Saturday, October 31, 2009

This H1N1 Crisis Could Have Been Handled Better. It's That Simple

I really like Leona Aglukkaq, our Health Minister. I think she is decent and hard working, but believe she may be over her head. And I say that in a nice way.

This past summer when the government should have been running extensive PR over H1N1, they were instead concerned with partisan pork-barreling, and the potential pandemic was put on the back burner. Now when there is a rising panic over getting vaccinated, social unrest is growing.

Mass confusion and uncertainly prevails, and I think it's up to this entire government to come out of their offices and start reassuring Canadians. We're constantly hearing of shortages, and that's creating a great deal of panic.

The adorable little kids in the video are exactly what we need. Ms Aglukkaq can't do this alone. She's new and she's been thrown into a ministry that has found itself involved in two distinct crises. The Isotope shortage and now H1N1.

Last week when Liberal Carol Bennett asked the health minister a question, the frat boys led by John Baird, started squealing like hyenas, treating the entire thing like a joke. To her credit Ms Aglukkaq answered the question clearly and seemed rather embarrassed by the conduct of some in her caucus.

We need PR that is reassuring. This government may have left it too late to order the vaccine, and now are having trouble getting enough; but simple little ads with sound advice would be far more helpful. When we hear MPs heckling and laughing over a matter this serious it does not give us much confidence that they have the ability to handle the crisis.

Temperatures rise as 'flu rage' explodes across Canada
By Misty Harris,
Canwest News Service
October 30, 2009

As much as flu fears have people pulling away, H1N1 is also uniting Canadians through emotion — specifically, a deeply entrenched sense of frustration that, for many, has mutated into bitterness, anger and even hostility.

Call it flu rage. Across the country, otherwise mild-mannered Canadians are finding themselves admonishing strangers for open sneezing, losing their cool with queue-jumpers at vaccination clinics, writing angry letters to government and media, and lashing out at friends whose H1N1 opinions differ from their own.

"Anger can cause us to be proactive . . . but it can also become destructive, which is what we see with flu rage," says psychologist Gordon Asmundson, a professor whose research at the University of Regina includes health anxiety.

"It's about a sense of uncertainty combined with the feeling of having no control over a situation. We tend to catastrophize when we're anxious." Tami Xanthakis, a proofreader from Montreal, can't remember the last time she was this worked up about something as "elementary" as a flu shot.

"What's fuelled my anger is feeling like I'm between a rock a hard place, not knowing what to do," says Xanthakis. "I feel like the government is pushing us to do this — like, 'Just be quiet and take it.' But I don't know enough to feel secure with the vaccine."

For others, such as Barbara Carlson of Dawson's Creek, B.C., it's media "hysteria" and Internet half-truths that make her bristle.

"This is the year 2009, and yet, people still believe in superstition and misinformation," says Carlson, a retiree. "Do you know how many e-mails I've gotten that told me I could prevent H1N1 by cutting up raw onions and putting them in water around my house? I finally replied,

'Hanging a dead rat around your neck will do just as much good.' The (sender) was quite miffed."

Dan Hoch, principal of an elementary school just outside Calgary, says emotions are running high among parents and teachers alike, primarily because of what he calls the "mind-boggling" deficit in vaccination sites.

"This is a life-and-death scenario . . . People are asking, 'How did the province not get it right?'" says Hoch. "What would it have taken to ask each school to give up their gymnasium for a day and vaccinate all the kids there — literally run them through the same way we do on picture day? It could easily have been done."

Resentment also looms large among Canadians that find themselves constantly worrying about infection, whether from open-sneezers at the gym or those who blithely bypass the sinks in public washrooms.

"I think about it all the time — more than ever before," admits J'Lyn Nye, a radio host from Edmonton who says she doesn't want to be "sheeple" by herding in for a vaccine she knows little about.

"I come in first thing every morning and wipe down all the studio equipment with Lysol. I love the guys I work with, but you never know where their hands have been."

Lindsay Harris, a Toronto-based mother of two, was so angry at the system Thursday that she posted a public rant titled "H1N1 stands for, 'I'm in hell'" on her blog,

"Who was the brilliant thinker behind only having 10 flu clinics for a population of 2 million?" asks Harris, whose husband was turned away from the vaccine line just 90 minutes after the clinic doors opened, because of short supplies.

"I even called around to see if anyone had heard of a black-market vaccination clinic. Now there's a thought."

Black markets will not be a good idea because you don't know if it's the vaccine you're even getting. The government should have handled this better, but it's not too late.

Did You Ever Wonder What Stephen Harper's Private Health Care Plan Might Look Like?

For $2300.00 you can go to a private clinic in Toronto and get the H1N1 shot without waiting.

Welcome to our future.

I went to a clinic today run by my doctor and his colleagues. Got my shot, was in and out in less than 15 minutes, and it didn't cost me a dime.

This is highway robbery. If they can get the vaccines why can't average Canadians?

Anna Mehler Paperny
The Globe and Mail
October 31, 2009

As Canadians from coast to coast line up for hours awaiting H1N1 flu vaccinations amid continuing short supply and growing public concern, tens of thousands of patients registered with at least one private Toronto clinic can make appointments to receive shots for themselves and their family members.

Medcan, a private clinic in downtown Toronto, bills itself as a “preventive health-care clinic” and provides extensive medical, counselling and nutritional services, including its signature service: A comprehensive, head-to-toe “executive” medical checkup that costs upward of $2,000.

And now, the 40,000 patients in Medcan's database are also eligible to make appointments for the sought-after H1N1 vaccine.

Medcan received a shipment of 3,000 shots of adjuvanted H1N1 vaccine from Toronto Public Health Friday, and the clinic's medical director James Aw said phones have been ringing off the hook and e-mails piling up with requests for appointments.

The clinic won't charge for the H1N1 vaccine, but is only offering it to its clients - all of whom must undergo the $2,300 head-to-toe medical checkup as a prerequisite for joining the clinic's patient roster.

If These Super Models Don't Get Your Attention, Climate Cover-Up Will

As a blogger I was sent a media copy of James Hoggan's new book Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming. While I was aware that the climate change denial movement was becoming as threatening as global warming itself, the book has really opened my eyes to just how organized this movement is and the vast amounts of money they are willing to spend.

With Stephen Harper, his Reformers and the Fraser Institute leading the denial crusade in Canada, we have got to start fighting back.

I was pleased to learn that others have become just as outraged. Now we have to create a similar outrage in the Canadian people. Using the economy as an excuse for inaction is simply not good enough.

New Book - Climate Cover-Up
State of the Environment

Starting in the early 1990s, three large American industry groups set to work on strategies to cast doubt on the science of climate change. Even though the oil industry’s own scientists had declared, as early as 1995, that human-induced climate change was undeniable, the American Petroleum Institute, the Western Fuels Association (a coal-fired electrical industry consortium) and a Philip Morris-sponsored anti-science group called TASSC all drafted and promoted campaigns of climate change disinformation.

The success of those plans is self-evident. A Yale/George Mason University poll taken late in 2008 showed that — 20 years after President George H.W. Bush promised to beat the greenhouse effect with the “White House effect” — a clear majority of Americans still say they either doubt the science of climate change or they just don’t know.

Climate Cover-Up explains why they don’t know. Tracking the global warming denial movement from its inception, public relations advisor James Hoggan (working with journalist Richard Littlemore), reveals the details of those early plans and then tracks their execution, naming names and exposing tactics in what has become a full-blown attack on the integrity of the public conversation.

Leveraging four years of original research conducted through Hoggan’s website,, Hoggan and Littlemore documented the participation of lapsed scientists and ExxonMobil-funded think tanks. Then they analyzed and explained how mainstream media stood by — or in some cases colluded — while deniers turned a clear issue of science (and an issue for public safety) into a partisan argument that no one could win.
This book will open your eyes, it will raise your ire and, most especially, it will inspire you to take back the truth — to end the Climate Cover-up.

