Saturday, July 25, 2009

Unworthy of promotion

In case we were lacking for reminders of the Cons' tendency to put self-promotion ahead of any interest in actually accomplishing anything useful while in office, CanWest reports that their latest consists of three cabinet ministers using public funds to unveil two new forms of Con cheerleading on Arctic issues:
At a press conference on Sunday, three federal ministers will unveil a slickly produced, 44-page report - Canada's Northern Strategy: Our North, Our Heritage, Our Future - and announce the creation of an official website dedicated to tracking the government's Arctic investments and policy initiatives.

The publicity blitz follows a similar spotlighting of the Conservative government's Arctic agenda last summer, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and several top ministers made visits to the North and announced a series of projects to strengthen northern military capability, improve social and scientific infrastructure, expand mineral exploration and prevent pollution in Arctic waters.

The government's continued, high-profile promotion of its Arctic file suggests Harper and his cabinet colleagues see polar politics as a key part of a winning election strategy, despite concerns among some critics about delays in delivering on promises, the government's commitment to environmental protection in the North and its handling of occasional clashes with Russia over jurisdictional issues.
Of course, for any government concerned with actually getting anything accomplished, it should be a source of embarrassment that the best even a Con-friendly media chain can say about the report to be unveiled is that it's "slickly produced" rather than actually containing any significant ideas. And it should be all the more shameful that multiple departments apparently have nothing better to do than to unveil self-promotional materials. But the Cons long ago made it clear that they're only concerned with appearances rather than accomplishing anything of substance - making this just one more step down the road they've been travelling all along.

The reviews are in

Bruce Johnstone points out that as little information has been released about the options for Regina stadium development, we can tell fairly easily that some important possibilities haven't been taken into account:
Other much larger cities, like Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Montreal, are planning modifications or replacing their open-air stadiums. Are they all masochists who like freezing in the fall and boiling in the summer?

I'm not saying a domed stadium is a terrible idea. I'm saying there may be other, more cost-effective, options that haven't been addressed.

For example, what about renovating Mosaic Stadium and expanding and/or replacing Brandt Centre? You could do both for significantly less than $350 million-plus and achieve many of the benefits of a domed stadium, such as attracting major concerts, conventions and events.

That option might not represent a "generational opportunity," but it probably won't be a "white elephant" either.

The race is on

I mentioned yesterday that Ward 3 looked to be one of the Regina city council races to watch. But I hadn't expected the race to get this interesting this early, as John Conway has announced that he'll be running for the seat while highlighting the need for more progressive discussion at the municipal level:
John Conway announced on Friday that he will be running for the position of city councillor for Regina’s Ward 3 in October’s municipal election.
Conway suggested Clipsham hasn’t been “aggressive enough in presenting debates on fundamental issues.” Conway wants to focus on taxation, the environment, affordable housing, unions, heritage properties and affordable opportunities for culture and recreation.

“I think I share with many people a perception that the current council basically is carrying out an agenda that’s set forward by the business lobby,” he said.

“I think council has not been a forum for public debate of the big issues facing the city … in a whole variety of areas.”


Shorter EI posturing between the Libs and Cons:

Libs: A 360-hour national threshold is supported by a majority in Parliament and might be worth studying. But we're more than willing to move from it!
Cons: How dare you so much as mention a proposal which we don't like? This proves that you're stuck on an unreasonable position!
Libs: (stunned silence)
Cons: Now start offering us exactly what we want, or this negotiation is over!

In fairness, though, let's acknowledge that the Libs have at least accomplished something by staking any changes on the Cons' willingness to make them look good. After all, they've managed to push the parties who generally agree with their position away from the table to ensure a worse outcome.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Musical interlude

Paul Weller & Portishead - Wild Wood

Not much of a debate at all

Shorter Kevin Blevins:

Spare me your talk about what policy choices might actually do the most good for citizens - what this city needs is more cheap pandering.

On your marks...

