Friday, August 31, 2007

Sighting of 100 to 200 deluded individuals in Washington, D.C.

The bizarro world:
Karl Rove just left the White House, and he was saluted by 100 to 200 White House staffers who stood and cheered, some holding signs, as he got into his car and departed.

New York Times photographer Doug Mills was walking by the driveway between the West Wing and the Executive Office Building when he saw the departure, which had not been announced by the White House.

Today was Mr. Rove's last day at the White House, after having worked for President Bush for 14 years.

Some of the signs read "We'll miss you," said Mr. Mills, adding that Mr. Rove got into the passenger seat of his Jaguar, which was driven by an unidentified person.
I'm all choked up...

Public service announcement addressed to Conservatives

Here is your election spending limit for the upcoming Quebec by-elections from Elections Canada:
Normally this would just be an administrative, oh, file that away, kind of announcement. But given the news of your "in and out" scheme propagated in the last federal election, it seems to me that you guys need to be reminded that limits are limits. That $171,996.88 means just that. Not to be supplemented by the federal Conservatives buying ads for the locals.

We know you guys need every advantage possible...:) But just so we're clear...

The "possibility of prosecution" and the Conservatives' election spending scheme

The Globe takes the Conservatives to task in an editorial today explaining the highly suspect ad scheme that the Conservatives unhatched in the last federal election and what it means. My thoughts on this today are after the excerpt:
During the last election campaign, as federal Conservatives were vehemently attacking Liberal misdeeds, they were apparently resorting to highly irregular ploys to pay for their expenses. Party officials transferred money to local constituencies and then requested the return of that money to pay for regional advertising buys. Now local Conservative riding representatives are suing Elections Canada in Federal Court, asking for reimbursement of those expenses. Meanwhile, at the request of the Chief Electoral Officer, the Commissioner of Canada Elections is scrutinizing the Tory scheme to see whether the party's chief agent should be prosecuted for violation of the Canada Elections Act.

Whatever the outcome, the mess reflects badly on the party. During the 2006 campaign, the Conservatives proclaimed they would be accountable and transparent even as they were implementing a scheme that apparently circumvented their $18.3-million spending limit. They spent every dime of that allotment, but also transferred about $1.2-million to local candidates who had not spent their own personal maximums. That money was then given back to the party to buy regional ads that were not focused on those individual candidates.

The court case has been a revelation. Ottawa returns 60 per cent of the election expenses of individual candidates if they receive at least 10 per cent of the votes in their riding. When Elections Canada refused to pay for some candidates' advertising tabs, a lawsuit for reimbursement was filed in the name of 34 Conservative supporters. This week, as that list dropped to two official agents for two candidates, the Conservatives maintained that these were "representative cases" that could apply to the other ridings.

But the official agent for the Quebec riding of Richmond-Arthabaska told The Globe and Mail two days ago that she did not know that her name was part of the original case against Elections Canada. The riding's former Tory MP, Jean Landry, said the party deposited $26,000 in his campaign account and then used it to buy advertising that was not specifically related to his campaign. "It wasn't for me," he said. The Tories counter this damaging remark by claiming that Mr. Landry is now flirting with the Liberals.

This is no petty matter. The Canada Elections Act specifically forbids any attempt to circumvent the rules against exceeding limits on campaign spending. Depending on whether an offence was voluntary or not, a party's chief agent could face a fine of up to $5,000 or a jail sentence of up to five years, or both.

The mere possibility of prosecution is a setback for the Conservatives, who promised to do better.
Election-financing rules are not made to be conveniently thwarted. Too clever by half is not clever at all. (emphasis added)
First of all, good for the Globe for shining a light on this mess. Playing fast and loose with election spending is the last thing anybody - especially the Harper Conservatives - should have been doing in the last election. Particularly in Quebec where the sensitivities to impropriety in spending on ads would have been most acute and where the standards followed, not to mention the law, should have been pristine for political parties. Can you imagine, in the wake of the sponsorship scandal and running on the issue, the Conservatives having the chutzpah to attempt such a scheme?

So I'm not surprised that two former Conservative candidates from Quebec, Landry and Martellli, quite willingly told Elections Canada what they knew. That the federal Conservative money they received was not for them. In Martelli's words, it was "scheming. It was money that went "in and out"." These guys likely didn't want to mess around with election spending laws in a politically sensitive climate. They objected when they found out, after the fact, that a lawsuit had been started by the federal party, in their names, to get this money back from taxpayers. In contrast to Martelli and Landry, there are apparently others who have not paid attention to the lessons learned over the past few years.

And the partisan mudslinging from the Conservatives in response to Landry's cooperation with Elections Canada is telling. Landry's flirting with the Liberals now according to the Conservatives. You see, they're playing in Karl Roveland. Attack any notion of objective truth by alleging partisanship. Annnnhhhhh, irrelevant. Alleging partisan ties won't make invoices for advertising magically appear. What's next? Are they going to accuse Elections Canada of being Liberals too? This attempt to undermine the facts by alleging partisanship should be seen for what it likely is, a desperate attempt to shade accountability.

"No petty matter" the Globe writes. That's for sure.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The bell was tolling for Gonzo

More than we knew, that is. The NY Times is reporting in tomorrow's paper that Gonzo was under investigation for his recent statements to congress by his own Justice Department. Yep, that's enough to send an A.G. out the door, even a Bush A.G.:
The Justice Department’s internal watchdog disclosed Thursday that he was investigating whether sworn statements to Congress by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales were “intentionally false, misleading or inappropriate.”

The disclosure, by Glenn A. Fine, the department’s inspector general, came in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee and was the first official confirmation that Mr. Gonzales was under investigation within the executive branch over the truthfulness of his testimony. The committee’s chairman, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, had requested the inquiry this month.

For weeks, lawmakers from both parties have questioned whether Mr. Gonzales told the truth in sworn statements to Congress on a number of issues, including his involvement in efforts to preserve the National Security Agency’s program of wiretapping without warrants, as well as his role in last year’s dismissals of several United States attorneys for what appeared to be political reasons.

It was not clear if the investigation by the inspector general was tied to Mr. Gonzales’s announcement on Monday that he was resigning from the Justice Department, effective next month. He has offered no details for the reasoning behind his resignation or its timing, and his announcement caught top aides by surprise.
Where this perjury investigation might be going:
The inspector general’s office does not have the ability to bring criminal charges. If Mr. Fine finds credible evidence of perjury or other wrongdoing by Mr. Gonzales or his senior aides, precedent indicates that he will refer the information to criminal prosecutors, possibly at the quasi-independent public integrity division of the Justice Department.
No timeline disclosed. Could it be that this is a sign that impartial justice is yet alive and well in the bowels of the Justice Department?

More on the Conservatives' own adscam

The Citizen's document review seems to narrow the ad buy scheme to Quebec in the days following Harper's "open federalism" speech. A beau risque taken, playing fast and loose with election spending rules, in the hopes of attaining that magical majority? Details from the Citizen suggest a concentrated ad buy that could have made a significant difference in gaining the Conservative seats in Quebec:
The Conservative party launched a program to shift more than $1.2 million in advertising money to Tory candidates during the 2006 election after Stephen Harper delivered a speech on federalism that became the key plank in the party's Quebec campaign.

With the Conservatives seeking a breakthrough in the province, the party began shuffling hundreds of thousands of dollars to agents for Tory candidates in a string of ridings from Gatineau to Quebec City. The agents then channelled the cash back to national party headquarters to pay for large-scale media buys.

A Citizen review of election filings shows that Conservative candidates in Quebec reported paying the federal party $527,000 for radio and TV ads beginning on Jan. 3, 2006 -- two weeks after Mr. Harper promised a "freer federalism" under a Conservative government in a crucial speech in Quebec City.

Mr. Harper's address raised the party's Quebec profile to a new level at the midpoint of an extraordinarily long federal election campaign, and was later seen as a key factor behind the capture of 10 Quebec seats on Jan. 23. The 10 ridings were all in the area blanketed by the Conservative ads.

Conservative support in Quebec public opinion polls rose steadily after Mr. Harper's speech. Through the series of transfers, the party was able to fund advertising in Quebec to capitalize on its surging popularity in the final stretch of the campaign.

