Saturday, June 30, 2007

Happy Canada Day weekend!

(AP PHOTO/Nathan Denette/CP)

The CN Tower is red and white this weekend for Canada Day. Drove by Friday night and it looks fantastic. It's better in person, with the colour being more vivid and fluid, but here's a sense of what it looks like. Have a great weekend no matter where you are and be thankful that we are so fortunate to live in the greatest country on earth...:) Happy 140th to it, as well!

Good for her

The more I read about Elizabeth Edwards, the more there is to like. Interesting report in the NY Times today on her role in her husband's campaign as context following her rebuke to Ann Coulter.

It's the fear



Olbermann offers up some perspective on the London car bomb media extravaganza in the form of former CIA officer, Larry Johnson. Some of his advice: "Let's stop the alarmist behaviour." And again, attention is paid to the faulty notion that fighting "them" over "there" will prevent such incidents from happening over "here."

A political hit, says the NY Times

The NY Times takes up the case of the ex-Alabama governor sent off to jail this week under a cloud of suspected political interference:
It is extremely disturbing that Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, was hauled off to jail this week. There is reason to believe his prosecution may have been a political hit, intended to take out the state’s most prominent Democrat, a serious charge that has not been adequately investigated. The appeals court that hears his case should demand answers, as should Congress.

The United States attorneys scandal has made clear that partisan politics is a driving force in the Bush Justice Department. Top prosecutors were fired for refusing to prosecute Democrats or for not bringing baseless vote-fraud cases to help Republicans. Lawyers were improperly hired based on party affiliation.

If the Justice Department was looking to help Republicans in Alabama, putting away Mr. Siegelman would be a shrewd move. In a state short on popular Democrats, he was elected governor in 1998. He was defeated for re-election in 2002 by just a few thousand votes, in an election marred by suspicious vote tabulations.

The charges Mr. Siegelman was convicted of suggest that he may have been a victim of selective prosecution. He was found to have named a prominent Alabama businessman to a state board in exchange for a contribution to a campaign fund for a state lottery, something Mr. Siegelman supported to raise money for his state’s woefully inadequate public schools. He was not found to have taken any money for himself and many elected officials name people who have given directly to their own campaigns to important positions. The jury dismissed 25 of the original 32 counts against Mr. Siegelman.

The most arresting evidence that Mr. Siegelman may have been railroaded is a sworn statement by a Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson. Ms. Simpson said she was on a conference call in which Bill Canary, the husband of the United States attorney whose office handled the case, insisted that “his girls” would “take care of” Mr. Siegelman. According to Ms. Simpson, he identified his “girls” as his wife, Leura Canary, and another top Alabama prosecutor. Mr. Canary, who has longstanding ties to Karl Rove, also said, according to Ms. Simpson, that he had worked it out with “Karl.”

The idea of federal prosecutors putting someone in jail for partisan gain is shocking. But the United States attorneys scandal has made clear that the Bush Justice Department acts in shocking ways. We hope that the appeals court that hears Mr. Siegelman’s case will give it the same hard look that another appeals court recently gave the case of Georgia Thompson. Ms. Thompson, a low-level employee in a Democratic administration in Wisconsin, was found to have been wrongly convicted of corruption by another United States attorney.

Congress, though, should not wait. It should insist that Mr. Canary and everyone on the 2002 call, as well as Mrs. Canary and Mr. Rove, testify about the Siegelman prosecution. In standing by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales throughout the attorneys scandal, the Bush administration has made clear that it does not care about the integrity of the Justice Department. By investigating Mr. Siegelman’s case, Congress can show that it does.
It is a continuing source of amazement to watch this stuff unfold in the U.S.. The Democrats will clearly be occupied for the next eighteen months in exposing such cases. Just when you think a scandal, such as the U.S. attorney one, couldn't get any worse, it does as revelations such as this case rear their ugly facts. Wonder where the next gem will come from?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Alberto can't leave his troubles behind



Gonzales goes to Idaho and meets a flock of protesters...good for them for showing this guy that he may think he can skate his way through to the end with the support of the big guy, but he's in for such protests for the duration. A nice gut check for an oblivious pol.

Funny



Well done, Kevin Siers.

The wonder boys need attention


Or should I say demand:
Canada's diplomatic service has been served marching orders to better "align" its work with the Harper government's priorities and make sure it is "attentive" to the government's needs.
...
The directives, obtained by The Globe and Mail, come at a time when Mr. Harper continues to complain that Canadian diplomats are ignoring his government's foreign policy objectives.
What's another battle for Mini Bush at this point, hey? Battling the media, Danny Williams, Rod MacDonald, Lorne Calvert, procedural skirmishes in the committees of the House with the opposition...sure, throw another issue onto the barbie. Go to war with Foreign Affairs bureaucrats and see it take about five minutes to end up on the Globe's front pages.

