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Archive for September, 2008

Canadian Election Update – 9/28/08

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Since the last update, The Liberals have continued their downward drift, though a couple of pols seem to show their support stabilizing somewhere between 25% and 30%. On the other hand, an Angus Reid pol released on Saturday 9/27 has the NDP and Liberals tied for second place at 21%.

The Conservatives maintain a lead, but polls differ as to how big that lead is. It is clear that Stephen Harper is close to majority territory, but hasn’t nailed it down as of this moment.

The Bloc Quebecois has seen a small surge fueled by anti conservative sentiment. They remain in first place in Quebec. The Conservatives look to gain some seats there, but again they are being hampered by the Bloc. The Liberals are weak in Quebec, but no one knows how far they will fall. The NDP will apparently win more than one seat in Quebec, a record for that party.

The conservatives retain a strong lead over a surging NDP in British Columbia, with the Liberals facing possible losses. The Greens continue to suck support from the Grits but still don’t have a realistic shot at winning a seat. a. In Alberta, the Tories remain far ahead of everyone else, though some observers think the NDP has a chance in one Edmonton riding.

Most polls have the Conservatives gaining in Ontario at the Liberals’ expense. The NDP is also gaining in Canada’s largest province.

In the Atlantic provinces, it is anybody’ guess as to who wins what.

Here is a link to Polling Observatory, a site that is kind of the British version of 538.

And here is the Election page of the Globe and Mail, with links to all the major pollsters.

Written by slothropia

September 28th, 2008 at 11:06 pm

Economic Shock Therapy

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There is a good interview of Naomi Klein by John Amato at Crooks and Liars. It is mostly about the Wall Street Bailout Giveaway as economic shock therapy.

I wish Obama would check it out. Here’s the You Tube:
Part I

Part II

Written by slothropia

September 28th, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Posted in Economy

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Disaster Capitalism at Work?

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I am trying to get a handle on what the proposed mega Wall Street Bailout means for me and thee. There are a lot of potentially frightening implications to consider and… well that’s as far as I have gotten.

I am reading a book right now which is providing some much needed context: Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

Here is a 9/19 Real Time broadcast with Klein, Maher et al talking about the bailouts:

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September 21st, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Canadian Election Update

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After about two weeks, it still looks like the Canadian election campaign has yet to take off. In horse race terms, it is still the Conservatives in the lead, though still short of a majority per the polls. The Liberals continue to bleed support to both the Greens and the NDP. The New Democrats are still pushing to pass the Liberals, but the odds remain against that outcome. The Bloc Quebecois’ support seems to have stabilized, but they remain focused on a negative campaign against Harper. The Greens are probably pleased with the media attention and poll support they have been receiving, but still are not assured of a single seat in Parliament.

Policy wise, all the parties are now having to factor the U.S. economic mess into their campaign messages. This helps the Conservatives, because Harper has not shown himself to be completely incompetent. There have been Conservative (or Progressive Conservative) Canadian governments in the past, and though “Tory time are hard times” may be a truthful statement, the Liberals don’t seem prepared to manage a euchre tournament, let alone one of the world’s leading national economies. Dioon has now made things worse for himself and his party by declaring that the Green Shift carbon tax is no longer a major Liberal platform plank.

The NDP, having never formed a federal government, don’t have a Canada wide record of economic management to point to. If they had had a chance to form an official opposition, this would not matter as much.

The Bloc and the Greens are not hurt as much as the other three parties because neither of them even pretends to be running for government.

Here is a pundits’ summary in the Globe and Mail. Here is the Globe’s campaign page, with a poll of polls.

Written by slothropia

September 20th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

A Double Dose of Election Fever

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I was sitting on the couch for a year and a half, enjoying the spectacle that is 21st century U.S. Presidential politics. I obsessively watched at least some of the debates during the primary, cheering the Democrats and cursing the GOP. I was slow to accept Obama, but now I’m convinced he is the best politician I have ever seen operate. I believe he will win, though he is lucky to have a buffoon for an opponent.

So, like I said, I was enjoying the rich pageantry of the election here in the states, anxiously waiting for election night catharsis when my fellow Canadians decided to distract me with an election of their own.

So what am I sposed to do now; spend twice as much time on the internet, gobbling scraps of election info from news sites and bloggers in two countries? Yep, that’s what I’m doing.

I often compare and contrast aspects of the two countries I have split my ragged life between. Similarities abound, but the differences are legion, if often subtle.

Take electoral politics for example. The two cultures could not be more starkly dissimilar in the ways they elect their leaders (though the policy differences aren’t as large as many would prefer).

