Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Review of Le Morte d' Harper* Act III Scene I

In my garrulous and sesquipedalian way I predicted the following:

This then is my third act prediction:

  • As an attempt to box Ignatieff in, the budget will contain:
  1. Half hearted stimulus tied to the odious P3 abominations as a way to guarantee the minimum possible work gets done,
  2. Unacceptably large tax cuts to provoke Ignatieff,
  3. Elimination of the political party subsidy to frame the debate should an election ensue.
  • Harper's fatal flaw will prevent him from changing EI to help the unemployed it is on this issue that Harper will fall.
I am probably wrong but that is my call.
So I don't think I was that far off.

No P3s but the stimulus is tied to a co-funding formula that will likely limit the stimulus created. Neo-Con checklist: Check

Tax cuts of up to $20B over 3 years.
Crossing Iggy's line in the sand: Check.

Poison Pill from the Fiscal Update: I picked the wrong one. This is a bit puzzling since it is harder to campaign on than the party funding one.

No changes to EI
Neo-Con checklist: Check.

He is daring the Liberals to take him down again. Give him what he wants. Scene II is in for a quick re-write. Full dress rehersal is on tomorrow.

*I know Le Morte d'Arthur isn't a Greek tragedy but it doesn't cost you anything to read this so no harm done..

P.S.: Forgive me MalloryRecommend this Post

Excellent comment on an excellent economics blog

Worthwhile Canadian Initiative (The second best Canadian themed blog name out there imho) has a post on the logistics of getting infrastructure stimulus underway: Canada is not the United States: Stimulus-by-infrastructure edition. The post is very interesting; as are most of the ones on this blog. As memory serves, his by-line used to read: "Who would have thought that a blog about economics could be so much fun?".

Even better is the comment by Robert McClelland summing up the efforts by The Mulligan Gang (My emphasis in bold):

The thing is, this looks too much like a "Hail Mary"

It's worse than that. It's an absolute farce. The Conservatives don't believe stimulus spending works so I can't fathom why they thought they could craft a budget filled with it. It's like watching an atheist try to give the Sunday sermon.

Recommend this Post

The 40th Parliament as A Conservative Greek Drama

The events of Canada's 40th Parliament can be looked upon as a Greek drama. The classic Greek drama as laid out by Aristotle has three parts (As summarized in Wikipedia):
  1. Setup
  2. Confrontation
  3. Resolution

The first act is used to establish the main characters, their relationships and the normal world they live in. Earlier in the first act, a dynamic, on screen incident occurs that confronts the main character (the protagonist), whose attempts to deal with this incident leads to a second and more dramatic situation, known as the first turning point, which (a) signals the end of the first act, (b) ensures life will never be the same again for the protagonist and (c) raises a dramatic question that will be answered in the climax. The dramatic question should be framed in terms of the protagonist's call to action,

The second act, also referred to as "rising action", typically depicts the protagonist's attempt to resolve the problem initiated by the first turning point, only to find themselves in ever worsening situations. Part of the reason the protagonist seems unable to resolve their problems is because they do not yet have the skills to deal with the forces of antagonism that confront them. They must not only learn new skills but arrive at a higher sense of awareness of who they are and what they are capable of, in order to deal with their predicament. This cannot be achieved alone and they are usually aided and abetted by mentors and co-protagonists.

But is Stephen Harper really not a false protagonist in this drama? The fiscal update was the manifestation of Harper's harmartia or fatal flaw. He had to provoke The Opposition.

The first act led to the unexpectedly early ascension of Michael Ignatieff to Leader of the Opposition. During the second act, Harper was cast as a cipher (the third definition, silly) for the creation of a budget which goes against everything he believes in. The man whose actions are at the centre of the action is Ignatieff not Harper. It is on Ignatieff's decisions that events will pivot.

Finally, the third act features the resolution of the story and its subplots. The climax, also known as the second turning point, is the scene or sequence in which the main tensions of the story are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic question answered, leaving the protagonist and other characters with a new sense of who they really are.

So we, the audience, sit in our seats. Waiting for the curtain to rise on the third act. How will Ignatieff resolve this drama? Will he support the budget? If he does what effect will this have on his leadership? Perhaps none.

This line of questioning presupposes that Harper has been entirely neutralized. Anyone who thought that he has had a Damascene like conversion and has been focused on writing a budget that will be the best one possible for Canadians hasn't been paying attention. (It is good to see Ken Dryden has been). Like all the good psychotic characters, Jason always returns. Alex Forrest always rises from the tub one more time. Killing monsters just isn't that easy. What lines will Harper read out in this final act?

I have already mentioned part of my expectations; that Harper will go down fighting and set the stage for a Götterdämmerung finale by including permanent tax cuts that will hamstring following governments and lead to the eventual destruction of Canada. But this did not seem like enough. Then the blanks, for me, were filled in by posts by James Curran and Montreal Simon.

