Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy 2009 To All My Liberal Friends!

A joyous and happy2009 to all my Liberal friends (and some Dipper friends... and - oh yeah - that one Conservative who really should be a Liberal anyways).

May you all have a safe and festive evening. Don't drink and drive, and don't pee on your neighbor's dog... (that goes for you too, ladies).

What's WesternGrit up to? A quiet home get-together tonight, make a few martinis (experimentation), have some fine single malt, play the Great Canadian Trivia Game (no, I'm serious), and smash a pinata filled with mini-liquor bottles at midnight...

For the AM (okay, maybe PM), there will be a grand BBQ (with special "guest chefs") enjoyed over courses of college football... American style.


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A Government That Relies On Conflict

There is only one thing that keeps Canada's minority Conservative government working: continuous tension and conflict. Disagreement on a grand scale on every major issue of the day. Continuing to 'harp' ("harper?") on about the need to hear all sides, when their side reflects 10% of experts, etc., then declaring that the Parliamentary discord has become "untenable", and that he is going to act to stop the "partisan" conflict - or "pull the plug" and call an election.

Harper NEEDS Canadians to get up in arms about any issue. It is what hardens perspectives, and paints everything black or white. By creating the NeoCon preferred "black or white" charged political environment, they eventually eliminate the moderate, balanced, so-called "mushy middle". Harper prefers that all issues are divided by either the NDP/left perspective, or his far right perspective. Then, he can claim "economic intellectual superiority" and taunt detractors by saying, "would you really want the socialists running the country?"

The "grand scheme" of NeoCon thought in Canada is that eventual hardening of lines which will remove the moderate/liberal middle in Canada, and install the hard right as Canada's new "natural governing party"... The minority situation they are in has actually helped them immensely. They have looked as "moderately rightist" as they possibly can, while still breaking apart the nation and central government - under the guise of "progress" and "less red tape".

I recently posted a response on another blog about the potential of a US Conservative movement towards a "revenue-neutral carbon tax" (a'la Green Shift)... My response:

"I honestly don't think, however, that Harper will even think about pushing this. He's going to hope that it gets buried down South, then he'll once again (not very earnestly at all) talk about cap n' trade and other less adequate ways to fight climate change - which he doesn't believe anyway.

He has no intention of doing anything anyways. He benefits from the disagreement more than any actual solution. As a matter of fact ALL of Harper's policy is geared around creating conflict, then doing the bare minimum required to appease the public - this usually by lying about their intent, and the supposed "solution". He thrives on the conflict. If Canada is constantly deeply divided on issues, he can talk about how his ideas are "legitimate" because they reflect the will of the 22% of Canadians who voted for him... Legitimized by the fact that he is the "duly elected government", avoiding any recognition of the minority status of it.

The other thing to keep in mind is that high oil prices are good for Harper and Alberta. He won't back down from policy that keeps big oil happy. He will constantly bring up the "economic engine of Canada" argument to silence critics.

I think this could be a wedge issue for us IF Obama champions it in a bi-partisan effort South of the border. If Obama doesn't pick up on it, then we don't touch it, because it won't get any media play up here. "

On other issues, Harper uses the same technique. For example, with the economic crisis, he does not have the tools (meaning skilled cabinet members) at his disposal to come up with truly ingenious and workable solutions. What will he do? He will copy the US (they quite literally said that when he and Flaherty indicated they will wait for the US to act before working on a solution for the Big 3 - note also, that their concern was with the companies, not the workers - they actually bashed them). WE will have to see what wedge Harper will try to create on the issue of a bailout on this touted "bi-partisan" Parliamentary effort to save Canada's economy. He, of course, will continue to bash the non-existent "Socialist-Separatist Coalition". He will try - with the media's help - to continue to play that possibility up long after Mr. Ignatieff buries the coalition idea (you can see that in the "Fruitloops Polling" the media is currently engaged in).

Time will tell what the Conservative "Happy New Year Canada" budget will bring, but we can anticipate there will a lot of partisan barbs in hopes of creating more conflict - and perhaps an election. The final "shaming" of Canada will be when our private media once again fails to do any real journalism and forgets to remind Canadians how Harper is the puppet-master in all this "created" conflict.

Something for all of us to think about in the weeks ahead, as hope to escape the hangover of a not-so-great 2008.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Republicans Like Revenue-Neutral Gas Tax (Good Find HWWD)???

Well, at least THIS Republican (and a "neoCon" at that) does...

(Thanks to "Hopefully Worth Writing Down" for the post. I think this story is so important that it bears repeating - repeatedly, in all our blogs). Imagine if Obama adopts this strategy, and leaves Harper grasping at air... Fact is, IT COULD REALISTICALLY HAPPEN. Americans need a lower world oil price, while Albertans (aka the Harper "base") require high prices...

The Net-Zero Gas Tax
A once-in-a-generation chance.
by Charles Krauthammer
01/05/2009, Volume 014, Issue 16

Americans have a deep and understandable aversion to gasoline taxes. In a culture more single-mindedly devoted to individual freedom than any other, tampering with access to the open road is met with visceral opposition. That's why earnest efforts to alter American driving habits take the form of regulation of the auto companies--the better to hide the hand of government and protect politicians from the inevitable popular backlash.

But it's not just love of the car. America is a nation of continental expanses. Distances between population centers can be vast. The mass-transit mini-car culture of Europe just doesn't work in big sky country.

This combination of geography and romance is the principal reason gas taxes are so astonishingly low in America. The federal tax is 18.4 cents per gallon. In Britain, as in much of Europe, the tax approaches $4 per gallon--more than 20 times the federal levy here.

Savvy politicians (i.e., those who succeed in getting themselves elected president) know this and tread carefully. Ronald Reagan managed a 5-cent increase. So did Bush 41. Bill Clinton needed a big fight to get a 4.3-cent increase. The lesson has been widely learned. No one with national ambitions proposes a major gas tax. Indeed, this summer featured the absurd spectacle of two leading presidential candidates (John McCain and Hillary Clinton) seriously proposing a temporary gas tax suspension.

Today's economic climate of financial instability and deepening recession, moreover, makes the piling on of new taxes--gasoline or otherwise--not just politically unpalatable but economically dubious in the extreme.

So why even think about it? Because the virtues of a gas tax remain what they have always been. A tax that suppresses U.S. gas consumption can have a major effect on reducing world oil prices. And the benefits of low world oil prices are obvious: They put tremendous pressure on OPEC, as evidenced by its disarray during the current collapse; they deal serious economic damage to energy-exporting geopolitical adversaries such as Russia, Venezuela, and Iran; and they reduce the enormous U.S. imbalance of oil trade which last year alone diverted a quarter of $1 trillion abroad. Furthermore, a reduction in U.S. demand alters the balance of power between producer and consumer, making us less dependent on oil exporters. It begins weaning us off foreign oil, and, if combined with nuclear power and renewed U.S. oil and gas drilling, puts us on the road to energy independence.

High gas prices, whether achieved by market forces or by government imposition, encourage fuel economy. In the short term, they simply reduce the amount of driving. In the longer term, they lead to the increased (voluntary) shift to more fuel-efficient cars. They render redundant and unnecessary the absurd CAFE standards--the ever-changing Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations that mandate the fuel efficiency of various car and truck fleets--which introduce terrible distortions into the market. As the consumer market adjusts itself to more fuel-efficient autos, the green car culture of the future that environmentalists are attempting to impose by decree begins to shape itself unmandated. This shift has the collateral environmental effect of reducing pollution and CO2 emissions, an important benefit for those who believe in man-made global warming and a painless bonus for agnostics (like me) who nonetheless believe that the endless pumping of CO2 into the atmosphere cannot be a good thing.

These benefits are blindingly obvious. They always have been. But the only time you can possibly think of imposing a tax to achieve them is when oil prices are very low. We had such an opportunity when prices collapsed in the mid-1980s and again in the late 1990s. Both opportunities were squandered. Nothing was done.

Today we are experiencing a unique moment. Oil prices are in a historic free fall from a peak of $147 a barrel to $39 today. In July, U.S. gasoline was selling for $4.11 a gallon. It now sells for $1.65. With $4 gas still fresh in our memories, the psychological impact of a tax that boosts the pump price to near $3 would be far less than at any point in decades. Indeed, an immediate $1 tax would still leave the price more than one-third below its July peak.