As noted earlier, Americans take years to elect a President. The primaries began in January of this year of course, but the campaigns began at the end of 2006.

The current Canadian election was called on September 7 and will be held on October 14 — an election campaign of 37 days, compared to the two year campaign that will elect President Obama.

In the U.S. there are two parties. Yes, I know, there are several other parties and candidates that will be on the ballots of most states, but they are given no chance to really compete, and that’s just the way the Democrats and Republicans like it.

Canada has four parties that had seats in the recently dissolved House of Commons, and another that at least has a chance to win at least one or two. Five Parties will be yelling at each other in the big TV debate. Two will swap snappy one liners in the U.S. Presidential debate.

Gotta admit, the American debate will be easier to follow.

Americans elect everything from President to Dog Catcher on the same day with the same ballot and it takes days to count the votes (if they ever get counted at all — right Diebold?).

Canadians mark one ballot WITH A PENCIL and it takes no more than 2 hours to declare a winner.

Do Canadians enjoy a higher standard of living (blame the WHO, not me) complete with free medical care as a result of their political system. I believe so. More parties can seriously compete for power, bring to the table more ideas for solutions to problems.

In the U.S. we all know what the problems are, and there are many ideas for solutions, but a sclerotic political system has created gridlock, and problems are not effectively addressed. That is what the 2008 U.S. election is really about, but the same system that elects him will make things very difficult for President Obama.

Written by slothropia

September 17th, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Sarah and Hillary

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Written by slothropia

September 13th, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Almost Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Canadian Election

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The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and call for an election to be held on October 14. My intention here is to offer an overview of the Canadian landscape and explore the current state of the five Canadian parties that will compete in the election. Before we begin, here are some online places to go for those who want to follow the Canadian election:

One of the major differences (and there are many) between Canadian and American politics is the fact that Canada’s system produces multiparty parliaments and, whereas the American two party system is so entrenched it might as well be mandated by law. The House of Commons that was just dissolved included Members of Parliament from four parties: The governing Conservatives, the centrist Liberal party, The Quebec sovereignist Bloc Quebecois and the center left New Democratic Party (NDP). The Green Party is also competing in most of the federal ridings but has never elected a Member of Parliament.

Since the last federal election in early 2006, the Conservatives have lead a minority government, meaning that they have not had a majority of the seats in the House of Commons and consequently needed cooperation from one or more opposition parties to pass legislation and thereby retain the confidence of the House.

The Conservatives are a centre right party, formed in 2004 from a merger of the Progressive Conservatives, a true Center right party, and the more right wing Canadian Alliance. Harper comes from the more right wing faction of his party but has not been able to pursue a truly hard right agenda because of his minority position. His goal is in the election is to achieve a majority and begin to enact the Conservative agenda – whatever that is.

Harper became Prime Minister when he and the Conservatives defeated the Liberal Party, lead at the time by Paul martin, in early 2006. The night of his defeat, Martin announced his resignation as Leader of his party, and in December, 2006 the Liberals elected Stephane Dion of Quebec as their new Leader and candidate for Prime minister.

Dion’s leadership of the Liberals has been troubled to say the least. Some of the candidates he defeated are still ambitious and hungry for his job. The Liberal Party’s fundraising has been spectacularly unsuccessful during Dion’s reign, in part because of residual anger generated during their years in government by a series of scandals. To make matters worse, Dion has difficulty communicating in spoken English.

One result of Liberal weakness has been the willingness of the party to vote for Conservative legislation to avoid defeating the Tories and forcing an early election. This has encouraged the center left NDP to be more aggressive during the pre election period and during the still young campaign. The NDP has attacked the Liberals for not standing up to the Conservatives and the Conservatives for, well for being Conservatives.
The Bloc Quebecois has been the most successful federal party in Quebec for the last decade and a half but now seem to be fading along with the sovereignist or independence movement. The Liberals have traditionally been strong in Quebec but have been hurt there in recent years because of their strong anti-independence program. Scandals have also damaged Liberal popularity in Quebec.

Last and almost certainly least among Canadian federal parties, the Greens are still hoping to win their first seat in Parliament, but there don’t seem to be any ridings where they have any realistic hopes. The Leader of the Greens, Elizabeth May, is a former Conservative but has struck a bargain with the Liberals. The Liberals are not running a candidate in the Nova Scotia riding that May is contesting. In return, May has said that she would like to see Dion become Prime Minister.