Elections Canada has refused to accept the advertising expenses listed by Conservative candidates in the transfer scheme, citing an absence of evidence that they were incurred by the candidates claiming them. At least two Conservatives told Elections Canada auditors they believed the expenses claimed by candidates were, in fact, "national" advertising. Two former Quebec candidates have since told the Citizen the ads were for the larger campaign and did not publicize their own campaigns.

After Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand referred the transactions to the federal elections commissioner for investigation last April, 34 official agents for Conservative candidates took Mr. Mayrand to Federal Court in an attempt to overturn the decision rejecting the expense claims.

If the decision to disallow expenses from the $1.2 million in media buys stands, the Conservatives could be required to count that advertising in the national campaign budget. That would push the Tories over their $18.3-million spending limit for the national campaign, in violation of the Elections Act.

The Conservatives say they are in full compliance with the elections law. The ads in question carried the tagline indicating they were authorized by the official agents of the local candidates, the party says, and candidates were invoiced via the party for the ads. (emphasis added)
And of course, they're fighting Elections Canada tooth and nail now. For as you read this, it certainly appears that the decision's been made by Elections Canada. The Conservatives, in the eyes of Elections Canada, are in violation of the spending limits because the expense claims by local candidates have been disallowed.

Mr. Harper likes to describe himself like this:
Mr. Harper has spent his political career standing up and speaking out for Canadians who work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules. (emphasis added)
He frequently cites Canadians who "play by the rules" in political speeches.

This is a foundational issue that once again goes to the Conservatives' accountability. Accountability for all others, at all costs, not so much for them.

(h/t to Ken Chapman who's writing about this too)

Conservative election spending scheme blown wide open

The fight the Conservatives have been having, quietly until this week, with Elections Canada is full on in the public spotlight now. Further developments reported in the Globe today suggest the glare's gotten too damn hot. 2 former Conservative candidates are publicly distancing themselves from the matter and raising questions that Harper and his government are going to have to answer about their too cute by half election spending scheme in the last federal election. These candidates are likely embarrassed at their having been included, apparently without their own knowledge, in the Conservative party's highly questionable effort to recover money from the taxpayers as a result of that same election scheme. Needless to say, it's a must read today. Mini Bush has blown to kingdom come any political advantage he may have had over the Liberals in the arena of spending on ads and ethical, lawful practices in doing so.

With reports this week having raised suspicions about the Conservative party's overspending in the last election, it looks like the Conservatives are trying to back off their fight with Elections Canada. After all, it certainly looked bad on 2 fronts. First, because they allegedly overspent in the federal campaign by $1.2 million, in violation of election laws. In a campaign in which they were hammering the Liberals for adscam. And secondly, the reports indicated that 37 financial officers for candidates were now seeking reimbursement - from the taxpayers - for that same-day scheme whereby the federal party transferred the $1.2 million to local candidates and immediately back for ad buys. That money was Conservative party money that went "in and out" of Conservative hands in a matter of hours. Why should taxpayers be reimbursing them for it?

All of a sudden, we learn today, it's no longer 37 financial officers seeking reimbursement. It's suddenly just 2 and these are being called "representative" applicants. But what's big here is the following. One of the now "dropped" financial officers (one of the former group of 37 - or 34, both numbers have been reported) says she didn't know about the case and more significantly, the candidate she acted for in the election - and a second candidate - are basically blowing the whistle on the spending scam:
Lise Vallières, who acted as the official agent for former MP Jean Landry in the Quebec riding of Richmond-Arthabaska, said yesterday she had just discovered that she was part of the initial case against Elections Canada. "Nobody ever asked anything of me," she said. In an interview, Mr. Landry complained that the Conservative Party placed $26,000 in his campaign account during the last election, and then used it to buy advertising that was not specifically related to his own campaign.

"It wasn't for me," Mr. Landry said of the ads.

Elections Canada reimburses 60 per cent of the election expenses of candidates who get at least 10 per cent of the votes in their riding.

Mr. Landry reached the 10-per-cent threshold, but he said he does not qualify for a reimbursement on the $26,000 because he has no proof the advertising was authorized by his official agent.

"Elections Canada does not have to reimburse a cent, because we don't have invoices," Mr. Landry said.

Another defeated Conservative candidate in the last election, Liberato Martelli, referred to the financial transactions as "scheming." Mr. Martelli said he was specifically told by Conservative officials that the $14,000 that was deposited in his account was simply going "in and out." (emphasis added)
Scheming? I'd say. I say these two guys need to be brought in front of the appropriate Commons Committee, and, Elections Canada needs to get a hold of them and pronto. This case for reimbursement sounds just about ripe to be thrown out, as well it should be. These candidates make it clear it wasn't their money, it was federal money. The evidence of overspending by the federal Conservatives certainly looks like it's there. In which case, the full penalties applicable need to be applied to the Conservatives.

Go bloggers, slay those beasts

Hat tips due " Blogging a Dead Horse and Frank Frink for riding this beast into the ground" says Dr. Dawg. So let's give them their due.

That beast, of course, being the anti-democratic clusterf%#* perpetrated by the Conservative party in their bumbling attempt to subvert our elected representative government by "appointing" a liaison type person-thingy in the Skeena riding, thereby going around the elected NDP MP, Nathan Cullen. And now the CP story gets picked up in the Globe today.

I'm sure we'll all be on the alert for future beasts, which we know will come...:)

The Katrina anniversary

With all the coverage of Katrina's second anniversary, I thought this video done by the NY Times on the rebuilding of the levees interspersed with commentary from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and local residents was pretty insightful. Some of the residents are still, with good reason, suspicious as heck about the Corps, what it's up to and whether they're now being adequately protected. The interactive feature the Times had has additional video explaining developments around the city. Bush's appearance in the city yesterday was widely, and deservedly, panned by residents and critics. The Times-Picayune editorials from yesterday are well worth the read, particularly this one which decries the disproportionate funding Mississippi has received over Louisiana.

Olbermann's dramatization of the Senator Craig incident

Dragnet style...bravo...:) Check it out to see just how active Craig was, according to the police report's own details, in seeking out um, shall we say, attention, from the neighbouring stall occupant. By peering in, making foot motions and waving under the stall.

Dude, you're toast. Wave bye bye to your Senate buddies and head on back to old Idaho.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

PQ back in the lead in the Quebec polls

What's that you said recently, Mini Bush?
"I believe we are more united than at any point, than we have been, in four decades," said Harper, speaking in French.

"I believe the recognition of the Quebecois nation within a united Canada was an important step in our national reconciliation."
New poll out today:
Just five months after Quebec separatists suffered a heavy election defeat, support for pro-independence parties in the French-speaking Canadian province is on the rise, a poll showed on Wednesday.

The CROP survey for La Presse newspaper put backing for the Parti Quebecois at 33 percent, up from the 28 percent it received at the March 26 election.

The ruling Liberals -- led by unpopular Premier Jean Charest -- fell to third place, slipping to 27 percent support from 33 percent. The right-wing ADQ party dropped to 29 percent from 31 percent.
The CROP poll showed that 37 percent of Quebecers felt Marois would make the best premier, compared with 25 percent for ADQ leader Mario Dumont and just 22 percent for Charest.
Yes, that "nation" thing certainly has done the trick, hasn't it? Such polls underscore the folly of supporting such political gimmicks in the naive hope that they will permanently put to rest separatist aspirations. The popularity of Pauline Marois, a long time figure in Quebec politics may propel the PQ back into government with a nifty little "Quebec is a nation within Canada" present in her back pocket...

Canadian Press now on the BC Conservative "representative" story

There you go, all the bloggers who have been beating the drum on this story, your work is paying off: "Tory says: Forget your MP, talk to our Conservative candidate instead." And Canada's New Government appears to be embarrassed and backing off this anti-democratic clusterf*%# once cornered by the national media. Here's the CP explaining the story:
Forget your duly elected local MP! If you want government services in your riding, you'd be better off going to the local Conservative candidate for the next election instead.

That's the message the Tories have been peddling in a British Columbia riding they don't hold - and now they're vigorously backpedalling.

The Conservatives' caucus chair in the province had been telling radio listeners and public audiences in Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding not to bother with their elected New Democrat MP.

