Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday night

Also, if you are a Kaskade fan, he released his Coachella set and it's available for download.

Have a good night!

Harper hitting new lows

The talk of the day, the Nanos poll on leadership numbers. Nice to see Canadians seem to be factoring in the major scandals of the past month or so on F35s and Robocon and Harper's leadership numbers, that have been his strength, are taking a hit. I say "seem to be" there because polls these days are so iffy.

Mulcair's numbers are rising, no doubt due to a bounce from their convention and the major ad buy. An ad buy that has to date gone unchallenged by the Conservatives.

None of the leadership numbers are that high in this poll, really. Further, this part of the reporting was notable, as far as these things go:
Canadians don't seem all that pleased with any of the leaders, however: asked who was most trustworthy, 15.8 per cent said "none of them" and 20.6 per cent were undecided. Those answers added together are more popular than any of the leaders. Asked which leader is the most competent, 15.8 per cent said no one and 24.4 per cent said they were undecided. As for who has the best vision for Canada, 15.2 per cent said none of them and 27.1 were undecided.
Looks like there is still a great untapped market out there for someone who can think & lead differently.

Also in new lows, this itler-Hay nonsense is apparently more than a one-day wonder. Seriously, Conservatives?

Late night

This is not the sexy issue of the day but it's a biggie. The F-35 scandal saw new key information disclosed on what the Prime Minister and cabinet knew about the price of the deal and when they knew it. You'd never know that of course from the Prime Ministerial demeanour in the House of Commons today. He seems to be on auto-pilot at this point.

A $25 billion budget for the F-35s was approved by the Harper cabinet in 2008. $25 billion approved by the cabinet. Yet the Canadian public was sold a purchase price of $15 billion after the purchase choice was announced in July 2010.

And our Prime Minister stands in the House of Commons, with all his nodders in the background, and mumbles about implementing the Auditor General's conclusions. Why anyone would believe that is beyond me.

“When Parliament is misled . . . where are we supposed to go except to this place and say, a government that persistently gives us inaccurate information is a government that has been in contempt of Parliament?”

The Tories, meanwhile, are keen to turn the page on the damaging audit, repeating that they have frozen the fighter jet budget at $9 billion and struck a panel of bureaucrats to manage the purchase properly.

Of course they're keen to turn the page.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Against the Woodworth motion

Obviously, I am against the motion brought forth by Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth who is indeed reopening the abortion debate, despite Harper's blather that his government would not do so. That was lip service and to be expected. If Mr. Harper didn't want to reopen the debate and stir up divisive emotions in the country, he wouldn't be turning a blind eye when an MP of his brings a motion before the House of Commons. But here we are, debate reopened.

Note the way Woodworth is couching his motion:
“The abortion debate has actually never been closed,” Woodworth said Wednesday after a caucus meeting. “My motion is designed specifically to look at the question of how we decide what is a human being and who we decide is a human being. That debate has been left hanging by almost every court that has adjudicated on the subject.”
He is using a surreptitious framing that is intentional. When the discussion is channelled in this way toward "what is a human being" and when does life begin, etc., then the waters start getting muddied. People take their eye off the real issue which is interference with a woman's right to choose. The motion's request that a committee be struck to pursue the issue as entirely framed by Woodworth will further that muddying.

This motion does indeed seek to create a national parliamentary venue in which a Conservative controlled majority will choose the witnesses, skew the terms of the discussion toward the pro-life position and ultimately choose their preferred outcome: "the membership of the special committee consist of twelve members which shall include seven members from the government party, four members from the Official Opposition and one member from the Liberal Party, provided that the Chair shall be from the government party..." Imagine watching that committee in action.

Read Woodworth's motion and you will see how skewed the questions are that he seeks to have a parliamentary committee spend public time and resources pursuing. It is crafty in that way in that a special committee would garner national attention, if it were to be struck, with all the attendant ability to start changing the national conversation. It is not so crafty though, in how lop-sided his terms of reference are. Putting aside any of the substantive issues, the terms of his motion are highly objectionable on that basis alone.

Of course, what would not be adequately presented in such a special so-con committee, the overwhelming view of Canadians who are pro-choice, recently put at a strong 2-1 margin. When the discussion is about a woman's right to choose, Canadian opinions are strongly in support and have remained so over a decade. This is why Woodworth obfuscates in framing all his public statements as he does above.

