Posts from our progressive community

the great weed of 2015?

we move to canada - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 15:30
You will not be surprised to learn that Allan and I own a lot of books. And CDs. And even LPs! Many, many hundreds of each. We have culled our collection a bit over the years, out of necessity, but living in houses for the past 10 years, we expanded again without much thought.
Now here we are in an apartment. It's a large apartment, to be sure, but we no longer have extra rooms where we can stash as much stuff as we like. And neither of us wants to fill up every inch of wall and floor space with books and music.  Thus we are contemplating weeding our own library. And this is very strange. 
Books are us. Or are they?
When I was in my 20s, I wanted to own every book I'd ever read. I was one of those people who believed that my personal library was a statement about myself. I needed to proudly display my politics and my tastes through my bookshelves and records. I loved seeing other people's libraries, and loved when people perused mine. I can recall that when we found ourselves in the home of a new friend, we would soon be looking through their books and music.
For many years, we loved amassing as large a music collection as we possibly could. Allan wrote about music, and we were inundated by freebies. At the time it seemed like the coolest thing in the world. Music would just appear! On our doorstep! For free! Eventually the piles and piles of CDs irritated me. But still, free music! 
We both still drool over huge, beautiful libraries. When we watched "It Might Get Loud," we had to pause to stare in wonder at Jimmy Page's gorgeous music collection on what must be custom-made shelves. 
Now we're talking about weeding our CDs by as much as half. Allan has a huge amount of digital music, but we both recognize we listen to only a small fraction of what we own. 
Do as the digital natives do?
The whole concept of a library being a personal statement has been erased by the digital age. Most people under a certain age have never owned a physical medium of music. The sharing ethos of the internet has led to things like BookCrossing, BookMooch, Read It Foward, and Little Free Libraries.  
How this affects writers and musicians is another story, and a sad one. But somehow all these readers and listeners manage to form their identities and communicate their points of view without owning a whole bunch of stuff that sits on a whole bunch of shelves. 
I don't know if this is a function of working in a library and having ready access to so many books, or just a general change in my desires. I was much more materialistic when I was younger. But I don't know what's driving this urge to purge.
Here, a minimalist writes about breaking the sentimental attachment we feel towards our books. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. But it suddenly doesn't seem as important to have all these books. 

PEGIDA Canada: "We're Not Racists"

Anti-Racist Canada - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 14:53
When one is challenging groups such as PEGIDA Canada the accusation that the membership and supporters of similar groups hold racist views is countered by the statement that, "Islam is not a race." In our view, there's a lot of parsing of the terminology going on here, however when we refer to the views held by the membership and supporters of groups like PEGIDA Canada who target Muslims we usually refer to them as bigots to avoid that argument. That term is challenged as well, as PEDIDA Canada suggest they are not against Muslims, but are in fact opposed to Islam. That claim is frequently made on the PEGIDA Canada Facebook group page, and example of which follows:

A second statement found on the Facebook group's page also makes a similar claim lamenting the accusation of racism, but the underlying message seems clear enough to all who can read it:

We decided to take a closer look a PEGIDA Canada to test their claim that they are not in fact racists or bigots. Though we will inundate you, our dear readers, with screenshots from the PEGIDA Canada Facebook page that dehumanize Muslims (foreign, immigrant, refugee, and Canadian citizens) and which celebrate violence against Muslims (and anti-racists for that matter), we really could summarize the collective will of the members and supporters of PEGIDA Canada with this single post:

Yeah, they are racists and bigots, though we don't think this will really come as a significant revelation to many.

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On game theories

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 13:05
Paul Dechene's riff off of this post is definitely worth a read. But while we're largely in agreement on the significance of polls, I will challenge his wider view as to what election coverage means:
Policies? Platforms? These are not the weapons political parties wield in an election. Those are the clothes political hopefuls wear. They define the personalities of the contestants. They’re the pixeled skins that overlay each blank politician sprite. This guy here is the angry Bowser who’s scary and likes to blow things up but at least he’ll cut your taxes. Here’s the cheerful Princess Peach who’s kind and generous, but oh, her naivete is going to get her into trouble. And look! Over there it’s Yoshi! He’s a dinosaur! He’s green! And he has a sticky tongue! How can you not vote for him?

