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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mr. Sweater just stands there 

From Cherniak comes this YouTube showing Harper's reaction when one of his Conservative-tshirt-wearing young supporters faints behind him. But I guess Harper just couldn't pause the press conference to find out whether the boy was going to be OK or not because, after all, the reporters were waiting and we know how much Harper cares about their deadlines and stuff ...


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Monday, September 29, 2008

Canadian freeway blogging 

At the Beav, Dave finds to ABC's post about Canada's freeway blogger:



Works for me!

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Hidden agenda? 

Harper's hidden agenda? Nope, its right out in the open, complements of the Western Standard's Adam Yoshida. And Canada, don't say you didn't know what you were voting for:
With a strong majority government – one not vulnerable to a confidence vote – the Prime Minister has the power to weather minor storms of public outrage and to use his five years to change this country in ways which will prove both popular and nearly impossible to undo.
In particular, I recommend that a Conservative government focus on the following:
1) Institutional demolition: The left-wing in this country relies upon government to keep itself running. The Prime Minister has taken some vital first steps in this area by junking the Court challenges program and cutting funding to radical feminist groups but, with a majority, the best option would be to go much further.
Sell the CBC. Junk most of the cultural subsides. Get rid of the human rights Gestapo . . . Gut the CRTC. Indeed, as I recommended before, the Prime Minister should forget his own copyright bill and instead pass the most liberal, progressive, and loose copyright bill in the Western world. Yeah, that’ll hurt some people – but screw them, they’re not going to vote Tory anyways.
Do too much, rather than too little. Don’t shift these things around. Burn them down and salt the Earth. . .
Yoshida's article goes downhill from there, from industrial arms production to brutalizing prisoners. Oh, its just such fun to be a Conservative!
Over at Canadian Cynic, PSA provides the smackdown to this insanity:
Here's a news flash for you Adam Yoshida, the cartoon left that you vilify and hate so deeply doesn't exist. There are however millions of rational Canadians that will stand up and fight your kind to the bitter end, to prevent seeing this nation turned into a tin-pot fascist state. You won't get your coup, you won't get your junta and you just plain won't get your way because the fantasy you've described here is at home on another continent, 70 years in the past. The entire world went to war to defeat that vision. Here's some news for you, we'd do it again too.
Thanks, Rev. Paperboy, for this catch.

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Does anyone think Palin's a good choice? 

Alison deconstructs the CBC's attempt to be "fair and balanced" in A mighty wind blows up the arse of the CBC.
My question to the CBC is this: to "balance" Heather Mallick, where are they going to find a Canadian who actually thinks the Republican choice of Bible Spice AKA Cariboo Barbie as a Vice-Presidential candidate was a good one?

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"Mr. President, I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed" 

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note quotes former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski on what the plan was for the President to handle a nuclear strike during the Cold War. I found this chilling, particularly because Brzezinski and everybody around him thought it would actually be possible to plan for something like this, and to assume everybody would be calm and rational and orderly:
. . . one of my jobs was to coordinate the president's response in the event of a nuclear attack. I'm not revealing any secrets, but it was something like this: We would have initial warning of an attack within one minute of a large-scale launch by the Soviet Union. Roughly by the second minute we'd have a pretty good notion of the scale and the likely targets. By the third minute, we would know more or less when to anticipate impact and so forth. By the third minute, the job of the national security advisor was to alert the president that this was ongoing, that we have this information. And the president then decides how to respond. It begins to get complicated immediately. If it's an all-out attack, the response is presumably easier. You just react in total. But suppose it's a more selective attack. There are choices to be made. The president is supposed to weigh the options. How will he react? There's an element of uncertainty here. In any case, the process is to be completed roughly by the seventh minute.. . . By the seventh minute, the order to execute had to be transmitted and whatever we decided had to be carried out. Roughly by the 28th minute, there's impact. That is to say, you and your family are dead. Washington's gone. A lot of our military assets are destroyed. But presumably, the president has calmly made the decision how to respond. We're already firing back. Six hours later, 150 million Americans and Soviets are dead. That is the reality we lived with. And we did everything we could to make it as stable, as subject to rational control, as possible.
Of course, nobody anticipated having the president who would just continue reading My Pet Goat for seven minutes...


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Sunday, September 28, 2008

StealthCon II: The Stealthening 

Here's my StealthCon update for today, to add to the four from BC already hunted down by RossK and the nine more listed by the Liberals here.
In Comments, Penlan reports this one:
The Con in my riding, Perth-Wellington, in southwestern Ontario, has also been a no-show for all-candidate debates. It's Gary Schellenburg.
while Mound of Sound adds:
Nanaimo-Alberni, incumbent Reform/Alliance/CPC James Lunney isn't even putting up more than a few campaign signs.
At The Galloping Beaver, Dave reports on the Kamloops Thompson Cariboo riding, where StealthCon candidate Cathy McLeod is refusing interview requests from local media.
And Dave, in reply to your musical tribute to the StealthCons, how about this one?

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It was a teenage wedding and the old folks wished them well 

Here's the only possible response to this this pathetic publicity stunt:


Why would we not be at all surprised to see Bible Spice and the odious McCain campaign turn a pregnant teenager's wedding day into a media circus?

