Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday night

Not hard this week at all 'cuz there's new Deadmau5 to be heard. I like this one, called October, so seasonal and all.

Have a good night.

Snapshot of the U.S. campaign

Checking in on the U.S. campaign. Here is how it's going, in a nutshell.

A new Obama ad:

A new Romney ad:

Which one do you find more compelling?

Krugman yesterday:
The conventional wisdom — which I too bought into — was that Democrats were going to support Obama, but grudgingly and without much enthusiasm. There had been too many disappointments; the golden aura of 2008 was long gone. Meanwhile, Republicans would show their usual unity and discipline, and at best it would be Obama by a nose.

Instead, the Republicans appear to be in a shambles — while the Democrats seem incredibly united, and increasingly, dare I say it, enthusiastic. (Mark Blumenthal sees this in the polls, but it’s also just the impression you get.)
And on the lighter side, since it is Friday morning after all, check out Al Franken's fundraising letter and make sure to read the P.S.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The big news

Should probably say a lot more about this at some point but not right now, it's been a busy week. So I go with Bruce Anderson's last paragraph yesterday on the Justin news:
Many in the Liberal Party know that the chances of extinction are real, and the consequences of making the wrong choice are dire. The race will become interesting with the entry of its first star candidate. But I suspect it will be far from over.
With emphasis on the last two sentences.

Carry on!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nice help if you can get it

Hey ho, the gang is all back together. Bridget Mary McCormack, sister of West Wing alumnus, Mary McCormack, is running for Michigan Supreme Court and the above is her ad highlighting the tricky ballot that may affect her support.

A few ad ever? Longish but for fans of the West Wing, probably.

It also reminds me how thankful I am that our judges do not run for office, with all the money that would require and the political and populist pressures that would bring.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday morning laugh

Go visit this Tumblr page: RomCom 2012. Hilarious.

h/t to Mother Jones and deBeauxOs1 who suggested Mother Jones' Tumblr to me in the first place. An excellent web stop during the 2012 campaign.

P.S. Did you see that Rachel beat O'Reilly on two nights this week? In a key demographic, anyway. Gives us hope about our American friends.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Liberal leadership buzz

Some people down east and in Ottawa tell me that unless I run there is not likely to be a LeBlanc in the leadership race.

More to come in the next few weeks.

P.S. Regarding me running...funny friends I have:)

Friday night

Brand new Tegan and Sara. My friend, here at the house, says it is "way too girlie." Good enough for me!

It's a little different for them, more upbeat.

Have a good night.

Late night

UK Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg with his very own version of a Checkers speech. He offers an apology for supporting massive tuition fee increases when he and his party had promised not to during the election campaign. It was probably timed to go in advance of a Lib Dem convention coming up next week.

It's not going over very well and is being widely mocked. Well done Clegg! Political parties everywhere, take note on the perils of such efforts in this here era of teh internets.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Harper's special bonus pension to be clipped

Bob Fife's report on CTV's national news last night contained a segment about Harper's special bonus pension allotment of an extra $100,000 as PM.

This might not have come to light but for some unknown Conservatives having floated it to the media, along with other pension reform plans. "The hunt is on" for the source, reported Fife, who added that Harper will share in the pain. A little message from within about Mr. Harper?

It's not clear whether Harper (aka hockey loving Mr. Tim Hortons common man) was planning to ante up prior to the publicity this pension attracted.

The devil on the PM's bonus plan will be in the details.

Weaver to run for B.C. Greens

Reading the tea leaves: "Climate scientist Andrew Weaver turns to B.C. Greens for political run." A provincial development but it may signify an undercurrent in Canadian politics. Weaver, renowned climate scientist, is running for the Greens and not the NDP in BC when it's looking like the NDP are shaping up to be the next government.
Victoria-born Mr. Weaver, a member of the Nobel-Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said in a statement on Thursday that he hoped his candidacy would build some momentum for the Greens.
“By running for the Green Party in the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding, I have decided to do something I never thought I would do. But with a rudderless provincial government and the potential for a landslide NDP victory in the upcoming election, I felt now was the time to get engaged to ensure that the principles of economic, social and environmental sustainability continue to be raised and discussed in the legislative assembly.”
There are 3 independents in the BC legislature but no Greens.