This then is my third act prediction:

  • As an attempt to box Ignatieff in, the budget will contain:
  1. Half hearted stimulus tied to the odious P3 abominations as a way to guarantee the minimum possible work gets done,
  2. Unacceptably large tax cuts to provoke Ignatieff,
  3. Elimination of the political party subsidy to frame the debate should an election ensue.
  • Harper's fatal flaw will prevent him from changing EI to help the unemployed it is on this issue that Harper will fall.
I am probably wrong but that is my call.

Grab your seat and finish your popcorn, the curtain is about to rise.

Recommend this Post

Monday, January 26, 2009

Nice Senate picks there Steve

I think Senate Stacker Steve will extend his message control to the Senate after he reads this piece from CBC.ca.

Wasn't Mike Duffy supposed to have been one of the pre-eminent journalists on the Hill. How does one host a national television show on federal politics and be this poorly informed about what Senators do?
Former broadcasters, and new senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin were also getting used to big changes.

First of all, being questioned by reporters instead of doing the interviewing is a change. Duffy, until recently the host of CTV's Mike Duffy Live, says what surprises him the most is the workload.

"I've been to a group of briefings and three days a week they work a minimum of twelve hours a day. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then on Monday and Friday you're flying back to your constituency. So all of a sudden I said hey this retirement home is a little more active than any of us realized."

Nancy Greene only took the job because she was getting bored with her last one. Excellent qualifications are displayed by comparing the Senate to a card game.
"Its going to be a big change for sure, it was not easy to give up skiing every day at Sun Peaks where we have such great conditions. But I've been doing that for the last fifteen years, in a way this is a new challenge for me and i find it really exciting. It was either this or take up bridge, "she laughs.
And how is this as a strong stand for Senate reform by Pamela Wallin:
As for Wallin, she says she would consider running for her position as senator if that opportunity came up. "I have spoken to the premier of Saskatchewan about that and they are studying legislation at this point so if that comes to pass and all of the stars are aligned I think that would be a good thing. I think we need reform of the organization."
Got yer definition of equivocating right there.Recommend this Post

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Robert Burns Day

Post Dedication: For my Burns loving yet Harper voting contradiction of a father and my mum (note the spelling) whose heart is in the highlands. Even though she left for Australia at 10 during the Blitz and returned at 18 only to meet a sailor on her second day back in Edinburgh. That man proposed soon after and whisked her off to a country even colder and stranger and more entrancing than The Old Sod.
We settled on your prairies
In your cities and your towns.
There's another oatmeal savage
Every time you turn around.
Robert Burns was born 250 years ago. And in tribute here , his song that inspired generations of progressive ideals:

"Is there for honest poverty"

A. K. A.: A Man's A Man for A' That

Now I, like lots of first generation Canadians I was subjected to maudlin romantic versions of Scottish folk songs. I won't do that to you. Here is a slightly more contemporary version:

Recommend this Post

Friday, January 23, 2009

Crazily convenient Conservative concepts concerning cecrecy*

Two stories in the news today that are worth contrasting.

First from (as General John Cabot Trail would say) The Comical Herald:
Canada’s information watchdog says the public knows less than ever about what its government is doing — a stark contrast to Barak Obama’s push for openness in the United States.

Information Commissioner Robert Marleau said Thursday the grip on federal files is tightening, largely because of the Conservative government’s "communications stranglehold" on the bureaucracy.


"There’s less information being released by government than ever before. And that’s alarming."
"The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears," said his memo to the heads of departments and agencies.

The Conservatives took office in early 2006 partly on the strength of promises of new accountability, including reforms to Canada’s outdated Access to Information regime advocated by Marleau’s predecessor.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made good on only a handful of changes, including opening the law to some additional agencies. The issue of access reform was handed to a Commons committee for more study.

So we have a definitive statement that the Harper government is obsessively secretive. Very much like the Bush disaster years.

Or maybe this is only when it suits their purposes. From the Grope and Flail (I'll take credit for that one):
The Harper government, which only eight weeks ago still forecast surpluses for Ottawa, has now revealed it will run the deepest shortfalls Canada has seen in more than half a generation: $64-billion over the next two years.

A senior government official, speaking to reporters on the condition of anonymity, also warned that it will take as long as five years for Ottawa to return to balanced budgets.


The deliberate leaking of fiscal projections -- just five days before the Jan. 27 budget -- is unprecedented, Finance watchers say. The move reflects the minority Conservative government's desire to get unfavourable coverage out of the way before next week.

“I guess it's that old school of thought that you pre-condition for bad news so it's less of a shock when it comes out,” Toronto Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond said.

The Tories are betting that dealing with the deficit news now will ensure that media coverage of next week's stimulus budget instead focuses on its huge package of spending measures, expected to funnel billions of dollars into everything from public works projects to tax breaks.

Not that this should be a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. It is all about power and nothing about the people. Again, just like Bush.