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

StealthCons 

RossK at The Gazetteer is tracking all of the Conservative candidates who seem to have disappeared. He calls them "StealthCons". Our list so far:
Saanich-Gulf Islands Gary Lunn
Vancouver Island North John Duncan
Chunklets doesn't know whether Edmonton-Spruce Grove Rona Ambrose is a StealthCon yet, but he points out that her Events Calendar ends abruptly on Sept. 22.
And here in Saskatchewan, we think North Battleford's Gerry Ritz may have actually discovered the formula for invisibility because the newspapers aren't finding him anywhere.
Here is Ross's definition of a StealthCon:
A StealthCon is a Harpertronic conservative candidate who ducks the media and especially the public. Their most egregious acts of stealthitude occur when they subvert democracy completely by refusing to show up at all candidates meetings where the voters, instead of watching ads on the TeeVee actually head out the door in an effort to find out, via their own eyes and ears, what they will (or will not) be voting for. We first became acutely aware of the StealthCons that walk among us during the invisible Mar 2008 by-election candidacy of Deborah Meredith in Vancouver Quadra. And here's the thing......Ms Meredith almost won. Thus, despite the jocular, snarkoleptic tone of these posts, this is no laughing matter.
Any other contributions?
UPDATE: The Liberal party website lists "a litany of Conservative candidates who have declined to participate in all-candidates debates and/or refuse to speak to media at all":
Jilian Saweczko in Parkdale-High Park
Health Minister Tony Clement in Parry Sound-Muskoka
Christina Perreault in Toronto-Danforth
Gloria Kovach in Guelph
Immigration Minister Diane Finley in Haldimand-Norfolk
Dave Tilson in Dufferin-Caledon
Michelle Hunter in Wascana
Helena Guergis in Simcoe-Grey
Environment Minister John Baird, representing Ottawa West-Nepean, has refused to participate in an all-candidates debate hosted by the City of Ottawa.
A debate sponsored by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario on October 8 is being rejected by the Conservatives.
Hull-Aylmer Conservative Candidate Paul Fréchette was a no-show [on Ottawa CBC's morning show] to discuss the issues on air with other local candidates.
So its quite obvious this refusal to participate in democratic processes is not just an idiosyncrasy of a few candidates but rather an expression of deliberate Conservative party policy.
I wonder if Canadians will realize that the Conservative party holds them in contempt?

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Great line of the day 

From Saskboy, wondering why Canadians aren't questioning Harper's lack of an economic plan:
People should be asking themselves if they can afford to stick with the party and leader who still denies that Canada is headed for the same economic problems as the United States
Yes, that pretty well sums it up, doesn't it.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Cry me a river 

An innocent man spends 23 years in jail and now we're supposed to feel sorry for the hurt feelings of the prosecutor and the lead detective when the prisoner's mother got mad at them.
Yeah, really.
The lengthy Inquiry into the David Milgaard conviction for the 1969 murder of Gail Miller has concluded there was no coverup, just a series of unfortunate mistakes.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wall Street Underpants Gnomes 

Turns out that Wall Street was actually populated by Underpants Gnomes in nice suits. Here's the Underpants Gnomes business plan:
1. Collect underpants
2. ?
3. Profit
Maybe step two will turn out to be the $700 billion American government bailout.
No wonder Atrios has been calling all this the big shitpile. Here's an example of the kind of crap that was happening, from Good Math, Bad Math : Economic Disasters and Stupid Evil People:
It gets quite a bit stupider when you look at the details of some of these deals....[such as] one loan package issued by UBS. They had one bundle of about 20 billion dollars of loans that they resold as bonds. They bought 'insurance' on it from a much smaller investment firm, whose total assets (that is, every bit of money that they had any plausible claim to be able to raise) was 200 million dollars. Think about what that means: the guys insuring those 20 billion dollars of loans had absolutely no way of covering them: the insurer couldn't possibly ever pay off the loans they were insuring if they failed. But on the paper that got the loans their high-quality rating, it said that they were fully insured. So there's no way in hell that if those loans failed, the insurers would be able to pay up, and the folks selling the insurance knew it, and the folks buying the insurance knew it. But they just assumed that somehow, this would all work out.
And thanks to the Republican bail out plan, it may.

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Great line of the day 

At Canadian Cynic, psa writes Big Steve, Working Stiff:
Stephen Harper, plump and soft as a double roll of Cottonelle. A man who has spent his entire adult life, after leaving school with a degree in economics, either as a spoiled politician or as a spoiled ideologue in the loving embrace of a right wing think tank. Stephen Harper. A man who is unlikely to ever develop a callus on his hands unless it comes from clutching pennies. This twee, over-fed poofter has the little salted nuts to look into the lens of the camera and portray himself as one of the "ordinary, working people".

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The "Toronto Street Gangs" Pander 

Several bloggers and other critics have noticed that Harper's so-called crackdown on teenage criminals doesn't really make sense because the crime statistics show that crime is down.
So when something doesn't make sense, then you have to look for the story behind the story. And in this case, I think it's recent Toronto street gang shootings. I think the Conservatives are just trying to give their Toronto candidates something they can promote when they're campaigning -- so they don't have to answer questions about income trusts and crumbling city infrastructure.
Christie Blatchford's column is actually sort of a test case that the Conservative strategy may work.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Stephen disses Laureen 

Stephen, if you're tired of looking after the kids, you should really just talk to Laureen about it instead of getting mad at the whole Canadian arts community.
Yes, its true. While Stephen is trying to score cheap political points by promoting division and distrust between all us so-called "ordinary folk" and all those supposed arty snobs with their elitist "galas", Laureen is gallivanting around:
. . .to the National Arts Centre gala on Oct. 4. (Singer Tony Bennett is the big draw this year.) In fact, she's the gala's honourary chair and has been for several years. And she really gets into it, helping to personally decorate the NAC foyer for the event. She's always dressed beautifully and once again, John Baird, a Tory incumbent candidate from Ottawa and the Environment Minister, has agreed to be her date. Her husband never goes; he stays home and looks after the kids at their taxpayer-subsidized mansion on Sussex Drive
Philistine!

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Monday, September 22, 2008

It's our duty 

In the Hinzman war dodger court case, the Crown attorney argued:
"It is not really for us to pass judgment on a military code in a foreign country"
What? But of course it is. If Canada doesn't do this, who will?
It is the duty of Canadians to make exactly this judgment before we send anyone back to a country where, it was claimed, he will be treated more harshly by the military because it was the Iraq War he spoke out against.
I'm glad that the judge did not agree with the Crown attorney. Hinzman and his family are staying, at least for now.

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Great line of the day 

Mike Whitney: Full-Spectrum Breakdown
Paulson is to finance capitalism what Rumsfeld is to military strategy.
Via Sideshow.

