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Archive for January, 2009

Canadian Budget: Its Deficit Time in Ottawa

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Cross Posted at Daily Kos

Here are the highlight of today’s Canadian Federal budget (thanks CTV) :

* $85 billion deficit over the nest five years
* Personal taxes down $20 billion over six years
* Business taxes cut by $2 billion over six years
* $12 billion for infrastructure spending towards roads, sewers and universities, $1 billion for “green” infrastructure, and $1 billion for clean-energy research.
* $1.5 billion for job training programs
* $7.8 billion for social housing and home renovation, including a one-year only Home Renovation Tax Credit of up to $1,350 per household.
* $2.7 billion in short-term loans to the auto industry.
* More than $1.4 billion for aboriginal schools, health, water, housing, community services and training.
* About $325 million for arts and culture.

This is the Canadian version of a stimulus package and resembles in some way the legislation now working its way through the U.S. Congress.

Prime Minister Harper insisted during last fall’s election campaign that there was no need for the Canadian government to run a deficit because the Canadian economy was stronger than the American one. Was he mistaken or did he lie? That’s right, he made stuff up, Conservatives can’t help themselves I guess.

The NDP and the Bloc have made it clear that they will vote against the budget, so all eyes turn to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. He will announce his decision Wednesday morning.

I have two toonies and a loonie that says the Libs will back the Tories, just as they regularly did in the last parliament. Any takers?

I’ll be back tomorrow with more on the budget debate and upcoming confidence votes.

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January 27th, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Political Heat in Canada: Throne Speech Today, Budget to Follow

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Long ago, in December of 2008 (when George Bush was still President – THAT long ago), Canada found itself embroiled in an almost unprecedented parliamentary crisis.

Here’s The Daily show’s crack news team (by which I mean I think they are on crack) doing their best to explicate said crisis for American viewers.

Ha ha. Good times.

To briefly review, the Conservative Government of Canada presented to Parliament legislation that the opposition parties found unacceptable. In response, the opposition parties in Parliament formed a coalition. The left wing (sort of) New Democrats would join a government lead by the centrist Liberals, with the nominally separatist Bloq Quebecois promising support for a year and a half.

Sensing danger, and to avoid losing a vote of confidence in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Stephen Harper persuaded the Governour General to suspend Parliament until today.

This afternoon, Parliament reopened with a Throne Speech or summary of the Government’s agenda, delivered by the Governour General. Tomorrow, the Minister of Finance tables a budget, but in the run up to tomorrow, Government ministers have been leaking like rusty tub, trying to kick start support for the Tories and their budget. They are scared so it looks like the budget will owe more to Obama than to Bush.

Meanwhile, among the opposition parties, there have been a few developments.

When the coalition deal was struck, the Liberal were lead by Stephane Dion. Dion had already resigned as Liberal Leader, though he planned to stay in place until May when his successor was to be named. Instead, all the candidates for the Liberal Leadership withdrew in favor of Michael Ignatieff, who is now in place as Liberal Leader and Leader of the Official Opposition.

Since becoming Liberal Leader, Ignatieff has been sending mixed signals about the future of the coalition. On paper, there is still an agreement between the liberals and NDP to defeat the Tories in a confidence vote and ask the Governour General to allow the Coalition to form a government. However, Ignatieff has refused to say if the Liberals will vote against the budget, while NDP Leader Jack Layton has consistently insisted that Harper cannot be trusted and the Conservative government must go.

Right now, my gut feeling is that the Liberals will support the government, with the Bloq and NDP voting nay.

Again, tomorrow the Conservatives introduce their budget. Tomorrow evening I will post something about its contents of the budget and when the first vote on it will occur. I’ll also speculate more about how the vote will go.

Maintenant
, I’m gonna wash down some poutine with a couple of bottles of Moosehead while I watch a replay of the NHL All Star Game.

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January 26th, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Hold Steady

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Good rock with good lyrics.

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January 24th, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Posted in Indy Bands

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Heckuva Job, Governor Paterson

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The NYTimes informs me that Governor Paterson (Idiot, NY) has made a bit of a mess in his replacement of Hilary Clinton by Kirsten Gillibrand as New York Senator. It looks from here (Illinois, another large state with an idiot governor) that Paterson has signed his very own political death warrant. The new Senator he appointed is also vulnerable to a primary challenge.

Representative Carolyn McCarthy has already said she will challenge Gillibrand in next year’s primary because of the latter’s gun fetish. Others may also be tempted. If Gillibrand does not move convincingly and swiftly to the left, or at least the center of the Democratic Party, it is difficult to see how she gets nominated.
Paterson himself may be challenged by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. My money would be on Cuomo.

Speaking of money, I would be tempted to send McCarthy and Cuomo a couple of bucks for their respecitive 2010 campaigns – and I am one cheap effing bastard.