For a better chance at federal funding, speedily returned paperwork, and help with infrastructure projects, Dick Harris told them they should talk instead to the woman who will run for the Conservatives.

"Realistically, to have access to the ministers you know - realistically - you have to be part of the government," Harris, who is also a B.C. MP, said in a radio interview.

"There is sort of a little bit of a pecking order in Parliament."

An area newspaper also quoted him urging constituents to approach the federal government through Sharon Smith - the mayor of Houston, B.C., and the Conservative election candidate.

"Constituents . . . will derive a huge benefit from having direct contact with the government, something they have not had since 2004," Harris said in a story in the Terrace Daily Online.
And here's Ryan Sparrow, backtracking on Harris' manoeuver:
"He just kind of did that himself," government spokesman Ryan Sparrow said of Harris's move.

"(Smith) is the Conservative candidate in the next election. That's her only official capacity."

Sparrow was unequivocal when asked whom local residents should contact for federal help: "They should contact their local member of Parliament. . . Ms. Smith is working hard to be that person after the next election, but for now the riding is held by a New Democrat."
What a sorry track record these bunglers are developing. Looks like the muzzles from central headquarters have been brought out too:
Harris and Smith did not respond to interview requests made to their offices over two days.
What a big freakin' surprise.

Major h/t to Dawg's Blawg and Galloping Beaver on this story...

Where's the outrage over David Vitter and his prostitutes?

Joe Sudbay at Americablog poses the question I've been wondering about too:
"Where's all the outrage in the GOP about David Vitter?"
Republican Senators McCain and Coleman have called for Craig to resign. Why not Vitter? Because Vitter's heterosexual? Or is it that if you called for every Senator or congressman who went to prostitutes to resign the halls of congress would soon empty out?

More hypocrisy and hallow, feigned morality from the grand old party of disappointment...

Latest from Senator Larry Craig: And I'm not bald either

"Idaho Senator Asserts: 'I Never Have Been Gay'."

This calls for Junior MacKay

There's U.S. fighter planes flying over them there hills in B.C.: "MP demands answers after U.S. fighter plane reported flying in airspace above B.C. town." What are you going to do about it Junior? Best get on the phone with Mini Bush real it OK with you guys that Canadian air space, indeed our sovereignty, can be so flagrantly violated, judging by such reports?
B.C. Southern Interior MP Alex Atamanenko is asking Defence Minister Peter MacKay to demand an accounting from U.S. authorities regarding a fighter jet possibly flying over Trail, B.C., in June.

"From all indications, an unidentified foreign fighter jet has violated our airspace," he wrote.

"It is important to note that this area is not barren, open terrain. It is densely populated and the home of a major industrial smelter, Teck Cominco, that is vital to our economy."

Mr. Atamanenko said he is satisfied with the response he got after contacting the federal Ministry of Transportation, which conducted a "thorough investigation" and confirmed the jet was not a Canadian Forces aircraft.
We know you and Canada's New Government will protect Canadian air space from foreign transgressions at all costs...right...? Certainly hope the Americans aren't showing such blatant disdain for our air space...

Quite the gig

The Globe continues to provide the Strategic Counsel a platform for their shtick today. They're giving even more air time to the Counsellors to justify their analysis from yesterday. Must have gone over real well. At least they're acknowledging today that yes, Dion's potentially got a lot of room to pick up votes from the NDP and the Greens. Yet curiously, this still seems to work in Harper's favour. Why am I not surprised.
Many in the NDP and Greens are also considering a switch to the Liberals, but that means Mr. Dion's party must appeal to the left to gain votes, without alienating supporters who might move to the Tories.

"The Liberals need to be concerned. Because what Harper has going for him is that he knows who it is he needs to win over from the Liberal column, and by and large, what he needs to do to do it," said Strategic Counsel partner Peter Donolo. He argued a less partisan, more team-oriented and centrist approach will win those swing voters to the Tories.

Mr. Dion, meanwhile, needs to coalesce the "anti-Harper" vote - the NDP and Green votes are vulnerable to their appeals - without tilting the Liberals left on the political spectrum, Mr. Donolo said.
Why is it to be feared that Dion veers "left" to get votes? The majority of public support is in the center-left spectrum. Not the right. It's not like we're the U.S. where there's a more conservative social ethos that tilts them to the right and where such concerns about being portrayed as too "left" would alienate voters. We're fundamentally a progressive country. Harper's not. That's the word we should be focussing on. There are big qualms about him for this reason. Why Dion's challenge is presented as being so daunting while Harper's is an easier task seems very strange to me. Especially when Harper's failed, to date, to gain any ground in doing so.

And by the way, beginning an article in such a manner is just plain unacceptable:
The Liberal vote is soft, the way forward is unclear, so this week Stéphane Dion has turned to Newfoundland Tory Premier Danny Williams for aid and comfort.
The "way forward is unclear?" Wtf?

Yesterdays' meeting with Williams was executed beautifully. They kept it tactful, respectful of political sensitivities and by all accounts professional and centered on issues a national leader and a premier would naturally discuss. Two politicians who care about this country and share a similar goal in removing the man currently running it had a meeting, like adults, while the Liberals are caucusing in Newfoundland. It's a simple thing, but it's more than some other people are capable of doing...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two of my favourite people met today

Love this:
They haven’t made any pacts to work together in the next election campaign, but Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams found plenty of agreement when they met today.

Dion told reporters that he shared Williams’ concerns about whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a man of his word. Williams, a Conservative, has said he will be working to defeat the federal Conservatives in the next election campaign over what he alleges is Harper’s broken promises to the province on how its oil revenues are shared.

“It’s well known that there is breach of trust because the Prime Minister did not honour his commitment," Dion said.
Williams didn’t talk to reporters after the meeting but his spokesperson, Elizabeth Matthews, said the two leaders had an amiable chat.

“The meeting went well, and Premier Williams took the opportunity to discuss issues of importance to the people of our province,” Matthews said in an email. Their discussion, she said, ranged over issues such as the Atlantic provinces’ share of their oil revenues and Williams’ proposal for power-development project in the Lower Churchill region of Labrador. They also talked about the Hibernia oil project and the future of a military base at Goose Bay.

Dion said he and Williams agree on the long-term vision for the province.

“We must be sure that this province will become a have province and for the long haul,” Dion said.
Now how hard is that? Some federal leaders just can't pull this stuff off...:)

Did the Conservatives overspend by $1 million in the last election?

This is definitely a story to watch: "Tories need to 'open the books': Dion." For a party so smug in their condemnation of the Liberals' adscam troubles, the Harper Conservatives have got some real chutzpah to have pulled the scheme they did in the last election - and to now be seeking reimbursement from the taxpayers for it.
The fact the federal election watchdog has been called in to review expense claims filed by Conservative candidates underscores the need for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to "open the books,'' Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said Tuesday.

William Corbett, commissioner of Canada Elections, has been asked by Elections Canada to check whether advertising expenses by some Tory candidates were genuinely spent on local TV and radio spots or used to benefit the national campaign.

"It's a very serious issue,'' said Dion, who is holding a three-day Liberal caucus meeting in St. John's.

"We need to know where the expenses have been made in the riding, or by the national machine of the Conservative party, because there is a possibility that this party broke the law and had $1 million in extra spending.''
The transactions at issue:
The Conservatives spent the maximum amount allowed by a political party during the 2006 campaign. In addition, they gave about $1.2-million to local candidates who had not spent their own personal maximum. The money was then given back to the party on the same day to buy ads in regional markets.

Elections Canada is locked in a court battle with 37 financial officers for candidates who want the government - which returns 60 per cent of the election expenses of candidates who get at least 10 per cent of the votes in their riding - to cover the expenditure.

The federal agency refused, arguing that the party, not the candidates, bought the advertising. (emphasis on the hypocrisy added)
So, as an added bonus to the scheme, the Conservative candidates have the nerve to try to get this money, handed to them for just a matter of hours by the federal Conservative party, back from the taxpayers. Nice. Good for Elections Canada for calling bs on this tactic and standing up to the Conservatives. And good for Dion for calling attention to it in advance of the next election.

This is an issue that needs to be taken up in the House when it returns...that little loophole needs to be closed up, real good.

