Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Purloined Speech

It's interesting that Harper plagiarized his big speech, but there's lots more of interest in this story.

It's interesting that Harper's speechwriter, Owen Lippert, fell on his sword. A nifty little bit of politicking from the Conservative troubleshooters, but whatever happened to "the buck stops here"? Harper accepts the accolades; Harper should accept the responsibility for what he says.

It's interesting that the source of the speech was John Howard, ultra-right wing buddy of George Bush and Iraq invasion-promoter.

It's interesting to have fresh evidence that Harper's foreign policy has "Made In the USA" stamped all over it - that now, Canada's foerign policy is made in the USA.

It's interesting to have fresh evidence of the paucity of ideas in Harper's administration.

But the outrageous, damning, horrible thing about Harper's purloined speech is that he argued so vehemently for the murderous invasion of Iraq - and has never, ever, renounced that policy, even though the majority of Americans and American proponents of the invasion now repent what they did.

Phoenix Economics

Just spit-balling here, but if we didn't bail out Wall Street and financial companies started to fall like dominoes, would that necessarily be so bad? It would cause hardship and turmoil, but something new would grow out of it. Perhaps whatever emerged from the ashes would be better than what crashed and burned.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Good Riddance to a Bad Bailout Plan

Henry Paulson would have us believe that the second plane has hit the towers and the buildings are about to collapse. With the strongest of scare tactics he tried to force through - unaltered - a plan that gave him unfettered control over $700B with no oversight. Congress tried to make the plan workable, adding some conditions (all of which had disturbing loop-holes), but the basic premise of the plan still stunk: that the approach to the financial crisis is to throw money at the most recent symptom and to do nothing about the cause.

All we can do is hope that the financial system as we know it will not completely implode while we ponder our options. On CNN last night the commentators were musing on the possibility of people's bank accounts being unaccessible and the economy crashing to a halt: I don't think that's likely, but I have no idea what turmoil we face in the near future.

I don't know what form the plan should take, but I am starting to develop a few ground rules:

1. Do not involve the Bush administration, including Treasury Secretary Paulson, in the planning. Their initial plan is so corrupt that they cannot be considered legitimate players. Their assurances (until a week or so ago) that there would be no crisis is why we didn't have a plan in place.

2. Look at the big picture. One of the problems with the the Paulson plan is that even if it works it does nothing to prevent waves of similar crises hitting the credit card industry and other sectors of the economy, but it weakens the ability of government to deal with subsequent crises. Plan for the entire crisis, not just this moment in time.

3. Try to address the cause of the financial crisis. Look at a moratorium on mortgage defaults, or guaranteed interest rates for mortgages, or government buying up mortgages, or something along those lines. Look at infrastucture projects that put money back into the middle class and build future potential. Address the issue of poverty (since, we are told, it is poor people who are defaulting the most). Again - look at the big picture.

4. Involve the financial industry. Tax-payers should not bear the entire burden. The financial industry got us into this mess and they should be part of the solution. Warren Buffet (who predicted this crisis and tried to get people to avert it) has already taken the lead. Ask Buffet and other industry leaders to work towards finding solutions. Let others in the industry know that if they don't get involved, there may be fines or prison time in their future.

5. Involve other countries. We all have a lot at stake here. Shoddy US regulations have caused losses and turmoil all over the world. Europe is just starting to take another big hit and Canada is expected to fall into the morass. This is a worldwide problem and requires a worldwide solution.

6. Regulate the goddamn financial sector!

Free Palin

I saw a clip of Soledad O'Brien on CNN making a plea to John McCain to "free Sarah Palin". She said that the Republican campaign strategy to limit Palin's press interviews was sexist, "and there is no place for sexism in this campaign". Several times I have heard pundits express the opinion that it is sexist for media to mention that Palin is attractive.

Neither limiting media exposure nor saying someone is attractive is, of course, sexist.

It's sad and pathetic that everyone's starting to use the word sexist now, after most people vehemently (even angrily) denied that there was any sexism in the primaries. But while Palin isn't facing the same kind of ugly, overt sexism that Hillary faced, Palin's getting it too - just not in the way people are admitting to.

The sexism Palin is facing is the general dismissal and lack of respect that women often face. As I've said many times, sexism isn't something that men do to women: it's systemic. So I'll give an example from a female commentator, even though a thousand examples could be found from both genders.

In this New York Times blog, Judith Warner says she feels sorry for Palin - sorry for her because she's such a dummy and yet a trooper, sorry for her because she's been put in a situation where she looks like a fool.

Let me say again that I don't support Palin. I have endorsed Obama. But this characterization of her, in Warner's blog and elsewhere, as an air-head beauty queen is offensive and sexist. Palin is the governor of Alaska; not just governor, but a very successful governor by all measures: raising oil taxes, presiding over a strong economy, cleaning up corruption, passing strong legislation - and all that translated into an 80+% approval rating. These achievements may not qualify her to be vice president but they surely qualify her for some respect as a politician and public servant.

The sexist part of the Palin demonization is that Palin, like most women, is not taken seriously for a top leadership job on the basis of her gender. No male governor would be treated as if he was completely inexperienced. The repeated sneers about her "up-do" harken back to the relentless heckling Hillary faced as first lady over her hair: every time she had it cut a different way it was analysed in terms of her inability to be consistent, as if somehow ceasing to wear a hairband meant she was a hypocrite to have ever worn one. That grinding, relentless undermining of public respect was the real reason she was unable to succeed in her bid for Democratic candidate. People had been used for 15 years to disrespecting Hillary, and they just upped the viciousness during the primaries.

The worst part of the Warner blog post is the assumption that a woman with young kids cannot by definition have a demanding job. I can't believe that Warner realized she was saying this, but say it she did. Speaking of Palin's supporters, she writes, "women today... are unique in the extent to which they bond over their sense of imposture. ...They know she can’t possibly do it all — the kids, the special-needs baby, the big job, the big conversations with foreign leaders. And neither could they." That Palin can do it is evidenced by her years in politics. The reason she is able to do it, according to what I have read, is her extraordinary husband who takes on many of the child-rearing and housekeeping roles. It's really interesting how little this aspect of the Palin family is mentioned: could it be just too revolutionary and threatening to the status quo?

A campaign against Palin could be very effective based on her ignorance of foreign policy without resorting to the general characteristic that she's "ditsy and cutesy and kinda maybe stupid." She is obviously neither ditsy nor stupid. Cutesy may apply - I'm afraid when I envision Palin I'm starting to see instead the Tina Fey impersonation of her, which is both a compelling image and biting satire.

Yes, there are a thousand allegations against Palin. As I've said before, many of them are lies. Although I'm sure there are many others that are valid, after fact-checking a dozen of them and finding them invalid I have lost interest in the attempts to demonize Palin. I don't support her on the basis of her right-wing views, but as a woman I'm outraged at how she is being dismissed and disrespected.

The demonization and lies may backfire, as well. It has caused a lot of people, myself included, to root for Palin. I watched one of her debates in her gubernatorial primary campaign so I know she's an extremely effective debater (she cleaned the clocks of the incumbent and a former governor in the primary debate). I want Obama to win and I like Biden, but I have my fingers crossed for Palin. She is the lone woman crusading for the respect that is denied to many of us; the lone woman fighting to break the glass ceiling at last. That trumps partisan politics in my book.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Green Shift

"Pay for what you burn, not what you earn."

Was that so difficult? Is this Green Shift really so complicated? It's all moot now as there is not a snowball's chance in hell that Dion is going to have the opportunity to bring his environmental policy to life. We're fighting now to avoid a Harper majority - or at least I hope that is our priority, rather than worrying about the NDP's ascendance.

I disagree with environmental policy that lowers income tax and raises consumption tax. Income tax is progressive, meaning people pay a higher percentage of tax when they make more money, and consumption tax is regressive, meaning poorer people pay a higher proportion of their income in tax.

We should instead be making income tax more progressive by creating tax brackets with higher tax levels at the upper end. Currently the highest tax bracket ends at about $125,000. There should be at least one, and possibly two, marginal brackets above that.

Another part of the Green Shift that I disagree with is that it doesn't affect gasoline prices. The reasoning may have been political, and it may have been that the market is driving up gas prices enough. But it seems to me that high gas prices in Europe have fueled environmental initiatives, and low gas prices in North America have kept us in a fairyland that promotes wasteful consumption.

In my town, Kitchener-Waterloo, we continue to build far-flung subdivisions that can never sustain efficient transit. Just this week a new giant shopping mall was announced that is in walking distance of virtually noone. We are planning a ridiculously overpriced Light Rail Transit system that will be a giant white elephant, destroy Waterloo UpTown, and probably not result in one person giving up their car (as they'll still need to drive to the LRT stops).

Outside of Toronto Ontario has shabby public transit. We don't have decent intercity rail travel. We build houses that require air conditioning, despite being in a cool climate. We just aren't serious about reducing our dependence on coal generators and oil.

Another case in point - The Bay renovated their store in the Conestoga Mall, and wanted to put up wind generators. City Council at first refused and then finally agreed with a number of conditions. (They're up now and look fabulous.) But why worry about any noise or "sight pollution" in the mall? It's surrounded by a giant parking lot and wide roads. City Council should be requiring wind generators in malls, not trying to block them.

