Why yes, I do indeed see pee

Alberta’s political landscape has been shifting rapidly in the past few months, and I just haven’t had time to write about it. Now that the dust is starting to settle, we can get back to business as usual in the Texas of Canada. Starting with: The you-see-pee.

By now it can’t have escaped the attention of anyone who follows Alberta politics that members of the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties have voted to merge their parties into a single political entity by percentages worthy of a North Korean election.

The Yes vote percentage for both parties was, coincidentally, 95 per cent – that is to say, for those of you who like to know these things to the precise percentage point, 94.9 per cent for the PCs now led by Jason Kenney and 95.4 per cent for the Wildrosers now led by Brian Jean.

While the favourable result was not unexpected, it seems likely a merger endorsement with numbers that stratospheric should be enough to settle down any remaining conspiratorially minded skeptics in Wildrose ranks about the outcome of the vote in spite of Friday’s party PIN problems.

The numbers of PCs and Wildrosers who voted to create the “United Conservative Party” – the Alberta right’s answer to the Vulcan mind meld – were curiously similar too.

A total of 24,598 Wildrosers voted, and 23,466 said yes to the merger, while 27,060 PCs voted and 25,692 said yes. The Wildrosers said that was about 60 per cent of the voters eligible, the CBC reported from the party’s special meeting yesterday in Red Deer. The Conservatives don’t seem to have said, but with a claimed membership of around 50,000, the turnout would be about 55 per cent. Given the importance of the vote, the turnout is probably a worthy topic of some future interpretation.

In the mean time, it almost seemed as if the same people were voting in both parties – which, come to think of it, may have been the case!

Given that the raging, foaming misogynist redneck vote was split between the Dickweeds and Regressive Preservatives, it is in fact a possibility that enough ridings will swing back into nihilist neocon hands in the next election to unseat our refreshingly reality-based government. It’s way too far off to make a reasonable prediction with any degree of accuracy–but most commentators (who aren’t highly paid conservative pundits–so, nobody in print news) agree that it means, at minimum, a harder campaign for the New Democratic Party.

So now that country bumpkins, racist asshats, Christian theocrats, and alt-right goons have rallied under one banner, what have they been up to with their new found unity?

AtG favourite Derek Fildebrant has been grifting taxpayers to subsidize his renting scheme. Subsidies? What a communist! Also that surely meets some definition of “misappropriation of funds.”

Jason “I don’t get caught up in the details” Kenney has still been vowing to publicly out every student who joins a student-run gay-straight alliance in public school.

And Brian Jean wants to gut healthcare’s budget to post-Ralph Klein levels. Despite the fact that we are twice as populous as we were then (effectively making his proposal a 75% reduction in the healthcare budget). Hey, at least if you start dying in the emergency room, you won’t have to pay for an ambulance!

In other words: I fucking told y’all so.

There are no moderate conservatives. There are only criminals and fools in denial.

-Shiv

Four days. Zero arrests.

Meanwhile, in Durham County:

RALEIGH, N.C.—More protesters were arrested Wednesday for participating in a demonstration that toppled a Confederate statue in North Carolina.

The statue in Durham came down Monday night when a protester climbed a ladder to attach a rope and demonstrators on the ground pulled the bronze soldier from its pedestal.

On Wednesday, Dante Strobino and Ngoc Loan Tran were led away in handcuffs when they came to a court hearing for the woman who climbed the ladder.

The Durham County Sheriff’s office said Tran and Strobino are charged with two felonies related to inciting and participating in a riot that damaged property. The woman who climbed the ladder, Takiyah Thompson, was charged with the same counts Tuesday.

The three are affiliated with the Workers World Party, which helped organize the Durham protest in response to deadly violence over the weekend during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

That took less than a day.

Still waiting for a single fucking white supremacist to be arrested for their participation in their riot.

-Shiv

Remember this when not a single white supremacist is arrested for their Charlottesville participation

The Department of Justice produced a warrant to acquire the IPs, email addresses and content, and contact information the 1.3 million people who have visited the DisruptJ20 website. This is relation to the J20 protest where over 200 defendants are still facing a stiffer sentence than the Charlottesville murderer for wearing the same colours as someone who broke a window.

-Shiv

Oh look the deficit spending did exactly what it was supposed to do

It’s almost as if we have data on this or something.

While Conservatives busy themselves self-immolating over the government’s choice to deficit spend, the economy moved the fuck on and responded exactly as predicted:

Alberta’s economy is more than just back on its feet, it’s about to run faster than any other region in Canada.

