Tag Archives: President Obama

President Obama Evolves on Marriage-Equality. Thankfully, Nobody Pressed “B.”

Mitt Romney reacts–if you wonder why he doesn’t try and slam President Obama for changing his position, it’s probably because he doesn’t believe in evolution and he would lose any “flip flopping” debate.

Someone needs to re-mix President Obama’s statement on marriage-equality like Will.I.Am did in 2008. Maybe Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber could collaborate?

President Obama commits to high-speed rail in his 2011 SOTU!

This clip is from the energy section of the State of the Union speech. President Obama followed his promise to get rid of $4 billion worth of government subsidies to oil companies with a commitment to “bring high-speed rail to 80% of Americans within 25 years.” President Obama knows that high-speed rail is good for manufacturing in the short-term and produces many long-term benefits (economically and environmentally.)

The Liberal Party of Canada should commit to high-speed rail. Many journalists/political scientists have determined that Stephen Harper’s biggest weakness is his lack of vision. Bullet trains could be just the thing to capture the Canadian imagination and take the fight to PM Harper.

Stephen Harper doesn’t want Canada’s trains to run on time…or at all

On September 2nd, Stephen Harper announced that the federal government would be investing $265 million in light rail in the Kitchener-Waterloo region. This is only 1/3 of the cost of the proposed project (which is projected to be operational by 2015) but the area will benefit greatly from the additional transportation infrastructure. The press conference was low-key and few major news outlets reported on the event.

On Labour Day, in Milwaukee, President Barack Obama announced a $50 billion infrastructure plan to build roads, runways and many a railway in the United States. The plan will finally bring European-style super trains to America. The President’s speech was covered by American and Canadian media and was laid out in a speech that has been described as one of his best since becoming President.

The two announcements were as different as Prime Minister Harper and President Obama. Harper inherited a $13 billion budget surplus from the previous Liberal government (similar to the massive surplus George W. Bush inherited from President Clinton) whereas Obama inherited the largest recession since the great depression. When President Obama took office he was quick to put into place the stimulus measures to save American jobs and then he embarked upon the most ambitious financial reform measures (aimed an America’s banks) since FDR. As late as October 14th, 2008, Stephen Harper was saying: “This country will not go into recession next year”. While in opposition he railed against the regulatory measures the Liberals put in place that so effectively protected Canadian banks from the global economic meltdown. When he was finally forced to pass a stimulus bill Harper did so reluctantly and in a shameful pork-barrel style that built gazebos and arenas instead of investing in infrastructure projects that Canada so desperately needs. President Obama set up a website, http://www.recovery.gov , where American’s could track the stimulus. Prime Minister Harper’s culture of deceit was in full swing so the opposition had to ask the AG to investigate how the dollars were spent.

Our suspicion is that, first of all, the process was slow, a lot slower than they said it would be and, second, that there seems to have been a tendency to distribute the money for political reasons rather than for reasons of economic need.” – John McCallum.

Canada’s infrastructure is badly in need of an upgrade. The Liberal Party is the only Canadian political party with substantive infrastructure policy (the focus of the Toronto Can150 Policy forum was, in fact, infrastructure.) As Michael Ignatieff has said over and over, if the Canadian government doesn’t invest in infrastructure now we are going to have “people without jobs and jobs without people.” One excellent way to connect people with jobs, create many jobs now and invest in the technology that will bring jobs of the future, is high-speed rail.

The only thing stopping Canada from having high-speed rail is regressive/stunted Conservative ideology. In many ways, it seems like Conservatives just hate trains (with the exclusion of John A. Macdonald, though Stephen Harper has a low opinion our first Prime Minister as he detests the national policy) as Stephen Harper and John McCain are both fervently anti-train. Conservative opposition to high-speed rail (and the census, and bank regulation, and evidence-based crime policy) has nothing to do with the facts.

Reports, reports, reports:

Since 1973 there have been 16 separate studies on the feasibility of high-speed rail in Canada (specifically a line connecting Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto-Windsor.) All of them (including the most recent one from the Rotman School of Management at U of T) argue that the benefits far outweigh the costs.

