s.)


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The GOP’s Crackpot Agenda

The Republican candidates for president seem like such a bunch of farcical idiots that it’s been difficult to take them seriously, especially if you watch The Daily Show regularly, as I do. It was therefore somewhat sobering to read the Rolling Stone article, “The GOP’s Crackpot Agenda”, which lays out what these candidates are actually promising to do. All of them.

(Well, all except Ron Paul, whom Rolling Stone ignores, as seems to be typical media approach to Ron Paul. Though I’m not sure what he is promising is any better, it seems worth noting that it is different, particularly in areas such as the military. The article also apparently pre-dates Herman Cain’s withdrawal from the race.)

But the point is that one of these people could actually be President of the United States! And this what they say they would do:

  • Promote dirty energy jobs—addressing unemployment by increasing carbon emissions.
  • Reduce environmental regulations, such as by limiting or even getting rid of the EPA.
  • Unleash Wall Street by eliminating safeguards that protect consumers and workers.
  • Destroy the safety net: Cancel health care reform, privatize Medicare, and privatize Social Security for young workers.
  • Wreck the economy through a brutal austerity plan, likely to bring on a new recession.
  • Increase military spending and find new wars to fight.
  • Cut taxes on the rich—reduce corporate, estate, and investment taxes.
  • Attack abortion rights. (As an aside: Rick Santorum also doesn’t much care for birth control.)
  • Harsh crackdowns on illegal immigrants.

As Canadians, not all of this would affect us. But if the US economy goes down, so does Canada’s. If they pollute the air and atmosphere, we all suffer the consequences. If they start a new war, our soldiers could be drawn on.

While Obama has certainly been a disappointment as President, at least he’s not, as the headline says, a crackpot. Let us hope that this article is correct that this Republican agenda is too radical to actually be electable.


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Connect the dots, Kitchener-Waterloo

Last federal election, voters in the riding of Kitchener Waterloo received mysterious phone calls telling them, incorrectly, that their polling station had changed. Commissioner of Canada Elections William Corbett is still investigating the source of those calls, but the targets were identified Liberal voters.

A few weeks ago, voters in Irwin Cotler’s Montreal riding received phone calls on behalf of the Conservative Party of Canada telling them, incorrectly, that Cotler was planning to resign, so who would they support in a byelection.

It turns out that the firm behind the calls, Campaign Research, Inc. also did a lot of work for the Conservatives in the last election. In fact, principle partner Nick Kouvalis described his firm’s mandate thusly: “We’re in the business of getting Conservatives elected and ending Liberal careers.”

One of the Conservatives Nick Kouvalis helped elect was one Peter Braid, federal Conservative candidate for the riding of  Kitchener Waterloo. Kouvalis was Braid’s election day chair. Another member of that same firm, Aaron Lee-Wudrick, was Braid’s campaign manager. Per Wikileaks, the two have a history together: See Conservative Party strategy to take over student unions exposed.

During the last election campaign, on behalf of Peter Braid, Campaign Research Inc. spent over $19,000 on phone calls in the Kitchener-Waterloo riding. One of the highest totals in Canada.

Got it?

You know, I hear there might be a byelection soon in the riding of Kitchener Waterloo. Something about an MP resigning in disgrace?

(With much thanks to Creekside blog for helping me connect the dots: Campaign Research Con cats are out of the bag.)

UPDATE: Today in the Waterloo Region Record, a report that at least one of the calls in Kitchener Waterloo area, illegally claiming polling stations had changed was indeed from a number associated with the Conservative Party of Canada.


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Only tough on other people’s crimes

You know, I’m more than a little tired of our “law and order” federal government gleefully breaking the law.

Just sayin’.