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Liberals closing or widening the gap? 

Nanos has the Tories up by five percent, while Harris has the Tories up by 16 per cent.
Nanos has the Liberals closing the gap, while Harris has the Tories increasing their lead.
I agree with what Warren Kinsella says:
I and many other hacks – red, blue and orange – believe CP and MotherCorp are going to be embarrassed, come Election Day, by the Harris-Decima numbers they’re trumpeting day in and day out. The gap is not that huge; there is no bloody way the Tories have that kind of a lead.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Debit cards were nice, weren't they? 

Well, debit cards were nice while they lasted, weren't they?
But it seems like there's just too much risk now to keep on using them.
I got a call from my bank one Saturday in June that my debit card had been cut off -- I guess somewhere I had used it, there was a fraud problem. So I had to dash into the bank and get a new one, and a new PIN.
Darned lucky that I wasn't sitting in an airplane that Saturday morning, on my way to somewhere expensive.
So ever since, I've been trying to use more of that other stuff -- oh, you remember that stuff -- whadaya call it....oh yeah, cash!

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Making children cry 

Great, guys, just great -- now the anti-Olympic protestors are making children cry. That'll sure get Canadians on your side!
Sgt. Ken MacDonald of Port Moody Police said a man and a woman were arrested for assault. They were pulled from the banner-shaking crowd in front of the stage after a woman and her two children were surrounded.
Giving her name only as Gina, the woman said she was trying to take her four-year-old daughter, Parisa, and nine-year-old son, Daniel, to see the band when protesters closed in on them.
I saw this story on CTV News -- the shots of the children being surrounded by screaming protestors were graphic and upsetting. Both children were frightened and crying.
Then instead of just apologizing to the mother and the children, like any normal person would do, one of the protestors had the gall to blame the mother. Somehow, I guess, the mother was supposed to know that a nice little ceremony to launch an innocuous feel-good event like the Spirit Train tour across Canada would turn into a riot.

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Cartoon du jour 

Found on CalgaryGrit: Week 2 in Review


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There's something rotten here 

There is something wrong with Paulson's bailout package.
Otherwise, why are they in such a panic to get it passed?
Instead of meeting directly with legislators and bankers,
Paulson made the rounds of the television talk shows to stress the need for speed in getting the bailout package approved.
Talk shows? Who is he trying to scare?
But maybe this is the reason why the Republicans want to assemble this deal so quickly:
Democrats said they understood the need for urgency but insisted that the measure needed to provide help for homeowners threatened with losing their homes, perhaps by changes in bankruptcy laws to allow for mortgages to be modified, and by capping pay and benefit packages for executives at the huge Wall Street firms that will be selling their bad debt to the government.
"I don't want the American taxpayer to get this bad debt and then the guy (whose company once held the bad loans) gets millions of dollars on his way out the door," said House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.
Darn, got it in one, Barney!

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So what else is new? 

Here is the Heather Mallick column that is causing all the fuss. And I don't get it -- Mallick didn't say anything about Sarah Palin and her supporters that a thousand progressive bloggers in the United States haven't said already.
Maybe they're just embarrassed that a Canadian thinks so poorly of a vice presidential candidate.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

The sky actually is falling, I think 

Here's the plan:
[the bailout plan] authorizes Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes.
Does anybody think this is going to work out well?

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Friday, September 19, 2008

It ain't over 

So now Harper thinks he can quell the Cold Cuts Scandal by ignoring it.
I don't think this will work. Because Canadians are going to keep dying.

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You're doing a heck of a job, Henry and Bennie 

As I suspected, the Bush administration is apparently now making a series of bad decisions about the market meltdown. Ian Welsh ennumerates:
The SEC is trying to decide if it should .. . . ban all short selling, period
This smells of panic driven decision making. Regulators are in a cold sweat, and they haven't thought this through. . . .
Getting rid of short selling entirely doesn't make market meltdowns less likely. It makes them more likely. Just as letting banks use depositor money to shore up investment banking subsidiaries is throwing good money, your money, after bad. Just as allowing banks to book "good will" as regulatory reserves doesn't actually change how likely they are to be insolvent. Regulators are making decisions in the grip of stark fear and their critical faculties aren't working anymore.
If Ian Welsh knows this, why don't the SEC braniacs know it?
And you know, when the people in charge keep coming up with instant "solutions" to the market panic, and those "solutions" actually make it easier to continue playing with somebody else's money, then I suspect that these aren't actually solutions at all, they're just somebody's pet project -- something that the banks and the Bushies had wanted to do anyway and with the panic they got their chance.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Saskatchewan mourns 


The Little General is gone.

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Na-na-na-na-na -- I can't hear you! 

Gerry Ritz is Harper's problem, but our problem is a little broader than that -- can we trust the Canadian food we are buying?
The Conservatives seem to think that the way to deal with their food inspection responsibilities is to stick their fingers in their ears, shake their heads back and forth, and say "Na-na-na-na-na" as loudly as they can.
Scott directs us to a new Public Service Alliance website called Food Safety First which describes how the federal government is trying to make food safety problems disappear.
First, they're not actual creating or enforcing any actual safety regulations. No,no, that would be too much trouble, plus, of course, it would make the food industry mad, and the Harper Conservatives never want industry to be mad at them.
Instead, what they're doing is much easier, not to mention cheaper.
They're letting food plants inspect themselves, then not publishing the results! Simplicity itself!
The move toward industry self-policing has been done quietly by Ottawa politicians, bureaucrats and food company executives who fear news of the changes would spark a public backlash.
The spotlight of media attention fell on the government’s plans when a secret government document became public that outlines the government’s plans for the: "shift from full-time Canadian Food Inspection Agency meat inspection presence to an oversight role, allowing industry to implement food safety control programs and to manage key risks," and;"elimination of federal delivery of provincial meat inspection programs" in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
Meanwhile, Ottawa has quietly killed the publication of audit reports of Canadian meat processing facilities because of complaints from the industry that these reports caused the companies bad press.
Currently, the only source of independent information about safety in Canada meat processing industry comes from the United States. The US Department of Agriculture conducts an annual audit of Canada’s meat, poultry and egg products inspection system. The American audits, including plant visits, have revealed some shocking findings which were reported by the Globe and Mail.
The complete USDA audit is available here.
Steve at Far and Wide sums it up:
When Harper takes to the mic, and defends Ritz, saying he is doing a good job on the file, and that's all that matters, the follow up question should ask about that JOB. Why are you putting the onus on companies to self-police, when their chief concern is profit, sometimes at the expense of public safety? Why are you CUTTING inspection? Canadians need to understand that this government is putting public health at risk because of ideological considerations. The Conservative policies are the bad joke here.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wall and Harper 