The rub, of course, is that this price drop is happening at a time of severe recession. Not only would the cash-strapped consumer rebel against a gas tax. The economic pitfalls would be enormous. At a time when overall consumer demand is shrinking, any tax would further drain the economy of disposable income, decreasing purchasing power just when consumer spending needs to be supported.

What to do? Something radically new. A net-zero gas tax. Not a freestanding gas tax but a swap that couples the tax with an equal payroll tax reduction. A two-part solution that yields the government no net increase in revenue and, more importantly--that is why this proposal is different from others--immediately renders the average gasoline consumer financially whole.

Here is how it works. The simultaneous enactment of two measures: A $1 increase in the federal gasoline tax--together with an immediate $14 a week reduction of the FICA tax. Indeed, that reduction in payroll tax should go into effect the preceding week, so that the upside of the swap (the cash from the payroll tax rebate) is in hand even before the downside (the tax) kicks in.

The math is simple. The average American buys roughly 14 gallons of gasoline a week. The $1 gas tax takes $14 out of his pocket. The reduction in payroll tax puts it right back. The average driver comes out even, and the government makes nothing on the transaction. (There are, of course, more drivers than workers--203 million vs. 163 million. The 10 million unemployed would receive the extra $14 in their unemployment insurance checks. And the elderly who drive--there are 30 million licensed drivers over 65--would receive it with their Social Security payments.)

Revenue neutrality is essential. No money is taken out of the economy. Washington doesn't get fatter. Nor does it get leaner. It is simply a transfer agent moving money from one activity (gasoline purchasing) to another (employment) with zero net revenue for the government.

Revenue neutrality for the consumer is perhaps even more important. Unlike the stand-alone gas tax, it does not drain his wallet, which would produce not only insuperable popular resistance but also a new drag on purchasing power in the midst of a severe recession. Unlike other tax rebate plans, moreover, the consumer doesn't have to wait for a lump-sum reimbursement at tax time next April, after having seethed for a year about government robbing him every time he fills up. The reimbursement is immediate. Indeed, at its inception, the reimbursement precedes the tax expenditure.

One nice detail is that the $14 rebate is mildly progressive. The lower wage earner gets a slightly greater percentage of his payroll tax reduced than does the higher earner. But that's a side effect. The main point is that the federal government is left with no net revenue--even temporarily. And the average worker is left with no net loss. (As the tax takes effect and demand is suppressed, average gas consumption will begin to fall below 14 gallons a week. There would need to be a review, say yearly, to adjust the payroll tax rebate to maintain revenue neutrality. For example, at 13 gallons purchased per week, the rebate would be reduced to $13.)

Of course, as with any simple proposal, there are complications. Doesn't reimbursement-by-payroll-tax-cut just cancel out the incentive to drive less and shift to fuel-efficient cars? No. The $14 in cash can be spent on anything. You can blow it all on gas by driving your usual number of miles, or you can drive a bit less and actually have money in your pocket for something else. There's no particular reason why the individual consumer would want to plow it all back into a commodity that is now $1 more expensive. When something becomes more expensive, less of it is bought.

The idea that the demand for gasoline is inelastic is a myth. A 2007 study done at the University of California, Davis, shows that during the oil shocks of the late 1970s, a 20 percent increase in oil prices produced a 6 percent drop in per capita gas consumption. During the first half of this decade, demand proved more resistant to change--until the dramatic increases of the last two years. Between November 2007 and October 2008, the United States experienced the largest continual decline in driving history (100 billion miles). Last August, shortly after pump prices peaked at $4.11 per gallon, the year-on-year decrease in driving reached 5.6 percent--the largest ever year-to-year decline recorded in a single month, reported the Department of Transportation. (Records go back to 1942.) At the same time, mass transit--buses, subways, and light rail--has seen record increases in ridership. Amtrak reported more riders and revenue in fiscal 2008 than ever in its 37-year history.

Gasoline demand can be stubbornly inelastic, but only up to a point. In this last run-up, the point of free fall appeared to be around $4. If it turns out that at the current world price of $39 a barrel, a $1 tax does not discourage demand enough to keep the price down, we simply increase the tax. The beauty of the gas tax is that we--and not OPEC--do the adjusting. And that increase in price doesn't go into the pocket of various foreign thugs and unfriendlies, but back into the pocket of the American consumer.

What about special cases? Of course there are variations in how much people drive. It depends on geography, occupation, and a host of other factors. These variations are unavoidable, and in part, welcome. The whole idea is to reward those who drive less and to disadvantage those who drive more. Indeed, inequities of this sort are always introduced when, for overarching national reasons, government creates incentives and disincentives for certain behaviors. A tax credit for college tuition essentially takes money out of the non-college going population to subsidize those who do go--and will likely be wealthier in the end than their non-college contributors. Not very fair. Nonetheless, we support such incentives because college education is a national good that we wish to encourage. Decreased oil consumption is a similarly desirable national good.

There will certainly be special cases, such as truck drivers and others for whom longer distance driving is a necessity that might warrant some special program of relief. That would require some small bureaucracy, some filings for exemption or rebate, and perhaps even some very minor tweak of the gas tax (say, an extra penny or two beyond the dollar). But that's a detail. Most people can drive less. They already do.

Why a $1 tax? Because we need a significant increase in the cost of gasoline to change our habits--or, more accurately, maintain the new driving habits and auto purchase patterns that have already occurred as a result of the recent oil shock. We know from the history of the 1980s and 1990s that these habits will be undone and unlearned if gasoline remains at today's amazingly low price. In the very short time that prices have been this low, we have already seen a slight rebound in SUV sales. They remain far below the level of last year--in part because no one is buying anything in this recession, and in part because we have not fully recovered from the psychological impact of $4 gasoline. We are not quite ready to believe that gas will remain this low. But if it does remain this low, as the night follows day, we will resume our gas-guzzling habits.

It might therefore be objected that a $1 gasoline tax won't be enough. If $4 was the price point that precipitated a major decrease in driving and a collapse of SUV sales, an immediate imposition of a $1 gas tax would only bring the average price to $2.65.

To which I have two answers. First, my preliminary assumption is that it takes $4 to break the habit of gas-guzzling profligacy. But once that is done, it might take something less, only in the range of $3, to maintain the new habit. It may turn out that these guesses are slightly off. The virtue of a gas tax is that these conjectures can be empirically tested and refined, and the precise amount of the tax adjusted to consumer response.

Second, my personal preference would be a $1.25 tax today (at $1.65 gasoline) or even a $1.50 tax if gas prices begin to slide below $1.50--the target being near-$3 gasoline. (The payroll tax rebate would, of course, be adjusted accordingly: If the tax is $1.50, the rebate is $21 a week.) The $1 proposal is offered because it seems more politically palatable. My personal preference for a higher initial tax stems from my assumption that the more sharply and quickly the higher prices are imposed, the greater and more lasting the effect on consumption.

But whatever one's assumptions and choice of initial tax, the net-zero tax swap remains flexible, adjustable, testable, and nonbureaucratic. Behavior is changed, driving is curtailed, fuel efficiency is increased, without any of the arbitrary, shifting, often mindless mandates decreed by Congress.

This is a major benefit of the gas tax that is generally overlooked. It is not just an alternative to regulation; because it is so much more efficient, it is a killer of regulation. The most egregious of these regulations are the fleet fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards forced on auto companies. Rather than creating market conditions that encourage people to voluntarily buy greener cars, the CAFE standards simply impose them. And once the regulations are written--with their arbitrary miles-per-gallon numbers and target dates--they are not easily changed. If they are changed, moreover, they cause massive dislocation, and yet more inefficiency, in the auto industry.

CAFE standards have proven devastating to Detroit. When oil prices were relatively low, they forced U.S. auto companies to produce small cars that they could only sell at a loss. They were essentially making unsellable cars to fulfill mandated quotas, like steel producers in socialist countries meeting five-year plan production targets with equal disregard for demand.

Yet the great 2008 run-up in world oil prices showed what happens without any government coercion. As the price of gas approached $4 a gallon, there was a collapse of big-car sales that caused U.S. manufacturers to begin cutting SUV production and restructuring the composition of their fleets. GM's CEO, for example, declared in June, "these prices are changing consumer behavior and changing it rapidly," and announced the closing of four SUV plants and the addition of a third shift in two plants making smaller cars.