And don't get me going on the shameful waste of green rooves. For over a million dollars and a lifetime of maintenance headaches, you can get a few square meters of native grasses. They put on a green roof at Waterloo City Hall and then cut down all the trees around the building to house their new air conditioning units.

Sorry - this stuff makes me really mad, but we need to make energy more expensive or we're never going to get serious about conserving it. If we make it more expensive through taxes, we'll have revenue to help buffer the hardship caused by it. If we let the market raise prices on its own, we won't have the tax revenue to use as a buffer. What we need is higher taxes on energy. Period.

Presidential Debates: Round One

Do you prefer someone who has learned his lines well and can speak in a clear, engaging presidential manner but who doesn't seem to grasp the complexities? Or do you prefer someone who stumbles in his speech and falls into a wincable mawkishness at times but who has a thorough grasp of the issues based on firsthand experience and whose opinions are formed not by a bank of advisers but by himself?

My choice is the latter, but for one thing. At times McCain sounded like he was running for Secretary of State or ambassador to the UN. He talked as if he wanted to be in the trenches, not running the show.

I support Obama because I think the major challenge ahead is to reform the US regulatory framework, and McCain's history as a deregulator and free-marketer make him unsuitable for the task. Let's face it; after Bush's latest maneuver of siphoning $700 billion more out of the treasury there's not going to be any money to do any of the shining reforms of either candidate, and the difference in the candidates' health care policies are moot as neither is possible. The next administration is about cutting spending, managing crises, and correcting bureaucratic problems. It's about the SEC, the world monetary system, food and safety, repairing damage in every sector of government. It's like what Jean Chretien faced times ten, and nobody is going to applaud the administration for the cuts they make, no matter how hard they try to make the cuts fair and humane. (Rae Days, anyone?)

Although I support Obama, I wish his foreign policies weren't so right wing and hawkish. I wanted to agree with him on Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia and Georgia, but I couldn't. He perpetuates US policies that have been harming other countries for years. He didn't seem to have any notion that his policies towards Pakistan might destabilize the country and turn it into another failed state. He didn't seem to have any inkling that a greater US military presence in Afghanistan might create even greater local resistance against an invading force. McCain spoke of winning the hearts and minds of Pakistanis and being very careful to avoid being a bully: he seems to get it. Obama doesn't get it - or more precisely, the advisers who created his foreign policy don't get it - or more likely, Obama's advisers created his foreign policies for domestic political consumption, not real world effectiveness.

This debate was about foreign policy (supposedly), and that's McCain's area of strength. In my book he won hands down on content, if not style. He won't have the advantage in the next two debates.

But Obama risks alientating some of his supporters by failing to live up to his progressive claims. There is not a strong enough distinction between the policies of the two candidates. When voters don't feel that either side represents their views, they may opt for the candidate with the greater experience.

Increasingly I feel that neither candidate is qualified to be president. They're both great senators, but work in the senate is nothing like the executive role the president has. They are both experienced politicians and McCain is the more experienced legislator, but neither of them know how to manage a giant bureaucracy. When I read Bob Woodward's books about the Bush White House, the thing that struck me the most was the dysfunction of its organization: the lack of qualified leadership at the top resulted in second-line commanders making power grabs and confused lines of command, even in the military in Iraq; the administration was simply unable to work effectively (as has continued with this shameful plan for a Wall Street bail-out). I am very concerned that in that sense both Obama and McCain would be "more of the same."

Friday, September 26, 2008

Like v Vote

The New York Times is reporting today on disgruntled Democrats who are mad because Bill Clinton said he likes John McCain.

Let's get some context here. At the Democratic convention in Denver, almost every speech included the line "John McCain is my friend" or "I like and respect John McCain" - including the speeches by Joe Biden and, I think, Barack Obama. I noticed it because it seemed so unusual. But McCain has been in congress for a zillion years; he's an affable guy; and he's worked with both parties. He has a lot of friends and is widely respected.

That doesn't mean he should be president. Everyone likes Gwynneth Paltrow and that doesn't make her presidential material.

The reason I find this so interesting is a tendency in US politics to need to demonize the person you don't support. It's as if to not support someone, you have to think that every aspect of their personality, history and qualifications are completely bogus and horrible.

Sometimes, especially when there are ideological differences, we can't help but demonize a politician. I am frightened by Stephen Harper's ideology and I feel threatened by his agenda for my country, which causes me to have stronger than usual negative thoughts about him. That's just the way it goes sometimes.

What gets me is a growing sense that we are disloyal to those we support if we don't hate their opponent.

A case in point is Sarah Palin. I don't support Sarah Palin, but I did some research and found that much of the criticism of her is incorrect. She never tried to ban any books; her record on taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Alaska is actually quite good; her record on protecting polar bears is actually quite good; her actions as governor to protect gay rights were actually quite good (not because of her convictions on human rights, but because of her determination to follow the constitution); she is not an Alaskan separatist; as governor, she really did reduce waste and corruption; and there is no indication that she has tried to force her private religious views on her constituents. She is not as inexperienced as her detractors like to say and is the only one of the four in the race with executive experience (although her knowledge of facts and issues is shockingly lacking).

Yet when I mention any of these things in polite company, I get yelled at. I must hate her and think she is wrong in every respect, or I am somehow disloyal to the Obama cause.

I'm torn on what's going on here. I think it's a mixture of two things. One is the politics of hate that exists, especially in the US. The other is a need to demonize female candidates. (Or is it just a coincidence that the two female candidates in this US election process, Hillary and Palin, both were the objects of such hysterical hate?) In a couple of years, I imagine a bucklet-load of books will come out trying to explain what happened in this election campaign. While in the middle of it, I find the mood on both sides disturbing and inexplicable.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our Role in Afghanistan

Some time ago I disparaged a new approach to helping failed states called communitarianism, in which teams of sociologists and anthropologists study indigenous power structures and determine how to transfer authority to them, rather than trying to fight corruption or build institutions.

Despite my criticism, I've been thinking about the theory ever since. Today I went to a lecture by Dr. John Watson, currently a prof at the Munk Centre, U of T and formerly the long-time CEO of CARE, and although he didn't use the same terminology, I think I'm a convert.

Stripped of all jargon, it's a pretty simple idea: Societies like Afghanistan have power structures that are different from ours, but they work, and if we try to "fix" them we will make things worse.

At a fundamental, personal level we in the west don't understand oral traditions. When we intervene in a country like Afghanistan we are more likely to destabilize the country than help. We apply our perspectives on the situation when we should be applying the perspective of local people.

Our policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not working. We are creating a civil war in Afghanistan - which we will lose - and we are serioulsy destabilizing Pakistan.

The view of Aghans is very different from ours. We think that Al Qaeda attacked us so we have the right to go after them in Afghanistan. They think that Al Qaeda are the heroes who drove the Russians out of their country, and many of them see us as just another military occupation that they will have to repel. But it goes further than that.

The Pashtun people in Afghanistan and Pakistan live by the Pashtunwali code, two tenets of which are Melmastia (that hospitality must be granted when requested, even to enemies) and Nanawateh (that asylum must be granted when requested, and even fought to protect). This code evolved because it is required for survival in the harsh mountain environment. The code is not an anachronism and it will not disappear. The code also contains a strong fealty to nation (Hewad), which is why the Pashtuns have historically joined armies to help protect their country.

When the US tries to force the Pashtuns to abandon the asylum they give to Al Qaeda, the US is trying to break their code - and if they do, the part of the code that makes them loyal to the state may break too. This US policy is currently threatening the stability of Pakistan. (It is destabilizing the state in other ways, too, because in forcing Pakistan into its war against the Taliban the US is making Pakistan act against its national interests.)

The Afghan state is not a modern state with modern institutions, but it works. It might be described as more like a mafia systsem, with head men that enforce the rules, take rents, and limit violence. Many states in the world work this way. It doesn't mean they are failed states, and they aren't the product of evil men. Powerful warlords and government corruption may be fundamental to how they work. Attacking those features could be very destabilizing. We need to leave them alone to the messy process of figuring out the transition to a modern state.

A chief in Afghanistan once said to Watson: I'm blamed for being corrupt and siphoning aid money. But when I build a school, it costs $50,000. When USAID builds a school, it costs $200,000. Who's the crook?

We need to base development policies on their popular perception of the world, not ours. Our policies are leading more states to the brink of failure.

Since World War II, only eight countries have transformed from underdeveloped to developed, and none of them were the focus of international donors. Of all the insurgencies since 1970, only 7% were ended by military force.

In the 1990s in Somalia, civil war caused the state to fall apart very quickly. That led to an international intervention, but after US soldiers were killed the US pulled out very quickly, leaving the country in chaos. However, there were still business people who wanted to make money, so they turned to local religious figures to lead. The religious leaders went to militias to help enforce their rule. That was the beginning of the Somali nation state. It would have evolved, but the US saw it as the growth of terrorism and so they got their friend Ethiopia to attack Somalia. In reality, the only way to stop terrorism is to stop asymmetrical military conflicts. Asymmetrical military conflicts always result in terrorism.

The US Needs a New Deal

The Paulson bailout is a Cheneyesque power grab. It won't work and it will allow the Bush government to rob the country blind.

The Paulson bailout is the bluntest of blunt instruments. The only way it can work, according to Paul Krugman, is if the government wildly overpays for the toxic assets. And that means that the money, or at least most of it, will never be recouped. It's a $700 billion handout to Wall Street, and a handout that's totally at the discretion of the crooks in Washington - who still haven't accounted for billions that went missing in Iraq or the billions more that were given to friends in untendered war-related contracts.