And this is more bad news for Junior:
The bureaucrats make no reference to the role of Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay or his office in the process, a telling omission since it is widely perceived in Ottawa that Mr. Harper and Clerk of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch have taken over foreign policy formulation.
Widely perceived you say? That's a shame...Junior's going to have a heck of a time getting re-elected at this rate. What good's a favourite son if he's shunned up there in Ottawa? You'd almost think Harper's going out of his way to undermine him...

Olbermann skewers Rupert Murdoch



Once again, Keith gives you the goods as the Faux tycoon seeks to get his claws on the WSJ.

Doesn't pass the smell test

"Ex-governor of Alabama gets 7 years in corruption case." From the report:
Siegelman, once considered one of the Democratic Party's brightest stars in the South, contended that presidential political strategist Karl Rove, who has a long history of involvement in Alabama politics, was behind the series of charges filed against him over the last seven years.

While there is no proof that Rove played a role in Siegelman's case, the lengthy prosecution contained so many oddities that even a Republican prosecutor, former Arizona Atty. Gen. Grant Woods, said recently that "it does not pass the smell test." Woods, a friend of Siegelman's, has called for a congressional inquiry.

A House Judiciary Committee staff member told The Times this week that the committee is looking at the Siegelman prosecution as part of a broader examination into whether the Bush Justice Department tilted public corruption cases against Democrats.

The committee has already received a copy of a sworn statement from a Republican lawyer in Rainsville, Ala., Dana Jill Simpson, who says that in 2002 she was on a campaign conference call with aides working to elect Siegelman's opponent, current Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. Simpson said in her statement that on the call, she heard Riley strategist Bill Canary tell other campaign workers not to worry about Siegelman in the future because his "gals" and "Karl" would make sure the Justice Department pursued a case against him.
Takes a special breed to survive so many allegations being made against a person...first Patrick Fitzgerald, now various congressional committees...it's a wonder Rove can sleep at all at night.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The ongoing battle to enforce the rule of law in the U.S.

Latest salvo...the White House flips the bird to congress. Nope, no testimony or documents from former White House counsel Harriet Miers or former political director Sara Taylor in the U.S. attorney scandal investigation. Executive privilege means never having to account for your alleged political interference in matters that should be off limits to politics. Namely, U.S. attorney tenure and criminal investigations that some of them were pursuing against Republicans. The White House's refusal to allow its people to testify suggests they've got stuff to hide. And thankfully, Conyers and Leahy are not giving in:
In his statement, Conyers said Bush's "executive privilege assertion is unprecedented in its breadth and scope, and even includes documents that the administration previously offered to provide as part of their 'take it or leave it' proposal."

"The charges alleged in this investigation are serious -- including obstruction of justice and misleading Congress -- and the White House should be as committed to this investigation as the Congress," he added "At this point, I see only one choice in moving forward, and that is to enforce the rule of law set forth in these subpoenas."
...
In response to today's rebuff by the White House, Leahy said: "Increasingly, the president and vice president feel they are above the law. In America no one is above law."

He added in a statement that "this White House cannot have it both ways. They cannot stonewall congressional investigations by refusing to provide documents and witnesses, while claiming nothing improper occurred."
Each time the White House has rebuffed these chairmen, they've pushed back. Keep on pushing, guys. The record of stonewalling and obfuscation by the White House and its cronies speaks volumes. They're hanging themselves.





And in a similar vein, here's Josh Marshall's latest video on the allegations that Rove and other political actors were involved in the prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Governor, Don Siegelman. The revelations in the U.S. attorney scandal suggesting political reasons for the removals of a number of the attorneys and the use of the Justice Department to achieve political ends appear to be coming too late for Siegelman, however. His sentencing hearing continued today and he's likely facing a stiff sentence. An investigation - yes, another one - should certainly be undertaken into the circumstances surrounding this prosecution, in light of the evidence that has come to light of political motivation behind his prosecution by his Alabama political enemies. That sworn affidavit by a lawyer on a phone call who heard reference to Rove having ensured the Justice Department would be pursuing Siegelman is certainly worth a look into...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Still room for Gore

Interesting poll from New Hampshire at this link: "Clinton Leads in New Hampshire but Gore Would Win."

