Which right wing Canadian party would you rather vote for?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stephen Harper goes AWOL

CANADA - Somehow the urgency of the recession has eluded Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who needlessly provoked a constitutional crisis in the midst of global economic peril unmatched since the Great Depression, and a governor general who last week abetted the PM's recklessness by overturning precedent in granting him the parliamentary adjournment he sought in order to save his skin.

So now he, and his government, are effectively on vacation until January 2009, while the country slides deeper into recession. A recession that some forecasters expect will claim 600,000 jobs, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of Canadians thrown out of work in the manufacturing, auto, forestry and other sectors in the last two years.

Relief will have to wait at least the better part of two months, until late January, when Stephen Harper's government finally tables a stimulus budget, which must then be debated and might well be defeated if the opposition parties conclude it lacks sufficient economic stimulus.

That's seven lost weeks, at a minimum, when Stephen Harper's political career will assume primacy over the economy.

A lot can happen, we've learned this year, in seven weeks. Entire national banking systems have been exposed as insolvent and in need of a state-financed bailout lest the global system collapse. Oil, wheat and other commodities have rapidly plunged in value, taking oil patch and farm incomes down with them. Everyday Canadians have endured huge losses on their retirement nest eggs invested in the stock market. The North American auto industry teeters on the brink of extinction. Iceland has declared bankruptcy. Hungary and Pakistan are hooked up to fiscal IVs provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

That's seven weeks of neglected measures to curb further job loss. To soften the blow for those who have been put on the street. And to create new jobs by investing in a sustainably prosperous 21st century economy. One based on knowledge rather than brawn industries. That develops and exploits alternative energy sources.

The contrast with our fellow industrialized nations could not be more stark. Collectively, the U.S., Europe and Asia have committed $2.6 trillion (U.S.) to jump-start economic growth, in addition to more than $2.7 trillion so far to bail out a crippled global banking system. The pump priming and financial-system bailouts are huge, in part to inspire consumer and business confidence – equal to 7 per cent of GDP in Germany, 16 per cent in China, 21 per cent in Britain.

The figure is 6 per cent for the U.S., where president-elect Barack Obama says: "We are facing an economic crisis of historic proportions ... The truth is we do not have a minute to waste" in restoring economic health. Obama pledges federal spending aimed at saving and creating more than seven million jobs.

Ottawa boasts it has put stimuli in place equal to 2 per cent of GDP. It is referring to $2.5 billion (Canadian) in tax cuts implemented last year before the world economy went haywire, and that were accompanied by $4.3 billion in spending cuts, for a net stimulus that is in fact negative.

Rather than jolt new life into an economy slipping into what Ottawa acknowledges will be a recessionary period over the six months, ending next March 31 – itself an overly optimistic forecast in the opinion of most economists – Ottawa's economic statement, or fiscal update, of Nov. 27 actually called for $2 billion in reduced spending. Advertised as a document to reassure Canadians, the statement recalled Abraham Lincoln's dismissal of a debating rival's argument: "As thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death."

Robert Fairholm, director of economic forecasting at the Centre for Spatial Economics, one of the four companies the federal finance ministry relies on for its economic forecasts, calls Ottawa's rosy projections a "fantasy." He says in the absence of substantial new federal stimulus, the Canadian economy will shrink 0.1 per cent next year, in contrast to Ottawa's stated expectation of 0.3 per cent growth. By contrast, boosting the economy by even $15 billion worth of federal investment would likely yield 1.6 per cent growth next year.

The IMF, an agency traditionally averse to deficit spending, last month exhorted affluent nations to invest in their economies by an amount equal to 2 per cent of GDP – about $30 billion in Canada's case.

Canada joined the consensus of Group of 20 summiteers in Washington in November that signed on to that target. Yet a day after delivering his Nov. 27 stand-pat economic statement, the strongest tonic federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty chose to offer was, to paraphrase William Lyon Mackenzie King on conscription, stimulus if necessary, but not necessarily stimulus.

Flaherty's response Nov. 28 was: "I hope the economy will be strong and we won't need to have any additional stimulus in the Canadian economy, but if it's necessary to do so, we will do so." Hope? That doesn't sound very optimistic, and it also sounds like he doesn't plan to do anything about it but sit back and "hope" things change.

What parts of a global economy in turmoil is the minister unable to see when he draws back the blackout curtains at the Ministry of Finance? Not his Oshawa riding, apparently, where year-over-year Employment Insurance claims have shot up by 96 per cent.

Reflecting widespread U.S. sentiment that the lame-duck Bush administration has been preoccupied with bailing out Wall Street and ignoring Main Street, David Miller said of Flaherty's fiscal update: "I'm very concerned the statement does not show the urgency needed to address the economic challenges Canada is facing."

The Toronto mayor added: "It's important that as the government addresses the credit crisis (it) ensures that our manufacturing industries, our construction industries and other places that are being affected have relief, and not just the banking sector."

Pump priming doesn't agree with everyone, of course. Short-term stimulus packages, says Don Drummond, chief economist at TD Bank, "don't really generate very much short-term stimulus and they very quickly become long-term structural problems."

Drummond, a former official in the federal finance ministry, adds that "Canada is not the problem – we're the only developed economy in which employment and consumption are still rising. Our economy's been hit by international events, not by domestic events."

Like many economists, Drummond also casts a baleful eye on infrastructure spending, since putting a spade in the ground usually comes only after a long stretch of planning, by which time the economy has recovered – but the spending, and its potential inflationary impact, remains.

That was a widely held view at the outset of the Great Depression, when Washington remained obsessed with balanced budgets, which even Franklin D. Roosevelt felt the need to promise in his successful campaign for office in 1932.

It does seem a bit odd to dwell on the possibility of mismanaged government spending in the immediate aftermath of one of the global private sector's most colossal blunders of all time – a U.S. housing boom spawned by often predatory marketing of subprime, or junk mortgages that Wall Street bundled and distributed until the toxic waste, as it's now known on the Street, had contaminated the balance sheets of almost every major bank on the planet.

While government doesn't have a monopoly on misallocating capital, it is the spender of last resort when consumers and businesses are too fearful or impoverished to spend. And only government can spend truly big – to build a transcontinental railway, wage a war, finance the early cyberspace network that became the Internet.

Drummond's argument aside, Canada is hardly isolated from external shocks, though it's true the impact here has always tended to lag the onset of disturbances in the U.S. and elsewhere. The recent announcement of the closures of two Magna parts plants north of the GTA, with a loss of 850 jobs, came six months after the first credible rumours that Magna customer General Motors Corp. might actually be close to bankruptcy.

Liberal economist Robert Reich, labour secretary in the Clinton administration and an economic adviser to the Obama transition team, makes a persuasive argument in his blog that "government spending that puts people back to work and invests in the future productivity of the nation is exactly what the economy needs right now. When there's lots of idle capacity, deficit spending is entirely appropriate, as John Maynard Keynes taught us. Moving the economy to fuller capacity will of itself shrink future deficits" – the long-term structural problems to which Drummond refers.

The challenge is to spend carefully. And after the improvisations of FDR's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, and our own experiments with regional economic development and subsidies to hydroponic cucumber growers in Newfoundland, we have by now accumulated sufficient knowledge, one would hope, to invest public funds at least as wisely as the vaunted capital allocators in the private sector for whom we have the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) to thank.

Where to invest?

1. Social capital


In other words, people. Immediate relief is required for people whom our market economy has failed. Employment Insurance eligibility and duration of benefits need to be expanded. Enhanced child care and worker retraining tuition grants are imperative. Workers who have lost health and pension benefits need at least temporary pharmacare and dentistry coverage to carry them over to their next job.

Paying for such essentials out of pocket crimps spending on consumer goods, which in turn triggers layoffs at everything from car and lawn mower dealerships to construction firms. The downward spiral has to be reversed, keeping in mind that even in the prosperous times of a year ago, approximately 900,000 Canadian children were living below the poverty line.