Which is precisely why a gas tax would render these government-dictated regulations irrelevant and obsolete. If you want to shift to fuel-efficient cars, don't mandate, don't scold, don't appeal to the better angels of our nature. Find the price point, reach it with a tax, and let the market do the rest.

Yes, a high gas tax constitutes a very serious government intervention. But it has the virtue of simplicity. It is clean, adaptable, and easy to administer. Admittedly, it takes a massive external force to alter behavior and tastes. But given the national security and the economic need for more fuel efficiency, and given the leverage that environmental considerations will have on the incoming Democratic administration and Democratic Congress, that change in behavior and taste will occur one way or the other. Better a gas tax that activates free market mechanisms rather than regulation that causes cascading market distortions.

The net-zero gas tax not only obviates the need for government regulation. It obviates the need for government spending as well. Expensive gas creates the market for the fuel-efficient car without Washington having to pick winners and losers with massive government "investment" and arbitrary grants. No regulations, no mandates, no spending programs to prop up the production of green cars that consumer demand would not otherwise support. And if we find this transition going too quickly or too slowly, we can alter it with the simple expedient of altering the gas tax, rather than undertaking the enormously complicated review and rewriting of fuel-efficiency regulations.

Then there are the so-called externalities: national security, balance of payments, and the environment. The most important of these is national security. In July, when gasoline was at $4, a full $3 was going to the oil producer. (On average thus far this year, 70 percent of pump prices went to pay for the crude.) And God in his infinite wisdom has put oil in many unfortunate places. The American people understand that these dollars were going out of the U.S. economy and into the treasuries of Hugo Chávez, Vladimir Putin, the Iranian mullahs (indirectly, since the oil is fungible), and various other miscreants.

The point of a high U.S. gas tax is to suppress domestic demand and thus suppress the world price. Low world prices are a huge blow to overseas producers, particularly ones with relatively large populations, nationalized industries that are increasingly inefficient, and budgetary obligations built on the expectation of a continuing energy bonanza. Countries such as Russia, Venezuela, and Iran.

A UBS analysis estimates that Iran and Venezuela need $90 oil to balance their budgets. And at $70, according to Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin, Russia goes into deficit. It is now draining the reserves built up during the fat years. At current oil prices, Russia will soon become a debtor nation. The World Bank's lead economist for Russia, Zeljko Bogetic, said on December 19 that at $30 a barrel, "financing constraint would become so sharp that it's possible even to envisage Russia's return from a creditor to international organizations to [that of] a borrower." This will be a far humbler Russia than the one that invaded Georgia, built a nuclear reactor in Iran, threatens Poland and the Czech Republic, and is reestablishing naval bases in such former Soviet satellites as Syria.

The Russian navy just made calls in Nicaragua and Cuba. It has conducted joint exercises with Venezuela in an open challenge to America. These are, as yet, not serious threats. But with a stronger Russia and Venezuela, they could be. The projection of power is very expensive, as Americans very well know. Oil at $39 would simply starve Russia and Venezuela of the means to sustain this adventurism.

Similarly Iran, which is already under sanctions, already suffering high inflation, already the subject of popular discontent over corruption and economic mismanagement. All this was cushioned by high oil prices. They allowed the Islamic republic to act like the regional superpower, giving military and financial support to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, "special groups" and Sadrist militias in Iraq, and various other terrorists. And, of course, oil revenues permit the continued large-scale operation of Iran's nuclear weapons development program.

Of all the instruments of foreign policy, military and diplomatic, that we have at our disposal against these adversaries, none is as powerful as $39 (or less) oil. It makes power projection by these regimes far more expensive and difficult. And even more profoundly, if world oil prices remain this low for a significant period of time, the very stability of the regimes in Russia, Venezuela, and Iran will be jeopardized--increasing the possibility of regime change without the expenditure of a single U.S. defense dollar and without the risk of a single U.S. soldier.

Not all oil exporters are adversaries. But many are indifferent to the economic repercussions of high world prices on the American consumer and the American economy. Three of the last four global recessions were preceded--and significantly precipitated--by major oil price spikes. Suppressing the world price through the help of a high U.S. gas tax weakens these producers and makes far more problematic their periodic attempt to extort yet more revenue from us by means of cartel-wide production cuts. Combined with reduction of our overall oil importation, that significantly reduces our dependence on--and our helplessness in the face of--their production decisions. It reduces the power of OPEC over oil prices, and thus over our economic life. And it constitutes the beginning of energy independence--particularly if coupled with increased production of various kinds at home. (But that's another subject.)

We underestimate our power. Of course, the slump in China and other rapidly growing economies has contributed to the current extreme price collapse. But China consumes only 9 percent of the world's oil. The United States consumes 24 percent. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia produces 13 percent of the world's oil. We don't generally see ourselves as the Saudi Arabia of oil consumers, but we are. The Saudis have the most effect on the world price because they are the swing producer. We are, in effect, the swing consumer. And since oil peaked earlier this year, we are consuming less. October was yet another month of record year-on-year decline of gasoline consumption in the United States. And that's just the immediate effect, before the long-term impact of changes in our automobile fleet can take hold. And that long-term change will only occur if we keep the domestic price high.

The further advantage of keeping it artificially high by means of a tax is that it keeps a large part of the money paid at the pump at home in the U.S. economy. Last year, we sent $246 billion to foreign countries to pay for oil. With oil fetching a price today more than 70 percent below its peak, billions that just this summer were going overseas are now getting pumped back into the U.S. economy. This does not just look pretty on our trade balance sheet. It helps protect the dollar by reducing the number of dollars that would otherwise be held abroad, often by countries whose attitude towards America is ambivalent, if not hostile.

And finally there is the environmental effect. If anthropogenic global warming is real, a reduction in driving and increase in fuel-efficiency is an unvarnished good. If anthropogenic global warming is as yet unproved, as I happen to believe, then the reduction in CO2 pumped into the atmosphere is a reasonable bet in conditions of uncertainty.

Prudence would suggest taking modest steps. Politics makes such steps imperative. Whatever the scientific truth, climate change has become dogma in the West. In the schools, it is already a religion. Public policy is shaped not by scientific reality but by public perceptions. The environmental movement not only has hegemony in the media. Its political party is now in control of the U.S. executive and the legislature. They will see to it that actions are taken to reduce greenhouse gases.

We therefore have a choice. These measures can either be radical and economically ruinous, such as renewed moratoria on oil and gas drilling, the effective abolition of the coal industry, forced production of green cars that have no market and are so economically unviable that they will ruin the companies that make them. (The Chevy Volt will go 40 miles on a charge and cost about $35,000 after a required $7,500 government rebate. A real winner.) Or we can do it sensibly. Curtail oil consumption and encourage fuel-efficient technologies by means of a net-zero gas tax. It would reduce pollution and CO2 emissions at no economic cost. If we can do environmentally sensible things, particularly ones that will have overwhelming economic and national security advantages, why not pocket the environmental gains, and obviate the need for more extreme alternatives?

I am not a car hater. It is a wondrous source of connectedness, convenience, and individual freedom. But it has its social costs, its externalities. If we can control these fairly painlessly by keeping the price of gas relatively high--though lower than what it was just a few months ago--we can gain this subsidiary benefit of prophylactic environmental action. Again, without mandates, without massive bureaucracies, and with a host of collateral benefits.

In our current economic crisis, there is but a single silver lining--the collapse of world oil prices. This in turn is already stimulating a struggling economy, helping our balance of payments, humbling OPEC, and weakening our adversaries. When economic conditions improve, and oil consumption and prices rise again, these benefits will evaporate precisely as they have time and again since the first oil shock of 1973. A time of $1.65 gasoline is our chance to enact a net-zero gas tax. It is a once in a generation opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.

Charles Krauthammer is a contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Senators at Calgary

It is somewhat fitting that the City of Calgary plays host to the "Senators" from Ottawa tonight. Based on what representatives from the City of Calgary have done for Senators lately, it is quite reasonable for Calgary to expect something in return (like this "return visit")... lol...

For a city that doesn't believe in Senators, they sure do mess around with them a lot...