I'm all for trying something new. Especially when trying to find one's way out of the forest. Maybe the need for budget secrecy is overblown and this is a tradition that can be done away with. Make the case. I'm all ears.

But the 13 billion (whoops, it has now been updated to $64 billion) things these guys have tried in the past haven't worked so well. They would best serve the country by following the rules right now.

Along the continuum from success to failure that government actions are measured on, there is every indication that this budget will cluster along the same spot as everything else they have done. Abject failure.

Update: The KD has the goods on further budget badness.Recommend this Post

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A labradoodle would be an excellent gift for the Obamas

As the Globe reports, a Winnipeg is angling to have one of it's labradoodle puppies given to the Obamas:

"My sense is that there is now some policy wonk looking into the matter and checking to see if a live animal gift would be appropriate," Mr. McDonald said.

The society hatched the plan soon after rescuing 55 dogs in a December bust of a local puppy mill. Within days, one of the seized dogs, a black-and-white Labradoodle named Lily, gave birth to seven black and four blond pups.

At the same time, then-president-elect Obama was publicly elaborating on his election-night promise of a hypoallergenic dog for his two daughters, Sasha and Malia.

He recently told ABC TV that the family had narrowed their choice of a dog down to two: a mixed-breed Labradoodle, a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle, or a Portuguese water dog.

The Vigilances have a four year old labradoodle. We can happily report that Energetic has been a really cute and loving pet for the family,starting as a puppy
through to an adult that loves to run and swim
who, like the rest of the family, isn't afraid to dig through the muck to bring back a report on the nasty things out there.
Recommend this Post

There is a metaphor to describe this

Now what is it again? Oh yeah, "Being hoist by one's own petard". Or to be blown up by your own bomb.

During the 2006 campaign Harper promised a more accountable government. They were quite proud when they announced this (a.k.a. the petard):
Canada’s New Government followed through on a key promise today by delivering on its top priority – passing the Federal Accountability Act – as Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, granted Royal Assent to the Act in the Senate today.

Ensure truth in budgeting with a Parliamentary Budget Authority

  • A new Parliamentary Budget Officer to support Members of Parliament and parliamentary committees with independent analysis of economic and fiscal issues and the estimates of the government.
  • Quarterly updates of government fiscal forecasts from the Department of Finance.
Imagine the self-satisfied grin on Grand Master Harperov's face as he took a break from lording it over a New government to work on his hockey history book. After all, he had pre-determined the result by underfunding the Office.
"The budget says it's a gesture, because there isn't much money," says Sharon Sutherland, a visiting professor at the school of political studies at the University of Ottawa.
Think of the chortling in the caucus meetings when Harprorogue explains how he can use the establishment of the PBO as a bludgeon on the hapless Liberals while being safe from any actual investigation. Given the calibre of his caucus, he probably had to explain it several times. But once they got it they couldn't help but laugh at the brilliance of their Dear Leader.

But in the words of Robbie Burns (Don't forget his birthday is only 3 days away):
But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!*
To A Mouse
Robert Burns
November 1785

An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy! Indeed. Who could have foreseen that Kevin Page could have done such a great job with so few resources. And the petard blew up.
“Parliamentary Budget Office Kevin Page has reported that the Conservatives have positioned Canada to rack up at least $46 billion – possibly as much as $105 billion – in new debt over the next five years without any new spending planned in their stimulus budget,” said Mr. Brison.
Now when we I look at Harprorogue in this stew of his own making, I think of another line from Rabbie's poem:
Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!**
(or for those of you with rusty Scots translation skills):
But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leaves us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Small, sleek, cowering, timorous beast,
O, what a panic is in your breast!
Recommend this Post

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Trees died to print this?

Sometimes you have to be vigilant about editorials that are so stupid you wonder if even a National Post reader would fall for it. Case in point: A Godly leader. (My emphasis in bold throughout).
When Stephen Harper was first elected Prime Minister, he began ending his speeches with the phrase "God Bless Canada." As a result, Mr. Harper was attacked by Canadian leftists for mimicking George W. Bush, for injecting organized religion into Canadian public life and for offending Jews, Muslims and other faiths by emphasizing his Christianity. One Globe and Mail columnist derided Mr. Harper's God-talk as "squirm-inducing."
This part isn't so bad. Ending speeches with "God bless Canada" is offensive to our democracy for the reasons outlined. It was a blatant play to the fundamentalist segment of his base. As the anonymous Post writers may not have noticed, Harper no longer ends his speeches in such a fashion. That was so 2006. If this was an expression of his faith rather than a cynical political ploy, why did he stop? And, as was pointed out at the time, Canada does not impose a religious test on its potential leaders. Faith is respected as a private and personal matter. Canadian politicians have, until Harper, shown respect for Canadians and their personal beliefs by keeping this in the background rather than a litmus test.

Fast forward two years. Are all those left-wing Canadian pundits now "squirming" at Barack Obama?

