Monday, April 30, 2007

Globe comment threads

I wonder, when perusing these things, whether the political parties have paid staffers tasked with writing comments in order to shape the discussions.

What are they doing with that gigantic Conservative war room with all those computers, anyway...:)

Pious Bush administration embroiled in a hooker scandal

"More names expected from list of 'D.C. Madam'."

So sad when the holy-roller set gets taken down a peg:
After naming some of the high-profile clients to her Washington-based escort service, the so-called 'D.C. Madam' apologized Monday but said more names could soon be revealed.
...
On ABC's Good Morning America, investigative reporter Brian Ross, who broke the story, said there are more high-profile names on the client list. ABC is planning a story on Palfrey on its prime-time news program "20/20" later this week.

"It's a long list, we've been going through the phone records for the last four years provided for us by Jean Palfrey," Ross said Monday. "There are some very prominent people, lobbyists, lawyers, members of the military, other people in the Bush administration."
Yep, that's a real shame...

Relying on the Afghans to investigate torture

NATO is welcoming an investigation by the Afghans. Harper is relying on it as a crutch:
“The government in Afghanistan has made a public commitment to inquire [into detainee transfers], and the government of Canada is willing to help in any way in that undertaking.”
The question is whether this is sufficient at this point. In the face of all the indications that the Afghans are not respecting the standards to which we adhere, including Stockwell Day's confirmation today that Canadian corrections officials are hearing first-hand torture allegations , we have no reason to believe that farming out an inquiry to them will provide satisfactory answers.

Harper might as well just be saying to the Afghans, do as you please. That's his position.

Harper continues to put the troops out in front

Harper continues to mischaracterize the opposition's questions on the Afghan torture allegations. Here's a quote from him in Question Period today:
"'Unlike the members opposite, we don't automatically assume any allegations made by the Taliban against the Canadian Forces are the unbiased truth,' Harper fired at the opposition."
The "Taliban" are not making allegations against the Canadian Forces, from what I've seen. The allegations are that Afghan prisoners are being tortured in Afghan prisons. Not by Canadian Forces, as Harper's comment suggests.

George Tenet on Valerie Plame's outing

George Tenet on '60 Minutes' Calls Outing of Plame 'Big Time Wrong'. And uses an interesting phrase in doing so. Can you spot it?
In his much publicized "60 Minutes" interview tonight, tied to his new book, former CIA director George Tenet flatly called the outing of one of his employees, Valerie Plame, "big time wrong."

"She's one of my officers," Tenet said. "That's wrong. Big time wrong, you don't get to do that. And the chilling effect that you have inside my work force is, 'Whoa, now officers names are being thrown out the door. Hold it. Not right.'"

Asked how much damage that did, Tenet said: "That's not the point. Just because there's a Washington bloodletting game going on here and just because her husband's out there saying what he's saying. The country's intelligence officers are not fair game. Period. That's all you need to know."

"They didn't seem to know that in the White House," Scott Pelley of "60 Minutes" observed.

"I'm done with it. I've just told you what I think," Tenet said.
Ten points for you if you chose, "fair game." The country's intelligence officers are not fair game, says Tenet.

Guess who that is directed toward? Yep, here's betting that once again, Karl Rove is being fingered as the source of all things nefarious emanating out of the White House. Because we know Karl Rove told Chris Matthews that Plame was "fair game."

Coincidence that Tenet uses that phrase to sternly rebuke the outing?

Nothing to see here, says Van Loan

Let me get this straight...our Conservative government's position is this. Because Taliban have been instructed to lie, any allegations of torture of Afghan prisoners are baseless and undermine the Canadian troops. So says soprano Peter Van Loan once again on Sunday. There are no specific names of victims offered, says Van Loan, otherwise we'd be happy to "chase them down." Like this is an everyday crime being alleged on the streets of his downtown Newmarket for the local police to tidily investigate.

He maintains this position in the face of the Globe reports that provided names of torture victims and whose reporter is standing by his story in the face of immense pressure being applied to those who corroborated him in Afghanistan. In the face of NATO welcoming an Afghan investigation of the allegations. In the face of this CTV report interviewing a man who alleges torture. In the face of the government's own internal Foreign Affairs report warning of allegations of torture, such warnings blacked out by the Conservative government in copies they reluctantly disclose. In the face of reporting that the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission does not have the access required to Afghan prisons to support Van Loan's bald statements that allegations of torture are baseless.

Nope, nothing to see here. Move along says lawyer Peter Van Loan. In spite of all these blinking indicators, he on behalf of this government stands his ground that the allegations are baseless.

I wonder if the government would react to a terrorist threat in the same shirking manner? If they read reports of a possible terrorist plot in the Globe, with witnesses speaking of what they've been hearing and seeing, with an internal government report warning of a plot...what do you think they'd be doing? Standing on the streets of Newmarket, like Van Loan, and calling the allegations "baseless?" No, I don't think so. They'd be giving much credence to the Globe, those witnesses and that government report.

His government continues to do little to inspire the confidence of Canadians that they are taking sufficient action to deal with these torture allegations or that they understand at all how their reluctant and incompetent handling of the issue has hobbled our international reputation.

Enough already

The NY Times going into depth on Barack Obama's pastor today. Yes, his pastor and Obama's relationship with him: "A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith."

I take it the NY Times is reporting this issue given the Bush administration's efforts to fuse church and state, wherever and whenever possible. As a public service, if you will, to get Barack Obama's religious views out there as an issue for the candidate to address and make clear how his faith would play a role in his presidency, if elected. If that is the purpose of this article, fine.

Otherwise, you'd think Americans would want to return to a place a lot less invested in the religious leanings of its President or Presidential candidates. You'd like to think...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Justin Trudeau wins

Pierre Elliott Trudeau's son Justin wins bid for Liberal nomination.

Good for him. Put his head down and worked, fought all the naysayers, doomsayers, Jean Lapierres, presumptive stakeholders to the nomination...and won.

Another new politician on the federal scene that makes a lot of people nervous, for all the right reasons.

Take that, James Dobson

Christopher Hitchens publicizes a little known fact about Rove:
"Has anyone in the Bush administration confided in you about being an atheist?
Well, I don’t talk that much to them—maybe people think I do. I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”"
Think that ever came up during all those conference calls among Rove and religious right leaders coordinating efforts in 2004 to get Bush re-elected? Or during those cozy consultations between Rove and Dobson over Harriet Miers' religion and judicial philosophy?

David Kuo has previously written on the hypocrisy of the Bush administration in matters of religion:
The conversation between Mr. Wilson and Mrs. Viars comes amid publication of another book that perhaps should be required reading for evangelical conservatives: "Tempting Faith." Author David Kuo worked in the White House office for the faith-based social initiatives that were a foundation block of Mr. Bush's 2000 platform. The book recounts his disillusionment with officials, up to the president. On his promotional tour, Mr. Kuo is calling for Christians to "fast" from politics for two years.

From pages 229-230: At the White House, "They know 'the nuts' were politically invaluable, but that was the extent of their usefulness.….National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as 'ridiculous,' 'out of control,' and just plain 'goofy.'"
So Hitchens' tidbit is just further indication of the likely internal White House dynamics Kuo reported.

The piling on to this sunken White House is almost too easy these days.

A missed opportunity

Nick Kristof writes today about talks that occurred between Iran and the U.S. commencing in late 2001 with Iranian cooperation in the Afghanistan effort, and ending, unfortunately, in May of 2003 with a proposal made by Iran that the Bush administration walked away from:
In the master document, Iran talks about ensuring “full transparency” and other measures to assure the U.S. that it will not develop nuclear weapons. Iran offers “active Iranian support for Iraqi stabilization.” Iran also contemplates an end to “any material support to Palestinian opposition groups” while pressuring Hamas “to stop violent actions against civilians within” Israel (though not the occupied territories). Iran would support the transition of Hezbollah to be a “mere political organization within Lebanon” and endorse the Saudi initiative calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran also demanded a lot, including “mutual respect,” abolition of sanctions, access to peaceful nuclear technology and a U.S. statement that Iran did not belong in the “axis of evil.” Many crucial issues, including verification of Iran’s nuclear program, needed to be hammered out. It’s not clear to me that a grand bargain was reachable, but it was definitely worth pursuing — and still is today.