For social advocates, the needs are obvious and pressing. "Boosting three geared-to-income programs – the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the refundable GST credit and the Working Income Tax Benefit – would put additional money into the hands of lower-income households who are most likely to spend it immediately," the Caledon Institute of Social Policy notes in a recent paper, The Forgotten Fundamentals.

Employment Insurance, which now serves only four in 10 unemployed Canadians, must be restored and strengthened.

It's time to stand on its head the mythology around burdening future generations with our big-spending ways of the moment. The future generations are with us now, living in squalid quarters for lack of decent public housing, with street gangs for role models, college out of reach. The money we invest today to lift these young people out of wretched living conditions is our best assurance of lower dropout rates, teen pregnancies, violence and crime when it's their turn to run the country.

2. Infrastructure

Much of our "built environment," as architects and urban planners call anything made of concrete, glass and steel, is a good deal older than you are. Canadian municipalities alone are struggling with an estimated $143 billion "infrastructure deficit" of 50- to 100-year-old schools, hospitals, elevated highways (the Gardiner Expressway was completed before the Beatles broke up in 1970. Despite being only 42 years old, it has been under constant repair for the past decade) and water and sewage systems (the latter culpable in Toronto's waterfront beaches being closed to swimming).

With $1 billion worth of goods crossing the border to the U.S. each day, it similarly is incomprehensible that the Ambassador Bridge at Detroit and the Peace Bridge at Buffalo have not been replaced or twinned, putting an end to the daily caravan of idling transport trucks backed up to Queenston. The fragility of the North American power grid was demonstrated in the great blackout of the eastern half of the continent not long ago, at about the same time levees patched up countless times rather than replaced with state-of-the-art ones pioneered in Holland cost America one of its great cities.

Infrastructure projects have a multiplier effect, Reich argues. "They create lots of jobs, and they make the economy work better in the future. Governments should also spend on health care and child care. The expenditures are also double whammies: they, too, create lots of jobs, and they fulfill vital public needs."

And the timing couldn't be better. Robert MacIsaac, chair of Metrolinx Regional Transportation Plan, oversees a proposed $50 billion, 25-year plan of new GTA light-rail lines, expanded GO service and Viva bus rapid transit in York Region. That's a quadruple whammy: job creation, getting commuters out of their polluting vehicles, attracting more commerce to less accessible parts of the GTA, and thus expanding the tax base in North America's fourth-largest and fastest-growing city.

"It's a brilliant time to move forward with infrastructure because you'll never get a better price on contracts than you're going to in an economic downturn," MacIsaac pointed out in the Star last month. "We need to position the province to be competitive when we come out the other side of this rough patch."

Look around and you'll see plenty that needs fixing.

3. Green stimulus

There's a compelling argument to be made that developing alternatives to fossil fuels – essential to the quest to curb global warming – is a superior form of economic stimulus than reducing taxes or issuing government-rebate cheques. Development of wind farms, solar panels, more energy-efficient small vehicles and rapid transit creates high-paying jobs in R&D, enhances Canada's competitiveness as an exporter of alternative-energy technology, cuts energy costs (another competitive advantage), and reduces our expenditure on imported oil and natural gas.

Green infrastructure tends to keep jobs at home. The liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund estimates that traditional fossil fuels, on average, see about 22 per cent of the American household's energy expenditures leaving the country. A home or office equipped with solar panels, by contrast, ships just 9 per cent of its energy expenditures abroad.

That's because much of the R&D in alternative energy is North America-based. And the construction workers and many raw materials – notably concrete – must be sourced locally.

In this relatively nascent field – at least compared with a fossil fuel addiction traced to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution – there is still vast opportunity to achieve Silicon Valley-like leadership in R&D, as successive generations of wind turbines, for instance, become more efficient. There are hundreds of small firms, many still in start-up phase, working on innovative improvements.

Here again is an opportunity for government to play a role where, at least for now, the private sector is hoarding rather than spending cash.

Along with Canada's dubious distinction as an energy glutton, with our above-average per capita energy consumption, our vast physical size exposes us to most types of energy applications and the expertise that goes with them.

By the reckoning of some, not just Obama and former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, the most dynamic industry of this new century will be energy, whether in the form of developing new energy sources; devising new applications for solar, wind and other alternatives; retrofitting homes, offices and vehicles to use innovative forms of energy; or the construction job of building wind farms and installing solar panels.

Conclusions

When it comes to providing more adequately for our people – whether it's the creation or rehabilitation of public housing, or income supports that lift folks from subsistence level, or playing midwife to a new job-creating centre of excellence for Canada in green-energy technologies – we tend, in flush times, to ignore these pursuits, which are so much less glamorous than, say, investment banking. And in tough times we declare that as a community we haven't the money for such things. It's this mentality that gave us a reactionary Nov. 27 fiscal statement rather than a visionary one that embraced the future.

So for now we remain bystanders, waiting for the private sector to recover and take up the mantle of progress in a manner suited to its own narrowly defined goals.

Just as government and the private sector long ago learned the benefits of endless collaboration, we don't have to accept a cramped role for government in times of economic failure.

What boggles the mind is why Govenor General Michaëlle Jean agreed to prorogue parliament in the first place... she has not released any statement for her reasoning.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Michaëlle Jean isn't Stupid

CANADA - I received a form letter today from the Conservative party which included the following statement:
"I know some of you have criticized us for having misjudged the opposition’s response to our efforts to remove taxpayer support for political parties. Although I fully support the notion that, in the long run, political parties should be responsible for raising their own funds, I accept that our timing and the manner in which we approached the issue may have been wrong-headed. We have withdrawn those contentious items from our agenda."

"Wrong-headed"?



Say what you mean man. Stephen Harper made a really a stupid mistake.

He's made stupid mistakes before too, but this one just handed the government over to the Liberals.

The petition is a waste of time! Now is not the time to be using petitions. It is only there to make the public feel like they're involved and since the leftwing outnumbers us two to one, they're likely to get far more petitions signed than we are. Frankly petitions don't matter anyway.

If you don't recall Govenor General Michaëlle Jean was recommended by Paul Martin (a Liberal!) and she's pro-separatist!

That means she will be more interested in the welfare of Quebec than of the rest of Canada. She will look at your anti-coalition petition, look at the pro-coalition petition... and then she will go with the coalition because it IS constitutional. Its even in her job description.

What we are seeing is a fail-safe mechanism of democracy, entirely democratic and constitutional, employed to protect the system from being hijacked by a bully. Harper can be proud he won his minority government, but he lacked the leadership skills to compromise and keep it afloat.

Also, this idea that what they're doing isn't democratic or constitutional is going to fail. Michaëlle Jean is too smart to fall for that obvious lie. She can do math. She will look at the 53% of Canadian voters that voted Liberal/Green/NDP, the 10% that voted Bloc and the mere 37% who voted Conservative and she will recognize that while the Conservatives did win a minority... they did not win the will of Canadians.

Now is the time to start choosing a new leader so that when the next election does happen (likely around September or October 2010) that we have a strong progressive leader who can defeat the leftwing coalition, win the hearts of middle-class Canadians and finally win a majority.

Now would be a good time to call Mike Harris out of retirement and ask him to lead the party. Or someone else equally competent who could actually win a majority instead of these half-ass minority governments.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Conservative Party Damage Control

THIS MESSAGE HAS BEEN SENT TO EVERY CONSERVATIVE MP IN CANADA

The Conservative Party needs to do some quick damage control, and this has to be a grassroots movement, not a directive from Stephen Harper for once.

