Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Margaret Wente Misses The Point... Again

One of my least favourite columnists is at it again. Margaret Wente has an annoying habit of presenting something that is news to her like it is news to everyone else. Yes Ms. Wente, I know and I'm pretty sure Stephane Dion knows that Canada's efforts to stop climate change won't add up to a hill of beans if the rest of the world doesn't get on board. What Ms. Wente fails to realize in her moment of personal epiphany is that the only way the world is going to get on board is if countries like Canada get their act together. China and other developing states have the stated position that they will act only when the rest of the world acts. Canada can't stop global warming. We all know that. We also know that if every country took Ms. Wente's logic, nothing would ever get done. We can only hope for the sake of the planet, that the obstacles which have stood in the way of getting something accomplished will finally come down. We can ill afford this kind of selfish, defeatist thinking.

Update: Instead of putting in a massive comment, I'm using the bully pulpit to respond to some of the comments below. First of all, I cannot agree with "the it's too hard, so let's give up now" mentality that Ms. Wente et al. espouse. Second, let's do some math on that $1.1. billion figure for Ontario electricity. Let's assume that somewhere between 1/4 and a 1/3 of electricity use is industrial or commercial (rough estimates I know). So let's say that business will be on the hook for about $300 million. Hell, CIBC loses that in a quarter. That leaves $800 million for residential consumers. Ontario has about 12 million people, let's take the average household around 2.5 people that means about 4.8 million households. The average cost annually per household would be a whopping$166.67 or about 46 cents/day. Obviously, if you are air conditioning 5000 sqft you are paying more than if you are blowing a fan over 500 sqft. So not a huge burden for even the poorest among us. Finally, there are dates and costs in the green shift. Pages 29-31 of the booklet available on the website should provide some enlightenment although there is more information elsewhere in the pamphlet.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Better Than Expected

That's my conclusion after reading the Liberal Party of Canada's "Green Shift." Here's the quick run down of why:

What I Like:
  • Excluding and then minimizing taxation on transportation emissions will go a long way in preventing the new carbon taxes from causing a massive spike in prices at the grocery store. It will also minimize the sticker shock that may have otherwise ensued.
  • It is head and shoulders more practical and reasonable than the Green Party's ridiculous proposal from yesterday. There are no ridiculous cuts to CPP or EI, for one thing. It also will not send the economy into immediate shock.
  • It is gradual and predictable. I have long believed that the only way to be successful is to give the private sector time to adjust before we beat them over the head with a hammer. This plan does do that by increasing the carbon tax year over year.
  • The tax cuts are progressive. They are weighted heavily towards helping Canadians who need it most and will be most negatively affected by the shift.
  • We've given up on Kyoto. One of my largest concerns was that this tax was being proposed in order to somehow miraculously meet our Kyoto targets. Stephane Dion has moved away from that today and I applaud him for that. Kyoto is simply not possible anymore. It will be much easier to make the argument against the Conservatives without the red herring of the Kyoto Protocol in the way.
What I'm Still Worried About:
  • The green tariff plan is vague and dependent upon the US Congress approving a carbon tax. Furthermore, what kind of tariffs are we prepared to place on imports and how do we ensure that these tariffs are consistent with our committments in our various FTA's and the WTO? If we don't ensure that Canadian industry is promoted and not hurt by this plan, it will fail the country if it doesn't fail us Grits at the polls.
  • It isn't clear how consumers will see the impact of these taxes. As I've said before, sin taxes should discourage negative behaviour. However, with the tax being assessed at the "wholesale level" how much consumers are going to pay or understand that they are paying is an issue. If consumers don't understand how they can make carbon-friendly purchases they won't. Similarly, if cleaner producers simply raise their prices to match the taxes imposed on their diritier competitors, consumers will not be able to discern what is green and what isn't.
  • Provincial autonomy. Loyal readers of this blog will know that I am fierce a federalist. However, I am concerned that this plan, as it relates to electricity generation may infringe upon a provincial jurisdiction. Two major concerns:
  • First, it is up to each province to determine how they produce energy. Different options make more sense for different provinces. For instance, the carbon cost of electricity in Quebec is negligible because of the availability of hydroelectric power. That is not available to Albertans who rely on a far dirtier grid. Energy is tightly regulated if not government controlled industry in this country and the green shift runs the risk of interfering with those regulations. It is today, the responsibility of the provincial government to determine how much individuals pay for a kilowatt/hour of electricity. The Green Shift fundamentally shifts that power to the federal government.
  • Second, Stephane Dion is not the first leader to come out with a climate change strategy. A discussion with the premiers of BC, Ontario and Quebec will be necessary in order to ensure that federal and provincial efforts are working in concert and not at cross-purposes. I don't believe that it is within the power of the federal jurisdiction to simply override provincial initiatives.
  • The world needs our oil. Even with the Saudis boosting production and new reseves off the coast of Brazil, the world is thirsty for Canadian oil. That thirst is not just to fuel American SUV's. It's to make fertilizers for African farmers. I am not an economist. I don't know how much this is going to cost the oil patch. However, I am concerned that this would push the soaring cost of a barrel of oil even higher.
  • I would have liked to see a more explicit discussion of what this going to cost Canadian industry. In particular an assessment of the impact on extraction industries, agriculture, forestry and auto manufacturing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Shiny New Web Browser