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Rogers/Fido Wins Cell Phone Tech War: Bell + Telus Switch To GSM

Bell Canada and Telus both will switch to the new HSDPA technology as early as January of 2009. HSDPA is basically the most advanced form of GSM Technology:

High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) is a 3G (third generation) mobile telephony communications protocol in the High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) family, which allows networks based on Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) to have higher data transfer speeds and capacity. Current HSDPA deployments support down-link speeds of 1.8, 3.6, 7.2 and 14.4 Mbit/s. Further speed increases are available with HSPA+, which provides speeds of up to 42 Mbit/s downlink.[1]

The move means that the two companies' ancient CDMA and TDMA technologies will be left by the wayside. GSM is the most popular worldwide tech for mobile communications (we stopped calling it "cellular", as these phones no longer operate on the dated "cellular" technology), with full saturation in Asia, Europe, and South America. Bell and Telus were unable to provide the "coolest" and latest phones with their older, North American technology. GSM - mainly developed by Nokia and Ericcson - is the world dominant technology (similar to DVD over DIVX).

Bell/Solo and Telus/Koodo will still maintain their older CDMA networks for the millions of users with their current phones. The HSDPA phones will have SIM cards like all GSM phones, so I will be able to continue getting my phones from Hong Kong or India (much higher end phones over there), and put in my local SIM. I'll just have more providers to choose from.

The move is good for consumers, however, I don't think Bell can afford to overhaul their entire network right now, while the economy tanks, and they were unsuccessful at being sold. Maybe there's a Conservative bailout of their media friends which we haven't heard about yet?

I've been a GSM-fan-boy for years. I despised the "locked" phones sold by the providers here, and would always buy unlocked GSM phones then adding my Fido/Rogers SIM. They try to tell you that all the "features" won't work, but there are "hacks" online that can get all your features going just fine. My current SIM model is a Sony "Cybershot" c702 with 3.2MP camera, GSM, and sports "location" services, as well as a radio, full walkman, and other neat stuff. It's also a tiny, thin candy-bar format.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

WHERE is the Anger??? Where is the Seething Fury?

The American NeoConservative "gung-ho" wide open style of free enterprise has KO'd the world economy. Where is the collective anger? Where is the seething bitter fury, for what the NeoConservatives have wrought? Have they honestly bought out the media so "finally" and completely, that there is not a discerning voice anywhere, that can impel the public forward, for the need for change?

Have enough people not lost their jobs? Is that it? Do others just not understand that the creators of this debacle are exactly the WRONG people to fix it? Do we all not understand that the very system was flawed/is flawed?

I don't know about everyone else who is reasonably informed, but many of my friends/family, and I ware pretty concerned - and pretty pissed off. Just who did these American bankers, economists, and right wing politicians think they were? And now... they think they will be running things again? At least in the US the electorate shook things up. Honestly, the "Mess-o-Potamia" wouldn't have been enough to defeat the Bushies (nor the years of lies and criminal acts). The only thing that allowed Mr. Obama his modest victory was the economic floor dropping out from under the US. The Bush PR machine had to do so much spin since 2001 that they really couldn't lie much more without being called on it...

Up here in Canada, the Harper Conservatives managed to lie their way through the past year... They distracted Canadians with "small shiny objects", while they raped our economy. They destroyed our contingency fund, eviscerated our tax base (the ONLY tool government has to bail people out in trying times) to give money back to the rich, and they lied, lied, and LIED some more on their way to another slim minority.

How blatantly does a Prime Minister have to stand up in public and lie before the public wakes up? While financial markets were collapsing around him, "St. Stephen" stood and calmly - with those cold blue eyes - lied to Canadians... Nay... Did I say "lied"? He went beyond that. He implored young Canadian families to buy houses. He suggested Canadians buy stock when the market reeled in mid-election. All through, he and his finance Minister (Flaherty) lied about the state of the economy and what all economists were predicting (since early 2008) was coming. In recent days, we've found that we have been IN DEFECIT spending mode since the last Quarter - and perhaps before that. Seems to me Flaherty pulled this type of magic in Ontario years ago too...

So, where IS the anger? If we are indeed a few months behind the US, then it is surely coming. In the meantime, I get to watch sales drop in the shopping mall around me. People are NOT out there spending their money (on anything - not even liquor). I'm glad I'm not building homes anymore though... that would be painful. I have several builder friends who are quite over-extended, and may need government assistance of one form or another. It's quite a shame that these friends voted for the party that is doing everything in it's power to make things worse for them. Good luck with EI... the qualifications got much tougher for that under the Conservative regime. Home programs? Incentives for public housing and low-cost housing? Conservatives don't believe in things like that (Things that would have maintained construction jobs). We were in a situation of ridiculously low interest rates, and home sales were going just fine, as were car sales, but the Conservative clowns decided to cut the GST by a measly 1%. Lot of good that did.

It's interesting to watch people like Bush and Harper stand up and talk about how investment in the economy goes against the very grain of what they stand for. They are actually standing up and defending their "neoConservative" economic school while economists everywhere are talking about what needs to be done to save/rebuild our economies: namely, direct investment to create jobs.

It's "precious" to watch these ideologues whose policies helped with the destruction of the manufacturing base of these lands (jobs went overseas, while the big corporations these guys supported laughed all the way to the bank). Companies that have many of these neoConservatives on their boards simply left America and Canada in the last 10 years... We watched as the neoCons refused to embrace the new "green" and "knowledge" economies while there was still a chance to lead in those fields. They - in the typical Conservative way - embraced the past. They talked about job creation, when it was really "McJob" creation, while all the good jobs went abroad, or were "passed" on.

It is interesting that these conservative clowns would poke fun at the Europeans (even name-calling). Never taking a lesson from the continent which has managed to maintain a huge part of their manufacturing. Times may be tough in Europe now too (especially the US-influenced Eastern Europe), but countries like Germany and France have maintained their manufacturing skills (and skilled jobs), and will "fire up" as soon as the recession wanes. Canada may have a tougher time of it. The infrastructure and job-creation investment that was needed here was not done, and we are still very resource based.

What this part of the world NEEDS very badly, right now, is a re-thinking of politics along the lines of what transpired in Continental Europe in the 60s and 70s. We are leaving a phase of American Economic Imperialism, and we will need to adjust to a time of change. There is still much development to do in Canada. We will need to plan it out better. New technologies will be the key - but before that, we need to have an educated workforce. We are falling behind in the world in the area of education. An educated populace is a more innovative populace - a more creative populace. The Conservatives have long opposed the creative forces in Canada (making fun of what they call "egg-headed elitists"). Time to reinvest. The minds that will help us out of this mess are the young minds that are still in school learning about the antiquated "consumerist" economic system, still being taught about "economics" where it is not wise to invest in the country in "good times". Countries that did invest in themselves in good times will be far ahead when this crisis clears and the recovery begins...

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Conservatives "Out of... Comfort Zone" Dealing With Minorities

Just paging through the acres of Conservative tripe about how they think they are "massaging" visible (and "invisible") minorities, when I "re-discovered" this little gem:

"The “outreach team” used a Canadian Heritage government computer to create the initial version of a document that was provided at the political training conference in March. A spokesman for Mr. Kenney explained that the final version, including Conservative logos, was modified on another outside computer.

In another presentation, Conservative community relations manager Georganne Burke told Conservatives that outreach calls on them to work beyond their traditional base, even if it means “to look outside your normal comfort zone.”

Concretely, Ms. Burke urged Conservative candidates and organizers to break down each riding's ethnic and religious composition, and directly target potential voters.

She said that Conservatives should use all available opportunities to “build the database” of ethnic voters, by renting or buying lists of names from third parties and by attending events where they can gather business cards and guest lists."

Wow.  Just... wow...

You know, Conservatives talk about how they are working to be "the party for new Canadians".  They couldn't be more wrong.  They are certainly working certain angles, but they forget the big picture.  

What angles?  

They firstly feel they can court "economically concerned" new Canadians...  Most new Canadians who are "monied" (after years of struggling against the conservative "old boys networks", and "glass ceilings") have a pretty good understanding of who the best fiscal managers in Canada are.  Errr... that would be Liberals (if you haven't figured that out in the last couple of hundred years).  What the Conservatives DO manage with this "angle" is to attract SOME 2nd generation children of visible minorities, who are all too distant from the struggles of their parents against the same conservative mindset (which held them back, forced them to drive cabs when they had 5-star qualifications, etc.).  These 2nd and 3rd gens often are involved in business, and think they have "arrived".  For the Conservatives there is no better window dressing, than a Tim Uppal type, or a Rahim Jaffer.  Eluded by the myth of Conservative fiscal responsibility, these monied (often less educated than their parents), children of new Canadians get sucked into the same fallacy the media has.