News like this in the New York Times today and that we've been hearing about for months adds to the context: "Ending Its Summer Melt, Arctic Sea Ice Sets a New Low That Leads to Warnings."
Now, some scientists think the Arctic Ocean could be largely free of summer ice as soon as 2020. But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions. To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil.
Given the significant environmental issues affecting B.C., Northern Gateway, etc., we may see more of a movement to Green parties there and possibly elsewhere in the country as environmentalists become even more politically galvanized as a result of the federal Conservatives' anti-environmental stances.

This is one of the biggest issues of our time, to state the obvious, and there is a huge gap at the federal level waiting to be filled.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mercer does omnibus

I agree. Could have done without the use of the word handsome but otherwise, spot on.

Also, look for MP pension reform to be included in the omnibus bill for public relations purposes, always a paramount priority: 
When Peter Van Loan announced Monday that scaling back MP’s retirement nest eggs would figure into the fall’s budget implementation bill, it lay an obvious trap: vote against what promises to be another hefty and likely controversial budget bill and the Conservatives can tell voters you voted against pension reform from now until 2015. 
Conservatives and democracy, they just go together. Like a fish and a bicycle.

Update: Sixth Estate on the omnibus/MP pension reform ploy.

NDP and Conservatives cooperating to "screw" Liberals?

From John Ivison's column last night:
Nathan Cullen, the NDP House leader, and Peter Van Loan, his government counterpart, have apparently been having productive discussions about passage of C-21, the political loans accountability act, which would, among other things, tighten rules on leadership candidates walking away from loans.
The legislation is intended to address what happened during the Liberal leadership campaign in 2006, when a number of candidates failed to pay off their debts in the required time period. With another Grit leadership contest under starter’s orders, the other two parties appear only too happy to co-operate and pass the legislation so that it applies to the Liberal contest.
Here's a contrast from the UK for you where they have been engaged in discussions on how to reform broader party financing rules:
A Liberal Democrat spokesman insisted that the coalition would not impose a deal on the parties. "The history of party funding reform is littered with corpses. You have to do it in consultation with the other parties," the spokesman said.
C-21 on political loans, and any party financing reform for that matter, should be subject to a similar standard. All political parties should be supportive of the reforms and that should be a litmus test for this type of legislation. Otherwise, we can end up in a situation where some parties are legislating in their own self-interest and not in the best interests of all on a subject matter that shouldn't be subject to partisan gaming.

Here is an excerpt from the Legislative Summary as it stands today with some key things to watch as C-21 proceeds:
Bill C-21 would replace the “per contest” contribution limit with an annual contribution limit (clause 6(2), amending section 405(1)(c)).21 An individual will therefore be entitled to contribute more than $1,100 ($1,200 starting on 1 January 2012) if the leadership contest lasts longer than one calendar year.

2.7 Transitional Provisions and Coming Into Force (Clauses 34 and 35)

Clause 34 provides that loans and the guarantees of such loans made prior to the coming into force of Bill C-21 are not subject to the provisions of the bill and continue to be subject to the Canada Elections Act as it read before the coming into force of Bill C-21.
Bill C-21 comes into force six months after Royal Assent, unless the Chief Electoral Officer publishes a notice in the Canada Gazette indicating that the necessary preparations have been made to put the new requirements of the bill into effect, in which case the bill comes into force on the day said notice is published (clause 35).
If these provisions remain the same, it looks like what was expected to be an improvement this time around for the Liberal leadership race, maximum contributions of $1,200 being permitted on a per year and not per contest basis, won't be happening. It doesn't appear that the new legislation will come into effect until the race is over, by the time this is passed.

On the other hand, it looks like the existing provisions of the Canada Elections Act will apply to loans so there is some flexibility there.

But if, as Ivison suggests, the other two parties are seeking to make mischief for the Liberals, those are two important benchmarks to watch. When each come into force is key. 