In other words, you root for the guy in the costume you like best.

All that stuff that the activists and academics and huffy old columnists dismiss as political theatre is the actual election.

Is most of that morass of petty conflicts, dirty tricks, flubbed press conferences and debate shenanigans nothing more than random noise? Hellz ya. But humans are storytelling creatures and taking a chaotic pile of stupid nonsense and constructing a narrative from it is one of our brains’ favourite things to do.

And polls are just one more expression of our storytelling natures. They gather up a bunch of people’s opinions, quantify them, put them on graphs. Then everybody makes guesses about what it all means and what’s going to happen next.

Polls take the noise of a real life election and turn it into a game involving little racing red and blue and orange and green avatars in exactly the same way that a Nintendo machine takes a bunch of random numbers and the inputs from your controller and turns them into Super Mario Kart.I've commented before on the concept of elections being treated and commented on as a game rather than an event of political and social importance. But Dechene effectively raises two related questions arising out of the view that's how campaigns are currently covered: can we treat campaigns as something more than a game whose primary importance is as a source of entertainment? And if so, should we bother?

On my reading, Dechene seems to answer the first question with a no, rendering the second irrelevant. But even if we recognize that elections will fall short of a "lost Platonic state of democracy", that doesn't mean we're stuck with it instead representing nothing more than a matter of rooting for laundry.

In fact, the same experts who have pointed out our tendency to jump to conclusions and frame what we see around biases and preferred narratives have also noted that we do have another cognitive system available - one which requires more effort to use, but results in a far more thorough analysis than our initial reaction to events. And a conscious effort to use the latter system seems to be largely successful in providing an appropriate challenge to the surface analysis.

There's no prospect of analyzing everything that happens in a campaign through that more detailed lens even on an individual level. But I'd suggest it is possible to prioritize coverage to shift how we see politics on the margins: by talking more about substantive issues than trivia, by evaluating them with something going beyond a surface analysis, and by encouraging others to do the same.

And the potential importance of doing so is hard to overstate. While the election itself can be lumped in with any given sporting event as having a winner, one or more losers, and lots of characters to be discussed, the result of an election (being the election of the people empowered to chart a social course on our behalf) has profound implications for everybody within the influence of political decision-making.

If we currently lack a critical mass of voters willing and able to shape our democratic future based on more than either entrenched affiliations or nebulous narratives, I'd consider that a problem worth solving, not an inevitability to be accepted. And while the political theatre which shapes votes absolutely does matter, we can work within that reality without giving up on the cause of a better-informed electorate.

what i'm reading: the doubt factory, a young-adult thriller by paolo bacigalupi

we move to canada - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 13:00
A thriller about public relations? And for teens? It sounds improbable, and The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi is an improbably terrific book. Marrying a somersaulting plot with heart-pounding suspense to an unabashed political agenda and a hot love story, Bacigalupi has delivered a stunning youth read.

On the political front, we contemplate "the place where big companies go when they need the truth confused. . . . when they need science to say what’s profitable, instead of what’s true.” All the tricks of the trade - astroturfing, fronts, false flags, sock puppets, money funnelling, stealth marketing, planted news, and outright false data - are touched on, along with the human damage they cause.

And the political is nothing if not personal. Alix leads the good life of a private school girl in Connecticut, and is forced to confront the possibility that her privilege is built on other people's pain. That pain is impossible to miss, when she meets a group of homeless kids, all orphaned, one way or another, by her father's handiwork.

Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, fossil fuels - you name it, Alix's dad has helped confuse the public, shield wrongdoers, and ultimately cause the death of thousands, while a few brave class-action litigants are painted as selfish and greedy, and those who say otherwise are branded as conspiracy kooks.

Alix is attracted - perhaps dangerously so - to a young man who turns out to be the leader of a radical group focused on exposing her father's complicity in all that suffering. Betrayal lurks behind every door, but who will betray, who will be betrayed, and who will be exposed?

My only minor complaint is that the political agenda gets a teensy bit preachy at times. Preachy politics in fiction are usually a dealbreaker for me, but with The Doubt Factory, I was so hooked by the plot and the suspense that I didn't mind. More importantly, I don't think young readers would give it a second thought.

