Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Coverup

Warren Kinsella jumps into the fray. His concern is roughly the same as mine. Once this gets started, where does it stop?
On the other hand – if I am wrong, and I’m often wrong – and the law survives a Charter challenge, prepare yourself for the inevitable: every kook and bigot with some spare time on his hands may commence litigation against the Sikh’s turban and beard, the Jew’s kippah and the Hasidic’s Jew clothing, the Hindu’s tilak facial markings, the styles favoured by traditional Mennonites and the Amish, or perhaps even the ostentatious display of a nun’s habit. I mean, why not, right? Any one of those things may serve to obscure a person’s identity in some way. Fair’s fair.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daddy's Got A Brand New Meme

Andrew Potter is listing the books that have changed his life. Here are a few of the ones that have affected me deeply, over the years.

I read both the Vertical Mosaic by John Porter and The Sane Society by Erich Fromm, within six months of each other when I was in my late teens. These are the two books, more than any others that set me on my lefty path.

I learned of the Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen, from a documentary by John Kenneth Galbraith. It is an absolute gem and cemented my view forever that the ruling classes have feet of clay.

Labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges, made me fall in love with the idea of libraries as mini-universes.

The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara started me on my obsession with the civil war period in American history.

I read A Prayer For Owen Meany, while waiting for my car to be fixed in Bracebridge. To me, it captures the struggle to come to grips with history that has afflicted my generation.

There are other books that have affected me at different times, but these are the ones that have stuck with me.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Quelle Surprise

News item: Ignatieff backs Quebec veil ban. Of course he does. Pandering to the xenophobia of the dominant culture, is a vote winner, every time. The only thing that surprises me is he beat both Harper and Layton to the punch. I mean, none of them have a stellar record protecting the rights of women to dress as they like, do they?

Saturday Update: Well, now that Harper is fully on board with the other fashion policeman (as if there was any doubt), only Layton is yet to be heard from. I expect he will be yelling "Me too!", any time now.

Added Saturday Thought: Now that the government is getting into outlawing women's clothes, I would like to nominate anything tie-dyed to the list.
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Canada Is Leading The World!

Into an medical isotope crisis. Way to go, Steve!
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cat, Meet Pigeons

The pigeons of course, are the Liberals, although I hear cooing coming from the Conservatives too. Jack Layton on the other hand, is meowing all the way.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Open Letter To The Cowards Who Defaced The Waterloo Mosque

Dear Cowards,

Did you have fun spray painting swastikas and "Death to you all" on the walls of a place of worship? Did it make you feel like you were brave, warriors of western civilization? Did it make you feel like men? Well let me tell you something. You are nothing but scum.

Men don't sneak around in the middle of the night with spray cans. If they have a problem, particularly a political problem, they debate about it and they try to find a solution. They do not hide behind the veil of darkness and terrorize their neighbors. What you did proves you are not men, but scared children, afraid to show yourselves and defend your point of view (such as it is).

I hope and pray that the police catch up with you and you are forced to confront the stupidity of your actions. I also hope that someday you realize that what you did is wrong and that you make amends. Then you will be men.
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The Morning After

If yesterday's vote hadn't happened, I would have said that Chantal Hebert was blowing smoke. But, last night did happen. In that light, one must ask oneself which leader is praying for the Speaker to rule in favor of the opposition on the detainee papers? My guess is not Iggy. On the other hand, Harper is sharpening his teeth, getting ready to feast on more Liberal lamb. If you think I am being too harsh, take a look at this headline. When they start making jokes, comparing you to your failed, hopeless predecessor, you are in big, big, trouble.