This is dry, technical stuff and yet there are other very important implications too. See bullet point 4, for example, of the government's news release which would have huge implications if it applied to this contest: 
Only financial institutions (at market rates of interest) and political entities could make loans beyond that amount. Rules for the treatment of unpaid loans would be tightened to ensure candidates cannot walk away from unpaid loans: riding associations or parties will be held responsible for unpaid loans taken out by their candidates.
The amount referred to in the first sentence is $1, 200.

We will see if the NDP and Conservatives are indeed intent on changing the Bill, as it has been proposed to date, with a view to squeezing the Liberal leadership contest.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mitt's having a bad week

And it's only Tuesday!

A fun video that speaks to the eternal question...just who is Mitt Romney? It looks like he's this one. Not good.

I am enjoying the waterfall of commentary condemning Romney for these insensitive, uncaring remarks. It is viewed as a huge gaffe. It's getting front page treatment across the U.S.

If a similar incident were to happen in Canada, by a leading right wing figure, would we see such a rational objective perspective on a wide scale and sustained basis? I have my doubts.


Maybe veterans are tired of wearing hats

So the Harper government has finally launched their transition plan for military members moving to civilian life: "Veterans Can Now Apply for Jobs through Helmets to Hardhats Canada." Yes, from helmet to hardhat, narrowing the field of opportunity for highly skilled military personnel.

This programme has been previously blogged about here and the principal critiques of it remain. Veterans should be encouraged to make wide use of their skills and educational assistance could have been considered as a key transitional measure in order to enable more choice to the individual beyond the construction trades. Surely that's not all Canada has to offer veterans. And surely that's not all Canada needs in terms of assessing what industries these highly trained individuals are suited for. But here is the government website lead:
Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) Canada is a partnership with Canada's Building Trades Unions, their many Employers across Canada, and Government stakeholders. The H2H sister program originated in the United States in 2003, and has been highly successful for America. H2H Canada will follow a similar model, but is focused on career opportunities in Canada for anyone who has served (or is currently serving and looking to transition to a civilian career) in either the Regular or Reserve Force Components of the Canadian Forces. The program offers apprenticeship opportunities to achieve a journeyperson qualification in the building and construction trade of one's choice, as well as potential opportunities in other management positions within this industry, all leading to a promising new career.
Whether it's a good choice for women veterans is another question. A preliminary search suggests the percentage of women in the construction industry is quite low (12% based on these 2008 figures or less), whether because it's just not an attractive option, the physical nature of construction or whatever the reason may be. The government is nevertheless emphasizing this route, not women friendly, for all our veterans, men and women.

There is nothing wrong with trades work. This just seems to smack of simplistic thinking, the easiest solution and not necessarily the best opportunity we can give our veterans.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Carbon tax madness

Here's a CBC report on the back and forth between the NDP and Conservatives today: "Carbon tax allegations fly between NDP and Conservatives." This follows on Tom Mulcair's declaration yesterday that Harper and his MPs are lying about the NDP's position on a carbon tax.

I hope some Liberal leadership candidates are following all this back and forth and thinking about how to put the idea of a carbon tax forward but in a constructive, positive way. Thinking about how to change the climate of discussion on this issue in the coming year. A carbon tax should be embraced and explained in a way that doesn't deny its utility. That doesn't make it a shameful political bomb that no one should touch. There's a good story to be told about its economic benefits. When Shell wants one, you've got an opening, for starters. Canadians are supportive about the idea. There are lots of thoughtful people urging support for it with new arguments unfolding as the climate changes.

Denying, running away from it...anyone who adopts that stance, you're doing the Conservatives work for them.

Update: One more thought to throw into the mix on this, see quote by Conservative MP Barry Devolin at the bottom of this link on the public mood being different given world economic turbulence. Agreed. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tax cuts and economic growth

A new study in the U.S. is the latest to say that tax cuts do not positively relate to economic growth. David Leonhardt of the New York Times excerpts its conclusions in the Economix blog:
The top income tax rates have changed considerably since the end of World War II. Throughout the late-1940s and 1950s, the top marginal tax rate was typically above 90%; today it is 35%. Additionally, the top capital gains tax rate was 25% in the 1950s and 1960s, 35% in the 1970s; today it is 15%. The average tax rate faced by the top 0.01% of taxpayers was above 40% until the mid-1980s; today it is below 25%. Tax rates affecting taxpayers at the top of the income distribution are currently at their lowest levels since the end of the second World War.