In addition, the bailout addresses the symptom - the credit crunch - instead of the cause: defaulting mortgages. Even if they could fix the crisis of the moment, the defaulting mortgages are predicted to cause a series of additional crises over the next two years.

So what if, instead, the government put together a bundle of remedies that address the cause. For example:

* Purchase some perecentage of mortgages that are in danger of defaulting, and guarantee a low interest rate.
* Address the credit crunch directly, by making money available for loans.
* Instead of handing free money to financial firms, get stock in return (this is the "Dodd plan").
* Enact temporary emergency regulation to stabilize Wall Street. The problem appears to be that all the investment banks are trying to dump toxic assets at the same time. Stop that.
* Provide a big incentive package to help the middle class. Like the New Deal, this could hire workers to improve infrastructure. Or other, newer initiatives... think of it this way: we're thinking of spending hundreds of billions of dollars to fix this mess. With that kind of money we can do something more beneficial than making rich guys richer.

Federal Deadlock

Update: Sorry, this is last year's poll. But looking foolish was worth it to have had a moment of respite from my desperation about the dire state of the nation...

Latest Nanos Poll - Tories 35, Grits 34, NDP 17, Bloc 9, Green 6

I don't usually hang on the polls as much as I'm doing this year, but the prospect of a Harper majority is so frightening that I'm doing so this time. And it looks like the big Tory lead on Nanos yesterday was some sort of aberration. Today they're back where they've been the last couple of weeks: only better!

It's looking more possible that we may have the opportunity to form a coalition government, so I hope all the parties on the left are preparing strategies - strategies for how best to do it for the good of the country, not for the political ends of their own party. The leader who emerges with a workable plan is going to look very, very good.

If we have the opportunity to unseat Harper with a coalition, we're all going to have to be flexible about policies. We agree on a lot more than we disagree on. We should also be sure to utilize the best talent from all coalition participants. It could be a great move forward to have NDP and Green members in federal cabinet.

Whether the Tories win the election or the Liberals are able to participate in a coalition government, I hope the Liberal backroom boys are charting a plan for what to do about our leader and how to replace him if that's what's needed. It's not a topic we want to talk about publicly yet, but there may be too little confidence in our leader to keep him on. I say this even though I think he'd make an excellent prime minister - I'm concerned that two years of Tory lies and attacks have simply left him too discredited.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

K-W Riding All Candidates Meeting

Rogers TV and the Waterloo Regional Record hosted the K-W riding all-candidate's meeting tonight, and boy did they do a poor job.

The venue was RIM Park, on the far north-east corner of the riding and not on a bus route. The small room was crowded with TV cameras and had only 100 seats, but at least 250 people showed up. (From my vantage point I couldn't see how many were waiting in the back corner and corridor.) The Liberal and NDP candidates were plagued with microphone problems. The podiums forced the candidates to stand, which gave the proceeding a very formal air. Candidates also complained that the podiums were too small for both papers and a water bottle, and at least one candidate ended up with wet papers. The moderator, Record editorial page editor John Roe, talked too much. All in all, it was a bust.

But despite the discomfort and annoyance of the venue, all-candidate's meetings are always worth going to. There's just no way to get the measure of candidates like hearing them give a prepared account of themselves and then answer unprepared questions. You can learn a lot about their intelligence, grasp of the issues, and level of commitment to the people they hope to represent.

The only nasty note in the entire evening came from -- don't all shout out the answer at once now -- the Conservative candidate, Peter Braid, who made a snide comment about Liberal incumbent Andrew Telegdi not supporting Stephane Dion. It backfired on him: he was roundly booed by most of the audience and Telegdi was given a chance to respond, in which he strongly affirmed his support for Dion. My impression of the Conservative candidate was that he was fairly slick but not a nice man at all, and definitely not someone I want to see in power.

The Green candidate, Cathy MacLellan, was quite impressive and used the opportunity to share some of her insights and make some good suggestions. Describing Harper's handling of the environment she said, "The steady hand of government is like a hand holding us under water." She said that "cap and trade is not enough... it's not even a beginning." In an answer about the Security and Prosperity Protocol, she said, "We should keep in mind the saying: 'America does not have friends and neighbours - it has interests.'"

The NDP candidate, Cindy Jacobsen, did not seem very comfortable at her podium and didn't answer the questions particularly well. A couple of times she didn't seem to address the question at all. For a pastor and very kindly-seeming person, she was oddly aggressive, at one point saying that Liberals and Conservatives both "have forgotten that Canada is a democracy", which is totally unfair to both parties.

Andrew Telegdi did a great job. Of course, the rest are neophytes and he has been in parliament representing our riding for a great many years, but he's one of those people who has devoted his life to public service and has done a great deal to help people (especially poor people, immigrants, and people in conflict with the law). When someone in the audience asked a question about housing he rattled off all the commissions and boards he's been on dealing with the issue (had I had a seat I'd have been able to take better notes). When someone asked about human rights and the charter, he was the only candidate who had a confident answer about fighting for civil rights. We in K-W are very lucky to have Telegdi as our representative.

It was close, but a good thing that Dion released the "Richer, Fairer, Greener" platform yesterday, because Telegdi was able to answer every policy question with solid Liberal policy suggestions.

Telegdi suggested that all-candidate's meetings should be held in Waterloo City Hall, which is set up for TV cameras, has decent podiums, has plenty of space, and is centrally located and easy to access by transit. Did you hear that, Rogers/Record?

Liberals Fall in the Polls

From Nanos:

Conservative Party 38 (+3)
Liberal Party 27 (-3)
NDP 21 (-1)
BQ 8% (+1)
Green Party 6% (NC)
Undecided 17% (-1)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Go Negative! Go Big! Go Now!

Sunday evening after Cross Country Checkup, the CBC aired two political ads. The first was Stephane Dion talking about how he and his wife like to go snowshoeing. The second was a Conservative attack ad, the premise of which was that ordinary folk had called their comments about Dion into an answering machine. "I'm scared of the Green Shift," said one, "because I can't afford to pay more to fill up my car." (Never mind that the Green Shift does not affect gasoline prices.) The attacks were pure fearmongering. They were brief and rapid fire, and after they finished, the entire bit was repeated again.

Now come on. I liked the snowshoe ad and wish we could maintain that level of decorum. But we Liberals have suffered through two years of nasty attack ads that range from distortions to outright lies. They've maligned our leader, told lies about our policies, spread false rumors about infighting in our ranks, and even boasted about interfering in our leadership selection process. I won't go as far as Harper and actually lie, but the gloves are off. I'm going to work my hardest to hit back at those nasty, lying jerks.

Harper has a record of being a nasty piece of work, from belittling his old boss Preston Manning for being too soft on social issues to masterminding the hostile takeover (by immoral if not illegal means) of one of Canada's founding parties. You can tell what he's really like just from looking at his face: he has cold, close-together eyes and his tight little smile never extends to them.

As prime minister he's a megalomaniac. There are talented people in the ranks of Conservative MPs, but talent isn't, apparently, what he wants in the cabinet: looking good in photo ops and touting the party line seems to be the goal - that and political considerations like regional representation that will get him votes. The result is a history of gaffes at the highest level that defies belief. All through this administration, from Rona Ambrose through Maxime Bernier to Gerry Ritz, Harper's government has shown staggering incompetence.

The problems with the Harper cabinet are not just little slips. Harper wants us to believe that the Agriculture minister's callous jokes were just a stress-related mistake, but the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada issued a statement saying, "Minister Ritz has repeatedly disappointed the professional scientists and inspectors who work for him during the listeria crisis. The comments he apologized for are the last straw. Crisis requires real leadership and Mr. Ritz is clearly not fit to lead."

It gets even worse. The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) lays the blame for the listeriosis crisis on Conservative policies and is calling for a full public inquiry. They say "this outbreak was 100% avoidable and unnecessary" and was brought about by lax standards and a decision to transfer inspection duties to the industry. Further, they say that listeriosis "may be the least of it." The government has also handed self-inspection to the operators of animal feed mills and cut back on avian flu preparedness. The CMAJ says, "Listeriosis pales in comparison. Overall, it would seem that, as a country, Canada is far less prepared now for epidemics than in the past."

Harper likes to describe himself as an economist. He is no economist. The guy has a Master's degree in Economics. I have a Master's degree in Economics, and I can tell you that it doesn't make one an economist. Masters-level economics bears little relation to the real world; it's essentially Economics 101 with more advanced math. Harper isn't even a good economic manager: it took Chretien/Martin four budgets to eliminate the deficit left behind by Mulroney, but it took Harper/Flaherty only three budgets to bring us back to the brink of deficit.

The reason we are on the brink of a deficit despite sound fundamentals is that Harper wants a deficit to justify spending cuts. He may not be an economist, but he has economists working for him and they told him that cutting the GST would not boost the economy - as say, an income tax cut would have, resulting in overall higher tax revenues. He is playing the old conservative confidence game of nuking the economy and then blaming it on social spending.

Harper should move to Texas, where people share his values, rather than trying to mess up Canada, where people don't. He has said things in the past like, "Canada is a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term." and "In terms of the unemployed... don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance." and "The NDP could be described as basically a party of liberal Democrats, but it's actually worse than that... the NDP is kind of proof that the Devil lives and interferes in the affairs of men." and "Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society... It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff."