In his inaugural address yesterday, the new U. S. President made several references to God. He quoted Scripture, referred to "the God-given promise" of equality and freedom, spoke of America progressing "with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us" and, of course, ended with the traditional "God Bless America."

No. We are not squirming at his overt religiosity. As so often escapes the Post and its readers with their well toned lips and well aired mouths, Canada is not the U.S.A. We can accept that, notwithstanding the American constitutional separation between church and state, American politicians must make a show of their piety. That does not mean Canadians should ape this.

If not, we should all remember this the next time some Canadian uses the "G" word in public. The worst that any Canadian will then be able to accuse them of is mimicking ... their hero, Barack Obama.

If a Canadian politician uses the "G" word in public, that persoanl should be excoriated for pursuing dog whistle politics. Canada needs politicians who will look out for Canada's interests not look for ways to blur the differences.

Recommend this Post

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My best wishes for Mr. Obama at his new job

I have stayed away from commenting on US politics because I have enough trouble keeping up with our politics to be able to competently reflect on the spectacle down south. I do, however, wish him the best as he takes on his task. The murmurs coming out as his transition team gathered momentum have been promising. If he follows through, as we have every reason to expect he will, I expect the US will quickly flip from the Bush flop.

My concern for him is that anyone will be hard pressed to live up to the expectations the world has created for him. As Obama mania mounted, the following quote struck a chord (warning: it is a long one. This is Tolstoy after all).

Persons who are accustomed to suppose that plans of campaigns and of battles are made by generals in the same way as any of us sitting over a map in our study make plans of how we would have acted in such and such a position, will be perplexed by questions why Kutuzov, if he had to retreat, did not take this or that course, why he did not take up a position before Fili, why he did not at once retreat to the Kaluga road, leaving Moscow, and so on. Persons accustomed to think in this way forget, or do not know, the inevitable conditions which always limit the action of any commander-in-chief. The action of a commander-in-chief in the field has no sort of resemblance to the action we imagine to ourselves, sitting at our ease in our study, going over some campaign on the map with a certain given number of soldiers on each side, in a certain known locality, starting our plans from a certain moment. The general is neverin the position of the beginning of any event, from which we always contemplate the event. The general is always in the very middle of a changing series of events, so that he is never at any moment in a position to deliberate on all the bearings of the event that is taking place. Imperceptibly, moment by moment, an event takes shape in all its bearings, and at every moment in that uninterrupted, consecutive shaping of events the commander-in-chief is in the centre of a most complex play of intrigues, of cares, of dependence and of power, of projects, counsels, threats, and conceptions, with one thing depending on another, and is under the continual necessity of answering the immense number of mutually contradictory inquiries addressed to him. We are, with perfect seriousness, told by those learned in military matters that Kutuzov ought to have marched his army towards the Kaluga road long before reaching Fili; that somebody did, indeed, suggest such a plan. But the commander of an army has before him, especially at a difficult moment, not one, but dozens of plans. And each of those plans, based on the rules of strategy and tactics, contradicts all the rest. The commander’s duty would, one would suppose, be merely to select one out of those plans; but even this he cannot do. Time and events will not wait. It is suggested to him, let us suppose, on the 28th to move towards the Kaluga road, but at that moment an adjutant gallops up from Miloradovitch to inquire whether to join battle at once with the French or to retire. He must be given instructions at once, at the instant. And the order to retire hinders us from turning to the Kaluga road. And then after the adjutant comes the commissariat commissioner to inquire where the stores are to be taken, and the ambulance director to ask where the wounded are to be moved to, and a courier from Petersburg with a letter from the Tsar, not admitting the possibility of abandoning Moscow, and the commander’s rival, who is trying to cut the ground from under his feet (and there are always more than one such) proposes a new project, diametrically opposed to the plan of marching upon the Kaluga road. The commander’s own energies, too, require sleep and support. And a respectable general, who has been overlooked when decorations were bestowed, presents a complaint, and the inhabitants of the district implore protection, and the officer sent to inspect the locality comes back with a report utterly unlike that of the officer sent on the same commission just previously; and a spy, and a prisoner, and a general who has made a reconnaissance, all describe the position of the enemy’s army quite differently. Persons who forget, or fail to comprehend, those inevitable conditions under which a commander has to act, present to us, for instance, the position of the troops at Fili, and assume that the commander-in-chief was quite free on the 1st of September to decide the question whether to abandon or to defend Moscow, though, with the position of the Russian army, only five versts from Moscow, there could no longer be any question on the subject. When was that question decided? At Drissa, and at Smolensk, and most palpably of all on August the 24th at Shevardino, and on the 26th at Borodino, and every day and hour and minute of the retreat from Borodino to Fili.

Volume III
Chapter II
War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy

This is not an appeal to cut him some slack. I do not believe this will be necessary. I believe he truly wants to bring "real change" to America. It is a call for understanding as he faces the trials ahead. When he disappoints us; as he will at some point, let us remember to look at him in the totality of his legacy.