Johnny come lately

If the separatist threat is at an all time low, or at a four decade low, as Mini Bush would like to think, that has more to do with the passage of the federal Clarity Act than anything else, including the gimmick laden "Quebecois nation" motion in the House of Commons. I mean, these guys blame the Liberals incessantly about how nothing was done on the environment for 13 years, lobbing off responsibility for that entire file onto the Liberals...yet apparently are willing to take the accolades for sovereignty support on the decline. Nice try. If you haven't had enough time to do anything about the environment, how could you possibly have solved national unity so quickly? It's unfathomable. The Clarity Act has set the ground rules, on the heels of the Secession Reference, and it's set the bar high in a completely reasonable fashion. It's a daunting presence in the national unity deck that will require unprecedented support to overcome.

Stephane Dion and his Clarity Act deserve the accolades for that. Not you.

Black now with the jury

For what it's worth, I agree with Steve Skurka's prediction that Conrad Black is likely to be found innocent by the jury in his Chicago trial. For this reason:
Mr. Skurka said prosecutors have failed to prove that fraud took place at Hollinger International Inc., because so many documents have been introduced to the jury that outlined details of the alleged illegal non-compete payments.
The Globe and Mail

"This is a fraud case replete with disclosure," he said. "The essence of fraud is concealment and this is the antithesis of that."

Defence lawyers have done a good job of showing that the payments were not only legal, but approved by directors and reviewed by outside lawyers and auditors, he added.
The prosecution's final rebuttal today, by Eric Sussman, focusing on the non-compete payments seemed weak:
"The important question to ask is 'the why' of these payments, not whether they were or weren't disclosed," Sussman said of the millions of dollars in non-competition payments that the government claims Black and the others stole.

"Mr. Black is saying the 'why' is because the buyers demanded it," he said. "The buyers requested it. It's the company's money. That's what they are taking."

The non-compete payments flowed from the sale of hundreds of newspapers and other media properties that Black's one-time publishing empire, Hollinger International Inc., began selling in 2000 to pay off bank debt.

Buyers make such payments to insure that sellers -- in this case Black and his associates -- will not reenter a media market with a new rival publication once they have left it.
Seems to me it's a bit late to be asking about the "why"...but this should be fascinating...

Do the right thing

This military inquiry into the handling of detainees in Afghanistan should act on its own initiative - irrespective of the flagging leadership on this file - to expand its investigation into ensuring that the new agreement entered into with the Afghan government is being properly executed. Period. If they have the ability to seek to expand their mandate, they should do the right thing and not leave us with a half-baked report. With all due respect, exercise some common sense.

Maybe someone eyeing a political future might want to think about that...

Profiles in courage

Maureen Dowd plays up the Cheney focus in the news in her column today, "W Learns from Students":
A group of high school Presidential Scholars visiting the White House on Monday surprised President Bush by slipping him a handwritten letter pleading with him to not let America become known for torture and urging him to stick to the Geneva Conventions with terror detainees.

The president reassured the teenagers that the United States does not torture. Then the vice president unleashed a pack of large dogs on the kids, running them off the White House lawn, before he shut down the Presidential Scholars program and abolished high schools.
Lol...:) Really though, the kids should have handed the letter to the real guy in charge, the Veep. The latest evidence of Cheney's control can be found in today's instalment of the Washington Post series on Cheney where his control of the Environmental Protection Agency's operations are on full display. The big scoop found in it today...Christie Todd Whitman declares to the world that she left as EPA Commissioner due to Cheney's interference and control over policy to such an extent that she could not conscience the direction he was taking. Not for her previously cited family reasons. Surprise, surprise. She finally quit when faced with having to sign a rule that she just could not stomach.

In the same vein, see also, Republican Senators Richard Lugar and George Voinovich breaking with Bush on Iraq yesterday. Now that the administration's in the low 30's and sinking in approval, guess it's safe for such courageous souls to come forward and speak the truth. Profiles in courage, all...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bravo to Elizabeth Edwards

For putting Ann Coulter in her place. Video here.

My blog is rated PG-13

Parents, accompany your children please when reading this blog...:)

My rating is attributed to the use of the words "dick 2x" and "crack 1x"...wtf? Crack is an offensive word, somehow? As in get cracking...crack the whip...guess they've got their minds in the gutter over there at the morality patrol...:)

Btw...guess they're not set up to catch acronyms...wtf is up with that? Lol...

A big shout out to Henry Waxman today

If anyone can hold the Bush crowd to account, I'm betting on this guy...calling them out, holding their feet to the fire. Today he's going after alleged White House security violations, building on Cheney's ludicrous refusal to submit to any kind of proper, legally compelled oversight.

Way to keep at them...:)

Ex-Democratic governor to be sentenced today, Rove subplot

The LA Times is now giving airtime to the allegations in Alabama that a former Democratic governor was the subject of a takedown orchestrated by Rove, a Rove protege and U.S. attorneys in that state. The Times report certainly makes the case for expansion of the U.S. attorney investigation to include these allegations.