And needless to say, the Harper Conservatives are playing with fire, letting women and all pro-choice supporters twist in the wind while their backbencher appeals to the base.

I hope MPs from all sides will strongly reject this effort, whenever the vote occurs (June or September based on a few of the reports).

Monday, April 23, 2012

An assessment of the op-ed pages of the nation

Left-wing media bias? Doesn't look like it...

From The Sixth Estate, "how guest space gets allocated on the op-ed pages of the nation’s major newspapers":
1. Business associations, consultants, and free-market think tanks — 21%
2. Conservative politicians and insiders — 16%
3. Progressive NGOs, unions, and environmentalists — 12%
4. Liberals politicians and insiders — 7%
5. Social conservative and religious groups — 7%
6. NDP politicians and insiders — 4%
Data in support will be posted on the site.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday night

A no-brainer tonight, new Deadmau5 just released today, very nice! A vocal track, it's melodic, upbeat, what more could a Deadmau5 fan ask for?

Have a good night!

Flaherty's no to the IMF

Update (Friday 8:35 p.m.) below.

From Canadian Press last night: "Flaherty digs in heels on calls to pony up more bailout money for euro zone." Jim is all talk to the hand, Eurozone:
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had some tough talk on Thursday for the 17 euro zone countries, saying Canada and other non-euro nations shouldn't be expected to commit any more bailout funds to the region and even publicly challenging a top European Central Bank official.
Tough talk from Flaherty on Thursday. Preceded by tough talk from Tim Geithner on Wednesday where on behalf of the U.S., he too said no more funds to the IMF. Why is the U.S. balking?
The United States, the IMF’s largest shareholder, is refusing to offer more cash, in part because of skepticism that Europe has done enough, the view that the IMF has substantial resources already and reluctance to seek more money from Congress in an election year.
That latter point, that the U.S. position is election year politics, is more explicitly emphasized here. All of this U.S. backdrop kind of giving us a little bit more context to the portrayal of the situation as Jim vs. the European Central Bank Executive Board and Jim vs. Christine Lagarde. Really, it's more likely that it's a case of Jim standing behind Tim Geithner and taking license from that freedom.

So why do we care? Well, Canada doesn't hesitate to skip around the world these days telling anyone who will listen how well our economy has done and held up through the recession years. Like Harper did in Colombia this week:
Canada is right now one of the few strongly recovering, growth-oriented, developed economies.

The relative strength of the Canadian economy has been shown through the recent worldwide recession and nascent recovery.

It is based on a secure banking system, solid macroeconomic policies, open and transparent government institutions, and stable parliamentary politics.

That is not just our opinion.

The World Economic Forum considers Canada’s banks to be the soundest in the world, and of course, earlier this week Moody’s came out and said the same thing.

Forbes magazine ranks Canada as the best place on earth to invest, and the OECD and IMF continue to predict that the Canadian economy will be among the leaders of the industrialized world over the next two years.
So you'd think we'd be capable, like other nations, of stepping up when the IMF is seeking funds in case European economies go under. We don't face election year politics, after all, the Canadian public likely wouldn't bat an eye at us making a contribution. But since the U.S. isn't, easier for us not to do so. Never mind all the glowing talk from Harper on us leading the industrialized world.

Meanwhile, Japan, that was rocked with a tsunami and nuclear disaster that is still unsettled, has stepped up with $60 billion, along with Denmark, Norway and Sweden chipping in $26 billion. Lagarde now claims to have about $320 billion in pledges of the $400 billion she is seeking.

We're more of an international outlier now, such developments tend to confirm it. Sure hope we won't need the world's assistance for anything in the future.

Update (Friday 8:35 p.m.): Here's the Canadian Press update on Friday night. The IMF has raised $430 billion in pledges, excluding Canada and the U.S. Just wanted to add the Japanese official's quote here:
Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi said his country wanted to make a significant contribution in part to say thanks for the support the world provided Japan last year.

"Last year we were hit by a great earthquake and a large number of countries provided assistance," Azumi told reporters at a briefing following the G-20 meetings. "Now we are heading toward reconstruction and we are moving solidly so we have to help (other) people who are in need."

Late night: Scenes from a literature drop

Thought I'd just do a quick post here and upload some pictures taken during a literature drop in Parkdale-High Park by a few of we federal Liberals on a balmy Thursday evening in connection with an event we have coming up on the afternoon of April 28th, a "Spring Forward" political renewal fair.