Evaluating the Obama Presidency will be a different task than with the departing President. Under Bush the actions were so uniformly poor that the need for nuanced criticism was not as evident.

By all means, let us measure him by a progressive yardstick. But if there are missteps along the way or if the sun doesn't smile brighter tomorrow don't give up on him.

Now, back to trying to figure out how to bring real change to the True North.

Recommend this Post

Monday, January 19, 2009

If you rub it really hard you can pull out a longer one

Back in the bad old days that the Reformatorys want to return to; taverns were separated into a "Gentlemen's" side and a "Ladies with Escorts Side" and beer was served in glasses with a line near the top so you could be certain that you got your twenty five cents worth. If you wanted to go to a different table you weren't allowed to carry the glass yourself, the waiter had to move your beer for you.

Such was Socred Alberta. Where taverns were thought to be akin to treatment centres for a disease. Sort of like how methadone clinics are looked at today. It wasn't all bad. For five bucks you could cover the little round table with 20 beers to drink before driving home. And the little round tables were always covered with these terry towel covers.

After the covers had been broken in by the cycles of spilt beer and too infrequent washings, the terry towel would fray. This provided bored patrons something to do to pass the time. You could pull at a loose thread. And whoever pulled out the longest one would win. I have heard stories that Klein was a master at this. Perhaps he invented the technique of rubbing the path along which you intended to pull a thread to loosen up the weave. The waiters would always give you grief for this because eventually the tablecloth would be so threadbare that it had to be thrown out.

This reminiscence was brought to mind by the ongoing stream of articles like this one during the Phoney War period we are in while we wait for for Harper to flub his last chance to convince Canadians that he serves them rather than some wacked out dogma. Each one is another thread in the fabric of his leadership. Each one brings him that much closer to being pulled off the table and thrown in the dumpster with the half eaten pickled eggs, potato chip bags and jerky wrappers. Excerpt below. My evidence in bold because bolding this was a lot of fun.

People had a much better idea of where they stood on Harper, with only 24 per cent unsure about his attributes.

Thirty per cent said there isn't anything they like about the prime minister, compared with 15 per cent who said there isn't anything they dislike.

When it came to specifics, eight per cent said they like the fact that he's a strong leader, five per cent said he's honest, four per cent like his policies and four per cent said he gets things done.

But 11 per cent said the didn't like the fact that he breaks promises, eight per cent called him arrogant, six per cent said he's too controlling or power-hungry, and five per cent said they just don't like his attitude.

Harper's scores on all the leading indicators of personal dislike were worse in the latest poll than they were when the same questions were asked in Nov. 2007.

The total numbers of people expressing displeasure at any one trait may be modest, but Nanos said the underlying trend is clear.

"He's taken a personal hit on his image . . . The people that don't like the prime minister are much more passionate than the people who like him."

That means the coming budget is just as much a test for Harper as it is for Ignatieff, said Nanos.

Let's keep on rubbing the tablecloth and see who can pull out the longest thread. Even if you don't pull out the longest one on any particular day, each time you do it Harper is that much closer to being done. As their signals about tax cuts indicate, they will leave lots of loose threads to tug at.

(I think I like this metaphor as a label even better than the one I have been using.)

Stetson tip to Impolitical for finding the article.Recommend this Post

Friday, January 16, 2009

Of course compulsory voting isn't on their radar screen

This article in The Gazette illustrates that Conservative campaign tactics, like the rotting muck at the bottom of a swamp, keep bubbling gaseously to the surface:

Despite plunging voter turnout rates in Canadian elections, Ottawa has no plans to bring in a mandatory voting law similar to Australia's, the federal minister for democratic reform says."No, we are not looking at that, at this time," Steven Fletcher, the minister of state for democratic reform, said in a recent interview. "Just forcing people to vote for the sake of voting, I don't see that necessarily meets the objective of what we want," he added. "We want people to vote to express their views. If someone doesn't have any views to express, that isn't necessarily helpful."
(My emphasis in bold)

Could it be that the Conservatives realize that a low voter turn-out is their best chance to avoid defeat in elections and campaigned accordingly?

As I laid out in my post election series on the Conservatives voter suppression strategy "What would Rove do?", I think mandatory voting is something the Liberals should be agitating for. This is not the right stance:

But the Liberals have no official position on mandatory voting.

Recommend this Post

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Will no one take a stand for the poor chairs?

A few years ago, the crew from the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) that saw Stephen Harper famously kick a chair in anger said that he gave it such a good, swift boot that it flew about five feet across the floor.

There were theories that the incident was provoked by Mr. MacKay's public attack on Harper's boy Scott Reid. As the story goes, Harper kicked the chair after it was suggested he add a line to his speech to reach out to Mr. MacKay at the founding convention of his Party. Didn't play well with others then, still doesn't now.

