Monday, August 31, 2009

I told him, Iggy, don't go!

If Ignatieff forces an election next month without any real need for one, just because he can, the Canadian electorate will hand him his head.
Though the pollsters and the journalists love elections, most of the Canadian public do not. They want to go to the polls only when there's a good reason.
Disliking Stephen Harper isn't a good enough reason.
Certainly, there is always a degree of political calculation in any decision to vote down a government -- and nobody is more calculating in that respect than the Harper Conservatives -- but there needs to be a good sort-of-non-political reason, too. Or at least some reason which can be presented as being in the public interest, as opposed to the politician's interest.
Basically, Canadian voters just want that good old peace, order and good government. Absent some overriding national issue or some cause celebre or scandal, or even any leader fatigue, the Canadian public doesn't really want to have to bother about politics very often.
When Harper pulled his stunt last year, calling an election for no good reason, voters would have sandbagged him if they could. What saved Harper then was that people disliked Stephane Dion, so much that many Canadians simply could not bring themselves to vote Liberal. In the end, almost 10 million Canadians sat on their hands and didn't vote at all. So the Conservatives were able to hang onto their base.
Last winter there might have been a good reason for an election -- Harper had proven himself so incompetent with his inadequate and mean economic update that Dion and Layton were able to rev up their supporters and might have been able to justify voting down the government.
And last spring there might also have been a good reason for an election -- Canadians were hurting badly while Harper remained pig-headed about unemployment insurance, so Ignatieff might have been able to justify voting down the government.
But times change. The urgency of unemployment insurance change has dissipated as a national issue, the economy is showing signs of life, and abandoning Canadians abroad is a tough sell.
If Iggy's only answer to the question "Why vote down Harper?" is "Because I can!", that's just not good enough. I fear that Canadians will be so annoyed they'll give Harper a majority just to make sure Ignatieff cannot do it again.

Heck of a job, Cheney!

Steve Benen tells Cheney to fuck off:
What Obama really ought to do, according to Dick Cheney, is seek out the former vice president's advice and follow it. After all, Cheney believes he's proven himself on the issue.
I seem to recall the Bush/Cheney era a little differently. Cheney thinks it was a sterling success when it came to national security and counter-terrorism. Perhaps there's something to this. After all, except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks against Americans, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bush's inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, and waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush's international unpopularity, the Bush/Cheney record on counter-terrorism was awesome.
After the previous administration established a record like that, President Obama didn't ask Cheney for tips? The nerve.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Great line of the day

Talking about a ridiculous new book on Europe being taken over by Islam Zombies leads Matthew Yglesias to this comment about conservative world-views:
Running through a lot of contemporary conservative thought is the right’s staggering lack of faith in the power of western civilization’s achievements. Liberal democracy has brought us a great deal of peace and prosperity, and time and again liberal societies have proved stronger than our autocratic rivals. But the right seems obsessed with the idea that impoverished and backward social values, or else dictatorial political institutions, offer the key to world-historical success. Thus Europe, supposedly, would be stronger if it re-embraced fratricidal violence and the United States would be more secure if we embraced the methods of the KGB.
Emphasis mine.

Friday, August 28, 2009

She did WHAT???

I remember when I was pregnant with our first child, one of the things we looked forward to was how having kids would make our lives more interesting because we would learn about things we never would have thought to learn about on our own.
And it turned out to be true. Through our children we have learned about all sorts of interesting stuff, like softball and basketball and hockey and tennis and environmentalism and what its like to be a mascot and philosophy and film making and gay rights and women's studies and the Green Party ... and now, skydiving.
Our daughter went skydiving last weekend!
Apparently, just about anybody can skydive these days in a "tandem" set-up -- basically, strapped to an experienced skydiver so you don't have to take a hundred hours of training first.
Who knew?
But this time, I must say, I'm glad we didn't know until we saw her Facebook page afterwards.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gay marriage in Maine

The state of Maine has legalized gay marriage and opponents are trying to pass a proposition 8-style ballot measure to stop it. Gay marriage supporters are framing the issue as a basic civil rights issue, an approach I agree with totally. There's their first commercial:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Great line of the day

From the great Dr. Dawg:
For Suaad Hagi Mohamud, it was her lips. For Abdihakim Mohamed, it was his ears. You get the feeling that facial recognition training for consular officials in Nairobi has something to do with Mr. Potato Head.
Emphasis mine.