Just downloaded Firefox 3 as part of their whole download day thing. I have been a loyal Firefox user for years so it really didn't take much to persuade me to download the new version. Glitch free so far!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lang Campaign Update

The effort to elect Andrew Lang as the next MP for Toronto-Danforth. A great opportunity tomorrow for those looking to actually do something about getting the Liberal party back in power. You can e-mail the Lang campaign (andrew@andrewlang.ca) for the details. Also, Andrew Lang is holding a fundraiser next Tuesday morning. Think you could never afford a fundraiser with the likes of Bob Rae, George Smitherman and Trudeau-era cabinet Otto Lang? Think again. For just $50 ($25 for youth 25 and under!) you can have breakfast with them. So sign up today.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Howard Hampton Quits

In other news, a pin dropped. Seriously though, we have an honest-to-God leadership race here in Ontario. The great thing about a ten person caucus? Everyone is a potential candidate. I could do a breakdown. I might if I get bored enough. However, in a party built on ideology and solidarity figuring out the differences is going to be a little difficult. One question. With Peter Tabuns (MPP Toronto-Danforth) considering a run, has one riding ever housed the leaders of a provincial and a federal party simultaneously?

Friday, June 13, 2008

EU Looking Green

Ireland has rejected the Treaty of Lisbon. The EU needs a more simple way of organizing itself. The EU also wants to matter outside of Europe. Unfortunately, this streamlining requires unanimous consent and Ireland's approval must be done through a constitutional amendment which requires a referendum. Thus, tiny Ireland has ground one of the greatest success stories of the last sixty years to a halt. 862, 415 people have denied progress to 490 million. One of the stumbling blocks this time was the perceived threat to Ireland's traditionally neutralist foreign policy. Expect the EU to try, try again. The problems here are pretty simple. The gulf between the EU and its people is widening. Brussels and the political elite across Europe are increasingly out of touch with their populous. The politicians of almost all political parties favour integration in the face of globalization and other economic challenges. The people are a little less enthusiastic. Witness the pathetic turnout across Europe in European Parliamentary elections or the abysmal failure of the last round of EU reforms or the protests over Brussels-imposed value added taxes on fuel. The second problem the EU recognizes: getting 27 different electorates or parliaments to agree to anything is virtually impossible. However, in order to eliminate the consensus-based decision making processes they need consensus. It's akin to the Canadian senate approving a constitutional amendment to eliminate the senate. Thus, the superpower-in-waiting that is the European Union continues to stumble and fail. However, Europeans probably won't notice until Euro 2008 is over.

Monday, June 09, 2008

VP Picks: McCain/?