The results of the analysis suggest that changes over the past 65 years in the top marginal tax rate and the top capital gains tax rate do not appear correlated with economic growth. The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.

However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution. As measured by IRS data, the share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to how the economic pie is sliced—lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.
Leonhardt then continues on with the subject in his column today:
But tax cuts have other effects that receive less attention — and that can slow economic growth. Somebody who cares about hitting a specific income target, like $1 million, might work less hard after receiving a tax cut. And all else equal, tax cuts increase the deficit, as Mr. Bush’s did, which creates other economic problems.

When the top marginal rate was 70 percent or higher, as it was from 1940 to 1980, tax cuts really could make a big difference, notes Donald Marron, director of the highly regarded Tax Policy Center and another former Bush administration official. When the top rate is 35 percent, as it is today, a tax cut packs much less economic punch.

“At the level of taxes we’ve been at the last couple decades and the magnitude of the changes we’ve had, it’s hard to make the argument that tax rates have a big effect on economic growth,” Mr. Marron said. Similarly, a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that, over the past 65 years, changes in the top tax rate “do not appear correlated with economic growth.”
Kevin Drum's take on it:
Low tax rates appear to be associated with:

Higher investment
Lower savings
But no change in growth rates

None of these three results were statistically significant, but a fourth result was: lower top marginal tax rates mostly benefit the rich, leading to much higher income inequality. The study found similar results for capital gains tax rates. All the charts are below and the full study is here.

One caveat: Generally speaking, marginal tax rates were high from 1945-1980 and low from 1980-2010. So the CRS results might just be an artifact of the fact that growth was higher during the postwar period and lower during the post-Bretton Woods era. In other words, it might have nothing to do with tax rates. But of course, that's the point. Nobody thinks that raising taxes is actively good for the economy, except to the extent that it helps balance the federal budget. The question is whether there's any evidence that lowering taxes boosts economic growth. And there really doesn't seem to be.
Information worth keeping in mind when you hear those tax cut espousing politicians linking them to economic growth. One of the Harper government's favourite slogans is their "low tax plan for jobs and growth." Let's make them prove the relationship or at least ask hard questions about whether there is any relation at all. This latest study suggests no, there is not.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Putting the Progressive back in the Conservatives?

It's September, the big back to school month, and Parliament resumes sitting this coming week. Interesting then to note some moves being made by the Harper government, perhaps designed to put a new coat of paint on their tired, right wing shtick. Noted in the past day or so...

"Canada gives up defending asbestos." Citing the election of the PQ and their anti-asbestos policies - shared by most Canadians - the Harper government has slunk away from their continued support of the industry. An excuse presented itself and our federal government, integrity driven as always, has finally backed away from the poison.

An item today on the environmental file: "Environment Minister eyes overhaul of law protecting at-risk wildlife." This is certainly not the hard stuff on Kent's plate. No GHG emission regs for him. It's more of the declaration of National Park status from the Harper crew. Still, the casual observer will be left with an impression.

Then there was John Baird's splashy speech yesterday: "Canada to promote gay, women's rights in foreign policy." Easy to give a foreign affairs speech, it's low cost and gets a lot of attention. Meanwhile, back in Canada, the Conservative backbenchers' agenda manages to keep coming forth in Parliament, always bubbling under the surface. It's a hard sell to say these Conservatives are pro-gay rights and pro-women but apparently that's not stopping them from trying.

A new coat of paint for Canadians? A concerted effort to re-brand? Something to watch. Leopards don't change their spots so easily, or however that expression goes.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday night

New Dave Matthews out just this week. Live version at Rolling Stone.