All this was witnessed by the CPAC crew, taking a break behind the stage.
Stetson tip: Pumpernickel

More evidence that Harprorogue is damaged goods after his cowardly abdication of his leadership responsibilities last month. I hope that the renovation estimate for 24 Sussex had a sizeable allocation for re-upholstery services.

Smart, ambitious bureaucrats don't leave to go to work for an Opposition Leader unless your government is starting to rot from the inside out. As a good westerner (*snerk* yeah, right. He's a westerner), I am sure Harper will recognize the danger of being remembered as a poplar Prime Minister as opposed to a popular Prime Minister.

And when your erstwhile allies in the media say things like this:
Jane Taber

Michael Ignatieff has won a symbolic victory over the Harper Tories by stealing a young, up-and-coming public servant right from under Stephen Harper's nose.

Kevin Chan is joining the Liberal Leader's office in early April to play a major policy role. He recently left his job as the executive assistant to Kevin Lynch who, as Clerk of the Privy Council, is the most powerful public servant in the country and a key adviser to the Prime Minister. In that role Mr. Chan would have had access to sensitive files and to Mr. Harper and his advisers in the Prime Minister's Office.

"I don't think there is any doubt that Ignatieff is demonstrating right from the start that he is more competent in arranging his affairs than Mr. Dion," said Tom Flanagan, a former close adviser and chief of staff to Mr. Harper, who now teaches political science at the University of Calgary.

He said Mr. Ignatieff's decision to "appoint all these people from Toronto" was a good move, in that he is surrounding himself with loyal soldiers.

Don Martin

Most Canadians have never heard of Kevin Chan. Chances are good they never will again.

But his departure from a lofty, albeit invisible, post inside the federal bureaucracy's headquarters for unspecified duties in Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff's office could be more significant than merely a Conservative-governed public servant turning into a Liberal political prize.

More evidence in the erosion of the image of Harper's infallible leadership skills. Now you might ask yourself; Is there any evidence that the loss of pundit love will cost Harprorogue support?

There is a maxim that hold: Never ask a question you don't know the answer to. Why yes it has. One of Harprorogue's aces has been his unfounded and questionable reputation as an economist savant. So I hope they had another chair lined up for when he read this news from the Heartland:Harper not trusted to handle economy

Recommend this Post

A personal observation on the blogging process

Prior to the blogrogation at the end of December I had developed a rhythm about this blogging process.

  • Get up in the morning, make an espresso and a latte for Eternal (I drink my latte's later in the morning and, yes, I do sip them).
  • Read the morning headlines and the articles that catch my interest,
  • Let any incipient posts gestate on my ride into work
  • Post after running through the draft version.
Now that I am back I still do the first step. I wouldn't dare to leave an uncaffeinated Eternal behind. But I am finding it harder to follow through on the subsequent three. Perhaps it is due to a need to catch up on work that makes quick breaks for blogging less available. Maybe it is a sense of ennui about all the budget speculation. But I don't think so.

I have come to the realization, in my case at least, that just the saying goes that writers write, it is also true that bloggers blog. As there is a difference between people who ski and skiers or people who go for a jog and runners, this endeavour requires consistent practice.

Or to be concise (not one of my fortes I must admit) it is important for my vigilance to be constant.Recommend this Post

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ignatieff - Trudeau follow-up or The Iggy Conundrum

I normally reply to comments by the use of follow-up comments. But a comment by TMOS on yesterday's post articulated a lot of my reticence about a full blown support for Ignatieff. I decided in this case to quote the comment and my response in a new post.

The Mound of Sound:
The clips show another Ignatieff altogether. That Iggy wouldn't have championed the conquest of Iraq, wouldn't have endorsed "enhanced interrogation" or tied the Liberal Party to Israel over Gaza. Had Trudeau seen today's Iggy he wouldn't have given him the time of day, much less an interview.
Despite all his faults, Pierre Trudeau had convictions and integrity, essential qualities in a Liberal leader which Ignatieff has abandoned in favour of personal ambition and expediency.
TMOS has brought up a very good point. I have been reading up on Mr. Ignatieff, his musings on human rights and his stand on Iraq and the subsequent recanting of this.

Was his earlier work on group and individual rights a sham? Was he truly a disciple of Isaiah Berlin? Perhaps he, like many others, was deluded by the way the Bush regime manipulated the agenda in the aftermath of 9/11. Maybe this gullibility should invalidate him from high office. Trudeau made a mistake on the War Measures Act. Did this make him a bad Prime Minsiter in the final analysis? Is the humourous nature of the universe going to assert itself by having history label Chretien as the one who was right on the Iraq file? At this date I must confess that I really don't know.

I haven't gotten to "The Lesser Evil" yet but the reviews I have read indicate that the views expressed therin are worrisome. As are Wikipedia accounts as to what he considers to be torture. I suppose Mr. Ignatieff would label me as a human rights perfectionist because I can't condone what he is purported to support as interrogation techniques.