Let's make ALL the girls and women wear niqab, RIGHT?!

Dammit Janet - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 11:15

Now that I have your attention, my point is that Harper and the CPC are cravenly using the niqab to push hot buttons during this election.

The political cartoon above suggests the niqab issue will provide Harper with a "wind at his back" which he needs desperately needs to win the election race.

There are dozens of institutions that oppress women.  The niqab is the least of them but Harper's Attack Dingo™ Lynton Crosby has found one with formidable scaremongering OPTICS, right?

Susan Delacourt unpacks CPC doublespeak with regard to the niqab.

Rational people and critics of Harper's regime nail what the CPC tactic obfuscates:

This happened north of Ottawa last week. Basil Borutski 'allegedly' executed three women. How can this still occur, in Ontario, in 2015?
“Our systems need to try to pick out these warning signs sooner and do everything we can to provide safety and security,” [Illingworth] said. “There are absolutely gaps.”

The province’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, which works with the coroner’s office to review every domestic homicide in Ontario over more than a decade, has compiled a list of risk factors that “indicate the potential for lethality” within relationships or, to put it another way, a check-list to figure out the likelihood that an abuser will kill his partner.

Most of the boxes would be ticked off when it came to Borutski: a history of violence, an escalation of violence, obsessive behaviour, unemployment, isolation of victims and victims having an “intuitive sense of fear.”
From here:
Leighann Burns, the executive director of Ottawa women's shelter Harmony House, said many women feel that abusive men are not monitored closely enough after being released from jail, and that conditions placed on those who are released can, in some cases, easily be ignored.

"We hear from women routinely that the offences that men commit against them are not treated seriously in the criminal justice system," Burns said.

"Somebody who is lethally violent, who has clearly got no respect for the system or any sanctions that are meted out — there's not much that can be done, other than to lock him up or keep her hidden," she said.
So, probation officer are overworked, likely because of a large client load which, at the risk of provoking shrieks from Babs Kay, I will guess is 90% male offenders.

Remember Zainab, 19, Sahar, 17, and Geeti Shafia, 13, along with Rona Mohammad Amir, 50? Their bodies were found in the family’s Nissan, submerged in the Rideau Canal on June 30, 2009. The family members who killed them were able to "justify" their murders using the same twisted patriarchal ideology that motivated Borutski.  

Women "provoke" their murderers by defying the Gawd-given control entrusted to men to extract resources from women.  If women and girls refuse to provide men with what they want and demand, they're disposable.  They can be threatened, harmed, damaged, tortured and killed with impunity.  That chilling premise is the core of patriarchal extremism throughout the world.

So, the niqab? Just as oppressive as Harper's Hard-On Crime regime of venal liars who did NOTHING during their 9 years in government to make Canada safer for women and girls.

For a rueful chuckle to end my pessimistic rambling, check out my co-blogger's post about #CdnNiqab as well has the photos that folks posted on Twitter.

It's a Dog Eat Dog World in GOP Politics

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 10:21
Just how Tea Party does a Republican have to be now to get elected?  In North Carolina, Repug representative Renee Ellmers won office five years ago by defeating an incumbent Democrat she smeared for supporting a "Victory Mosque" in lower Manhattan.

Since then Renee's shown glimpses of moderation on women's reproductive rights, gay marriage and immigration - and it looks as though it's going to cost her. Ellmers' challenger, Kay Daly is bringing some firepower to the race.

Sunday Morning Links

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 09:44
This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Jennifer Wells writes about the drastic difference in pay between CEOs and everybody else. And Henry Farrell interviews Lauren Rivera about the advantage privileged children have in being able to rely on parents' social networks and funding rather than needing to learn or work for themselves:
One of your most counter-intuitive arguments is that students from working class and lower-middle class backgrounds are less likely to get elite jobs, because they concentrate on studying rather than their social life at college. That’s the opposite of what the conventional wisdom would suggest. How does these students’ devotion to academic seriousness hurt their job prospects?

