Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sometimes the poll is as much a fraud as Harper is

The only good thing about this poll is that it prompted Steve V to compose an excellent post on Fraud, elitism and relating to people.   Read the first two sentences and then go to Far and Wide for the rest.
Pedigree, accomplishment and choice of beverage don't make one an elitist. Inability to relate to, and participate with ordinary Canadians is a far better measure.
As to the poll itself; it is a waste of time but needs to be dissected.  First off, it is an online poll and therefore questionable (my highlights in bold): 
The online poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted from May 26 to 28. The Quebec results were measured in separate data culled from the responses of 743 individuals.
How do you get exactly 1,000 respondents to an online poll?  Was the poll capped at the first 1,000 respondents?  This is even more open to freeping then regular online polls.

Then consider the questions asked and who commissioned the poll.  Where are the questions concerning what are seen as MI's strengths?  The questions are directly linked to the image the Conservatives have been trying to build for Harper (e.g.: "Would buy his coffee from Tim Horton's", "Cares about people like me.").  I would hope that after all the money they have spent on building this image that he would lead in this and the other contrived categories.  What I find interesting in the Timmies and "Would be someone you would invite to dinner" themes is the parallel with the "Who would you rather have a beer with" theme from the 2000 American Presidential election.  Rove's man couldn't compete on the basis of accomplishments or character so they worked to build a false standard for office.  Harper can't compete with Ignatieff so they must build similar straw comparisons.

The poll was commissioned by the Globe/CTV.  Do we need to remind anyone of the taint CTV carries with regards political bias?  Why not?  It can't hurt.  Anyone but CTV that is.

The poll is presented as a conclusive comparison between Ignatieff and SpongeSteve Squaresweater (I love that one.  From a great Harry Bruce op-ed.  Worth a read, BTW).  But look at the numbers.
According to the poll, when asked which party leader they most identify as patriotic, 37 per cent named Mr. Harper and 9 per cent named Mr. Ignatieff. And when asked who is more likely to buy his coffee at Tim Hortons, Mr. Harper led, 24 per cent to 10 per cent.
(The bar chart indicates that 34% of respondents picked Harper as the most patriotic but then getting the facts straight don't appear to matter much in this article.  Let us go with the text.)  37%+9%=46%.  24%+10%=34%.  The numbers don't make up 100% because "both or neither" aren't counted.  We are seeing 54% in the former and 66% in the latter say they don't have an opinion.  Assume that the poll roughly reflects public opinion.  All that effort.  All the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on attacks ads (Think of the burn rate) and they didn't move the yardsticks much beyond their kool-aid base.  And that is the percentage of the national population.  By extracting Quebec from the results, it accentuates the influence of the western Reform base.  And this is quite likely a transitory effect.  Most of the country has looked at the ads and said "Whatever".

The bar chart only shows the categories Harper leads in.  Reading the article you can see that there is areas where MI is strong but they aren't shown in the graphic.  This poll and the related article were commissioned to build on a theme.  They were never intended to reflect reality or contribute to the public debate.

Update: The CTV website has more.  Some of it contradicting the article.  For instance:
 Technical notes

  • The nationwide telephone survey was conducted between May 26 and May 28, 2009.
  • Results are based on a national sample size of 1,000 voting-age Canadians with an over-sample of 500 respondents from Quebec.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

On increased blogging

I had mentioned that blogging would be decreased while I dealt with an issue closer to home.  While I must still keep my eyes on the prize and there has been no material change, I have made enough progress in setting up and executing the search that I have decided I can post more frequently.  Particularly on weekends.  After all, a hobby is a good thing too.

And with that, my favourite tweet* of the week is from BCINTO: 
Perhaps Harper should spend less time listening to old tapes of Ignatieff and more time not writing a book about hockey
*I am afraid I don't know what all those RT and other twitter thingies are for yet.  And there is no way I could have fit this into 140 characters.  140 characters.  Sounds sort of like a Vigilance family reunion;)
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Zaccardelli and Moore and the next election.