Now he says that he's softened his views. When asked what his views are, he obfuscates and bafflegabs. "My own views on abortion, I'm not on either pole of that and neither of the interest groups on either end of this issue would probably be comfortable with my views." If you think he's saying that he no longer wants to make abortion illegal, I have some land for you in Florida.

Craftily, stealthily, just as he schemed and planned to steal the Conservative brand, everything has been heading towards securing a majority. Once he does: kerpow. Boy, will we regret it.

And we can't say we didn't see it coming. Just a week before the election was called, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made very clear how he plans to undermine universal health care. If Harper gets a majority he won't cancel it outright: he'll just make it increasingly unfeasible and chip away at it until everyone will agree that it's unsustainable.

Even with a minority, Harper has done plenty to change the character of Canada. He killed the best hope for aboriginal Canadians that we've ever had. He destroyed a brilliant day care program. He killed off productive, necessary, low-cost institutions like the woman's legal resource center. He slashed funding for the arts and NGOs. He killed the gun registry program. He created a phony youth crime crisis and passed legislation to put more people (especially more young people) in jail, and for longer periods. He extended our military involvement beyond what it was originally intended for - a temporary peacekeeping mission - into a military occupation supporting a dubious US agenda. And he has politicized religion in a way we haven't seen before, according to this article.

Harper's campaign against Ontario could be just bitterness that we don't support him, but it seems deeper than that... as if he believes we're evil and must be kept down. He has screwed with our economy, underfunded us, done his best to humiliate our Liberal premier, and even ensured that we're under-represented in parliament.

The heinousness of his decision to tax income trusts was not that he did it. It's that he first promised that he wouldn't do it - causing Canadians to spend millions on investments that plummeted in value. Thousands of Canadians lost a big portion of their retirement savings. You just don't do that.

A majority would also allow Harper to wiggle out of the several scandals that are hanging over him him right now: Massive campaign spending fraud in the last election, resulting in a reprimand from Elections Canada, resulting in PMO interference in the civil service; politcial interference in our nuclear regulatory agency; a public inquiry into the listeriosis crisis and how his policies led to it; a former Foreign Affairs minister with a history of reckless disregard for confidential papers and a girlfriend with mafia ties; the attempt to buy the vote of a dying Liberal MP; the previous Tory prime minister admitting to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from an arms dealer, with tens of millions of dollars in bribes still unaccounted for.

The summary is: This is a bad government. It's incompetent, and its values do not reflect those of most Canadians. It is led by a man who has no scruples and a very, very big hidden agenda.

I'd be happy to donate all of my anti-Harper writing to the public domain. Please feel free to use it any way you see fit, such as cutting and pasting it into comments on newspaper articles. Go negative! Go big! Go now!

Other resources:
The Harper Record (free book, PDF)
100+ reasons not to vote for Harper

Poll Accuracy and Lessons from 2006

The federal election polls are all over the place, prompting us to wonder which is the most accurate. Based on the last federal election, the best pollster is Nik Nanos, now at CPACE-Nanos, then with SES. However, there's a lot more to polling than a simple metric. Here are excerpts from an article that analysed the 2006 election polls (with a fair bit of paraphrasing to make it easier to read):
In 2006, the biggest winner was clearly SES Research, whose final nightly tracking poll for CPAC on January 22 had all four parties’ popular vote within one-tenth of a percentage point of the outcome.

The big losers in 2006 were the Strategic Counsel and Ipsos Reid, which both missed the Liberal rebound in the closing four days of the campaign.

Nanos/SES has a policy of not doing seat projections, because there is no established formula in the polling industry to make accurate predictions. There are accepted standards when people do polls. There’s more of an art to doing seat projections.

Outside of internal polls, the most accurate seat prediction models during the 2006 election were the ones that did a provincial breakdown, such as Democraticspace.com.

On January 17, 2006, Strategic Counsel showed the Conservatives at 42 percent support nationally, with the Liberals trailing badly at 24 percent — blowout numbers. In contrast, the Nanos/SES poll from the same day had the Tories at 36.6 percent and the Liberals at 31.5 percent [which was accurate].

Nanos/SES eliminated undecided voters from his outcomes rather than redistributing them.

The Strategic Counsel opening question (which asked respondents which party has the most momentum toward a federal election) could have created a pro-Conservative bias in subsequent answers.

The Strategic Counsel has a preference for placing the ballot question later in the interview while Nanos/SES places the ballot question near the beginning. In 2006, Nanos/SES was the only pollster that asked an open-ended ballot question without prompting for parties or party leaders. This allows Canadians to verbalize their choice on their own voting preference as opposed to choosing from a list.

Prime Minister Martin’s last-minute efforts to negatively attack Stephen Harper during the end of the 2006 election campaign created a small upswing for the Liberals.

The question, ‘Do you support a change in government?’ underestimated Liberal support, because the people who answered ‘yes’ to that question would be hypocritical if they had just told the pollster that they wanted change, and then said that they would vote Liberal, so the number of people who will answer ‘Liberal’ declines.

Turnout affected the Liberal numbers. The more people who voted, the better the Liberals did.

The reason the seat projections weren’t all that great in Ontario was that they were applying Ontario-wide numbers to rural seats, which underestimates the Conservative vote, and to urban seats, which underestimates the Liberal vote.

Thirty percent of NDP voters said the thought of a Conservative majority would cause them to reconsider their vote.

The inconsistency across polls throughout the campaign seemed to apply more to the Liberal numbers than the Conservative numbers. This is a product of very high levels of ambiguity amongst conditional Liberal voters who were torn between censuring the Liberals and fear of the Conservatives and what they might bring.

Although people tend to prefer larger samples, it only marginally increases the accuracy. Larger samples are more important as a tool to improve the accuracy of sub-samples or regions. Factors such as question, wording, question order, and sample design have a greater impact on the accuracy of research. People tend to place less weight on smaller survey samples but in the last two elections, Nanos/SES, which had the smallest samples for both, was the most accurate.

Update: Methodology explains higher support for Liberals in Nanos poll

The Splintered Left

There is a certain amount of vote-splitting between the Liberals, NDP and Greens, and in some ridings this fracturing of like-minded people may result in a win for the Tories. Nevertheless, I don't think we need to worry about the situation, and I don't think we'd be better off if we unified the left.

For one thing, both the Liberals and NDP are venerable old parties with rich histories and an important place in our democracy. Dissenters may point out that the Liberals and NDP have extremely similar platforms. Nonetheless, the NDP acts on the Liberal party as a pressure group to promote progressive policies. Remember the Liberal child-care plan under Paul Martin? That resulted from a deal with Jack Layton, who gave some much-needed support in return for the program. In the early 70s Stephen Lewis was able to use his strength in Ontario to force the government of Bill Davis to bring in rent control and other policies.

Having three parties on the center-left might be a strength. Unlike the monolithic Conservatives, we have a plurality of voices and ideas. The Green Party supports the legalization of marijuana - a tough sell in mainstream politics, but important to mainstream goals such as keeping young people out of the justice system and jails.

The splintering of the left doesn't mean that the Tories will always win. It may be our secret weapon.

Liberals Are Only 5 Points Behind Tories

CPAC-Nanos just released their rolling poll ending yesterday. The results:

Conservative Party 36% (-2)
Liberal Party 31% (+2)
NDP 20% (+2)
BQ 7% (NC)
Green Party 7% (NC)
Undecided 19% (+1)

The Liberals are releasing their platform today. They've switched emphasis to the economy, a necessity as the economic turmoil worsens in the US - and a huge area of strength for the party. (Remember: It took four budgets for Chretien/Martin to fully eliminate the deficit left behind by Mulroney. It only took Harper three budgets to bring us back to the brink of deficit!)

I think the tide is shifting. When a Liberal fund-raiser called me yesterday I donated generously and then asked him what kinds of reactions he was getting in his phone calls. "Amazing" he said. "I'm starting to think we may win!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yappa Endorses Obama

All through the US election campaign I have been troubled by lack of qualifications to meet the real and severe challenges ahead. I think the US needs a tactician, a manager, someone who can troubleshoot the ongoing economic crises and lay the groundwork for new regulatory frameworks and agreements. There most likely is not going to be any money for bold new initiatives. The job of governing is going to be a difficult process of cutting funding and negotiating rescue operations.

I'm not at all sure that any of the four candidates (Obama, Biden, McCain or Palin) are qualified or ready to do this. The three senators haven't got any executive experience; they haven't even managed anything. The governor hasn't had enough executive experience to be much better (and doesn't have a good enough grasp of the facts and issues).

But during the last week, I think it has become clear that Obama is far, far more equipped than McCain to deal with the problems at hand. McCain's response to the financial crisis this week was shameful, calling on the firing of the chair of the SEC, pointing fingers, pandering and sounding hysterical. Obama was calm, reassuring; he waited till the Bush government had spoken; he said his team was working on a plan that would be released soon.

Furthermore, the most important ideological difference between McCain and Obama is that of "no more big government" and "free markets" vs accountability, transparency and effective regulations. It is clearly the time to stop the process of deregulation and start rebuilding safeguards. Even Wall Street admits that financial regulations are obsolete and need to be completely overhauled. Similar recent problems have shown the need for stronger regulations on corporations, consumer products, the environment, food safety, elections, and other areas. Having a president who is ideologically opposed to regulation is just not what is needed right now.