Well, I see Chester is still BFF with Spike .
And its sort of humorous, actually, because if Canadians listened to Wall and actually came to believe that Dion's Green Shift is the modern version of Trudeau's National Energy Program, then Dion's popularity in Ontario and Quebec would immediately shoot upwards . . .

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No how, no way, no catfight 

This was a smart move on Clinton's part -- Clinton avoids Palin faceoff.
Just as Obama avoided raising McCain's profile by appearing with him in townhall meetings, so Clinton avoided a meaningless media circus which would have become a major distraction from the actual presidential campaign.

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Mulroney Lite 

As Allison points out, Harper says those mean old other "bunch of parties" want to "sabotage" his government because they "don't want our economy to be successful". As if he knew how to do that!
Frances Russell compares Harper to Mulroney -- both turned out to be fiscal disasters:
In less than three years, Harper has squandered a balanced budget and fiscal surplus that Canadians shredded much of their social safety net to achieve.
. . . Last month, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development reported that Canada is slated for the second weakest economic growth among the major industrialized countries -- the worst performance since the last time the Conservatives were in office.
Harper is following Brian Mulroney's footsteps. Between 1984 and 1993, Mulroney ran up nearly two-thirds of the more than half-trillion-dollar national debt accumulated in Canada since Confederation. In his last year in office, his government posted a $42-billion deficit and a half-trillion-dollar national debt.
. . . Canadians need to ask how bad it could get under a second Harper regime . . .
It's unbelievable that the very ideology responsible for the fiscal and financial meltdown is now being marketed as best positioned to address it.
This echoes the Gazetteer's perceptive comment on Sunday.
And the peasants are burying their gold.

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Canadians are dying so why not crack a few jokes? 

Can I get sued for wondering what Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz was smoking on that Sunday morning two weeks ago, when he decided that the civil servants and scientists discussing the deaths of Canadians due to listeria needed to hear him crack a few jokes:
Sources who took notes during the call said Ritz fretted about the political dangers of the crisis, before quipping:
"This is like a death by a thousand cuts. Or should I say cold cuts."
The disease was linked to cold cuts from Maple Leaf Meats.
And when told about a new death in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said:
"Please tell me it's (Liberal MP) Wayne Easter."
Easter is the Liberal critic shadowing Ritz's Agriculture Department.
...The conversation on Aug. 30 began with talk of the mounting death toll and trends in the spread of the disease.
Sources say Ritz began the call by asking: "Are there any more bombs out there?" - implying any politically damaging news.
But discussion soon shifted to communications and how best to frame the government's message.
So I see he's got the government's priorities front and centre.
The Canadian press story also says
Ritz was not the only cabinet minister to quip about the food crisis.
But they didn't say who the others were, and I guess its up to us to figure out what is wrong with these people.

UPDATE: Oh, yes, it was the Health minister.

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What will China do? 

Ian Welsh looks east:
China holds a ton of mortgage backed securities. AIG insures many of them. Freddie and Fannie guarantee many of them. Failing to bail those firms out, failing to guarantee that paper, meant that China would be stuck with cents on the dollar. And after taking a loss like that, they might not be willing to keep extending the US what amounts to loans. And if that happens, the dollar crashes, or interest rates have to go through the roof.
And that's the barrel of the gun that Bernanke and Paulson are looking down.

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Fire department vs bucket brigade 

Atrios, who is an economist, provides an excellent analogy:
. . . I have no idea if this bailout was a good thing or a bad thing. I don't have enough information to make that determination.
The real issue is that you need a sensible regulatory framework to prevent financial crises from happening in the first place, and criteria and practices for dealing with them when they do, along with a sensible and consistent broad social safety net for individuals and families for when crises happen to them.
It might have been the right thing to run down to the river with buckets to collect water to throw on the burning building, but it would have been much better to have better fire codes and a functioning fire department.
Me, I would prefer fire codes and a fire department.

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Cheer up! 

My new favorite blog, Calculated Risk sums up the financial news:
With the DOW off over 500 points yesterday, Lehman in bankruptcy, the Fed rescuing A.I.G. tonight, the viability of WaMu and others institutions in doubt, Fannie and Freddie placed in conservatorship, a major money market fund halting redemptions, it might seem like the credit crisis is spiraling out of control.
And there are definitely more problems to come.
Many banks will fail - especially small and regional banks with excessive concentrations in construction & development (C&D) and commercial real estate (CRE) loans. And the recession is getting worse with rising unemployment, declining personal consumption expenditures, declining industrial production and falling business investment. Economies of many other countries are in or close to recession. The Fed even cautioned on slowing U.S. exports today for the first time.
Foreign stock markets are crashing: the Russian stock market was halted today after declining 17%. The Shanghai composite index is off about 2/3 from the peak.
But even after all that, CR concludes
...unlike observers that believe this only marks the end of the beginning, I believe there is a chance that these events mark the beginning of the end of the crisis.
OK, works for me.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Great line of the day 

From Stephane Dion:
Mr. Harper, he speaks better English than me, OK. But I speak the truth better than him in English and in French

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Why would the Bush administration be right this time? 

Business writer Joe Nocera at the New York Times looks on the bright side, sort of:
With the government refusing to prop up Wall Street anymore, maybe now mortgage-backed derivatives will find their natural bottom. Something to look forward to, I guess.
The thing that worries me is this -- if there is one thing the last eight years has taught us, it is that the Bush administration is just about always wrong about just about everything.
So why would they be right about how they are handling the market meltdown?