I wanted to bring this up now to keep it front and centre.  The blatantly obvious has been confirmed: CTV broke codes in Dion interview, CBSC finds
Sentient beings can sequence the events.
  1. An ambitious reporter poses a confusing question to a politician in his second language.
  2. Three attempts are made to answer the question under the convention that the flubs will not be aired.
  3. The reporter and the network go back on their word.
  4. A known Conservative supporter who hosts a political affairs show highlights the mis-steps.
  5. Almost immediately afterwards the Prime Minister, who usually avoids impromptu media events, points to the out-takes as evidence of his opponents unfitness for office.
  6. This series of events destroys the building momentum for Dion.
  7. The political show host is named to the Senate.  Coincidence?
Enough about the 2008 election.  How about the 2006 election?
  1. An RCMP investigation into possible leaks regarding the taxation of income trusts is leaked late in the campaign.
  2. This is seen as a "major turning point in the campaign".  This allowed a hitherto unelectable extreme right wing leader is elected to a minority government.
  3. After the election, the commissioner of the RCMP, amongst a tumult of other accusations of impropriety, is found have been the source of the leak.
  4. The commissioner is allowed to retire without facing consequences after stonewalling the Commission for Public Complaints inquiry.
All just circumstantial perhaps but again, I ask
Who/what will the HarpRovians pull out of their back pockets to bring about a game changer when the next election comes along?
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Attack ads actually reflect Harper's weaknesses

Karl Rove advises his awful acolytes (e.g.: Stephen Harper) to attack your opponents strengths not their weaknesses.  After my previous post I ruminated on what the theme of the Conservative attack ads says about Harper and the Goon Squad.  Perhaps these attacks also serve as an attempt to inoculate the Conservatives from a discussion of Hateful Harper's own manifold flaws.

The "Not A Leader" dross was contrived enough coming from a man so incapable of leading through inspiration that he must rule with an iron fist in a chain mail glove.  By framing Dion as such it prevented Canadians from getting a sense of the strength of Dion's character.  Beside this attribute Harper would have come across as a very wee man indeed.

The distinction Harper is trying to create between himself as the "Real" Canadian and Ignatieff as the "Visitor" in interesting for similar reasons.  Why Ignatieff's time abroad?  Why not something else?  It is pretty thin gruel and is not getting much traction.  Could it be that it is an attempt to defuse speeches such as this?
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Poilievre deserves two smackdowns

That Pierre Poilievre has once again proven himself to be a racist is not a surprise and has not gone unnoticed.  Regardless as to whether or not this instance can be explained away (I disagree), another aspect of his screed was disgraceful.  I will highlight the other unacceptable piece in the quote.
Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, we have a leader, a real Canadian leaderOn that side of the House, they have the man who fathered the carbon tax, put it up for adoption to his predecessor and now wants a paternity test to prove the tar baby was never his in the first place. He attacks the deficit that he voted for but wants billions more for a 45-day work year. On this side of the House, we stand for lower taxes, strong economic action plan, getting the job done for Canadians. That is where we stand. That is our leader.
Poilievre has no right to pick and choose who is a real Canadian and who is not.  The implication that Stephen Harper is a real Canadian and Ignatieff is not is dangerous.  The racism, bigotry and hatred expressed towards the "other" implicit in those words must not be overlooked.  The Conservatives are ramping up their rhetoric of hatred against those who are opposed to them.  The former comment shows hatred towards a visible minority and is an abomination.  The latter pejorative term demonstrates a willingness to incite anger towards all opposition.

During the prorogation crisis we saw the application of these tactics against the Quebecois.  During that time, I reviewed how dangerously far along the path towards genocide the Conservatives were travelling in using this inflammatory language.  Seeing this ogre raise its head is not unexpected but is no less disappointing.

It must end now.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bankrupting us at home, selling our treasures at bargian store prices,diminishing us abroad

Knocking Canada down brick by brick.

They are doing this through other means than the largest deficit in history.

On May 23, the Edmonton Sun reported that the government had quietly sold off historic pieces of silver at below market value. (s/t to The Cantering Castor Canadensis)
Experts consulted by Sun Media were shocked. They say the sterling silver, silver plate and china sold for a fraction of their true value -- particularly given the fact they came from Rideau Hall.
And while the eyes of the nation are focused on the economic disaster the Conservatives are wreaking on us at home, the are busy lowering our presence abroad.

The Conservative government is continuing to quietly close Canadian missions abroad, with the latest casualty the resident consulate in Hamburg, Germany, which will shut down this coming Saturday.