Climate Progress
The Invention of Lying About Climate Change

I don’t review many books because:

- It’s too time-consuming,
- I’m not sure how many of my readers (or anyone else) really devote time to reading non-fiction books on climate.
- There haven’t been many good books out there to review, books with useful, well-written information you can’t really get on the web.

But I have a dozen books on my table right now — and another dozen will be coming in the next couple of months. Some are very good, including Gore’s new book on solutions due early November. Right now, I am happy to unhesitatingly recommend Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming by James Hoggan editor of with Richard Littlemore, key figures behind the terrific

I think everyone who follows the climate issue needs to understand the whole gory history of the most immoral and, so far, most successful, disinformation campaign in US history — the effort, largely funded by conservatives and fossil fuel companies, to deny climate science and delay the urgent action needed to preserve the health and well-being of countless future generations.

While I follow the issue very closely, I still learned a lot from this book, especially the fascinating Chapter 11 on “using courts and cash to silence critics of climate confusion.” I didn’t know the whole story of how uber-denier Fred Singer managed to get Roger Revelle (one of Al Gore’s teachers, who famously alerted Gore to the climate threat) to co-author a piece of nonsense. I didn’t know the story of the lawsuit that resulted when Revelle’s graduate student tried to speak up about “what he saw as Singer’s blatant manipulation — his outright bullying of — of Revelle” who “was in his eighty-second and it would turn out last year,” who “had already suffered a serious heart attack and was in failing health — unable according to his students and staff to pay attention for more than 15 or 20 minutes.” And if you want some more details on that, you can go here and here. But while some of the details are on the web, sometimes you just need to curl up with the whole well-told story.

This is a must-read book.

Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming.

Jump to full article: (ca), 2009-10-09Author: James Hoggan with Richard LittlemoreIntro:

"Climate Cover-Up documents one of the most disgusting stories ever hidden about corporate disinformation. What you'll discover in this book amounts to proof of an intergenerational crime." DAVID SUZUKI, Author of The Sacred Balance and Good News for a Change.

"This book explains how the propaganda generated by self-interest groups has purposely created confusion about climate change. It's an imperative read for a successful future." LEONARDO DICAPRIO, Actor and Producer . . .

Starting in the early 1990s, three large American industry groups set to work on strategies to cast doubt on the science of climate change. Even though the oil industry's own scientists had declared, as early as 1995, that human-induced climate change was undeniable, the American Petroleum Institute, the Western Fuels Association (a coal-fired electrical industry consortium) and a Philip Morris-sponsored anti-science group called TASSC all drafted and promoted campaigns of climate change disinformation.

The success of those plans is self-evident. . . .

Although all public relations professionals are bound by a duty to not knowingly mislead the public, some have executed comprehensive campaigns of misinformation on behalf of industry clients on issues ranging from tobacco and asbestos to seat belts.

Lately, these fringe players have turned their efforts to creating confusion about climate change.

For All Their Bluster Canada May be Last of G7 to Exit Recession

I guess there's a reason why you don't name a personal injuries lawyer as your finance minister. For all the bluster we learn recently that Canada's economy is not as strong as Harper and Flaherty have led us to believe and in fact news that the recession was over in September was incorrect. The Financial Post has stated that we need to cool down our bragging, because other countries are moving closer to recovery than we are, despite a strong banking system.

As journalist Murray Dobbin points out: "What do the mid-recession housing boom and the Harper Conservatives' rise in the polls have in common? Answer: the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's massive sub-prime mortgage scheme that is keeping up the appearance of an economic recovery." And because of this high risk game that the Reform Conservatives have been playing "The largest sub-prime lender in the world is now the Canadian government."

It is predicted that unemployment will rise and in St. Thomas Ontario, a plant that employs 1,600 people: "Ford is insisting that the St Thomas plant will close in September of 2011" This is not about wanting to be the bearer of doom and gloom. This is about saying WAKE UP CANADA! This neo-conservative government is the wrong fit for us and they are failing us badly.

Someone needs to put a motion on the floor demanding that this government opens it's books. We still have no idea where our money is. This is Mike Harris all over again. We can't get rid of them for awhile but we can at least demand some answers. I'm tired of being lied to.

GDP slump leaves Canada on the sidelines while G7 partners exit their recessions
October 30, 2009

Today’s announcement that Canada experienced negative GDP growth in August while other G7 countries are coming out of recession is proof that Stephen Harper’s partisan approach to the economy is slowing Canada’s recovery, Liberal Finance Critic John McCallum said today.“

Viewing the GDP numbers in the context of how other G7 countries are faring, it’s clear that Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty need to put away their talking points, have a look at what’s happening in the real world and acknowledge that what they’ve done so far hasn’t worked,” said Mr. McCallum.

The latest Statistics Canada figures show that Canada’s GDP contracted by 0.1% in August following zero growth in July. By contrast, the United States, for example, announced yesterday that its economy grew 0.9% over the summer quarter.

Mr. McCallum pointed out that as recently as Tuesday, Minister Flaherty was at the Parliamentary Finance Committee still refusing to acknowledge that countries like Japan, Germany and France exited their recessions last spring.

His inability to understand how Canada is fairing internationally is incomprehensible,” said Mr. McCallum. “And when you add in the fact that the Conservatives have been playing politics with stimulus money, it’s pretty easy to see why Canada is falling behind. No wonder the Conservatives have been so reluctant to release any job creation or construction progress details related to Canada’s stimulus package.”

Canadian economy continues to struggle
Toronto Star
October 30, 2009

Canada's economy continued its backward slide in August, throwing more cold water on claims by the Bank of Canada the recession ended during the summer.

The gross domestic product, a measure of all goods and services produced by the economy, posted a decline of 0.1 per cent for August. The decline comes after a flat result for July.

Most economists had forecast a gain of 0.1 per cent or no change.

Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney has said a recession ended in the July-September period after three quarters of contraction. His latest rosy prediction for the quarter – an annualized rate of growth of 2 per cent – came just last week.

"This morning's report was a full-on disappointment," Meny Grauman, senior economist for CIBC World Markets wrote in a report.

TSX battered after disappointing GDP data
Financial Post
October 30, 2009

Bad economic data from Canada and the U.S. set the stage for an ugly day on North American stock markets Friday.

As trading stopped for the day, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 198 points, or 1.8 per cent, to 10,878, with the three big sectors of energy, financials and materials providing most of the drag.

For the week, the TSX benchmark was down about 4.5 per cent, with Thursday providing the only positive session. The index posted its first monthly decline since February, losing about the same proportion over the month of October.

On Friday, Statistics Canada said the economy contracted 0.1 per cent in August. It doesn't bode well for the Bank of Canada's expectations of annualized third-quarter growth of two per cent — ending the recession — when two of the three months so far in this period have seen flat or negative GDP.

Canadian economy slips back in August
Financial Post
October 30, 2009

OTTAWA - Canada's economy fell back unexpectedly in August, despite initial signs that the country was climbing out of recession.

Bad economic data weighs on stock markets
Financial Post
October 30, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jason Kenney's Tyranny and Lack of Conscience Has no Equal

When confronted with the news of the brutal murder of a woman and her unborn child
in Mexico, after being refused regugee status in Canada, Kenney sarcastically replied "I plead guilty, I’m a racist."

This man has absolutely no conscience.

To make matters worse two Conservative students from McGill University laughed throughout the narration of the woman's deportation and eventual death.

What is Canada turning into here?
Jason Kenney confronted and disrupted in Montreal
October 23, 2009

Migrant justice activists and organizers, with their McGill allies, confronted and disrupted Jason Kenney -- Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism -- before and during a closed function with Conservative McGill.