What a chilling example for anyone thinking of challenging the Republican political and judicial machine...and more to be added to a long list of allegations against Rove to be investigated by Democrats.

The expanding U.S. attorney scandal in the U.S. and its many tentacles is also a useful, ongoing reminder of how wrongheaded an idea it is for the Conservatives in our country to inject partisanship into the appointment process for judges. We clearly don't need more of this in our judicial system.

Hillier running for political office?

Wouldn't surprise at this point...gettin' lots of experience in the political world with his leading role in the Afghanistan mission. Not necessarily of the good kind, though. Interesting little tidbit in the Star today that suggests he might run for Premier in Newfoundland. Little elaboration there...think he's wanting to give Danny a run for his money? I think I'd love to see that one...:)

Oh the places Harper will go

I'm looking forward to Mini Bush's grand world tour this summer, pegged as "Sydney to Santiago" by the CP. I wonder if there'll be t-shirts? Let the travel season begin. Tim Powers, I see, is perhaps setting the bar too high for his leader on the expectations front:
Party and government insiders say placing Harper on the international stage during the parliamentary break puts him in the best possible light. Photo-ops on the tarmacs and in the palaces of exotic locales emphasize the statesman, rather than the Tory politician with his various difficulties at home.

"It's a good environment for him because it allows him to showcase his leadership and his presence on the world stage, and that reinforces his bona fides with Canadians," said party strategist Tim Powers. (emphasis added)
Say wha? Bona fides with Canadians? You mean with the income trust Canadians? The Atlantic Accord Canadians? Or the Kyoto-supporting Canadians? And as for presence...where, pray tell, has such presence been evident?

On this trip?



Or on this trip?



Or the recent G8 where Mini Bush served as a bridge between the intransigence of the U.S. on global warming and Europe's desire for action and where the U.S. "won" the day?

Presence? Methinks the PMO is working a little too hard on spinning this thing. Check out another source's strange characterization of Harper:
In Haiti in particular, Harper will be able to advertise the fact it has become Canada's No. 2 destination for long-term aid dollars after Afghanistan.

Said one government source: "It presents him as an activist, well-rounded PM that is doing something and accomplishing something." (emphasis added)
It might just be me, but "activist" and "Stephen Harper" are not two concepts I often see used in the same sentence. This is the PM, after all, who has called Kyoto a "socialist scheme" in his past and whose environmental priorities were sorely lagging until the polls provided a rude awakening. Not exactly the stuff "activists" are made of...

But there's more spinning from the insiders. And its worse.
Shortly thereafter, Harper is scheduled to shoot up to the other end of the hemisphere on an important trip to the Arctic.

Harper visited the area last year, but in 2007 he's expected to come with his pockets full - with possible announcements for new patrol vessels and a northern naval station. One government insider says it's part of a patriotic vein that Harper would like to tap, mining some classic elements of the Canadian identity that have been buried in recent years.

"It's harkening back to another time - of being proud of our heritage and building our nation," said the source, recalling the ascendency of Tory prime minister John Diefenbaker in the late 1950s. "You'll note his insistence in highlighting national icons, like the North, the red ensign and hockey."
(emphasis added)
Yes, it's back to the 1950's with Harper... I suppose we're all supposed to get misty-eyed at the PM evoking such symbolism for us, hey? Don't you think they might have a better shot at this stuff working if the PM's staff didn't explicitly telegraph it to us?

(And about that red ensign reference...that struck me as a little strange. Not something you hear every day. And something they might want to be careful with. Check out this background on the red ensign and the heading "Use today.")

Sing it, Danny

He's truth-telling again. On yesterday's Harper photo-oppery with young Graham of N.B. where he doled out millions to N.B. and applauded Graham for "working co-operatively" with the federal government:
"I don't think that's the way a prime minister should operate," he said in St. John's. "If he thinks he's punishing us by giving funds to New Brunswick, I'm not going to play that game. The childishness doesn't become a prime minister."

Williams said he wouldn't trust Harper "as far as I could throw him."

"That's the only advice I can give to New Brunswickers or anybody else," he said. "It's pitting one province against another, that's exactly what his game is. The Atlantic provinces haven't been well served by that kind of approach."
And a N.B. official quietly provided evidence suggesting Danny is right on the money about Harper's game:
A New Brunswick government source who asked not to be named said the event was being used as an opportunity for the prime minister to be seen as getting along with a premier from Atlantic Canada.
How many times do I have to tell the PMO...don't mess with Danny Millions...:) This has got to be one of the best feuds in Canadian politics in eons...:)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Off to court we go

Seems to be the pugnacious Baird's strategy that's in the offing. We'll comply with the technicalities of the law but not the substance:
The Conservatives won't dismiss a newly passed law requiring Canada to respect its emissions-cutting commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, but they're not about to put forward a new plan to tackle climate change either, Environment Minister John Baird said Monday.