Foreign Affairs officials have defended the moves— which will include South Africa, Malawi, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Cambodia this year alone—as an attempt to increase the cost-effectiveness of the department's resources abroad.

However, there are mounting fears the government is trying to "do diplomacy on the cheap" and undermining Canada's international presence by focusing the country's diplomatic efforts solely on trade and economic interests.


However, Mr. Beine said Germany is worried about an apparent trend in Canada's engagement abroad, or lack thereof, in recent years....

Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae was more forceful in his assessment of the government's actions, describing them as short-sighted.

"The government has put the department in the ridiculous position basically where if they want to open anywhere, they have to close somewhere," he said. "We're trying to do foreign policy on the cheap, and we are paying a price for it in terms of our international reputation."

NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar described the use of "efficiency" and "cost-effectiveness" as "dangerous buzzwords in my opinion."

"Cost effectiveness has the feel of it that, 'Well we don't really want to spend that much money because it's too expensive,'" he said. "If it's just a paper exercise that this is how much it costs, we'll get rid of it, that doesn't take into account what is Canada's foreign policy goals, what is our attempt have an influence on the world stage."

Mr. Dewar also noticed that the offices that are opening have been based primarily on trade.

"Trade trumps diplomacy right now, and this notion that you can just have trade and lift all boats up," he said.

Taken together we may need an explanation other than mere than incompetence. A government that believes in Canada's past, it's current role in world and hopes to build Canada's future doesn't sell of it's heritage, doesn't pull back from the world stage and doesn't saddle our children with more debt.

A government formed by a party that believes Canada is a "real" country wouldn't do this.  A government led by a mole from the Heritage Institute would.
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Different paradox, same explanation

On a semi-annual basis we read reports of falling violent crime rates over the last 20 plus years.  Paradoxically, research consistently shows a significant number of Canadians feel less safe than ever.

Writing in theToronto Star, Kathy English reported on July 28, 2008 that 36% of the people in the Greater Toronto Area said they felt less safe than they did a year earlier. That disconnect between reality and perception can be traced to the way media reports crime.
Sensational crimes attract the attention of the public and news editors know this. There’s an old saying in newsrooms “If it bleeds it leads.” And, Mitchell Stephens made the same point in his 1996 book “A History of News” when he wrote that, “Crime news is prime news.” So, major crime gets front-page treatment.

Of course, politicians have been quick to exploit the public’s fear of becoming victims of crime. In April 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave aspeechin Winnipeg. In part, here’s what he said:

“Canada is a great country, and one of the things that has made Canada a great country has been our traditionally low crime rates…Times, however, are changing…Our communities are changing…And, the safe streets and safe neighbourhoods that Canadians have come to expect as being part of our way of life are being threatened by rising levels of gun, gang, and drug crime…

“And let me be clear, our government has absolutely no intention of standing by and allowing this plague of violent, organized crime to grow unchecked.”

He went on to announce Ottawa’s get-tough-on-crime plans. These include about a dozen crime bills to bring in harsher gun sentences and to make it more difficult to get bail. The Conservative government has kept up its unrelenting campaign against the country's criminals. The latest attack is on the practice of judges crediting the accused with two days served for every day they have been held in pre-trial custody.

So there is a symbiosis between media willing to milk individual tragedies to sell advertizements and politicians rising from a minor demographic on the fringe of Canadian society eager to skew the facts in their quest for power.

This came to mind when I read this article: Canadians see their country as corrupt.

The paradox:
Despite Canada's "squeaky clean" reputation, Canadians still view their country as corrupt, according to a Saskatchewan political scientist.
The facts:
According to the World Bank and Transparency International, business leaders in other countries believe Canada to be among the least corrupt nations. The scandals that absorb so much airtime and headline space, such as the infamous Airbus or sponsorship cases, have not ruffled that faith.

Canadians also report having little personal experience of petty corruption. When polled, very few report being shaken down by a cop or greasing a palm to get to the front of a medical queue.

The public perception:

An international Gallup poll in 2006 found Canadians were more on par with large European nations and the United States than countries like Finland and Sweden when they were asked if corruption in government was widespread.

Almost two-thirds felt political parties were affected by corruption and 39 per cent said the same of the judiciary and legal services.