I like McCain and I wish him a happy retirement. But it is clear that Obama is by far the better choice for president.


Rushing the Bailout is a Big Mistake

The Bush administration has asked congress to approve "unfettered authority" for the Treasury Department to buy up to $700 billion in distressed mortgage-related assets; to raise the national debt ceiling to $11.3 trillion; and to impose no oversight other than semi-annual reports to Congress. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who came up with this plan, is proposing to hire Wall Street portfolio managers to manage the hundreds of billions of assets he'll purchase.

As it stands, the plan is a colossal mistake.

This government's track record should not predispose us to trust them. George Bush paid back his oil industry donors with decisions that gave them billions in extra profits. He created a phony crisis in Iraq and then embarked on a war in which, among other things, his people robbed the treasury blind. Untendered contracts went to friends (including a company the VP formerly headed). Billions of dollars just disappeared. That's on top of his tax cut for the rich, which is estimated to be responsible for $200 billion of this year's deficit.

The financial industry's track record should make us run screaming from the notion of trusting them. This is an industry built on greed. As we now see clearly, their M.O. was to package up bad debts and sell them as supposedly low-risk securities, and keep doing that until the house of card crumbled. What do they care? They got their millions (some hedge fund managers make over a billion dollars a year) and they aren't going to be held accountable.

The budget deficit is already at nearly $800 billion this year, including $80 billion to bail out AIG and $200 billion to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

What the US really needs to do is solve the root of the problem: bad mortgage debt. There are a couple of programs trying to do just that, but some of the funding is now unavailable because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in government conservatorship. Trying to solve the problem by alleviating symptoms just promises another two years or more of financial and economic crises.

If we must have a bailout, it must be done properly. Congress has been talking about caps on CEO compensation and an economic stimulus package as part of the bailout. Those are good ideas. But the main things that are needed are (1) a plan that will work; and (2) transparency and accountability.

The plan as it has been presented to congress doesn't put restrictions on how Paulson spends the money - it doesn't even restrict Paulson to using the money for the bailout. He could buy assets at a huge premium, throwing untold millions at Republican supporters or others of his choosing. The Republicans could use this opportunity to secure campaign financing for decades.

The bill must be amended to say exactly how Paulson will use the money. Economist Paul Krugman says he doesn't think the plan as stated will work. Long-term, we'd be far better off paying off people's mortgages than bailing out financial institutions; short-term, some sort of bailout is probably needed, but it's not clear that this approach will work at all. As Paul Krugman says, this blunt tool plan only succeeds if the government grossly overpays for otherwise-unsellable assets in order to inflate the system. We need other ideas. Like maybe this one.

If congress approves the plan, Secretary Paulson will become the most powerful person in the United States. An investment banker before becoming Treasury Secretary, wikipedia estimates his personal wealth at over $700 million. His experience in government is just over two years. Paulson met with congress last week and scared the beejus out of them with his projections of what will happen if they don't pass his plan. He says that action must be taken quickly and that his plan must be passed by congress with no restrictions or add-ons. In effect, the bailout hands control over the economy to Paulson, and Paulson is arguing that there can be no restraints or oversight of his activities. He is trying to railroad congress into approval, promising Armaggedon if they don't do it. They must resist.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Could We All Stop Letting the Tories Screw With Our Heads?

For the last two years the Tories have been spending millions on discrediting Liberal leader Stephane Dion. There was TV ad after TV ad. There were pamphlets. Lately there was a sea of single page flyers. (I once got four in one day.) They ridiculed Dion, made him out to be a wimp, and questioned his leadership ability. They said the Green Shift plan would destroy the economy.

It's no wonder that they had effect. A good PR firm and millions of dollars can change perceptions. Even many Liberals bought into it.

We have to set up some defences against their propaganda. We have to stop letting them mess with us.

Lately, Conservative brass are apparently spreading false rumors that Liberal leadership contenders "have their knives out" for Stephane Dion. They have even provided false quotes that were supposed to have come from Rae and Ignatieff. Despite denials and the obvious goodwill of top Liberals in working with Dion, you see hundreds of comments in newspapers and blogs repeating the rumors as fact.

During the Liberal leadership campaign, the Conservative party interfered in the Liberal party selection process. Tory campaign chair Doug Finley wrote a fake Conservative party memo saying Tories were most afraid of Michael Ignatieff as Liberal leader (and least afraid of Bob Rae) and then "leaked" it to English and French newspapers. Minutes after Rae was knocked out of the leadership race, Tory MP James Moore boasted that he and other Conservatives had handed out buttons at the convention saying "Make Bob the first NDP prime minister" and "Vote Bob. Who needs Ontario?" Conservatives boasted that they knew Rae was the biggest threat and so they made sure he didn't win.

I'm not bringing this up to open up the last leadership race - it's over. But we can't just let this crap go by - when we don't stand up to the lies they stick. I read a comment to a newspaper article today in which someone cited that fake memo (not remembering it was fake) as evidence that Bob Rae would be an unsuccessful Liberal leader.

Most Conservatives are decent people with integrity, but the current party brass is a really nasty lot. They'll keep on with their lies and dirty tricks until we stop them. We need a plan to respond to Tory attacks and nip them in the bud. The Tories have been in campaign mode for the whole 22 months they were in power, while we were apparently not even preparing for a campaign. We definitely weren't fighting back. It's amazing we're doing as well in the polls as we are.

Election Info

I have added a new sidebar to my blog that has links to useful info about the election. It's mostly polls and media sites, but I'm also including some blogs that I think are particularly good. If you have any suggestions for sites I should include, please let me know.

Dion and Kyoto

Click this link to see a brief video:

Liberal Leadership

Facts Can Be Fun

There's some really clever writing over at liberal.ca. Here's an excerpt from September 19:
Number of campaign events Stephen Harper has held that were open to the public: 0

Number of campaign events Stéphane Dion has held that were open to the public: 26, including three town halls

Number of attack releases from Conservative campaign on Monday: 15

Number attacking Stéphane Dion: 10

Number attacking Gilles Duceppe: 3

Number attacking Jack Layton: 1

Number attacking Elizabeth May: 1

Number of separate occasions Mr. Harper has claimed that Stéphane Dion would raise the GST: 9

Number of times he has backed up that claim with proof: 0

Number of times Stéphane Dion has said he would raise the GST: 0

Number of budgets it took the Liberal government to fully eliminate the previous Conservative government's $43-billion deficit: 4 (1993 - 1996)

Number of budgets it took Stephen Harper & Jim Flaherty to return Canada to the brink of deficit: 3 (Budgets 2006 – 2008)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Good Day for Progressives

The Globe says, "The Liberal campaign is starting to gain traction in key battlegrounds in Ontario and Quebec... [The Conservatives are] aiming for a majority, and it's slipping through their fingers at the moment. ...in Quebec, the Conservatives have the support of 27 per cent of the respondents in the selected ridings, compared with the Bloc and the Liberal Party at 26-per cent each."

Way to go Liberals! I was griping about the rally I went to this week, but I have to be impressed at the turnout: at least 400, I'd say, on a weekday afternoon in a suburb in the middle of nowhere.

Meanwhile, south of the border there was a huge swing in support for Barack Obama. Yesterday on my favorite tracking site, fivethirtyeight.com, McCain was forecast to win 280 electoral votes to Obama's 264. Today they flipped: Obama 285 to McCain 253. Pollster Nate Silver seemed flabbergasted that the situation could change so rapidly.

Both turnarounds may be largely due to the immense incompetence of the incumbents. In the US, the worsening financial crisis is increasingly scary given the shaky economic management of George Bush. In Canada the Tories are having blow-outs all over the place, and now are trying desperately to paint themselves as the only fiscally responsible party, when Chretien-Martin inherited a $43-billion debt from Mulroney and turned it into a decade of surpluses, squandered within two years of Harper rule.

All around, a good time for bad news.

Was Ritz Drunk on the Job During a Health Crisis?

Much has been made of the tasteless remarks by Conservative Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. What I wonder is: Was Ritz drunk on the job?

The remarks were made in a conference call with members of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on August 30 during the listeriosis crisis, in which 17 people died of tainted meat. Ritz joked during the call that the crisis was causing the government a death of a thousand cuts - "or should I say the death of a thousand cold cuts." When he was informed that one death had taken place in Prince Edward Island, Ritz said, "please tell me it's Wayne Easter." (Easter is the Liberal agriculture critic.)

The jokes are incredibly tasteless in any case, but it is beyond belief that he would make them over the phone to a large group of people, some of whom he didn’t know. It would still be tasteless, but at least understandable, if he were talking to a group of people he knew well who shared his politics.

We need more information about this call:

* What time of day did the call occur?

* Did he exhibit any other strange behaviour, such as slurring his words? How was his general demeanor during the call?

* Does Ritz have a history of drinking to excess?

* Does Ritz (like Mulroney) substitute alcohol with Nyquil or other medication?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Okay, Now I See the Problem

I went to a Stephane Dion rally at Kitchener's Conestoga College today. They must have been expecting a lot fewer people than they got, because they had re-arranged a large room so that it held only 100 people or less and they got three or four times that. I managed to see the proceedings only because I found a slit in the material at the back of the stage that I could partially see through - and a hundred people around me seemed envious that I had that much.