Who da thunk it!

I hadn't realized wingnut republican congressperson Michelle Backman has become pro-choice
"That's why people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress," said Bachmann, "and let them know, under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions."

Face Plant

Well, I tripped and fell yesterday, over a speedbump in a parking lot when I was carrying groceries and not watching where I was going, and my nose got to the ashphalt first but my glasses broke the rest of my fall, so to speak. This morning I could get a job as a circus clown -- I don't need a fake red nose -- at least only one eye is blackened.
I now understand the term "face plant" better than I ever thought I would. It only hurts when I laugh...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Delusions of grandeur

Diaper-wearing Senator David Vittner thinks that he can destroy the Canadian health care system by permitting US citizens to buy drugs in Canada.
Commenter Maryl says
Canada points and laughs. And laughs some more. And falls down on the floor, gasping for breath.
Can we get back to you when we've regained the power of speech?

Great line of the day

Steve quotes Daniel Veniez:
“The Conservative party and its leader are permanently angry,” he goes on. “That’s an ingrained part of who they are and what they represent. On a visceral level, they remain a protest party and have turned themselves into a protest government. They manage by negatives and are genetically incapable of inspiring hope or thinking big. They attack, assassinate character, tell lies, lower the bar on public discourse, and engage in tactical and divisive wedge politics and governance. The tone, strategy, and culture for this government are established by Harper, a cheap-shot artist and cynic of the highest order.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A nut too far

So the world's bestest justice system (tm) would execute an innocent man because judicial privilege trumps actual truth? I think the Christian right wingnut Scalia supporters are going to have a hard time swallowing this one:
“This court has never held,” Justice Scalia wrote, “that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent.”

Great line of the day

Talking about the the assault rifles at Obama's meetings, Rev Paperboy comes up with a new twist:
Imagine the reaction of the teabaggers and town brawl activists and other Glenn Beck fans if a dozen shotgun-toting neo-Black Panthers came and stood outside the president's next town hall meeting to show support for Obama.
Some fun, eh?
Actually, of course, that would be the very last thing Obama would want to see happen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Twix is off my chocolate list

Well, I guess I won't be buying Twix chocolate bars anymore.
If there is one feature in modern advertising that I do not understand, it is ads that portray the people who use the advertiser's product as asshats or idiots.
Maybe the people who work at ad agencies secretly hate the companies who have hired them to create advertising, so they come up with the stupidest and most offensive commercials they can.
Takes one to know one, I guess.

Bring on the spotlight

On Saturday, cabinet ministers Jason Kenny and Peter Van Loan overturned the deportation order for Burmese asylum-seeker Nay Myo Hein (shown here with his wife Haymar Zin).
And basically, they did it because of the news coverage:
The widely publicized case may have been noticed by Burmese officials, who might target him for criticizing the "totalitarian regime," Kenney said.
"Under normal circumstances I would not have intervened. We face a lot of cases like this, but this is extraordinary, quite exceptional. It's very rare," he said.
"We wouldn't want to return someone to face persecution or punishment. It is a chance we were not prepared to take."
So the more publicity cases like this receive, the better.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Let's focus