The estimate cost of this project is $23.9 Billion. The final result would make it possible for someone to travel from Toronto to Montreal in 2 hours and 18 minutes! Down from 4 hours.  At 300 km/h this plan would slash greenhouse emissions, energy consumption and traffic.  Another line connecting Edmonton to Calgary has also been closely studied and would be a boon to Alberta. Bombardier could build the trains/tracks so the jobs and technological innovation would all stay in Canada.

One of the things that the Martin-Florida report spoke to was the need to enhance our connectivity … for purposes of growing the economy.- Dalton McGuinty.

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Why do the Conservatives oppose a Canadian high-speed rail project?

They are a bunch of ignorant jackanapes The Price Tag: “That’s a gigantic $20 billion or $30 billion project.” – John Baird. Conservatives say that the line would cost too much.

Some Conservative costs:

  • $13 Billion: The Liberal-created budget surplus that Stephen Harper wasted.
  • Billions:  that Stephen Harper squandered by cutting the GST which economists say had no real benefit and cost the government a huge sum of money.
  • $1 Billion: Cost of the 2010 G20 summit.
  • $19 Billion: No big fighter-jet contracts.
  • $12 Billion: Prisons for “unreported crimes.”
  • $1 billion on consultants in its first two years in office – a 42 per cent increase compared to the Liberal government from 2004-06.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government could have built the Montreal-Windsor (which President Obama has guaranteed would meet with an American high-speed rail line starting in Michigan which would be a big shot-in-the-arm to Canadian manufactures) several times with all of the Billions of Billions of Canadian taxpayer’s dollars they have wasted.

Canada needs high-speed rail. Job. Technology. Canadian Unity. The Environment.

Like a gavel it would close Debate, making Macdonald’s ‘sea to sea’ Pour through two oceanic megaphones — Three thousand miles of Hail from port to port; And somewhere in the middle of the line Of steel, even the lizard heard the stroke. The breed had triumphed after all. To drown The traffic chorus, she must blend the sound With those inaugural, narcotic notes Of storm and thunder which would send her back Deeper than ever in Laurentian sleep.” – E.J. Pratt. Towards the Last Spike.

US Grassroots Movement Demands “Question Time”

On January 29th President Barack Obama took questions from the Republican caucus. Members of the United States MSM have called this “Question Time” which is what British/Australian citizens call what Canadians call “Question Period.” Today Andrew Sullivan of “The Daily Dish” endorsed the grassroots petition Demand Question Time whose goal is to encourage more instances of QT in the United States. CNN/MSNBC gave special coverage to “Question Time” and many Americans seem to see the many benefits of this check on the President (and platform for the opposition to intelligently/civilly debate the commander-in-chief.)

Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament has done a great job keeping the prorogation issue alive but the fury of CAPP needs to grow

A Less Partisan Canadian Polity FTW!

A brief discussion of American politics:

The Republican Party of the United States has become the “party of No” since President Obama’s election in 2008. Republican leadership/members of congress have taken this to an absurd level voting against tax-cuts, fiscal prudence, funding for the US military and many other initiatives that, until very very recently, were bread-and-butter for the Conservative Party of Canada’s south-of-the-border-soul-mates.

It is hard to understand why the Republican Party or any political party would abandon all of their previously held ideals (like being against state appointments, or deficit spending, or mandatory minimums…) but not as counterintuitive when you examine the US’ system of governance. In the United States the federal government is always less than two years away from an election. The congress is elected every two years and the Democrats/Republicans have primaries before that. 1/3 of the Senate is elected every two years and while the President is elected every four years his or her agenda is tied tightly to these elections. This disincentivizes cooperation for in a variety of ways: Since bipartisan behaviour is so rare that when it does happen it is seen as a big wing for the party who can coax a concession from the other side, the minority party would be “giving their opponent a win” or “something to run on” by cooperating, this washes away the long-term benefits of cooperation. Political parties get a lot of money in donations for slamming their opponents. After months (if not years) of painting your opponent a certain way it becomes difficult to work with them (and partisans in any party will make sure you eat your previous statements.) Finally, the primary system (where only members of one party vote) rewards candidates who hold on to party orthodoxy and punishes moderates by easily allowing money to flow from out-of-state interest groups to challengers.