With all the focus on Obama and his selection for VP, people seem to be forgetting that John McCain, who's been the presumptive Republican nominee for months, has yet to make his choice. Here's the short version of the long list:

Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR): Why? McCain needs the religious right and you don't get much more religious than the former baptist minister. Huckabee's down home charm connects with voters. Why Not? Huckabee connects with voters because he doesn't talk like a politician. However, there are reasons politicians talk like politicians. Huckabee has had the occasional case of foot-in-mouth disease. Arkansas became a lot less of an issue when Hillary lost the nomination.

Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA): Why? He's religious and rich. He also looks the part if there is a look to this part. He might be able to deliver Michigan where his father was governor. Why Not? Mormons don't play well with evangelicals. Romney can't deliver Mass. and McCain doesn't need any more votes in Utah.

Fmr. Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY): Why? America's mayor made the worst tactical decisions of the primary contest, but wouldn't be driving the straight-talk express so that shouldn't be a problem. If you want 9/11 mentioned obsessively at every campaign stop, Rudy's your man. Why Not? Two divorcees on the same ticket? The religious right is spinning in its newly dug grave.

Fmr. Sen. Fred Thompson (R-TN): Why? He supposedly has an appeal to the evangelical base. Why Not? Fred doesn't campaign well because, well, he doesn't like it. Also old meet elderly, elderly meet old.

Secy of State Condoleeza Rice (R-TX): Why? A black woman on the ticket might serve to undermine some of Obama's historical significance. Why Not? McCain is now trying to run as fast as possible away from the Bush administration, Condi doesn't help with that. Condi also has never campaigned in her life. Who votes for Condi that wouldn't vote for McCain already? She probably doesn't want the job anyway.

Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL): Why? Florida is a swing-state, Crist can probably deliver it on a silver platter. He has some resonance with The Base. Why Not? Crist is relatively new on the job (elected 06). How much does he resonate outside of the sunshine state?

Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS): Why? Popular governor with appeals to the Base. Did well after Hurricane Katrina. In other words, he's ready in a crisis like say if old man McCain kicks the bucket. Why Not? If John McCain can't win Mississippi without Barbour he should just concede now.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA): Why? Popular new governor of hurricane battered Louisiana. He's younger than Barack Obama. Another history maker if he were to be elected. Why Not? The guy turns 37 tomorrow. The minimum age requirement is 35. McCain is almost 71. The age difference may just make McCain look older than he really is. He's also a little wet behind the ears politically.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX): Why? Meet the Republican answer to Hillary Clinton. Hutchison is a senate veteran with loads of experience with appeal to the base and straying Hillary democrats. Why Not? McCain needs help in Texas? He's in trouble. She also might rather be governor of Texas than VP.

Sen Joe Lieberman (I-CT): Why? Appeal to independent voters and the religious right (the only people more fervently pro-Israel than American Jews are American Evangelicals). Can you say Florida? Why Not? Lieberman's been on a losing ticket once before. He caucuses with the democrats which will offend traditional Conservatives to no end. Especially because if he caucused with the Republicans they would be the majority party in the senate. Anyone feeling the Joe-mentum these days?

Fmr. Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA): Why? Appeals to the religious right and might help in Pennsylvania. Why Not? Hard sell to independents and actually might hurt in home state where he was just defeated.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX): Why? If I didn't mention the libertarian his internet minions may hunt me down. He appeals to old-fashioned Republicans. Why Not? McCain (and most Americans) have no interest in abolishing half the government. Paul does. The Republican establishment is pissed off at Paul (see attempts to unseat him in his congressional primary).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

VP Picks: Obama/?

As promised, here's a more complete run down of Obama's choices for VP, in no particular order:

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) Why? Biden gives Obama some of that gravitas. He's a pillar of the senate and has loads of experience in foreign policy. Why Not? Biden is not exactly a vote-getter. Not only that, putting a guy on the ticket who's been in the senate for a dog's age kind of goes against the whole change in Washington thing.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) Why? The Lieberman factor may put Connecticut in play for McCain. Dodd would help to counteract that. Like Biden he provides some experience. Why Not? Once again a bit contrary to the message. Also, Obama really should be able to take Connecticut under his own head of steam.

Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) Why? Prominent Hillary surrogate would go a ways in unifying the party. Might be able to put Indiana in play for the Democrats. Why Not? Having a ballot with two people from neighbouring states does not exactly provide for regional balance. Also two fresh faced young senators (Bayh doesn't look his 53 years) doesn't exactly provide the necessary weight for the ticket.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) Why? A woman on the ticket would go a long way in winning over disenfranchised Hillary supporters. McCaskill might be able to deliver Missouri for Obama. Why Not? She has less experience than Obama (elected in 06) and while a woman has backed Obama for a long time so her unifying ability is questionable.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) Why? Unify the party. She campaigns like nobody else. Why Not? No real extensive foreign policy credentials (not compared to McCain). Baggage, baggage and more baggage. Would be a sign of weakness which could sink him. Bill Clinton. Needs to move past primary fight. She gives him which state again? Better ways to win in the midwest. In a lot of ways doesn't give you much that Obama doesn't have by himself - strong liberal campaigner is a good way to describe both of them... no balance past gender.

Sen Jim Webb (D-VA) Why? Military experience. Can't hurt in Virginia which is a battle ground. Former Republican, thus, good with independents. Why Not? Not a party unifier. How well he'd play past Virginia is questionable. Maybe a little inside the beltway.

Fmr. Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) Why? He gets you blue collar workers. Might have more success winning North Carolina this time around. Why Not? Edwards has never connected to more than a sliver of the American people. Less comparisons to the disastrous Kerry/Edwards campaign the better.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Why? Change you say? How about a bipartisan ticket. Hagel is a vocal critic of the Bush administration and is leaving Washington because he's disgusted by it. Sounds like a description of Obama's electorate. Also, military and foreign policy experience. Why Not? A Conservative Republican would be a tough sell for the base. Probably doesn't put Nebraska in play.

Gov. Kathleen Sibelius (D-KS) Why? Strong female governor would go a long way to unify the party. Governors do well in general elections because they have experience as an executive. Why Not? Kathleen who? Name recognition is a non-factor outside of Kansas. Probably couldn't carry her home state.

Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) Why? Strong female governor would go a long way to unify the party (didn't I just say that). Just won re-election in a landslide. Why Not? The only person who may be more popular than Napolitano in Arizona? John McCain. Any other year she'd be top of the list.

Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH) Why? Big time Clinton surrogate. Unifies the party. Might be able to carry Ohio for Obama. Why Not? Two midwesterners again. Little national name recognition. No foreign policy experience.

Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) Why? Big time Clinton surrogate... oh fuck it... see Gov. Ted Strickland

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) Why? Experience up the wazoo. Appeal to Hispanics. Probably gives you New Mexico. Why Not? Doesn't unify the party (Carville called him Judas for endorsing Obama.) Not particularly appealing to independents. Might do you well out West but past NM, CO and NV.... Zero charisma.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Five Questions For Barack Obama