The explanation, in a generous display of good will, offered by Michael Atkinson, a professor at the University of Saskatchewan:

Atkinson said the main problem is that corruption means something different for the general populace and politicians.

When corruption is measured formally, what is usually considered is behaviour that uses public office for private gain. Focusing on roles and rules makes tracking corruption easier -- as it assumes people will be self-serving and need rules and procedures. But the definition also "helps distance the concept from the need for moral evaluation."

Atkinson said that the public has an "ancient" or "classical" conception of the relationship between rulers and those who are ruled -- which is more like "political morality."

Politicians, on the other hand, are more likely to say that staying within the rules means there's no corruption, he said.

They believe making the rules tougher means there's no need to discuss principles, Atkinson said. Yet that's exactly what the suspicious public wants and needs to talk about.

"It's important to establish there's a dialogue of the deaf when we talk about these things," said Atkinson

For an explanation more grounded in the real world, see earlier discussion.  There is no fear Harper and the Thugs will not prod, no institution they will not denigrate for a chance to take over.  All this and the best they can do is a minority.

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Central Canada is finally understanding the western zeitgeist

Good editorial by Randall Denley in the Citizen today: Tory grip on moral superiority is slipping.  The ethos of Reform is wrapped up in one paragraph:
The fact that Stephen Harper and his gang think success in the world is a weakness tells us a lot about them. These are the small thinkers who don't get the arts, don't get science and have no plan for our economy beyond building roads and bailing out failed automakers. Ignatieff's advice that the Conservatives should "grow up" and do their jobs properly was the smartest thing he could have said.
Some fun quotes too:
In defence of these various conservative politicians, about all one could say is that they obviously aren't taking performance enhancing substances.
And finishes with a bang.  Asking the question that has to be brought into prominence:
Without good leadership or good ideas, one really has to ask, why should we keep electing conservatives? Politicians of the right need to find a compelling answer or they risk the fate of the U.S. Republicans.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blogging about Conservative studipity is like...

mowing the lawn when you own  dog.  You walk around the backyard with a small shovel in one hand and a plastic bag in the other.  Then when you think you have cleaned up all the mess you wash your hands as a matter of good hygiene and go on with your life.  In this metaphor, you go to the shed and pull out the lawnmower.

But then; just when you think you have addressed all the turds you invariably come across some more hidden in the long grass.  So you have to stop what you are doing.  Pick up the little shovel and a new bag and scoop those up as well.  Only then can you cut the grass.

At least the dog is lovable.
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Conservative MPs should support EI reform since they will need EI soon enough

MI has been making some headway with temporary Employment Insurance reform as a key to helping the economy out in the short term.  He continues with an op-ed in the National Post.  Sort of like bearding the lion in it's den

And like the peripatetic academic that he is, MI sets out the problem:
Our Employment Insurance system just wasn't built for a national crisis of this scope. More than 40% of the unemployed in this country aren't eligible for EI, even though they have paid into the system. As a result, Canadians aren't getting the help they need when they need it.

That's why we have to reform EI. Improving eligibility will bring help to workers who have paid in but don't currently qualify. It is also the most effective, rapid and targeted form of stimulus the government can offer our economy right now.

We're facing a single, national crisis. But EI maintains 58 different regional standards of eligibility. That doesn't make sense.

The distortions produced by the current EI rules are striking.

Unemployment is up 83% in Alberta and 68% in B. C. -- but it's still twice as hard to qualify for EI in Western Canada as it is elsewhere in the country.

The rules end up pitting worker against worker. In Magog, Que., 200 people who lost their jobs at Gurit Canada at the same time and who have paid the same EI benefits are now receiving different levels of assistance because their town happens to straddle the border of two EI regions.

Proposes a solution:
The Liberal party has proposed a national, 360-hour standard of EI eligibility, for as long as this crisis lasts. If implemented quickly, up to 150,000 more Canadians -- who've lost their jobs through no fault of their own and who have paid into the system --could qualify for EI benefits.

That kind of change will have a positive effect on the Canadian economy.

One-hundred-and-fifty-thousand more unemployed Canadians on EI mean 150,000 more Canadian families spending on food, rent and transportation. It means money flowing into communities that have been hit the hardest by this recession.