Another "angle" is the religious equation.  Being rather extreme in their religious views, this current brand of Conservatives feel they can appeal to anyone who is remotely religious.  They seek to divide Canadians along these lines.  It's all or none - you're either religious, or you're not.  The Conservatives seek religious "wedge issues", then attend a minority religious event and focus on that issue.  They feel they can focus on the one issue and be successful.  It works on SOME - but for those who are more adept at looking at the big picture, or who have been informed by the other sides about other issues, it doesn't work.

Lip service to immigration issues is another Conservative strategy.  They talk about increasing immigration, then they reduce the numbers of past Liberal governments (as percentage of population).  They try to reduce refugees.  They kill family reunification in favor of "skilled workers" from pretty much one distinct region (Europe - no "visible" minorities there).  These workers will be summarily dismissed back to their home countries when they are no longer needed in the Alberta oil patch (it is already happening - I hear often from Immigration attorneys on this matter).  Conservatives have not addressed the issue of "foreign trained professionals", even though they made many promises.  They symbolically removed a portion of the "new head tax", yet this was quite rightly a by-product of their "slash and burn" taxation policies, rather than any great feeling for immigrants (remember it is out of their "comfort zone").  The monies the Conservatives have killed off in the taxation area has led to cuts in funding to "arts and culture" - two areas that impacted new Canadians in a huge way.

Conservatives - in their "lip service" to immigration, have shown, time and again, that they are really more about taking power than anything else.  In this shameless power grab visible minorities are nothing more than pawns.  Cattle to be driven into nomination meetings, and pulled on election day to support "their" Candidates.

Speaking of "their" (visible minority) candidates, it is interesting to trace the past lives of many of these opportunists and "flakes".  I recall reading a very good book by Harriet Beecher Stow, which aptly described many of these candidates.  Several (of the very few) backbenched visible minority MPs sitting on the Conservative side of the aisle were former Liberals who lost "popularity contests" within their communities, then flooded Conservative nomination meetings (back in the Reform days) to get to Ottawa.  They are never given anything more than a "Parliamentary Secretary" role (if even that).

How does this work?  Why would people who have very little in common with the raging masses of the conservative movement end up on that side of the aisle?  To understand this, you need to understand how recent immigrant politics often works (how "any party will do"), and how politics works in most of the rest of the world (in particular, in Asia, Southern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and South America).  

Being of South Asian extraction I can best illustrate how things work in this community.  Politics in "the old country" is usually led by community "power brokers".  The brokers are community leaders (often self-proclaimed), who hold some position of respect.  Often they are local "strong-men" (and it's almost always men) who have led the community on some count.  The power brokers are often corrupt and willing to go the "the highest bidder".  An "informed" electorate is the last thing on their wish-list. 

When the politics of the old country moves over here, the situation is created that is "ripe" for the picking for enterprising party reps from the "New World" political parties.  This is more true today than yesteryear.  Today, large numbers of less-educated, more "old-country" immigrants tend to agglomerate in certain centers.  They often don't venture into the community at large (while the early settlers in the 60s, 70s, and earlier, had to).

Traditionally, in the "old days" of the 60s and 70s, visible minority communities were small.  People of South Asian descent did not live in any great concentrations in any areas.  When they got involved in politics it was over principle.  It was over what appealed to them.  This was the heyday of the Trudeau and Pearson governments.  Governments which opened the doors, so to speak, to visible minority immigration to Canada.  These hard-working new immigrants in the 60s and 70s not only cherished the "gift" of immigration the Liberal PMs had given them, but their politics also "fit":  Fiscally responsible governments supporting the "little guy", while also upholding the "charter rights" of the new Canadians.  The approach to human rights AND fiscal responsibility - the centrist Liberal way - appealed to all new Canadians, and fit their lifestyle best.

In the last 10 to 15 years, we've seen the "brokered" politics return to the South Asian world.  It isn't a whole group associating to a party "ad hoc".  Rather, community "leaders" (often self-proscribed) reach out to family members, and networks of relations, and bring them to a candidate.  The candidates themselves have changed.  Community divisions are accentuated by the "new parties" trying to establish a foothold.  Communities are split along these divisions.  Candidates who lost nominations for the Liberal Party or NDP often slide over to the Conservative side.  They know that they are only going to represent (mostly) the issues of their own community (mostly immigration related), so ideology doesn't matter to them.  It has become a question of the role of MP for the people (a very specific group), more directly, and very little to do with party ideology.  This is how you get MPs like Deepak Obhroi (sp?) and Gurmant Grewal.  These opportunists sought nominations with the Liberal Party.  When they could not run for that party, they overwhelmed Reform nomination meetings and won those "tickets".  It was all about being an MP (at any cost) for these folks, and they succeeded.  It matters naught to them that they spend their days languishing on the back benches - never allowed to bring their views forward.  They know they can sit in their offices and send off "letters of inquiry" to the immigration department for their grateful, newly arrived supporters.

While the sad fact of recent immigrant politics has helped the Conservatives somewhat, there are few minorities who can benefit from the continued erosion of minority rights, the destruction of government, the attack on equality, the breaking down of our multicultural identity (the Conservative Party's policy is distinctly aligned AGAINST official multiculturalism), and the general way conservatives "defend the good old days" (meaning 19th Century Canada).

The net result is a Conservative policy of attempting to win over new Canadians, while offering little in the way of policy effecting them positively.  When Conservatives come out and admit publicly that new Canadians put them out of their "comfort zone", you know that their policy is full of holes, and ready to be taken down by a concerted Liberal or NDP attempt.

In the next few months, and years, the new Liberal Party must make our multicultural policy a key in our work with and for new Canadian communities.  Educating the communities about how our ideology - our policies - benefit them will continue to build on the tradition of the Trudeau Liberals.  We don't patronize new Canadians, and we have never had to.  Now is not the time to try to mimic the Conservatives in doing so.  The last thing a proud people need is someone coming to them in a patronizing and demeaning way.  Sure, the Conservatives will still get some community leaders on their side - who will surely bring some unaware new Canadians with them (perhaps the same people who will end up voting at a Liberal nomination meeting weeks later), but our party will continue to take the high road we always have.

Happy Festivus!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Harper Imitating Roman Tyrants?

Didn't Ceasar (Gaius Julius, I believe) "load" his Senate, and put some Senators to death in order to become "Supreme Tyrant"?

Harper's moves with the Senate seem very Imperial Roman. Just the thing a tyrant does when assuming supreme control?

Here is a bit about Gaius Julius Caesar:

Gaius Iulius Caesar[1] or Gaius Julius Caesar (pronounced [ˈgaːius ˈjuːlius ˈkaɪsar] in Classical Latin; conventionally pronounced [ˈgajəs ˈdʒuːliəs ˈsiːzɚ] in English), July 13, 100 BC[2] – March 15, 44 BC,[3]) was a Roman military and political leader. He played a critical role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

A politician of the populares tradition, he formed an unofficial triumvirate with Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus which dominated Roman politics for several years, opposed in the Roman Senate by optimates like Marcus Porcius Cato and Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus. His conquest of Gaul extended the Roman world to the North Sea, and he also conducted the first Roman invasion of Britain in 55 BC. The collapse of the triumvirate, however, led to a stand-off with Pompey and the Senate. Leading his legions across the Rubicon, Caesar began a civil war in 49 BC from which he became the undisputed master of the Roman world.

Note, in particular, the stand-off with the Senate. Also, the "populist" (Populares Roman Leaders appealed to the public to circumvent the Democratic Senate) references.

What next from Harper? Fomentation of a Canadian Civil War? He's already fired the first shots: Attacking Ontario, telling the world NOT to invest there; picking a fight with Newfoundland (cute, tiny little Newfoundland) after comments about an Atlantic "culture of defeat"; Talking up Western Separatism ad nauseum; and finally, spending much of Fall 2008, and the start of Winter attacking Quebec - and calling them all Separatists and Traitors.

Sound like the words of a Roman Emperor? Calling people separatists and traitors? Very tyrant-like, no?