Gross domestic product in the western province will rise by 2.9 percent this year, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists, up from an April estimate of 2.5 percent. That matches forecasts for neighbouring British Columbia, and in 2018 Alberta comes out on top with a 2.4 percent expansion that would be tops among Canada’s 10 provinces.

It’s a huge comeback from Alberta’s last place finish in each of the last two years when oil prices plummeted below $50 a barrel, triggering layoffs and an investment freeze that shrank GDP by about 4 percent. The rebound is another sign Canada may retain its top spot among Group of Seven nations as economic growth diversifies away from consumer spending.

Step two, of course, is the part that really gets the Conservatives excited–Keynesian spending requires taxation during the booms. It remains to be seen whether this will be the case. Conservatives tend to shriek “Greece!” the moment someone suggests 8 hours is not an adequate response time in the emergency room, but they do have a point. You have to balance the budget eventually, and a boom is the best time to do just that. Just running a deficit is the easy part, the real test will be whether Alberta’s NDP or the Canadian Liberals actually shear their capitalist sheep. The saying is “tax and spend,” not just “spend,” after all.

-Shiv

The transition from “purge” to “genocide”

In Turkey, convicted criminals do not have to wear uniforms in prison, and accused individuals may wear what they want while still under trial.

At least, that used to be true, until Turkey commissioned orange jumpsuits just for suspects linked to the Gulen movement.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said on Monday that Justice Ministry officials are working to design a special uniform for suspects who are allegedly linked with the faith-based Gülen movement and accused of attempting to stage a coup in July 2016 to wear during court hearings.

Speaking to reporters following a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Kurtulmuş said: “Our [Justice] Ministry is working on it. There is a high demand from the public. Court hearings are open to the public, so it is more appropriate to bring suspects before the court in uniforms.”

One of the suspects on trial for an assassination attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the night of July 15 2016 was thrown out of the courtroom for wearing a T-shirt bearing the word “hero” because it caused tension between the parties during the hearing.

Mustafa Doğan İnal, a lawyer representing Erdoğan, asked the suspect, former master sergeant Gökhan Güçlü, to stand up during the hearing.
“Suspect Gökhan Güçlü came to the courtroom wearing a ‘kahraman’ [hero in Turkish] T-shirt. There are no heroes here. This is a challenge against the government,” İnal said and demanded that he take the T-shirt off.

After a quarrel between the lawyers, presiding judge Emirşah Baştoğ called a recess and asked everyone to leave the courtroom.

Demanding that Güçlü change his shirt, the prosecutor for the case said the word on the T-shirt sent a certain message and disturbed the discipline of the hearing.

Baştoğ ruled that the suspect should be brought to the courtroom after changing his T-shirt on the grounds that it “led to arguments and disturbed the atmosphere of the hearing.”
Güçlü, who said he did not want to attend the hearing, was sent back to prison.

With regard to the “hero” T-shirt issue, Erdoğan said: “We recently spoke to Mr. Prime Minister. They should wear uniforms like they do at Guantanamo [prison] when going to court.”

On Saturday, a textile manufacturer told CNN Türk that he is willing to donate 50,000 jumpsuits that he designed for people jailed over links to the Gülen movement across the country. Orange color jumpsuits resemble prison uniforms that are used in the United States and the Guantanamo prison.

According to the private İhlas news agency, the textile firm that manufactures the “hero” T-shirts stopped production after discussions with the police. The T-shirts were withdrawn from sale in stores and online, İhlas said.

I’m calling it. This is officially the switch from “purge” to “genocide.” We already know what happens when you single out a group of people for a special marker.

-Shiv

It was hard-fought for by Northern Irish pro-choice activists

I was surprised to learn a couple years ago that the United Kingdom’s supposedly National Health Service could be overridden by a local ordinance. Northern Irish residents, despite being British citizens, were being denied NHS coverage for abortions that the NHS provided to any other British citizen, simply because Northern Ireland as a region is still living in the bronze age when it comes to reproductive freedom laws.

I am pleased to see this will no longer be the case.  The Guardian reports on all the complexities:

The government has announced a major concession to give Northern Irish women access to terminations on the NHS in Great Britain, in an attempt to head off a damaging Tory rebellion at a vote on the Queen’s speech.

(Par for the course, Conservatives need to have a political knife at their throats to advance on human rights law.)

Dozens of Conservative MPs were understood to have expressed to Tory whips their support for an amendment by the Labour MP Stella Creasy to allow Northern Irish women access to NHS-funded abortions in Great Britain. It was due to be voted on this afternoon.

And Philip Hammond told the Commons that the government would fund abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland.