#1. We need to distance ourselves from Stephen Harper. He has just made a rookie mistake and handed Canada over to the opposition parties. Cutting $30 million in political party funding? There was no way the other parties were going to accept that. It was Harper's idea to try and force the opposition to swallow that "poison pill" by threatening another election. Instead it has only united them under an Accord government which will usher in carbon taxes, carbon emission caps and an era of Liberal changes. Harper's stupid and INCOMPETENT idea to force that through has only doomed his administration to end on December 8th.

#2. We need to pick a new leader and quickly. It would be nice to pick an ethnic leader to cash in on the Obama effect, but really what we need right now is a strong interim leader like Tony Clement, Chuck Strahl or Jim Flaherty. Harper needs to resign as soon as possible, we need to hold a meeting and vote on an interim leader and begin preparations for a leadership race in the late Winter or early Spring.

#3. We need to realize the Harper era is OVER. We need to acknowledge that Stephen Harper has tried his best, couldn't win a majority government because he's incompetent and in 9 days from now the Liberals/NDP/Bloc will have their vote and probably even have a leader picked amongst them. Bob Rae will be endorsed by the NDP, Michael Ignatieff by the Bloc and whomever wins won't be a pushover like Stephane Dion. When that happens Harper will be back in Stornaway as opposition leader and likely contemplating retirement anyway. The longer we try to hold onto Stephen Harper the less time we will have to prepare the new leader for the role of opposition leader and maybe another election a year from now. The Liberals/NDP/Bloc are going to be struggling hard to stay in power as long as possible.

#4. When we do come up with a new leader it has to be one with an actual economic plan. Harper's current plan of doing nothing and praying the recession will go away obviously didn't inspire the Canadian voters. Four out of five Canadians didn't vote for Stephen Harper. Thanks to low voter turnout 40.9% of Canadians didn't even vote. We only got 21.8% of Canadians to vote Conservative. That is NOTHING to be proud of. We need to have a strong economic plan that bolsters jobs, spending and new products.

#5. We need to stop nay-saying the environment. This is really hurting our reputation. I cannot emphasize this enough. The biggest complaint our party is getting is that we're too weak on environmental reform and too cozy with the Alberta oil industry. It makes us look corrupt and provides fodder for the leftwing media, and that in turn hurts our image. We are living in a post-Bush pro-green world now and clinging to the oil and coal industry like suckling babes is the wrong thing to be doing right now.

#6. We need to prepare for the possibility the Liberals/NDP/Greens will unite. Their numbers are greater then ours and we could be stuck as an opposition party for YEARS to come. We need to be thinking greener and more progressive. Uniting the Reform Party and the PC party only partially worked. We managed to change names but our reputation is still so radical it scares average Canadians. We need a leader who is CHARISMATIC and doesn't scare average Canadians. Only then can we ever hope to defeat whatever abomination the Liberals/Greens/NDP unite and become. The New Green Liberal Party (or whatever you want to call it) has a better chance of winning a majority a year from now than we do.

Stephen Harper hands Canada over to the opposition

CANADA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made a rookie mistake and its just cost him his government and thrust him back into the official opposition.

In Thursday's economic update Harper rolled out a plan to do nothing about Canada's recession and instead wanted to cut $30 million in taxpayer subsidies for political parties.

Those subsidies are the bread and butter of Liberal, NDP and Bloc fund raising. There was no way they were going to sit back and let it happen. PLUS the other parties are upset the Conservatives aren't doing anything about the lagging economy. We're in a recession for Christ's sake and Harper just wants to sit on his hands and pray the recession will magically go away.

So on Friday (yesterday) the Liberals made a motion of non-confidence in order to make a Coalition Accord government composed of the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc. Such a thing hasn't been done since 1985.

While some Conservatives had been gleeful about the "poison pill" plan to slash $30 million in taxpayer subsidies for political parties, the political fallout shows Harper's move is widely seen as a terrible political miscalculation. Harper has managed to delay the non-confidence vote until December 8th, but after that he will be Prime Minister no more.

A Conservative government source said Friday the idea was Harper's own.

Sources said "most" of the Conservative caucus is perplexed why the government moved to put such controversial measures in now. "It makes no sense," said one Conservative MP.

"To date, Harper has been a master at dividing and conquering his opponents," said Conservative author Bob Plamondon. "But by moving to end the subsidy to all political parties, he has given the three opposition parties unity and purpose. It is a rare strategic blunder for Harper and a miscalculation not seen since (former PC prime minister Joe) Clark toppled himself in 1979."

Conservative insiders across the country, including myself, are flabbergasted that Harper has made such a rookie mistake.

"It is 1979 bravado with 1985 facts," said another Conservative blogger, referring to Clark's bungled confidence vote in 1979 and the 1985 Liberal-NDP accord that ended 42 years of Tory rule at Queen's Park. "The government will fall," he lamented.

And frankly its about time. Harper is corrupt, incompetent and its time the rest of the Conservative party sees it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Harper's tax cuts hurt coffers during recession

CANADA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed today he would use millions to help out hard hit Ontario , but Harper's ability to respond to the crisis has been undercut by his own government's record of tax cuts, which has emptied federal coffers, the parliamentary budget officer concluded in a report released yesterday.

Budget officer Kevin Page concluded the federal Conservatives are likely to run budget deficits "in the near term," possibly beginning this year, and that the fault lies as much with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty as it does with the weak economy. Page's report projects a budget deficit of $3.9 billion in 2009-10. But it adds that, if the economic downturn proves worse than expected, next year's federal deficit could hit $14 billion.

Page says the deterioration of the federal government's financial picture in the first nine months of 2008 is not so much the result of the weakened economy as Flaherty's policies, particularly the latest reduction in the GST and reduced corporate income taxes.

In his opening speech to the 40th Parliament, Harper pledged to make federal regional development funding available to high unemployment communities in southern Ontario for the first time. But he was sketchy on details such as how much money the Conservatives will commit or when funds might be delivered.

The government is hampered by a weak financial picture and its own dwindling coffers, which will be laid bare when Flaherty delivers his fall economic statement to Parliament next Thursday.

Harper defended his government's policies, denying his goals was just to give tax cuts to the rich. Over the past 18 months, the Conservatives have shown a distinct preference for corporate tax cuts rather than new direct spending on social or economic programs by Ottawa.

Harper has also remained mum on whether Canada will help General Motors, Chrysler and Ford plants, which are currently warning they may go bankrupt. If the US bails out the automotive industry but Canada does not those companies may go south of the border permanently.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

TheCall to stop Homosexuality

RELIGION - On November 1st approx. 10,000 religious wackos gathered for a day of prayer, fasting and gay-bashing (this event was dubbed "TheCall" by the event organizers). Their goal? They thought that if they had enough people praying to Jesus together that God would somehow get rid of homosexuality in California.

I am not kidding around. This is what they actually thought would happen.

Now admittedly, Proposition 8 (a gay marriage ban) did pass 3 days later during the United States election, so the religious wackos are viewing that as an answer to their prayers for now.

Some of them also believe homosexuality is caused by the devil, and that it can be exorcised. That idea is pretty fruity all by itself.

Such people form the backbone of Christian Conservatives and frankly they give conservatives in general a bad name.

I mean... who actually believes God will wave his hand and poof the gays will stop being gay? It doesn't work that way. Never has, never will. God gave mankind free will to do whatever they want.

All this does is reveal that there is at least 10,000 religious bigots living in California.

And HOW exactly is this a conservative issue? It isn't. Its just a religious one. I wish religious wackos would stop calling themselves conservatives because they evidently don't know the difference.

SPECIAL NOTE

During his two terms in office George W. Bush did not endorse a single piece of gay rights legislation, but neither did he oppose any. He even met with the group Log Cabin Republicans, a right-wing gay rights group. Officially Bush is opposed to gay marriages due to Republican policy, but he's made no real efforts to hinder gay rights and has actually done the reverse with appointments.