At least 50 protesters, in an action called by No One Is Illegal-Montreal, were able to surround Kenney in the Arts Building as he tried to enter the private event. For about one-minute, Kenney was asked about the report in today’s Toronto Star that a Mexican woman, who twice tried to apply for refugee status to Canada, was found murdered in Mexico.

Kenney brushed off the question and didn’t answer.

Kenney was also asked explicitly about his party’s blocking of a refugee appeals division, and again he didn’t answer.When Kenney was told by a member of No One Is Illegal that his policies scapegoat migrants and pander to racists, Kenney replied (with a hint of sarcasm): “I plead guilty, I’m a racist.”

At that point, Kenney’s handlers and security pushed through protesters to get Kenney inside the venue.

For the next hour and more, protesters chanted and made noise to disrupt the event from outside. The protest was partially a teach-in as demonstrators gave speeches about Kenney’s track-record, highlighting in particular:

- the murder in Mexico of Grise, a woman who twice tried to claim refugee status in Canada but was refused
- the Conservatives continued refusal to implement a refugee appeals division;
- the recent treatment of Sri Lankan migrants who are currently detained in British Columbia;
- Kenney’s introduction of visas for Mexicans and Czechs while falsely misrepresenting their refugee claims as bogus;
- Kenney’s role in US-style mass raids on migrant workers in Ontario this past April;
- Kenney’s unapologetic defense of Israeli war crimes in Gaza and Lebanon;
- Kenney’s attack on free speech by preventing the entry of George Galloway into Canada;
- Kenney’s involvement in cutting the funding of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF);
- Kenney’s proposed changes to the status of migrant workers, which makes their situation more precarious;
- the trend under Kenney and the Conservatives to push migrants into temporary worker categories;
- Kenney's defense of Conservative policies justifying rendition to torture and security certificates;
- the lifting of the moratorium on deportations to Burundi, Rwanda and Liberia, while making it harder for other migrants to make refugee claims;
- Kenney’s record of comments that pander to racists, by inaccurately portraying migrants as abusive of the immigration and refugee system.
- and more (!).Members of Solidarity Across Borders, active in support work with local migrants facing removal, also spoke to the day-to-day reality of deportation and detention in Montreal, citing examples of local individuals and families fighting for status, in defiance of removal orders.

At one point, two members of Conservative McGill – Gregory Harris and Derek Beigleman -- began chanting “We love Kenney, we love Kenney.” Protesters stayed silent for at least a minute, and then asked the Conservatives about their view on the murder of Grise, as well as Conservative immigration and refugee policies that allowed the tragedy to happen. The two Conservatives laughed throughout the narration of Grise’s deportation and eventual death.

During the picket, protesters also spoke in solidarity with No One Is Illegal Vancouver’s picket today demanding the release of Sri Lankan migrants who are currently detained after arriving in Canada last Sunday, as well as this evening’s migrant justice assembly by No One Is Illegal-Toronto.

Michael Ignatieff Puts Women Back on Track for Pay Equity. Yeah!!!

Some very good news today from Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. He is presenting a bill that will put Canadian women back on track to receive pay equity. In the past four years the Reform Conservatives have pushed the women's movement back four decades. We need to reclaim our place so that we can move forward. If we have to constantly back pedal, we'll be going nowhere.

We are not a left-wing fringe group Mr. Harper.

Mr. Ignatieff has already made a commitment to childcare and the Liberals third pink book is hot off the press. Finally some hope. Now if he can just get them to put 'equality' back into the Status of Women mandate and 'gender equality' into our foreign policy, we'll be closer to getting back the ground we lost four years ago. Yeah! ... I think.

One of the best things about this is that it will get REAL Women of Canada's corsets in a bunch and Charles McVety will probably wet himself. Hee hee hee.

Michael Ignatieff commits to pay equity
October 29, 2009

OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff today tabled a private member’s bill that calls on the Harper government to repeal the flawed pay equity measures included in the 2009 budget implementation act, and to enact a truly proactive system.

“This bill recognizes what should never have been in doubt: a human right to equal pay for work of equal value,” said Mr. Ignatieff upon tabling the bill.

Earlier this year, the government hid behind the stimulus measures in Budget 2009 to attack the rights of Canadian women, undermining pay equity.

“It was wrong, it must be reversed, and with the passage of this bill, it will be,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “This bill repeals the measures in the budget that put pay equity on the bargaining table –because no human right should ever, ever be subject to negotiation.”

Mr. Ignatieff said that under the Harper government, the gender gap in Canada is growing. In an annual global survey that looks at the participation of women in the economic and political life, Canada is ranked only 25th in the world, and is playing catch-up to other countries that have worked to ensure full participation in all levels of society.

“We should be doing better, not worse,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have a prime minister who thinks women are a ‘left-wing fringe group.’ This is wrong on so many levels. All Canadians, regardless of gender, deserve the full protection of their government. All Canadians deserve equality in the workplace.”

A Liberal government would act swiftly to implement the full recommendations of the 2004 Pay Equity Task Force which, as a whole, represents a blueprint for how to properly reform this system.

Mr. Ignatieff committed to firm timelines for the implementation of a new pay equity regime “because Canadian workers have already waited far too long for these changes.

“I am confident that this bill will be met with the support of the House as we act on our shared commitment to protect the human rights of all Canadians,” he said.

Where Were You in 1989? I know Where Michael and Stevie Were

I came across this old video of current Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, when he hosted a segment for BBC in 1989 called 'Three Minute Culture'. It's kind of silly and dated, but fun nonetheless.

The techno age had just moved into full swing and advertisers knew that it wasn't enough to just try to sell us something. They sought to create a 'need' for something they wanted us to buy, and used the new technologies to do it.

So we know in part what Michael Ignatieff was up to in 1989, but what was Stephen Harper doing at that time?

He was engaged in writing policy for the Reform Party, most of it apparently cribbed from the National Citizens Coalition Handbook.

He was an apt follower of 'White Nationalist' Peter Brimelow. In fact he was so enthralled with his book that he went out and bought ten copies for friends.

But more importantly, he was one of the founding members of the Northern Foundation, a group described as 'Extreme Right-Wing'. A vanguard for right-wing ideology, it became an umbrella group for race scientists, anglo-supremacists and neo-nazis. Harper was certainly not a neo-nazi but definitely extreme right-wing.

His passion appeared to be immigration issues and opposition to special privileges for Quebec, and while he claimed to have been kicked out of the group in 1991, I question why he would ever want to help start up such an organization in the first place.

I also don't believe he was as innocent as he claims. When it was revealed in the media that there were neo-nazis in the Reform Party, Harper and Preston Manning feigned surprise and immediately removed them. However, all verify that both men knew exactly who they were and what they stood for; a claim Harper denied.

One of the men evicted was Wolgang Droege. Seen in the photo leading a group of young people, he was leader of the Heritage Front.

The Front was one of the organizations under the Northern Foundation umbrella. I've actually created a timeline from a variety of newspaper accounts and books, that I'm going to post separately.

However, it would certainly appear that Stephen Harper knew Wolfgang quite well. In fact according to Frank Dabbs, author of Preston Manning: The Roots of Reform, "...self-described white-supremacist Wolfgang Droege (was) the party's policy chairman in Ontario." Harper was the party's policy chief.

He had to have known.

In researching Droege I found one comment about him rather chilling. It stated that he had a knack for bringing in young people. Look at the face of the boy behind him, who appears to be marching in a goose step. If you ever wondered what hatred looked like, wonder no more.

However, since the Reform Conservatives seem to be intent on drumming up old tapes and things of Mr. Ignatieff, maybe they should have cleaned out their own closet first, because it would appear their leader may have left a few things behind.

I'd rather have silly and dated than the baggage of helping to found the Northern Foundation.