Some musically topical graffiti: 

Thanks to the folks above who were very kind to put up a few of our flyers! (Top right, sorry not the greatest shot with the Blackberry) Mmmm, food looked good too!

And who doesn't love a UFO or skeleton themed mailbox ornament? I know I do.

Response was good from the folks at the doors who happened to be in the midst of arriving home or on their way out. It's always a heartening thing to see people on the doorsteps and get a reality check outside of the online world. It's different, to say the least. Now if only we can cover enough ground to get lots of people out...

Beyond this event, we have a fundraiser coming up in May and no doubt other events through the summer to be announced.

Have a good one!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

24 hours in legal politics

First, on the Racknine suit against Martin and the NDP...NDP MP Pat Martin issued an apology yesterday for the statements he made regarding Racknine when the issue appeared in the news around late February. His apology was unequivocal, offering no defence, making it appear to be an attempt to mitigate damages in the lawsuit. Note that the request for an apology was made on February 24th and Martin did so just yesterday on his own behalf and on behalf of the NDP. Almost two months after the request. The apology is also figuring prominently on the NDP website.

The original claim was for $5 million with $2.5 million of it being claimed for lost business income. As Racknine's lawyer notes here in his comments to CBC, Racknine still intends to pursue the case given the damages suffered: "Defamation is easily done yet difficult to repair. My clients have been damaged and it remains to be seen if those damages can be corrected. The court action will continue until such time that the damages my clients have suffered are recognized and repaired," Matthews said.

There's no way to know, from the outside, what the actual losses were to Racknine as a result of the comments made, $2.5 million or something much less, but they figure to be known at some point once this suit is resolved (I'm discounting the possibility of the punitive damage claim that would take it up to possibly $5 million). These are the kinds of mistakes political parties can't afford to be making in this era of diminishing funds.

Elsewhere in litigious political developments, the Conservatives are coming out fighting against the Robocon lawsuits filed in 7 ridings across the country. Sounds like they will try to strike the lawsuits as disclosing no reasonable cause of action, as Jim Morton suggested last night, based on the comments of Arthur Hamilton in this Star report. Of course the Conservatives would try to forcefully beat back these lawsuits. The prospect of by-elections being ordered in any of the ridings would be very unsettling for the Conservatives and unprecedented.

As the original reporting on these suits suggested, the motion(s) the Conservatives are bringing might have something to do with the novelty of these applications: "Shrybman said these cases test new ground by asking the court to weigh the effects of a pattern of voter suppression, not just specific acts that have characterized the few legal challenges of past election results." Hamilton stated in the report last night, virtually in response to that Shrybman point: "“They don’t have any back-up,” Hamilton said. “This is a publicity stunt.” Guess we'll see.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Harper on celebrating the Charter

Harper can't celebrate the Charter 'cause it's too divisive and all. This is weak tea for a Canadian Prime Minister:
“In terms of this as an anniversary, I think it's an interesting and important step, but I would point out that the Charter remains inextricably linked to the patriation of the Constitution and the divisions around that matter, which as you know are still very real in some parts of the country,” Mr. Harper said.
See Chretien on that supposed division in a CBC interview today.

Recall that Harper didn't seem to care so much about such divisions back in 2008 during the constitutional crisis he invoked by proroguing a confidence vote in order to save his own political skin:
Normally Canadian prime ministers work toward encouraging national unity and a common sense of purpose among Canada's French and English populations. Not so Mr. Harper in this political dogfight. His rhetoric was the most anti-Quebec, and by inference anti-French, of any major party, let alone a government, of at least the post—Second World War period. Perhaps, having failed to increase his support there in the election, he felt it expedient to abandon Quebec and appeal to the latent hostility toward bilingualism and Quebec in his political heartland of the west. Perhaps his party's polling had indicated that this line of attack was a winner outside Quebec.

Regardless, there was no doubt that Mr. Harper's inflammatory and tendentious rhetoric was stunningly effective in mobilizing public opinion against the proposed coalition. The opposition parties and their leaders seemed unable to counteract it.
Whatever works for the occasion, that's how Stephen Harper rolls as a national leader.

Best read on the Charter today? Louise Arbour, for all your Harper-counteracting needs.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday night

A big new remix of "The Naked and Famous." I don't know which one I like better.

What else...have also been listening to Foo Fighters this week, this is a good acoustic version of one of their best. So a little bit of new and old tonight.