And points out why Conservatives should find themselves applying for EI:
Day after day in the House of Commons, Conservatives have defended the current EI system. Their evidence that it works well is perverse: They point to regions of the country where so many people have lost their jobs that, under the current rules, it's now easier to qualify for EI than it was before.

The Conservative government's answer to the crisis in EI eligibility is to wait for more Canadians to lose their jobs. That's wrong.

In the closing weeks of the spring session of Parliament, the Conservative government has a choice to make. Stephen Harper can continue to resist a good idea simply because someone else thought of it first. Or else he can make a simple but critical change to EI that will provide benefits for thousands of Canadians who have paid into the system and who now need that money to support their families.

He brings up a theme I blogged on way back in the budget debates:
One guest, Craig Alexander, had a very interesting point about the effectiveness of various types of stimulus.  The type of stimulus with the highest rated multiplier is EI with a level of 1.6.  Infrastructure is close behind at 1.59.   But EI gets into the economy faster which is important if the recession is short and shallow as some forecasters predict.  Mr. Alexander mentioned that he had made a representation to the Finance Department on this.  Funny this didn't seem to have made an impression.
Perhaps MI should recruiting Mr. Alexander for the cause.

BTW, I said limited posting.  Not dropping of the face of the internet.    Lots of progress so on my main focus.  It is fairly taxing process and since blogging is somewhat cathartic, I think it is fair to sneak in a post.  I have will have a comment on the "Just visiting" meme once I get a book from the library.  I lent my copy of "Reflections of a Siamese Twin" to someone who lost it. :(
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

This citizen really bites Harper in the ads

O.K.  Maybe one quick little post can't hurt. (Not that blogging is addictive or anything).  Have a read of this .  From a Canadian studying abroad.
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Monday, May 18, 2009

Sometimes there are things more important than blogging

Hard to believe though that may be.

I haven't had much time for thoughtful blogging as of late.  This is due to finding myself an unorthodox victim of the Great Recession.  In the end, Constant Vigilance will be OK.  This is not as dire a situation as a line worker in Windsor or forestry worker in B.C.   

Notwithstanding my good fortune, I have decided that I must place a stronger focus on a job search than online expressions of my political opinions.  This is one of many ways I can fulfill my assurance to Eternal and the Viliglantwees that all will be well in the end.

So If Necessary Blogging But Not Necessarily Blogging will be less active for a while.  I may post if I feel that I have done all I can that day to fulfill my quest.  This is a less eloquent "See ya later" than JAWL's but it isn't as permanent as Billmon's.  I hope this does not come across as overly maudlin.  Since starting the blog up, I have been the grateful recipient of many supportive comments and emails.  I felt that gracious support deserves some kind of explanation rather than an unexplained quiescent blog.

In the meantime, Go get 'em!  There are Calgary Cretins to defeat.

As a parting thought:
  1. If the recent attack ads are, as almost universally agreed, ineffective
  2. and recent Conservative fundrasing is less robust than in the past.
  3.  All they have accomplished is an increase in their relative burn rate.
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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Awww. My first troll

It is a sign of success as a blogger that you start to attract trolls.  I have been fortunate that the commenters have been thoughtful and courteous.  A number have become bleeps.

But I think I have identified one raise his ugly head from his lair.  I would celebrate him but he only left his first name.  Anonymous.  Must be an older name.  Sort of like Aloysius. Or Al for short.  So maybe the short form of this trolls first name is An.

Now since we don't know his first name I will have to assign him one.  I know.  I will honour him by giving assigning him a last name that of an ancient Scottish Earldom.

That settles it.  Anonymous trolls will hereafter be referred to as An Atholl.
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Friday, May 15, 2009

An attack ad question

If Michael Ignatieff is being attacked as being unfit for office because he worked outside of the country, why didn't they apply this attack against Elizabeth May?  She was, horrors of horrors, born in the U. S. A . Recommend this Post

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For a second I thought Steve V went to the dark side

When I read this headline:
I was shocked.  I thought a Progressive Blogger and expert on intepreting poll data had drunk the Kool-Aid.  Then I calmed down and re-read it.  As for the article.  Who cares about peurile Conservative attack ads when you can make a lame joke.