Stephen Harper and the Fraser Institute Wage War on Climate Science

Despite irrefutable evidence that Climate Change is happening, Stephen Harper is complicit in false advertising against it. But as part of a 'climate change denial' network, he is getting 'a little help from his friends'.

Still referring to global warming as a "theory", he has gone out of his way to ensure that Canada does not become part of the solution. From appointing climate change deniers to the science board, to hiring a climate change-denier to write his speeches; we can see exactly where this is going.

If we are stuck with the Reform Conservatives for awhile, we have to demand that they start taking this seriously, and stop their games. The rest of the world is giving up on us. Are we really ready to give up on ourselves?

Climate Change Denial and the Fraser Institute

Though certainly not the only neo-conservative "think tank" denying the science of climate change, the Fraser Institute is one of the most vocal, and unfortunately, for reasons that baffle me; one of the most respected. According to author Gordon Laird: "And though the FI is the most widely quoted and footnoted organization in Canada, seldom are its proposals or statistics questioned".

According to Brooke Jeffrey: "The Fraser Institute is another formerly obscure group whose rise to prominence coincided nicely with the advent of Canada's neo-conservative politicians, and it has been front and centre of the far right's fight to rethink Canadians' political values and beliefs.... the Institute was set up in the same fashion as several other right-wing groups in the United States, employing a core group of researchers and also engaging like-minded neo-conservative academics from other countries to conduct specific studies.

"To further heighten the international and academic cachet of its work, a second board was set up and given prominence in institute literature, deliberately overshadowing the real power and corporate funds behind the organization. While the Board of Trustees represents a Who's Who of the business elite in Canada, it is almost never referred to; instead, the board of advisers has successfully been established as the academic window dressing. (Hard Right Turn: The New Face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada, Brooke Jeffrey, Harper-Collins, 1999, ISBN: 0-00 255762-2, Pg 420-421)

Donald Gutstein has written a book called; Not a Conspiracy Theory: How Business Propaganda Hijacks Democracy, that explains in detail how these so-called "think tanks" like the Fraser institute operate. They are not academic institutes but merely disreputable PR firms, who engage in spin. He suggests that 'we follow the money' and that is certainly the case with Climate Change denial.

The Fraser Institute is listed on Greenpeace's website as one of the groups receiving money from ExxonMobil to handle the 'big lie' on global warming. Scientists have concluded that there is better than a 90% assurance that climate change is a reality, yet these tanks capitalize on the less than 10% margin of doubt, and use that to promote their cause.

According to James Hoggan in his new book on the subject: "This seemed like an excellent example, however, of some of the activities of a large group of 'think tanks' that have come under public scrutiny for accepting funding from major industrial sources such as ExxonMobil and then challenging the science of climate change. I put the term 'think tanks' in quotes because it is so difficult to even define these organizations accurately, much less understand what they do." (Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming, by James Hoggan, Greystone Books, 2009, ISBN:978-1 55365-485-8, pg. 77)

As Canadians we have to be smarter than this. Do we want to take the advice of world renowned, peer reviewed scientists; or ad agencies funded by the fossil fuel industry?

For All Their Pork-Barrelling Infrastructure Spending Missed it's Mark

For all their pork-barrelling and partisan advertising with our money, we learn today that the government infrastructure spending was too little, too late.

We are nowhere near economic recovery and job-creation hasn't been up to task. We were outpaced seven to one by the U.S., and as a result they are closer to landing on their feet than we are.

And again, because part of Flaherty's stimulus plan was buying up vulnerable mortgages, a scheme that is keeping up the appearance of an economic recovery; the Canadian taxpayer is now the largest sub-prime lender in the world. This is nothing to cheer about.

And instead of targeting the stimulus money to areas that most needed it and were closer to actually putting shovels in the ground, the ref-Cons targeted the spending on ridings that were either vulnerable for them, or the ridings of cabinet ministers.

Pork-barrelling is nothing new, but the economic crisis called for urgent action, not politicking. Many of the projects that sported their 'Actions' signs were ones already in progress or for simple maintenance. Few new jobs.

Canada's economy long way from recovery: report

Canada's economy is a long way from recovery, and more public investment will be key to getting there, says a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. "I don't see any light at the end of the tunnel … and our high dollar is making it worse," said Jim Stanford, co-author of the report and an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers.

The private sector is still shrinking, most new jobs are being created in the public sector and the economy may require billions more in government stimulus, according to the report released Thursday in Ottawa. "So far we've seen continued decline in exports, continued decline in business capital spending," Stanford said. "Across the private sector as a whole, there's no source of new growth ....

We Need to Listen to Our Youth. It is Their Planet We're Destroying

This video should be a wake-up call for the adults in this country. It is not our planet we're destroying, it's theirs, and to suggest we postpone action on climate change until we are in a better economic position, is a horrible way to look at this. We can always get more money. We can't get another planet.

Earlier in the week, we saw 'flash mob' protests when Parliament was sitting, and the news of the day was whether or not Jack Layton and the NDP were behind them, since the leader of the group is a known NDP activist.

I myself posted on this, but my anger was not at the protesters, but the hypocrisy, if indeed he was. The NDP bill designed to hold the government's feet to fire on global warming, is a step in the right direction. However, a better step would have been for Mr. Layton to support the Green Shift, or at least not campaign against the Carbon Tax for political gain.

He has since admitted that it was wrong for him to have done that, but the Reformers have made the 'Carbon Tax' out to be public enemy number one, so there's no going back now.

Liberal MP Glen Pearson summed up the situation very well:

"What transpired yesterday is something of an indicator as to what Parliament and the country itself has come to. Protesters felt the need to invade a sacred place; parliamentarians looked uncomfortable and somewhat unmoved; and the media raced out into the halls to grab their pictures and stories of young people being muscled out of the Parliament buildings.

"We’re better than this – all of us. The bill itself was asking us to treat climate change seriously. We haven’t and we’ll pay for it in world opinion at Copenhagen, not to mention global devastation. The difficult things we will face in our future – environmental degradation, terrorism, starvation, poverty – demand outrage, attention and a sense of urgency. Parliament can’t muster up that kind of anger, except to lob our partisan attacks.

So, these young people brought it into our own ballpark, trying to give us a wake-up call."

I'm not so sure that the bill being passed will make much of a difference. In Harper's world, global warming is a 'theory', so he'll probably just do what he wants anyway. I agree with Mr. Pearson. Something is better than nothing and we need to listen to our youth.

As a blogger I received an advance copy of a new book Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming, by James Hoggan. It's not really based on the science, but the PR campaigns to discredit the science, and the money behind them.

I started reading it yesterday, and while I was well aware of the 'climate change denier' movement, I had no idea just how organized and brutal they were.

I will be sharing revelations from the book in several posts. We need to pay attention and not get sucked into these false claims, because when you follow the money, it becomes clear that they are being funded by those who stand the most to lose by action.

However, we stand the most to lose by inaction.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Canada Not as Financially Sound as We'd Like to Think

As much as the Reform Conservatives like to brag that Canada is in much better shape than the rest of the world, they may be exaggerating things a bit. Aside from the fact that the Canadian taxpayer is now the largest sub-prime mortgage lender in the world, economists have been crunching the numbers, and the Harper government is going to have to do something soon.

One of the biggest problems is that our revenue has been greatly reduced with tax cuts, and with the ref-Cons still talking Republican, they may not be able to put off the inevitable. They are going to have to raise taxes or else.

I was glad in this article that they also mentioned the problems we are facing with an aging population. Baby Boomers are retiring and will soon be drawing on services they once propped up.

Canada may need to cool bragging
By Paul Vieira,
Financial Post
October 29, 2009

OTTAWA -- Policy makers have reminded us ad nauseam about how well positioned Canada is, vis-à-vis its industrialized peers, in dealing with the global economic downturn because of this country’s sound fiscal framework.