Instead, Bush administration hard-liners aborted the process. Another round of talks had been scheduled for Geneva, and Ambassador Zarif showed up — but not the U.S. side. That undermined Iranian moderates.

A U.S.-Iranian rapprochement could have saved lives in Iraq, isolated Palestinian terrorists and encouraged civil society groups in Iran. But instead the U.S. hard-liners chose to hammer plowshares into swords.

Here's Al - and here's the ilk we have



To which John Baird retorts his usual blather. Al Gore never did anything on climate change when he was Vice President...and the Liberals did nothing in 13 years of government...to which I say, just give it a rest, man. Really, when are you Conservatives going to stop whining about the former government and pointing fingers? At what point, after more than a year now, do you not get that it's just grating on voters to constantly be exposed to your putrid yammering about the Liberals. You're constantly giving the message that you can't stand on your own two feet with your own ideas. You're always blaming. You're eternally backward looking.

The environmental issue has not become ripe until now. Now. It is only now that citizens are demanding action. It wasn't possible in 1992 in the U.S. when Clinton and Gore were elected. It wasn't possible here until the fiscal disaster that you Conservatives left in place was cleaned up. It's only now that the economy of this country can withstand a challenge of this magnitude. And it's only now, more significantly, that the public is willing and motivated because of people like Al Gore.

The dominance of John Baird's face this week has gotten me to think a little more about the people leading our government. Who are these people? The faces you see the most from this Conservative government are all what I like to call partisan wonder boys. People who have really done nothing else with their lives other than live and breathe Conservative politics. No life-long established careers in other fields for this crowd. Immediately to the trenches for these boys! Led by the uber-partisan Mini Bush and rounded out by the most visible set: Junior MacKay, Jason Kenney, Peter VanLoan and John Baird. You could probably include Tony Clement too but he seems to have the sense, for the most part, to keep his head down and away from a fatal association with these clowns (although, watch out Tony, they might yet stick you in Defence).

And behind the scenes in the PMO? The same breed of partisans - the Sandra Bucklers, the Ian Brodies. You can just imagine their Karl Rove and Frank Luntz posters pinned up in their cubicles as they plot their daily media strategies and talking points. Get on Duffy Live, he'll ask you the Larry King question, "What do you make of that?" Give out this tidbit to Bob Fife, that'll be a solid "exclusive" at the lead of the national news. Here you go boys, here's the "Taliban loving Liberals" talking point of the day for Question Period.

That's what we're seeing. Cut-throat, urgent partisanship at all costs. What else can you say when you see John Baird, jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, slagging someone of the calibre of Al Gore? John Baird the hack for hire, parachuted into the Environment Ministry to save a drowning colleague because the Conservatives have absolutely no one qualified to be an Environment Minister in the lot...he's lecturing Al Gore about the environment. I hope Al takes him up on his offer to meet. And does it in public.

Just laughable how low we've sunk.

Al, we're truly embarrassed.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Al Gore: you rock

"Al Gore says Tories' green plan a 'fraud'."

On most occasions, I would politely tell a foreign politician to please stay out of our internal affairs...much the way I did when Segolene Royal was quoted as egging on Quebec independence. But this issue is different. The environmental challenge is global, it's a matter of science. It transcends borders and the world needs to be moving in a concerted direction.

And it serves John Baird right. He's invited Al Gore into our debate himself. Baird has previously tried to mislead people by suggesting Al Gore has approved of the Conservative government's environmental policies. Gore's just being crystal clear on that today.

Funny

Check out Garth Turner's blog for a great photo (from a few days ago)...it's worth it...:)

Conservative circular firing squad appears

O'Connor not going quietly: "O'Connor left hung out to dry on detainee file, official says." Please, tell us more, O'Connor ally. We'd love to hear it all, really. More dish on the PMO, please. Make it interesting.

What we do get from O'Connor's "defence" source:
A senior defence official, seeking to present Mr. O'Connor's views as he fights for his political life, said the Defence Minister feels he has been shouldering the blame for Canada's policies toward Afghan detainees for more than a year.

It was only after Mr. O'Connor ran into trouble in the House of Commons this week amid new reports of prisoner torture, that other cabinet ministers were brought in to defend the government.

“He didn't have any support for a year,” the official said. “This week, [other ministers] started to stand up because the Prime Minister gave the green light. He had been alone for a year. ...The minister is a team player. If his job is to take flak for everybody, he will take it.”
Sure sounds lonely up there in the Conservative cabinet, doesn't it? Bonus shot at Junior MacKay:
National Defence feels it has been carrying a disproportionate share of the load in Afghanistan — and the public-relations war. It believes other departments and agencies should be responsible for issues such as detainee policy, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Canadian International Development Agency.

“The bureaucrats at Foreign Affairs resisted getting stuck with this issue this week,” the defence source said. “They don't want this hornet's nest. They are happy going to their cocktail parties and eating little shrimps.”

In particular, there have been complaints that Canada's foreign aid is slow to arrive in the dangerous southern province where the Canadian Forces are active.

“When CIDA discovers the road to Kandahar, they will be able to send in their funds,” the defence source said.
Hmmm...National Defence fighting with Foreign Affairs and CIDA. Quite a little challenge developing for Harper. And from inside his own caucus we have a dissenter:
Inside the Conservative caucus, some are starting to have qualms, too.

One MP, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed concern that Canadian troops are fighting a war that cannot be won.
You, my insightful friend, have just incurred the significant wrath of one Sandra Buckler and the iron fisted Mini Bush.

I love the sounds of Conservative infighting in the morning...:)

Late night lazy video blogging



One of my favourite songs from the past few years...seems to have extra resonance this week.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Go Keith go



Olbermann with a rebuke to Giuliani for his fear mongering on terrorism this week. Could be equally applied to our own Conservatives' burgeoning rhetoric on Afghanistan.

I'm a terrorist sympathizer

So says soprano Peter Van Loan today:
Conservative House Leader Peter VanLoan suggested the opposition parties were taking the side of the Taliban, defending terrorists and spreading false accusations that undermined the troops. Versions of that reply were echoed by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Helena Guergis, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Gordon were not in the House.
We've seen this movie before. Starring George W. Bush and his trusty Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Challenging the patriotism of anyone daring to question the handling of the mission. You're either with your Canadian government or you're with the terrorists. And we know how that movie ends. With a thoroughly discredited leader with an approval rating stuck in the mid-low 30's in poll after poll.

Oh wait...we have that now, don't we?

And surprise, surprise, Fog Horn Leg Iron Day overstepped himself by putting the corrections people out in front on monitoring prisoners:
But Mr. Day changed that Thursday, and said that staff from Correctional Service Canada have already made 15 visits to Afghan jails. He continued on that message Friday, but increasing that number to 17 visits.

“We saw those people. We are concerned about those people,” Mr. Day said Thursday. “Two of the individuals talked to them about their treatment, and our officers raised the issue of them being in leg irons. We do not think they should be in leg irons.”

Canadian officials later Thursday said the role of the two corrections officers - Linda Garwood-Filbert and Ric Fecteau - is to train Afghan prison officials and improve detention policies. “They don't monitor [detainees's] treatment,” said Mélisa Leclerc, a spokeswoman for Mr. Day. (emphasis added)
Of course they don't. Day doesn't know wtf he's talking about. And his corrections appointee has directly contradicted Day on this:
Ms. Garwood-Filbert, director of corrections at the Provincial Reconstruction Team, said in an interview earlier this month that they had not yet started work in the NDS prison, from where the most severe stories of torture emerge. “There hasn't been any significant work done with the prisons,” Ms. Garwood-Filbert said at the time, adding that it is too easy for the Canadian and Afghan authorities to forget about prisoners after they're thrown in jail. “It's out of sight, out of mind. We're just happy they went to jail.”

Allegations of torture at Afghan prisons wouldn't surprise her, she told CTV News. “I'm not naive enough to think those circumstances don't happen.”
No, but our Conservative government sure is.