Almost Instant Update: A question occurs. Am I being too hard on Iggy? He is the third leader in a row (the fourth if you count the late Chretien period) that has failed to keep his caucus together. Could it be that the Liberal Party is just ungovernable?
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Definition: Noun. A very dull fellow. A loser. Usage: "That fellow over there just lost a vote on his own party's motion because he couldn't even deliver his own caucus. What an Iggy."
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Potemkin Democracy

An interesting story this morning in the Globe about our undemocratic seat allocation in the House. It suggests that the need to make the House more reflective of the reality of Canada is an urgent need. Somehow, I doubt the government sees giving more seats to the cities and fewer from rural areas, a top priority. Conservatives like having the farm vote with a larger share than is its due. It suits their interests just fine thank you. As for the other parties, they are such chicken shits, they would never insult our rural masters by suggesting that they wield too much power in this country.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Two Thoughts On The Passage Of Obamacare

1) In politics a win is a win and Obama should put Pelosi on his Christmas list for the rest of his life. Unlike the quailing weaklings in the administration who wanted to water down the watered down Senate Bill, after the loss of their 60th seat, Pelosi would have none of it. The lady is not for watering. She is the steel in Obama's suddenly rigid spine and he should be grateful.

2) America is a strange and foreign place and I must admit I am finding I understand it less and less as the days pass.

Bonus Third Thought: The Republicans are not feeling too bad today. They plan to bring this new law before the Roberts Supreme Court. Given its track record, health care reform has perhaps an insurmountable hurdle to clear.
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Have The Harperites Already Cut Off Funding For Contraception?

From yesterday's Manchester Guardian (yes the British Press is taking note):
Anyone with any remaining doubt might like to reflect on the foot-dragging over the Canadian government's funding of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. That's the family planning umbrella body that the Bush administration cut off from funds on the basis that its member organisations will counsel women who come asking for abortions. The UK, in the teeth of the "special relationship" with the USA, boosted its funding to make up for some of the shortfall. The USA has now reinstated grants.

But the last IPPF contract with Canada ended in December. This is what its spokesman Paul Bell told me:

"We submitted our new proposal for funding in June 2009 and have so far not heard if or when we might get refunded. It isn't unusual for Governments to be slow in renewing contracts or to delay payments – all too frequent in fact – but this is different we've not even had an indication of when we might expect to hear one-way-or-the-other.

"The irony is that Canadian funding is used to cover a wide range of maternal and child health services via IPPF country partners – when I was in Uganda two years ago we were doing family planning, maternal health, child immunization and nutrition, malaria bed net distribution and HIV services all bundled together under a Canadian project in the slums of Kampala. The sort of thing that their G8 initiative will probably want to see covered."

Beside endangering the lives of women in the poorest countries, this reluctance to embrace family planning as part of a G8 initiative is toe-curlingly embarrassing for all those countries, like the UK and now the USA as well, that wholeheartedly support it. Let's hope international development ministers are hitting the phone to Canada even now. (emphasis mine)
Expect questions to be asked in the House and blanket denials to follow.
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Where Progressives And Libertarians Can Agree

Gerald Caplan in the Globe yesterday:
I confess that I fear women-hating extremists of every sort, not least those that play prominent roles in all the world’s religions (including the Harper government in its increasing genuflection to ultra-conservative Christianity). Frankly, I am repelled by the sight of a nun in full costume, an ultra-orthodox Jew in his bizarre uniform, or a Muslim woman imprisoned (in my judgment) in her niqab or burqa. But I also understand that none of them are any of my business, so long as they are not hurting others – the ultimate liberal test. When religious radicals do harm, as they so frequently and grievously do, they must be opposed with all the strength democracy allows. But many do no harm except to our different sensibilities. They just want to live their chosen life, however much others dislike it. Not only can’t their rights be trampled on. Progressives must fight, as always, even to uphold rights we find distasteful. (emphasis mine)
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Friday, March 19, 2010

So Be It

Jack Harris' eloquent reply to the possibility of an election, will go down with "Nuts" as one of the most apt rejoinders to a bully ever uttered.
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Red Tory Renaissance?

Even though the faux Republicans/Thatcherites of today's Canadian Conservative Party are monopolizing the intra-movement conversation here, in Britain, the Red Tories are making a bit of a comeback. I find this both interesting and a hopeful sign that as Thatcherite Republicanism is being shown to be a dead end, something more constructive might be taking its place.
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Say What?