Now that the Democrats have a nominee we can look at the path ahead. So, much like I did for the Republican nominee, here are five questions for Barack Obama.
  1. Can He Unite the Party? This has been one of the toughest fought primary contests ever. Obama needs to remind Clinton supporters that it is a lot better to have a Democrat in the White House than a pro-life, pro-war, pro-Bush Republican. Part of party unification will undoubtedly be the choice of his vice-president. This leads nicely to question number 2.
  2. Who will be Obama's VP? A VP selection is an awkward business and few people have a more awkward choice than Obama. In spite of the press, an Obama-Clinton ticket would be disastrous. The Billary side show would ruin Obama's image. My choice? Retiring Republican senator Chuck Hagel. Why? A bipartisan ticket would do Obama a great service and who better than the most anti-Bush Republican who also happens to be a decorated Vietnam Vet. Hagel's quitting because he's disgusted with Washington. Obama wants to change Washington. Perfect. The only problem is that Hagel's a social conservative and might not want the gig. More likely? A Clinton surrogate (Gov. Strickland (D-OH), Gov. Randell)(D-PA) or a woman (Gov. Sibelius (D-KS) or Sen. McCaskill (D-MO)).
  3. Can He Re-Write the Electoral Map? Obama will win if he's able to change the electoral map. As always, Electoral Vote (link at sidebar) is the best source for these computations. Long story short Obama's counting on winning formerly red states like Virginia and Colorado.
  4. Can He Keep Fundraising? Obama has been breaking fundraising records for months. If he can keep it up, he can crush John McCain (who can't fundraise to save his life). While there are no indications that the well is dry, it's a long time until November.
  5. Are People Ready For A Black President? This is the biggest question. It was an issue among some Democrats. We can only hope that this is not an issue.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Factors and Non-Factors in Hillary's Defeat

Hillary Clinton officially (finally, thank God) lost the nomination last night. More relevantly, Barack Obama won the nomination but I'll talk about that in a different post. However, there has been plenty of debate about why Hillary lost. Here's my top five reasons she lost and the one non-factor everyone's talking about:
  1. She Conceded Iowa: Don't underestimate how important this was. The Clinton campaign last year made a determination that it would be too difficult if not impossible for Hillary Clinton to compete in a state of white working class Americans. Ironic, no? Anyway, she figured John Edwards' had a huge advantage on the ground there and would trounce her. Turned out Edwards' ground game, while formidable was beatable. Obama's win in Iowa gave him the credibility he had, up until that point, lacked. For the first time, he was the front-runner. That never really changed the rest of the way.
  2. She Thought the Race Ended February 5th: The rumour is that Hillary's people didn't understand that the Democratic Party assigns delegates proportionally. They thought they could win California and New York and just walk away. Oops. Turns out the PR rules meant Hillary's victory in California was fairly small (in terms of delegates). She then failed to get a ground game going in the next 11 contests. Obama was able to run almost unopposed in a lot of these states, pick up huge, delegate producing majorities and win the nomination.
  3. She Didn't Understand How to Use the Internet: There is an irony that the woman who started her campaign with an internet video would be brought down by a candidate who out-webbed her. However, that is exactly what happened. Hillary's people didn't understand how powerful a fundraising and organizing tool the internet could be. Barack Obama did. He out raised her, out organized her and won the nomination.
  4. She Couldn't Control Her Surrogates: This started and ended with Bill but there were a few people in between. As Hillary tried desperately to shed her patrician image, her surrogates were consistently arrogant and condescending. As they say in Hillary country, that dog won't hunt.
  5. She Underestimated Her Opponent: You get a sense that Hillary Clinton thought her nomination was inevitable until the moment she lost in Iowa. There was no serious effort by Clinton to try to go after Barack Obama until well after it was too late. The attempts she did make only solidified his message of hope and change.
The non-factor in this race was gender. Plain and simple there is simply no evidence that voters cared one bit about gender. In fact Hillary won the people who you would have thought would have never voted for a woman (see all those "hardworking, white Americans" she loves so much). Obama also won with a coalition of younger and better educated Americans. The ones you wouldn't expect to be as concerned about gender. Media pundits calling her names does not a sexist country make. No, nobody talked about Barack's haircut (that was reserved for John Edwards), but they did talk, ad nauseam, about his bowling score and other trivial things (see flag pin-gate). Clinton lost this nomination because of her mistakes and those of her campaign combined with the unprecedented race run by her opponent. No amount of genitalia would have changed the result.
All views expressed in this blog are those of the author and the author alone. They do not represent the views of any organization, regardless of the author's involvement in any organizations.

All comments are the views of the individual writer. The administrator reserves the right to remove commentary which is offensive.

The author is not responsible for nor does he support any of the advertisements displayed on the page