Harper again reaping what his petty partisanship sows

"N.L. premier Williams refers to PM as 'Steve'." This guy is going to be Harper's worst nightmare in the next election, whenever that may be. So keep poking your stick in the hornet's nest, Mini Bush, and here's what you can expect:
Premier Danny Williams is now referring to the prime minister simply as "Steve.''

When asked about his use of the familiar moniker, Williams said he was only treating Stephen Harper with the "same disdain'' the prime minister is showing Newfoundlanders.

The premier's remarks come a day after Harper took a sarcastic shot at Williams, saying the province's surplus-laden budget -- tabled Thursday -- shows Newfoundland is enduring "awful rough treatment'' from Ottawa.

During a 20-minute news conference today, the outspoken premier called Harper "Steve'' eight times.

Williams says Harper broke a promise to the province last month when he introduced a new equalization formula that penalizes Newfoundland's offshore energy revenues.

In an awkward moment last year, U.S. President George W. Bush called Harper `Steve' when the two leaders met in Washington. (emphasis added)
Good for Williams. The heartless Mini Bush took a gratuitous shot at the premier and province. Demonstrating once again that he just doesn't get that a Prime Minister should be above such cheap shots. And that he doesn't get the sensitivities of Newfoundlanders about their province's historical financial position. How 'bout that, Steve?

What is that saying that Mini Bush apparently never learned? If you can't say anything nice...:)

Rights issues are like kryptonite to Conservatives

That and a few other thoughts on the Afghanistan torture situation and its political implications...

This issue has galvanized the opposition to Harper like no other issue to date. It's given life to the Liberal bench in particular. Defending human rights on the international stage? That's right in their wheelhouse, baby! And Mini Bush served it up to them on a silver platter. I don't think there could have been a better antidote to the fog of a new leadership team than a challenge like this to notions of who we are as Canadians. It demarcated the parties clearly.

And so we saw Dion and Ignatieff team up this past week to fight it out with Harper on turf that I would say is their natural home advantage. Rights politics is an easy gig for these guys. They're both academics and it fits with the Liberal party's historical mission post Charter adoption.

The Conservatives, by contrast, are uncomfortable with human rights issues. It explains how they could be so incompetent as to miss an explosive issue erupting in their faces. They're programmed to marginalize such issues as those of the lawyer-set, not ordinary Canadians. The Conservatives couldn't even bring themselves to fully embrace the Charter on its recent 25th anniversary. No graceful recognition of the event. Just partisan marginalization of it as they view it as a Liberal achievement. They resent that aspect of it and they don't like the jurisprudence that Canada has been given as a bi-product. They don't get, however, that it's a symbol of Canadian values that most of us actually admire.

The Conservatives also inexplicably fail to recognize that Canadians are proud of their historical position on the world stage as peace-keepers, as a tolerant and law abiding country. That's fundamentally who we are. That's how we're viewed. Whether the Conservatives like it or not. The Afghanistan mission is an aberration, yet it's not viewed as such by the Conservatives. They seem to relish it. What we saw of ourselves as a country this week, with the brushing off of serious questions about how we're handing over prisoners of war? It was antithetical to who we are. That's not us.

So for the first time, in my opinion, we've started seriously looking at the faces on the Liberal bench as a possible government-in-waiting. And compared to Harper's slim pickings, it doesn't look bad at all. As Andrew Coyne suggested last night on the National panel, who would take O'Connor's place as Defence Minister if he's fired? After a year in government, there are few, if any, rising stars to speak of who might ably fill in for O'Connor. And excuse me for not having names come to mind, but they just don't. Mini Bush and his communications people don't let other Ministers or MP's shine. They keep the clamps on them out of fear of what they might say and to ensure an airtight, controlled government message. It's done to such an extent that no one else seems to get the opportunity to attain any level of public profile and support other than the PM.

On the Liberal side, by contrast, there's a crop of up and comers and solid faces kicking around. Mark Holland, David McGuinty, Ignatieff, of course given the profile he's been accorded. Just a few who come to mind of late because Dion has let them do their thing. He isn't afraid of sharing the spotlight and trusts the quality of the people he's got. Harper doesn't seem to do the same. You always get the sense that his Ministers are on a short leash with the media.

It'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out if there were to be an election in the near future. Give the Liberals a bit more time, and they'll have built on this week, which seems to have been a real turning point for them. And a reminder for Canadians about who they might want to be speaking for them on such issues to the world.

Conservative hatorade watch

Today's winner (based on his stellar performance in the House of Commons yesterday): Conservative MP Richard Harris (Cariboo—Prince George).

H/t to Creekside blog for the keen eye.

This guy certainly rocked the Democratic debate last night



Mike Gravel, one of the Democratic candidates for President. Enjoy...:)

Terrible optics for Harper

When our Prime Minister is saying the same thing as the General in charge of the National Directorate for Security in Kandahar, it's not good: 'Powerful people are angry.' Here's Harper Thursday:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says there is “no evidence” of access to detainees being blocked in Afghan prisons and he accused opposition parties of being anti-military.

In another fiery day in Question Period, Mr. Harper said high-profile concerns over detainee treatment were “baseless accusations,” despite the existence of a 2006 Consulate report warning just such abuse could be going on.
And here's General Quyaum:
The NDS chief also emphasized that all accusations of torture within his prison are false.

“Those prisoners were telling lies to you,” General Quyaum said. “There is no proof.”
That's a sad state of affairs.

A bit of a bright spot from that latter report, in spite of our government's incompetence....the noise Canadians are making here at home is resonating in Afghanistan and people are rooting for the new found Canadian pressure to succeed in gaining access, inspections, and accountability for prisoners.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Harper was a shameless partisan disaster today

In Question Period, in the face of continued questions about the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan, Harper continues to instead choose partisanship over substance to respond to the issue. He continues to fail to recognize the significance of Canada fully adhering to the Geneva Conventions and to be seen to be doing so to the world.

Instead, Harper's instincts are to mock Dion and Layton and use the troops as a shield for his accountability. The opposition should apologize to the troops? Are you kidding me? This is not about the troops. This is about Harper and O'Connor. The only parties that owe an apology to the troops are Harper and O'Connor. They've let this situation develop in Afghanistan where the Canadian Forces are put in the middle of a chaotic no-win situation. They've ramped up the combat mission yet left our Forces in the position of having no safeguards to ensure the Geneva Conventions will be followed. That's inexcusable and it's a lack of civilian experience and proper oversight of the military operation that is the problem.

Harper and O'Connor are not in control of the Afghanistan situation at all. Even Bob Fife is apologizing for the government's confusing position. There is no clarity here, it's a mess. We've always had access says Stockwell Day? O'Connor on Wednesday night says we've reached an agreement for access? Harper today says there is no formal agreement? Which is it?

Mini Bush reaping what he's sown

It is striking how the atmosphere in Ottawa has made a decisive turn for the worse, particularly over the past week. Can't say that I'm surprised though. The Liberals in particular have been primed to take on Harper after he has taunted and attacked Stephane Dion for months in a consistently gloating posture. I mean, give them an opening and there'll be no mercy after the treatment Harper has dished out. He's been terribly short-sighted in so callously disrespecting his political opponents.

Temperament, temperament...what is it we see of political leaders? It's their Achilles heel that will be their eventual undoing. Clinton's, um, gregariousness. Bush's stupidity. Martin's lack of focus.

For Harper, I still can't put my finger on the exact quality, but I think it's fair to say it comes from a deep, dark place within him...:) It could be the need to control. It could be an over-thinking of the strategy. Being too clever by half. The bizarre emotional detachment. The mean streak. Not quite sure yet.

But here's an interesting piece we see today supporting the "control freak" theory. The Harper crowd's propensity to control information seems to be making them trip over themselves:
The common theme, it's being said, is a tendency to dishonest coverup by the Conservative government.

In the Afghanistan case, it's the question of whether the government wilfully tried to conceal information about potential mistreatment of detainees captured by Canadian forces and turned over to Afghan security forces. A report released to the Globe and Mail showed that all references to detainee mistreatment and torture had been blacked out in the version sent to the newspaper. But the Globe also had the full report and was able to fill in the blanks.