After months and months of flap about "single-payer" and "public options", not to mention the stupidity of "death panels" and "pulling the plug on grandma" and "socialist medicare", isn't everyone getting a little tired of talking about the United States health care system?
Particularly irrelevant now, I think, are people who are still wanting to discuss the overall shape of health care reform and how it really should be done differently yada yada yada.
Here's where its at: In 30 or 40 days, the members of Congress are going to be voting on something. Whether it will include a “public option” is the only real issue left, and whether enough Democrats will vote for it to pass it is the only real question.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Somewhere there's music

The great Les Paul died today:

Les Paul & Mary Ford How High the Moon

Secret stories

In comments to my previous post, Dr. Dawg points out that he doesn't believe the comforting little story that Paul Dewar was told about how Suaad Mohamud was really a liar and her problems in Kenya were actually all her own fault.
It sure served its purpose, didn't it?
It shut up everyone in official Ottawa for months. Even now, only Ontario premier McGinty and MP Joe Volpe have come forward.
After Chretien's experience with the Khadrs, no politician wants to go to bat anymore for someone who, embarrassingly, might turn out to be unworthy.
But funny how this is sounding more and more like what happened initially to Mahar Arar -- a "secret" story being passed around official Ottawa that the aggrieved citizen was actually really guilty as charged but of course we can't actually tell this to the media or the Canadian people because they might sue or something, but just trust us, would we lie to you?
UPDATE: And Dan MacTeague.

"Five cases of passport fraud a week in Nairobi"

In another post about the Mohamud case, Dr. Dawg provides original information which explains the story behind the story about why Canadian consular officials in Kenya were so convinced that Suaad was scamming them.
Dawg describes a memo he received from the assistant of NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar explaining what the NDP was told about had happened at the end of May at the Nairobi airport:
There's not a mention of Mohamud on the NDP website. I am aware that my own MP and friend, NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, who did yeoman work on the Abdelrazik affair, raised the Mohamud matter with DFAIT. Judging from correspondence I received, however, it seems that Foreign Affairs was able to snow the NDP enough to dampen any enthusiasm it might have had to pursue things further. This was what Paul's assistant wrote to me (and told me was not confidential):
Ms. Mohamud was initially stopped by Kenyan officials because her photos did not match. When Ms. Mohamud originally arrive at the airport a photo was taken of her by Kenyan immigration officials and when she arrived at the airport to depart the person who presented Ms. Mohamud passport did not match either the passport photo or the airports entry photo. That’s when CBSA was contacted to investigate. Foreign Affairs and CSBA have conducted four separate investigations and she has failed each one including the visual photo matching tests, extensive interviews, etc. Fingerprints were requested by Foreign Affairs in the hopes that they might match sets in Canada but to date there are no prints on record with CIC or any other agency or police department. Consular services are not being provided to the woman who presented herself as Ms. Mohamud because she is not a Canadian citizen.
I was also informed by DFAIT that CBSA deals with on average 5 cases of passport fraud a week in Nairobi and they have a well developed manner of investigating these types of cases. I have put in a similar request for information from CBSA to make sure their story matches the one I received from DFAIT.
So I think this story explains why official Ottawa -- Conservative, NDP and Liberal -- have not been supporting the Suaad Mohamed case. I hadn't heard anything before about the number of cases of passport fraud Canada is seeing in Nairobi, nor about the photo taken of Suaad when she arrived in Kenya in early May. If this story is true, no wonder Canadian officials would have thought it wasn't really her at the airport in May.
But there are two things I don't understand:
First, in all these cases of passport fraud, how is the person whose passport has been used by someone else ever going to get back into the country -- was the next step for the real Suaad do pop up at the Commission to claim her passport had been stolen overseas?
And now, after the supposedly fake Suaad was stopped at the airport and interviewed and arrested, but then had all this other ID, and was DNA-tested, and it was proven that she actually was and is the real Suaad, why can't anyone admit that a mistake was made?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

She's kidding, right?