While talk about this fall's municipal elections probably won't start up in earnest until the end of the summer, let's note a couple of interesting storylines brewing in Regina's council races.

In Ward 6, Brenda Mercer, the former president of the North Central Community Association, looks to be putting together a well-organized challenge to incumbent councillor Wade Murray. But it's not clear that Mercer will have the field to herself, as 2006 CCFR candidate Jim Elliott is turning up in the media as one of a few voices taking a strong line against stadium construction.

Meanwhile, the race in Ward 3 looks to be hotly contested once again. Councillor Fred Clipsham is already facing criticism from the Leader-Post over his choice of priorities this summer - and a combination of bad press and a strong left-labour challenger could make Clipsham's re-election effort a difficult one.

(Edit: added labels.)

The reviews are in

Carol Goar:
Economists foresaw this possibility last winter. They warned the government that infrastructure spending is a slow-acting remedy for a moribund economy.

Social activists were wary, too. They argued there were faster and more effective ways to stimulate economic activity, such as extending employment insurance benefits to the 955,000 jobless Canadians who have no coverage, investing in health care, increasing the national child benefit or increasing the GST tax credit.

Any of these measures would have spurred consumer spending and got employers hiring.

But using federal dollars for infrastructure has two powerful political advantages. It gives taxpayers something tangible for their money. And it allows cabinet ministers and government backbenchers to fan out across the country, announcing local projects.

So Finance Minister Jim Flaherty made infrastructure building the centrepiece of his 2009 budget, promising "massive investments" in shovel-ready projects, ranging from municipal sewers and water lines to high-speed trains.

Six months have passed. Fewer than 1,000 infrastructure projects are underway. (Toronto alone submitted 500 proposals.) And the funding runs out in 20 months.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Deep thought

Michael Ignatieff's outrage over a few weeks of time for his EI appearance-of-working group might sound a lot more plausible if he hadn't personally ensured that nothing would pass until the fall.

On downgrades

There's been plenty of well-deserved fire directed at the role of credit rating agencies in their failure to look behind the U.S. housing bubble. But when an industry noted for operating under extreme incentives to offer positive ratings starts pointing out what it considers to be a bad investment, it's probably worth paying attention:
Building new nuclear plants could prove hazardous (to) the credit ratings of power companies.

Moody’s Investors Services warns in its new report — “New Nuclear Generation: Ratings Pressure Increasing” — that it may view nuclear construction plans as a negative.

Moody’s worries that investment in new nuclear is so costly that it amounts to a “bet the farm” strategy. It increases business risk and operating risk.
Not that Saskatchewan as a province (or Wall and his political mentors) might have any potentially relevant experience as to what can happen when a government doesn't pay attention to how its zeal to slap together ill-advised megaprojects might affect the province's finances:
Saskatchewan, unable to sell its bonds in New York and facing fiscal meltdown, acted out of dire necessity...(A) debt-free province in 1982 turned into a $14.8-billion debt-ridden basket case in the ’90s. This, plus a $1-billion deficit,... meant Saskatchewan led all of Canada in debt per capita.

Under notice from the credit rating agencies and with an imminent downgrade to BBB category by Standard & Poor’s, Saskatchewan’s ability to borrow diminished precipitously.

Still on course to nowhere

Steve V, still holding out inexplicable hope that the Libs will suddenly turn into a different party than the one which has rolled over on 79 consecutive confidence votes, points out the obvious fact that a refusal to stand for anything probably isn't doing the party any favours:
The fact the government still sits tied in the polls, having come through this maelstorm isn't easily fluffed off, it gives reason for some optimism on their side. Not great optimism, problems still abound and the Liberals have plenty in our quiver as well, but much better placed than anytime this year. This reality necessitates that we bring more to the table than simply opposing. Harper isn't popular, but we're not a compelling alternative either, which might explain why we've lacked maximum capitalization. Timing is another consideration, but beyond that, I now think there is no doubt of one thing, which again speaks to a nimble approach- we have to give them a reason to turf the government, the benefit of friendly headlines no longer a given.
And naturally, the Libs...aren't interested in hearing it:
There is concern the Liberal leader is risk-averse. Mr. Ignatieff, some worry, is still thinking things through - something intellectual types are inclined to do. In their wisdom, these leaders see the complexities of the issues, the grey zones, the competing shades and they hedge. Vague imagery results.