This has opposition leaders and critics actually accusing ministers of lying – not once, but repeatedly. Even by the standards of this raucous minority Parliament, that's rare.

Environment Minister John Baird is also being accused of changing his story – not once, but several times – in the aftermath of the embarrassing transmission of his green plans to the opposition lobby of the Commons on Tuesday night. (emphasis added)
All IMHO, of course...:)

Here's a must read today

"Who's watching the generals?"

Raises a bunch of important questions about proper oversight by successive Canadian governments over the military with a minor spotlight shone on the increasingly powerful role played by General Rick Hillier in this vacuum.

The terrorists win if we fire O'Connor

So says an anonymous Republican Conservative spinner on behalf of Mini Bush: "PM stands by O'Connor -- but for the wrong reasons."
Conservative sources told The Globe and Mail yesterday that despite pervasive recognition of Mr. O'Connor's failings, Mr. Harper has no plan to let the Minister go because it could be interpreted as a lack of commitment.

"If it's interpreted as us wavering, or any weakening of resolve that somehow we're on the wrong course, those questions would get asked," a source told The Globe and Mail.

"The Taliban would see it as a positive thing."
Sounds suspiciously close to Bush's rationale for keeping Rumsfeld, doesn't it?

The parallels just keep on coming...:)

Meanwhile, the burned out O'Connor announced an agreement that will enable monitoring of detainees in Kandahar:
"Military officials have made contact with the National Directorate of Security regional director, General Quyaum, for security in Kandahar," Mr. O'Connor said. "He agreed to provide full access to detention facilities. Canadian government officials will establish continuous liaison with the prison authorities for the purpose of verifying the state of detainees."

Under the Geneva Conventions, Canada must ensure that prisoners it transfers to other authorities are not abused, and this agreement for the first time puts Canadian officials in charge of monitoring detainee treatment instead of leaving it to outside organizations.
Well, it's about time, boys. Better make sure it's not full of holes though. The Globe report suggests ways the Afghans will be able to side-step this arrangement by transferring prisoners to other locations or to other Afghan institutions such as police or army. A makeshift solution carved out on the fly would not be a proper resolution to alleged abuses of rights under the Geneva Conventions, now would it?

"Offside with mainstream Canada"

Conservatives' fave pollster with some bad news:
“You can see how there's a cultural resistance to the Conservatives' position in the province of Quebec, and also fairly broadly across the country,” said Allan Gregg, head of The Strategic Counsel, which conducted the poll for The Globe and Mail/CTV News.

“They tend to get good solid marks on management issues and economic questions, but when you get into the social or ideological issues, they find themselves offside with mainstream Canada.”
That's a shame...:)

A strong majority favours adhering to Kyoto targets (sorry, John Baird, magical mystery pol - you were way off, dude!). And a strong majority says the Afghanistan conflict is not worth the price of Canadian lives. Sadly, Mini Bush is on the wrong side of both of those major issues.

An election at this time would be a real shocker.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Rosie O'Donnell leaving the View

Report here.

Rosie O'Donnell, for all the flak she's taken from pompous blowhards since joining that show last year, has been courageous in doing her part in restoring some semblance of free speech on American network television. From what I have seen, she's provocative, she's confrontational, she's unique. She challenges the status quo. And she's a democrat.

I applaud her for the past year and her continued effort to speak out against the incompetent and dangerous Bush administration.

Bev Oda organizing a sponsorship extravaganza?

Conservatives filling out questionnaires on sponsorship opportunities in their own ridings. And choosing a most decidedly Republican manner of communicating the information:
"He also wants to know why the memo asks Tories to respond to Oda's personal MP's office e-mail account instead of her government office in the Department of Canadian Heritage."
The parallels just keep on coming...

How can anybody not like him?



Liberals fighting back, again...:)

We're just not that into you, Part Deux

Tory support dives, now in tie with Liberals.

Methinks the turn for the worse in Afghanistan is resonating with Canadians. Mini Bush staying the course in Afghanistan and failing to ensure Geneva Conventions are followed is eerily parallel to certain other goings on in the world, ahem.

And given that this poll was taken Thursday through Saturday of this week, it's likely related to John Baird's fear mongering on the environment as well. Big turnoff.

Torture...fighting with Danny Williams...lies about income trusts...Mini Bush has got something for everyone to be peeved at!

Groundhog day

How many days will it take until Mini Bush acknowledges that Canadian Forces should not be handing over prisoners to be tortured? Today in the House, Harper continued to cloak this issue in partisanship while responding on this serious issue: "Harper defends actions on Afghan detainees."

He continues to minimize the issue. Has the gall to say progress is being made in Afghanistan (just like Bush in his bubble) and take shots at the former Liberal government at every opportunity. It's like a game to this guy and it's completely inappropriate.

Karl Rove picked on the wrong U.S. attorney

David Iglesias fighting back with a vengeance. Transcript and video here. His appearance on Hardball yesterday was riveting.

We'll see where this investigation goes. No one's been able to nail the slippery one thus far but I'm always rooting for one more who'll try.

Some have raised questions about the independence of the investigator in this Special Counsel's office. Iglesias seems to have confidence in them, however, after meeting with them. And he sounds convincing.

Incompetence in John Baird's office

Wha? Say it ain't so...the vaunted John Baird, media mega-star has flubbed the grand roll-out: "Speech on environment plan accidentally leaked." Whoops...:)

And what's this? There's an asinine hack in John Baird's employ:
Mr. Van Soelen said the second fax warning Mr. McGuinty not to leak the speech was simply a precaution.

"When we realized the content of the speech sent, we realized it wasn't a big deal," he said. "I'm sure the Liberals got all excited when they read it, because they would have loved to have once written a speech this strong."
Don't quit your day job, pal. Gotta love that Conservative geek sense of humour, don't you?

Harper's torture problem getting worse

So we find a very interesting elaboration on the torture story today in the Globe: "What Ottawa doesn't want you to know."
The Harper government knew from its own officials that prisoners held by Afghan security forces faced the possibility of torture, abuse and extrajudicial killing, The Globe and Mail has learned.

But the government has eradicated every single reference to torture and abuse in prison from a heavily blacked-out version of a report prepared by Canadian diplomats in Kabul and released under an access to information request.
That's the Harper crew for you, control of information par for the course. The Globe was able to obtain a full clean copy of the report, however, and could compare and derive what the blacked out parts read. One example:
There was no explanation for blacking out observations such as "military, intelligence and police forces have been accused of involvement in arbitrary arrest, kidnapping extortion, torture and extrajudicial killing."
The point here? The government knew of the potential for detainees to be tortured by the Afghans if they were turned over. And they did it anyway. International reports, cited in the Globe report, have also highlighted this problem in Afghanistan. Our leaders have been turning a blind eye to the situation and now they've been called on it. Harper and O'Connor's futile promises to look into these allegations this week become even more stunning when one reads this article.

Think Mini Bush might actually consider that he's in the wrong now? Nah, I won't be holding my breath. What is it with these right wing politicians who can't admit a mistake anyway?

We should not be condoning torture and we should not be handing over prisoners to any government who will then proceed to torture. Harper is buckpassing by throwing responsibility onto others - the Afghan Human Rights entity - and suggesting that he doesn't take the word of Afghan prisoners that they're being tortured. I wonder if he'll consider the allegations to be more serious now that everyone knows that Harper's government was told the Afghans were torturing.

By the way...this blacked out report appears to have come to the Globe via an academic who obtained the report after a personal complaint to the Information Commissioner. A Globe journalist who requested the same item was told it did not exist.

Wishful thinking on the part of Mini Bush's media crew or just an out and out lie?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Consider yourself told, Barbara



The unwitting Barbara Bush speaks...:)

Some lighter fare given this weighty day...

See no evil

It looks like the Conservatives chose willful blindness as their preferred route in tracking prisoners taken in Afghanistan: "Paper trail on detainees no longer goes to defence minister's office."
A key paper trail that once tracked the handling of Taliban prisoners has been eliminated in the defence minister's office, raising questions about human-rights accountability.
O'Connor gets only "oral briefings." This has led to problems.
Last winter, O'Connor was forced to apologize to the Commons for misinforming members of Parliament about the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the monitoring of detainees.
Why is this deviation from the previous government's practice of receiving written reports in place?
The absence of a paper trail could provide a degree of deniability should a major human-rights abuse be carried out by Canadian troops or Afghans, who take charge of captured insurgents.
...
Amir Attaran, the University of Ottawa law professor who first raised questions of prisoner detention, said Monday it's clear the Canadian government is content to keep itself in the dark.