Andrew Telegdi spoke first - a slow, preachy, information-laden talk about child care. Then Ken Dryden got up and spoke some more about child care. He was a bit more animated but it was still pretty bush league. Then Dion got up and... well, from my vantage point I could read his teleprompter but I couldn't really understand him. Doesn't he practice these things? Couldn't someone have told him that we say "one point two five billion" not "one point twenty-five billion"? The strange pronunciations and odd cadence distracted me from the speech and made it hard to follow. Ditto the large chunks of the speech he gave in French. And why the heck were they talking about child care to a crowd of nineteen year olds?

And why are they giving rallies that do nothing more than recite facts and make pledges to spend money? Where's the feel-good stuff? The part where they engage the audience emotionally and make them feel that we're all part of the same cause? The big picture stuff and vision of the future? I want campaigns to be about the issues, but they shouldn't be all dull facts. Plus, by talking about nothing but a single issue they sort of lose people like me who don't really care about that issue.

Dion does not apparently have a "stump speech": this speech was dedicated to the issue of child care and his pledge to increase federal spending on it. I think he needs at least a few minutes of more general issues. And it would be nice to think about who the audience is and say something that would engage them. And have somebody handing out buttons.

Maybe we have developed false expectations from watching American TV, but couldn't our politicians learn how to pause for applause, signal the end, and so on? The whole event was awfully, awfully amateurish - more like you'd expect from a city council race than a national campaign. I can see why people are responding so well to Bob Rae - the man is a great orator but he could be a quarter as good as he is and still stand out as the best in this crowd. (Rae was there but didn't speak.)

I have been really enjoying Curosity Cat's coverage of the election. She's been writing about George Lakoff's work on framing issues in election campaigns and fleshing out how the Liberals should do that. But the lack of strategy in the rally I saw today was so blatant that it seems that the Liberal campaign planners are about ten miles behind Curiosity Cat's sophistication. Dion ran for leader on a campaign of kicking out the backroom boys, and I guess that's showing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The NDP Nail the Conservatives


Thanks to Calgary Grit for providing the link.

Intelligent, Experienced, Sincere, Passionate, Honest - What's Wrong With That?

Two years ago I was really pissed off at the way Stephane Dion won the leadership via a secret deal with Gerard Kennedy and some split-timing shenanigans that did an end-run around the democratic process.

But even though I didn't support Dion for Liberal leader, I don't understand the flack he's getting these days. It's really over the top.

The guy is super-intelligent and has a ton of cabinet experience. He's sincere. He's passionate. He radiates integrity. There is no question that he is ready to be prime minister.

The main thing against Dion is his ability to speak English. Even there the problem is only with pronunciation. Aside from that his English language skills are excellent, and definitely a lot better than Chretien's. Or Harper's French.

He is blamed for the Green Shift. Don't forget, though, that he had some bad luck on timing. When he brought out the Green Shift the environment was the big issue on Canadian's minds. (I criticized the plan because it is revenue neutral; I thought that new taxes should be collected to pay for transit and so on. But it doesn't raise taxes at all.) Almost immediately after he announced the plan the economy started to stumble, and the economy became the priority of Canadians. Even though the plan will in no way slow the economy, the Conservatives were able to sell the story that it would.

Some pundits are saying that Dion doesn't connect with people. I just find that hard to believe. He's adorable. He has a sweet, wry way about him, and he's by far the best looking of our national leaders. The Liberals shouldn't be leaving Dion out of ads - they should be showing more of him. They don't have to do a personality whitewash as the Conservatives did with Harper. Just film him doing his thing, and this nonsense image that's being created of him will disappear.


Great Liberal site that details recent Tory scandals: Scandalpedia. They add a scandal every day. I really appreciate the detailed approach, as sometimes it's difficult to recall everything - given that there have been so many!

Thanks to Politics for the People for linking to it.

The Liberals Are Doing Better Than Reported

The latest polls have the Conservatives at 37 and the Liberals at 31 in the national popular vote. (This site shows results from Ipsos, Nanos, Harris-Decima and Ekos, and updates them throughout the day).

There are sorry indicators, for sure. Dion is lagging badly in polls about who would be the best prime minister. Quebec may swing Conservative, giving Harper a ton of seats. Some key Ontario swing ridings seem to be heading Conservative.

But it's not true, as you might believe from some commentary, that the Liberals are dying. The Toronto Star's James Travers was over the edge when he said that nervous Liberals are gazing into the abyss. The Globe also over-did the doom and gloom with a recent article that reported polls on the leaders as if they were polls on the parties, giving the impression that the NDP was ahead of the Liberals.

There are also some hints that the wind is changing slightly. Dion is now campaigning with Bob Rae - an excellent idea, not unlike Palin propping up McCain south of the border. The Tory momentum has petered out somewhat, according to an article in the Globe today. 905 is standing solid against them.

I'm starting to feel that we may keep Harper from getting his majority. This is no time for pessimism. We may have a leader who is stumbling a bit on the campaign trail, but that's not the whole story.

I'm writing this, in part, to re-energize myself and get myself out of the gloom of the first week of the campaign. Nothing defeats like defeatism. And the last week of the campaign is more important than the first.

Friday, September 12, 2008

We Must Speak Up Now to End the War

When Paul Martin decided to send Canadian troops to Afghanistan I was very uneasy, but I didn't oppose it. The US had just bombed out the previous corrupt government and the country needed help maintaining stability while a new government took over. Ours was essentially a peacekeeping role, albeit with more fighting than peacekeeping usually entails.

Now it's - what, five years later, and the Afghan war has changed substantially. There are two major factors that make me feel that we need to get our troops out:

1. The war has widened beyond peacekeeping, and the agenda of the US in reshaping it is suspect. The US is now using the Afghan occupation to attack targets in Pakistan; it could be turning the new Afghan president Asif Ali Zardari into a puppet; it could be prolonging the military occupation of Afghanistan in order to set pipeline and other policy. All of this is creating the potential for greater instability and less democracy, when our only justification for having a force there is to increase stability and democracy.

2. We're not achieving our goals. The war goes on and on, and, put in the harshest possible terms, there is insufficient progress to justify the deaths of our soldiers and Afghan civilians. At this point we're an occupying force, not liberators. We're killing civilians, not Taliban. We're losing, and victory is not in sight.

Harper recently said he'll bring our troops home in three years. I don't believe him, but even if he's being honest, that's too long. This election campaign is an opportunity for us to speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Now is the time to write letters to newspapers and MPs, organize protests, put up signs, write blog posts, make sure the issue is front and center in the leader debates.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One Woman's Take on the Federal Election

The looming possibility of a Conservative majority seems too awful to contemplate. I would argue that Canadians would never let that happen; I would argue that the idea is insane, and yet pollsters and pundits say that it is very likely that in a mere month that horrible dystopia may be upon us. (See James Laxer for a description of what might befall us if Harper gets that majority.) There's nothing we can do because the fate of the country is apparently in the hands of Quebec.

Normally I would be following the election campaign in great detail, but I can't stand listening to any of the major party leaders. Harper, with that sickly fake smile and hard cold eyes, is the worst, or maybe tied with Duceppe, who seems erratic and manic. Layton seems increasingly like a strutting popinjay, and insincere to boot. I try to like Dion, and he's much better than he used to be, but his fractured English still makes me wince. And none of them are saying anything terribly interesting.

Normally I would rejoice in the recent Tory gaffes, but the Puffin pooping and so on seem too much like stuff that could happen to anyone.

It's not like I'm indifferent to the issues. I'm worried about health care, the economy, the environment, Afghanistan, the northwest passage. I want a government that will repair our hiways and bridges, improve transit, fix the CRTC, raise the top tax brackets, foster a healthy economy, deal with crime in a way that doesn't lock people up unless it's neceessary. I want a federal government that will treat Ontario fairly. I want a government that will address the most pressing environmental initiatives: fast-tracking environmental improvements in the oil sands and reducing Ontario energy consumption so we can close our coal-fired generators. I want new, decent-paying jobs to replace ones lost in the crumbling manufacturing sector. I want stronger, smarter, better enforced corporate regulations.

I want a government with vision, vibrancy, intelligence and competence. Not more crafty politicos who work to hold on to power - but committed leaders. When was the last time we had that in a federal government? Trudeau? Pearson? What's the point of getting all riled up about an election that has no good outcome? And that is quite possibly out of our hands?


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Jack Layton is Not Obama - He's Ralph Nader

Yowza. Bob Rae is landing some effective punches in his blog these days. A recent post:

The trouble with the NDP
by Bob Rae

Jack Layton's decision to fight Elizabeth May and the Green Party's participation in the leader's debate might surprise some. It didn't surprise me.

For a party that once immersed itself in principle, it is admittedly a come down, but it's been clear for some time now that it is narrow self-interest and not high principle that drives "Jack Layton's NDP".

In the Toronto Centre by-election I was struck how the NDP campaign had reduced itself to two themes: class warfare and character assassination. Corporations bad, wealth creation bad, rich guys vs poor guys, "working families" vs what? Lazy families? And attack your opponent for being whatever you want on the day.

The NDP is eternally frustrated by its own decisions to put itself on the margins, and it shows its frustration by retreating to its themes: class warfare and character assassination. So it was. So it will be.

Their attack on the Harper government is a model of hypocrisy, because this is, after all, The House That Jack Built. It was the NDP's gamble that it could defeat child care, Kelowna, urban investment, and then get something better. It didn't, got something much worse, and has never had the honesty to admit its mistake.