(h/t to Ken Chapman on this)

Not that there's anything wrong with it

Senator Craig, you forgot to add that to your denials...:)

Marshall, Morin, Milgaard...and Truscott

"Truscott acquitted in death of Lynne Harper."
Steven Truscott has been acquitted of murdering a 12-year-old friend 48 years ago, ending a legal who-done-it that captured public interest like no other in modern Canadian history.

In a 300 page decision released Tuesday today by a five-judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal concluded that Mr. Truscott's conviction and death sentence amounts to an unsustainable "miscarriage of justice."
The power that the state can wield is an awesome thing...

It's a Mini Bush extravaganza in the Globe today

The Strategic Counsel's been given prime real estate in today's Globe to tell the world how Mini Bush can get himself a majority government. Isn't that special? Too bad there's not much in the way of scintillating news here. Despite their best efforts to spin the polling results to make Harper look good, what with their talk of Canadians feeling we're on the "right track" and Conservative supporters being disinclined to switch their votes...the really bad news for Stevie the Conservative boy wonder is that he's stuck at 33% in the polls. Yep. STILL tied with the Liberals and down 3% from his electoral "victory" high. That must just irk him to no end. All that money on "Stephane Dion is not a leader" ads and Dion's still right there, joined at his hip. So sad.

And by the way, if I were asked if the country were on the right or wrong track, I might be inclined to say it's on the right track too. That's because the Harper regime hasn't done anything substantial enough to muck up the solid overall state of affairs in this country that they inherited from the you know whos. And you can bet your bottom dollar that I'm NOT going to be supporting Mini Bush ever, despite my inclination to say the country as a whole is still on the right track. So take that Strategic Counsel brainiacs.

What is not discussed in the "analysis" piece the Counsellors impart to us is the high percentage of NDP and Green voters who are likely to switch their votes. They make much ado about how the Liberal voters might switch in contrast to the Conservative loyalists, yet fail to mention that this voter fluidity is abundant in the center-left voting populus which comprises approximately 70% of the voting public. That's a lot of room for the Liberals to grow from, methinks. Could even be more than Mini Bush has to work with...but nary a word on that.

And please draw your attention to the following analysis of some of Harper's challenges:
He should start by asking himself why they haven't bitten so far. After all, in terms of party standings, the Conservatives are still tied with the Liberals in the low 30s. What's holding them back? The reasons are evident in the data. A large majority of Canadians associate words such as “controlling” and “partisan” with Mr. Harper. They think he's too right-wing. Most believe he's too close to U.S. President George W. Bush. He's not seen as particularly likeable. A majority don't think he cares about people like them. And most Canadians feel his government has accomplished little during its time in office.

Mr. Harper needs to acknowledge that his growth is being held back by what many consider the less attractive aspects of his leadership style. Hand-to-hand combat on the floor of the House of Commons may get his political juices flowing, but it leaves Canadians cold. (emphasis happily added)
Yes, stop being yourself Mini Bush. Be someone else. Can you do that?

P.S. As I always say, we call him Mini Bush for good reason here at the Impolitical blog...:)

More Gonzales send offs

The NY Times has a fitting send off to Alberto today, in particular, the first two killer lines of their editorial:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally done something important to advance the cause of justice. He has resigned. But his departure alone cannot remove the dark cloud that hangs over the Justice Department. President Bush needs to choose a new attorney general of unquestioned integrity who would work to make the department worthy of its name again — and provide the mandate to do it. Congress needs to continue to investigate the many scandals Mr. Gonzales leaves behind.
And Gonzales' shoddy record is set out once more:
It was just that kind of craven politics — the desire to co-opt the power of the government to win elections — that was the driving force in Mr. Gonzales’s Justice Department. Dedicated and capable United States attorneys were fired for insisting on doing their jobs with integrity — for refusing to put people in jail, or shield them from prosecution, simply to help Republicans win elections. Lawyers were hired for nonpolitical jobs based on party enrollment and campaign contributions, and top members of Mr. Gonzales’s staff attended pre-election political briefings at the White House led by Karl Rove and his aides.

When Mr. Gonzales testified before Congress, his misstatements and memory lapses were so frequent that it was hard to believe they were not intentional. He told Congress many things about the prosecutors’ firings that were contradicted by his top aides and by documents. His testimony about the Bush administration’s warrantless domestic surveillance program also ran counter to many credible sources, including the account of Robert Mueller, director of the F.B.I.

There was a more basic problem with Mr. Gonzales’s tenure: he did not stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law, as an attorney general must. This administration has illegally spied on Americans, detained suspects indefinitely as “enemy combatants,” run roughshod over the Geneva Conventions, violated the Hatch Act prohibitions on injecting politics into government and defied Congressional subpoenas. In each case, Mr. Gonzales gave every indication of being on the side of the lawbreakers, not the law.

Mr. Gonzales signed off on the administration’s repugnant, and disastrous, torture policy when he was the White House counsel. He later helped stampede Congress into passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which endorsed illegal C.I.A. prisons where detainees may be tortured and established kangaroo courts in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to keep detained foreigners in custody essentially for life. He helped cover up and perpetuate Mr. Bush’s illegal wiretapping programs, both in the counsel’s job and as attorney general. The F.B.I. under his stewardship abused powers it was given after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the name of enhanced national security.

Mr. Gonzales will hardly be a tough act to follow, but the standard for the next attorney general should not be set that low.
Yet alas, they are dreaming the impossible dream in their wish list for a new A.G. Bush is unlikely to acquiesce to the following, he's shown no signs of operating under any semblance of normal political calculations during his tenure:
The next attorney general should appoint a credible, independent investigator to look into the prosecutors’ firings and likely Hatch Act violations and make clear that the investigation will be permitted to follow the facts where they lead — including, as appears likely, to the White House.
While this should absolutely be what happens, whoever the new A.G. is will likely be handed their marching orders to prevent such an appointment. After all, it'll undoubtedly lead back to Alberto and Rove's doorsteps. And we know how protecting such loyal Bushies is job one in the crony administration. On what might yet be uncovered, here's Sidney Blumenthal:
Rove ran the Department of Justice like a personal fiefdom as Gonzales reigned there as his vassal lord. The civil rights division was gutted, more than 60 percent of its professional staff forced out; and since 2001, not a single discrimination case was filed. The antitrust division became a favor bank. Rove granted dispensations to companies, including those seeking to override laws involving foreign purchases of U.S. assets with national security implications, a former government official involved in such a case told me. (emphasis added)
Now that's an interesting allegation I had not heard...all the more reason Bush will ensure there's no independent prosecutor appointed.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Layton attacking Dion for sharing the same position on the Atlantic Accords

Priorities, hey Jack? Where's your gusto for Harper?

A boot in the ass for you Alberto

Despite W's unreal tribute to Gonzales as a man of integrity and decency, let's recall the damage he inflicted upon the U.S. Department of Justice and respect for the rule of law in the U.S. TPM Muckraker has a list of the top 6 Gonzales lies out of which a perjury investigation and the preliminary machinations for impeachment proceedings were commenced. Here's Hillary's reaction. Chuck Schumer's press conference: "At last the Attorney General has done the right thing and stepped down." And of course, here's Senator Leahy's reaction suggesting it's not over for Alberto:
“Under this Attorney General and this President, the Department of Justice suffered a severe crisis of leadership that allowed our justice system to be corrupted by political influence. It is a shame, and it is the Justice Department, the American people and the dedicated professionals of our law enforcement community who have suffered most from it.

“The obligations of the Justice Department and its leaders are to the Constitution, the rule of law and the American people, not to the political considerations of this or any White House. The Attorney General’s resignation reinforces what Congress and the American people already know -- that no Justice Department should be allowed to become a political arm of the White House, whether occupied by a Republican or a Democrat.