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Great line of the day 

Over at Dawg's Blawg, Marie Eve contrasts Harper's $19 billion spending extravaganza with his recent statement about the importance of fiscal prudence, and concludes:
If Harper keeps spinning at that rate, by October 14th he should have spun a hole for himself all the way to China.

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Not helpful 

Cue the trolls, just as Dion starts to trend upward. But trolls are so cute, aren't they, especially the ones who are pretending to be Liberals.

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Be careful what you wish for 

I've been working almost constantly for the last 40 years, and in that time I have paid tens of thousands of dollars into the Employment Insurance fund.
I have collected on these benefits for two stints of maternity leave and a few weeks of actual unemployment. But there is no way that I ever got back, or ever will get back, anything near what I have contributed into that fund, both directly from my salary and indirectly from my employers. All of us working stiffs have to keep paying into it, year after year after year, whether we use the benefits or not.
[For the last twenty years or so, mostly not -- which only increases my resentment, because I would much prefer that my involuntary contribution to the social compact at least be used to benefit jobless Canadians rather than just disappearing into the government's general revenues.]
But getting back to my point, so now Harper is promising to make self-employed people eligible for maternity leave benefits because this is what business people are asking for, Harper says.
I can understand their resentment -- its like driving around the mall on a cold winter's day and seeing the empty handicapped parking places and thinking gee wouldn't it be nice to park so close.
But you need to think this through, people.
Once you become "eligible" for EI benefits, you won't have a choice about whether to pay them or not and it won't matter whether you are young or old or male or female. A percentage of every dollar you earn will go into the EI fund and you'll just have to pay it, and maybe you'll have to pay the "employers" contribution as well -- and you'll keep paying and paying, now and forever, amen.

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Dion trending up 

As I understand it with daily tracking polls, its' not so much the numbers or the gap, its the trendline that's important. In this Canadian Press Harris/Decima poll, Harper is trending down while Dion is trending up.
And over at the Canoe blog, Paul Turenne has some questions about that gas price spike:
It is remarkably bad luck for the Liberals and their Green Shift that gas prices spiked the way they did across Canada last Friday,. . .
Anyway, who would benefit more than the Tories, and be hurt more than the Liberals, when Canadians are reminded right in the middle of a campaign just how much gas costs already? Price of crude goes down, price of gas jumps through the roof. Even with a hurricane, that's tough to explain. . . I'm just sayin' ...

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Questions for Candidates 

Dan Froomkin writes a piece titled Fact Checking Is So 20 Minutes Ago about the increasing conservative tendency not to care about facts. Its being dished higher and deeper in the States, but Canadian Cons are increasingly slinging the BS, too. So maybe we need to stop wringing our hands about refuting every lie every day, and instead expect the press to start "meta-fact-checking", as Froomkin suggests:
~ ...How reality-based is the candidate? Does he acknowledge unpleasant realities? Does he think he makes his own reality, and that asserting something that isn't true will sort of make it true? ...
~Does the candidate say things that the people covering him know he doesn't believe? For instance, is it obvious to everyone in the traveling press corps that he is repeating a line his speechwriters or pollsters have written for him, even though he knows full well it's not true.
~Is the candidate exposed to dissenting views - either in public or within his campaign? Does he encourage dissenting views? How hard does the campaign work to keep dissenters out of his way?
~Is the candidate ever willing to try to make his case in front of people who don't already agree with him? Is he willing to engage them? Does he tailor his speeches to specific audiences in order so that they will like what they hear? Or so that they will open their minds to views they may not initially share?
~How does he respond to people who don't share his views? Does he dismiss them? Does he try to persuade them? Does he listen?

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

I like this line, too 

Andrew Potter, Ottawa Citizen national editor explains why the Conservative war room is so juvenile:
A friend of mine has a theory, that the left is made up of a coalition of socialists and social workers, while the right is made up of a coalition of economists and jerks.

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Who got us into this mess anyway? 

The Gazetteer is absolutely correct:
Stephen Harper turned a $12 billion dollar surplus into a deficit in the BEST of times.
And now that things are going sideways and he's telling us that, in these times of 'uncertainty', that he's the best man for the job?

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Great line of the day 

From Chet at Vanity Press:
At some point, this election will start to be about something.
But actually, of course, its about the future of the country -- no biggie!

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tories blow it again 

So the Conservatives are using a photo of a California family in their most recent ad. I guess they couldn't be bothered to search for a Canadian family who supports them. Or they couldn't find one...

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Bang Bang You're dead 

Well, the RCMP taser report from June is finally out (another Friday afternoon document dump). My question is, why did it take the Access to Information Act to get the RCMP to release such a mildly-worded, even weasel-worded report?
Basically, the Globe story indicates that report appears to assign the blame for 20 deaths to "problems in the RCMP policy development process" -- rather than to police officers and a police culture which still sees tasers as a quick and easy way to control and punish civilians:
. . . the Mounties did not perform “due diligence” when they approved tasers for use earlier this decade . . .
“Many of the resulting problems in the RCMP policy-development process might have been avoided” had the force sought out impartial researchers to conduct studies “that could detect and take into account potential police and manufacturer biases,”. . .
Yeah, and I'm sure the RCMP would have listened to all those non-existent impartial researchers and their hypothetical studies, so actually this mess is all the researchers' fault, those bastards!
The time may have come when Canadian police services and their governing authorities “need to exercise their own final say in matters appropriate to training and usage.”
The report . . . suggests more attention be paid to factors that may affect risk of harm, including the subject's body weight, pregnancy, medical devices such as pacemakers, psychosis, ingestion of drugs and prolonged acute stress and exhaustion.
The Globe story indicates only one place where the report apparently took a real stand:
The report slams use of the term “excited delirium,” which is used by police officers to describe combative, resistant suspects. It says the supposed condition is not a recognized medical diagnosis, and is merely an excuse to justify firing the 50,000-volt charge.
But in the end, it appears the report just wimped out:
The report urges the federal government to set national standards for taser use by all police forces across the country.
Yeah, I'm sure Stockwell Day got right on this -- he's had the report since June, I guess, so where are those standards?
There is, however, one enduring image that this news story about the report provides:
In some cases, RCMP officers don't have access to tasers loaded with simulation cartridges, meaning members must resort to scenarios in which one yells “bang, bang” and another feigns being hit, the report says.
So RCMP officers were shouting "bang, bang" at each other?
Did any of them shout "bang, bang, you're dead"?