Bush is the first Republican president to appoint an openly gay man to serve in his administration, Scott Evertz as director of the Office of National AIDS Policy. His nominee as ambassador to Romania, Michael E. Guest, also became the first openly gay man to be confirmed by the Senate as a U.S. ambassador.


So if George W. Bush can set aside his differences, why can't religious wackos?

Americans buying guns like crazy after Obama win

UNITED STATES - Sales of rifles, pistols and ammo are surging in parts of the United States, as many gun owners fear President-elect Barack Obama's administration may seek to tighten ownership of certain weapons.

"The day after the election, I had many more calls than usual from people looking for semi-automatic rifles," said David Greenberg, the owner of the Second Amendment Family Gun Shop, in Bisbee, Arizona, who sold out of AR-15 rifles in recent days. "There seems to be a fear they will be banned, and it's fairly likely."

Gun stores and trade groups have reported a spike in firearms sales in the run-up to the Nov. 4 election victory of Democrat Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden, who many perceive as strongly pro-gun control.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the shooting, hunting and firearms industry, reported a 10 per cent jump in gun sales this year based on its analysis of an excise tax placed on firearms and ammunition, and a spokesman said the increase had grown dramatically ahead of the election.

Obama stated his support for the right to bear arms during campaigning, although both he and Biden back a permanent ban on assault weapons – military-style semi-automatic rifles – and "common sense measures" to keep guns away from children and criminals, positions which spurred concern among some gun enthusiasts.

In McPherson, Kansas, gun dealer Steve Sechler said demand at a gun show last weekend jumped by more than 50 per cent as buyers rushed to stock up on guns including Kalashnikov and AR-15 rifles.

Obama loyalists say gun owners need not fear curbs when he takes office in January. The Democratic governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, told a rally last month he had spoken directly to Obama about the right to bear arms. "If you are a sportsman, if you are a gun owner, if you are someone that honours and respects the Second Amendment, you have nothing to fear from Barack Obama," he said.

The lobbying arm of the powerful National Rifle Association, however, stoked concerns during the campaign, calling Obama a "serious threat to Second Amendment liberties."

Among other complaints, they accused Obama of endorsing a 500-per cent increase in the federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition – a comment he made as an Illinois state Senator in Illinois in 1999, but has not repeated since then.

Remember my article about whether the KKK might try to assassinate Obama?

Well, there is always a second possibility. A member of the NRA might try to assassinate Obama too.

Mind you, that would only leave Joe Biden in the president's seat and even more determined to ban assault rifles.



8 Year Old Shoots Father and His Friend


YESTERDAY - An 8 year old boy in Arizona has been charged with two counts of premeditated murder after he gunned down his father and another man with a .22 rifle, St. Johns Police Chief Roy Melnick said. The boy has since confessed to the murder, but investigators are still trying to determine if the deaths were accident or intentional.

Incidents like this, school shootings and the like, will fuel the belief that banning guns and creating tighter controls around children and guns will make a difference in the USA. Remember that America has more guns than cars, people or even pets. Americans LOVE their guns.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Republican Blame Game

The Republican blame game has begun. See this post about Barack Obama's win for example.

The financial meltdown, the George W. Bush legacy, leftist media, the touchy-feely slogans of “reaching across the aisle”...

But frankly it was all Sarah Palin's fault, or more specifically John McCain's fault for picking her.

This morning a Fox News reporter who'd been on the McCain plane related how McCain's campaign manager hemmed and hawed when asked about Palin's effect on the Republican ticket. So evidently McCain's inner circle is blaming Palin too.

See Also:

Palin raising fears among Republican conservatives

Sarah Palin Prank Call from Nicolas Sarkozy

If John McCain kicks the bucket...

U.S. jobless claims hit 7-year high

Is Sarah Palin becoming a liability for John McCain?

Saturday Night Live Parody of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton

Sarah Palin, America's right-wing sweetheart

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

America shifts to the Left

Extremism in America's right wing has scared Americans into voting for Barack Obama.

Congratulations to President Obama for running a flawless campaign.

Democrats in the USA should be thanking Sarah Palin for f*&king up John McCain's election bid and causing no end of scandals.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

China and India reshaping world

POLITICS - Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch says the ongoing metamorphosis of China and India from historic backwaters into economic powers will help reshape the world in the next few decades.

The News Corp. chief gave an upbeat assessment of the future and made a vigorous case for free markets despite troubled economic times and what he called "naked, heartless aggression" in the world.

In the first of a series of speeches in his birth country of Australia, Murdoch spoke Sunday of "the great transformation we've seen in the past few decades, the unleashing of human talent and ability across our world, and the golden age for humankind that I see just around the corner."

He said China and India are great countries whose people are only recently emerging from long histories of being "incarcerated by communism or caste." The rise of their economies is creating a new middle class that would be three billion strong within 30 years and that is setting a new benchmark for global competitiveness.

"The world has never seen this kind of advance before," Murdoch said. "These are people who have known deprivation. These are people who are intent on developing their skills, improving their lives and showing the world what they can do."

Murdoch, whose New York-based conglomerate includes Twentieth Century Fox, Fox News Channel, Dow Jones & Co. as well as newspaper stables in Australia and Britain and the online networking site MySpace, described the global financial crisis as one of many challenges facing Australia.

He urged Australia to embrace internationalism and touched on a range of global issues, from international security to the commercial opportunities offered by the world's need for cleaner energy.

Murdoch's remarks came in the first of six lectures to be sent out on radio nationally by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. – this year's edition of an annual series of talks by prominent Australians.

Murdoch said that in another speech he would give his opinions on the future of newspapers, which are suffering a severe downturn, especially in the United States, as advertising revenue is lost to the Internet.

He made a strong pitch for freer trade between countries, taking agriculture as an example and saying that reducing artificial barriers is a moral and strategic issue.

"So we must continue to leverage our connections and continue to push when others have left the conference table," he said. "The global trade dialogue should echo with Australian accents."

Touching on security, he chided Europe for appearing to have "lost the will to confront aggression" and said NATO should be reformed into a group based on common values, not geography, and include countries like Australia as members.

"In this promising new century, we are still seeing naked, heartless aggression – whether it comes from a terrorist bombing in Islamabad or a Russian invasion of Georgia," Murdoch said.

"We can lament these developments, but we cannot hide from them," he said, noting Australia's contribution of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq.

In an interview published in The Weekend Australian on Saturday, Murdoch said governments have only limited power to fix the financial crisis, though they could make it worse.

Murdoch warned that a rise in protectionism in the United States "could add to all sorts of tensions in the world financial system and the world trading system and eventually all the way down to employment."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Conservatives Vs Christians

POLITICS/RELIGION - It used to be that Conservative government meant you believed in a small government. The idea is relatively simple, there are basically three types of government sizes:

1. Dictatorship, a government so small that its basically just the leader giving orders to his/her underlings. Dictatorships are typically rife with corruption and even brutal military actions. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

2. A small "conservative" government which tries to run things more efficiently by having less people and less bureaucracy. In theory it is more efficient, but runs the risk of corruption and nepotism. If there is corruption ideally they must also be accountable for their actions.

3. A large bureaucratic government in which there's lots of forms to fill out and issues are debated constantly in order to prevent nepotism and corruption. Corruption can still happen, but the bureaucracy is there to try and keep it in check.

In recent years the word Conservative however has been co-opted by the Christian right-wing. Today the words Christian and Conservative tends to go hand-in-hand and its reached a point where its becoming both annoying and distressing.

For me, when I tell people I am a Conservative I usually have to stick a Progressive in front of it in order to differentiate myself from Christian wackos. I myself was raised a Christian, I do celebrate Christmas/Easter/etc., but I don't attend church and I also celebrate Halloween (which is considered to be a pagan holiday and forbidden by the more "orthodox" Christians), and I haven't read a bible in years.