What to do? Get out some bold policy initiatives, many in the party say. Give the leader definition. Give Canadians a vision. Roll the dice.

But it's not about to happen. Instead, the Grits are gambling that no change of tack before an election campaign is necessary. “The plan,” a senior Ignatieff strategist said yesterday, “is steady as she goes.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On windows of opportunity

Audrey has already posted about the Saskatchewan NDP's call for the Wall government to take advantage of a buyer's market for wind turbines to boost the province's wind generation capacity. But let's look a little more closely at the story, and particularly why the problem faced in T. Boone Pickens' effort at building a wind farm wouldn't figure to apply in Saskatchewan:
Lingenfelter noted that SaskPower built the Centennial Wind Power Facility for approximately $270 million, a fraction of the cost per kilowatt that the Sask Party’s multi-billion dollar nuclear reactor plans would cost. He said it is well past time that Brad Wall expanded on the NDP’s common sense approach to renewable energy production through wind power.

“Wind power expansion might never be more cost effective than right now as the global recession has driven down the price of wind turbines and overall construction costs.” Lingenfelter said. “I know that American billionaire T. Boone Pickens, for example, is looking to sell up to 687 General Electric turbines to power utilities in the United States and Canada because transmission line problems have stalled construction of the world’s largest wind farm in the state of Texas. Why isn’t the Wall government jumping on this and other opportunities to expand our wind power production at lower costs?”

Lingenfelter pointed to commitments made by the Obama administration that would see 20% of US electricity generated by wind power by 2030. He said there is no reason why Saskatchewan couldn’t reach the same target even sooner.
The transmission line issue is described in more detail here - and there isn't much room for doubt that whatever concerns there are about transmission costs can't be used as an excuse to delay renewable energy in Saskatchewan. After all, the Wall government has made clear that it's entirely prepared to pour billions of dollars into additional transmission capacity for the benefit of Bruce Power.

So with some work on our transmission lines looking to be an inevitable step in any event, the choice is fairly clear between taking advantage of an obvious opportunity to move toward renewable energy at the best possible time, or tethering Saskatchewan's future to nuclear power alone with no regard for the costs involved. And it's a truly sad commentary on the Sask Party government how little likelihood there seems to be that the former will even be seriously considered.

And someday, we dream of a blanket of smog

I don't doubt that the bulk of the development over the past decade and a half discussed by the Leader-Post in its editorial can be classified as a plus. But this part strikes me as an utterly bizarre rallying point:
Those driving in from the east marvel at the number of big-box stores lining Victoria Avenue and the adjoining neighbourhoods of new homes. Perhaps they also notice the traffic. People no longer joke about Regina's "rush 10-minutes" -- these days there really are rush hours morning and night.
I'd hope we can take it as a given that few residents actually enjoy being stuck in traffic. From that starting point, wouldn't it be far better if some of the development had been planned well enough (i.e. with sufficient thought to transit and traffic flows) to avoid the problem of growing rush hours? And will it really be a point of pride if ten years down the road, we have our own "If you lived in Brandon, you'd be home by now!" billboards due to ever-increasing congestion?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

On scam artists

Of the three types of NDP views on the push for a new stadium in Regina pointed out by LRT, I'd count myself in the first group which sees the idea as a general plus - assuming the concept was well-planned and effectively implemented.