But the country may be reaching a point at which the bragging needs to cool down.

Sure, Canada’s record on public finance looks better than the United States and Europe, measured on a debt-to-GDP basis. Still, some analysts are beginning to wonder whether this fiscal advantage is at risk as budget balances, at the federal level and in some provinces, have deteriorated faster than expected.

The impact is already being felt, with Standard & Poor’s Rating Services cutting Ontario’s credit rating one notch, based on the “sharp deterioration” in that province’s fiscal framework. As a result, Ontario -- set to post nearly $72-billion in deficits over the next four years -- will face higher borrowing costs to finance its growing debt.

Perhaps the advantage is not as big as many had thought just a few months ago,” said Derek Burleton, senior economist at Toronto-Dominion Bank, who has written about the pending fiscal restraint Canada faces.

Aveny Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC World Markets, said policy makers might be overstating the so-called fiscal advantage over the United States, which is now recording annual deficits in the trillion-dollar range -- which, at face value, makes the federal deficit this fiscal year of $56-billion and the combined federal-provincial shortfall of roughly $100-billion sound like a rounding error.

“While we are doing better than the U.S., it is not like we have no problem ahead of us in terms of wrestling the budget balance back into a more sustainable level,” he said. “And like the U.S., we have to remember while the economy is going to be [driven] by stimulus now, it will have to get through a period of restraint ahead.”

Analysts such as Mr. Burleton note that relative to GDP, the overall deficit (at 6%) and debt (64%) for this fiscal year -- fuelled by the recession and stimulus spending -- will still fall short of levels hit in the mid-1990s, or 9% and 102% respectively.

“And we are a long way off from anything the U.S. is facing,” Mr. Burleton added, noting the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is set to surpass the 100% level in the next few years.

But as Mr. Burleton has written, governments face tough choices once their stimulus programs come to an end. Mark Carney, the Bank of Canada governor, said this week legislators face “difficult decisions,” as governments will need healthier cash flows to meet the demands of an ageing population -- which will ultimately demand more health care and the old-age benefits they believe they are entitled to.

Of concern to analysts such as Mr. Shenfeld is the hit Canada has taken to nominal GDP, which is essentially the tax base from which governments get revenue. As of the second quarter, nominal GDP was down 7.4% in Canada, as opposed to 2.7% in the United States. Meanwhile, in terms of real GDP, which is adjusted for inflation, the peak-to-trough drop was 3.8% in the United States, compared with an estimate of 3.3% for Canada. (August GDP for Canada is set for release Friday morning, whereas U.S. GDP grew in the third quarter an estimated 3.5%, marking an official end to its recession.)

Canada’s nominal GDP growth skyrocketed prior to the crisis based on the great upswing in commodity prices. Mr. Shenfeld warned it could take years to recover to such highs.

“Progress could take some time, given how high those commodity peaks were. And we may have set government spending [in motion] based on the view that kind of money would roll in forever. In the interim, we have a large hole to fill.”

Is the Harper Government Too Unethical to Pinpoint a Law?

The federal ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, is having trouble determining how to handle the many ethics complaints by Liberal and NDP MPs regarding the flagrant abuse of taxpayer money for partisan advertising, by Harper and his gang . Have the Reform Conservatives broken laws no one was prepared for? They've certainly set new records for corruption.

However, an ethics professor from the University of Ottawa, begs to differ. He points out that there is indeed a law that they could be charged under. Sorry Ref-Cons. You may think you're above it, but you might just have to start operating under it. We're not officially the 'Cheques Republic' yet.

The party is not the government

A very curious seeming paradox has appeared in Canadian democratic institutions. Appearing before the House of Commons ethics committee, the federal ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson, mentioned that she was not sure how to handle the barrage of ethics complaints by Liberal and NDP MPs regarding what is alleged to be partisan advertising at the expense of the taxpayer. She noted to the committee that while she has a title that would seem to give her a mandate to deal with the complaints, the word ethics does not actually appear in the Conflict of Interest Code that she administers.

The official mandate according to her office's statements is to assist MPs and public office holders in preventing and avoiding conflicts between their public duties and their private interests. There is an implication in the point made by the commissioner that pure ethical issues that do not relate to conflicts of interest may be outside her mandate ....

(Errol Mendes is a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa and an adviser on private- and public-sector ethics.)

New Poll Suggests Canadians Knew Harper Was Lying About Stimulus

A new poll released today reveals that Canadians believe that the Reform Conservatives did not play fair with stimulus funds. Peter MacKay may have been one of the worst, but Tony Clement was a downright thief. What can you expect from a Mike Harris throwback?

But the John Baird remark made by Rick Mercer may not have been fair. Just because he led his chorus of hecklers to laugh at Dr. Carol Bennett when she was trying to ask a serious question about H1N1. That was funny wasn't it?

Poll: Tories biased on stimulus funding

OTTAWA — A new poll suggests the Harper government’s multimillion-dollar, taxpayer-funded ad blitz to promote its stimulus plan doesn’t seem to be having the desired effect. The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey also suggests most Canadians believe Liberal claims that stimulus spending favours Conservative ridings.

Less than a third of respondents to the poll said they were aware of any stimulus projects underway in their areas. A majority said they believed there’s favouritism in the handing out of cash ....

Behind the Scenes at 22 Minutes With Michael Ignatieff

Despite the beating in the press, I still believe in Michael Ignatieff. The Liberals did not pick the wrong leader, as some are now suggesting. It wouldn't matter who they picked, the Reform-Conservatives would run gruelling attack ads against them.

I once thought that Canadians were too smart to fall for this crap, but maybe Leo Strauss was right. Maybe we're just the ignorant masses who must be controlled. His theory seems to be working for the new Canadian neo-conservative movement. I must admit I never thought we'd ever buy into this stuff.

A little information about Michael Ignatieff who is not 'just visiting', but a well known intellectual and author. Even President Obama has read several of his books.


"After high school, Ignatieff studied history at the University of Toronto's Trinity College. There, he met fellow student Bob Rae, from University College, who was a debating opponent and fourth-year roommate. After completing his undergraduate degree, Ignatieff took up his studies at the University of Oxford, where he studied, and was influenced by, the well-known historian and philosopher Isaiah Berlin, about whom he would later write. While an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, he was a part-time reporter for The Globe and Mail in 1964–65. In 1976, Ignatieff completed his Ph.D in History at Harvard University."

Incomplete list of Honorary Doctorates.

Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec in 1995
University of Stirling in Stirling, Scotland (D.Univ) on June 28, 1996
Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario (LL.D) on October 25, 2001
University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario (D.Litt) on October 26, 2001
University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick (D.Litt) in 2001
McGill University in Montreal, Quebec (D.Litt) on June 17, 2002
University of Regina in Regina, Saskatchewan (LL.D) om May 28, 2003
Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington (LL.D) in 2004
Niagara University in Lewiston, New York, USA (DHL) May 21, 2006

Police Chiefs Blast the Harper Government Over Gun Registry

I came across this old video which apparently was made as a warning to Americans that they could be next if they didn't join the NRA. What a load of crap. Some of them were practically in tears because 'heavy handed' government agents were going to swoop down in the night and take away their 'freedom'.

They even complained that our government at the time, believed the only ones who should be armed were the police and the military. Duh! Of course they're the only ones in Canada who should have the right to bear arms.

Something else I noticed; one of the men crying the blues was ex-Reform Party MP Art Hanger. He may not have been the 'kookiest in the caucus' but he was out there. As justice critic he took a little 'tour' of Toronto where he asked a store keeper "Do you notice that in Toronto there has been increased crime from certain groups, like Jamaicans?" Then while Reformer Myron Thompson suggested lowering the minimum criminal age to ten, Hanger was planning a trip to Singapore, to examine corporal punishment, including caning.