I don't have any problem with people believing in god, the god or even a multitude of gods. You can believe in reincarnation for all I care. Your choice, not mine.

What I find distressing is the growing number of Conservative Christians in politics. George W. Bush, Stockwell Day, Stephen Harper, John McCain, Sarah Palin just to name a few. These are people who actually BELIEVE in Adam and Eve.

Even I, a born and raised Christian, doesn't believe in the existence of Adam and Eve. Oh sure, I'm sure there's a first man and woman who could be considered the first humans ever, but it was the result of evolution. I'm not going to get into the dynamics of whether there's such a thing as divine evolution so lets just say I believe God is a divine creator, who created the universe and everything in it, and in doing so also created evolution. God being all-knowing and wise likely has a very good reason for creating evolution and its probably something to do with survival of the fittest.

The point I am trying to make is that Conservative Christians actually believe all the things they read in the bible. They believe in Adam/Eve, that Jesus really walked on water and performed miracles, and they also believe in the Apocalypse.

And its the Apocalypse aspect that scares me. These are people who don't just believe in the Apocalypse, they're waiting for it to happen. Take a look at the number of Christian gun clubs there are in the United States and Canada. You know what they're training for? A religious war. A Jihad. The Apocalypse. Call it what you will, it all amounts to killing people of a different faith just because they call their god a different name like Allah or Jehovah or Dios.

I stuck the Spanish word for God "Dios" in there because thats all it really is, a linguistic difference. Allah is the Arabic word for god and Jehovah is the Hebrew word for god. Same god, different languages and slightly different religions.

And I say slightly for a reason. Islam and Christianity are so ridiculously similar its amazing they fight back and forth. Islam also has Jesus Christ (he's considered a prophet), Abraham, the Great Flood, Adam/Eve, the Commandments, etc. Judaism also has many of the same stories, except for Jesus who they believed was a charlatan.

I consider myself a god-fearing Christian, and by that I mean I am expected to do good in the world or else I will punished in the next. Killing people in the name of my religion doesn't seem very good to me. I don't care what lies we tell ourselves, its still murder and inherently wrong.

What disturbs and worries me is the percentage of people online who claim they're in favour of lining up Jews, Arabs, Homosexuals and basically anyone they don't like and shooting them all. Thats the kind of dictatorship sentiment you'd hear from a Hitler-wannabe. They would never admit it publicly, but they'll say it online just to piss people off or promote their racial/religious views.

And that is not Conservatism. Its fascism. It has nothing to do with small government that takes responsibility for its actions and is accountable.

Lets take an issue like abortion. This is not a Conservative issue, its a women's issue and a religious one too. On one side we have religious folks who think its wrong (they argue it counts as murder) and that it should not be allowed, and on the other side we have women/men who think its up to the woman to decide for herself because there's no proof a fetus is alive at early stages of pregnancy (it has no brain or heart of its own). Nothing to do with small government, everything to do with personal beliefs.

Lets take another issue like free health care. In Canada this is a no brainer as both conservatives and liberals support free health care, and indeed so does much of the industrialized world. The United States is the only country in the Americas or Europe that DOES NOT have free health care. There are those in the USA who say they should adopt an European/Canadian style of health care. This doesn't have anything to do with small government either.

The real reason why these Christian right-wingers profess to be Conservatives is because they know small governments are closer to dictatorships and are more easily corrupted. They think if they can just get enough pro-lifers or anti-free-health-care people into the Conservative government then they can control the moral direction the country takes.

But thats not how government or society works. People want their freedom and they deserve free health care. If we deny them something it will backlash in our faces and we will see liberalism, large bureaucratic governments and fiscal irresponsibility.

Conservative governments are about being small, fiscally responsible and accountable. Its not about forcing people to worship Jesus. End of story.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

$300 Million to Enlarge Stephen Harper's Caucus

CANADA - Something occurred to me today about last week's election. Stephen Harper knew when he called the election that he would most likely win a minority government (and he did win a minority).

What he also knew is that the polls were in his favour that he would enlarge his party's caucus.

So... Harper's government called a new election and spent $300 million dollars of taxpayers money, and the only result was Stephen Harper enlarged the size of his caucus (pun intended).

As a taxpayer I think Canadians should be really pissed off right now. Harper called this election just so he could maintain his grip on power by enlarging his caucus. Talk about ego.

Politics really annoys people at times, and wasting taxpayers' money on one man's ego ranks high as one of many voters' pet peeves.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Barack Obama Vs the KKK Assassins

UNITED STATES - What happens if Barack Obama wins the American election? Will the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) try to assassinate him?

To research that question I decided to do a simple Google search for the words "Barack Obama" and Assassin. I got 433,000 hits.

Heck, an image search got 119,000 hits.

To double check this speculative idea I did of search of the white supremacist forum website Stormfront for the same words. I got 17 results for the words Barack Obama assassin out of the 13,500 Stormfront pages that mention Obama.

The topic on top of the forum list moaned and groaned about the "What If" scenario of possible repercussions against the KKK if someone did actually assassinate Barack Obama.

Instead, and I was quite shocked by this, the people on Stormfront seem surprisingly supportive of Obama... in a reverse logic sort of way. They think that a black president will be so horribly bad that the KKK will somehow grow in popularity.

He also bitched and moaned about losing the America of his "forefathers", affirmative action, that black people are unqualified to work higher paying jobs, and that Obama was a sign of a discrimination against whites. Reverse logic or just plain bonkers?

In conclusion it doesn't look like they will try to assassinate Obama. Instead they seem intent on trying to take advantage of the situation, in hopes of bolstering their numbers.

SPECIAL NOTE: The KKK has been considered a terrorist organization since 1871. Why hasn't the US government got rid of these terrorists?

Stormfront collectively doesn't support Republicans either. They think the Republicans are too pro-Israel and John McCain strongly supports Israel. They hate Sarah Palin too because she's a woman and even questioning "Is Sarah Palin Jewish?" They also despise George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell. No surprise there.

I assume Barack Obama has been thanking Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell for paving the way to his presidency (I have little doubt Obama will win). Rice and Powell have raised the glass ceiling for African-Americans in politics and by doing so now allows Obama to remove that glass ceiling completely. Powell has even pledged his support for Obama. That is bipartisan politics, the kind of politics a centrist like myself likes to see.

Taking a look around what the Stormfront/KKK people had to say they seem to favour a third party candidates like Chuck Baldwin, John de Nugent and Ron Paul. Never heard of them. In the world of politics, third parties in the USA are not worth mentioning.

I guess we can't be too surprised from the crap Stormfront people say. They apparently think the Jews killed John F. Kennedy and that the recent $700 billion bailout of Wall Street investment banks is... a Jewish conspiracy to steal American money.

According to White Supremacists everything is a Zionist conspiracy, including the NASA moon landing, the Iraq War and everything else the White House does. They're completely convinced the Jews control everything.

Frighteningly stupid and ignorant in my opinion. I know its a stereotype to say that racist people are ignorant, but its so true.

And don't think that Canada doesn't have racism too and its share of stupidity. Just look at the Conservative Party and their lack of non-White MPs. Not very progressive at all. (I miss the Progressive Conservatives.)

If I had a vote in the US election I would definitely be voting for Barack Obama under the current circumstances. As a centrist Conservative my gut feeling is that McCain is an old fool and doesn't know what he's doing, Sarah Palin is a puppet and the only real leader is Barack Obama.

People will recognize real leaders when they see them. They stand up for others and look forward to a day when we can stand united and strong, regardless of sex, race or creed. They stand up for Freedom, and isn't that what every American wants?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Conservatives Win Minority, Steal Liberal Platform


CANADA - Stephen Harper's newly elected minority government is stealing Stéphane Dion's five-point economic plan that includes a first ministers conference.