"It seems the responsible individuals in the Department of National Defence and the minister, Gordon O'Connor, didn't care to know. They didn't care to find out and they didn't care to make decisions on that basis," said Attaran.

"I find this profoundly sad. I would like to think of my country Canada as one that acts on human rights in a proactive way and doesn't wait for it to be published in the Globe and Mail."
A very sorry track record for the Conservatives is clearly taking shape.

Harper doesn't get it

Bravo to Michael Ignatieff for holding their feet to the fire today:
“The government's handling of this whole affair has been disgraceful. The honour of Canada is at stake,” railed Deputy Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

“Will the PM stop this sickening charade and fire that Minister of Defence?”
Harper blandly blathers on about the clearly deficient agreement Canada has in place with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission that doesn't have access to the prisoners, again. That's what they continue to hang their hat on. And again, another day where our Prime Minister does not out rightly address the concern about Canada's values nor does he firmly state that Canada will not permit torture of prisoners it turns over. Harper is winking at this issue. Listen to this:
“I think what's disgraceful is to simply accept the allegations of Taliban suspects at face value,” Mr. Harper said.

Accused of showing no respect to Canadians and troops, Mr. Harper said it was in fact the detainee allegations that he would not respect. “We don't take those allegations without any evidence.”
Reverse the situation and imagine it were Canadian troops making allegations they were being tortured by Taliban or Afghans - or any other nation - after a report circulated in the media, by a reputable media organization. Would Harper take them at face value or would he remain as uncaring as he is now? This is not the kind of standard we expect from a Prime Minister.

Nor do we expect the Public Safety Minister to be minimizing the standards we expect to be followed:
"We're saying to them that these people that we're bringing you to put in jail, yes, these people have no compunction about machine-gunning, mowing down little children. They have no compunction about decapitating or hanging elderly women. They have no compunction about the vicious forms of torture you can imagine on innocent people. Now we've captured them and yes these people that we've captured want nothing more to do than to kill you and your children and we're asking you to treat them humanely."
If the Canadian Forces are handing prisoners over in such a context where the Canadian government is sending such a message, it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that torture is occurring. This is the same equivocal sort of message that U.S. leadership let take hold down through the U.S. military's ranks and led to the Abu Ghraib mess.

And Day went on to parrot the Bush White House line on setting deadlines in conflicts:
MPs are expected to vote today on a motion tabled in Parliament by the Liberal opposition that calls for a two-year cap on Canada's military involvement in southern Afghanistan.

"Basically the vote is going to be do you tell the enemy the exact day you're going to leave or do you not. It's an interesting debate that's going to take place," Day told the conference audience.
These guys just don't get it.

Spitzer acting with conviction

Good for him:
The news that Gov. Eliot Spitzer will soon introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage — what he calls “a simple moral imperative” — is welcome and could give new national momentum to this important cause. Mr. Spitzer would be the first governor in the nation to introduce a gay marriage bill. But if he is going to make a real difference, rather than simply checking off a box to fulfill a campaign promise, he will have to fight for the law vigorously.
...
Mr. Spitzer is right to be fighting for gay marriage. Civil unions and domestic partnerships are an important recognition of gay relationships by a state. But they still represent separate and unequal treatment. One federal study identified more than 1,100 rights or benefits that are accorded only to the legally married. That means that even in states recognizing civil unions and domestic partnerships, gay couples often have to use legal contortions to protect their families in ways that married couples take for granted. Gay couples may also be discriminated against when it comes to taxes and pension benefits.
What a concept...a politician doing the right thing in spite of the odds and the backlash he is liable to incur.

Watch him closely, he's a dying breed.

More trouble for Rove

"The Office of Special Counsel will investigate U.S. attorney firings and other political activities led by Karl Rove."

That's a shame...:)

Harper turns a blind eye to torture

"PM defends policy on detainees." You know, the one where the Canadian government hands over Afghan detainees to the torturing Afghan National Directorate for Security. Sound familiar? Haven't we seen such practices before? Like the Bush administration's practice of extraordinary rendition that led to the torture of Maher Arar in Syria for which the Prime Minister apologized? Apparently that means little to the PMO gang.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper ignored growing allegations of torture in Afghan prisons and said Monday that Canadian soldiers will keep transferring detainees to local authorities in the war-torn country.

He rejected arguments from the opposition and human-rights experts who argue that Canada is breaking international law by exposing prisoners to torture and that Minister of Defence Gordon O'Connor must resign as a result.

Instead, the Prime Minister said that Canada's current agreement with Afghan authorities contains the necessary safeguards after being beefed up by his government.

“We take such allegations seriously. That is why we have concluded an agreement with the Afghan government,” Mr. Harper said. “It is why we will be in discussions with them to pursue this matter and to ensure that they have the capacity to undertake their terms of the agreement.”
So Harper and his crew, after coming under fire Monday, have decided to defend the status quo. Harper says the current agreement with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission - who don't get access to the prisoners by the way - is enough. And you know why? Because it's better than what the last Liberal government negotiated, says Mini Bush.
Mr. Harper said the Liberals had signed an inadequate policy, and that the Conservative government has improved it.

“The government has signed a new agreement. The previous Liberal government had an agreement in place that has proven to be inadequate despite their assurance,” Mr. Harper said.
That's our PM, ever primed for the partisan slash, Harper can't help himself. Accused of embarrassing our nation internationally and dragging us down into the muck with torturers, our guy's instinct is to toss a partisan barb at the last government. To cover his own a** first.

Grow up. This is not a game of one-upmanship. You're our Prime Minister, even for people like me who did not vote for you. You and O'Connor have embarrassed us and massively messed this up. The damage you've done to the respected Canadian image abroad and our values is at issue. It's about what we stand for. Don't you get it? There's not even the whiff of a hint that comes out of you that you understand this. Take responsibility and get it cleaned up instead of focusing on partisan maneuvers. James Travers gets it:
Along with either misunderstanding or putting a jolly face on Ottawa's suspect arrangement with Kabul, the minister somehow missed that what happened at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq made humane treatment of detainees in Afghanistan a precondition for mission support here at home.

Even if O'Connor doesn't get it, Canadians grasp that our behaviour there is inextricably linked to our declared purpose of advancing human rights, democracy and rule of law.

With the exception of the few still clinging to delusions about how modern conflicts are resolved, most Canadians also understand that the way we treat others is principally about us. It reaffirms our values, declares how we expect our troops to be treated and offers hope to ordinary Afghans that the future won't be just a replay of the past.
Our Prime Minister, on our behalf, needs to take steps that prove that he will no longer permit torture of prisoners that are turned over by Canadian Forces. That is exactly what we have condemned the U.S. for...and under Harper's watch, the exact same thing has now happened. Harper and his crew have been wilfully blind to this situation or they have been grossly incompetent. And Canadians will bear the international embarrassment and repercussions for their actions.

We call him Mini Bush for good reason here at the Impolitical blog.

Have a laugh



On the occasion of the Conservatives' imminent environmental scheme...here's W to tee it up...:)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Karl Rove says Sheryl Crow "insulted" him

Have a big laugh over this one this morning...:)

"She came over to insult me, and she succeeded," said a beleaguered Karl Rove of his encounter with Sheryl Crow on Saturday night.

Yes, that's right. Karl Rove whining that somebody insulted him.

Please.

Let's not insult the thin-skinned delicate genius and destroyer of reputations in-chief. For you see, he can dish it out mightily, but a little face to face accountability? Nope, can't take it. You hurt the poor bastard's feelings, Sheryl.

Someone give this woman a medal, please!

Apparently the sky is falling

Jane Taber's article in the Globe today doing a pretty good hatchet job on Dion is bound to be a topic of discussion today. As far as I can tell, the big news here is that he's a new leader putting together a new Opposition Leader's Office and guess what? Lo and behold, there are glitches. We should be shocked, apparently, that it's not all running like clockwork from day one.