At this point, the Liberal/Green alliance does not seem to have had the desired effect. May is running a distant third behind Tory cabinet minister Peter Mackay and the NDP candidate. (Mackay, by the way, was once linked by celebrity gossip to Condi Rice).

Those are the main parties contesting the Canadian election, and to assess the prospects of each one, we need to look ate each of the regions.

The Atlantic provinces have traditionally been a Liberal v Conservative battle ground, and both of those parties currently have some strength there and so does the NDP. The New Democrats look to increase their representation in Nova Scotia and could win a seat or two in Newfoundland, thanks largely to a feud that is raging between the Steven Harper and the Conservative Premier of that province. There are 32 seats at stake in the four Atlantic Provinces and a three way split is more than possible. However, the Liberals face organizational and fund raising challenges that could hurt them in the East as well as in other parts of Canada. They need a good campaign to keep up with the NDP and Tories but have not shown they are capable of producing one.

In Quebec for example, the Liberals have had trouble raising money and recruiting top tier candidates and Dion is widely unpopular. Their fortunes in Quebec are fading, as are those of the Bloc Quebecois. The big question in Quebec is who will benefit from the decline of the Bloc (it will not be the Liberals). Right now it appears that the Conservatives will gain outside of Montreal, especially in the Quebec City area, and to a lesser extent, the NDP.

Incidentally, the NDP made history last year by winning a by-election to take what was thought to be a safe Liberal seat in Montreal.

If the Conservatives get the majority they so desperately want, it will be largely because they made significant gains in Quebec. The Liberals will be lucky to keep the seats they have. The NDP may win another Quebec seat or three or five, and they may not. At this point, it looks like they at least will keep the one seat they have now. The Bloc will send a reduced delegation to the House of Commons.
In the West, Alberta will probably elect nothing but Conservatives, though the NDP has hopes in one Edmonton riding. Manitoba and Saskatchewan will send a majority of Conservative MPs to Ottawa, with the Liberals and NDP splitting the rest.

The Northern Territories will elect either one New Democrat and two Liberals or vice versa.
In British Columbia, the Conservatives and NDP will duke it out, while a fading Liberal Party will struggle to keep what it has.

That leaves Ontario, the largest province with about a third of all the seats in parliament. Ontario is where the election will be decided. If the Conservatives can take enough Ontario seats from the Liberals, they will have their majority. The question is how far the Liberals will fall. The NDP has also targeted a number of Liberal (as well as Tory) seats.

So far, the campaign has not really heated up. In the first week there were stories about matters marginal to the election, like the controversy in the media was about the Greens being kept out of and then included in a debate. The Conservatives and NDP were sharply criticized over their initial exclusion of the Greens. There have also been stories about how the Liberal Leader’s difficulties and the future of the Bloc Quebecois.
Eventually the parties will get around to focusing on issues. There will be a debate will be in early October with 5 – count ‘em – 5 party leaders speaking over each other. That’s a lot of podiums.

The issues appear to include environment and climate change, and Afghanistan. Canada is one of the NATO countries with troops there and has lost nearly 100 soldiers.

Whoever wins the election, the Prime Minister of whatever party will try to have a positive relationship with either President Obama or the other one. Harper would no doubt like to see a GOP win, but he will get along fine with the winner. Dion and Layton would like to see Obama win, but would not be rude to McCain if he wins.

Why is Charlie so Mean to Sarah?

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I was wondering why the McCain campign was keeping Palin from interviews and Sunday Talking heads tv.

No need to wonder anymore.

Written by slothropia

September 11th, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Posted in 2008 Election

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Repeat After Me: GE Owns MSNBC

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Bland and yet loathsome David Gregory will anchor MSNBC presidential debate and election night coverage, replacing Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. Olbermann and Matthews will continue as analysts, sez the Gray Lady.

We all know why. Only corporate/conservative/GOP framing of issues will be allowed on cable news. Brokaw will continue his work as a McCain spokesperson.

Update: If more people would read Manufacturing Consent, fewer people would be surprised by the way media organizations behave. Brush up your Chomsky.

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September 7th, 2008 at 10:09 pm

Canadian Content

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Mah Fellow Merkins,

I’m working on a longish post about the upcoming Canadian election and it turns out that at least one of the opposition parties is advertising weven though the election has not been called.

For those who don’t know, the New Democratic Party is the centre left, social democratic party up there. The Liberals are more centrist. Layton is the Leader of the NDP and would be Prime Minster if they finish first and Leader of the Opposition if they come in second.

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September 6th, 2008 at 9:03 pm