The federal government will follow through with the "technical letter" of the Kyoto compliance bill, but the time for developing new plans is over, he said in an interview.
This is their approach, despite the bill's requirement that a plan to get the government in line with Kyoto reductions be prepared within 60 days. Since the current Conservative plan does not do that...it's not clear how Baird plans to technically comply with the bill.

And par for the course, there's a neat little metaphor the Conservatives have come up with to describe the bill's requirement that the government meet Kyoto:
It's comparable to being dispatched to the grocery store with a five-page shopping list and no money, Baird said Monday.
Since the majority of Parliament has passed the bill, I'm sure they'll give you the money, John. All you have to do is ask. Come up with a nice plan and get to work, my friend...:)

And on the court challenge aspect, Baird's initial response gets a big thumbs down:
It's unclear how Baird plans to follow through with the new law without altering the government's current plan, but one expert says it isn't possible.

"There's nothing in this so-called green plan that comes close to meeting the Kyoto targets," Errol Mendes, professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa, said in an interview from London, England.

For example, the Tories' plan calculates targets using a baseline of 2006 levels, instead of the Kyoto-mandated 1990 levels.

"So right off the bat, the very foundations of this so-called 'technical' response to the law is fundamentally in violation of that law," Mendes said.

If the government fails to produce a Kyoto plan within the prescribed 60-day period, they will be in violation of the law and could trigger a court challenge, he added.
Snubbing Parliament on Kyoto...the can't-won't-shouldn't Conservatives always come through...I kinda like this strategy for election purposes...:)

The Cheney presidency

What to say, at this late date, about Dick Cheney and the challenge he represents to the democratic operation of the U.S. government...it's frightening. If you're following the Washington Post series on Cheney, as many bloggers are, what's remarkable is the insight presented courtesy of former (and possibly current) insiders who are dishing on Cheney's many power grabs and steering of the ship of state. As noted in today's article, Cheney is so skilled an operator behind the scenes that he rarely loses a battle. He and his chief legal counsel, David Addington, wield tremendous power and have been instrumental in navigating the legal and political battles to enable cruel interrogation techniques to be employed by the CIA and in sustaining the Gitmo blight on the American reputation in the world. There is a litany of powerful Bush advisers who have failed to dent the Veep's leviathan presence and influence in the White House. It is truly a remarkable bit of reporting we are reading.

And timely given Cheney's ludicrous refusals of late to submit to any kind of accountability, no matter that the law provides for it. Democrats are going to cut his funding? Good luck with that. Unless they're prepared to go to the brink...and I would strongly encourage them to do so, I'm betting a continued string of victories for Cheney. The American system of democratic government with checks and balances has failed thus far.

If this is not a co-presidency, then I'd certainly like to see one.

Junior in trouble

Not to pile on to Junior today...but word is that Junior MacKay is still in beeg trouble in his riding. The locals are chafing at Junior's struggles. Words and phrases like "betrayed" and "sold us out" are being bandied about. A terrible electoral dynamic has taken hold for Junior...we shall see if Elizabeth May is up to the challenge of taking advantage of it all.

The newbies are about to get a dose of Danny Millions

And bet he's got an earful to give the new Maritime premiers as they meet in the next two days, along with governors from Northeastern U.S. states. Shawn Graham down there in N.B. sounds a little green. When told that the N.S. premier wants to speak to the premier newbies about the implications to the changes in the Atlantic Accords, for instance, Graham replied:
"I want to say categorically this is Nova Scotia's fight. It's not our fight. We're working on our self-sufficiency agenda, which is our top priority, and we're not going to lose sight of that focus."
A little short-sighted, Mr. Graham. Might there not be an issue or two you might be looking across your provincial border for some help on down the road, hmmm? Not to mention this little study you might want to take a gander at:
...[A] recent study by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council in Halifax says that, together, the Atlantic provinces stand to lose a total of $4 billion in payments over the next 13 years under Ottawa's revised equalization formula.

The study says Nova Scotia will be out $1.4 billion by the 2019-2020 fiscal year, New Brunswick will lose $1 billion and P.E.I. will have $196 million less than if Ottawa left the equalization program alone.
Seems to me there might be strength in numbers, new guy. Ghiz, the new kid in P.E.I. is sounding a little unseasoned too.