So we read about a new team and lines of authority being blurred. Disgruntled MP's who backed other candidates still fueling dissension. Plus throw in feuding Chretienites and Martinites and their goddamn hangover and it's a recipe for a frustrating, kitchen sink of an article with tons of bitching about administrative crap like the travel staffers. Guess the pendulum is quickly swinging back to Dion, again, from the brief scrutiny of Harper's leadership, in at least two other media sources this weekend.

Whoever this "Dion strategist" is, I'd say he or she is a little whacked for making a statement like this:
Mr. Dion's main supporters attribute the grumbles and complaints to growing pains.

They say the deal with the Greens is part of the winning strategy to beat Stephen Harper and his Conservatives.

“Environment is the only issue,” said one of the leader's key strategists, who asked not to be identified.

“It is exploding in the public's imagination. We need people to know Stéphane understands the issue … [now] the Green Party Leader says he should be prime minister. We are getting our shit together…part of it is Elizabeth May.”
The only issue? Um, if this is your strategy, please don't lay it out there like this...can they be this stupid? Why would you telegraph like this? Everyone knows Dion is passionate about the environment. But why pigeonhole him into this narrow slot by saying it's the only issue? Can they be this daft? Perhaps this is just a major deke, instead. Here's hoping, but I fear it's not. There's also an element of condescension towards Elizabeth May in this comment which I don't like. Portraying her as a means to an end. It just seems callous.

For the love of God, people...please speed up the "getting our shit together" part and do your freaking jobs...:)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Exciting presidential race in France

It's down to Sarkozy and Royal. The next vote occurs May 6. The next two weeks will be fascinating in France as the focus shifts more intensely to these two candidates:
Aides to both candidates have predicted the second-round campaign will focus on two issues: Can Mr. Sarkozy appeal to centrist voters after a rightward drift during the first-round campaign? And can Ms. Royal win over skeptics who say she isn't fit for the job. "Nicolas will show off his capacity to act and deliver," said Patrick Balkany, a French lawmaker and a longtime friend of Mr. Sarkozy. "He will make Ms. Royal look ridiculous."

Jean-Pierre Chevènement, a former interior minister and an adviser to Ms. Royal said: "These are macho allegations. She has demonstrated that she can be hard-headed and sensitive, all qualities required for a head of state."
The sharpened knives are clearly out! While the betting now seems to favour Sarkozy, the front-runner and candidate of the right, the supporters of all the runoff candidates who've now dropped off will move elsewhere and as the WSJ article notes, there's an element of unpredictability with that. I caught an interview Charlie Rose did with Sarkozy a few months back and was distinctly underwhelmed. But hey, maybe that's just me. What I find truly of interest is the prospect that France could have a woman president for the first time in its history, in a few weeks time.

"My mother doesn't like him"

With friends like these...this is an understatement: "Harper Tories can't break into majority territory."
"My mother doesn't like him," one Conservative insider who didn't want to be named said of Harper. "I don't know, she just doesn't like him. It's something he emanates."
Yeah, it's something all right.
Powers says Harper is in reality closer to a "Tim Hortons dad" - albeit a Tim Hortons dad who employs a publicly funded personal image stylist and still struggles to check a notorious mean streak.

A recent case in point was when Harper sabotaged his own spate of generally positive headlines after last month's budget. He was widely criticized, even by right-leaning observers, for suggesting in question period that Liberal MPs care more for Taliban suspects detained in Afghanistan than for Canadian troops.
He can't check that mean streak, that's for sure.

The Conservatives apparently think another year of milling about with Mini Bush at the helm is going to solve his likability problems. If they're not having the election now, which, by all accounts they're not....they're facing a lengthy period of time in which Dion has opportunity to grow and re-build the "resilient Liberal brand," as noted here. The more people see Dion and get comfortable with him, the more of a problem it's going to be for Harper.

Nice to see the continued scrutiny of Harper, to counter-balance the months of negative coverage of Dion.

Focus on Harper's leadership - for a change

"Harper's leadership of Tory party could hinge on majority."

Mini Bush's future as leader of his party being raised as an issue. What with all the finger pointing at Stephane Dion, one is certainly not surprised to see this inquiry on whether those who live in glass houses should be throwing all those stones! So what's Mini Bush's likely problem?
"If he (Harper) takes the party to minority twice, there are going to be questions raised (about his leadership)," says John Wright, senior vice-president of the Ipsos Reid polling firm. Wright adds that a minority government is a very real possibility given that most Canadians don't really know Harper and, worse yet, don't completely trust him.

Wright says if the Conservatives win a status quo minority, "you got to think the party itself would be looking and thinking about getting another leader."
The Ipsos Reid guy helpfully elaborates:
But it's not a done deal for Harper by any means. Wright of Ipsos Reid says his company's polling results from the past three months still show that two-thirds of Canadians don't know the Prime Minister any better now than when he was elected, while 45 per cent still believe he has a "hidden agenda."

"They say he is a great leader, they actually say that. He's got all the smarts, he's shrewd, but then there is almost half the population that says there's this thing where I don't trust (him) ... hidden agenda, something that he has not been able to shake," Wright says.
Nope. Like Popeye, he is what he is. And too many muckrakers like myself who won't let it go. That's a promise.

And alas, those next in line are not of the impressive variety. Jim Flaherty? Give me a break. Jason Kenney? Are you kidding me? The boy partisan won't get a vote outside Alberta. And there's this cryptic comment on John Baird:
Environment Minister John Baird, 37, is also a much-relied-on minister in the Harper fold, but it's unclear if he would want to be put under the spotlight of a leadership bid.
Not quite sure what this is getting at. I'm clearly not in the know on this, although I have my suspicions. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

All in all, portents of trouble for Mini Bush being bandied about...an enjoyable read on a Sunday...:)

Danny Williams makes a new friend

Nice: "Dion pledges co-operation with Williams."

As they say, don't be messin' with Danny Millions...:)

Karl Rove confronted on global warming

By Laurie David and Sheryl Crow last night at the White House Correspondents Dinner. Karl was "combative," they write, in an animated description of their encounter with the dark side. His rude goodbye to them is telling:
In his attempt to dismiss us, Mr. Rove turned to head toward his table, but as soon as he did so, Sheryl reached out to touch his arm. Karl swung around and spat, "Don't touch me." How hardened and removed from reality must a person be to refuse to be touched by Sheryl Crow? Unphased, Sheryl abruptly responded, "You can't speak to us like that, you work for us." Karl then quipped, "I don't work for you, I work for the American people." To which Sheryl promptly reminded him, "We are the American people."
Those on the right wing of the spectrum certainly are bothered by the topic, aren't they? It's like some pesky, inconvenient issue has been forced upon them by Al Gore and they wish to run as far as they can in the opposite direction. Even when the lovely Sheryl Crow is trying to speak to you. What a shame.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Danny Millions and Loyola Hearn - then and now

Watch this video from 1989 of Danny Williams speaking about his guy, Loyola Hearn, in the Newfoundland PC leadership at that time. Times have certainly changed, to say the least.

Check out this report from Friday, as the "war of words" between Hearn and Williams flares up intensely over the equalization and Atlantic Accord issue. You've got to think that this uncertainty in Newfoundland - and how the issue would play out across the Maritimes - has factored in to Harper's recent leaks to the media on a spring election being off the table.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Conservatives' strange environmental strategy

After reading and watching a bit of the coverage on John Baird's performance (make no mistake, it was a performance) before a parliamentary committee yesterday, I've had a few thoughts about what is going on here.

The Conservatives have displayed a shifting attitude in their treatment of environmental issues, as we all know. Mocking the topic for almost their entire first year leading this minority government with a pathetic Environmental Minister at the helm. The contempt was obvious. Faced with growing public concern over the issue and polls substantiating the public's new priority, Harper and the crew have panicked. They put in place a consummate politician with strong communication skills but no environmental credibility. Mouth a few platitudes and we'll be OK goes the strategy.

