Jason and the Energumenos

This nasty little flapdoodle can’t lead anywhere good. Jason would be better served if he just ignored the taunts of malicious hobgoblins like Shaidle and her ilk. Either that or he could call them smelly pirate hookers and tell them to go back to their homes on Whore Island. Just a thought.

Let the Intriguing Begin!

The AP reports that Pakistan’s ruling coalition wrangled today over restoring judges fired by Pervez Musharraf, signaling potentially dangerous divisions just a day after their united front forced the ex-general to quit the presidency.

The Wall Street Journal has a good capsule summary about Pakistan after Musharraf by Peter Wonacott who notes that “Amid Pakistan’s disarray, militants have had freer rein to use its territory as a staging ground for attacking American soldiers in Afghanistan.” Not to mention Canadian and other NATO soldiers as well, of course. Meanwhile, the head of Pakistan’s army secretly went to Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, to talk to high ranking Afghan officials about cooperation between the two countries.

And here’s a bit more Pakistan-related muckraking. According to TPM , hapless Harriet Miers, former White House counsel and (briefly) one-time Supreme Court nominee, is now a lobbyist for the “Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Asif Ali Zardari, Co-Chairperson of PPP and his children.” His son is Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who became chairman of the PPP after the death of Benazir Bhutto and is expected to assume actual leadership of the party once he completes his studies at Oxford. It’s reputed that the cost of Bilawal’s security while at Oxford is at least £1 million per year.

The Unimpressive “Dr.” McVety

We had some mocking the always hilarious media buffoonery of “Dr.” McVety and his not-so-merry band of whackaloons yesterday, but for some more serious enjoyment, be sure to check out the article by Christopher Bird over at The Court which is a blog at Osgoode Hall Law School that bills itself as the definitive “online resource for debate & data about the Supreme Court of Canada.”

Bird mercilessly dismantles the complaint lodged by The Canada Family Action Coalition and their “42 organizations” which he asserts “have misrepresented themselves, misrepresented Chief Justice McLachlin and misrepresented the law.”


Pictured: Proposed new Dept. of Finance planning office.

What he said.

I’ve alluded to the “Conservative” government’s whopping half billion dollar deficit several times in recent weeks, but with all of the lavish, high-profile spending announcements over the summer (notwithstanding some minor cuts and highly selective amputations in the arts funding ward), what BCL said is spot on. “Conservatives have to earn the title of ‘fiscally responsible.’ It is not given them by default.”

Massive spending (a 12% rise or thereabouts which is triple the inflation rate), however well-intentioned, combined with lower taxes and reduced government revenues from falling commodity prices and an economy on the verge of recession is, as George H. Bush famously said “voodoo economics” and we all know where that ends up.

If Conservative supporters are afraid of the impact a carbon tax might have, maybe they should ponder long and hard how much of the budget gets eaten up by servicing the national debt, which despite efforts to pay it down over the last decade still currently stands at something like almost half a trillion dollars. Lest we forget (or weren’t aware), paying interest on the debt owed by Canada is the single largest expenditure the federal government makes every year — an estimated $36 billion this year or almost $100 million per day.

That rather uninformative Privy Counsel Office survey from yesterday indicated that “almost half of respondents thought the national economy was performing well at the moment” and only a little over a third thought that it will “deteriorate” in the next year or so. Stéphane Dion needs to forcefully make the case that in view of this government’s current reckless trajectory, chances are that it will slide into a running deficit position that will consequently limit its ability put money towards paying down the debt, and in turn will prevent it from continuing to deliver services at the present level, let alone being able to fulfill all of the generous promises being made here, there, and everywhere across the country that the Tories want to win seats.

Hey, Can We Get a New Bridge Too?

So, the Conservative government has announced that they’ll soon be building a billion dollar bridge to relieve traffic congestion between Montreal and the South Shore, just weeks before a by-election in the riding of Saint-Lambert that’s been held by the Bloc Québécois since 2004. How convenient.

I suppose by now everyone in the “Rest of Canada” is already rolling their eyes in collective non-amazement at this cynical bit of old-style electioneering — and make no mistake, that’s what it is. Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon may be claiming that the bridge is already “on order” but that’s not actually the case. In fact, it’s just in the initial planning stages, so contrary to BQ leader Gilles Duceppe’s counterclaim that this is “proof” of his party getting results, to date all he can legitimately take credit for is obtaining a vague pledge from the government about “starting to plan for the construction of a new bridge in the Montreal region.” That could quite easily translate into nothing, or something in a different place altogether. It would definitely be advantageous to vote Conservative if getting a new bridge is your priority in this by-election.

Well, that’s politics for you. Only complete dopes or partisan zombies could possibly have believed that hackneyed crap about Harper being “different” in some way from the Liberals when it comes to nakedly buying votes with the electors’ own money. Not that it’s always such a bad thing — you’d be hard pressed to find any kind of major infrastructure program that wasn’t somehow intimately connected to a political power play of one sort or another at various levels of government. Such is the way of things.