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Iggy Scarf Keeping Me Warm...

The weather outside is frightful...  But my Iggy scarf is warm and delightful... (just like the man himself).

Are you keeping warm?  I am, with my cozy, soft, Iggy Scarf...

Available soon at a Liberal website near you...

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Let Harper Wear His "Recession Sweater" - We Will All Be In Our Warm "Iggy-wear"

I've been wearing my "ignatieff" scarf for some time (yes, it does get dry-cleaned). I've often received very "interested" comments about my "ignatieff" t-shirts (not about supporting Michael, but about how nice the actual shirt is). In 3 airports, after the Montreal convention, I was approached about my t-shirt. I was approached on the street in Montreal - not by Liberals, and not by homeless persons - about my scarf.

There is no winter fashion accessory quite as "chic" as a bold red scarf. Cool t-shirts are always in. There's no rule that says our t-shirts have to be moribund, bland ones with block letters, and maybe a Liberal logo somewhere. Barack Obama's t-shirts never had any Democrat logo on them. People shy away from "party affiliation", but they WILL don a cool t-shirt.

Looking at the great political movement down South, one thing that gets me (and makes a lot of sense) is how they managed to market the man (you know who - I've sworn off too many references to him). Any cool person had a neat, artistic "Hope" shirt, or "Change" shirt. Much funds were raised with these t's, caps, scarves, buttons, bumper stickers, etc.

As a party - after the 3 most recent leadership contests, we FAILED to win on the marketing front. Sure, we're not JUST about leadership, but hey - if we can sell some t-shirts? A stylized, bold, red t-shirt would be a much in demand fashion accessory. To be honest, our "Liberal Store" online has been relatively non-existent, and lacking any real imagination. Not sure who is responsible for this, but it may be time for a "change".

Get out there Liberals, and wear your "ignatieff" wear. Don your "Grit" caps and LPC touques. Join the "I Wear Iggy Swag" Facebook Group!

Edit: I've contacted the Ignatieff HQ, and am championing this cause. We need to keep on them. Original ideas (borrowed from our Democrat friends) are hard to come by. Too bad we didn't have a whole new line of "Liberal Wear" in time for Christmas... I'm making t-shirts out here, but the "Iggy" designs were something else. We need more of them.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Time To Make Harper Wear His "Recession Sweater"

I don't believe the change in Liberal leadership should be about the immediate changing of the guard in Ottawa - it is more about the pieces being in place for the gradual defeat of the Conservative Party. This is due to a much stronger leader in Mr. Ignatieff, AND (more importantly) a Liberal Party united behind him. This is reflecting a media which was not so kind to Mr. Dion after his victory. These very pundits were "doubtful" at best about Mr. Dion back then (sure, they didn't lambaste him right away, but it was the doubt from the start that did him in). Mr. Ignatieff is much more liked in the media - both in English AND French Canada. This is the first step. Media won't turn on him unless he really screws up (unlike Dion who came out of the gates with a lot of media enemies and a Harper with the "teflon" reputation).

The focus is now going to be about Harper pulling us out of a recession/depression (whatever he wants to call it today). A recession he's been denying for months, in a crisis which has been known for over a year. With Dion in command I supported a coalition - it was HIS only hope, with a potential election call coming, and party looking "un-ready". With Mr. Ignatieff entrenched as leader we can be tactful, diplomatic, and (while holding a possible Parliamentary defeat over Harper's head), FORCE HARPER to be more moderate - while (most importantly) LETTING HIM WEAR THIS CRISIS FOR A FEW MORE MONTHS. Once he's wearing his "Recession Sweater", we can take him to task on the legally mandated "set" election date - which is set for this coming October. Harper can break his own law if he wants, but it will cost him. Meanwhile, we'll be carefully navigating our way to the top of the polls over the next several months.

Tactics come into play with greater ease when you have a united party - and all your best tacticians at hand. One look at the Ignatieff Christmas Party in Ottawa gives any Liberal a ton of hope.

Time to make Harper wear his "Recession Sweater".

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Harper On Senate Reform: "No-one Wants It?!#$%"

Yeah... Not a direct quote... But here is the real deal:

"In a way, it's a sad day for me," said Harper in an interview with ATV. "I've waited for three years. We've invited provinces to hold elections. We've put an electoral bill before the House of Commons. But for the most part, neither in Parliament nor in the provinces has there been any willingness to move forward on reform."

If it wasn't so PAINFULLY OBVIOUS... jeez Stevie, the Provinces don't want it. Parliament (the voice of the PEOPLE of Canada - even though you've demented everyone's perception of that little technicality) doesn't want it.

Does this tell ya somethin' ol' Stevie Boy? Yeah... we know - you're creating a situation over here... to take the attention away from that little "economic dealy" over there... You know with certainty, that this is just a play to shore up your "base" while you prep for another (yes, another $400,000,000 election). You know you can't "reform" the Senate when the country doesn't want to. Yeah... yeah... we know you will "load" it, then create some sort of crisis in the Red Chamber - then mobilize the masses with book-burning rallies to try to sway public opinion, but you will go too far.

Education about our political system is starting to be an issue Steve. The media won't let you lie so easily anymore. Neither will Mr. Ignatieff.

Merry Christmas Steve.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blind Loyalty To A Brand?

The Big Three don't deserve one red cent of our (Canadian Taxpayers') money. We should, however, ensure we look after the Canadian employees - by creating jobs in the new green economy - and providing training programs.

Right now, we are looking at supporting the horse and carriage, when everyone else is producing those new-fangled cars. C'mon Canada - get with the times. We have local companies which produce higher quality, "with the times", alternative fuel vehicles, that need our support.

Unless American (read: US) car manufacturers change their ways completely, they are going the way of the dinosaur. Don't expect them to change their ways - not when they can still sell a million F150s. They know times are "tight" right now, but think they can make it through the dark times and sell the same (there are no innovations - same V8, massaged, same platform) F150s and Blazers to the same loyal followers, who can't afford to "planned obsolescence" their old cars right now (because they are losing their houses).

Americans and Canadians should have stopped buying this crap a long time ago...

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Three Canadians Missing In Niger - And It's Not Election Time

Another sad scenario in Africa, involving Canadian foreign workers.

Foreign Affairs is "on the job", but they quite openly have made this public - and there are no demands being made at this point. Probably the fact that there is no election helped make this public...?

"A spokesman for Canada's Foreign Affairs Department said consular officials have been in touch with the families of the missing Canadians."

Hmmm... DURING the election a Canadian gets kidnapped, and NO MEDIA COVERAGE. Now, (even though the Connies are in "full-tilt" election mode), with no current election, this story makes the news, and FA officials are giving public interviews? Not only are Canadian private citizens missing, BUT also a DIPLOMAT - which is a HUGE TARGET for prospective kidnappers and trouble-makers.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some Thoughts On "Interventionism"

Worldwide bailouts are like protectionism. It can hurt us - depending on our own government's will and ability to do something about it. With most of the civilized world providing bailouts to vast tracts of industry, our Conservative "Government" continues to sit on it's collective hands. The actions taken by the majority of world governments- with many more "actions" to come, are propping up industry and business, which may otherwise fail.

In the "good old days" we used to call this protectionism. Currently - with the death of "wide open free enterprise" - we are seeing these "protectionist" measures being undertaken by all nations. We all know what has happened to Canadian lumber mills when the US acts "protectionist" (during good times) (perhaps a bad example, since it wasn't the markets that screwed the Canadian lumber products, as much as it was the Conservative sellout of that industry). We have seen Canadian farms get destroyed when the US, EU, and South Americans begin subsidizing their farmers.

What is occurring with the Harper government's inaction is very similar to the whole world adopting protectionist measures, while Canada let's our industry hang. We are quietly watching, in awe-struck horror, while experts tell us they have no clue what this government is doing, or why they are not acting. We are waiting for a Finance Minister who could not manage a Province's economy (Ontario - Mike Harris years), let alone a whole diverse nation.

The basic "problem" (not really a problem for anyone but conservatives) for the Conservatives is that they do not believe in "interventionism". They believe in the most "Darwinian" theories of economics. Of course, more moderate thinkers (most of the world's economic experts, and most all of Canada's) clearly believe that government intervention is NEEDED to help drive and steer large scale economies. The "mega projects" of the 70s and 80s drove development in the 90s. Especially in the resource sectors. Smaller nations, with wide-spread populations always require more government direction. Our Conservative masters don't get this. They mimic the nation to our South - which has 1/2 the geographic area, 10 times the population, vast resources of "illegal labor" from across their Southern border, and a more temperate climate across most of their land.