With this week's turn to fear mongering about the economic impacts of striving to meet the Kyoto targets, it's become clear, however, that at the end of the day, the Conservatives can't be anything but themselves on the environmental file, really. I mean, the environment is not their thing, baby. Mini Bush didn't run for PM to become an environmental crusader. We're still not completely sure what his agenda is, but the environment certainly didn't make his top 10 when plotting his political future.

So while we're still in wait and see mode on their specifics as their public relations campaign paves their way on this file, their opening gambit is not promising.

At a time of great financial strength in our country, we see the Environment Minister decrying Kyoto as the likely cause of a certain recession within a few years if we adhere to its targets. A little dramatic and out of touch with reality? Whose buying this bluster? There may be a few, likely the Conservative base that are buying. But aren't these supposed to be the times when a nation can meet a global challenge? When surpluses abound at the federal level and the GST's even being cut...aren't these indications that we're resilient and capable of planning to meet the big challenges? Aren't these the times when a nation can make a difference on a significant issue? When it has the reserves and buffer to make headway on a pressing issue?

Why are our politicians so reluctant to challenge Canadians to rally to a cause? To ask for sacrifice in support of something bigger than ourselves. Bush was universally condemned for not asking a willing public to sacrifice to fight terrorism after 9/11. For doing so little with the American public's willingness to act in a significant way in response to the threat. If he'd slapped on a gas tax after 9/11 and rallied his nation to get off foreign oil, the public would have gone with him. It's entirely possible that there's a willingness in the Canadian public to be bold on the environment as well. It's a threat that's manifesting itself in our daily lives. The environmental damage is tangible. The National recently did a great job in presenting examples of any number of hot spots around the world exhibiting symptoms of the impact climate change will have. Houses falling off cliffs from beach erosion in England. And we feel tangible effects. The strange weather we witness, the reports of stranded polar bears that are becoming endangered.

We just might give up some of our comforts, the cost of a movie per week or whatever it is for an individual or a family for the sake of making the difference if we're asked to do it and we know what to do to make that difference. The political leadership that exercises the cheap political gimmickry in response to such feelings is going to be wildly off.

It's remarkable too that the Conservatives seem to be throwing in their lot with the nations around the world who are staking out opposition to the Kyoto framework. The U.S., the Australians. The right wing administrations who have been climate change deniers and who won't come to the table for solutions unless they're dragged kicking and screaming. Canadians aren't aligned with Bush's priorities and certainly not his environmental position. So why the Conservatives in Canada would jeopardize themselves politically by so aligning themselves, even if they're not in full climate change denial, is a strange strategy. For yesterdays presentation certainly moves them further into that side of the political spectrum on the environment. It'll be difficult for them to segue back to the positive now.

The psychic talks to angels

Harper's friend is a p.r. nightmare:
It appears taxpayers may be getting a "heavenly" deal when it comes to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's image adviser.

Friends of Michelle Muntean, who maintains Harper's image when he travels, say she claims to commune with angels.

They say the angels relay messages from the dead, and the former TV makeup artist occasionally stuns people with the details.

Harper's office says neither he nor any of the members of his entourage pay for news from the other side.

Rather, Muntean gets a government salary to maintain Harper's wardrobe and image when he's on the road.
Tell people what her salary is and get it over with. Why are they dragging this on? If the taxpayers are paying for it, disclose. End of story. Then it would go away.

This psychic/angel angle makes Harper seem flaky. The optics in keeping her around at this point are terrible...

This is comic

Bob Fife has the goods on a story that should not have lasted longer than one day. Harper's stylist is a - get this - psychic. Sandra Buckler weighs in on this as only she can:
But Harper's communications director Sandra Buckler said Muntean does not discuss psychic matters with either the prime minister or his wife.

"She doesn't," said Buckler.

"I don't care what she is. She is very helpful. She carries the bags, she opens the door. She is very nice."
Don't know about you, but I think the PM's communications director certainly has a unique way of communicating. She seems irritated at having to do so. "No questions please, we're Conservatives!" And could she be any more condescending in her characterization of this person?

Please, let's bring on the psychic jokes today.

And accountability is apparently a word that applies to Liberals only: "NDP submits formal request for answers on Harper's stylist." Excerpts:
The government has acknowledged only that the former CBC makeup artist is paid with taxpayer money.

A government official justified the refusal to provide more details by saying accountability is meant to prevent people from stealing, and was not intended to apply to staffing issues.

New Democrat MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis tabled a question on the parliamentary order paper that requires the government to respond in writing within 45 days. If the government does not respond, the issue will automatically go to a parliamentary committee for study.
The Impolitical blog is hoping for a parliamentary committee hearing on this one...:)

Chutzpah

(AP Photo/Dennis Cook)

A clever protester attending the Alberto Gonzales hearings yesterday kept score...:)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Don't ask me, I'm just the Attorney General

"All I can do, Senator, is tell you what I know, from my perspective. You'll have to ask other people." Or some other obfuscation like that, all day long.

Bumbling, stuttering platitudes on process, covering his a**. And getting caught in lies. Josh Marshall has a good one.

So sad.

A professor's view on strange students

For anyone who's taught at a university, this article will strike a chord in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings: "The Killer in the Lecture Hall."

Mini Bush wants an American system of government

You know, sometimes I think to myself, calling Harper "Mini Bush" may be a little silly. Yet he continues to plow in that direction, so what else can a sarcastic blogger do but continue to use the buzzword? So really, it's his fault...:)

Today's news brings more indication of the Harper gang's preoccupation with all things American and the latest example of how they solve problems...when in doubt, look to the south. That's where we find the original EEE Senate.

Tinkering with the Senate is red meat chum for the Mini Bush base. My view, it's entirely inappropriate for the Harper crew to be mucking around in the constitutional fields if they're not prepared to seriously address the issue. Constitutional change should be driven by crisis and necessity, a wise writer recently wrote in a NY Times op-ed on the issue of House of Lords reform in the UK. I heartily agree.

We have much better things to be doing with our time than fulfilling Mini Bush's dream of an Americanized Senate in our own country. Or fulfilling his dream of partisan judicial appointments, also roundly criticized yesterday by two of the top legal minds in the country.

Great questions for the A.G. on the hot seat today

The NYTimes has some draft questions formulated by legal experts on the occasion of Alberto Gonzales' testimony today in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee: "A Dozen Questions for Alberto Gonzales." Each expert drafted 3 questions. Here are a few that I thought were quite impressive and appropriate.

From Jeffrey Rosen:
Because of your decision to screen all Justice Department appointees for their loyalty to President Bush, young lawyers who applied for even nonpolitical jobs have been routinely administered political litmus tests. How can Americans have faith in the ability of the Justice Department to defend the rule of law impartially and professionally when all of its employees are hired or fired for their politics?
Ron Klain:
In your previous post as White House counsel, you played a major role in the selection of United States attorneys. Indeed, the fired prosecutors represented nearly one-tenth of all the serving United States attorneys whom you helped select — a record level of performance-related terminations. If such a high percentage of attorneys had to be removed for performance reasons, what does this say about the selection process that you oversaw?
Steven Calabresi:
Have you, President Bush or anyone else in the administration ever, to your knowledge, sought to stop or start a criminal investigation by a United States attorney for political reasons?
Ouch...et tu, Federalist Society? And finally, from David Iglesias, one of the fired attorneys:
1. Since 1981 there have been several hundred United States attorneys appointed by the president. According to the Congressional Research Service, before the recent firings, only a handful were dismissed or resigned under questionable circumstances. In light of this history, was it prudent to ask seven United States attorneys in December to resign where there have never been allegations of misconduct?

2. Do you agree with the following statement: “The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. ... The citizen’s safety lies in the prosecutor who tempers zeal with human kindness, who seeks truth and not victims, who serves the law and not factional purposes.” Would it make a difference to your answer to know that Robert H. Jackson, the former United States attorney general and Supreme Court justice, said this in a speech in 1940? What does prosecutorial discretion mean to you?