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Of course she didn't say Canadians were stupid 

Chet at Vanity Press provides a pretty good analysis of what Elizabeth May said -- and of course she didn't say that Canadians were stupid people.
The controversy, however, IS pretty stupid. Its exactly the kind of made-up "dispute" that the media love, because they don't have to do any actual research or reporting, just play a video over and over and talk, talk, talk. What fun.
Pretty soon, if we don't demand better, our political discourse will be at the same juvenile gotcha level as the States -- and that WOULD be stupid, wouldn't it?

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Dion charismatic 

Woman at Mile 0 reports on Dion’s Victoria Townhall:
It was amazing to see his entire speech in person and listen to the important questions and responses from the crowd. He was charismatic, quick on his feet and totally at ease even during the open Q & A period. I just can’t believe how much his speaking has improved since the last time I saw him address a large crowd.
This is great to hear about.
The Times-Colonist story about this event was pretty good, too. Here's their photo of Dion with local candidates Briony Penn and Keith Martin:


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Scandalpedia 

Hey, this is great -- a handy reference guide to Conservative screw-ups.

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Pit bull debate 

My sister and I have argued about the pit bull ban for years. She says its unfair to target a particular breed of dog when it is irresponsible, immature, or macho owners who are to blame. I say that's true, but governments have to do something to protect people, and banning the dogs also, in effect, bans this type of owner. I'm still not sure which of us is right on this one.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Who is this "Obama"? Anybody? 

You know, when I check out the progressive blogs to find out what's going on, I can read all about what awful thing McCain did today, and I read all about some stupid thing Palin said today.
I am sick to death of reading about those two.
What I want to find out about is what Obama did today. And these posts are around but they're very hard to find.
Lambert has noticed this too.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Flailing around 

For someone trying to present a blue-sweater image of calm and confident leadership, Stephen Harper is swinging a little wild.
He announces, out of the blue, that Canada is leaving Afghanistan -- a reversal of eight years of knee-jerk support which will be seen by the military and by the Conservative base as a betrayal. (Not surprisingly, the Conservatives look like they are now trying to withdraw the withdrawal.)
Then he flips out over the screw-up of one of his most loyal staffers (remember this? And this? And this?) And I ask again, how many incompetents have the Conservatives hired this time?
Well, obviously there are a few others, because somebody advised him to hide behind Jack Layton on the Elizabeth May issue, apparently not anticipating how frail a reed that would turn out to be.
Then he tries to float the argument that the Green Shift will provoke Quebec separatism.
Then he thinks he's going to stimulate the economy by cutting diesel taxes, even though this won't actually make much difference. Oh, and WWII veterans benefits are going to be reinstated. Big wow -- I guess that wraps up the 90-year-old vote.
And its only been six days since the election was called. Is there any kind of a plan here?
As some conservative blogger apparently said: "Dear Tory war room: you guys still want Harper to win, right?"

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911 stories 

At Firedoglake, Julia asks Where were you?
I went to the Citicorp Center, where there's a blood bank, and stood on line for seven hours waiting to give blood. There were hundreds of us. . . . After a while we started telling each other dumb jokes, mostly about tourists. A reporter from a major metropolitan newspaper chided us for not taking it Seriously enough. When the wind was right, all you could smell was burnt rubber. I was actually pretty grateful for that.
There was a lot of smoke.

I was jogging south on the East River path, about 62nd Street when the first plane hit. I saw an enormous plume of brown smoke blowing across the river farther south. Then scores of screaing sirens, all headed south.

The Chicago Tribune put out a special run for everybody in the neighborhoods we delivered too, I think even noncustomers got one. None of the drivers had got any sleep the donnut shop made money that night on coffee, and then we delivered the regular paper and the special one.

several of my co-workers were in NYC on 911 for the kick off of a new project…… they were trapped in the city for days…… they pooled their money, bought a used car and drove out……

I was acquainted via internet group with a woman who worked on the 97th floor, and she was still on the bus from NJ when it happened. She IM’d someone in the group that she was fine . . . My friend had moved to Alexandria, VA. Her grown children were on a plane and she was at Dulles to pick them up, when she got word that WTC and the Pentagon had been hit. Her kids landed minutes later. A doc/officer from our town was in the Pentagon but he went to the gift shop first so he was spared. He started the triage.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Great line of the day 

From August J. Pollak
...the Republican platform for 2008 has essentially devolved into "let's be assholes."

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Promises, promises 

So Harper has announced a fixed date for leaving Afghanistan.
Hmm. A fixed date -- now what does that remind me of...?

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What would Hillary do? 