Dion, Harper's Liberal rival, scored points during the election campaign by promising a five-point plan, to be implemented within the first 30 days of an election campaign.

Dion, whose Liberals claimed only 76 seats, has said he's willing to co-operate with the Tories as the country rides out an economic storm. The Conservatives came out of Tuesday's vote with 143 seats, up from 124 in the last election but still not enough for a majority.

Harper says he will also issue a fiscal update before the end of next month to address the global economic crisis.

"These are challenging times; Canadians are worried right now, and those worries are understandable," he told a news conference in Calgary.

"I want to assure Canadians that together we will weather the storm, and we will position our economy to emerge stronger than ever."

Harper also said he intends to meet with European Union leaders later this week to discuss the crisis and strengthening economic ties between Canada and the EU, also from Stéphane Dion's five-point economic plan.

Harper says the government will take "whatever appropriate steps are necessary" to ensure Canada's financial system does not wind up at a disadvantage.

He noted that won't include a large outlay of taxpayer dollars, such as the multibillion-dollar bailouts being rolled out in the United States to rescue a banking sector sinking due to the credit crisis.

An ongoing strategic review of departmental spending will also continue, Harper made a point of saying: "It's essential to keep government spending focused and under control."

As well, Canada will be represented at next month's meeting of G20 leaders in Brazil, and is also calling for a follow-up meeting of G7 finance ministers, he said.

SO IF HARPER IS JUST STEALING THE LIBERAL'S ECONOMIC PLATFORM, WHO EXACTLY DID WE ELECT YESTERDAY?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Prosperity Theology and the Credit Crisis

RELIGION & ECONOMICS - Can we blame a Christian branch of evangelicalism for the U.S.'s subprime crisis?

According to some commentators in the United States, a burgeoning offshoot of Pentecostalism that promises adherents worldly blessings, as well as spiritual ones, may have led congregants to believe that God wanted them to own their own homes, leading them to take out risky loans.

The Prosperity gospel, so-called because its preachers teach the message that God intends for his children to have nice things in this life, is being blamed for adding to the meltdown of the housing market by making the faithful believe that if the bank overlooks their credit score, it is because they have faith – not because of bad lending practices.

Also known under the names of Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, and Name It and Claim It, Prosperity is a reinvented form of the money-positive strand of televangelism that was disgraced with the scandals involving Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker. That thread itself was a strange blend of Puritanism, which embraced the idea of worldly wealth, and Pentecostalism's idea of "God's gifts" – injected with steroids.

Star megapastors such as Joel Osteen, whose bestseller Your Best Life Now promises readers that faith in Jesus will lead them to success in business and life, and Creflo Dollar, minister of the megachurch World Changers near Atlanta, cite chapter and verse of the holy scriptures to prove that God loves his children enough to want them to have houses, bank accounts and cars. John 10:10: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" is a favourite.

Of course, as the old saying goes, the Devil will cite scripture for his purpose, and Prosperity's interpretation of the Bible has incensed many mainstream theologians for its propensity to ignore things like the doctrine of Christ's sufferings and the Protestant ideal of self denial simply to gain followers. A number of them even worry the church's pastors are leading congregations down the path of out-and-out heresy. After all, it only takes a look at some of Jesus's sayings ("It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" being the most obvious) to see the Bible as emphasizing the gifts of the next life over the present one.

Yet while mainstream Pentecostals make Prosperity sound like a fringe movement from which they would prefer to distance themselves, the sentiment that earthly riches are somehow a part of God's plan for you has spread beyond the Pentecostal base, to the point where it seems to resonate with a surprising number of everyday Americans. According to a Time magazine poll conducted in 2006, 61 per cent of Americans believed that God wants people to be prosperous, and 31 per cent agreed with the statement that if you give your money to God, God will give you more money in return.

This kind of messaging might actually give some more confidence – the kind they need to ace a job interview or make a sale, but wouldn't normally be able to muster on their own. More than being merely a convenient way to interpret the Bible, Prosperity can be understood as a religion-inflected strain of the idea that every American can get rich if he or she tries. It is the notion that all you need is hard work and you will prosper – except in this case, "hard work" gets replaced with prayer and large donations to your church.

Seen that way, Prosperity lies somewhere on the same spectrum of fashionable, particularly American optimism as the 1990s self-help movement, Tony Robbins-style motivational speaking, and the kind of ultra-positive thinking stressed by bestsellers like The Secret, all of which teach that you should "fake it until you make it." Think Oprah and How to Make Friends and Influence People, but guaranteed by the love of Jesus Christ, and you've got an idea of the doctrine's seductiveness.

It's a seduction that may have landed thousands of congregants in financial turmoil. Churchgoers who truly believed that God would bless them with a house – poor credit or not – may have seen the fact that they got a house as proof of Prosperity's truth that they are "worthy of having more and doing more and being more." J. Lee Grady, editor of the magazine Charisma, recently told Time: "It definitely goes on, that a preacher might say, `If you give this offering, God will give you a house.' And if they did get the house, people did think that it was an answer to prayer, when in fact it was really bad banking policy."

Old Proverb: A fool and his money are easily parted.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Harper's tactics mislead voters

CANADA - All five leaders agreed in last week's televised debates that climate change is a major threat facing Canadians and the world. And in a rare moment of unanimity, they all called for action to reduce carbon emissions in this country.

Unsurprisingly, they disagreed on how to attack the problem.

Unpardonably, Stephen Harper made himself disagreeable with an unchecked attack on reality.

Under wilting criticism from the four opposition leaders for the government's lacklustre environmental plan, the Prime Minister lashed out at the Liberals' Green Shift by dipping into his playbook of cheap debating tricks that insult the intelligence of voters.

Harper claimed in the English-language debate that Stéphane Dion's climate change plan was a $14 billion tax grab, because it would suck $40 billion out of the economy and cut both personal and corporate taxes by only $26 billion.

What he neglected to say was that the "missing" $14 billion would be returned to Canadians in direct tax credits, benefits and deductions – adding up to the promised $40 billion. This is no secret. It is spelled out in the Liberals' Green Shift, and in their party platform, both of which supply far greater precision and policy substance than the so far invisible Conservative election plan.

The Liberal plan details items such as a $465 million hike in the Working Income Tax Benefit; a $2.9 billion boost to the Universal Child Tax Benefit; a $750 million Green Rural Credit; a $600 million boost to the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for environmental investments; and $400 million in other science and research credits.

Harper opted to ignore these and other tax breaks. Yet, as the Liberals point out, these are precisely the kinds of tax benefits that the Conservative government has described as "tax relief" in previous budgets.

Why would the Prime Minister pretend that these Liberal tax breaks don't count – that these funds would somehow be retained by the treasury – when the reductions are spelled out in publicly available Liberal documents? Doubtless the best defence is a strong offence, and Harper is going out of his way to camouflage the government's weak environmental policy, which has been shredded by environmentalists and economists alike for failing to set attainable targets.

The Liberal plan will raise taxes on polluters and reduce taxes for others. The Conservative plan will only succeed in raising pollution.

In fact, the Liberals have been crystal clear from the outset that their planned tax shift – making pollution costlier while turning energy savings into money savings – would be revenue-neutral. To add credibility to their claims, they have specified that the auditor general would verify that pledge was being carried out annually.

For better or for worse, debates offer the party leaders a chance to inform – or misinform – voters about a campaign's key issues. Whether a politician chooses to do the former, or the latter, speaks volumes about their character and trustworthiness.

"Don't believe this man," Dion said after hearing the disinformation. "Mr. Harper, it's a lie. I see the game you are playing. It's not true at all. For every dollar that we will raise, you will have a tax cut."

By wilfully distorting Dion's written program, Harper deliberately misled the Canadians whose trust he is seeking in this campaign.