Now they're yapping once again about being "the real opposition". What a joke. The point is not to criticize Harper, it is to replace him. And the NDP can't do that, because in the end it will always revert to the Two Themes: class warfare and character assassination.

The NDP decision to exclude the Greens isn't about principle, it's about saving their own skin.

Tom King, the NDP candidate in Guelph, said it last night "the Liberals are the bad guys, they are the enemy". We have the most right wing government in history and the NDP turns its guns on the Liberals. And the Greens.

We need to build a progessive coalition to defeat the Harperites. This isn't about saving the NDP's skin. It's about defeating, and replacing, a government that doesn't believe in child care, better health care, a new partnership with first nations, Metis, and Inuit, investment in cities and has no commitment whatsoever to the environment. The NDP doesn't get that. Jack Layton thinks he's Obama. What a joke. He's Ralph Nader, hand on the horn, "no difference between Bush and Al Gore".

The Greens Must Be In the Debate

Elizabeth May should be in the leaders' debate based on:

* The fact that the Greens have an MP in parliament
* The precedent set in 1993 when the Bloc and Reform were allowed into debates
* The fact that the Greens are fielding candidates in almost every riding
* The results of recent by-elections (in which the Greens bested major parties in some ridings)
* The support for the Green Party in the last election
* The solid standing of the Greens in the polls

Long time readers of this blog will know that I don't think much of the Green Party. Their over-emphasis on a platform of killing progressive taxation is wrong for several reasons: it is an absolutely awful idea; it is a waste of time because it is not going to happen; and it distracts from more productive and interesting conversation about the environment. However, I think the Conservatives' platform sucks even more and yet I support their right to fair participation in the democratic process.

As Chantal Hebert points out, the only reason the Greens can be excluded is that they don't have a narrow geographic base that can rise up in effective protest, as the Bloc and Reform had. The fact that the Greens are represented across the country is, paradoxically, what makes them weaker. They will be excluded - and the fairness of the election will be compromised - unless people of all parties insist that they be there.

I'm specifically not saying which parties chose to exclude the Greens because this shouldn't be a partisan issue. It's about fair elections.

But the cherry on top would be that Elizabeth May, whatever her policies, is a superstar speaker who would add eloquence and insight to the proceeding. She's also fully bilingual.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

If There's Ever A Time To Attack Harper, It's Now

I'm somewhat bemused by the controversy over whether the Liberals should go negative against Harper. The entire discussion is bogus.

One, Stephane Dion and the Liberals have been hit with a negative ad campaign over the last year that is almost unprecedented. Using tax-payer money, the Conservatives have mailed wave after wave of ads attacking Dion's character and ability to lead. I have received as many as four in one day. The Tory negative ad campaign is perhaps the biggest reason that they’re ahead today. We have to fight back.

Two, the discussion assumes that anything negative is "negative campaigning". To my mind, PR is only "negative" if it attacks a person in an unfair way. The most clear-cut example that comes to mind is Kim Campbell’s ad making fun of Jean Chretien’s face (and man, did that rebound on her). A party's record is fair game. The Conservatives have a record, and we need to expose its flaws.

Three, there is a place for positive advertising (showing our strengths and talking about our policies) but there are some areas where the only effective response is to criticize the other party’s position. For example, criminal justice. Canada had an exemplary record in criminal justice, including jail diversion programs. We could have done a lot better, but we had great success in terms of low and falling crime rates. Harper is changing all that with policies aimed at sending more people, and especially more youth, to jail. This area requires negative advertising: Harper's record must be exposed.

To quote a recent comment, “A majority would enable [the Conservatives] to move forward with the fear-mongering tactics they have been using around crime in Canada. The self-fulfilling prophesy that happens with massive investment in the correctional industry is at the expense of more constructive and much needed economic and social policy. The experience of hopelessness and despair results in people making ends meet through criminal means. Harper and his crew are working toward a mandate to ignore the desperate life situations of those in Canada who are increasingly impoverished. The Harper agenda for this country feels less and less like Canada.”

Finally, there is a puzzling double standard here. During the last election Paul Martin was crippled by media criticism of him going negative against Harper – well before the campaign started or a single critical word was uttered. The reason this happened is that so many people find Harper’s extremist views frightening for our country. Harper is scary, and so the Liberals were expected to talk about his scariness, and so they were portrayed as scaremongerers. Go figure.

Right now, by my count, the Conservatives are embroiled in five scandals:

* Massive campaign spending fraud in the last election, resulting in a reprimand from Elections Canada, resulting in PMO interference in the civil service, resulting in possible future criminal charges.
* Twelve dead Canadians and many more sick due to tainted meat while Harper proposes to reduce food inspection even more.
* A Foreign Affairs minister with a history of reckless disregard for confidential papers and a girlfriend with mafia ties.
* An attempt to buy the vote of a dying Liberal MP.
* Their last prime minister admitting to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from an arms dealer, with tens of millions of dollars in bribes still unaccounted for.


Friday, September 05, 2008

Street Racing

Just to be clear here: street racing is when people in two or more cars race each other on public streets. It has a clear meaning and is not a generic term for speeding.

A couple of years ago the federal Tories started a propaganda campaign about street racing. I had never had any direct knowledge of street racing so was a little dubious that it was such a major cause of concern, but I thought, well what do I know. The only thing that really bothered me was a suspicion that street racing was being used to justify the Tory desire to imprison more youth.

Well now the new laws against street racing are in force and people are being charged. Last week I read an article about a 52-year old woman who was driving on a hiway near Guelph in the middle of the day, and was clocked at 130-something km in an 80 zone. Today the Star has an article about a mom in Toronto going to pick up her son for daycare, driving 101 in a 50 zone at 8:30 in the morning. Both women were charged with street racing.

Now, I make no apologies for either infraction. Both drivers were endangering lives and should be charged. But... street racing?

This is the most inept, inaccurate description of an infringement I have ever heard of. And it seems to be done on purpose. Harper manufactured a bogeyman problem; he created a law that charges unrelated crimes as if they were caused by this problem; and then, presumably, he will be able to point to statistics showing that he has taken action on the problem.

And as an aside, I'm not sure what happened to "dangerous driving" charges. It used to be that if you exceeded the speed limit by a certain amount you were charged with dangerous driving. Now do we have three levels: (1) speeding (2) dangerous driving and (3) street racing? That's like this great burrito place I used to go to. You could get your burrito mild, medium, hot, extra hot, or "tender moments".


Ten Reasons Harper Is Calling the Election Now

1. By-elections: Four by-elections are supposed to be held in September but will be cancelled if Harper calls the election on Sunday, as predicted. Tories were predicted to do badly in the by-elections (as bad as third place in Guelph), which would have weakened them considerably.

2. Economy: The economy continues to weaken and is possibly heading into recession.

3. Diminishing Support in Quebec: Harper did a lot to bring Quebec on side, but his recent cuts in arts funding may have started a slide, according to Chantal Hebert.

4. Scandal: Elections Canada announced that Conservatives exceeded the $18.3 million election advertising limit in the 2006 election and wrongly claimed taxpayer rebates. It is charged that they laundered money between local and federal accounts. This will go to the courts, but not until after the election.

5. A second scandal: Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier flagrantly broke the rules about confidentiality, apparently frequently, but finally by leaving important NATO documents in the care of a woman who has ties to organized crime. There is going to be some kind of inquiry but again, not until after the election.

6. A third scandal: There are disturbing allegations that Conservatives tried to buy dying Chuck Cadman's vote in parliament. New revelations came out just this week pointing at Harper's direct involvement.

7. A fourth scandal: Sometime soon, presumably, we will finally get our inquiry into how much money Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney got from international arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber, and under what circumstances. We may even learn a little about how Harper managed to cover up, or at least delay, the investigation.

8. Failed military policy: The war in Afghanistan is going really badly. It was one thing to go in initially to try to stabilize the country. Now Canadian soldiers and dying and Afghan civilians are dying and it's not clear that we're making any progress at all. There are also disturbing questions about the real motivation of the American involvement.

9. November US election: An Obama win in the United States will strengthen the momentum of progressives here.

10. PR strategy: After papering the nation for six or eight months with negative, scaremongering anti-Dion ads, the Conservatives apparently feel the groundwork is laid for them to "go positive" with touch-feely "at home in my mansion" ads featuring that ballpeen hammer of a charmer, Stephen Harper. (I caught the first one on TV last night.)

And a final reason... Every new opposition leader has a learning curve (someone did an historical analysis and estimated three years before they're fully effective) but Stephane Dion is coming into his own; with Bob Rae now in parliament, the Liberals are becoming more of a threat to Harper.

If you have more, please let me know!


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Did She Deceive Us?

When Sarah Palin spoke at the Republican national convention she didn't mention god or religion, much less abortion or creationism. I expected that she would play all that down in an effort to woo independents and especially Clinton supporters, but no mention? Everyone else spoke on behalf of conservative social values. Even that old dog Rudy Giuliani mentioned religion.

We hear that she has very radical social views: no abortion even in cases of rape; book bannings; creationism in the classroom. I can see only two options: either she separates her personal views from what she wants to implement, or she was being very deceptive in her speech.

There are some indications to suggest the former. The previous governor vetoed pro-life legislation, but she signed it. She promised that as governor she would not promote the teaching of creationism, and stuck to her promise (none of her school official appointments are creationists). She vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (arguing that it was unconstitutional). This was all while a politician in a right wing state.