I would like nothing more than to believe that Mr. Ignatieff was going to the lead the Liberals into office as the manifestation of a human rights champion. But as his recent stance on Gaza indicates, he will need to be watched closely

An idle question. When did TMOS change the name of his blog? I must have missed it while I was on the blogrogation.Recommend this Post

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thoughts on the Ignatieff - Trudeau interviews

It was fascinating to watch this series that Red Tory brought to our attention last week. I really got the sense that Trudeau felt Ignatieff was someone worth talking to as a peer. It was very interesting to hear that Ignatieff was at Harrington Lake after Trudeau's initial victory.

In order to get a better handle on the man, I have been reading some of his articles publications. I have just picked up "The Rights Revolution" and the respect he carries for PET and his ideals is apparent right from the opening pages. Parts of this book are like an extension of this interview.

Hearing Trudeau relate his advice to wait until later in life before getting into politics because a political person has no time to replenish his store of knowledge once in office was very prescient given Ignatieff's career path and time away before returning home to take a run at the top job. In a way it seemed as if Trudeau was publicly mentoring an acolyte.

On the flip side, when one sees the thin resume's on the Conservative side of the aisle, this might explain a lot about their behaviour. Perhaps someone who is determined to radically alter his country should have more than an MA in Economics and experience beyond politics and a radical right wing think tank to reflect upon.

These clips are very much worth watching as part of the process of getting a feel for the man who could be our next Prime Minister in addition to reminiscing about one of our greatest ones.Recommend this Post

Friday, January 9, 2009

Like a hot air ballon pilot trying to avoid a crash

As Impolitical illustrates in this post on military expenditures, Harper and his crew are tossing any and all pretense of principled government over the side as they see their time in power come to an overdue end. This is in addition to what I was blathering on about yesterday.

After all, why carry around such heavy weight baggage such as ideals and propriety when you can make sure your friends in the arm industry are taken care of before you are turfed out?

I wonder. Did Harper have that balloon made just for him or did Cheney have a spare?Recommend this Post

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Wrath Of Khanper

ON SCREEN, Enterprise, intermittent image, backs away.
Khan smiles triumphantly through his pain. An elec-
tronic power SOUND has been building.
No... You can't get away... From
hell's heart I stab at thee...
(amid the pain)
For hate's sake... I spit my last
breath at thee!

Khan topples forward, dead. The WHINE continues to
build chillingly.
Written By: Harve Bennett
Participating Writers
Jack B. Sowards
Samuel A. Peeples

Why would I begin a post by quoting from the scene in a cheesy 27 year old movie where a
megalomaniac with a really bad hair-do reaches out to destroy everything around him upon the realization that his plans for universal domination have been foiled?

If you can't guess who I am referring to you are trying hard enough.

What's that? You still don't get it?

OK, here it is. Even though PM Genghis is on probation and the survival of his government hinges on the presentation of a realistic stimulus package, he is still going to go to the mat with his hardwired priorities. Several articles over the last couple of days point out that Deficit Jim has been hinting that permanent tax cuts will be a significant part of the "Stimulus" in the budget. Notwithstanding* the fact that this is what caused the deficits in the first place.

To quote from the Star** (my emphasis in bold);
As the Jan. 27 federal budget draws nearer, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty appears to be reverting to his neo-conservative roots. In recent days, he has been making noises about putting tax cuts in the budget in order to leave "more money in peoples' pockets so that they spend it, so that they help strengthen the economy."

There are two problems with this approach to the economic crisis.

First, experience shows that most of the money from tax cuts – especially for middle- and upper-income Canadians – is not spent, as Flaherty suggests. Rather, it is put into savings or used to pay down debt. Therefore, the economy gets little of the stimulus it needs.

Second, tax cuts that remain in place long after the recession is over would erode the federal government's revenue base. That would either cause the sort of structural deficits that Flaherty says he wants to avoid or force the government to cut spending on social programs to balance the budget (as did the Mike Harris government in Ontario, in which Flaherty served).

Along with the decision to switch tactics and try and stack the Senate Harprorogue is giving the impression of someone who believes that his days are numbered and his best option is to try and create such a mess that it will swallow the rest of us up in it. So as Spaceship Crazy is about to go super nova, all Captain Steve can think of is ways to try push through the Reform agenda. The first month of 2009 has a strong chance of looking like the last month of 2008.

I recommend you start stocking up on pro-coalition placards.

* Since the early 1980's I have always felt that word is a part of the distinct society that is Canada (sorry - 2 bad jokes in one footnote).

**Mostly because I can't bring myself to quote from the Sun.

P.S.: even though this is the second Star Trek reference in the first 4 posts of 2009, I'm not a Trekkie. Honest! Not that there's anything wrong with that.
P.P.S.: I love the bit about the whine building chillingly as the ship gets set to explode. The Conservatives do tend to whine when they don't get their way, don't they?
Recommend this Post

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Compare and Contrast Harper vs Arbour

"The news is spreading throughout the world: Canada's back," Harper told the crowd of about 35,000 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday. "Canada's back as a vital player on the global stage ... Canadians are citizens of the world and we're making a positive contribution in every field of human endeavour."