Have a good one!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Renewal: New #LPC Supporter By-Law

Matt Certosimo, the new national Membership Secretary has posted on a request for input on a new by-law on how the party will go about welcoming Supporters into the party, the new category of party participant that was created at the January national convention. Here is his request:
3. There are three areas in which decision-making will occur, and your input in each is critical to the success of this project.
The first being the process by which people sign up and become supporters. This process will be governed by a new “Supporter Bylaw” – I would like to invite your feedback on the draft “Supporter Bylaw”, in the comments below; (For more background, please read our Supporter FAQ here.)
The second is how the Liberal Party will connect and engage with new supporters once they sign up. How do we build that relationship? And how do we engage these supporters to become passionate advocates, members and donors?
The third element is the actual launch of the formal supporter registry and the campaign to recruit thousands, particularly over the summer. We all have a role to play in this campaign to renew our party.
His post went up on April 2nd and the comments there don't seem to speak to the draft of the by-law. I thought I'd draw attention to it here in case it has been missed or people don't visit there often. This is a good effort in open governance on an important initiative and hopefully people will take a look at the by-law and submit their comments as members or through their riding association (as Parkdale-High Park is in the process of doing).

On academic freedom

Jim Balsillie has an op-ed in the Globe today in the wake of the rejection by York University of a major investment by him of about $30 million that was to be matched by the province: "Academic freedom at York University? More like academic myopia." Here's what he says was his condition on the deal:
Regarding Osgoode Hall, our agenda was on the table. Our interest was that York/CIGI become a global centre of excellence in international laws of trade and finance, intellectual property and the environment. For accountability, we needed an undertaking that the research would be in those domains. That was the sole condition. As a donor, I think that was a fair expectation.
Two Osgoode academics wrote an op-ed on the weekend, "York University did the right thing in cancelling CIGI deal," which is a very different read in terms of the strings attached:
First, the deal obliged York to report regularly to the Centre for International Governance Innovation on curriculum and other academic programming matters. York had to consider the centre’s advice before making decisions on these matters. This interference in academic planning was removed by the Osgoode protocol. York administrators allowed it back in.

Second, York resurrected the Centre for International Governance Innovation’s veto over the program’s annual budget, which had been removed by the Osgoode protocol. This veto gave the Centre for International Governance Innovation the power to cut off all funding, public and private, under the program.

Third, the Centre for International Governance Innovation was given alarming rights regarding the appointment, renewal, and termination of faculty, and individual research plans. Language in protocols signed by the centre and York failed to remove these rights in clear terms.

Fourth, the deal relied on a stunted definition of academic freedom, suggesting that the Centre for International Governance Innovation wished to influence teaching and service activities.

Fifth, the deal had a one-sided approach to enforcement. York’s obligations in the original agreement, which gave the Centre for International Governance Innovation an extensive role in academic affairs, were enforceable by binding arbitration. On the other hand, the governance innovation centre’s commitments to protect academic freedom and institutional autonomy were not subject to any enforcement mechanism.

Sixth, the deal would have allowed secret amendments by the Centre for International Governance Innovation and York. The Osgoode protocol precluded this and required the relevant documents to be made public. These provisions were not accepted.
Beyond the details, duelling op-eds within days of each other probably tells you why this arrangement just wasn't going to work out.

The professors add:
Governments should not funnel taxpayer money through gatekeepers that are not publicly accountable and whose role jeopardizes academic freedom and institutional autonomy. If allowed to proceed elsewhere, this model will corrode public confidence in universities.

Private funders must recognize that there are important limits to what they can request in exchange for money. Serious academic institutions must ensure that the limits are respected.
That may be "old-think" according to Balsillie, others would call it the underpinnings of the Canadian public university system.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Friday night

Madonna at Easter, such an obvious choice, come on. How can you not like that girl, still going strong, with her ear to the ground on what's new and so here she is remixing it up with Avicii.

Have a good night!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

On the lighter side: Alien minister watch

It's not foreign radicals that are a problem for Canada, it's the alien ministers who walk among us!

"Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver (right) gets a demonstration of the Reality Cave from Communitech's Jeff Nesbitt (photo: Anthony Reinhart)"
That's Minister Oliver, who famously and quite ridiculously labelled environmental groups as being radical groups and under the influence of foreign special interests. He's getting a demonstration of the "Reality Cave." That actually sounds like something the whole lot of Harper ministers could do with!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Late night

Pro-penny elimination video:

Study that says consumers will be bitten:
A 2001 economic analysis by Penn State’s Raymond Lombra found that a post-penny economy—in which we round to the nearest nickel—would probably hurt the poor disproportionately. In theory, rounding would balance itself out over time—with some transactions rounding up and others rounding down. Lombra’s simulations, however, which were based on the price book of a major retail chain, found that between 60 and 93 percent of transactions would round up, costing consumers nearly $600 million a year. Because the poor tend to use cash more often, they would shoulder most of that burden. Penny for your thoughts…

The #TellVicEverything sequel: #TellDaveEverything

I was half joking in my post yesterday about the need for a #TellDaveEverything hashtag in the U.K. on the occasion of the U.K. Tories introducing their own intrusive internet surveillance legislation. Turns out, the fine citizens of the U.K. have got one up and going. Good for them! Hope Dave Cameron and the gang get a taste of the power of the internets.

It would be nice to think, and it's probably with a strong foundation, that we Canadians led the way on this trend. 

Check out the #TellDaveEverything hashtag for some fine British humour!

And may this serve as an additional reminder to Mr. Vic Toews and the Harper government of the #TellVicEverything moment and the ongoing strong opposition to C-30 that remains.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

UK Tories to introduce internet surveillance law

Conservatives worldwide seem to be uniting under a new banner of privacy invasion:
Under legislation expected in next month's Queen's Speech, internet companies will be instructed to install hardware enabling GCHQ – the Government's electronic "listening" agency – to examine "on demand" any phone call made, text message and email sent, and website accessed in "real time", The Sunday Times reported.

A previous attempt to introduce a similar law was abandoned by the former Labour government in 2006 in the face of fierce opposition.

However ministers believe it is essential that the police and security services have access to such communications data in order to tackle terrorism and protect the public.

Although GCHQ would not be able to access the content of such communications without a warrant, the legislation would enable it to trace people individuals or groups are in contact with, and how often and for how long they are in communication.
Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, said: "This is an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran.

"This is an absolute attack on privacy online and it is far from clear this will actually improve public safety, while adding significant costs to internet businesses.

"If this was such a serious security issue why has the Home Office not ensured these powers were in place before the Olympics?"

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, said that both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats had resisted the plan when they were in opposition.

"There is an element of whoever you vote for the empire strikes back," she told Sky News's Murnaghan programme.

"This is more ambitious than anything that has been done before. It is a pretty drastic step in a democracy.

"It was resisted under the last government. The coalition bound itself together in the language of civil liberties. Do they still mean it?"
This is true, they are backtracking on their explicit pledges made during the election.

It never ceases to amaze how it is the conservatives around the world who supposedly want to get government off citizens' backs are nevertheless the ones who are looking to expand powers like this so radically.

Expect tremendous opposition to this bill. Maybe they need a #TellDaveEverything hashtag to get it going...

Routine cellphone tracking in the U.S.

There is a must read as context for the Canadian C-30 legislation that is pending, the lead from the New York Times today: "Police Tracking of Cellphones Raises Privacy Fears." The American Civil Liberties Union has put together records from police departments across the U.S. showing widespread cellphone tracking that has become an ordinary thing:
Law enforcement tracking of cellphones, once the province mainly of federal agents, has become a powerful and widely used surveillance tool for local police officials, with hundreds of departments, large and small, often using it aggressively with little or no court oversight, documents show.

The practice has become big business for cellphone companies, too, with a handful of carriers marketing a catalog of “surveillance fees” to police departments to determine a suspect’s location, trace phone calls and texts or provide other services. Some departments log dozens of traces a month for both emergencies and routine investigations.
This widespread use of cellphone tracking seems to be a product of the Bush administration's vast NSA eavesdropping for terrorism operations which was quite controversial but somehow still managed to gain Congressional approval, including immunity for phone companies against lawsuits. Apparently what was good at the national level in the U.S. crept down into state and local police departments' ethics.

We have not had the same experience as the Americans so comparisons are never exact. This report is revealing, however, of how things could possibly go for us if we were to travel down a road which created a permissive environment for warrantless internet surveillance with the proposed C-30. The notion that law abiding citizens have nothing to worry about doesn't hold up when you see such evidence of law enforcement tracking cell phones even in non-emergency situations.

C-30 is going before a Commons committee at some point in the next few months. This U.S. experience could be helpful when it does. It's a reminder that there needs to be a check on law enforcement and that check is the judicial warrant.