“The troubling evidence revealed about this massive breach is a lesson to those in the future who hold these high offices, so that law enforcement is never subverted in this way again. I hope the Attorney General’s decision will be a step toward getting to the truth about the level of political influence this White House wields over the Department of Justice and toward reconstituting its leadership so that the American people can renew their faith in its role as our leading law enforcement agency.” (emphasis added)
John Nichols sets out some of Alberto's greatest historical contributions:
As Counsel from 2001 to 2005, Gonzales blocked requests from the General Accounting Office for information about Enron officials meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force. He refused requests from congressional committees for information that the House and Senate had a right -- and a need. He made the legal case for torture, despite the fact that the Constitution bars cruel and unusual punishment. He outlined schemes for subverting the judicial system and its rules by making terror suspects eligible for military tribunals. He helped convince Bush to refuse to afford prisoners held at Guantanamo the basic protections afforded prisoner-of-war under treaties the United States had accepted as the law of the land.

As the nation's 80th Attorney General -- a position he took in February, 2005, after the Senate vote 60-36 to confirm his nomination -- Gonzales extended his representation of Bush into should be an independent federal agency. He defended the president's authorization of an illegal warrantless wiretapping program. He accepted the "extraordinary rendition" of suspects from U.S. custody to that of torture regimes. And he turned the Department of Justice into an extension of Karl Rove's White House political shop.
Yes, it's quite a list of achievement for the bumbling Judge from Texas who never should have been elevated beyond that posting.

Much discussion continuing at Muckraker, some suggesting Cheney's next...

Striking deference to the U.S. in Junior MacKay's talking points on Khadr

Nice digging, Jennifer Ditchburn. Seems someone issued some pretty deferential talking points on Omar Khadr's continued detention at Gitmo to Junior. Not good. Makes the whole Conservative positioning fall strikingly in the suck-up position to the Americans - again. Now Canada is kinda sticking out like a sore thumb compared to the entire civilized western world who have gotten their detainees the heck out of Gitmo. Yet Mini Bush makes no waves. The U.S. assurances are good enough for Canada's New Government despite documented torture allegations and U.S. court decisions condemning the Gitmo sham processes...we can be so proud.

Liberals "aren't ashamed" of the Canadian flag

That's right, bizarre as it sounds. That's my retort to the PM's slimefest on Sunday. Feel free to come up with your own slogan and demonstrate how ridiculous Mini Bush sounds:
"[Insert Political party name here] aren't ashamed of [Insert Canadian symbol or tradition here]."
Then you've got yourself a similarly ludicrous existential statement to measure up to Harper's own dishonorable straw man argument that his political opposition is ashamed of "Canada's rich military heritage." (Talk about a bizarre statement.)

You see, we could get all indignant and outraged over the latest Mini Bush episode as he plods along on his partisan low road. Demonstrating for all to see what kind of man we have as our Prime Minister. A man who attacks his political opponents for their lack of support for the military in the same week when 3 more Canadian soldiers were killed. A man who allows his PMO to then laughably claim that the PM would not "play politics" with the deaths of soldiers. A man who will take a sledgehammer to a sensitive issue, taunting his political opposition not in good humour with a shrug and a laugh as Chretien and Mulroney had mastered, but attacking them in such an inhumane, graceless manner. But let's not get too outraged. Let's just let his own words do him in:
"When men and women volunteer and find themselves in dangerous places to defend our values and our way of life, we thank, from the bottom of our hearts, these men and women who wear the uniform for the peace, freedom and prosperity that their efforts allow us to enjoy," he said in French, adding that Conservatives weren't ashamed of "Canada's rich military heritage."

Later that afternoon, a Canadian Forces aircraft touched down at CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario, returning the remains of Master Warrant Officer Mario Mercier and Master Cpl. Christian Duchesne to Canadian soil.

They died Wednesday, along with an Afghan interpreter, when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb. Two Radio Canada journalists were in the vehicle. One was injured, along with another soldier.

Harper, who didn't use the word "Afghanistan" in the speech, wouldn't answer reporters' questions afterwards.

Officials from the Prime Minister's Office say Harper refuses to play politics with the deaths of soldiers. (emphasis added)
Conservatives are not ashamed of "Canada's rich military heritage" he crows to his faithful, implying that all other political parties are so ashamed and that they do not in turn "thank" the troops like Mini Bush does. Just like the Republicans to the south who seek political advantage by playing off people's primeval emotions. Wrapping himself up in the valour of soldiers who are dying for his own political advantage. What else could we possibly make of it?

Well, Liberals aren't ashamed of the Canadian flag. Don't know what the Conservatives' problem with it is...

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Favourite SiteMeter search terms seen today: "stephen harper's banana republic" and "alberto gonzales dual citizenship"...:) Well done, curious googlers...:)

Love Bill Maher

Discussion on Friday night's show on Iraq.

From Iraq to Iran

The wingnuts surrounding Bush, led by Cheney, are apparently beating the drum for him to attack Iran. The Washington Post willingly got in on the action this week with its editorial, "Tougher on Iran." U.S. military and intelligence sources are increasingly mentioning Iran as a factor in the Iraq conflict as the U.S. congress gears up to "debate" the future of the occupation in September and beyond. Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst throws out the theory that a decision to attack Iran is why Rove left, that it would be ludicrous to support such a move and that he lost a power struggle with Cheney over it.

Just watching the news develop...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dark clouds following Rove back to Texas

So writes someone who should know, former Nixon adviser John Dean who speculates on the statutory provisions that may have been violated by Karl Rove and that may have prompted his recent exit from the Washington scene. Here is an excerpt from Dean's Friday column including some of the provisions Dean zeroes in upon:
Given the basically un-cracked secrecy of the Bush Administration, it is not unreasonable to suspect that Rove has managed to accomplish what Nixon failed to do, and that the Bush Administration has undertaken a large-scaled politicalization program throughout the Executive Branch during the past six-plus years.

This, I suspect, is the reason for Rove's resignation. Chairmen Conyers, Leahy, and Waxman are looking closely for such an operation, as are a number of similar but less visible inquiries underway by the Democratic Congress. Thus, the potential for such activities becoming known is very real, and this gathering storm means a few dark clouds are following Rove back to Texas. Should they burst, Rove may have far more serious problems than being in contempt of Congress.

Misusing Federal Powers Can Be a Crime Although Seldom Prosecuted

The Senate Watergate Committee's report set forth an array of civil and criminal laws that are applicable to misuse of government for political purposes. For example, the Hatch Act contains a broad proscription that an employee of an executive agency may not use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of a federal election. Such conduct has a civil sanction of dismissal from Federal service.

More seriously, it can also be a crime for a federal official to use his or her power for political purposes. On of the broadest federal criminal laws is the conspiracy statute that prohibits defrauding the government. Under federal law, which prescribes punishment by up to five years in prison, such a fraud has been broadly defined.

The leading case is the Supreme Court's 1923 ruling in Hammerschmidt v. United States. There, the Court stated, "To conspire to defraud the United States means primarily to cheat the government out of property or money, but it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest. It is not necessary that the government shall be subjected to property or pecuniary loss by the fraud, but only that its legitimate official action and purpose shall be defeated by misrepresentation, chicanery, or the overreaching of those charged with carrying out the governmental intention." Misuse of federal power for political purposes, thus, can fall rather easily within this statute.

There are other criminal statutes that the evidence suggests Rove might have violated, as well. Section 595 of Title 18 prohibits "a person employed in any administrative position" of the Federal Government from using his or her "official authority for the purpose of interfering with, or affecting, the nomination or the election of any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives…" Violation of this statute can result in a fine or prison up to a year, or both.

Section 600 of Title 18 prohibits promising any Government benefit or "any special consideration in obtaining such benefit, to any person as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity or for the support of or opposition to any candidate or any political party" in connection with a Federal election. Violation of this "bribery-lite" statute can result in a fine of $1000 or prisons up to a year, or both.

Often, violations of these broad prohibitions, and related laws, are not discovered until an administration has departed, as occurred with the Reagan Administration. By that time, Congress has lost interest and federal prosecutors are not inclined to go after the political behavior of predecessor officials - a judgment call which is probably appropriate, for these are not the most egregious of crimes. Still, these crimes certainly represent conduct that is considered unacceptable.

Such behavior is best dealt with when Congress can expose it to voters, who know exactly what to do with a political party that the places the politics of self-interest above those of the public's interest. This is not to say that if Rove has made an utter mockery of the clear restrictions on politicizing the processes of the Executive Branch, he should be given a pass. To the contrary, Congress should double its efforts to find out why he has left town, and if he has crossed the line, refer the matter to the Department of Justice.