The opening paragraphs focus on Harper's refusal to meet with a highly respected Canadian UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. Further down we are reminded of the embarrassing spectacle of Victor Toews calling her a disgrace.

But the real broadsides in an article in Embassy magazine on Louise Arbour, are later on (My highlights in bold. My comments in italics.):

A Less Popular Canada

In 2004, when Ms. Arbour left the Supreme Court bench to take up her work as UN high commissioner on human rights, Canada occupied a much different space on the international stage than it does today.

For Ms. Arbour the most telling, and shocking, turn of Canadian foreign policy was the sudden reversal last year on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. This switch, she says, took the international community very much by surprise. (Denial of rights to indigenous people has long been a pet project of Tom Flanagan, Harper's eminence grease).

"It's a very real issue for Canada, that is not a theoretical issue, but Canada had engaged very positively on issues that were very hard," Ms. Arbour says. "Then at the last minute, when the text had been fully agreed more or less by all participants, only Canada and Russia voted against it in the Human Rights Council. This was seen as a signal, to a large extent, as a disengagement from the promotion of human rights issues."

The changing direction of Canadian foreign policy under the Conservative government, and in part also under the former Liberal Paul Martin government, has been worrisome, she says. (Very interesting comment. In fairness, Liberals should consider this carefully. Was this a sign of a general trend towards alignment with the US after 9/11 or a tendency of Martin himself? Was Martin reacting to pressure from Bush or is this foreign policy part of Martin's legacy? Is this an proclivity of senior bureaucrats at Foreign Affairs? Definitely something to keep an eye on given Ignatieff's past comments. Regardless of MI's admirable contrition in retracting that stand)

"I think there was a time where a lot of diplomats wanted to know what Canadians thought," Ms. Arbour explains. "More recently I haven't heard a lot of that because the general sense is that it's very predictable, they think whatever the Americans think...so in that sense, it has totally diluted this."

Where Canada was once seen as a consensus-maker and generator of ideas, it has become now a country focused on "an alignment."

"Canada's taken sides and it plays that hand. I think that's very much the perception that I think I have, but that [also] was reflected in how I saw others react to Canadian foreign policy." (This is a repudiation of Harper's boast quoted at the top of the post. (Brings back memories of "Canada's New Government" doesn't it?). I suppose in a sense we have embarked on a new path in foreign policy. But rather then coming back to a historic past, it is more like Czechoslovakia during the Soviet era. Canada as a client state to a regional hegemon that also produces some pretty good hockey players. It isn't a vision I ever held for Canada but then I'm not a brilliant strategist. All I know is that the only puppets Canadians were ever proud of were Casey and Finnegan and Jerome the giraffe and Rusty the Rooster.)

Recommend this Post

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Egregious error in blog name fixed

Gadzooks. I was looking at something else and I realized that I had transposed part of the King quote I based the blog name on. I have fixed this but it reinforces the need to research quotes more fully. And to not necessarily trust Wikipedia. I think I have it right now.

Happily for any readers, I have a good face for blogging and have, therefore, kept my true likeness hidden. If there was a real time image of me, the contrition and embarrassment I am feeling might damage your monitor because of the demand for red pixels this faux pas has caused.

We now return you to our previously scheduled program.Recommend this Post

Monday, January 5, 2009

Propitious signs or just a spurious correlation?

"Stay Calm, Be Brave, Wait for the Signs"
Jasper Friendly Bear
The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour

When I prorogued this blog, things were in an awful state.

The jetstreams were way down south. There was snow in Las Vegas, never mind Vancouver and Toronto. But there was no snow in Fernie. The weather was bitterly cold and car batteries needed to be replaced at -30 not counting the windchill. (My finger are still numb). And, even worse, our country was in the hands of an insecure incompetent cowardly would be despot who is intent on destryoing everything Canadians have worked so hard for all these years. It was sort of like that Star Trek episode "Mirror mirror" where the evil Kirk takes over the Enterprise as a result of a transporter malfunction.

But as 2008 waned, the weather returned to its normal patterns and the snow started to fall where it is supposed to and the weather warmed up a tad. It isn't where it should be yet but the signs are encouraging. 33 cms fell last night and it is supposed to warm up and help reduce the avalanche hazard. Surely this means that an end to Harprorogue's reign is at hand.

Maybe this is just wishful thinking and the correlation coefficient is somewhat low but it it can't be any worse than reading tea leaves.

All the best in 2009. I hope you and those you care about are healthy in the new year.

Now I am off to read up. I haven't seen a TV, newspaper or website for weeks.

Update: I took Impolitical up on the admonition to read this. It is a good way to start the new year with a blogging bang.Recommend this Post