I think the Obama campaign should adopt as their guideline
What would Hillary do?
I think it is quite likely, in response to something as stupid as the lipstick flap, that Hillary would have said something like this:
Pig in lipstick. I meant it any way they want to take it.
. . . McCain and Palin, their policies and their demeaning campaign are A PIG IN LIPSTICK.
They are OLD FISH IN A NEW WRAPPER.
They are a threat to our future. Because they are the past, masquerading as the future.
You want to go backward -- vote for them

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I Joined Liblogs 

So Jason Cherniak emailed me to ask why I joined Liblogs and this is what I replied:
Oh, I've been a liberal for a long time, and finally realized I should join Liblogs to make sure I can keep up with what the other liberal bloggers are saying.
I do believe this is a very important election -- for one thing, it is crucial that Harper not get a majority, plus I would love to see what Dion could achieve as Prime Minister.
I supported him in the leadership race, but since then I have been disappointed that his instincts just don't seem to be sufficiently political. And he should have given top priority to improving his English, particularly to developing (or having somebody write for him) vivid and assertive "soundbites" which he could be using to explain his policies and priorities .
But I have great hope, now that the campaign is finally here, that he will bear down and start being a politician. Signs are good so far, I think -- his speeches have been good, and the townhall the other day in Edmonton apparently went over very well. So I thought maybe if I can follow the campaign more closely through the Liberal bloggers, I can light my own little candle for him and for the Liberals.
See the Liblogs listing on my blogroll -- there are more of us every day.
And I think Dion is already hitting them out of the infield. Here's the latest example, which made Jane Taber describe Stephane Dion as Hot:
[Dion] finally found a way to explain his so-called green shift plan.
At a rally in Napanee, Ont., Mr. Dion said that some people have called the plan complicated. “It's very simple. I will give you the Liberal plan in six words, you will see: Cut income taxes, shift to pollution.”
He then challenged Conservative leader Stephen Harper to explain his environmental plan in six words. “Okay, okay 10 words. Thirty words? No, no I will help him. In two words: No plan.”
See how great this is? This is exactly what I was talking about. Harper must be feeling sort of gobsmacked right about now.

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Dumb staff 

So Puffin-gate was all the fault of another Conservative staffer. My question is, how many dumb staffers have the Conservatives hired this time?
By the way, Scott Tribe has been on fire lately in covering all the breaking election stories -- great stuff!

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Hurricane America 

From James Howard Kunstler:
McCain-Palin have nowhere to go now but down, and I will tell you exactly how this will happen. They can run away from President Bush, but they can't run away from the Republican Party. The Republicans will be regarded from now on as 'the party that wrecked America.' Over the weeks ahead, as carnage in the economy and the financial markets ramps up, it will become increasingly clear.
And James Carville actually said something sensible along the same lines -- "It's the economy, stupid" rises again.
I wonder if Harper can run fast enough in this election campaign to escape blame for the damage from Hurricane America, which apparently is going to drown the US economy. Canada would get soaked as well, perhaps also swamping any chance to implement Dion's Green Shift. Interestingly, this was described by Ottawa Citizen columnist Susan Riley as a brave, far-sighted idea:
...if [Dion] goes down, he will take his much-ridiculed and only partly understood Green Shift with him. That will be a catastrophic missed opportunity.
For all its intricacies, the Green Shift amounts to a straight-forward revolution in the way we are taxed; in what we, as a country, reward and what we discourage. It may be the boldest, most transformative policy advanced by a major Canadian party since free trade.
If Harper gets reelected, however, we'll be swirling down the US drain.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Disconnect 

So Harper thinks this election is going to be nasty because those other guys are all going to be very, very mean to our Stevie.
As Dunkler said:
Are. You. Kidding. Me?
This from the guy who's been running personal attack adds against the opposition leader since day 1? This from the guy who last year said that the Opposition party and it's leader cared more about the Taliban than Canadian soldiers.
Are those the kind of personal attacks you're referring to, Prime Minister Harper?
Following the Karl Rove principle, we can anticipate that Harper will immediately launch a series of vicious smear attacks against Dion, Layton, Dion, Duceppe, Dion, and May.

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Great line of the day 

TBogg :
History repeats itself in a distaff way.
Dan Quayle was an empty suit.
Sarah Palin is a stuffed bra.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Great line of the day 

From Sam Harris' article in the LA Times, Palin: average isn't good enough:
McCain has so little respect for the presidency of the United States that he is willing to put the girl next door (soon, too, to be a grandma) into office beside him. He has so little respect for the average American voter that he thinks this reckless and cynical ploy will work.
And it might.

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Be careful what you wish for 

This election is happening because Harper wants his majority government and he thinks he's going to get it.
While adopting the appearance of supreme confidence, the Harper Conservatives are throwing money around like drunken sailors and making promises to leave Afghanistan. They're so desperate to get Maple Leaf foods off the front pages that they're promising an inquiry -- yeah, I'm sure that'll happen, just as soon as they finish the Mulroney one. And their website is chock full of stories about how awful they think Dion's green shift is.
But they shouldn't underestimate Dion. Though Harper is more popular than he was, and than I think he should be, Canadians still just don't trust the Conservatives.
We trust Dion and support Liberalism in general. At today's Liberal town-hall campaign opener in Edmonton, Dion came out swinging:
"We are all playing, all of us, we are in the game," he said. "If we fight, and if we fight well, with Ken Dryden as our goalie, we will win....
"Don't waste your time looking at polls going up and down."
After a town hall-style meeting - in which he went to work on explaining how the green tax shift will benefit Canadians in general and Albertans in particular - Dion said he envisions the Liberal campaign as a series of such meetings with Canadians across the country.
"We are everywhere, as you have seen," he said.
And, he slipped in references to the way Prime Minister Stephen Harper has handled the media since coming to power in 2006.
"I am here, working without a safety net, answering any questions Canadians have to ask," Dion said. "I want this election to be a big town hall where we will discuss what's best for this country."
He also questioned, again, Harper's decision to call an election short of a fixed date in 2009.
"He gives a bad example to Canadians by not respecting his own law," Dion said.
Boris went to see Dion and gives us this report:
Dion spoke for about an hour, beginning with a short and clear campaign type speech to much applause, followed by a long question and answer period with the audience. The prelims introduced the Edmonton area Liberal candidates, and Dion's opener was all about the Green Shift. This is clearly the major policy issue they'll run on.
Overall, he appeared confident, well spoken, most definitely passionate, and approachable. I'd say handled himself very well, standing in utter contrast to the character assassinations coming from the Cons, let alone Harper as a person dead fish crooked pine 2x4. Definitely an A grade on form . . .
I made the comment to a friend afterwards that I was left wanting to corner Dion and pick his brain over coffee or beer. If he can stimulate that sort of interest in the broader public, perhaps he's on to something.
Harper has been listening to the polls telling him how popular he is, but as Jack Knox points out, the public mood isn't particularly positive for this election -- in fact, people are annoyed that Harper is pushing it:
...an election now is like going to the mailbox and finding a notice from your dentist saying it's time to get your teeth cleaned. You look at the notice and go, "Already? I thought I didn't have to go again until October 2009." That's when we were supposed to vote under Harper's fixed-date election legislation, the law that was supposed to free the process from political manipulation.
But the Conservative guy on the CBC show said no, no, another election campaign might be like going to the dentist, but we have to do it because Parliament is so dysfunctional. I guess he's right, if by dysfunctional you mean no one party having enough votes to do anything wingnuttish without the others taking away the car keys until the government sobers up.
Indeed, the Conservatives keep repeating to us that Canadians seem to like minority governments and that the forthcoming election is likely to breed another one. Super. Then let's keep the one we've got. It's only two years old, barely has the motor broken in, doesn't even have a dent. (Don't worry about that Bernier-Couillard business; it will buff right out.)
But since we're being forced to make a trade, maybe we'll go for a different model.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Seat prediction 