LR – Working and lower-middle-class children are less likely to participate in structured extracurricular activities than their more privileged peers while growing up (and when they do, they tend to participate in fewer of them). This hurts their job prospects in two ways. First, it affects the types of schools students attend. Elite universities weigh extracurricular activities heavily in admissions decisions. Given that these employers—which offer some of the highest-paying entry-level jobs in the country—recruit almost exclusively at top schools, many students who focus purely on their studies will be out of the game long before they ever apply to firms. Second, employers also use extracurricular activities, especially those that are driven by “passion” rather than academic or professional interest and require large investments of time and money over many years, to screen résumés. But participation in these activities while in college or graduate school is not a luxury that all can afford, especially if someone needs to work long hours to pay the bills or take care of family members. Essentially, extracurriculars end up being a double filter on social class that disadvantages job applicants from more modest means both in entering the recruiting pipeline and succeeding within it.- In a similar vein, the Economist examines the high costs of living in poverty. And Justin Kong points out how an improved minimum wage would go a long way toward providing needed income security.

- Daryl Copeland discusses how the Cons have trashed Canada's reputation on the international stage, turning us from a productive partner into a pariah. And Derek Stoffel reports on how the tarnished perception of Canada as a country is extending far beyond the diplomatic sphere.

- Thomas Walkom writes that Ontario voters may learn a lesson from the political scene as Kathleen Wynne, one of the main faces of the federal Libs, collapses under the weight of scandals and broken promises.

- Finally, Alice Musabende raises the concern that Canada's political parties are being too quick to pull candidates over minor controversies.

Nationalize and deliver

Dawg's Blawg - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 09:00
Neoliberal capitalism is suffering from a sort of erectile dysfunction that not even the Viagra of quantitative easing (QE) is able to cure consistently. Central bank nterest rates are stuck at effectively zero, with the slightest hint of an... Mandos

On accurate readings

accidentaldeliberations - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 08:48
Paul Barber offers a rundown of the problems with an overreliance on polls, while Heather Libby goes further and suggests that we ignore national polls altogether. But I'll follow up on the argument I've made before that rather than taking any concerns about poll data as a basis for throwing polling out the window altogether, we should instead treat them as reasons for caution in interpreting useful information.

Barber focuses largely on the methodological issues involved in trying to get a representative sample from an electorate in which people are less and less inclined to respond to requests to participate in the first place. And there are certainly reasons to question each of the workarounds on their own.

That said, if we face the choice of either (a) lending at least some credence to the view that each methodology might have some merit while using competing polls (and ultimately electoral results) as a check, (b) buying completely into one style of poll and thus excluding all other data, or (c) trusting no polling information at all and thus relying solely on parties and pundits to tell us where an election stands, I'd have a hard time seeing how we're well served by any option other than (a).

And fortunately, the poll information we have is then compiled in ways which makes it relatively easy to analyze national-level data. So while we should absolutely question whether a single poll tells the full story (particularly in its subsamples), we can check with public aggregators for both a big-picture look at the national race, and a test as to the plausibility of new polling information.

Of course, those sites focus largely on the national level. So what about Libby's view that there's a meaningful distinction between national and riding-level poll data, and that we should pay attention only to the latter?

The problem there lies in the limited number of riding-level polls actually conducted. Parties, pollsters and media outlets may decide to conduct polls in ridings of particular interest - but we should have learned by now that national and regional trends make a huge difference in determining what ridings actually affect electoral outcomes in the first place. And then, if a small number of polls are conducted in a riding, a single skewed sample or methodological issue can grossly warp the results.

Again, those are cautions as to the use of riding-level data alone. But if we can compare a single-riding poll to see how it fits into broader national or regional pictures, then we have a far better chance of finding the right balance between the two.

And that should be our ultimate goal. While some partisans who should know better have been particularly motivated to cherry-pick polls to tell only the story they want told, the fact is that all polling information is potentially useful if we recognize its limitations. And rather than looking for excuses to throw out some or all of the data we have based on either partisan preference or methodological squabbles, we should instead be incorporating it into a full analysis of what's happening around us.

It Gets Worse - They Knew, Years Ago

The Disaffected Lib - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 08:01

Volkswagen officials knew, at least as far back as 2011, that their diesel engine emissions software was rigged.