Ironically, Stephen Harper voted in favour of Bill C-68 at the second reading, because that's what his constituents wanted. But then he realized it might be a 'hot button' issue he could score a few points with, so said the heck with his constituents and voted against it.

It passed because that's what Canadians wanted. We are not a nation who feels the need to arm ourselves. It's not part of our culture. But from the beginning, the Reform Party made getting rid of this registry a priority.

What's interesting though, is that despite all the doom and gloom shown on the video, Canada's crime rate did not go up because of the gun registry. In fact, it has been consistently going down.

"At a rate of 7,518 reported incidents per 100,000 people, the crime rate in 2006, the latest year for which there is statistics, was the lowest crime rate in twenty-five years. The province with the lowest crime rate in 2006 was for the third straight year Ontario with 5,689 per 100,000, followed by Quebec with 5909 per 100,000. The province with the highest crime rate for the 9th straight year was Saskatchewan with 13,711 per 100,000.

All these so-called 'tough on crime' measures are just for show. The Reformers refuse to tell us how much their new crimes bills will cost, calling it a cabinet secret. However, they are now threatening opposition MPs, saying that if they don't vote to scrap the Canadian gun registry, they will run personal attack ads against them. At one time that would have been classed as blackmail, but under the Harper government, it's just business as usual.

Well the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police had something to say about these latest tactics.

Keep gun registry: Chief
October 29, 2009

Toronto Chief Bill Blair fired a shot across the bow of a federal government wanting to scrap the national gun registry by showing off a cache of 58 unregistered firearms seized as a result of the system yesterday.

"Public safety is not supposed to be a partisan issue," Blair said standing behind an array of firepower he said could start a street war. "Public safety is not a political issue. Public safety is every body's issue."

The firearms were discovered Tuesday by officers reviewing registry files under Project Safe City, said Supt. Greg Getty, of the organized crime unit.

The cache was found stored in a two-bedroom apartment in an undisclosed part of Toronto, which police described as an area that has seen firearm-related violence on the streets.


Gun and Gang task force Const. Nadine Teeft said records showed an unnamed man had at one time legally owned 25 firearms under the now defunct Restricted Weapons Registration System.

The man didn't renew the registrations with the new long-gun registry when they came due in 2002.

When police arrived to check on the weapons, they instead found 58, including a machine gun, a sub-machine gun, 17 handguns, 35 rifles, four shotguns, 36 high-capacity magazines, more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition and 4.5 kilos of gunpowder, Teeft said.

The man surrendered the firearms to police.

How he got the firearms without proper documentation is being investigated but no charges have been filed.

Blair, who chairs the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, said the government's drive to scrap the registry would be disastrous.


"It was the existence of a previous database that provided our investigators with information" where the guns would be, Blair said.

"They not only found the ones that had been previously registered in 1998 and not registered since," but even more police didn't know about, he said.

Blair challenged claims made by Manitoba Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, who said the CACP doesn't speak for all the chiefs of police.

She tabled a bill to scrap the registry that is now in second reading with an open vote to be held Nov. 4.

"The opposition's main argument in maintaining the long-gun registry has been that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) and the Canadian Police Association (CPA) support it," said Hoeppner in a release.

"I have spoken with many chiefs of police and front-line officers who disagree with their associations and unequivocally support my bill to end the long-gun registry."

But Blair countered, "We believe the firearm registry is an important tool in helping us keep communities safe," he said.

Ignorant Gladiators and the Dumming Down of Canadian Politics

The late Lester Milbrath, an American political scientist; once categorized the citizens of democratic nations, as three distinct groups:

Apathetic - those who rarely, if ever, become engaged in politics. They may vote out of a sense of duty, but that's as far as it goes.

Spectators - those who do engage in political discussions, especially when they centre around single issues. Spectators almost always vote.

Gladiators - those who become actively involved in politics, campaigning or running for office.

Canadian political scientist, Brooke Jeffrey, takes this one step further, when she's discussing the neo-conservative movement; and includes a category for 'Ignorant Gladiators'. These are people who enter the political arena on a wave of anger and resentment, with few qualifications to actually lead.

They are the anti-government politicians, who only want to tear down, with few plans to rebuild. They offer no solutions to bring a nation, province or municipality forward. They only come prepared to dismantle and discredit.

Her book, Hard Right Turn was written a decade ago so the only 'Ignorant Gladiator' governments she referenced were Ralph Klein's and Mike Harris's. Neither man had more than a high school education, but they talked tough; feeding off the 'spectators' with hot button issues and private resentment.

Divide and conquer was the battle cry, and so long as we remained mad at each other, the 'Ignorant Gladiators' were left alone. Anyone who opposed them were "special interest", and quickly got added to the enemy list.

In Ontario, that list was vast. 'Welfare bums', 'blood sucking unions', 'rights demanding natives'; all threatened our way of life. Jim Flaherty even went so far as to decry that money shouldn't be provided to First Nations, when it could be used to help 'real people.' He's never lost a bid for re-election.

Former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein stated "Bums, creeps and unskilled workers are not welcome. We will use cowboy techniques to deal with people who rob our banks, add to our welfare rolls, add to our unemployment lines and create rising crime rates." Were Albertans shocked? No. Instead Klein made being redneck cool.

This is the face of neo-conservatism. Citizens are marginalized and being redneck is cool. But the only winners are the wealthy individuals and corporations who engineer their rise to the top, because the traditional government impedes their ability to get rich, or should I say richer?

Ms Jeffrey goes on to describe the rise of the Reform Party that threatened to change the climate of federal politics. After the 1993 election, that saw 52 Reform MPs elected, the media was in shock. A common question was "Who are these yokels and who voted for them?"

Well those yokels are now running our country and the media is no longer shocked. When speaking of Harper they only say that if he can keep his rowdy caucus from speaking, and contain it's dark elements he's going to be a star. Isn't the important issue here that HE HAS DARK FORCES IN HIS PARTY?

Apparently not. The media are now self-proclaimed kingmakers and even if the emperor has no clothes, they will continue to write glowing reports of his "finest attire made from the most beautiful cloth", because that's who we are now. The 'ignorant masses' described by the father of the neo-conservative movement, Leo Strauss. The 'Spectators' have become the 'Apathetic' and the 'Ignorant Gladiators' now reign supreme.

Excerpts from Hard-Right Turn: The New face of Neo-Conservatism in Canada
Brooke Jeffreys
Harper-Collins 1999
ISBN: 0-00-255762-2

Ignorant Gladiators

No society has an ideal situation, but one in which a large number of citizens opted out of the system and failed to participate, or where the majority of spectators were uninformed, would likely encounter serious difficulties in maintaining a healthy level of participation.

The best case scenario would clearly be one in which there were highly qualified gladiators. While the ignorance of the apathetic is a social concern, it poses no political problem since they do not influence decision making. Ignorant gladiators on the other hand, would constitute a political worst-case scenario.

Using these terms Canada has traditionally been described as a nation of spectators. Although the range of the spectator activities has been rather low - being limited for the most part to voting - the percentage of spectators has always been fairly high. At roughly 75 percent, the numbers of Canadians who regularly voted in federal elections, for example, far exceeded the American figures and those of several European democracies. By contrast, the apathetic were a small percentage of the population.

At the same time, the high levels of literacy and near-level and near-universal public communications systems meant that Canadian spectators were reasonably well informed. Even more important, our gladiators on the whole were very well prepared for public office. In a country with a high standard of living, universal access to education and a large middle class, these findings were, quite frankly, to be expected, but were nevertheless reassuring.

(What's interesting is that while 'universality' in education, health care, etc. was considered to be a 'Canadian value', it is a severe threat to social conservatism and neo-conservatism. In 1994 at an awards dinner for the National Citizens Coalition, Stephen Harper prided their work on this issue over the past five years: "Universality has been greatly reduced; it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy.")