Women from Northern Ireland are currently charged about £900 for a termination if they travel to have the procedure in mainland Britain, a policy upheld by a supreme court case earlier this month. Northern Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and it is almost impossible for a women to have an abortion legally there.

In a letter to MPs outlining the new funding, the education secretary and equalities minister, Justine Greening, hinted she had personal sympathy with the issue. She wrote: “As minister for women and equalities, I share the concerns of many colleagues about the experience of women from Northern Ireland obtaining an abortion through the NHS in England.”

She added: “At present women from Northern Ireland are asked for payment and from now on it is our proposal that this will no longer happen. This is clearly a sensitive issue and one which has direct implications for equality in treatment of women from Northern Ireland.”

Greening said that the Equalities Office would fund the payments for the terminations with additional funding for health services. “This will mean no English health service user is disadvantaged as a result of this change,” she wrote. “Funding for the services will be made available through the government Equalities Office, allowing the Department of Health to commission services in England for those from Northern Ireland.

Regardless of the circumstances, I am happy for Northern Irish residents. However, the coverage will not include travel costs, as I understand the Northern Irish government will still refuse to supply the service. This means the prior problem of poor women being unable to access appropriate care remains.

The Guardian also reported on its live coverage of the government’s concession a fracture in the Tories–seven of them defecting to stand with Labour & co. on the issue of reproductive freedom. This is a serious development considering the last election delivered no majority parties. The Tories have been trying to set for a “confidence & supply” arrangement with the Democratic Unionists, a far-right fundamentalist party, but even those negotiations seem to be deteriorating.

If we’re lucky, this is a sign that Labour might be able to punch above its weight again in the future.

-Shiv

Where is the “sky is falling” crew when you need them?

Postmedia, the corporate near-monopoly on Canadian news outlets, is heavily invested in convincing the public that the same austerity which got us into the mess we’re in is the solution to our problems, because the filthy rich owners of Postmedia don’t want to pay taxes. An entire genre of “the sky is falling” hit pieces have graced print media for the past couple years as Canada’s left-wing governments engage in Keynesian economics to keep things running during the recession. Debt and deficit hysteria has given corporate oligarchs a convenient fig leaf, with cries of “but the credit rating!” concealing the grumbling about their dues to society.

By every reasonable metric, the Albertan NDP have been the most competent leadership the province has seen in years.

By contrast, corporate oligarchs are getting exactly what they want in Saskatchewan–and yet, it has not arrested Saskatchewan debt either, causing their credit rating to continue tanking.

Yesterday was the longest day of the year, and Standard & Poor’s chose the summer equinox to downgrade Saskatchewan’s credit rating from AA+ to AA.

It was the second time in the past 12 months Saskatchewan’s credit rating has been dropped by the famous New York credit rating agency, whose pronouncements are taken ever so seriously by conservative opposition parties here in Alberta.

But you could have waited all day and long after sunset – which took place at 10:07 p.m. here in the capital of Alberta, if you were wondering – to see a press release from either the Wildrose Party or the Progressive Conservative Party condemning Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and his conservative Saskatchewan Party government for this obvious failing.

Funny, that!

Because it’s certainly never taken this long for an angry press release to appear from the offices of either of Alberta’s two main conservative political parties when the same thing happened to Alberta’s New Democratic Party Government for the same reasons.

It turns out that increasing debt caused by keeping the lights on in resource dependent provinces in the face of low oil, natural gas and other resource prices has had pretty much the same effect in Saskatchewan governed by conservatives as it has had in Alberta governed by social democrats.

That said, a good economic case can be made that Alberta will be in far better shape as both provinces recover from the downturn because the NDP has not laid waste to health care, education and other public services, as the Saskatchewan Party is doing.

Regardless, when Standard & Poor’s downgraded Alberta’s credit rating for the second time, from AA+ to AA last month, the Wildrose press releasecalled it a “disastrous credit downgrade.”

“This is totally unacceptable,” wailed Wildrose Leader Brian Jean, who is already a candidate to lead the still-unbirthed United Conservative Party.

“Credit rating agencies don’t care what politicians say, they care what they do, and the NDP are doing nothing but dithering while Alberta’s deficit spirals out of control,” shrieked Wildrose Finance Critic Derek Fildebrandt, another UCP leadership candidate.

The real motive of the you-see-pee (United Conservative Party) has nothing to do with the provincial government’s credit rating, and everything to do with the same smash-and-grab that allowed capitalists to loot the public sector during a downturn, leaving the little guy to eat the recession while the capitalists sip martinis in the Cayman Islands.

I hope Alberta’s blue collar recognizes that.

-Shiv