The RCMP may have evidence that the long gun registry saves lives, but the government has emotion and hysteria to back up its position that it is a waste of time. Also, the fact that some in the RCMP back the long gun registry, could explain the opposition from the NDP side of the House. After all, there is no need to think about things when your limbic system is screaming "fight", or in the NDP's case, "run away".
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who Will Grieve For The Blue Fin Tuna?

Not Canada. Please note that the Conservatives will move away from U.S. environmental policy, when it suits them.
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Dear Don Martin

If you think debating issues like torture and democracy is boring, you really need to start looking for a new beat. I hear Lifestyles is looking for a new gardening columnist.
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We Have Always Been At War With East Asia

Yesterday, the Conservatives Maternal Health Plan was against the idea of funding contraception. Today, they have always been for it.
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An Apology

To all of the opposition parties, I unreservedly make a public apology. Thank you for doing the right thing and thank you for standing up for democracy.

Update: This is like the last season of Lost. It turns out the Speaker asked Lee to hold off on introducing his motion for a couple of weeks to see how it all played out with Iacobucci.

Update 2: If I was the government, I would now go to the Liberals and offer to set up an inquiry. That would still take it off the table for months and possibly years.
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NDP Standing Up For Democracy?

That is the rumour. If so, I will take back a few of the nasty things I have been saying about them lately. But only a few.

Hat Tip to Pogge.

Update: WOW! All three opposition parties have asked the Speaker to rule on the question of privilege! Happy days!
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Well, We Pay A Tax On CD's

So, what makes a tax on MP3 players unthinkable? Only politics, pandering and ideology, the holy trinity of this laughable excuse for a government. I am sure the fact that the money would be used to support Canadian artists (or in Conservative talk, unwashed hippies and leftists), only adds spice to the "reasoning" behind the attacks on the tax.
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Politics And Birth Control

All that needs to be said about the Conservatives "Maternal Health" plan is it is DOA. No serious international development agency or donor country would put a plan forward that explicitly ignores family planning and the G8 will let it sit on a shelf to die. However, I doubt very much if this will bother the geniuses at the PMO. This, like so much else from this government, is just wedge politics dressed up as policy. Banning abortion and denying women even the right to access contraception appeals to the base of the Conservative party and no one else. That, to the twisted folks who are running Canada a the moment, is just too glorious an opportunity to pass up. The problem in this case is the Conservatives are playing wedge politics with women's lives. That should disturb even the Conservative base (though I doubt it will).

Update: Wells has a scorecard rating this proposal in relation to the other G8 countries. Hint: It ain't pretty.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Duck And Cover

Robopundit thinks the Liberals are heading for the tall grass, to escape confronting the government over the documents. He seems resigned to it. I am pissed, but unsurprised. The Liberals never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The NDP will probably bring forward its own motion anyway and will be slapped down by Liberals and their minions as being "opportunistic". Such is the dysfunction in our politics.

Almost Instant Update: And if the NDP doesn't go ahead with their own motion, expect a denunciation from this quarter.
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Now I get it. The way to build a digital economy is to cut funding to the digital economy. It is all part of the Conservatives' plan to create a new Canada, one bake sale at a time.

Update: Of course, they could be in the process of fixing the digital economy, the way they fixed the meat inspection system.

Wednesday Update: The moral to this story: Don't piss off librarians.
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Read Coyne

He hits the nail on the head. Worst. Parliament. Ever.
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Quote Of The Day

Kady O'Malley:
Finally, guess who won't be at committee, or anywhere else within the parliamentary precinct this week? The leader of the official opposition, that's who! Because really, when you've spent the last two months going on and on and on and on about the sovereignty and importance of the House of Commons, and the need to show respect for our democratic institutions, it just makes sense to abandon the Hill while said House is sitting in favour of yet another meandering speaking tour. Don't worry, sir -- we'll let you know how that whole battle for parliamentary supremacy turns out.
Don't worry Kady, Iggy wasn't serious about parliamentary supremacy, anyway.
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Nanos Poll: Canadians Are Tittie Babies

There is a new poll out showing that Canadians would rather have someone other than themselves, pay for government deficits. That is an infantile position and one that a leader would ignore. Sadly, our PM is not a leader, he's an enabler.