Back to Jeffreys:

Recently, however, a number of disturbing trends have begun to emerge. The percentage of apathetic citizens is believed to have increased. Some have argued the level of awareness and participation rate of Canadian spectators are declining. For some Canadians, the emphasis has shifted away from political parties to single-issue interest groups, a phenomenon with significant consequences for participation in the political process. Most important is the decline in the qualifications of our gladiators. In the past ten years, with the emergence of Canadian neo-conservative politicians, the profile of the political elites has undergone an unexpected transformation. From a norm of well-educated and prepared professionals, there has been a striking increase in the number of outsiders with little formal training or other relevant preparation to take over the reins of power.

No one suggests that there is only one career path or appropriate set of credentials for those who plan to run for public office. Life experience as much as education, could give individuals the ability to manage ... Unfortunately, few of the individuals attracted to the neo-conservative ideology have demonstrated these qualities. The greater the neo-conservative leadership's emphasis on moral and social conservatism, the more likely the supporters will be uncompromising in their views.

Unfortunately the consequences of this limited world view have been serious and sweeping ... The dumbing down of politics in Canada has had profound implications for national and provincial policy making, intergovernmental relations, and even the quality of constituency representation.

The anti-intellectualism of so many of the New Right's membership and supporters has been amply demonstrated .. If credentials and expertise are rejected by the New Right as the basis for decision making ... rational arguments will be powerless to oppose their agenda.

The importance of their rigidity cannot be overestimated. It is this narrowness that leads them to propose simplistic solutions at a time when political issues are becoming more complex. Once they are in power, this inclination to disregard expert advice in favour of anecdotal evidence, coupled with their authoritarian approach, leads to single-mindedly pursue their solutions even in the face of overwhelming evidence that these approaches won't work.

Equally unsettling is their obvious lack of understanding of many essential democratic principles .... Policies are put forward in response to problems which their 'client groups' have raised. Although they describe their reactive approach as 'open', 'consultative' and 'democratic,' their consultation process does not include those who oppose them. (We see this especially with Stephen Harper. All opposition parties are not adversaries, but enemies, who must be destroyed. This severely limits intelligent debate, but also means that roughly 2/3 of Canadians have no voice in our Parliament, and we now seem determined to make this a permanent situation.)

In keeping with the lurch towards American right-wing politics, the focus is on the 'enemy within'. In a perversion of traditional populist rhetoric, public servants, welfare recipients, even university students and pensioners are now branded as 'special interests' .... much of the neo-cons success has been due to their ability to identify the crucial 'hot buttons' ... and exploit them to great advantage. As a result, the implementation of their agenda has polarized their societies and provoked widespread alienation. The earlier amusement and disdain of their critics has turned to outrage and disbelief. (Jeffreys, Harper-Collins, 1999, Pg. 396-402)

How did we let this happen and is it too late to stop the movement that threatens to destroy everything we once held dear in this country? Who knows?

From the book; Straussophobia: Defending Leo Strauss and Straussians Against Shadia Drury and Other Accusers, by Peter Minowitz:

"In an interview, the late Irving Kristol stated he was deeply indebted to Leo Strauss for an understanding of the “noble lie.” “There are different kinds of truths for different kinds of people,” he said. “There are truths appropriate for children; truths that are appropriate for students; truths that are appropriate for educated adults; and truths that are appropriate for highly educated adults, and the notion that there should be one set of truths available to everyone is a modern democratic fallacy. It doesn’t work.” Many critics see this as a justification of a new kind of politics—which uses “hotbutton” issues to hold the attention of voters and justifies prevarications about particularly serious things, such as the case for war. Does Kristol understand Strauss correctly? When the Neocons set out to peddle the Iraq War to the American people, was this an example of “different truths for different people”? Doesn’t it do a great deal of harm to a democracy?"

Leo Strauss would be very proud of Stephen Harper and his Reformers. Me, not so much.

More Posts on Ignorance the New Normal:

1. Why Has Intellect Become Public Enemy Number One?

2. Most Albertans are not Rednecks

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Less We Care the Better Harper Looks. How Incredibly Sad

I just read a piece by Colin Horgan for the UK Guardian that made me so incredibly sad. It was headed Canada's frozen political waste: With Barack Obama, anything seems like it might be possible. With Canada's Stephen Harper, barely anything does.

We seem to have resigned ourselves to no longer holding a place in the world. Harper can play piano, so nothing else matters. Our media can't go a day without saying 'sponsorship scandal', to justify every corrupt, insane action of this government, and Canadians are just shaking their heads and walking away.

This sure isn't the Canada I grew up in. After four years of continuous attack ads and frat boy behavior, which appears to be quite acceptable now, we no longer care. Last place on climate change. Who cares? European Union wants nothing to do with us. Shrug. Foreign diplomats are asking 'where's Canada'? So what.

The problem with this government is that they constantly tell us what's wrong with their opposition, so that they now no longer have one. I used to love Jim Carrey, but sadly he's "just visiting", so who cares?

Canada's frozen political waste
Colin Horgan,
October 24, 2009

Down is the new up: Canadians suddenly like Stephen Harper, but for the wrong reasons.

Michael Ignatieff's announcement on Monday that his Liberal party will not "actively seek to defeat" the Conservatives "by proposing their own confidence motions," was an almost direct contradiction to his resounding cry in September that Harper's "time is up". The Liberal threat to dismantle the Tory government is now effectively dead, and many Canadians couldn't possibly care less. We like Harper now. Unfortunately, it will get us nowhere.

The biggest political story of October hasn't been Ignatieff's troubles or the widening poll gap between the Tories and Liberals, or even some Tory MPs slapping their names or their party logo on government stimulus cheques. Instead, it's been Harper's performance of the Beatles song With a Little Help From My Friends at a gala benefit at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. It sparked an immediate response and softened some of his harshest critics. The media cooed, and Harper – formerly known for his wax-like public persona – became a YouTube hit.

Only days earlier, Harper had stood in a Tim Horton's coffee shop and proudly told Canadians (and the world, who had expected him to address the UN) that the Tim Horton's head office had returned to Canada. With that came the reminder: "The United States is a great place to visit, but let's face it, there is no place like our home and native land, there is no place like Canada."

In a recent column for the Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson speculated on the chances of a Canadian election in the near future. He concluded:

"One way or another, the opposition parties will have to find some way to keep this government alive through the rest of the year or face the consequences at the polls. Parliament will then recess until the end of January. And with February comes the Olympics, and who wants an election during the Olympics?

"For 17 days, Canadians will become Americans – fiercely patriotic, waving the flag with abandon, cheering on our athletes and celebrating what everyone hopes will be a magnificent games that will make all Canadians proud to be Canadian."

It's mostly true, except the part about becoming Americans. We should be so lucky to have such a vibrant – although obviously at times overly vitriolic – public discourse. While our neighbours to the south struggle with issues that strike at the heart of their national values, Canadians are talking coffee. Why? Because with Barack Obama, anything seems like it might be possible. With Harper, barely anything does.

Harper's schmaltzy publicity stunts are only striking a chord because, thanks to the way his government has framed Canada's current objectives, there's nothing else that can. "Our priority is the Canadian economy.

Nothing takes precedence over the economy," said Harper's representative, Dimitri Soudas, after the Tim Horton's appearance.

Granted, Canada must recover now in order to spend money later, but focusing only on economic recovery limits discussion by omitting other topics. It also frames discourse in such a way that future policy ideas – even important ones like those on climate change or healthcare – are discussed solely based on their current price tag, not their potential future benefit.

In other words, challenging the framework is political poison. Any suggestion of future government spending that isn't in the form of a stimulus cheque seems immediately outrageous, and makes people like Ignatieff look crazy. Conversely, it allows Harper to appear all the more in control, because essentially, there are no future plans. And the more Harper appears to be in control, the more Canadians can relax.