Sean in Saskatchewan handicaps the Saskatchewan seats here and here and here. Sean's bottom line:
Conservatives - 10 seats, 3 to close to call
NDP -0 seats, 2 to close to call [Nettie Wiebe, Janice Bernier]
Liberals - 1 seat [Ralph Goodale], 1 to close to call [David Orchard]
Sounds about right to me.
Of course, if oil prices on the stock market keep going down, and the Saskatchewan public starts to feel a cool breeze signaling the end of our booming good-times-roll economy, maybe the voters will start to wonder whether they should actually support the bunch who so quickly broke their equalization promise when Harper told them to shut up and get with his program.
Or maybe not.

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Trial 4? 

Regardless of the notoriety of this case and the anger of the families involved, if all that has been achieved in ten years is one hung jury plus two verdicts overturned on appeal, then perhaps it is time to recognize that the evidence to convict beyond a reasonable doubt just isn't there.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Painting the roses red 



I never really understood the Alice in Wonderland scene about painting the roses red until I read this Daily Kos story, about how McCain's people are rewriting the Vice-President's speech because their previous version was "too masculine". Then I suddenly began hearing the tune, "We're painting the roses red..."

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Inquiring minds 

Republicans find that if they live by the sword, then they must also die by the sword. In general, you could say that the media is giving the Palin pick the respect it deserves.

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Shut up and smile! 

Chet nails it -- the reason John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his Vice-President is because she will not challenge him at all.
She would look terrific at state dinners and funerals, however.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

The Maple Leaf Election 

So nobody seems to know what this election is about? Well, let's make it about listeriosis and Maple Leaf Foods.
Do Canadians want a government which will thoughtlessly risk their lives in order to cut government expenditures? If so, I guess you vote for Harper. If not, then vote Liberal.

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Yeech! 

The machines at the Maple Leaf plant were filthy:
While the machines were cleaned daily at the plant prior to the outbreak, the whistleblower suggested daily cleaning procedures were not consistently followed or thorough enough.
The Maple Leaf worker also claimed a shoestring night staff only manages to clean "what they see" and the production line where the recalled corned and roast beef were handled was not always cleaned thoroughly.
"They clean the surface, but not underneath. You can see the dust and meat sitting on it," he said.
For thorough sanitization, the slicing machines should have been occasionally disassembled and deep cleaned, the worker insisted.
"They should get a flashlight and look inside. It was terrible -- leftover meat -- the smell," he said, recalling what happened when workers did completely disassemble the machines this week.
What they found inside were the gritty, pasty remains of leftover meat.
"We used so much chlorine to kill the bacteria, my eyes were burning," he said.
Not an appetizing image, is it? But already, the cover-your-ass spin is starting -- the news story continues:
It is not clear whether the federal government requires meat processing equipment to be regularly disassembled and thoroughly cleaned as part of normal procedures.
I don't care whether there are federal regulations requiring this or not, Canadian meat processors should be doing it anyway.
I absolutely hate this kind of corporate excuse -- that something is OK because the government hasn't passed a law against it. Because out of the other side of their mouth, they're complaining about how too much government regulation is hampering profitability and industry should be allowed to police itself and blah blah blah.
And then we get a Conservative government which actually listens to that corporate tripe.
And then we get eleven deaths and counting.

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That was then, this is now 

The Globe and Mail has a photo feature which isn't actually about photos, but rather about words -- its all the things the Conservatives said in 2006 and 2007 when they passed the law about fixed election dates -- you know, Stephen Harper's promise to Canadians that he wouldn't do exactly what he is now doing, calling a politically expedient election.
Here are some of the words said then:
This kind of manipulation unnecessarily derails important government and parliamentary business and gives rise to cynicism among voters. - Jay Hill
Canadians will benefit from knowing exactly when these fixed elections will occur so they can plan their lives and the businesses around it. It improves governance by removing power from the prime minister's office and devolving it to the people, as it should be. - Russ Hiebert
Never again will the government of the day be able to play around with the date of an election for its own crass political motives. - Peter Van Loan
The increased electoral fairness through Bill C-16 ... will ensure that elections occur once every four years, not when the prime minister chooses to call them based upon whether his or her party is high in the polls. That was a terrible wrong. It was abused by the previous government repeatedly. This initiative will ensure that it is not abused again. - Scott Reid
Maybe their constituents will remind them of these words, during the coming campaign.

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Great line of the day 

Taylor Marsh on Sarah Palin:

There's a lot of talk now about sexist language and judgments being leveled, with terms, phrases and graphics judged inappropriate. It's not sexist to call the selection of Sarah Palin what it is. She was chosen on purely gender terms, her looks, and her personality, along with her hard reactionary right wing views, so John McCain could buy the presidency through the pulpit wing of the Republican Party. That's how she will be judged around here. Sarah Palin is the Miss Vice President candidate, nothing more. She has been tapped to be Miss Republican 2008.
Emphasis mine.

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