What struck me as interesting in the announcement was the fact that the overstressed Champlain Bridge is only 46 years old, but it’s been deemed as coming to the end of its lifespan (no pun intended). How many other bridges across the country are that age or even considerably older? Here in Victoria, for example, the Johnson Street Bridge (also known as “Big Blue”) linking downtown with the municipalities of Esquimalt and VicWest (and to a lesser extent the Westshore) is almost 85 yrs. old and it hasn’t been renovated in 30 yrs. It’s definitely in need of replacement — if not right now, then most certainly within the next few years. If we promise to vote Conservative here in Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, can we get the government’s assurance that a new bridge will be forthcoming? I mean, that’s all it takes, right? Maybe everyone across the country should start badgering their local Conservative candidates and regional heavy-hitters to pony up with infrastructure projects in their area and threaten to make them suffer the consequences at the ballot box otherwise.

Harper: Push Me-Pull Me

Like Hugh Lofting’s mythical creature in Doctor Doolittle (actually called a Pushme-Pullyu) Stephen Harper seems to be of two minds these days when it comes to calling an election this fall.

As noted by LuLu at “Canadian Cynic” (amongst others), last week, the PM was musing about dropping the writ — in spite of his own legislation fixing election dates purportedly to eliminate political gamesmanship — based on “whether or not this Parliament can function productively.” This week, however, he’s on the stump boasting to the party faithful about the “strong record” of legislative achievement that his government has accomplished notwithstanding the constraints of dealing with a “dysfunctional” parliament. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

“This really has become quite a soap opera,” Harper told the crowd of supporters in Mississauga, referring to Stéphane Dion’s own most recent equivocations about a possible election. Perhaps “soap opera” wasn’t the right metaphor for what’s going on here — maybe “pas de deux” would be more accurate. Having already sat through the entrée and a year long adagio, it would be merciful if these jokers could speed up their obligatory variations so we can get to the coda already.

Update: More Hamlet-like posturing from the PM, who now says that he will spend the “next few weeks” contemplating whether to call an election. “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pith and moment. With this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.”

Above & Beyond Obama’s “Pay Grade”

In another one of the “defining moments” from last weekend’s Saddleback forum (and yes, I promise this will be the last post on it), Pastor Warren asked each of the candidates “At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?”

Atrios cutely reframes the question by recalling Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s response to a similar query posed by Tim Russert on Meet The Press some years ago: “What are you asking? When does an embryo become ensouled?” Now that would have been a sharp comeback!

Unfortunately, Obama felt compelled to first point out the difference of opinion that exists depending on whether one was “looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective” (which led to the “pay grade” remark) and then launched into a rambling, err “thoughtful” discussion about the “moral and ethical dimensions” of the abortion issue.

Personally, I thought his response was just fine, if a little windy, but it was generally panned by the pundits and of course it most certainly didn’t go over well with the mainly evangelical audience. Many right-wing bloggers immediately seized on his remark that bringing specificity to the question of when life begins was “above my pay grade” — presumably because they viewed this as a craven abdication of responsibility, or maybe due to their inability to comprehend the notion that anything could possibly fall outside the ambit of presidential authority.

By contrast, McCain’s terse response to the question was, quite simply: “At the moment of conception.” Well, that’s just fine as a matter of religious dogma I suppose, but as Duncan points out:

Believe what you want, but the important question for politicians is how such things get translated into… policy. And when McCain says he believes life begins at conception (cheer!) it’s pretty meaningless unless he’s asked to explain how that would be translated into policy. Are blastocysts entitled to child support? Do all late periods need to be reported to the Ministry of Health? And, of course, my favorite: Are those who implant multiple embryos during IVF treatments, knowing full well that most will die, guilty of negligent manslaughter?

Most excellent questions and perhaps ones that should be kept in mind for future reference when dealing with our own home-grown fundamentalists and “fetus-fetishists” (you know WHO THEY ARE) in their neverending and utterly tiresome efforts to roll back the clock and have women’s reproductive rights curtailed or rescinded altogether in the name of God®.

Olbermann to McCain: Grow Up!

In last night’s “Special Comment,” Olbermann ripped into McCain with some fairly entertaining invective, blasting him for utilizing the “language of unseemly contempt, undignified calumny, and holier-than-thou persiflage unsupported by reality… near-nonsensical bluster that — at best — makes the speaker look like a dyspeptic grouchy neighbor shouting ‘Hey you kids, get out of my yard!’” Heh. I’m sure that Olbie’s critics will doubtless find those remarks to be highly ironic, considering the source…

But that aside, Olbermann does make a serious point that I really wish more mainstream journalists and pundits would address, and that is the utterly specious nature of McCain’s oft made claim to have “a perfect voting record from organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, and all the other veterans’ service organizations.” As has been pointed out here before, the Disabled American Veterans gave McCain a dismal 20 percent rating, out of a possible 100 percent last year. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a grade of D.

McCain routinely professes his unmatched support for veterans and yet has voted against: $20 million for veteran’s health care facilities; $322 million for safety equipment for troops in Iraq; $430 million for veterans outpatient care; $1 billion in new equipment for the National Guard; and, in separate votes: a total of $3.3 billion in additional Veterans’ medical care (to be created by closing tax loopholes). The chattering heads on cable news really need to challenge McCain on the facts of his voting record in this respect, rather than just accepting his rhetorical bluster at face value simply because it more conveniently fits their “heroic” narrative.