Unfortunately, there's little reason for confidence on that point from the Wall government. And indeed there seems to be a disturbing connection between the stadium plan and the Sask Party's push for nuclear power based on the Wall government's determination to make sure that the real costs of any of their preferred developments are artificially hidden from the provincial government's books.

Here's Stephen Larose:
One of the strangest things I'm hearing in the entire Saskadome debate (Leader-Post) is the Sask. Party government getting on about how no taxpayers' money will be used to construct the $350 million (estimate? Guesstimate?) cost to build the thing. A lot of those proposals for paying for it involve funds from the Crown corporations or the Saskatchewan Gaming Commission (the people who run Casio Regina and Casino Moose Jaw). Well, they're supposed to be turning over their profits to the provincial government's revenue stream. And if they don't, then the money's going to come from somewhere – either higher taxes or cuts to government programs. Taxpayers will still pay the cost, directly or indirectly.
And Kevin Yates:
Yates questioned why the government is drawing a distinction between general revenue funds and other money available to the government, noting Crown corporations typically pay a dividend that helps add to government coffers.

“If those funds are diverted either before or after, it means there’s less money ... for much needed other services,” said Yates, who maintained the Opposition doesn’t have enough information to say whether a domed stadium is a good idea.
Needless to say, the story is similar when it comes to nuclear power. While the Sask Party insists that it won't spend public money to build a reactor, that claim runs face-first into the reality that their chosen developer is demanding that a "government-backed entity" guarantee its profits. Which would seem to send an obvious signal that Saskatchewan's citizens will ultimately bear the cost - whether through SaskPower or through another entity which gets locked into a long-term deal to drain public dollars toward Bruce Power.

Of course, it's particularly remarkable that the Sask Party is showing this consistent pattern of Enron-style public accounting at a time when there's enough money in provincial coffers to actually have a meaningful conversation about what investments deserve to be on the receiving end of public funding. Thanks to the Calvert government's legacy, the books are already in good enough shape that there shouldn't be even a perceived need to invent new ways to hide the cost of any project worth carrying out.

But rather than trying to defend its plans on the merits, the Wall government is firmly committed to portraying its megaprojects as free lunches which don't require any cost-benefit analysis. And those of us who don't plan to be long gone by the time the bill comes due have every reason for skepticism.

Burning question

Is it all that shocking that the Cons were indifferent to the prospect that Abousfian Abdelrazik might be killed by a foreign government when they're publicly giving the go-ahead to the deaths of other Canadians abroad?

(Edit: added label.)

Your copyright options

For anybody concerned about copyright issues who thinks there's any chance that the voices of Canadians in general will be heard in the Cons' supposed consultation process, Saskboy's suggested responses offer a good place to start.

Or for those who hold out some hope that the Libs might actually work with the NDP and the Bloc on copyright rather than rubber-stamping the Cons' agenda as they have on every other issue, you could do worse than to contact your friendly neighbourhood opposition MP about Adam's suggestion:
The opposition parties need to draft alternative copyright legislation; screw this dishonest Con BS.
But if you don't fall into either of the above categories, then the best advice seems to be to enjoy relatively free access to content while you still can.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On moving over

Douglas Bell nicely diagnoses the problem with Libs' continuous shift to the right. But if one needed more evidence that he's anything but an NDP voice, it's obvious from his choice of solutions (italics in original):
(H)ere's a thought: what if progressive conservatives never really lost a party political platform from which to exercise their franchise? What if they simply moved over to the Liberals? A red tory by any other name... That of course is Michael Ignatieffs argument for the revival of Liberal fortunes across the country. Here's Mike making this very point during the last election campaign:

"This is a Conservative party that's pretending to be in the centre but is actually to the right of any progressive conservatism we knew through the 1980s. Everything I know tells me that there are more progressive conservative voters that could come to us than there are voters to the left of us by a factor of two to one. [Harper's speaking] this strange new language and they don't recognize themselves."