Not to worry, I'm sure Danny will clue them in on the PM and the state of the federation...:)

A triumph of mediocrity

The military investigation into the treatment of Afghan detainees is limited to an analysis of their treatment only while in Canadian custody. The military is not concerning itself with what happens after the handover. That's the message in this report, "Detainees' claims won't be fully checked," in the Globe today. For while the military is permitted under their fantabulously improved agreement, as so noted by lawyer Van Loan in the report, to access prisons now to inspect for mistreatment...the military probe won't go there. Won't check to see whether it's working or not. So what we're getting is a report on Canadian treatment of detainees. Half the story. And not the problematic half.

We can have the best military treatment of detainees going, but if we then hand them over to the Afghans where the treatment is suspect and in violation of our international treaty obligations...then we're just creating a recipe for future potential abuses. This report might be useful for clarifying unresolved issues for Canadian troops in the field but it's failing to address the elephant in the room. And perhaps more importantly, our military is sending a weak signal to the Afghan government that we're "hands-off" in terms of exercising these newly gained oversight rights.

Footsie watch continues

Another Conservative mucks it up:
Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who accompanied Harper to Roberval, said the matter is clear to him.

"Each Quebecer knows what we are," he said. "We are a nation. We are one of the two nations which founded this country."
Hmmm...I thought this nifty Quebecers form a nation within Canada stuff, courtesy of Mini Bush, was supposed to foster national unity (see Lawrence Cannon quote)...kinda sounds like two nations to me.

My oh my... the interesting and diverse interpretations just keep on coming...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Fortier playing footsie

Conservatives still being unclear:
[...]Public Works Minister Michael Fortier, who was at the same reception as Dion and Duceppe, said the Liberal leader is addressing a matter that was settled months ago.

But when asked to define the Quebecois nation himself, Fortier said Quebecers know what it means.

"Today the people who are celebrating the Fete nationale, on June 24th, are Quebecois, they are people in Quebec," he said.

"There are people who are celebrating outside Quebec but it is in Quebec where the Fete nationale is celebrated. I think this debate was settled in November."
Think they know exactly what they're doing by continuously using the term "Quebecois"...it's called pandering, footsie, nodding to the nationalist sentiment in Quebec...insert your favourite term.

Dion is right

This is something to watch going forward, Harper's choice of "Quebecois" versus "Quebecers" when he refers in English to the "Quebec nation" within Canada. He needs to be careful when employing "Quebecois" when he speaks in English. He could be tap dancing with the soft nationalist sentiment to the detriment of the federation:
Mr. Harper must “be very, very clear in saying that the Quebecois nation is defined in sociological terms and that it includes all Quebeckers and not just those of francophone origin,” Mr. Dion said on Sunday.

Mr. Harper's government passed a motion last November recognizing the Quebecois as a nation within a united Canada.

But Mr. Dion said Mr. Harper was unclear who the definition applied to when he tabled the English version of the motion, which still referred to “Quebecois.” The English translation of Quebecois is Quebecker.

The Liberal leader said he is concerned sovereigntist leaders could slip in a definition of a Quebecois nation based on ethnicity rather than sociology.
I've been meaning to dig out an authority for the following proposition...but I believe a Prime Minister's comments on the constitution are to be made carefully as they may lend credence to a developing constitutional interpretation. I recall Chretien being extremely careful in the House of Commons at the time of the 1995 referendum with his comments with this concern in mind. I think this is what Dion is getting at, in addition to the problem that exists with the wording of the motion that was passed. More to come on this in the future...it's Sunday and blogging is light!

Heh

Maureen Dowd on Dick Cheney's documentary stonewalling exposed this week:
I love that Cheney was able to bully Colin Powell, Pentagon generals and George Tenet when drumming up his fake case for war, but when he tried to push around the little guys, the National Archive data collectors — I’m visualizing dedicated “We the People” wonky types with glasses and pocket protectors — they pushed back.

Archivists are the new macho heroes of Washington.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Best of luck to Belinda

"MP Stronach is battling breast cancer."

Strangely high profile for troops in Quebec this week

It's hard to fathom why troops in Quebec were put in controversial situations this week that left them in very vulnerable public positions on two occasions. The troops' march through the streets in Quebec City last night was a bizarre choice.
Senior military staff in Quebec said the controversial night-time march through the streets of Quebec City, depicted by some as a public-relations manoeuvre, was intended to rally public support for the troops.