A Volkswagen engineer warned the company about cheating over its emission tests as early 2011, a German newspaper reports.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung says the warning emerged during VW's current investigation into the scandal.

Separately, Bild am Sonntag said the internal inquiry had found that parts supplier Bosch had warned Volkswagen not to use its software illegally.

One of VW's own engineers blew the whistle on the gamey software years ago. Bosch also warned Volkswagen. Two warnings that have surfaced so far and yet the company kept churning out these cars, kept them flooding onto the streets of Europe, Canada and elsewhere for years right up until they were exposed.


According to The Globe and Mail, VW officials knew about the rigged software much earlier, 2007, right from the start. That was the date of the warning letter from Bosch.

Stephen Harper and the Ghastly Cowardice of the Cons

Montreal Simon - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 06:16

There are now just three weeks to go before the election that will decide the fate of Canada, and we find out whether it will live or die. 

And it's hard to escape a feeling of foreboding now that we know for sure how Stephen Harper and his twisted Aussie gremlin Lynton Crosby are hoping to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

By having Harper pose a Great Warrior Leader, the sheriff of the manly men Con posse, who would PROTECT us all the dangers of the world, from economic catastrophe to an invasion of refugees and hookers.

Even though we all know the nerd Harper couldn't be less of a warrior, or more of a coward...
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Word On The Street

Politics and its Discontents - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 05:48

I'm heading to Toronto this morning for Word On The Street, the annual celebration of the written word that is always a worthwhile experience.

At noon, I am hoping to get a seat in the Toronto Star Tent, where Tim Harper, Thomas Walkom and Bruce Campion-Smith will be discussing the upcoming federal election.

At 2:00 p.m., Kevin Page will be discussing his new book, What Happened to Politics? at the Bestsellers Stage. Unfortunately, he will be sharing the stage with Bob Rae.

If you live near Toronto, perhaps I'll see you there. I'll be wearing a black JazzFM91 cap.Recommend this Post

On The Way Out

Northern Reflections - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 03:23

It's not easy to tell the truth -- particularly when people don't want to hear it. Linda McQuaig caused something of a political firestorm awhile back for suggesting that -- if we're really serious about climate change -- most of the black goo in northern Alberta will have to stay in the ground. Yonatan Strauch and Thomas Homer-Dixon write that the numbers back up McQuaig:

The math says that having a safe climate requires leaving huge oil reserves in the ground. To avert warming so catastrophic we can’t adapt to it – generally thought to be about 2 degrees C above pre-industrial temperatures – the atmosphere can absorb only so much carbon.

This is known as the global carbon budget. According to the International Energy Agency’s 450 scenario, staying within this budget requires more than half of fossil fuel reserves to remain unburned. Most importantly for Canada, even with sharp limits on coal emissions world oil consumption soon peaks below 100 million barrels per day – not far above current levels of consumption – and then declines to around 80 mb/d in 2035.  Stephen Harper has bet the Canadian economy on the oil sands. But, even as he was placing that bet, the action at the tables was changing. 
Consider what has happened to coal:

Ten years ago, coal was a solid investment. Consumption was growing fast; meanwhile, solar and wind power were relatively expensive. Today, investment banks like Citigroup and HSBC warn the coal industry is in permanent decline, while noting that renewables are increasingly competitive. Of course, in the U.S. cheap natural gas from fracking has played a big part in coal’s shifting fortunes. But the rapidly falling cost of renewables has been important too.
The same fate could await oil: 
What’s happening to coal could easily happen to oil. Global demand could soften far sooner than currently seems possible, thanks to a combination of carbon policy, increased vehicle and infrastructure efficiency, and electric vehicle growth driven by plummeting battery costs. This is an energy innovation scenario we should be betting on, not against. 
But Harper -- and Canadians in general -- won't talk about what's happening. They refuse to look at the math:
It’s no wonder many Canadians don’t want to discuss these hard numbers. For Canada to become a fossil-fuel “energy superpower” the world has to blow its carbon budget. The price of oil has to stay above $80 a barrel long enough to justify long-term investments in oilsands infrastructure. A modest carbon tax could buy us some social license. And for a few short and shameful decades, Canada could profit from climate destruction.But this alternative scenario seems increasingly unlikely. In a world evermore worried about climate catastrophe, Canada is probably going to find it ever harder to expand the oilsands. As global markets for oil shrink, the highest-cost highest-carbon oil will be left in the ground first—and that’s our oil. This will make the current oil down-turn look like a walk in the park.
What's happening in Alberta these days is a canary in the coal mine. And coal mines are on the way out.