It is quite obvious that our Conservative government is only going to move on the crisis after goading by the opposition, consultations with the opposition, and the threat of defeat. They want to set up the scenario where the opposition can be called "tax and spend socialists" because they have created a "pop culture" false notion that these are "bad things". They want to ensure that it is clear to Canadians that they are "ideologically opposed to it", but the opposition forced them to. It is, however, a dilemma for them, because while the prevailing notion is to have serious bailouts throughout our economy, they actually don't believe this will work. That is not to say these measure are "guaranteed" in any way to "work" like a "magic bullet". The bailouts are more than likely a good measure to help keep the impact of a protracted recession to a minimum. More government targeted spending will be required to further boost the economy.

What can or should we be thinking of? This is THE time for all those "grand" projects which we have always intended to do, or know need doing. The kind that employ tens of thousands. Here are a few examples:

1) Twin every km of the Trans-Canada Highway - including bypasses of towns/cities, where required.

2) Key bridges. In BC I can think of a few: Vancouver to the Island, Trans-Canada at Port Mann, etc.

3) Rail links - Calgary-Edmonton, Southwest Ontario, Eastern Canada (Atlantic), Lower Mainland BC. These have the added impact of being "green" transport, and will help local industry like Bombardier.

4) Northern Highways and Railways - Over the past 2-3 years we've heard a lot of "hot air" about "the North" (or should we say "Canada's North"). Guess what? It's a good time to do something about it. Imagine permanent rail links to the Beaufort Sea. Imagine a coastal highway along the BC Coast - up to Alaska, or into the Yukon, and up to the Beaufort Sea? Imagine a year-round highway linking all key Northern cities and settlements. How about a Northern "deep water" harbor/port facility to link with that railway? This would not only create jobs in the rural North, it will ensure we are exercising our sovereignty in the North and Arctic, AND developing the region with infrastructure, which will be necessary during the next resource boom - whether that be Beaufort Sea or MacKenzie oil, minerals and ores, uranium, or diamonds.

5) Infrastructure replacement. How long do we have to wait before we see the next bridge collapse, or parking structure "failure"? Canada has serious infrastructure problems. Projects undertaken during the Pearson and Trudeau eras have outlived their sustainability. The ideologically Conservative government of Mulroney didn't need to replace a lot of these - but also didn't care to (not their ideology, those mega-projects - they used to bash Trudeau over them). The Chretien/Martin governments had other challenges - settling Canada's debt and bringing a huge Mulroney deficit under control. The "good times" of the past 4-5 years saw some infrastructure projects - The Liberal "Infrastructure Works" Plan which saw thousands of infrastructure projects across the land take wing. Under the Harper government, we've seen nothing of the kind. Just lip service.

All these "great Canadian dreams" have a time and place. When attempting to spur development, replace infrastructure, and create jobs, a recession such as the one we're in is the perfect launching point.

It is interesting how the Harper government treats infrastructure, research or (what they term) "interventionist" spending. Besides being "ideologically averse" to it, they really don't have a clue on how to do it, and where it is most needed. Their ideology just does not have a space for it. Tax cuts and "austerity measures" are all they know. They will also just throw out numbers that sound big. A couple of million dollars seem like a lot to an awful lot of average Canadians, but when you realize that suburban family homes in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto approach $1 million regularly (and many, many surpass it), it is a drop in the bucket. Imagine what a new bridge or road costs in one of those cities? The Conservatives will tend to make announcements on spending in a lot of areas - whatever polls tell them - but they will trick Canadians with these "big sounding" numbers, which cannot buy any real development in terms of infrastructure. They will then turn around and hand out "tax cuts" to business (that includes the GST cut, which basically all went to businesses - I never saw any price cuts) and their rich friends.

As a Liberal opposition, our best gameplan will be to be a "government in waiting", with a clearly laid out plan of spending and infrastructure investment. It should be - as I have stated in the past - very public, to prevent Harper from stealing it, while ensuring the public knows it is "we" who acted. As Liberals, we are nation builders, and this time requires nation-building - in the truest sense. Infrastructure and R&D investments will pay off in multiples when the economy swings back up. We don't want to take a back seat to other nations who HAVE spent on their infrastructure. We don't want to fall into the US trap of bailouts for "corporate friends of the government". Government intervention is a necessary part of any liberal democracy.

Time for us to take the lead in this discussion, and put the NeoCons in the back seat, where they belong.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Challenge To Liberal Ridings Across Canada - Support The Liberal Victory Fund!

Fellow Liberals, there are some GREAT reasons to support the Victory Fund... Here are a few:

Membership has its privileges

Victory Fund contributors will enjoy additional privileges during the leadership campaign and at the 2009 convention, including:

  • A special registration area, reserved convention floor seating and a Victory Fund Members’ lounge at the Vancouver convention;
  • Priority access to leadership debates across the country;
  • An award for the riding with the most Victory Fund donors nationally (with a special event for that riding’s Victory Fund members to be held in the riding at a later date);
  • Access to an ongoing series of on-line dialogues with leadership contestants, senior Liberal caucus members and policy-shapers.
I don't know about you, but anyone who hates standing in line with 1000s of your other colleagues for 3 hours or longer should really appreciate the Victory Fund registration desk. How about a "Victory Fund Lounge" (rumor has it, it's in my back yard).

Oh yeah... the challenge:

I bet my riding can sell more Victory Fund memberships than your's! Challenge your neighboring riding. The prize can be an event paid and hosted by the losing riding (it's a win-win proposition - you either win and claim the "free" event, or you lose and get to host a huge event - of course you pay for it). The LPoC is also doing a special event in the winning riding, so get out there and sell, sell, sell!

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Liberal Budget Must Be Made Public PRIOR To Discussions With Harper

Harper is up to his usual games vis-a-vis the "consultations" with opposition parties. We need to put him on the spot over this, and come to the rescue of the Canadian people. We must demonstrate OUR PLAN within the next few weeks. It will not be enough to have consultations, then wait to see what Harper does on budget day. He will either steal any good ideas we have (the public will believe him when he comes out and says, "we consulted them, didn't like their ideas, so here is OUR budget for Canadians"), or he will say that they tried to consult with us, but we would not listen, were providing roadblocks, and they decided to roll out their budget - which would be an acidicly conservative one.

I Support The Liberal Victory Fund

We MUST make sure our plan for the country is set out in a VERY public way early in the new year - hopefully AFTER we get financial info from Harper (as a pre-condition of ANY talks on the budget). We could even go into the process with perhaps "3 levels" of Liberal budget: one for a situation where we are running a deficit (which no doubt we are - Harper IS lying), one for a situation where the country is basically "break even". There may also be the potential for a small surplus (I doubt it), which should be immediately translated into an income tax break for families.

We must be VERY vocal about what has to be in the plan - where we will spend, and where we won't. Sure, the actual coffers of the government will determine HOW MUCH we can spend in each area, but WE MUST ensure that we have the areas we want addressed.

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The other option, is that we make a very public proposal - costed, of course - and very publicly give it to Harper. He can then turn and say "this is impossible - you don't know the figures", to which we could reply, but alas, Mr. Harper, we have been asking you for the figures since Dec 10th (and earlier). If he rejects the proposal, then we can say to the Canadian public, "See - Harper doesn't care about you, AND he's a liar to boot (not that you didn't already suspect that)". There is nothing barring us from this move. A Liberal budget document, that would be a certain crowd pleaser, with LOTS of serious relief for Canadian workers and their families. If Harper then says, "can't do", he is either rejecting the ideas - which won't go over well with Canadians - or he is saying the government is broke. Either way, we win.

The advantage for us in advancing Liberal budget demands early (before the Cons release anything - particularly their budget), is that it puts Harper on the spot - forces his hand. Of course we are the most cooperative, concensus building party in the land - it is the very nature of being a moderate liberal. We're not one of the "wings" of extemism. We need to seize upon this issue with the voters - especially those in Ontario, Quebec, and BC - and watch the momentum percolate across the land.