“It's important as they leave [for Afghanistan] that they know they have the city and the province of Quebec behind them,” said Brigadier-General Christian Barabé, commander of Land Force Quebec Area. “That way, when they suffer a tough blow, they'll know that people will be there with them and supporting the sacrifice they're making.”
Yet they faced a significant protest, in addition to supporters, that clearly gained enough media coverage to offset any benefits of the march:
As a parade of Canadian soldiers set to deploy to Afghanistan marched through the streets of Quebec City on Friday evening, anti-war activists rallied nearby, carrying drums, banners and even mock coffins.

The protesters, led by the War on War Coalition, said they are against Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan.
...
"We're not targeting the soldiers, we respect them as people," protest organizer Joseph Bergeron said. "But we are in total opposition with the Afghanistan mission and we want to show we represent the great part of the population that is opposed."
What a strange situation. The same report notes the mixed reaction that occurred in the National Assembly this week to the appearance of visiting soldiers:
On Wednesday, some members of the Parti Québécois refused to stand in honour of Quebec soldiers who were visiting the province's national assembly. Earlier this month, protesters sent letters to Valcartier soldiers, urging them to refuse their deployment.
Makes you wonder who's giving the orders on this week's events and why. Because these two public relations events surely did not work out as those who planned them had hoped. The Globe's report today suggests the likely backdrop for these decisions:
The Conservatives must pick up seats in Quebec if they are to win a majority government. And the negative feelings being expressed about the mission in that province could well intensify if members of the Royal 22nd Regiment sustain heavy casualties.
Thus the big push to generate support on these two occasions this week. Not to mention the likely rationale for Mini Bush's major flip-flop in his Afghanistan rhetoric that he announced yesterday.

Kinda leaves you wondering, once again, about the guy in charge, doesn't it?

Gitmo in the spotlight



Keith Olbermann interviews Neil Katyal, a Georgetown law prof on the quagmire that is Gitmo and underscores how scattered the Bush administration is on what to do about the situation. The close Gitmo advocates in the administration outweigh its proponents - principally Cheney and Gonzales. Katyal makes a notable statement, Gonzales as A.G. being afraid of the Constitution and what might occur should these prisoners be transferred to the United States...they might seek out the court system. Yikes! You can't have that in Gonzales' and Bush's America!

There'd be good reason to be fearful. Yesterday a military intelligence officer provided a significant basis for questioning the proceedings there:
The military hearings used to decide whether to hold Guantánamo detainees relied on incomplete and outdated information, screened by officers who were under intense pressure from their commanders to conclude that the detainees should be held, a reserve military intelligence officer and lawyer who had a role in the process said in an affidavit filed yesterday in a federal appeals court.
...
“What purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence,” the officer, Stephen E. Abraham, a civilian business lawyer in Newport Beach, Calif., said in the affidavit filed in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Abraham, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, added that the evidence against the detainees often “lacked detail” and consisted of “generalized statements” of culpability, rather than specific evidence.
More here in today's NYTimes about the legal black hole that remains open for business and the dreaded "litigation risk" that these prisoners pose to the Bush administration.

The helpless Conservatives

Harper's spokesman pleads:
[...]Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas later said the government was open to applying the bill if the Liberals would tell them how to do it.

"If the Liberals have a plan or a way to reach six per cent below 1990 on greenhouse gas reductions they should share that information with us so we can work together on achieving it."
We empathize, my friend, but unfortunately for us, your party is in government...best do your job and stop shirking - or the voters will get you out of the way...:)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Major concession on Afghanistan by Harper

While there may be a lot of focus on the environmental issue today, it seems to me that Harper's done an about face on his Afghanistan policy, likely in response to polls like this one indicating Canadians want the mission to end in 2009.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper clearly said today Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan will end in February 2009 but added the country may have a different role after that.

“The mission, which we have extended, ends in 2009. I will want to see some consensus among Canadians about how we move forward after that,” Harper told reporters session-ending press conference.

“I would hope the view of Canadians is not to simply abandon Afghanistan. I think there is some expectation there will be a new role after February 2009,” he said.

For several months Harper has been less than clear on the mission’s end, often saying Canadians “won’t cut and run.” Also Canada has been pressured by NATO to extend the mission.
As recently as his May visit, Harper implied the mission would go on post 2009:
"You know that your work is not complete. You know that we cannot just put down our arms and hope for peace," Harper told a crowd of soldiers at an outdoor ball hockey rink at the Canadian military base.

"You know that we can't set arbitrary deadlines and simply wish for the best. And you must also know that your hard work is making a real difference to real people and their families," he said.
Make no mistake...this is a real change in the Conservative policy. They don't want to fight an election on this. Events in Harper's treasured vote trove of Quebec, where tons of noise is being made on the issue this week, may have dictated this turnabout.

Cutting and running from his position? After all, this was a mission that Mini Bush previously compared to WWI's significance...now he's shrugging his shoulders. You be the judge...