I'm still feeling that she deceived us. I'm used to people who hold those views wanting to impose them on everyone else. (Try to imagine an extremist anti-choice advocate who doesn't want to make abortion illegal.) I'm used to feeling that Republicans represent a base that does not include me. In the last 16 years I have seen the Republicans as a party that holds extremist views and that wants to control and harm people who don't agree with them. Either she's different (which would be wonderful) or she is conning us with sins of omission.

The problem is not just that she appeared seemingly out of nowhere. It's also that the so-called media vetting of her is no salacious and partisan that it's not credible. Here's hoping for some balanced, in-depth analysis of who Sarah Palin really is and what she stands for.

So much of the criticism has just been junk. She's criticized for exploiting her family by bringing them on stage, but every single national politician has done that, and as far as I know they have always done that. People are claiming that she supported the bridge to nowhere before she opposed it; but so what if she did the right thing in the end? She's dismissed for using a speech writer but they all use speech writers. And on and on. There are claims that she's an Alaskan secessionist when she obviously isn't; I read an interview with her in which she said Alaska was brought into the United States for its resources and so it was her duty as governor to provide them. The big problem with the junk criticism is that it diminishes the credibility of real criticism.

A microcosm of the problem exists in the viral email by Anne Kilkenny. (Just google the name to find it.) I did some checking and it appears to be legit in that it's not a hoax, but the tone is so relentlessly negative that it's difficult to believe.

Palin's environmental record is an area where I suspect the criticism misses the mark. She is criticized for questioning the cause of global warming, but she is one of the few governors who has done something about greenhouse gas emissions, signing a pact with BC on the issue. Her support for drilling in Alaska is about whether or not to preserve the pristine nature of a park, not the environment in terms of global issues. And most northerners understand that designating polar bears as endangered is a mistake: polar bears are being hurt by global warming, which can't be affected locally, but they're also unbelievably dangerous to humans, and people have to be able to protect themselves.

Amidst all the smears of her character and record, I fear that the real problem with Sarah Palin may be getting lost: what she will do in office about issues like abortion, creationism, sex education and the separation of church and state.

Update: It now appears that some of what was said about Sarah Palin's social views was incorrect. She did not ban any books, or try to. According to CNN, all she did was write a letter (when she was mayor) to the city librarian asking about the policy on banning books.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Obama Widens His Lead

Some polls have Obama up by 9 points today.

Standing by while women are trashed really works for him. Congratulations, Democrats: you finally learned how to fight dirty. Too bad you only pick on girls.


Why the Liberals Can Win This Thing

Despite widespread polls showing the Liberals and Conservatives tied, the Globe recently published a poll suggesting that the Conservatives might be headed for a majority.

But what the polls don't show is fire in the belly and election readiness. From a number of factors, including two communications I got yesterday, I think the Liberals are going to rise to the occasion and win this thing. My riding association, which didn't seem very interested in including new faces in the last election, sent a great email asking for volunteers... a real call to arms. Plus, I received a charming and effective letter from Bob Rae, asking me to write, call or email him with my views so he can "give them voice in Ottawa and beyond." Small things perhaps, but they show that the party is pulling in the grass roots in a way they haven't done so well in the past.

I have no doubt that Harper is calling the election because he saw numbers similar to what the Globe published and thought this was his best shot at a majority. Cynically tossing aside his commitment to fixed election dates, he's telling bald-faced lies about gridlock in parliament and going to the polls more than a year early. Once again he's using tax-payer money to finance his personal ambitions.

It's going to rebound on him. A few days ago I was thinking of going back to the NDP (after some inspiration from James Laxer), but now I'm galvanized to support Stephane Dion. I can't wait to see Dion debate Harper: integrity and intelligence are going to look very good in comparison to nasty ideology.

Harper now has a solid record, and it's a record of dismantling principles we hold dear. Canada has a low (and declining) crime rate and internationally-renowned jail diversion programs: Harper has done what he can to fill our prisons, especially with his favorite target - youth. We have a strong civil society and vibrant artistic community: Harper has done what he can to strip funding. He has horrified us with his use of power to attack private citizens, such as his completely unfair recent denunciation of journalist Gwynne Dyer. He is underhandedly trying to chip away at a woman's right to control her own body. And there are some really shady election shenanigans that he has to answer for.

There are a lot of scary things Harper wants to do but has not yet been able to, but the scariest is the dismantling of our system of public health care. Make no mistake: if he gets his majority, or maybe even if he gets another minority, health care as we know it is toast. We already have private health care: any Canadian can go south and buy whatever they want. The only reason for instituting two-tier health care in Canada is to undermine the current system and force its demise.

This isn't like the last election, when the media undermined a legitimate line of attack against Harper by saying the Liberals were scaremongerers. This time around Harper has a record to stand by, and it's not pretty. Harper's vision of Canada has been exposed and it is a US Republican Mini-Me: militaristic, unregulated, polluted; with tax cuts for the rich and benefits cuts for the poor; with full jails; and with government hand-outs geared towards corporations, not communities.

This isn't like the last election, when the Liberals were crippled by allegations of corruption (some valid, some not) that sapped our fighting spirit.

This time we have a visionary leader who radiates integrity and who is in tune with the concerns of Canadians. And we have an energized base that is gungho to get Harper the heck out of Ottawa.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Case Against the Case Against Palin

From The New Republic:

At the end of 2005, a close friend called to say that he begun writing speeches and talking points for a certain gubernatorial candidate.

"Remind me," I asked. "Who is Sarah Palin?"

I was dismayed at my friend’s choice of political entree. Why was he wasting his time on a relative nobody, trying to beat an incumbent governor (and former three term senator) in the Republican primary? It was utter folly. "Wait until the big money starts coming in for Murkowski," I said. "Wait until the party machinery goes to work on Palin. They will eat her for lunch."

Murkowski, for his part, expressed a similar view. "If I decide to," he said, "I will run and I will win. It's that simple."

The folly, of course, turned out to be my own (and Murkowski's), as Palin slaughtered the incumbent in the primary--posting a 30 point margin of victory--and went on to win the general (over a former Democratic governor) without seeming to break a sweat. She then quickly fulfilled an implicit campaign promise by slapping down ExxonMobil, BP, and ConocoPhillips in negotiations over a proposed Alaska natural gas pipeline, even though they, too, by all accounts, were well prepared to dine on her tender little frame. Not bad for a lightweight.

Listening to the Democratic leadership respond to John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate, one hears echoes of the Alaska Republican leadership from just a few years ago. Barack Obama’s spokesman, Bill Burton, put it this way: "Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency." Former mayor? If you're going to skip over her job as governor and, before that, her job heading the commission that oversees production of the largest petroleum reserves in America, why not "former high school student"? Bah, what does it matter: She's just a small town mayor, just a hockey mom, just a beauty pageant queen. Palin has never shunned these belittling monikers, in part, I imagine, because the camouflage has served her so well. Soothed by the litany, her opponents tend to sleep too late, sneer too much, and forget who it is that hires them.

Watching Palin operate over the past few years has been like witnessing a dramatic reading of All the King’s Men. In 2002, Murkowski had interviewed but passed over Palin in selecting a replacement for the senate seat he vacated to become governor. In a grand act of nepotism, he chose his own daughter instead. Palin was tossed a bone: She chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees the production of petroleum in Alaska. When she reported conflicts of interest and other ethical violations by another commissioner, she was ignored by Murkowski’s chief of staff and ultimately resigned in frustration. One can imagine how the quick double dose of corruption--insiders having their way with the polity and its resources--sickened the young Palin. It also fired a savage competitiveness that is not, perhaps, apparent at first glance.

What the Republicans missed about Sarah Palin then - and what the Democrats seem poised to miss now - is that she is a true political savant; a candidate with a knack for identifying the key gripes of the populace and packaging herself as the solution. That keen political nose has enabled her to routinely outperform her resume. Nearly two years into her administration, she still racks up approval ratings of 80 per cent or better.

One might reasonably ask to what extent her local popularity is buoyed by the high price of oil (and thus, a budget surplus, and thus, the ability to carry a stick into meetings with big oil). One might speculate about the durability of her anti-corruption stance in light of her conflict of interest in the dismissal of her director of public safety. And only the truly feckless would not concern themselves about her dearth of foreign policy experience. But in probing this candidate, it would behoove the Democrats and the pundits to shed the notion that they are dealing with some dimwitted bumpkin (Dan Quayle seems to come up a lot lately) who’s going to start crying when they ask her to name the president of Azerbaijan; or that Palin is the townie who was brought into the Skull & Bones initiation night for the amusement of all; or that somehow the prom queen ballots got mixed up with the Alaska gubernatorial poll. Trivialize her at your own peril.

Sarah Palin is a living reminder that the ultimate source of political power in this country is not the Kennedy School or the Davos Summit or an Ariana Huffington salon; even now, power emanates from the electorate itself. More precisely, power in 2008 emanates from the working class electorates of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Sooner or later, the Obama camp will realize that the beauty pageant queen is an enormously talented populist in a year that is ripe for populism. For their own sake, it had better be sooner.

Why do I post a pro-Palin article?

There have been two women in this presidential campaign, and both have been hounded to quit. Enough is enough. In addition, every news outlet and blog in the world is preoccupied with salacious Palin gossip today. It's time to get back to the issues.