What does this have to do with Canada?

For years Liberal partisans have mocked the NDP and NDP partisans have mocked the Liberal Party. While the NDP claims ownership of every idea Jack Layton has ever scribbled on a napkin or muttered in his sleep the Liberal Party has only once, since Lester Pearson, actually sat down, possibly at a middle class kitchen table, to work with the NDP, though that fell apart fairly quickly.

The NDP attack the Liberals for not agreeing with them on a policy then mock them if the Liberals nuance their position and the Liberals do the same when the NDP actually flesh out a detailed/coherent policy position.

For the past four years Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada have governed with a brinkmanship strategy of “primary uncertainty” around when the next election will be while attacking any party who dared vote for the legislation they put forward. This has made it impossible for the opposition parties, who do hold a majority of the seats in the HOC, to work together for fear of being called the horrible C-word: “Coalition.”

Today, Susan Delacourt chided Michael Ignatieff/the Liberals on her blog for publicly reaffirming a position that has been a part of the Liberal Party of Canada’s platform for decades, a national child-care program.

Canada has entered what looks to be a long period of minority governments. Cooperation and agreement should not be viewed as “risky” or “going out on a limb.” Unfortunately, when any party decides to agree with another party’s position Canadians have been conditioned to be immediately dismissive or suspicious (this cynicism has been encouraged and cultivated by Prime Minister Harper as part of his governing strategy.)

Canadians say we want our politicians to work together. We need to take a risk and have faith that the long-term benefits a parliament that can function is put ahead of personal/party interests. Canadians must to to ensure that “bipartisan” and “working together” are no longer mere political platitudes that politicians use to win votes and are sincere, national, non-partisan message of “Get back to work!”

Though partisan politics is what generates good ideas by forcing leaders/parties/candidates/MPs to prove why their platform is best, the currently state of Canadian politics, where opponent’s failure now > national victory later, is unacceptable.

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Olivia Chow’s magical power over the Liberals

At the top of The Star’s front page today, you’ll see Michael Ignatieff promising that Canada would get a child-care program regardless of the state of the nation’s finances when/if he takes power.

“We will find the money,” he said.

A few months ago, Ignatieff visited a day care centre in Ottawa and also underlined his commitment to child care, prompting this warning from the NDP’s Olivia Chow.

“It’s not just about money,” NDP MP Olivia Chow said on Tuesday in reaction to the Liberal promise. “They’ve got to remove that condition – `if we have the money.’ When there’s a condition, and we’ve seen this, it doesn’t happen.”

So, there it is. Ms. Chow asked for the condition to be removed, and now it has been lifted. What will she ask for next, I wonder?

President Obama takes questions from elected members of the opposition party. Should Canada’s government adopt this system?

Some American journalists are referring to it as “Question Time.” Suggesting Canada adopt this kind of system where our Prime Minister, and his cabinet, would answer questions from the members of the opposition does sound a bit radical I know. As a real Canadian I don’t care about any allegations about Afghan Detainees, or the environment, and I know that a system like this would destabilize the markets, distract from the heroes competing in the Olympics* and would prevent the government from working (on the budget or increasing jobs.) The best argument for having a period of “Question Time” in Canada is that it would let Stephen Harper talk over the heads of the mainstream media and address Canadians directly.

President Obama started this debate by saying:

Now, part of the reason I accepted your invitation to come here was because I wanted to speak with all of you, and not just to all of you. So I’m looking forward to taking your questions and having a real conversation in a few moments.

And I hope that the conversation we begin here doesn’t end here, that we can continue our dialogue in the days ahead.

It’s important to me that we do so; it’s important to you, I think, that we do so. But, most importantly, it’s important to the American people that we do so.

I’ve said this before, but I’m a big believer not just in the value of a loyal opposition, but in its necessity. Having differences of opinion, having a real debate about matters of domestic policy and national security; that’s not something that’s only good for our country, it’s absolutely essential.

