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Lately I've been horning around the New York area and found myself attending a couple of big-wig academic talks. Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winning economist and professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School (not to mention New York Times hack) gave a talk last Wednesday in which he laid out the thesis of his new book The Return of Depression Economics (actually an update of 1999 book he wrote about the collapse of the Asian economies).

According to the great man, unless the United States actually increases the amount of government subsidy to spur growth in the economy - and sooner rather than later - he's concerned that the States could repeat the so called "lost decade" suffered by the Japanese economy throughout the 1990s. Following the collapse of a credit bubble Japan dried up it's financial resources sustaining its financial institutions - so called "zombie-firms" - and as a result suffered relatively high levels of post-war unemployment combined with virtually no growth.

If Krugman is anywhere near right, you'd imagine that this could be bad news for Stephen Harper. In fact I suspect that an economy that - as Krugman put it - "just sort of bumps along" rather than coming to the edge of the abyss (as it did last fall) probably favours the Tories since it's unlikely that any alternate policy arrangement would make much of a difference. In the meantime Steve-O keeps the cash tap open for Tory and swing ridings and waits for the Grits to knife Ig in the front.

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And speaking of which, on Friday evening I sat through a talk at the Institute for Advanced Study by Georgetown University law professor David Cole. Cole is the leading researcher/advocate on so-called torture light. He's been writing and speaking non stop on the importance of holding accountable the various levels of the bar and the judiciary who green lit the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Particularly gruesome was his rehashing of a series of secret memos from the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel which even after the enhanced techniques had come to light, and even after the administration had publically repudiated them, continued to provide a legal justification for their continued use. What Cole points out is that these weren't hacks and yes men doling out this advice but "the best of the best," former Supreme Court clerks and at least one sitting federal circuit court judge, Jay Bybee author of the infamous Bybee memo.

It'll be interesting to see what use in an election campaign the Tories make of Michael Ignatieff's book The Lesser Evil, which provided an intellectual justification for enhancing interrogation techniques. It's a two-edged sword for sure as Canada's record in Afghanistan in this regard isn't exactly spotless.

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