I would be willing to wager that Rove and his cohorts have violated one or more of these laws prohibiting uses of authority at the White House for purely political purposes, but they should only be prosecuted if their behavior was in pure defiance of these restrictions. If that is the case, such laws will, in the end, be meaningless and future Karl Roves will simply ignore laws that seek to protect the public interest.
That Hammerschmidt case holding is very interesting, isn't it? Information to keep in mind as the congressional investigations continue into the fall and in light of Rove's suspicious departure.

Rocks in his head

Gee, the Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day, isn't very concerned about public safety. Seems to think that police dressing up as masked thugs and carrying big threatening rocks around at a protest is a perfectly acceptable form of undercover police work:
After a news conference in Vancouver, Mr. Day said he would not deter police from using such tactics.

"You can't start getting politicians making the calls, saying, 'It's okay for you to use undercover agents in this drug operation over here, but you can't use them in that over there,'" he said.
Bravo, Stock, you never cease to amaze...:) These guys just seem to be fatally flawed in the gut instinct department. Don't you know when you need to stand up and say, no, this is wrong and I will see to it that the parties who decided to put this improper undercover operation into effect are dealt with. Or maybe something along the lines of the following: "We as a government could not be more disappointed in such techniques being deployed." Or try this: "This kind of police activity in Canada is completely alien to our traditions of freedom of association and free speech and it is unacceptable." Feel free to steal from me, Stock.

But I won't be holding my breath...:)

Once again, Hillier's the star of the show

Junior doesn't stand a chance next to General Limelight who is portrayed in a Superman-esque sort of halo in media coverage of the rally at the CNE yesterday for troops serving in Afghanistan. From the Globe:
Among the dignitaries in attendance was Canada's Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, who delighted the crowd before his speech when he removed the top of his camouflage suit to reveal a bright red T-shirt underneath.

“From the soldiers' perspective, we do not believe a group of people who will whip women for wearing heels that click on pavement should be allowed to reassume control of their country and the lives of those people in it,” Gen. Hillier said in an interview.

Joining him was Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and former mayor Mel Lastman.
Notice Junior gets the "joining him" treatment. We all get who the star is here, right?

Just what was with Hillier's statement about the Taliban and women? While I agree with the substance, I don't think a military General should be making such statements at a support the troops rally. What if there are peace talks entered into between the Afghan government, international organizations and local Afghan warlords, and yes, even Taliban, where the Taliban are granted power in certain parts of Afghanistan in order to come to some kind of long term stabilization, as has been suggested lately? Would Hillier be so gracious as to go along with such a development, given his expressed opposition?

I don't have a problem with Hillier attending this rally, he is "Canada's top soldier" and all. But it's his willingness to put himself in the middle of the politics of the mission publicly that's disturbing. Because if he's asked to pull everyone out tomorrow, he would have to do it. And he just might be told to start packing up the combat operation in Afghanistan in the near future. Since he's so clearly not in favour of that, I wonder how that will sit with the General if and when the day comes. There's a difference between supporting the mission because it's your job and supporting the mission because it's your cause. That's the line I sense that the General crosses and there's no one telling this guy that he doesn't appear to be respecting it. If anything, he's being enabled, by the media and his supposed political superiors who, judging by the coverage of yesterdays events, are happy to sit by and bask in the reflected glow of Canada's General media darling.

More from CBC:
Canada's top soldier told cheering marchers in Toronto on Friday that their support for the military encourages Canadian soldiers who are enduring difficult and dangerous conditions in Afghanistan.

Gen. Rick Hillier was speaking at a massive rally at the Canadian National Exhibition fairgrounds, where hundreds of people turned out in red shirts to show support for the soldiers stationed overseas.

"What [this rally] does is convince them that when you're 12,000 kilometres away from home, and when you're on a dusty, and dirty and dangerous trail, and when you're walking that trail doing your mission, Canadians are walking with them," said Hillier, chief of defence staff.

"And as a result of this, maybe, just maybe, they'll do the same thing and accept the same risk again tomorrow and for as long as we need them to do the mission."

Hillier, who stood before the crowd with three wounded soldiers at his side, said the men and women serving in Afghanistan are aware of the rally and will be sent video images and pictures.
And once again, Junior gets a bit of coverage too, but it's once again in the "Also attending the rally" vein. First indicators as to how the supposedly new and improved Hillier-MacKay thing is supposed to be working are not good. The military guy continues to have no sense of where the water's edge ends for him and where the politics begins.

It's just way, way off.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Accountability for everyone but Conservatives?

This is a story that deserves attention. It's not exciting, it's not about police going undercover with masks on or anything, but this is foundational stuff for our democracy: "Tories broke regulations on election finances, Liberal officials say." The allegations are that the Conservatives broke the spending limits in the last election:
The Liberals accused the federal Conservatives yesterday of exceeding election spending limits by more than a million dollars in the final days of the 2006 campaign by passing off national advertising costs as money spent by local candidates.

Elections Canada is now locked in a court battle with 37 of the candidates who want the government - which returns 60 per cent of the election expenses of candidates who get at least 10 per cent of the votes in their riding - to reimburse them for the costs.

Barbara McIsaac, a lawyer for the chief electoral officer, says in a court document that they are not entitled to the money because what the Conservatives call a "regional media buy" was "not an expense of the candidates who claimed it but an expense of the party."
The court documents show that, largely through local candidates, the Conservatives also spent $1.2-million plus $121,000 in production costs to purchase what they call a "regional media buy."

Mike Donison, who was at the time the party's executive director, outlined the plan in an e-mail to local councillors for distribution to candidates who had not reached their own personal campaign spending limits. The party would bank-wire an amount into the candidate's account and send an invoice to the candidate, Mr. Donison wrote. The candidate would then pay the same amount back into the fund on the same day to cover the cost of the ads.
For a Conservative party who rode into power hypocritically campaigning against the other party's ethics and alleging corruption at every turn, they certainly seemed to play fast and loose themselves...and they need to be called on the carpet for it.


A play on the shirtless Putin, with a Harper cameo...:) Can you imagine any of our male politicians fishing without a shirt on...:)


The jig is up. The keystone cops had no choice but to turn on a dime and recant their denials. Video and boots don't lie:
With the proof caught on video, Quebec provincial police were forced to admit yesterday that three undercover agents were playing the part of protesters at this week's international summit in Montebello, Que.
And this does not appear to be going away. And it shouldn't. The federal opposition is on the case calling for accountability from the RCMP:
But Marlene Jennings, the federal Liberal justice critic, said the issue goes beyond the provincial police force.

“The RCMP has some explaining to do,” she told The Globe and Mail Thursday night.

“If the RCMP was responsible for all security at this summit like [Minister of Public Safety Stockwell] Day says it was, the RCMP should have known that the Sûreté du Québec was using undercover officers to infiltrate the demonstrators.”

Thursday, Mr. Day had directed those with concerns about the way security was carried out at the demonstrations to the two police forces' formal public complaints process.

Ms. Jennings said that was not enough.

“Mr. Day should be calling for, at the very least, the RCMP public complaints commissioner to look into it. … The tape was pretty incriminating.”
Freakin' right it was. And who told these provocateurs to get in there and mix it up? Where did the orders come from? The size and intensity of the protests would have been of huge concern not just to the security team organizing the summit. What pictures would have emanated out of the protests would have been of significant concern to the political teams as well. And since the Bush administration has not been shy about, ahem, shall we say, stage management of events, would we really be so shocked to learn that similar tactics would have been deployed here?

Many unanswered questions remain. That's why I was also glad to read these comments from Dave Coles, the union leader who smoked out the undercover police provocateurs at the protest in the first place. From the CBC coverage:
"[Our union] believes that the security force at Montebello were ordered to infiltrate our peaceful assembly and provoke incidents," said Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.
And then quoted in the Star:
"We're going to talk to our legal counsel and we'll decide (Friday) what our next action is going to be," said Coles, president of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.
I'm not grounded in labour relations law, but I would throw out a few thoughts...are they going to seek some kind of declaratory relief for a breach of their freedom of association or speech rights to set a precedent to prevent future police actions such as this one? Unions would certainly be concerned about the right to protest free from such interference in future events. That might motivate a legal challenge of some kind. Or might they seek punitive damages against the police for their efforts to provoke violence and thereby make the demonstrators appear violent as well? Now that the police have admitted their involvement, a legal challenge would likely be settled in some manner.