Have a great night!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Annals of statesmanship

There's this news that prompts a spontaneous moment of reflection and good will from Canadians across party lines: "Tributes pour in for a gravely ill Peter Lougheed."
Considered one of Canada’s greatest statesmen and an unabashed champion for his home province of Alberta, former premier Peter Lougheed remains gravely ill in hospital, according to his successor, Don Getty.
And then there's this news that prompts a ton of response in the Globe, off the charts in terms of the recent numbers of comments you will see there: "Harper, honoured in N.Y. as statesman of the year, aims to snub UN."

What did Harper do on the world stage over the past year beyond the recent closure of the Canadian embassy in Iran? Let's review the award winning brand of statesmanship.

We saw Harper of the health care benefit cuts to refugees that were deplored by Nobel winner Elie Wiesel. There was more arbitrary international application of the death penalty. There was Canada's "no" to the IMF, a lonely position in the G20 at a serious moment for the Eurozone. We saw condemnation from the international science community on environmental cuts. We saw more of the go-it-alone routine with other allies as well, not exactly the stance one thinks of when they hear the word "statesmanship."

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, meet your 2012 pick in statesmanship by a New York based foundation that gets a lot of press. Statesmanship - for lack of a better word, of course, the "man" is inherently sexist but what to use in its place - just doesn't seem to be what it used to in the political world. It now seems to involve less constructive engagement and a higher degree of lecturing and finger pointing.

Anyway, it's not the awards that tell us who the statesmen are among us.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Saturday night

To make up for last night's music fail on the blog, this is the Foo Fighters performance at the DNC this week. Not bad at all. Predictable but fine choice as their opening song.

Have a good night!

Friday, September 07, 2012

A Kitchener-Waterloo note

If this had been known:
Elizabeth Witmer put an end to speculation about why she stepped down as MPP after 22 years. She said her decision had nothing to do with politics. Her husband of 32 years has cancer.
Might the by-election result have changed? Might voters have looked on it as less of a power play by the Liberals and helped Liberals? Might it have helped the PCs hang on to the seat in a wave of sentimentality? Might this context have taken away some of the protest edge that the NDP benefited from?

Who knows. It may put some of the analysis taking place now in a different light though.

Witmer obviously didn't want to disclose this as she departed and it is indeed a private family matter. Still, you can't help but wonder about it all now that she has decided to make it public.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Liberal leadership rule day

The FAQ on the new leadership site has all your details including entry fee ($75,000, not so high actually), spending limits ($950,000) and notably, debt limits ($75,000 - got to be prudent and demonstrate that to Canadians, very good). I wouldn't have called it an "FAQ" but that is just nitpicky:)

April 14, 2013 is the big day. Mark your calendars!

Like: heavy use of word "change," emphasis on "We're in this together." We want you, join us, etc., also smartly emphasized. How to keep new member and supporter people involved and interested during leadership for more than just leadership reasons should be considered.

Carry on!

Clinton rocked

A little bit of Bill to start your day. Massive speech last night:
Watching Bill Clinton take the stage at the Democratic National Convention and take over the room with his first few, simple words – “We are here to nominate a President and I’ve got one in mind” — was like watching a great violinist follow a group of gifted amateurs.
His commanding presence, his let’s-just-chat manner, the familiar sound of his southern growl were the perfect counterpoint to the Republican Party’s assault on President Obama at its convention in Tampa last week. He skewered the Republicans gently, biting his lower-lip in characteristic fashion. He spoke more in sorrow than in anger – while also making it clear that the Republicans had almost destroyed the country and now want to finish the job.
Gone was the resentful man who did everything he could to stop Mr. Obama from being nominated in the 2008 primaries. Here was the beloved party elder called forth from his retirement to help save Mr. Obama’s candidacy by lending the dry, aloof president his down-to-earth, loamy charm: “I want to nominate a man who’s cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside.”

Mr. Clinton did his assigned job, which was to do Mr. Obama as much good as he could. He also probably did some good for his wife, should she decide to run in 2016. And he got to bask in the spotlight– until Mr. Obama came out to share his standing ovation and lead him offstage.
Have a good one.