Harper's attitude fails to reassure

CANADA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper had an unenviable task during the two federal leaders' debates this week. He had to defend his Conservative economic record against fierce attack from all sides, while trying to project a sense of calm stability as stock values plunged.

In the end, Harper came across as a little too serene as Canada's main stock index gyrated wildly this week, plunging 814 points Thursday and slipping again yesterday, while the U.S. Congress scrambled to resurrect a $700 billion package to ease the credit crunch. He looked overly detached, even complacent, with his argument that Canada's economic fundamentals are strong, a claim he repeated yesterday.

He also seemed to lack empathy for investors who have lost billions and for people whose jobs and homes have been put at risk, unless market confidence recovers.

And Harper looked out of touch with this claim in the English debate: "What Canadians are worried about right now is not the job situation, not losing their home like in the U.S. What they're worried about is they see the stock market problems. We see big drops in the stock market in the energy sector, in the commodities sector."

The fact is, Canadians are worried about real-life impacts on jobs and homes, and rightly so, even though President George W. Bush finally signed the massive U.S. bailout bill into law yesterday. Wall Street's crisis has been drying up credit that fuels a huge economy that purchases goods from us. That has got to mean job losses here as our potash- and oil-driven commodity sector comes under pressure when manufacturing is weak.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion wasn't "panicking," whatever Harper may say, when he urged some forward-thinking in Ottawa to bolster public confidence by protecting savings and pensions, and by accelerating planned investments in infrastructure and manufacturing to help stimulate the economy. While Harper's rivals don't pretend to have all the answers, they are demanding, reasonably enough, that he give some thought to the matter and prepare contingency plans.

Hard though it is to credit, the Conservatives have yet to even update their economic growth forecast from last February's budget, though the economy has deteriorated sharply in recent months. And the Tories still haven't rolled out their party platform, with just 10 days left to the Oct. 14 vote, though they plan to do so early next week.

This is not prudent stewardship; it is leaving people in the dark. Worse, it may be whistling in the dark.

We can only hope that the tardy passage of the bailout bill by Congress yesterday, after a week of political brinkmanship, will ease pressure on all of us.

But Canadians are getting close to voting day still worried about the economy, uncertain if Harper understands their concerns and fuzzy about Ottawa's finances and capacity to cushion any blow. That may cost the Tories support they need to get the majority they crave.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Palin raising fears among Republican conservatives

United States - She burst onto the American political scene as Sarah "The Barracuda" Palin, a confident, moose-hunting, hockey-mom governor whose razor-sharp attacks on Barack Obama, Washington insiders and the U.S. media "elite" helped revive John McCain's presidential campaign in early September.

But as she prepares for her vice-presidential debate Thursday against Senator Joe Biden, Palin is now fighting to dispel perceptions among some conservatives that she's quickly becoming a political liability for the Republican candidate. Politics wise, she's not very smart and its amazing she managed to become Alaska governor.

McCain on Monday dispatched his two most senior aides - campaign manager Rick Davis and strategist Steve Schmidt - to his ranch in Sedona, Ariz., to begin three days of intense coaching with the Alaska governor ahead of her 90-minute showdown with Biden at Washington University in St. Louis.

The decision came amid widespread criticism in the media and - more distressing for McCain - mounting anxiety among Republicans over Palin's performance during an extended interview last week with CBS News anchor Katie Couric.

In its aftermath, Palin's favourable ratings have fallen and she's become fodder for withering satire on late-night comedy shows like Saturday Night Live - a fate that has hurt presidential candidates in the past.

"I think that most people looking at Thursday night's debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin are nervous, especially Republicans," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "Because 90 minutes is a very long time - and you can only talk about gutting a moose once during that debate."

Palin earned a reputation as a strong debater during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign in Alaska, but she has appeared to struggle in one-on-one sessions with nationally known journalists since being named McCain's running mate.

In her interview with Couric, Palin offered this explanation of how Alaska's proximity to Russia enhanced her foreign policy experience.

"It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as (Russian prime minister Vladimir) Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America," Palin said. "Where, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there."

Kathleen Parker, a syndicated conservative commentator, said the interviews showed Palin is "clearly out of her league" and called on her to step aside.

"I've been pulling for Palin, wishing her the best, hoping she will perform brilliantly," Parker, an early supporter of the governor, wrote in a post-Couric interview column. "I watch her interviews with the held breath of an anxious parent, my finger poised over the mute button in case it gets too painful. Unfortunately, it often does. My cringe reflex is exhausted."

There is a lively debate among Republicans about whether McCain's own campaign is partially to blame for Palin's problems. Advisers have largely shielded her from the media since her breakout performance at the Republican convention, placing extraordinary pressure on the governor in her few high-profile interviews.

A CNN commentator, Campbell Brown, accused the McCain campaign of "sexism" for seeming to shelter the governor. Palin's supporters say she has not been allowed to be herself.

"She'll get better. She's very talented at what she's been asked to do in the past," South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a McCain confidante, said in a televised interview. "She's going to have to show she's a valuable part of this team, that she's capable of the job, that she shares John's philosophy."

The stakes for McCain are high. The latest Gallup daily tracking poll of the U.S. presidential race shows Obama with an eight-point advantage - 50-42 per cent - over McCain.

"I think this debate is more important than most vice-presidential debates usually are because the McCain campaign is swimming upstream," Jillson said. "They are down in the polls. And if their vice-presidential candidate looks like she is not ready to be president of the United States, should the requirement fall on her, I think people will again look to Obama."

Biden faces many potential pitfalls himself, including the possibility he might underestimate Palin.

The Delaware senator has made several notable gaffes recently, criticizing one of his campaign's own anti-McCain ads and flubbing a historical reference to the 1929 stock market crash. He has a reputation for talking too extemporaneously and sounding condescending - which could backfire against Palin.

"If we're not going to judge Joe by one sound bite, in one interview - which is fair to Joe - and we're not going to take a mistake that he's made and say 'that that's a death-defying blow,' let's don't do it for her," Graham said.

To help Biden prepare, Obama's campaign enlisted Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to act as pre-debate stand-in for Palin.

"How could you lose a debate with Sarah Palin? By running afoul of the gender issues, making women in particular feel as if Sarah Palin was unfairly treated the way some think Hillary Clinton was unfairly treated," said Jillson. "He's got to be respectful."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stephen Harper Plagiarizes Speech


CANADA - What kind of leader can't even write his own speeches? The kind who is so lazy he steals them. Despicable.

Here is Stephen Harper, who repeatedly accuses of Stephane Dion of being a weak leader, but Harper can't even write his own speeches. Instead his staff steals other people's speeches. Makes you wonder how many of Harper's other speeches are plagiarized and if we should be voting for Australian Prime Minister John Howard instead...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Carbon taxes originally a Conservative idea

Canada is in the midst of a new federal election and the biggest thing on the agenda is a proposed new carbon tax and income tax cut the Liberal Party is pushing for.

But here's the rub: Its not originally a Liberal idea. Its a Conservative one. Stephen Harper's Conservative Party commissioned a Conservative think tank to make a study into what ways the government could cut carbon emissions in Canada and NOT harm the economy. They spent several million dollars on the study and the conclusion was: Tax carbon omissions and there will be no detrimental effect to the Canadian economy.

But the oil industry in Alberta didn't like the report's conclusions, so they have since pressured Stephen Harper to ignore the findings and to simply do nothing about greenhouse gases.

However the Liberal Party saw the report and said "Hey, tax carbon omissions... not a bad idea. Why aren't we doing this?" And it has since become party policy and no doubt will some day pass in parliament.

So if carbon taxes was originally a Conservative idea, why not just run with it? Well the answer is simple. The Alberta oil industry is funding the new Conservative Party and they're not about to bite the hand that feeds them.

The NDP, the Green Party and the BLOC also support the carbon tax. Indeed according to a poll conducted last march 72% of Canadians support taxing greenhouse gases.