It’s only through the process of disagreement and debate that bad ideas get tossed out and good ideas get refined and made better. And that kind of vigorous back-and-forth, that imperfect, but well-founded process, messy as it often is, is at the heart of our democracy. It’s what makes us the greatest nation in the world.

So, yes, I want you to challenge my ideas. And I guarantee you that, after reading this, I may challenge a few of yours.”

Canada should take a cue from the United States and implement “Question Time.” Terms like “loyal opposition” are neat and would make politics more interesting in this country. “Question Time” would make the government more transparent and Canada should really take a look at it as an option.

* Note: Olympic Gold Medalists cease to be heroes when they join the Liberal Party of Canada.

President Obama Announces $8 Billion Investment in High-Speed Rail

President Obama mentioned the need for the United States to upgrade their antiquated rail system in 2010 State of the Union and gave specifics on January 28th. “The White House announced the awarding of $8 billion in stimulus funding to kick-start high-speed-rail projects and improve service in 13 corridors across the country.”

China is currently spending $300 billion to build more than 16,000 miles of high-speed track by 2020.

Europe and Japan are famous for their efficient and inexpensive high-speed rail.

In Korea the KTX travels at 300 km/h and has been a boon to the already awesome Korean economy.

Though President Obama and the United States are coming late to the High-Speed Rail table they are still ahead of Canada. Stephen Harper’s government has failed to invest in high-speed rail even though it would greatly benefit Canada’s economy by creating jobs and linking our dispersed population centers. “We can’t let the Americans get the jump on us,” said federal Liberal transport critic Joe Volpe. “We’re better equipped than they are to do this and we can’t have a small-thinking government . . . stand in the way.” The Obama high-speed rail plan will benefit several Canadian cities and provides a great opportunity for the Canadian government to invest in high-speed rail.

Instead of spending taxpayer money on a Go-Train photo Ops Prime Minister Harper should invest that money in high-speed rail.

Blue Dogs, Republicans tie Obama’s hands on healthcare

Here is my first contribution to a U of T wide publication creatively named: “The Newspaper.”

Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s seventh Prime Minister, was known as “the Great Conciliator” through his tenure as PM from 1896 to 1911. Laurier managed to reign as the fourth longest serving Prime Minister (with a huge majority government win in 1900 and 1904) by always seeking compromise.

PM Laurier did not have altruistic motives behind his work but was forced out of necessity to reconcile his party, which was split geographically and between Protestants and Catholics.Barack Obama, America’s 44th President, ran on a centrist platform and has been forced to deal with a party divided ideologically even though, like Laurier’s Liberals, the Democrats have majorities in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate while holding the White House. Where Laurier is remembered for his “Naval Compromise” and “Reciprocity” President Obama is wagering his legacy on the success of the Health Insurance Reform bill that passed the Senate 60 – 40 (a strict party-line vote) on Christmas Eve.

The United States is #1 in percentage of GDP spent on health care (approximately 15%) though they remain far from first place when ranked in terms of quality of care. A 2009 estimate puts the number of uninsured in the United States at 47 million. Since Franklin D. Roosevelt, American Presidents have spent time and political on reforming the United States’ Health Care system. In the 1960s Lyndon B. Johnson failed because of lobbying by the health insurance industry and Blue Dogs (Southern Democrats) blocking reform, Bill Clinton failed because of a Republican Congress and accusations that his administration was too secretive in its attempts. Health reform in the United States is the equivalent of fighting a land war in Russia for Presidential administrations.

So what does the population of the United States, and President Obama, get from the Senate Bill? H.R. 3590, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not contain a “public option” but does have an insurance exchange program which would allow those with insurance to keep a similar program when switching careers. The Senate Bill will increase the Medicare payroll tax from 1.45% to 2.35% on incomes over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families. The bill finally makes it illegal for insurances companies to deny coverage. All of this, if the Senate bill was signed into law today, would come into effect on December 26, 2011.

Lester B. Pearson, another Liberal PM forced to compromise by presiding over a minority government, passed the Medicare Act in 1966. In 1984 under Brian Mulroney, the Canada Health Act was passed, which prohibited user fees and extra billing by doctors.