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January 24th, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Inauguration Blues

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Got a txt from a close relative a few nights ago, very excited and enthusiastic about the the inauguration and prelims. This is a hopeful time, and every American to the left of Dick Cheney has a right to feel pride, mixed with hope, optimism and of course relief that the witch is positively, absolutely, undeniably and reliably, most sincerely dead. Obama wears the ruby slippers now and soon we will know if he is a good witch or a bad witch.

I wish I could feel the unalloyed joy that so many are experiencing right now. But I am anxious.

It isn’t just because I am one of the bazillions who lost a good paying job last year (though that reality does put a crimp in my party mood). That just makes me one of many who have a reason to worry about survival, dreams of prosperity to follow.

In fact, it is not any one of the many troubles in a sea of them that face the United States and its citizens and other passengers that strains my peace of mind and robs me of sleep.

The Zen master yogi Berra has famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” And that is where we are and what we are going to do. That’s the scary part.

The first priority of the new administration is clearly to revive the economy, and hooray says I. I personally really need that to happen, and there is a plan being prepared for Obama’s signature. Questions nag. is the stimulus proposal big enough? Will it work? Are there too many tax cuts and not enough stimuli?

From the Right come calls for more tax cuts for the rich and less spending to create jobs or modernize the nation. From everyone else come expressions of concern that the package is not big enough or that the spending is not well targeted. I am willing to give the new administration the benefit of the doubt, but my heart meanwhile resides in my mouth.

I may have concerns about what we know of the stimulus package, but I regard the legislation working its way through Congress as a first cut. There will be more to come, I expect.

Progressives will try to improve the package of course, but the Republicans are showing signs that they will obstruct much that is good in the President’s proposals. The corporate media is behaving for now, but their American Idiot shtick is prepared and they are ready to pander, frighten and distort when the time is right.

Why here’s the Idiot now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Green Day.

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January 21st, 2009 at 8:26 pm

PNHP Opposes Gupta for Surgeon General

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Physicians for a National Health Program has declared its opposition to the expected appointment of Dr. Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General of the U.S. Here’s why:

Among our concerns are these:
1. He has very little background in public health, preventive medicine or administration.
2. He has openly opposed progressive health reform, going so far as to cite false information to denigrate single payer (e.g. in his error-laden attack on Michael Moore’s film “Sicko”) and parroting the health insurance lobby’s distortions of single payer.
3. As a media figure, he has been disturbingly cozy with Big Pharma. He co-hosts Turner Private Networks’ monthly show “Accent Health,” which airs in doctors’ offices around the country and which serves as a major conduit for targeted ads from the drug companies. Another example: In 2003, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, he publicly downplayed concerns about the dangers of Vioxx. It was removed from the market a year later by its manufacturer, Merck.
4. In the 2008 election campaign, his reporting on John McCain’s health proposals was misleading and implicitly positive, giving undeserved credence to McCain’s claims that buying private health insurance on the open market is a financially viable option for most Americans.

We urge you to write to President-elect Obama and express your opposition to Gupta’s possible nomination, and to urge Obama to nominate a more acceptable candidate for this critically important post. You can do so by clicking here: http://change.gov/page/s/healthcare.

Sincerely yours,
Quentin Young, M.D.
National Coordinator

Quentin Young is a Chicagoan, like Obama, who retired this year from a practice in Hyde Park. I wonder if he knows the new President socially.

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January 8th, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Steeleye Span: Alison Gross

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Ahh! British Isles folk music, with electric guitars.

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January 8th, 2009 at 11:52 am

Posted in Folk Music

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Health Care: Mayor Bloomberg Gets It

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Just saw Bloomberg of NY on CNN interviewed by Ed Henry and responding to Prez Elect’s economic stimulus speech. It was pretty non-controversial stuff – sped money on city infrastructure, fix SS, etc. blah, blah – but something he said was music to my ears.

I am without a transcript or video, but what I heard was Hizzoner saying that something needs to be done about health care and health insurance because European countries spend 2k or 3k less per capita on health care than the U.S. and yet their life expectancy and other outcomes are improving while ours are declining (again, I am paraphrasing).

This is not the only argument in favor of universal health care, preferably of a single payer variety, but it is one of the strongest. It has the virtue being a pragmatic argument, and what red blooded American does not like pragmatic arguments. Yes, neo-con Republicans, I know, but they are discredited losers.

The good news here is that this statement of fact is becoming more widely distributed and on its way to being one of those things that “everybody knows’, aka conventional wisdom.

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January 8th, 2009 at 11:45 am

Billy Bragg: Lonesome Death of Rachel Corrie (from Dylan)

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Don’t know why I thought of this. Something going on in the Middle East?

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January 7th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Gaga over Gupta? Not Me

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It seems I am not the only one who would question Gupta’s appropriateness as a spokesman for the Obama administration’s future health care reforms.

Remember when Sicko came out? Gupta was right there with the Know Nothings, or Republicans as they call themselves.

As my close personal friend Paul Krugman says:

So apparently Obama plans to appoint CNN’s Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

Read the whole thing. I agree with everything Krugman says.

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January 7th, 2009 at 9:45 am