Under Harper, there is no pressure on Canadians to make decisions about the future, apart from what we'll wear to the Olympics. We just get our money. Under Ignatieff, with a more extensive outlook, all bets appear to be off – he is uncertainty personified.

Harper's popularity might be on the rise, but it's not because of his piano playing or aw-shucks coffee shop patriotism. It's because he allows us to be apathetic. And the less we care, the better he'll look.

Reform Conservatives Laugh and Heckle Over H1N1

As unbelievable as it sounds the Reform-Conservatives heckled and laughed when Dr. Carol Bennett was trying to ask a question about H1N1. Have they no common decency?

Gerry Ritz making jokes about Listeriosis. Lisa Raitt thinking Cancer is Sexy. Apparently John Baird led the chorus of hecklers. I don't know. They are on such a media high, that they feel invincible, and no longer have to even pretend to care. Very sad.

Is this what our country has come to?

Michael Ignatieff Made a Wise Move in His Recent Hiring

Good news today, that Mr. Ignatieff has hired Peter Donolo, former communications director Jean Chrétien, to act as his chief of staff. He recently named Marc Garneau as Quebec lieutenant and these two moves should help in Quebec.

I know everyone has an opinion of the Cauchon/Coderre incident, but the Liberal leader was caught between a rock and a hard place. Maybe we can now finally move forward and put that whole nonsense behind us.

Ignatieff hires ex-Chrétien PR man as chief of staff
October 27, 2009
CBC News

Michael Ignatieff has hired veteran political strategist Peter Donolo to take over as the Liberal leader's chief of staff.

Donolo, who will be leaving his post at the Strategic Counsel, a Toronto polling firm, will replace Ian Davey, a longtime Ignatieff supporter.

Donolo was a communications director for former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien.

"Peter will be given carte blanche to clean house and do whatever he needs to do," one source, who asked not to be identified, told CBC News.

After CBC News reported the story, Ignatieff released a statement confirming the staff changes, saying Donolo "brings a wealth of experience to this role."

"Ian Davey has my gratitude for his enormous service in building this OLO team, and I am grateful for his continuing counsel. I know that we are a stronger Liberal Party because of his contribution and leadership," Ignatieff said.

Sources also say the party's next director of communications will be a francophone.

The changes come as Liberals continue to struggle in the polls and recover from the fallout over the internal dispute over who should get the party nomination in the Quebec riding of Outremont.

Denis Coderre, Ignatieff's former Quebec lieutenant, left his post over the dispute and accused Ignatieff of listening to advisers in Toronto who "know nothing about Quebec."

Ignatieff had initially supported Coderre's choice of Nathalie Le Prohon for the riding but then changed his mind and cleared the way for former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon, whom Coderre opposed, to get the nomination.

Has the Media Become Canada's Natural Governing Body?

I really like Glen Pearson's blog. He is a decent guy, and while a Liberal MP, is always pragmatic. But he brought up an interesting point about the media. It really doesn't matter what a politician does or doesn't do, it would seem. It's about media perception and how it can make or break you.

"Andrew Coyne put forward an interesting premise a few days ago: “Time For Ignatieff To Take A Chance.” The popular Maclean’s columnist suggested it might be time for Michael Ignatieff to rip up those prepared speeches and just speak from the heart. He believes the public is looking for someone who’s truly “authentic” and they would likely “rush the barriers” to see Ignatieff if he just put it all out there. Coyne presses on to say that Canada’s present political climate is largely dishonest and timid – incapable of taking Canadians where they really need to go. It was a well-written column but I still wonder as to its premise.

"Let’s be honest: No political leader in their right mind dares to be as truthful as Coyne challenges because it would be the media itself that couldn’t withhold its skepticism long enough to truly investigate the merits of that leader’s case.

"Opposition parties would immediately pounce and all manner of bloggers, pundits and columnists would discuss the scary ramifications of such a daredevil proposition. I recall when Ignatieff came to London following a visit to Cambridge, in which he stated no leader would be worthy of the name if he or she didn’t place the possibility of raising taxes on a long list of future considerations if a deficit couldn’t be brought under control.

Political staffers mulled around, worried that it would be taken out of context, which it inevitably was. Media had a field day with it. Ignatieff, suffering from a gruelling cold, sat in a chair prior to the event in London and wondered what became of honesty in the public space. The very next day in the House, Conservative members used every possible occasion to ridicule Ignatieff, calling him just another “tax and spend” Liberal. The media ate it up.

We don't seem to want honesty anymore. It's like a reality television show, where everyone is hanging onto their seats waiting for a bikini top to fall off. What in the hell has happened to us?

"I watch it every day in Question Period. Like the half-mortal gods of the ancient Greeks, the media occupies the upper tier of seats in the press gallery and amuses itself on the vain actions and ambitions of the mere mortals below. When a minister, whom the gods appear to favour, responds to a question by minimizing the query in an amusing fashion, many of the gods merely smile outwardly at his brashness, refusing to acknowledge that, not only is the answer untruthful, it is, in fact, demeaning of a serious place of public debate.

"Politicians pick this up. Those that are ahead in the polls (supposedly favoured by the gods) at a given time look up to their communications benefactors, nod in greeting, and remain intent on schmoozing with the journalists at some event later in the day to maintain their favour. Those that are behind in public favour cast quick and insecure glances at the upper tier, wondering if the journalists will only make their lot worse the next day.

"Maybe, if we were all to be truthful, we should just acknowledge that the media has become Canada’s natural governing party – it remains when other parties stumble and fall.

Journalists and commentators facing horrendous deadlines find their work made easier when some politician steps out of line and in a rare moment of candour tells the truth. It’s far easier to mull over the effect of the statement than to truly take the time to consider its potential for damage or good. I read in a national daily today a well-known columnist whom I respect wonder if it might not be a wise time for Harper to cause another election if he wants to survive some upcoming challenges like Afghanistan.

"What’s with that? Ignatieff just took a national pummelling for threatening to force an election and now we have a pundit thinking it might not be a bad idea for Harper.

"I admit that, as a fairly new MP, I am confused by all of this. When I told an NDP MP friend of mine that I was going to write this post, she immediately replied, “Glen, don’t do it; they’ll dump on you.” But when everything we do in the House is meant to satisfy the media, little is left for true honesty and the need for serious public policy. Can Andrew Coyne guarantee a fair hearing from media colleagues for honest revelations from political leaders? Unlikely. I remain at a loss. Meanwhile the gods above observe … and enjoy their bemusement.

He makes a good point. We see it with polling. Headlines might read anywhere from 'Harper now in majority territory' to 'Michael Ignatieff polling worse than Dion'. A few honest journalists will admit that nothing is for sure and that the West is bringing the Ref-Cons numbers up disproportionately.

But it doesn't matter. The headline is embedded in our minds and when a pollster calls we 'go with the majority'. If the rest of the country thinks that Harper should have it then what the hell, right? Few in the media have the nerve to tell us what a Harper majority would like, nor do they care. They're just waiting for the next big headline, no matter how contrived.

And we are letting it happen. I can't tell you how many times the media has brought up the sponsorship scandal, despite the fact that it was investigated; involved no elected officials and the guilty paid. But every time a Reform-Conservative scandal comes up, the media have to add those two famous words: 'sponsorship scandal' and then everything Harper and his gang does just disappears Poof!

Can you imagine an accused murderer doing something like that? "Yes, I killed seventeen people so did someone else". "Oh well, alrighty then, you're free to go."

In many ways the media is complicit in the "In and Out", the 'Cadman Affair', mafia ties, patronage, nepotism, abuse of tax dollars ... because they dismiss them with two words that have more power than anything else in this country. 'Sponsorship scandal" ... they forget the other two little words "Just visiting'.