And then of course, if all that were to be set in motion, some interesting stories might be never know..:)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The RCMP responds

As does the Surete du Quebec. Both issued brief denials that their officers posed as protesters in order to instigate violence at the Montebellow Summit, as follows:
The RCMP and Quebec police force have denied allegations their officers posed as protesters to try to provoke peaceful demonstrators at the recent Montebello summit.

"I confirm (to) you that there is no agents provocateurs in the Surete du Quebec... It doesn't exist in the Surete du Quebec," spokesperson Const. Melanie Larouche told The Canadian Press.

RCMP Cpl. Luc Bessette said the Mounties do "not use tactics that would encourage confrontation or incite violence."
Pretty scant stuff. Seems pretty unbelievable given the video and the circumstantial evidence. These statements don't seem to preclude either of these forces having contracted out the function though...

A scathing summit review

Haroon Siddiqui certainly doesn't hold back in his criticism today of Harper's showing at the Montebello summit. On Harper's petty partisanship that was so ill thought out for an international event:
Tradition has it that prime ministers avoid domestic partisan politics in the international arena, where they speak for all Canadians.

Yet Prime Minister Stephen Harper used the Montebello summit to attack Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion for questioning the agenda of the conference.

Of course, the prime minister had to defend the meeting. U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexico's Felipe Calderon did so as well. But neither took a cheap shot at their political opponents.

Instead of emulating his guests, Harper followed by skewering Dion yet again, this time in French.
Thank you for reminding your readers just how inappropriate Harper was to be denigrating a domestic political opponent on the international stage. It was, as has been well canvassed, embarrassing.

Siddiqui also slams Harper for failing to raise significant issues with Bush:
As for the two other issues that Canadians wanted raised, Harper didn't – gun trafficking ("more than half of gun crimes committed in Canada's major cities are with guns smuggled from the U.S.," Dion said), and the fate of terror suspect Omar Khadr held by the U.S. at the naval detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Whether Khadr is a good guy or bad is irrelevant. The issue is one of upholding Canadian values. Do we stand up for a fellow citizen? Do we believe in the rule of law? Do we raise our voices against cruel and unusual punishment?

Knowing what a hellhole Gitmo has been, Britain, France, Germany and even Australia negotiated the release of their nationals. But Canada has been silent on the Ottawa-born Khadr.

In isolated custody for five years, he is broken in spirit and body.

He should be brought home, as demanded by the Canadian Bar Association and many human rights groups. If there's a case against him, he should be charged, given his day in court and, if found guilty, marched off to a Canadian jail.

But Harper didn't say a word. He is either out to curry favour with Bush or believes that the young Canadian deserves to rot in Guantanamo Bay.
Not like he didn't have an opportunity to raise Khadr with Bush, as we learn from another column today, reporting on the Harper/Bush alone time...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Harper and Lunn strangely quiet today on Williams' Hebron deal

I don't see any words of congratulations from our federal government on what looks to be quite a great day for the people of they not care?

Answers please, RCMP

Answer the questions. We're entitled to a response from the RCMP about this alleged provocation by undercover police officers at the Montebello summit that is circling around the world now, at the top of the YouTube "News & Politics" viewing page. If these were indeed the actions of a police force in Canada, RCMP or Quebec, it is reprehensible.

Refusing to comment does not look good at all for the new RCMP commissioner:
"The Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union believes that the security force at Montebello were ordered to infiltrate our peaceful assembly and to provoke incidents," Coles told reporters. "I think the evidence that we’ve shown you today reinforces the view.”

Coles showed photographs of the masked men's and police officers' boots taken during the handcuffing, in which the they appear to have identical tread patterns on their soles.

He also questioned why other activists have been unable to identify the three men whose images have been broadcast worldwide and demanded to know who the masked men were.

"Do they have any connection to the Quebec police force or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or are they part of some other security force that was at Montebello?" he asked, adding that he wants to know how the Prime Minister's Office was involved in security during the protests.

The RCMP has refused to comment, while Quebec provincial police have flatly denied that its officers were involved in the incident.

It said it is not releasing any names as no charges were laid.
Still awaiting a response.

A big shout out to Danny Williams today

Reached a deal with the oil companies on Hebron, including an equity stake for Newfoundland. Well done, Danny boy. Details later.

But first, let us please recall and give special attention to Harper and his Minister of Natural Resources, Gary Lunn today, for their government's position on the Hebron deal. Lunn wrote a very critical speech on Williams' Hebron approach that Lunn was supposed to deliver in Newfoundland on June 19, 2007 (he was fogged in), HERE, that all should read today as context for this issue. Lunn criticized Williams for his approach in the Hebron negotiations as obstructionist and failing. Lunn made it clear that the federal Conservatives did not support Williams' approach:
Companies want to invest in Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore area. But there is an atmosphere of confrontation and uncertainty that is preventing anything from moving forward.
Lunn went on to enumerate the extensive damage Williams was causing to his province, speaking not only of lost revenues but also of youth going to Alberta for example. Classy, hey? He also tried to take political advantage of the situation too by repeatedly casting the federal Conservatives as the province's friend, despite the position Williams was taking.

To which one can only say, on this day, eat it, Lunn. Danny got the equity stake, for which there was precedent in the world, and Lunn called him confrontational for standing up for Newfoundlanders. Let's all remember that. And let's remember that this is the kind of approach the Harper Conservatives apparently favour when dealing with oil - and perhaps other - companies. Don't be too confrontational, don't create an atmosphere of uncertainty. Thankfully Danny didn't cave like these nimwits apparently would have.

Some details:
With a provincial election less than two months away, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams has clinched a deal with a consortium of oil companies to proceed with the $6-billion Hebron offshore oil project.

Mr. Williams and representatives of Chevron Corp. — the lead company in the consortium — are set to hold a press conference Wednesday in St. John's at which they will announce the go-ahead of the first standalone offshore project in several years.

The deal will allow the province to earn a 4.9-per-cent equity stake in the project, and has a royalty regime that will ensure the province earns a greater share of the proceeds from oil production than it has from existing offshore projects, sources said last night.

Mr. Williams has been widely criticized for his insistence that the province gain an ownership stake in the project, with some critics dubbing him "Danny Chavez" after the socialist president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.

The two sides had been at an impasse since April, 2006, when the companies broke off talks over Mr. Williams's demands, particularly his insistence that the province receive equity in the project.
From CBC:
Sources tell CBC News that the province has now reached a memorandum of understanding with the oil companies and they have agreed to Williams' demands. A formal, final deal will come later, according to the sources.

If a final deal is signed, Hebron could be the most lucrative offshore project in Newfoundland, putting billions more into the government's coffers.
Good for him and good for Newfoundland.

Parlez vous francais, Danny?

Arrested for anti-Bush t-shirts

"These fundamental tenets of our country are in peril" said Jeffrey Rank yesterday on Hardball, speaking of free speech. He and his wife had the audacity to make and wear anti-Bush t-shirts at a rally in Charleston on July 4, 2004. For this they were arrested for trespassing, albeit that the rally was held at the state capitol. They sued and were awarded $80,000 for their arrest. Phenomenal. Sounds like part of that Bush Advance Manual in action, linked to last night at the Galloping Beaver.

As does the story arising out of the Montebello summit, "Police accused of using provocateurs to spark violent confrontations at summit." The Canadian Press is reporting allegations that police undercover agents were instigating hostility toward the police to stir up trouble and make the protests look bad. Now that deserves some special scrutiny. What say you, William Elliott, Mr. brand new RCMP impartial commissioner?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fight jelly bean standardization

Our blessedly civil PM on full display to the world today:
The Prime Minister recounted the tale of one candy maker who told the leaders he had to keep two separate inventories of jelly beans because the rules governing their content are different in Canada and the United States.

“Is the sovereignty of Canada going to fall apart if we standardize the jelly bean?” asked Mr. Harper. “I don't think so.”
Now that's a f*%#ing good question. I'd never quite thought of our sovereignty in such terms.