Update: Perhaps the government can cut meat inspections down to monthly phone calls from Ottawa? I am sure nothing will go wrong.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Well Let's Not Even Try Then

Robopundit, with his finger on the pulse of Official Opposition thinking, pens this bizarre paragraph today:
Iacobucci's document review serves the useful purpose of putting on hold a test of wills between Parliament and the Prime Minister that could provoke an election the Opposition doesn't want now and would be foolish to ever fight on the abuse issue. But the ultimate result will be more foot-dragging if Iacobucci is kept too far from the truth to explain why ministers let generals play loose and fast with Afghan prisoners. (emphasis mine)
This logic is, not to put too fine a point on it, insane. It is the logic that will keep Harper in power forever. The thinking goes, "We can't defeat Harper on X, because he has a solid, if small block behind him, while we have a larger, but divided block with us. Best wait until we can find an issue over which everyone coalesces around us." The opposition parties and in particular the Liberals, have been waiting for that magic issue for four plus years. That is not how it works. As Warren Kinsella is fond of saying, campaigns matter. It seems to me that Canadians would see the worth of having an election over whether or not our government is comprised of war criminals. And even if that is not so, some hills are worth dying over. Holding a government to account over torture, is one of those hills.

Also, does anyone believe Harper would like to dissolve the Parliament and hold an election to avoid being held in contempt by Parliament? How would that look to the average voter two weeks after the end of prorogation? The opposition would have a field day with that. So, even from a crass political viewpoint, the opposition has little to lose by bringing forward its motion of privilege.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

Note To Opposition

The members of the "Power Panel" on Power and Politics are bored with the detainee issue. That is all.
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Shorter Allan Gregg and Andre Turcotte

In order to turn Canadians into "conservatives" all the Conservative Party needs to do is show them that government is useless. Just keep providing a lousy example and soon, everyone will believe in the private sector.
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Probable Questions For The PM On Youtube

Why are you so damn awesome?
Who does your hair?
How many people mistake you for Sidney Crosby?
Why are Liberals such whiners?
My mom votes NDP. Do I have to inform CSIS, or can you do it for me?
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California Dreaming

Shorter Harper: Canadians and especially our Olympic athletes can continue to enjoy the benefits of government spending. But, Canadians should not be taxed, to enjoy these benefits.

In other words, the same infantile message from a modern conservative movement that has made California the paradise it is today. Government is not free, but you will be dead before the bills come due, so enjoy!
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Constitutionally A Disaster

What Walkom said. If the opposition parties are too gutless to stand up for the constitution, then why have a Parliament at all? Has anyone else noticed that the idea of the supremacy of parliament is now about 2/3 of the way down the memory hole?
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Shorter Jack Layton

On Power and Politics today: "Gee, I wish we could make the Prime Minister turn over the documents to Parliament, but it's not like Parliament is supreme or anything. Maybe you guys in the media can do some digging for us." Pathetic. It makes me wonder what the Hell we were doing on January 23rd, protesting in support of a Parliament that won't lift a Goddamn finger to save itself.
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Question Needs To Be Asked

Was Fred Preston's rifle in the gun registry?
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Where We Are Going

The Liberals have no stomach to pursue a question of privilege over Parliament's supremacy. Why is a mystery (although I suspect it is because the leadership doesn't believe in it). Nevertheless, they are looking for a way out. They are already floating the idea of an independent inquiry instead of, rather than in addition to, the release of the documents. The Liberals are, in effect, saying that they are willing to trade away Parliament's supremacy for an inquiry into torture. It is a tempting offer for Harper and he might yet take it, although in the long run he might come out the loser (depending on the terms of the inquiry which he gets to set himself). The Liberals are counting on that to help them gain electoral advantage, while gaining the added benefit of setting a precedent that parliament is not in fact supreme. Very neat. Both of the big parties get to potentially benefit, depending on the circumstances. The only loser here is Canadian democracy.