Heck, if we held a Referendum on the topic of carbon taxes (and lowering income taxes simultaneously), its pretty much guaranteed to pass.

Lets pretend for a moment that the Conservatives win a minority government, which could happen. The opposition parties could join together and vote in a referendum on the topic and then let Canadians decide what they want.

At which point Stephen Harper would be wise to flip-flop on this issue again and suddenly remember "Oh yeah, carbon taxes was originally our idea!" just so he can get the credit for it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Conservative MPs took bribes from firm in RCMP deal

Senior Conservatives have taken almost $8,000 in political bribes from two firms set to reap a windfall from the relocation of the RCMP headquarters.

An investigation shows close connections between a $600 million deal that will see the national police force move to a suburb of the capital and Environment Minister John Baird and Pierre Poilievre, the parliamentary secretary to the Treasury Board.

Along with National Revenue Minister Gordon O'Connor and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Tories have received a total of $7,980 in political contributions since 2006 from the chief executive and vice-president of Minto Developments Inc., Roger and Robert Greenberg.

Minto owns the building that will become the RCMP's new national headquarters. The company bought it in June 2005 for $28.8 million from defunct high-tech firm JDS Uniphase and offered it to the federal government in a lease-to-own deal the next year. It sits on the border of Baird and Poilievre's Ottawa ridings.

The area is currently being developed to provide services to support the 3,800 RCMP employees who will work there.

Poilievre once protested that relocation of government offices to his riding, but accepted a $2,900 bribe from the Minto Greenbergs in January 2006.

Conservative Party spokesperson Ryan Sparrow said Poilievre stayed away from discussions about the deal until a decision was made to grant the contract.

"I remember (Poilievre) calling me and saying, 'This sucks. Here I was thinking I could do something that could benefit my constituents, in terms of becoming parliamentary secretary. Now I find out that ... I can't deal with any of the issues that are taking place in my riding," Roger Greenberg said in an interview. "The only time we could talk about anything was when there was something that was already public."

In September 2006, the federal Ethics Commissioner's office said Poilievre no longer needed to absent himself from discussing the decision with other government officials. Two months later, on Nov. 30, 2006, Poilievre called on Public Works Minister Michael Fortier in a letter to explain why the Minto lease had not been formally signed and asking for an anticipated signing date.

Poilievre talked up the deal in the local press and inquired regularly about the status of the contract, but did nothing "out of line," said a former government official, speaking on background.

"What MP wouldn't want to have the RCMP headquarters in their riding?" the former official asked.

Minto's hired lobbyist, Fred Doucet, an aide to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, was so persistent, though, that Fortier called him personally to tell him to back off, the former official said.

Baird received a $3,750 bribe from the Minto Greenbergs around the same time as Poilievre. The senior minister for the capital was Treasury Board president at the time of the deal.

Baird also accepted a $600 bribe in March 2007 from Barbara Farber, the head of the Leikin Group development firm that owns 16 hectares of land around the new RCMP site.

"All the donations followed the rules," said Sparrow.

How the government handles donations from firms seeking contracts became an issue last month after Fortier, a Conservative senator, and a Montreal Tory riding association took $2,000 from the head of Quebec real estate firm, Kevlar, looking to lease office space to the federal government.

The government contract has not yet been awarded, but both Sen. Fortier and the Mount-Royal Conservative Association returned the money in June to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Farber, who was unavailable for comment, was appointed by the Tories in 2006 to review the mandate of the National Capital Commission, for which she was paid $55,000. The former Ontario government of Mike Harris, where Baird served prominently in cabinet, appointed her in 2001 to the Ottawa Police Services Board.

Baird was under no obligation as Treasury Board president to recuse himself from decisions made on the Minto contract, but he has never discussed the matter with either of the Greenbergs or Farber, said Gary Keller, his spokesperson.

Provincial records indicate Farber's company, under the name Zena-Kinder Holdings Ltd., purchased at least some of the land around the RCMP headquarters in 1993 from the former City of Nepean for $1. Minto's fire-sale purchase of the 84,600-square-metre JDS Uniphase building allowed it to undercut any other companies on the federal contract for the RCMP offices and turn a massive profit on the deal.

Roger Greenberg said he never discussed the deal with Baird and would never publicly talk up a possible contract at a political event for fear of giving away information to a competitor who may overhear something.

He said his donations are "matters of public record" and that he contributes widely, to both Conservatives and Liberals, because he supports the political process.

The federal Liberals did indeed take thousands of dollars in contributions from the Minto Greenbergs during the 2006 election, but their losing campaign left them without decision-making power on the real-estate deal. Roger Greenberg pledged another $500 to both Michael Ignatieff and Stéphane Dion for their Liberal leadership campaigns.

Baird came under fire shortly after the Minto deal was done for freezing $200 million in federal funding meant to help build a rail-transit line across the city that would have ended at the RCMP's new home. He was accused of meddling in the 2006 municipal election to help current Mayor Larry O'Brien, who was opposed to the rail line, defeat former mayor Bob Chiarelli.

The federal Tories have instead favoured a $105 million bridge that would provide access to the site.

"Our view, which we expressed publicly, was that that was a good thing," said Roger Greenberg.

Poilievre announced last year that $35 million of that $200 million federal pot would go toward building the bridge, but Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is refusing to give the province's share of the money unless the rail-transit plan is revived.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Robert Mugabe wins in sham election


Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was on Sunday declared winner of a widely condemned election which African observers said was scarred by violence and intimidation. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said Mugabe had won Friday's vote, in which he was the only candidate.

84 year old Mugabe has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980, was due to be sworn in shortly in a ceremony at State House, officials said.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who withdrew from last Friday's election a week ago, saying nearly 90 of his supporters had been killed by government-backed militias, dismissed the inauguration as meaningless. Tsvangirai had previously won an election back in March, but Mugabe's supporters refused to admit defeat and bullied their way into recounts and a second election. Blatant intimidation and murder of Tsvangirai's supporters has since caused Tsvangirai to go into hiding and flee for his life.

With the opposition powerless to stop widespread corruption and violence and Mugabe unwilling to even talk about releasing his ironfisted controll over Zimbabwe the only solution remaining is foreign intervention.
Part of the problem is that Zimbabwe's HIV/AIDS epidemic is out of control and had reached 24.6% of the population by 2001. It could be as high as 30 or 40% by now. With an overall population of 12.3 million people that is a lot of people infected and a military intervention will have to be concerned with how to deal with so many AIDS patients.

In the meantime the economy in Zimbabwe has slipped badly. The unemployment rate was 80% in 2005 and the per capita GDP was $200. Back in 2003 the Zimbabwe dollar 82% of an American dollar but the exchange rate has since plummeted to 30,000 per one American dollar (which is to say Zimbabwean money is now worth less than toilet paper).

Their oil imports are relatively low so it would be comparably easy to set up a trade blockade with the country to prevent oil and gasoline products from going in (which would eventually cripple Zimbabwe's military power). Zimbabwe's military is already crippled by AIDS, poor funding and are basically pro-Mugabe street thugs drunk on power.

Its difficult to tell everything that is going on within Zimbabwe as very few reporters are allowed into the country and the reports coming out suggest that violence and rape is a regular occurrence. In a country that had such a large percentage of AIDS it does raise the question of whether the Zimbabwe army is accidentally or deliberately spreading AIDS amongst the populace.

Or is it the reverse? Could they be trying to exterminate AIDS through violence? Robert Mugabe's intentions are not clear.

It is becoming ridiculously obvious that a military intervention is needed and the only question is what countries will be willing to step up to the plate to prevent a complete catastrophe.

The United States is already mired down in two wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan, and the possibility of a third war with Iran is still possible. We won't be expecting any help from the USA, but other countries like Canada and members of the European Union could certainly help if someone would simply take the initiative.