Only thing is the numbers didn't and dont (sic) add up. The NDP splits the vote in such a way as to allow the Tories to maintain minority government after minority government. Unless and until Ig realizes that the radical center is the road to political nowhere Canada will continue to elect Conservative governments, and progressives of whatever strip (sic) can get stuffed.
Now, there isn't much room for doubt that the Libs now occupy the territory once held by Red Tories. Just ask Joe Clark, or Kim Campbell, or David Orchard, or any number of other one-time PCs who have already offered their support to Libs and/or major parts of their platform in recent election campaigns.

But while that should indeed signal a problem with the party for actual progressive members, the solution isn't to simply put a slightly more leftish face on the same basic structure. And indeed, the newfound presence of Red Tories and other elements moving the Libs to the right may only serve to ensure that progressive voices aren't going to be able to influence the direction of a party which had already showed a clear pattern of putting progressive concerns last before that shift.

Rather than looking at Ignatieff's attempt to run as the candidate of the "radical center" as a problem, the better reaction would seem to me to be viewing that situation as an opportunity. If the Libs are indeed determined to seek the ideological territory of the Mulroney Conservatives despite the lack of a viable path to power in that direction, that creates an ideal chance to bring together progressives currently under both the NDP and Lib banners to break the impasse. And the further Ignatieff manages to lead the Libs toward nowhere, the better the chances of replacing Harper with a government which will actually change Canada's current right-wing direction - which should be a result which all progressives can get behind.

On amounts owing

Larry Hubich is keeping up his good work on the story of 135+ former Poverino's workers who lost upward of $62,000 in wages when their employer shut down. But while his prescription of more private-sector union organization would seem to be a plus, I'm not entirely sure that I agree with the position that a theft complaint to the RCMP would figure to accomplish much even if it stood much prospect of success.

Instead, wouldn't the more obvious policy fix be to get the money owed to the employees into their hands through a wage bank to ensure that verified claims are paid out immediately, with the province then taking on the task of recovering amounts owing from the employer and directors later? And wouldn't that likely provide for more effective relief for the employees affected than merely seeing the employer punished?

By the numbers

Blogging Horse has already pointed out some of the problems with the Libs' "Twenty-Three" theme for their summer fund-raising and membership drive. But I'd think it's worth pointing out another area of concern.

To start off with, I don't see any particular issue where a party or candidate builds a message or initiative around a number whose importance may be purely symbolic. Indeed, the concept of a money bomb tends to include an appeal for donations based on just that - whether it be based on Ryan Meili's age or the Dollar a Day initiative in support of Al Franken's Senate victory. (For that matter, the NDP may want to take a closer look at choosing a theme number for itself to present a suggested baseline for support.)

But it does matter which number gets chosen and why. And that's where the Libs run into a serious issue:
Starting July 23rd, follow me as I paddle from Kingston to Ottawa, raising funds to help make Michael Ignatieff Canada's 23rd prime minister.
Remember that it was just eight months ago that Canada was plunged into a constitutional crisis. At that point, the Libs were one of three parties properly on the side of parliamentary democracy, while the Cons clung to power based on an attempt to pretend that Canada's political system is a presidential one where the executive could not be legitimately replaced even if it lost a vote in the House of Commons.

Unfortunately, thanks to Ignatieff the Cons managed to hold onto power through that showdown. And the Libs' latest gambit suggests that they've decided to work with the Cons' image of a system where what matters most is who holds executive authority.

After all, there would have been plenty of other options for numbers which fit better into the parliamentary system as it stands. Think 34 as the net number of seats which the Libs would need to take from the Cons to have a plurality in Parliament. Or somewhere from 33 to 35 as the likely share of the vote needed to do so.

But instead, the Libs are looking to frame Ignatieff as "23". Which to my recollection makes for a rather unusual development in Canadian politics: on Stephen Harper's rise to power, I don't recall too many commentators asking whether 22's results in office would more resemble those of 19 or those of 17 in contrast to discussing leaders by name and party. (Of course, I'm open to correction on that point.)