Jason Kenney and Lynton Crosby's New and Dangerous Wedge Issue

Montreal Simon - Sun, 09/27/2015 - 02:21

Well don't say I didn't warn you. In one of my last posts I wrote that Jason Kenney would go absolutely wild at the thought that Justin Trudeau was going after the so-called ethnic vote. 

And yesterday that's exactly what he did, 

In a grotesque three-act performance or freak show that began with him trying to smear Trudeau in a way that couldn't be more bizarre or obscene. 
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Kyle McKee A Little Fuzzy On Definition Of Freedom Of Speech Part III

Anti-Racist Canada - Sat, 09/26/2015 - 14:28
With news that Jesse Rau, the former probationary bus driver in Calgary who was fired because he refused to drive a bus painted to support Pride events.... even though he was specifically told he would not be assigned to the bus prior to his public temper tantrum, is running a Christian Heritage Party candidate for Parliament, we thought it might be fun to take a look to see what one of his biggest supporters is currently up to.

When last we discussed this issue, McKee had set up a GoFundMe page to help out pay his $5000.00 fine. GoFundMe suspended the campaign, then inexplicably permitted it to continue, before finally suspending the campaign for good.

The claim of having raised $500 strikes us as somewhat unconvincing, but who knows? Maybe McKee found himself a sugar daddy of some sort who has stepped up to help him with his fine?

At this point we figured that this would be the end of the issue unless McKee failed to pay the fine and ended up in jail. But we didn't count on long time Stormfront member "Cydonia" deciding to contribute her wisdom and legal expertise.

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Suzuki's "Sanctimonious Crap"

The Disaffected Lib - Sat, 09/26/2015 - 14:04
In the red corner, Trudeau. In the green corner, Suzuki. The bell sounds, it's on.

Justin Trudeau might as well have been speaking for the leaders of all the major parties when he referred to David Suzuki's policy on shutting down the Athabasca Tar Sands as "sanctimonious crap."

The renowned scientist, broadcaster and activist says Trudeau called him personally June 28, 2015 to talk about the Liberal platform on climate change that was to be revealed the next day. “I didn’t call Justin, he called me,” Suzuki said. “He wanted an endorsement and he wanted to tell me exactly what his program was.”

For the record: Justin Trudeau’s speech on the environment: June 29, 2015

The program includes support for the Keystone XL pipeline, a rejection of the Northern Gateway pipeline and a commitment to work with the provinces to establish a cap-and-trade system.

“I said, ‘Justin, stop it, you’re just being political, you just want to make headway in Alberta,’” Suzuki says he told Trudeau. “You’re for the development of the tar sands, you’re for the Keystone pipeline, but you’re against the Northern Gateway, you’re all over the damn map!”

Suzuki went on to advise Trudeau that taking the target of a 2 degree rise in temperature seriously means 80 per cent of the oil sands has to stay in the ground. Suzuki believes stopping oil sands development will mean “no debate about pipelines or expanding railways or shipping stuff offshore—none of that comes into it.”

Suzuki says this is when the exchange turned nasty. “He said, ‘I don’t have to listen to this sanctimonious crap. I proceeded to call him a twerp.”

Suzuki says he has not spoken to Thomas Mulcair or Stephen Harper about their climate change or their plans for the environment. “My feeling is that none of the parties except for the Greens is really taking it seriously.”
I have to admit being sorely tempted to set aside my commitment to the Green Party and vote strategically in this election, but I can't. Whether it's Trudeau, Mulcair or Harper, they all support the continuation of the Tar Sands fiasco bickering among themselves only as to the best way to get dilbit to "tidewater." That's the stuff of petro-politics and petro-politics today is the politics of nihilism.

I just can't do it. I cannot vote for any of them.


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