I can't believe Suaad Mohamud doesn't want to leave as fast as she can:
After waiting for so long, Ms. Mohamud feels like she's now being pushed out too quickly. She doesn't think she will be ready to leave until next week. Once her case has been cleared, she is determined to collect bail and repay her friends before she leaves.
“I have to get that money back,” she said. “They just leave me here for three months and now they come rushing like go, go, go. I have lot of things to take care of.”
Oh, yeah, I'm sure. Maybe this is just the kind of mixed-up blabber that people say sometimes, or that journalists say they say. But it doesn't make sense that she would want to stay in Kenya until they refund the bail money.
This story is getting stranger by the day.

Dog day

For dogs and all of us who love them, August 11 was St. Satchmo Day.

You've got to be kidding

When I read that the United Church general council had voted to repudiate anti-Semitic language in background documents, I searched the General Council website to find the actual documents in question.
They should have repudiated them for being incredibly dumb, too.
Particularly notable was the Proposal that the United Church should "help bring about an end to oppression in Palestine" by boycotting "Israeli products and companies supporting the Zionist policies of Israel" -- the list is on page 101 of the background papers :
Ambi Pur, AOL Time Warner, Aoste, Apax Partners & Co. Ltd., Aramis, Arsenal FC, Auchan, Bali, Ball Park, Biotherm, Banana Republic, Bryan, Buitoni, Café Pilāo, Calvin Klein, Carnation, Carrefour, Caterpillar, Champion, Clinique, CNN, Coca-Cola, Danone, Delta Galil, Dim, Disney, Donna Karan, DYNK, Estée Lauder, Express, Expo Design Center, Evian, Fruitopia, Gap, Garnier, General Electric, Georgia Lighting, Giorgio Armani, Gossard, HarperCollins, Hanes, Helen Rubinstein, Henri Bendel, Hema, Hillshire Farms, The Home Depot, Huggies, Hugo Boss, ICQ, IBM, Intel, Intimate brands, J. Crew, JC Penney, Jimmy Dean, Johnson & Johnson, Jo Malone, Just My Size, Kimberley-Clark, Kia Ora, Kiwi, Kleenex, Kotex, Lancôme, La Roche-Posay, Lea-Perrin, L’eggs, Lerner New York, Lewis Trust Group Ltd., Libby’s, Lilt, The Limited Inc., Lindex, L’Oreal, Loveable, MAC Cosmetics, Maggi, Maison Café, Marks & Spencer, MAST Industries, Inc., Matrix, Maybelline, McDonald’s, Nestlé, News Corporation, News of the World, New York & Company, New York Post, Nokia, Nur Die, Nursery World, Outerbanks, Origins, Perrier, Pickwick, Playtex, Prescriptives, Pryca, Ralph Lauren, Redken, Revlon, River Island, Santex, Sara Lee, Schweppes, Selfridges, Sky, Starbucks, Structure, The Sun, Sunkist, Superior Coffee, Tchibo, Timberland, Time, Tommy Hilfiger, Twentieth Century Fox, Vichy Laboratories, Victoria’s Secret, Villager’s Hardware, Vittel, The White Barn Candle Co., and Wonderbra.
I don't know who drew up this list -- sounds vaguely British, I thought -- but Kleenex? Maybelline? Sara Lee? Nursery World?
Victoria's Secret?
How ridiculous that the United Church should even be asked to consider labelling all these companies as supporters of "the racist occupation of Palestine" without any basis for such slander.
I grew up in the United Church -- I thought we had better sense than this.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Incompetence personified