So, how will this play out? The government will play keep away with the Liberals over the terms of reference for Iacobucci for as long as possible. The NDP will raise its own question of privilege on March 19 (why they are waiting so long is another mystery), at which time it will either be ruled out of order because they waited too long, or the Liberals will not back it in the Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs(I think that is the correct committee, but correct me if I am wrong), using the phantom inquiry as an excuse. At that point the government will just hang in until the next parliamentary break and hope the summer (with the Queen's visit and the G20) will wash their sins away. The Liberals will hope that the stink sticks to the Conservatives and will be satisfied that when they are in government, they can rule like kings.
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Monday, March 08, 2010

Iggy's Search For The Exit

Kady is writing about the letter Iggy sent to Harper:
That's said, it's worth noting that the words "parliamentary supremacy" appear nowhere in Ignatieff's missive. He doesn't even mention the House Order, which seems a curious oversight given his recently oft-stated appreciation and respect for the institution itself, which suggests that he may be holding out a shred of hope that the PM agrees to a public inquiry, which would render the Afghanistan committee's soon-to-be-relaunched investigation moot, and take the detainee issue off the political agenda, at least as far as his party's priority list.

Unfortunately for him, there's been little indication of any appetite within Langevin to heed the call for an inquiry -- yes, even though it would also give the Conservatives considerable breathing room on the detainee file as well -- which means that eventually, the Liberals are going to have to make a decision on whether to keep up the push for full accountability, not to mention explicit acknowledgement of the power of parliament to compel production of documents, or fold like so many blue-ribboned umbrellas. If past performance is any indication, Ignatieff will almost inevitably veer awkwardly towards the latter, particularly if the official PMO-or-CPC-issued talking points return to the seemingly bottomless well that is his very own post-September 11th musings on terrorism, torture and "lesser evils," but you never know. (emphasis mine)
Indeed. It is becoming painfully obvious that Iggy will jump at any opportunity to avoid a confrontation with the government on this issue. Could it be that he doesn't want parliamentary supremacy recognized because he already imagines himself faced with the consequences of that decision, some day? Or, could it be that certain powerful past Liberal PM's have been quietly telling Iggy that they have no desire to fly to the Hague to explain their role in the interrogation of Afghans? We probably will never know, but what we can certain of is this, Iggy will accept almost anything the PM gives him. The only question left to answer is, is the PM willing to give him even the smallest bone?
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Here's A Surprise

Sarah Palin loves Alberta and Alberta loves her back.
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Drip, Drip, Drip

Now CSIS has been implicated. No wonder the government is digging in for the final defense of Berlin. The opposition has no choice but to get those documents, now.
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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Can't Anybody Here Play This Game

Earth to opposition, stop falling for the Conservatives' bullshit. Get together and demand that the government comply with Parliament's demand for access to the documents. The more you run around talking with a thousand voices, the more the Conservatives can muddy the waters. STOP LOSING THE GODDAMN PLOT!
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Question Of The Day

When will the smears against Amir Attaran begin? We all know they are coming. It's what the Conservatives do.

Almost Instant Update: Oops, they already started, nearly a month ago. Very efficient, PMO. Way to go!

Later Thought:
Oh and Terry Milewski had better watch his back. The Conservatives are not known to play well with reporters from the CBC who cross them. Just ask Krista Erikson. I just hope the CBC brass put up a better fight for him, than they did with Ms. Erikson.
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William Of Occam And The Chamber Of Secrets

The simplest answer to the question "Why are the Conservatives trying to hide the torture documents?", is they know there is something in them that will be bad for them politically and/or legally. As usual, the simplest explanation appears to be the correct one. The opposition must push forward with its demand to see the documents. Otherwise, they may be accessories to war crimes, after the fact.

Update: For those of you who may have missed it. This is what the fuss is about.