Update:  He has already made this joke.  I cede the high ground to him.
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They just don't know the Harperites as well as we (unfortunately) do

Surprising no one with two neurons to rub together, comes proof that the Conservatives are stupid enough to play distraction politics on the world stage.  Whoever would have thought that Canadians would need to be grateful to the Putin Puppet government for showing admirable restraint?
The federal government's stated outrage over a Feb. 18 Arctic flight by two Russian bombers -- a response dismissed by Moscow as "bizarre" given the "routine" nature of the training exercise -- appears even more puzzling now that details have emerged about a friendly, Feb. 20 meeting in Moscow in which top Canadian and Russian officials contemplated unprecedented levels of co-operation on Arctic issues.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Calgary Cretins strike again

And get stricken back.

I have made minimal mention of the allegations Ruby Dhalla has to defend herself against since several sources in the blogoshpere and EmEsEm pointed out how contrived it all is before I could get to a keyboard.  There were even warnings about how expert the Conservatives are at this sort of scandal prompting.  But the information of a Statscan investigation on the same day the nanny scandal broke prompted a Spockian raise of the eyebrow.  Although not as scurrilous, this has longer staying power.  And, once again, a Conservative cabinet minister is in the middle.
Jim Flaherty got a lesson in what global markets can do with a little rumour and innuendo as a big bet on the Canadian dollar in London, England, yesterday morning resulted in the federal Finance Minister defending his discretion in Hamilton by early afternoon.
It has been pointed out that rumours of these leaks have been swirling about currency traders for months.

Way back around Easter, I posted on how the Dhalla Bollywood accusations were soon followed up by a leak about the $140,000 cost to renovating Fortier's office.  And I asked the question:
A smart party would be chastened by this revelation.  A smart party would take the hint to settle down and stop this sort of politicization of the government.

A party led by Harper and the rest of the Calgary Cretins?  I think we can expect more of this tit for tat exposure.
I don't think this response is particularly in defence of Dhalla.  It is a result of her being the consistent target of the Conservatives who want to see their man, Parm Gill, in her place. The point is that if the Conservatives want to practice these tactics there is lots of real dirt to fight back with.
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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Canada will suffer a great loss at the end of 2009

I have just found out that Tanglefoot will disband at the end of the year.  If you are already a fan, this is sad news.  If you aren't a Tanglefoot fan, go to their Gigs tab, find a nearby concert.  (It may be tough because like all great Canadian acts they are way more well known and busier outside of Canada.)  Go to the concert.  And become a fan before it is too late.

You might not like folk music, but if you love Canada and high energy music you will love them.

I wonder if Joe Grant will do a Victory Lap for old time's sake?
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The Mousetrap and Stephen Harper

The Mousetrap is known as the longest running play in history.  You would have to figure that after a while, the actors would begin to have a hard time delivering their lines in a convincing fashion.

So it is with the tiresome "Harper is a hockey fan" theme.  He is entirely unconvincing in this role.  Media references to this prime ministerial "passion" have similarly become increasingly lame.  Thankfully it is working it's way through the media's GI tract.  The only one who appears to be willing to swallow it any longer is Jane Taber.

I started reading this because of the "Iggy is not a snob" title.  It quickly became apparent that this should have been run in People, not the political section of a national newspaper.

But part of the salary available to the G&M for political reporting is budgeted to this useless tripe.  Put that money to better use and provide real coverage.
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If you lost Travers..

you will have a harder time suppressing the GTA Liberal vote in the next election.

Jim Travers looks in askance at the Lynch resignation. and besides the analysis will have a hard time backing down from the language he uses to criticize one of Harper's "strengths" (my emphasis in bold).   

Pity the poor country. Just when it needs help most, the man who knows its finances best is walking away, leaving the worst crisis in modern times to a faux-economist prime minister and Conservative operatives.

Kevin Lynch's sudden retirement from the most powerful and prestigious job the federal civil service offers is loaded with troubling implications. It marks a decisive victory for hired party guns over public servants, further concentrates power in Stephen Harper's concentric circle* and maps the route to the next federal election.

All of that and more flows from the curious departure of an accomplished, complex and controversial mandarin little known outside this capital. Announced with the Prime Minister conveniently abroad**, the move ends the no-prisoners struggle between Lynch and Guy Giorno, Harper's corrosive chief of staff, while sending confusing messages to public servants Conservatives badly need to deliver their multi-billion-dollar economic stimulus.