The media is expecting our "consultation", but they too probably believe it would be a "closed door" session with Harper. Let's make it public - to the people, for the people, so to speak.

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Having a tremendous Policy Convention in Vancouver will simply add to the public "wowing". We have much to gain from showing sound policy for troubled times. It is the Liberal way, and we have just the people set up to do this now.

It all hinges - however - on the ability of our party to put our budget out there first. Win the hearts and minds of the people. We have just over a month to do this. Will our MPs take up the challenge?

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Greens, Liberals Googled Much More Than Conservatives - Expert

An expert web researcher this morning was commenting on Canadians' Google search habits.  He indicated we like to type less, and we tend to type in as few words as possible, then click away.  He talked about the typical searches (Brittney Spears, etc., etc.), but what caught my attention was the political searches.

The expert stated that in political searches the Green Party and Liberal Party were searched far more than the Conservatives.  THIS IS GREAT NEWS FOR PARTY FUNDRAISERS.  If you need to ask me why, you shouldn't be in a fund-raising role with the Liberal Party of Canada.  Simply put, we want to "top-list" our fund-raising and informational links on Google searches.  We want to utilize "Google Ads" as well.  

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It would also be helpful to any type of "on-line" presence we want to create, since it resonates with young voters - the kind of voters we want to bring to the forefront.

I've built a career doing this kind of stuff.  If you have any questions, me or a variety of Liberal Bloggers would certainly be able to help.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Intelligent Discourse In Parliament - What a Great Idea!

While Conservatives the world over (see the USA for an example) love to "dumb down" politics and bring discourse to the lowest common denominator (us or them, kill or be killed, you're "wit' us, or agin' us", rich vs. poor, creating class struggle, etc.), Canada can - like Europe - continue to be a beacon of intelligent discourse.

The Conservative way is the "new dishonesty" in politics (as I like to term it). Talk about "nothing", galvanize an unsuspecting populace into separate camps, get people angry about things, then choose the biggest angry groups and placate them. Fudge the truth for everyone else, but do it this way: Use your loud voice, lots of money, and an "unquestioning" 4th Estate to constantly pound your views across. Don't listen to anyone else (even experts), just stick to your guns. Don't back down. Show you are "right" by speaking the loudest and refusing to admit you are wrong. That's victory "PR-style" in the new corporate society. A large company will never admit a mistake - they are taught by "PR experts" to twist the truth. Never admit a problem - call it an "opportunity". If you are challenged in court, always "settle" out of court. Talk about how you're "listening", when all you are doing is biding time until you can push your agenda. Use skewed polls, and loaded surveys to demonstrate how "right" you are. You can see these sentiments echoed in the Conservative "advertising/PR" machinery. They've brought it all up, lock stock and barrell, from the USA. The New Dishonesty.

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Over the past 10-12 years the Conservatives/Reform/Alliance have tried their hardest to bring down the level of discourse. This is their "populism". Find the "Joe The Plumbers" and "hockey moms", the "Joes down at Tim Hortons", etc., and feed them tripe about how tax cuts benefit them (when they really don't), how it is best they don't have a national day-care plan, and how government is bad. Toss in some crap about "terrorists" and "crime" (ie: scare the crap out of them), and watch as the masses come to you for comfort. Very right wing ideas: scare the populace into "Big Brother's" arms.

Conservatives like to take complex problems with required complex solutions, and take an "all or none" approach, dumbed down to the most limited and ridiculous level. They see no moderation, or "shades of grey" - only black or white. They are the type of people who would use a 10lb sledgehammer to push a thumbtack into a wall... This approach fits their philosophy best. Experts are "evil" or "ivory tower academics" to them, because these people bring in debate and intelligent discourse. Experts - scientific or otherwise - question "bludgeon answers", and find solutions that work the best for a situation - regardless of ideology.

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In their best opportunity to attack intelligent discourse in Canada, Conservatives succeeded - through nefarious means - to destroy a very cerebral and intelligent man. They succeeded - but may have helped the Liberal Party, by forcing us to a quick decision. They may have also succeeded in uniting Liberals - something insiders found challenging for years.

As Liberals, this is our opportunity to take up the battle cry for intelligent discourse. In the US, the Republicans tried to kill intelligent debate by calling Mr. Obama an "ivory tower elitist", "elitist" (my, how the Canadian Conservatives mimic their American cousins), "terrorist", etc. We can champion the cause of "intelligent discourse" in this country because that is what we're all about, and THAT is what this country requires in this time of great economic uncertainty.

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There are a few Liberals, and a few blog discussions, talking about not liking the selection of our new leader. Even Mr. Trudeau had a large group of detractors (only winning his leadership with 51% support). Here is Wiki info about his leadership battle:

"At the end of Canada's centennial year in 1967, Prime Minister Pearson announced his intention to step down. Trudeau was persuaded to run for the Liberal leadership. His energetic campaign attracted the attention of the news media and mobilized and inspired many youths, who saw Trudeau as a symbol of generational change (he was 48). Going into the leadership convention, Trudeau was the front-runner, and was clearly the favourite candidate with the Canadian public. Many within the Liberal Party still had deep doubts about him, though. Having joined the party only in 1965, he was still considered an outsider. Many saw him as too radical and outspoken a figure. Some of his views, particularly those on divorce, abortion, and homosexuality, were opposed by the substantial conservative wing of the party. Nevertheless, at the April 1968 Liberal leadership convention, Trudeau was elected leader of the party on the fourth ballot, with the support of 51% of the delegates, defeating some prominent, long-serving Liberals including Paul Martin Sr., Robert Winters and Paul Hellyer. Trudeau was sworn in as Liberal leader and Prime Minister two weeks later on 20 April."

Over at Red Tory, there is an engaging argument over Mr. Ignatieff, and (only) a couple of Liberals (I'm not going to even consider any "anonymous" trolls) who do not appear to like him. Some even comparing Mr. Ignatieff's politics to Mr. Harper's. Here is what I posted in reply to the discussion:

Saying Ignatieff's ideas are the "same"
as Harper's is akin to the Cons saying "Dion is not a leader" while
ignoring everything else the Liberals present (team, ideas, platform,
Mr. Ignatieff, at one point supported the action in Iraq - based on his
real life experience living with the Kurds and viewing their collective
horror. When he saw the administration of the war, he called it "wrong"
and even "illegally conducted". He was big enough, and mature enough to
change his mind based on new facts he had learned. That's what
statesmen do.
If the "war/justice" question is the ONLY issue, then we really need to
change the channel. Due to the agreed (Liberals also agreed to this as
a party) withdrawal date, this is a non-issue. If you're a "one-issue"
person, you will continue to attack Mr. Ignatieff on this "retired"
Fact is, Mr. Ignatieff is progressive on the environment (wit: Green
Shift), progressive on social change, and prudent on the economy. We is
a brilliant scholar - who can also speak (yes, he had his own TV show -
they don't just give those to anyone) and express his views eloquently
in both national languages. He can reflect the views of the "broad
center" of the party.
If we wish to continue attacks on his "elite" status, then we're no
better than Obama's detractors. We need an elite Prime Minister.
Someone who isn't "new" to the world - knows the world well, and is a
"beacon" because of his intelligence. Time to bring "intelligence" back

to the discourse.

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As Liberals, we are bound to a duty to Canada - as Nation Builders. We are the party which has always taken up that mantle. Being at the center of the Canadian political spectrum (with a new leader who WILL focus on that), we are THE ONLY PARTY which can reflect the broad spectrum views of most Canadians. Unlike the "Reform-a-Tories", or the far left, we don't frighten away those of the moderate left or right. We build concensus governments, based on pragmatic liberalism.

Mr. Harper would like to challenge this vision of a united Canada - with everyone's views reflected. Mr. Harper would like to bring down the level of discourse in this country until we are all "slack-jawed yokels" sitting in front of an "idiot box" watching piped in American programming, idolizing the "angry gun culture", the consumerist - "corporate-pumping" commercial culture, and not questioning anything the government (or corporations) do.

Harper's approach is a typically right wing approach to politics. With lots of money, and a media that leaves the "investigative" out of reporting, Harper could come dangerously close to getting his way - at least part of the way...

Canadians, however, are still a lot smarter than he thinks. Intelligent discourse is still valued here. It will just require a fight, with Liberals as the defenders, and Mr. Ignatieff as our leader.

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