Dawg says:
Mr. Harper: Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
Actually, it's even worse than that.
This is just another example of how the Conservatives don't actually know what a federal government is supposed to do. And they don't know how to do it, either. They seem to think they were elected to sabotage the Liberals and trash gay people. They don't seem to realize that one of the primary jobs of a federal government is to protect Canadian citizens, especially when a mistake has been made.
If Suaad Hagi Mohamud had been called Sandra Hallie Montgomery, then maybe the Canadian media and the Canadian public would have been paying more attention, and putting more pressure on the Conservatives to do their job. Suaad Hagi Mohamud is a cautionary tale for all Canadians:
For every Canadian, Mohamud's ordeal raises the question: What proof of identity will Ottawa accept from a stranded citizen abroad?
On May 21, after a Kenyan airport official suggested that Mohamud's lips and eyeglasses were different from her four-year-old passport photo, the hapless traveller laid out all her ID at the Canadian high commission.
She displayed her Ontario driver's licence, OHIP card, social insurance card and Canadian citizenship certificate.
She showed her credit card, two bank cards, Shoppers Drug Mart "Optimum" card, Humber River Regional Hospital Card and a recent dry-cleaning receipt from Bright Cleaners on Lawrence Ave., W., near her Toronto address.
She produced a letter from her Toronto employer, ATS Courier, about a recent promotion.
The high commission rejected them all. Worse, instead of helping Mohamud, they sent her voided passport to Kenyan immigration authorities to help them prosecute her.
"We have carried out conclusive investigations including an interview and have confirmed that the person brought to (us) on suspicion of being an imposter is not the rightful holder of the aforementioned Canadian passport," Canadian vice-consul Liliane Khadour wrote to Kenyan immigration authorities on May 28.
Now three months later Suaad has proven through DNA testing that she actually is the right person, the Canadian citizen who is the real mother of her son in Canada.
Of course, if there's one thing civil servants hate, its admitting they were wrong. And the Conservatives hate this too.
So after Suaad's lawyer got the DNA results, he didn't bother knocking on Foreign Affairs minister Lawrence Cannon's door and expecting him to HIS job of blasting the Canadian Border Service Agency and the Canadian High Commission in Kenya to do THEIR jobs. He went straight to a Federal Court to get them to tell the Canadian government what to do next.
Good call.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Lining up the ducks

So Big Pharma is on side. The AARP is on side. The American Medical Association is on side.
And yet somehow Obama's health care priority is supposed to be failing?
Meanwhile, the most hated corporations in America, the health insurance companies, are joining forces with the least liked political party in America, the Republicans, to make up ridiculous stories about killing grandma. And somehow this unholy alliance is going to threaten Obama's popularity?
Only in the Bizarro world of Fox News and the TV pundits would any of this be interpreted as bad news for Obama.
I have been worried about whether this reform attempt will make it, but with the pharmaceutical companies getting on-side, I am heartened and encouraged -- I think Obama is really getting everything lined up for this bill.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Has everyone forgotten?

Has everyone forgotten that 60 million Americans voted for John McCain and Sarah Palin 9 months ago?
They thought Obama was an Arab Muslim traitor socialist racist fascist and now they also think he isn't "really" the president because he wasn't born in Hawaii.
So is it surprising that some of the 60 million are now rioting hysterically against improving American health care?
Digby says the whole idea is to frighten the Democratic congresspeople into canceling the town hall meetings. I hope Obama doesn't let this happen. But they're going to need more than Jane Hamsher and a Daily Kos diary.


How juvenile or ignorant are Maureen Dowd, John Bolton, Fox News and the headline writers at Huffington Post, not to realize that Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea was set up by Hillary and Obama?
They think international diplomacy is a pissing contest between 12-year-old boys.
Oh wait... for the last eight years, it was!

Foreign fuzziification

Alison alerts us that basic Canadian foreign policy is being secretly rewritten by the Con's political staffers:
Among the changes identified are the excising of the word "humanitarian" from each reference to "international humanitarian law," replacing the term "gender equality" with "equality of men and women", switching focus from justice for victims of sexual violence to prevention of sexual violence, and replacing the phrase "child soldiers" with "children in armed conflict."
For many observers of Canada's foreign policy, these are distressing language changes that water down many of the very international human rights obligations Canada once fought to have adopted in conventions at the United Nations. As one source said, in the international world of diplomacy—where officials often focus detailed discussions on the language included in documents and policies—wording makes a big difference.
Why are these changes happening? Well, as Alison notes:
Canada pioneered protection for child soldiers in international humanitarian law at the UN, but that was before we became the last government on planet Earth to offer our passive support to what goes on in Gitmo.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Obama's health care plan