3. Is it ever appropriate for a member of Congress to contact a United States attorney and, without identifying the constituent concerned, inquire about “sealed indictments”? Or to ask about the timing of yet-to-be-filed indictments involving allegations of political corruption by members of the opposite political party?
I'd like to say this will be an interesting day of hearings but I'm not that optimistic. I would expect, instead, a case study in stonewalling and unprecedented explanations as to why he cannot remember or recall events, conversations, meetings, etc. Hopefully the experienced prosecutors such as Leahy, Specter, Whitehouse et al. sitting on the other side of the table will be prepared for such a show.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bob Fife watch

Well, the PMO just ensured that Bob Fife dropped a bomb on Canadians at the end of his little banter with Lloyd tonight. Kyoto, Bob informs us - courtesy of his trusted sources, will shrink the Canadian economy by 4%. Electricity bills will skyrocket. Blah, blah, blah. And this is an independent study, Bob assures us.

Harper's clearly choosing a campaign filled with fear tactics on the environment. Get ready.

Love it


Good to see the Liberals finally putting such ads out there. I suspect there is a tremendous amount of latent goodwill in this country that will gush forward for the right leader who can chart a center-left course and do so in an honest and decent manner. This ad strikes the right note in this regard. The Liberals have been steady at 31% for a year now. Dion's got nowhere to go but up. Can Mini Bush say the same? There's an awful lot of room on the left-center side of the spectrum to grow from...this ad takes them in the right direction.

Junior MacKay continues to have women problems

We call him Junior for good reason here at the Impolitical blog: "MacKay ‘incompetent' in Ianiero case, women say."

Bizarre comments from Harper and Nicholson on the Charter's 25th anniversary

A Conservative Minister speaks and he's stuck in some kind of bizarro world time warp:
This echoed Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's speech about rights, which he delivered to Ottawa high-school students yesterday.

Telling the students that he first became interested in politics after writing a letter to then-prime minister John Diefenbaker, Nicholson noted that it was this leader who brought Canada the Bill of Rights in 1960 – 47 years ago and 22 years before the Charter was introduced.

"The Bill of Rights is still in place today, but for the most part, our courts refer to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both have positively contributed to Canada and its people."
This latter sentence is just odd. Technically accurate but the Bill of Rights is largely irrelevant today. Harper's Conservatives just can't restrain themselves from injecting partisanship into any given issue, here a simple anniversary of the Charter. I mean, how hard is it to f*%# that up? This is our version of apple pie, for pete's sake. Yet we hear this amateur puffery of the Conservatives having some claim to being first on the scene with their Bill of Rights. Who cares, Minister? The Charter was patriated by a Liberal prime minister, yes, but there were certainly Progressive Conservatives who were involved as well. Like Bill Davis, whom former PM Jean Chretien respectfully paid tribute to yesterday. No such grace reciprocates from the Harper crowd, however.

Harper himself - almost winning a hatorade award for this comment - even seemed to mock the Charter in the House yesterday:
"The Leader of the Opposition knows we have a difference of opinion on the efficacy of some of these matters. They may be important things to lawyers, but I look at some of the things this government has done to promote rights in this country, like addressing the historical injustice of the (Chinese) head tax, dealing with victims of hepatitis C, with the (aboriginal) residential-schools legacy," the Prime Minister said.
They may be important things to lawyers....says our Prime Minister about the rights enshrined in the Charter.

With comments like this, is it any wonder why Harper continues to languish in minority government polling territory?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Welcome back, Jean

Making a few appearances, delivering a few zingers in the process to put the partisan yappers to rest:
Meanwhile, former prime minister Jean Chrétien, who brought Dion into politics, yesterday defended his protégé, saying it was not unusual for Liberals to seek alliances with other parties. Chrétien, on CBC Newsworld's Politics show, pointed out that he had wooed former NDP premiers such as Saskatchewan's Roy Romanow and B.C.'s Ujjal Dosanjh to join the Liberals. (Romanow resisted; Dosanjh became a minister.)

Chrétien also noted that Tories didn't put a candidate up against him when he ran in a by-election in New Brunswick in 1990 to get a seat in the Commons. "It was not a big deal," he said.
Chretien's digs make the current crop of pols look like rank amateurs. And he does it with humour, too, mocking the Conservatives for their failure to observe the 25th anniversary of the Charter's adoption:
"[Former Progressive Conservative prime minister John] Diefenbaker was such a proponent of the Charter of Rights," Chrétien said. "I hope they will not put the flag at half-mast [Tuesday] because it will be the anniversary."
Thanks for the reminder of how it's done...:)

And while on the topic of the Charter, a big shout out to another Jean, the Governor General today for her comments on the occasion of the Charter's 25th anniversary. Well said.

Mini Bush's top secret environmental plan


Marked "secret": "Draft "plan leaked through John Baird's sieve.

No details, just vague trial balloons on how Mini Bush will "stabilize" our greenhouse emissions through the magic of scientific processes like "carbon sequestration." I can just see the eyes glazing over across the nation. The bet from this corner is that Mini Bush is likely going to gamble with our environmental future by saying juuuuust enough to be politically palatable.

But not now, of course. Apparently it's too much for the Conservatives to come forward with a detailed plan. They have to carefully manage the politics of it. Very important issue for Canadians, don't you know, no longer the stuff of socialist schemes, don't you know.

We await John Baird and Stephen Harper's vaunted plan with baited breath. Our environmental custodians certainly wouldn't let us down, would they?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Harper's appointment of OSC's Brown to RCMP inquiry

Shows he is capable of appointing independent, qualified individuals to assess possible wrongdoing.

The appointment of Daniel Paille, however, with his deep roots in the separatist camp to lead an investigation into the Liberals' use of polls during the 1990's demonstrates an inconsistent approach to governing by Harper. He's capable of making a great appointment on the one hand yet on the other, an out and out partisan is selected. It underscores why you can't trust him.

People understand when you mess with the impartial administration of justice. Harper seems to be determined to destroy the Liberal federalist option in Quebec and he's willing to milk the circumstances surrounding the 1995 referendum to do it.

I think a PM has greater duties to the country than this. We should be able to see our PM acting in the best interests of the country on all fronts. Clearly, this is too much to ask of Harper.

Mini Bush enjoying the Liberal infighting

Ray Heard's of interest to them today, not surprisingly:



Better get your act together, Liberals, or Harper's just going to keep poking the hornet's nest.

A strong federal leader on the scene

Good: "Dion spurns constitutional talks." Dion is not afraid to strongly articulate the federalist position at the national level and in Quebec. Someone else is...and I'm looking at you, Mini Bush.

Harper's strategy in Quebec seems to be he'll do whatever it takes to gain seats, including sending vague signals that he'll weaken the federal spending power in favour of the provinces. Dangling carrots in front of "autonomists," whatever that may mean, is not, I suspect, a recipe that the rest of Canada or even Quebecers are interested in right now. The election in Quebec demonstrated that the nationalist issue is in a state of dormancy right now. Why would you risk stirring it up with another gambit on the Constitution?

Dion is right to call him out on it and demand that Harper tell the nation what he's up to. Dion needs to do more of this. Fight Harper on his own terms. Set an agenda instead of constantly responding to Harper's. This issue plays to Dion's strength.

If Brian Mulroney is whispering in your ear about rolling any dice right about now, please, Mini Bush, tell him to go jump in the lake, for all our sakes.

Good question

It's for you, smilin' Jack:
“What the hell is wrong with Jack Layton that he can't answer a phone call?” asked Ms. May on CTV's Question Period yesterday when asked about the electoral agreement with the Liberals.

“I don't understand it. He talks to Stephen Harper all the time; surely our shared values are much closer between the NDP and the Greens.”
You know, I just don't understand it either...:) Watch her go, bound to make lots of trouble for Junior MacKay too...:)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Not like we didn't suspect it

But, as Josh Marshall writes today, we've got a pretty good idea now that it was Bush himself who put the kibosh on U.S. attorney David Iglesias. In response to Senator Domenici's frustration that Iglesias would not "play ball" in getting Democrats indicted prior to the November elections. Karl Rove appears to have been the conduit. These facts come from a report, cited in Marshall's post, published in a New Mexico paper today.

A reasonable interpretation of the facts supports the conclusion that improper partisan political considerations interfered with the independent administration of justice. Courtesy of George W. Bush himself.