That dysfunctional past and demanding future will test Wayne Wouters, the career bureaucrat replacing Lynch. Well-liked and well-travelled in Ottawa's back corridors, Wouters must satisfy Conservatives obsessing on the coming campaign while reassuring colleagues demoralized by their diminishing policy role and by the increasing intrusion of politics on a civil service that once prided itself on speaking truth to power.

An anecdote connects those forces. It's murmured here that Lynch differs from his predecessors in an important way. They kept their resignation letters ready to deliver if prime ministers crossed the line between cynical politics and national interests. Lynch would more happily deliver deputy ministers' resignation letters if they failed to jump high enough to please his political masters. Apocryphal or mean, the story crystallizes a fundamental change in how Ottawa functions. Once expected to find and hold the fine balance between advising cabinet and protecting the public service, Privy Council clerks are now primarily the prime minister's loyal deputy.

Last November, that realignment surfaced when bureaucrats helped the government deliver an essentially misleading economic update while mixing public policy and political provocation. Months earlier, Lynch tabled a report blaming largely innocent bureaucrats, instead of guilty Conservatives, for leaking a NAFTA memo that badly embarrassed Barack Obama during the Ohio presidential primary.

Those examples leave hanging a disturbing question: What does it take to hold this prime minister's support? Clerks rarely leave the job with a lot of friends. Yet Lynch's premature exit is badly rattling those who worked closely enough with him to know his defining strengths and weaknesses. Reasonably enough, they question if anyone could satisfy Harper – and Giorno – if not the cerebral, workaholic and yielding Lynch.

Even more troubling is the timing. It's symptomatic of an intolerable situation when someone of Lynch's ability and disposition packs it in just when events are putting a premium on his education and experience. Unlike the Prime Minister, Lynch really is an economist (he has a doctorate) who practised the spooky craft at home and abroad.

Reading the tea leaves over coffee***, those charged with operating Ottawa's machinery are reaching unhappy conclusions. If Harper doesn't think he needs Lynch in times this tough then it's foolish to expect him to rely on the civil service for much beyond shovelling billions out Ottawa's back door.

*The only quibble I have is that by definition a circle is the line connecting a series of concentric points.  So concentric circle is a bit redundant.


***OK, maybe quibble #2 is that reading tea leaves over coffee is a bit of a mixed metaphor.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Harper makes another surprise visit to Afghanistan

Hearing about this 
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, making a surprise visit to Kandahar Airfield on Thursday, emphasized Canadian contributions to Afghan development over combat efforts in the war-torn country.
Harper and Gen. Walter Natynczyk, the chief of defence staff, then served coffee to soldiers at the base.

reminded me of this Guardian editorial:
Stuffed by a Plastic Turkey 
Bush'Harpers Gesture Politics Suggest a Man Seriously Worried About His Career

Although the image of George Bush Stephen Harper, until recently, was of a man who could do whatever he wanted in both America Canada and the world, recent events have suggested a man seriously worried about both his image and his career. The president Prime Minister seems to have entered a phase of gesture politics, and the gestures are those of a man who, while still swimming vigorously, has suddenly come to accept the possibility of drowning.

If the president Prime Minister were to use the plastic turkey of blue sweater vests in commercials now, his opponents would make a real meal of it, so Bush 2004 Harper 2009 needs some other photo-ops.
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Wherein Stephen Harper paraphrases Lyndon Johnson

"If I've lost Martin, I've lost Middle Canada ". Recommend this Post

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Balsillie might finally get his NHL team

Breaking news:
Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie is looking to buy the financially ailing Phoenix Coyotes and bring them to Southern Ontario.

The co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion says his $212.5-million (all currency U.S.) offer is conditional on moving the Coyotes north of the border.

"The current team ownership asked that I table an offer to purchase the Coyotes and significant discussions resulted in an offer that is in the best interests of the franchise, the NHL, and the great hockey fans of Canada and Southern Ontario," Balsillie said in a statement Tuesday.

"I am excited to move closer to bringing an NHL franchise to what I believe is one of the best un-served hockey markets in the world — Southern Ontario. A market with devoted hockey fans, a rich hockey history, a growing and diversified economy and a population of more than seven million people."

In other news swarms of Manitobans are driving towards Mississauga to move Southern Ontario to Winnipeg.

As the saying goes:" Try the veal.  I'll be here all week."

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