In contrast, the use of numbers to designate political leaders is entirely a feature of the U.S.' presidential system. (Of course it's become more common over the past decade based on the need to distinguish between two George Bushes.)

The end result is that whether consciously or not, the Libs' choice of numbers serves to reinforce the idea that our political system should be seen in the same terms as that of the U.S. regardless of the important structural differences. And by playing into a strategy which the Cons have already used once to fool far too many Canadians about the nature of their own parliamentary democracy, that choice may only be laying the groundwork for the Libs to hold the weaker hand in another confidence test to come.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

On the municipal front...

There have been murmurings for quite some time that former NDP MLA Glenn Hagel was considering a run for mayor of Moose Jaw. But I hadn't realized that Hagel himself has publicly confirmed his interest in the position:
Today, the questions surrounding our next mayor are already being asked and we've been able to get in touch with the man that appears to be at the centre of most conversations. Former Moose Jaw North MLA Glenn Hagel.

"Its something that we're giving some thought to. I've had some encouragement and I'm definitely considering running for mayor. What I want to do is take the summer and talk to people about what they see the future of Moose Jaw being and also to decide if I can bring the kind of leadership that Moose Jaw wants."

Hagel served Moose Jaw in the legislature for 21 years before losing to the Saskatchewan Party's Warren Michelson in the last provincial election. Hagel says he plans to have a decision made by Labour Day.
Of course, anybody looking at the municipal political scene primarily as a jumping-off point for other levels of politics might prefer to see younger names in the mix. But there's also plenty of value in ensuring that our cities are run by solid and strong progressive voices - and there shouldn't be any lack of longtime NDP supporters eager to throw their support behind Hagel's run if he does enter the race.

Sunday Morning 'Rider Blogging

After yesterday's bludgeoning at the hands of Montreal, there isn't too much room for doubt that the 'Riders have a long way to go this season. But while some of the weaknesses exposed by the Alouettes are ones which figure to be fixed only with time and practice (Durant's decision-making) or better health (the offensive line in particular), there are a few areas where the solutions might be a lot less complicated.

To start with, the main issue on the defensive side of the ball continued to be a problem finishing off tackles. And once again, as pointed out last week by non sequitur in comments, the main culprit was Tad Kornegay - who seems to combine excellent instincts to sniff out the ball on running plays with a fundamental weakness in bringing down the ball carrier. And with the same problem surfacing in consecutive games against a power back in Jamal Robertson and a small but elusive runner in Avon Cobourne, there doesn't even seem to be much prospect of avoiding the problem by spotting Kornegay against particular types of players.

Which isn't to say that Kornegay's cover skills and versatility can't make him a useful part of the team. But his current starting linebacker role doesn't seem to be the right one - and it remains to be seen how many more big rushing games the 'Riders will give up before deciding to put another more sure tackler in the linebacking corps.

Otherwise, the defence played roughly to expectations. Granted, there were a couple of breakdowns on the Als' two passing touchdowns, but it's probably inevitable that a scheme built on confusion and misdirection will sometimes backfire. And against the Montreal in particular, the exchange of big plays resulting from the 'Riders' risk-taking probably kept the team in the game about a quarter longer than would have been possible if Calvillo had been allowed to pick apart a vanilla defence from the game's first drive.

Unfortunately, the offence looked to be generally unprepared either to strike when the Als were vulnerable, or to get Saskatchewan back in the game once Montreal started piling up points in the second half. And much of the problem seemed to revolve around Durant, who seemed hesitant to commit to running the ball even when that was the one apparent opening left by a well-balanced Montreal defence.

That said, replacing Durant with another quarterback wouldn't figure to improve matters any: in his case, better to let him play through the rough spots and hopefully learn for future games. But there was one position where the 'Riders' choice to stick with a starter seemed like a curious one.