The government can hire all of the retired supreme court justices it wants, to act as its lawyers , but it doesn't change the fact that Parliament has the power to see any documents it desires. All that is required is an opposition with balls enough to push the issue.
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Friday, March 05, 2010

About That Last Post

I was way too rash to pick on Iggy alone. The other ROC opposition party is not covering itself with glory here either. I watched the NDP's Jack Harris on Power and Politics and boy howdy, what a performance. He is mad as Hell and he is going to take lots more! Ol' Jack is going to make sure a committee hears about those mean Conservatives! With stalwart defenders like that, our democracy is in good hands!
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Give A Dog A Bone

The Conservatives ran roughshod over our parliamentary democracy for three months and now they toss Iggy some scraps. Rather than being outraged by their cheek (as Derek Lee seems to be), Iggy seems pleased to be offered a way out of the whole distasteful business of asserting the power of Parliament.

Update: If you read between the lines here, it is obvious what is going on. The Conservative know Iggy will do almost anything to avoid a confrontation. So, they are stalling for time and are hoping to give Iggy just enough so he can whip his caucus back from the brink of actually growing a spine. Derek Lee may be a bit of a problem here, but he has withdrawn his motion for the time being (no doubt at Iggy's request) and that must count as a win for the government. Now, the Harperites can futz around with the terms of reference and if the poll numbers start looking good for them, call an election before Iacobucci has a chance to report back.

Update 2: If the opposition goes along with this farce (and by the opposition I mean Iggy), and let a third party tell them what they can or can't see, they will be admitting that Parliament is not supreme.
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Oh And By The Way

If Ian Welsh is correct (and I think he is), the budget assumptions are DOA.
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Does Anyone Care...

That environmental assessments for the energy sector are being shifted from an agency dedicated to the environment to one responsible for facilitating energy production? The Conservatives are betting Canadians don't give a shit about anything, as long as their taxes don't go up. After all, no one cared about gutting environmental regulations in Ontario, until people started dying ( the same goes for meat inspections, nation-wide). Let's hope we have learned from past mistakes.
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If You Want To Know Where The Conservatives Are Taking Us

Just have a look at California. Warning: It ain't pretty.

Update: Roger Ebert chimes in with more about California. We have a chance to reverse course, but will we take it?
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Groundhog Day

The Conservatives are acting like they have a majority; the Liberals are abstaining; and the other parties are squawking around the edges. I wake up every morning and it's the same Goddamn song in my head. Somebody, please get me off this treadmill.
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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Why I Hate Canadian Politics In One Sentence (Or Two)

Provided by John Ibbitson:
Let the opposition parties fight over who is greener, let them rage at the Conservatives’ callous disregard for needed investments. They’ll split the vote, such as it is.
The cynical attitude about our undemocratic electoral system is so open, so raw, that it is almost refreshing. In fact, it would be refreshing if it didn't make me want to slit my own throat.
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The New Conservative Math

The government is short of money, but don't worry, the Harperites have a solution, tax cuts. Yes that's right. In the up-is-down world of conservatism, the best way to raise money (and pay off the $154 billion they have added to the debt) is to stop collecting it. These guys would put a lemonade stand out of business in a week and yet, here they are controlling the finances of our nation. I weep for Canada.
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John Geddes' Laser Pointer

Over at MacLeans, John Geddes zeros in on one of the only parts of the craptastic throne speech that actually made me sit up and take notice:
3. There’s a promise to support businesses by removing “unnecessary and job-killing regulation and barriers to growth.” The small-business lobby puts cutting red tape right behind reducing taxes as a priority. On the other hand, after the financial meltdown of 2008 was blamed largely on lax regulation, the word no longer carries negative connotations in talk about the economy. So exactly which federal regulations are pointless rather than prudent?
Gutting financial regulation goes down well with those who died before 2008, but to those of us who are still alive, the proof of the the value of regulating the banks is quite clear. I also wondered whether meat inspectors are now considered "red tape", too?
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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Business As Usual

One day to go until Parliament resumes and what is the big story in the MSM? Is it the looming showdown between Parliament and the PMO over documents? No. Is it the budget? No. How about Senate reform? Not even close. The big story is the "controversy" surrounding Jack Layton's behavior in a Toronto bar, on Sunday. Sigh.
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