And I think the protesters would, yes, the sovereignty of Canada is going to fall apart if we standardize the jelly bean, Mini Bush. You see, you've most brilliantly figured out the basis of the opposition to the Montebello summit. Jelly bean standardization is why all the protesters were there, as you quite cleverly have uncovered. They were concerned about the standardization of the jelly bean and the implications such standardization would have for Canada. For example, would our delicate palates be able to withstand the spicy Mexican jelly beans? Would the standards be debated in our halls of power? Would roads be built to transport the jelly beans? Yes, you put your finger right on it. It was all about the jelly beans.

But now that you've reassured us, as you put jelly bean standardization in such properly proportioned perspective in terms of a question of our sovereignty, we surely have nothing to worry about. The foreign standards on jelly beans pose no dangers to the Canadian jelly bean eating public.

Boy oh boy, I bet those protesters feel silly now.

In Rove's wake

The fallout from Karl Rove's politicization of the arms of government continues to be uncovered. Two interesting points today.

First, there's a lawsuit being launched out of a little drive-by firing that occurred back in September 2005. A former attorney in the Texas secretary of state's office has launched a lawsuit and it could mean that Karl Rove will have to testify:
An attorney fired from the Texas secretary of state's office for talking publicly about presidential adviser Karl Rove has filed a lawsuit, saying she is the victim of political pressure.

Elizabeth Reyes was dismissed in September 2005 after Mr. Rove called Secretary of State Roger Williams about her quotes in a newspaper story.

In the suit filed in state district court, Ms. Reyes says she was fired "because of the political embarrassment and pressure" after she answered a reporter's questions about Mr. Rove's voting eligibility in Texas.
Given Rove's suspected role in the U.S. attorney firings, his name coming up in connection with the indictment and pursuit of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and his much discussed use of government departments to assist in Republican election fortunes, the firing of an attorney in Texas who happened to comment on Rove's voter eligibility in Texas in a national newspaper doesn't seem quite a stretch anymore, does it? A firing for politically motivated reasons seems entirely possible. My only question...what took them so long?

Secondly, Arianna Huffington puts her finger on the Bush selected "mine safety" czar who also seems to have been chosen, unsurprisingly, in accordance with Bush and Rove's politics-above-all-else philosophy of government:
Coal mining interests have donated more than $12 million to federal candidates since the Bush-era began with the 2000 election cycle, with 88% of that money -- $10.6 million -- going to Republicans.

And what did that largess buy the coal mining industry? Mine safety regulators far more interested in looking out for the financial well-being of mine owners than for the physical well-being of miners.

Exhibit A is Bush's "mine safety" czar, Richard Stickler, whose agency both approved the controversial mining technique used at the Crandall Canyon Mine before the collapse, and oversaw the rescue operation.

Stickler is a former coal company manager with such a lousy safety record at the companies he'd run that his nomination as head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration was twice rejected by Senators from both parties, forcing Bush to sneak him in the back door with a recess appointment.

In other words, the guy the White House tapped to protect miners is precisely the kind of executive the head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration is supposed to protect miners from. And now Stickler is the one who will lead the "investigation" into what happened in Utah -- unless there is enough public outcry to force a truly independent investigation.
Stickler, you're doing a heckuva job there...:)

Monday, August 20, 2007

It's about time

McGuinty's weighing in more substantially now on promising to upload some costs from the cities back to the province. Righting the ship, to an extent - as his promise only covers two programmes - back to pre-Mike Harris days. Toronto's budget woes are undoubtedly propelling this issue onto the front burner in the campaign, just as City Council hoped it would when it held off on passing Miller's tax increases. Good. McGuinty's announcement, however, comes in conjunction with polls indicating he's in minority territory. Has a tinge of desperation to it. That is, what took him so long?

The NDP, by contrast, are more fully committed to uploading the social services back to the province while John Tory is being suspiciously non-committal. Tory's expressing regret over Harris' decision but not committing to fixing the mess until after a municipal-provincial report is complete. That's a losing position, John John. The others are setting out their stances, what's your deal? Makes people wonder.

The leaders are speaking next week at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa. The issue's only going to grow in prominence in this'll be a big factor in many voters eyes, watch and see.

Mini Bush in Bush's embrace - now that's "sad"

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Literally and metaphorically, today. Well done, W. That's just the kind of picture we like to see. Bet the PMO loves this one!

And what does our PM have to say about protesters exercising their democratic rights to freedom of association and freedom of speech by protesting at this meeting?
Asked about the protests against the summit, Mr. Harper told reporters as he greeted Mr. Bush, "I heard it's nothing," then added. "It's sad."
"It's sad?" Another one of those careless throwaway comments that provides us with great insight into the mind of Steve Harper. I'd say there's a bit of contempt in these words toward the protesters, condescending actually. That's our PM's view of such a protest. Completely oblivious to the feelings of the majority of Canadians toward one of the most reviled world leaders in attendance on our soil. Protesting his presence is not "sad." It's exactly the right thing to do, to show Bush that he's not going to get passive ambivalence from us. He's going to get exactly what he deserves. A show of opposition.

That's not sad at all.

A fine preview of the welcome to Canada W can expect

Courtesy of about 3000 of our fellow citizens out on a stroll on a Sunday well-spent in our nation's capital:

(AP PHOTO/CP,Jonathan Hayward)

"A" for effort, my friends...:)


Pay respect, yes, but the overt linking of the Afghanistan conflict with WWII is political and uncalled for:
In his statement of condolences, Mr. Harper linked Pte. Longtin to the Canadian soldiers who landed on Aug. 19, 1942, at Dieppe.

“In marking the 65th anniversary of the Dieppe raid, we pay tribute to the soldiers of our past. The sacrifices of soldiers like Private Longtin carry on this legacy today, helping to bring stability and peace to parts of the world plagued by turmoil and upheaval,” the Prime Minister said.
Bush has tried this tact as well, elevating his war on terror to the stature of global world wars of the past and it has received condemnation. Let's just keep such efforts out of such moments, please.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Still delusional

The Rovepot calling the kettle black:
“The dividers, over the last six years,” he said, “have been the Democrats, who have routinely said he was not elected, he’s illegitimate, he’s a liar, he deliberately misled the country.”
Serving notice that he's not going gently into that good night, Rove is on the job, on a mission to destroy Democrats' electoral chances in 2008 by painting his own version of the truth and having it run in the willing media. He's "vacationing" in a hotel in Waco, 20 miles from the President's ranch.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

What's going on today?

Thomas Wallkom sets out the case for a re-orienting of the mission in Afghanistan and suggests thinking about a "political accommodation with the Taliban and the warlords."

Dave at Galloping Beaver is providing wicked good Hurricane Dean updates...

Progressive Blogger GTA BBQ host Vijjay Sappani officially misses out on the chance to run in Scarborough Southwest as Dion's appointed Michelle Simson to run...Vijjay sounding the right notes about it:
“It is in the best interests of the party and it's a good decision that [Mr. Dion] has made,” said Mr. Sappani, who lives in the riding of Markham, held by Liberal MP John McCallum. “There's always another day. I'm 32. It could be as early as tomorrow if the proper riding opens up.”
Yes, there will always be another day in what seems to be an era of perpetual minority governments...

Looks like Bush is about to admit he'll be passing off Iraq to the next President to solve. The trial balloon on Petraeus' plan is floated:
The White House plans to use a report next month assessing progress in Iraq to outline a plan for gradual troop reductions beginning next year that would fall far short of the drawdown demanded by Congressional opponents of the war, according to administration and military officials.

One administration official made it clear that the goal of the planned announcement was to counter public pressure for a more rapid reduction and to try to win support for a plan that could keep American involvement in Iraq on “a sustainable footing” at least through the end of the Bush presidency.

A Princeton prof writes about efficient, economic and elegant bridges...and I find myself oddly interested.

More on the craven A.G. Alberto Gonzales, courtesy of the intrepid David Shuster, now that FBI Director Robert Mueller's notes - on the infamous effort by Gonzales and Card to wrestle hospital bedside approval from the hospitalized John Ashcroft for the NSA warrantless wiretapping program - were released this week:

Gonzales should have been gone, a long, long time ago...