From a Canadian perspective the Senate bill, which is still a ways away from being signed into law, seems weak by comparison. Those in favour of more comprehensive health reform in the United States decry obstructionist Republicans and conservative Democrats.

The reason that H.R. 3590 doesn’t include a public option and the United States’ health care system is nowhere close to “socialized medicine” (a term popularized by President Reagan) is their system of government. If the Prime Minister of Canada isn’t passing bills quickly, efficiently and without checks and balances then it isn’t working right. Though Prime Minster Harper doesn’t have a majority, the Conservative Government has operated that way (with no real opposition to prevent them.) John A. Macdonald and the Father’s of Confederation designed our government to give majority governments as much power as possible. The American founding fathers designed the United States’ government to have three equal branches (legislative, judicial and executive) with as many institutional veto points as possible.

President Obama is quick to point out that this isn’t “Obamacare”, it is the US Congress’ health care bill. This isn’t an attempt to distance himself from a bill that doesn’t go far enough for his liking but a pragmatic admission of his own institutional limitations. Perhaps President Obama will be America’s Great Conciliator.

United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood on The Daily Show Talking about how awesome Trains are!

http://watch.thecomedynetwork.ca/clip247184#clip247184

President Obama’s Drug Czar: “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary.”

Thoughts:

- When Mr. Kerlikowske says “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit” he is being dangerously ignorant. President Obama appointed a man who sounds like a Republican when talking about marijuana.

- President Obama has been shockingly regressive when it comes to his policies on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and ending the failed “War on Drugs.”

- The United States has exported a policy that amounted to nothing at best and horribly backfired at its worst. The Conservative Party of Canada has appropriated this policy (along with the Republican habit of completely ignoring facts) for their own. Canadian’s and Mexican’s need to demand progressive drug laws since the United States of America is failing so badly on this front.
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The federal government is not going to pull back on its efforts to curtail marijuana farming operations, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Wednesday in Fresno.

The nation’s drug czar, who viewed a foothill marijuana farm on U.S. Forest Service land with state and local officials earlier Wednesday, said the federal government will not support legalizing marijuana.

“Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine,” he said.

Kerlikowske said he can understand why legislators are talking about taxing marijuana cultivation to help cash-strapped government agencies in California. But the federal government views marijuana as a harmful and addictive drug, he said.

“Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit,” Kerlikowske said in downtown Fresno while discussing Operation SOS — Save Our Sierra — a multiagency effort to eradicate marijuana in eastern Fresno County.

Marijuana plants valued at more than $1.26 billion have been confiscated and 82 people arrested over the past 10 days in Fresno County. The operation started last week and is continuing.

By comparison, Tulare County’s leading commodity — milk — was valued at about $1.8 billion in 2008.

Officials say the marijuana-eradication operation will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the exact amount won’t be known until agencies can add up staffing, vehicle and other costs.

In Operation SOS, more than 314,000 plants were uprooted in 70 gardens — numbers expected to rise as the enforcement action continues. Agents also seized $41,000 in cash, 26 firearms and three vehicles.

Planning for the operation began in February and focused on marijuana crops being backed by Mexican drug cartels, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

Mims said many cartels are involved, but she would not name any because the investigation is still under way. All but one person arrested was from Mexico, officials said.

One hundred growers may still be on the loose, said Fresno County sheriff’s Lt. Rick Ko. Many may have gotten rides out of the area, but some could still be in the Sierra, Ko said.

Last year, Fresno County deputies seized 188,000 marijuana plants.

In just one week, nearly twice as many plants were seized, Mims said, “so you can imagine how many we were missing.”

Statewide, more than 5.3 million plants were seized in 2008, or two of every three confiscated in the United States, said Bill Ruzzamenti, director of the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

“The amount of drugs out there scares most of us,” he said.

Volunteers are going into the gardens to clean up trash, dead animals and pesticides to return the land as close to its original condition as possible. But it could take years for the land to recover, because little can be done once fertilizers and pesticides seep into the ground or stream beds.

“For every acre of marijuana grown, 10 acres are damaged,” said George Anderson with the California Department of Justice.