The Republicans think they can kill Obama's attempt to improve US health care just like they killed Clinton's attempt in 1993.
But though the tactics of lying, denying and distracting used by the health care lobby, the Republicans, and Fox News haven't changed, two other things have: today, we have blogs to create the message and MSNBC to deliver it. This time, I think the bloggers and MSNBC might be able to combat the political and corporate forces of darkness who want to sabotage health care reform in the US.
It appeared that Obama initally underestimated how tough a fight it was going to be, and how powerful the forces who want him to fail. He's learning. Health care reform supporters like Jon Stewart and Paul Krugman are telling Obama to smarten up and get a message:
The essence is really quite simple: regulation of insurers, so that they can’t cherry-pick only the healthy, and subsidies, so that all Americans can afford insurance . . . what it means for the individual will be that insurers can’t reject you, and if your income is relatively low, the government will help pay your premiums.
That's not quite the 'single-payer" nirvana that is the way we do things in Canada, but considering the complexity and size of the US, I have come to believe that perhaps its the best their federal government can do for them.
And finally, the Democratic party is coming out swinging, with an ad campaign to confront the astroturf disruptions of their town hall meetings:

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Air Canada is getting better

Knock on wood, but it looks like the airline we all love to hate is working on getting better.
Yes, we had two good flights from Air Canada on our recent trip to Toronto -- and then the airline also sent me a questionnaire to ask about our experience.
So, for the first time it appears that Air Canada actually cares whether we liked flying with them or not -- now, that's an advance!
CEO Calin Rovinescu has set what is likely a realistic goal for customer satisfaction:
Winning over consumers will also be challenging and, despite much skepticism, Mr. Rovinescu is forging ahead in his quest to create a kinder and gentler Air Canada.
“What are the chances of having a good flight and a high level of service? They're certainly, I would say, better than 90 per cent. Less than 10 per cent of the time, people may have less than happy experiences,” he said.
The only thing I didn't like about our trip was the automatic check-in kiosks in the Toronto airport -- difficult to work our way through screen after screen, and then we had to stand in line anyway to check our luggage. But basically, other than that, Air Canada did a great job.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Brother can you spare a dime?

Here is Lance Manion writing about the new movie The Soloist, which is about LA Times reporter Steve Lopez's friendship with homeless Nathaniel Ayers:
"It's the nature of the business," we hear a nameless, faceless suit tell a reporter who's being laid off and who is also, appropriately, now nameless and faceless. And in the suit's earnest, practical, condescending and scolding tones we can hear the voice of the Times and the times. The human being losing his job is expected not just to understand but to approve. The nature of the business has become the nature of our society---we are all expected to understand that we are each expendable and replaceable, that our sole (soul's) purpose is to be at the service of the business and we should appreciate it when we are expended and replaced because aren't we lucky to live in a society where our being expendable and replaceable so improves the common good? Stock prices go up, someone else gets to keep his job---probably the guy telling you you've just lost yours---money's being made and spent and somewhere someone will eat well tonight because we have served the business by accepting that we are no longer of use to it.
Today the news is all over the blogs about the significant increase in the long-term US unemployment rate and how half a million people in the States will have exhausted their unemployment by the end of September.
Food banks will be the new growth industry.
This song keeps running through my head:

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Saturday Morning Cartoon

Duck Amuck! was voted to be the second greatest cartoon of all time (What's Opera, Doc? was first)


How terrifying it would be, to be Glenn Beck and to believe that the government is keeping an eye on Glenn Beck. I guess Obama must be using Bush's warrentless wiretap program, the one that all the right-wing pundits were so happy about.