For all his strengths as a running back, Wes Cates is seldom one to makes plays on his own. While he's a star-calibre player thanks to his blocking, pass-catching and ability to make use of blocks in front of him, he doesn't have either the speed or the shiftiness to make plays on the ground when his offensive line isn't up to par. And in a game where Cates was bound to be facing some rust and the 'Riders' line was overmatched from the start, it might have made sense to give Hugh Charles some opportunities to try to change the pace of the running game.

In fairness, though, one of the major issues for the offence in the first half was a problem with field position. But there too, I'd think there's a fairly obvious internal fix to be made.

In evaluating punt and kick returners, I'd tend to see three main issues: ball control, raw speed, and instincts to turn that speed in the right direction. And most of the 'Riders' returners this season have had trouble in at least one of those areas: Casey McGahee fumbled away the job in the preseason, Eric Morris has shown a tendency to start off returns effectively but then spin himself into the ground without reaching top speed, and Johnny Quinn's first game was marked by ill-fated attempts to run sideways or backwards which failed to generate him any space to turn upfield.

Of course, Weston Dressler showed plenty of ability in all three areas last year. But I'd agree with Ken Miller's decision that Dressler is best off focusing on his duties as a receiver - and indeed I'm not sure that it does either Dressler or the team much good to put him back on special teams when the team is struggling as seems to have been the plan so far.

Fortunately, there's another option who ranks near the top of the CFL in the few kickoff return opportunities he's received as the second returner back. And particularly given that an opportunity for Stu Foord to work on reading blocks on special teams would seem to serve him well in his development as a ratio-busting running back, I'd have to wonder if the 'Riders would be better off in both the short term and the long term giving him the role of primary returner.

Now, a few yards of field position or a couple of more sure tackles may not have made a huge amount of difference in yesterday's game. And indeed it may be that the 'Riders' best strategy for next week is to avoid overreacting and work with the lineup they have. But after a game where the team seemed to lose far too many of the small battles, I'd have to think there's reason to look for any possible source of improvement - particularly given the danger that the team might get pushed to far bigger changes if it can't make the adjustments needed to win with Durant at the helm.

(Edit: fixed typo.)

The reviews are in

Gerald Caplan picks up on what looks to be an important connection between Stephen Harper and the U.S. Republicans' resentment-based philosophy and detachment from reality - and as a matter of personal judgment rather than merely political calculation:
Richard Nixon was perhaps the politician whose personal devils ate away at him most conspicuously, but like Harris he finally figured out how to win with them. In his day the enemy was New York liberals, opponents of the American invasion of Vietnam, blacks, university students, the pinko mainstream media and other enemies of the Silent Majority, now Palin's Real Americans.

It seems evident that some comparable resentment drives Stephen Harper, but in a very mysterious way...

Harper's attack on Ignatieff was another indication of the extremism of his partisanship. As we soon learned, it was based on an accurate report that Gordon Smith, a former deputy minister in Foreign Affairs, had speculated that the G8 could be replaced by a new body that didn't include Canada. That's an interesting issue and a potential problem for Canada. But that's not what Harper accused Ignatieff of saying. He accused him of wishing Canada was excluded from such a new body, of even recommending that it should be so excluded, which is an entirely different and dirty kettle of fish.

Now it seems to me that only partisanship of the most visceral kind could have interpreted the Gordon Smith comment (as attributed to Ignatieff) that way. Surely all normal folks would read the statement and understand that Smith was simply noting the need for Canadians to be aware that new players were becoming significant on the international scene. And it would be perfectly legitimate for Ignatieff to make a similar point.

No one who wasn't blinded by his own furies could believe a Canadian politician would ever say what Harper accused Ignatieff of saying. It would be simply suicidal. Yet Harper then used this ludicrous misinterpretation to introduce his favourite bogeyman – whether Ignatieff was a real Canadian anyway (shades of Sarah Palin). If I were a Conservative, I would seriously worry about the judgment of someone who could twist things in that way.