Terrible optics for Harper

Mini Bush does know that a law passed by the Parliament is not subject to any kind of veto, doesn't he? That we do not have a separation of legislative and executive powers as they do in the U.S., right? Or is Mini Bush once again comporting himself according to his nickname?

Consider the headlines we're seeing now, on the Kyoto legislation receiving royal assent: "Harper dismisses Kyoto compliance law," "Harper dismisses Kyoto compliance law as constitutionally impossible." Not good. The PM seems to be signifying that his government will not be giving effect to the will of the majority of Parliament.

This is what happens when we have a minority government situation. Private member bills will pass with such support. And once they've become law, and this one has received royal-assent now, then it's not to be ignored. If funding is required to support a plan, then a money bill may be the next step, in the fall session. If Harper respects that he's in a minority government situation, he should be open to working with the other parties on this. If not, let the chips fall where they may.

As for the simplistic talking point that the Liberals were in power for 13 years and did nothing...give it a rest. Does anyone seriously think that if the Liberals were in power right now, that we'd be subjected to the can't-do attitude on the environment that the Conservatives have evinced? Don't think so. The Conservatives immediately reversed course from where the previous government was heading. That talking point also presumes a level of environmental priority and public consciousness that did not exist throughout the 1990's. It is now when the time has become ripe to execute significant environmental action now that the government's financial house has been put in order - thanks to the Liberal governments of the 1990's. We now have a federal government that's in the position of actually CUTTING the GST, in a tremendously flexible position. How about, say, restoring that 1% to fund Kyoto? People were already used to it and if it were positioned as a challenge, to support a national commitment to the environment in an election campaign...well, lots of ideas to be hashed out, I'm sure. But the threat of economically crippling and "massive tax increases" can surely be countered.

This is a risky strategy for Harper and the Conservative wonder boys...they're counting on this to play with the electorate...

Roll up your sleeves and get to work, Conservatives

You're the government. Get to work and go about implementing the laws that our Parliament passes. Including the Kyoto legislation that is about to be passed by your favourite chamber, the Senate. The majority will of the Parliament is to pass this legislation. So it's your job, as the government, to enable it.

And if you don't, if you futz around with it and play games with it, it'll be clear for all to see. Kyoto. Learn to love it. Spend some quality time reading about it this hot, hot, humid, smoggy summer.

And please spare us the predictable partisan politicking like raising the spectre of massive tax increases and the lack of a plan being in place, like Van Loan has started to do already. Get creative with planning on how to meet the Kyoto targets. We know you want to do it.

So roll up your sleeves, Van Loan, Baird et al., seems you're going to have some work to do for us.

Thinking Blogger Awards

Yes, it's quite the development I've learned of...Mentarch at Another Point of View has been kind enough to tag me with that interesting little phenomenon known as the Thinking Blogger Award. Right back at ya, Mentarch, the blogging community is a wonderful thing.


So here's the business part - the rules:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.
And in turn, five blogs that make me think:

1. liberal catnip, of course. Let's just get this out of the way. Always right there on the leading edge with a progressive critique of the Bush administration and its many foibles. Terrific research and powerful writer.

2. A View from the Left. This kid's got moxie! A 19 year old university student who unabashedly puts her views out there on all things going on in the federation. When I was 19 and away at university, I'll tell you, I wasn't spending my time in front of a computer, if you know what I mean...so good for her for gettin' this done!

3. I have to include Cerberus. The big dog of the legal set. What with his getting-sued advice and all, he's a blogger's best friend, not to mention the dose of hilarity he injects with his many, shall we say, projects.

4. Afghanistanica. A very worthy blog to check out written by a graduate student studying the country. Timely and relevant for us, of course due to its focus. Great links/resources for anyone interested in learning more about this country beyond the superficiality of day to day media coverage.

5. Sir Robert Bond Papers. Yes, Bond...Robert Bond...:) Offers a great perspective from Newfoundland that's of great interest these days given the tremendous hullabaloo afoot in the nation over equalization, oil et al.

So there you go, enjoy all...:)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kyoto legislation "odd" says Van Loan

Curious comment from the vaunted House Leader today, on the Kyoto legislation that had been heretofore stalled in the Senate. Seems Petey and the gang have dained to allow a vote on it. Amazing thing that democracy if you let it work...:) Anyhoo...here's what Van Loan has to say about it, and the context:
Conservatives and Liberals have agreed to quickly clear the legislative decks in the Senate, committing to vote Friday on a host of bills, including the federal budget.

In return for the speedy budget vote, the Tories agreed Thursday to vote on a controversial Liberal private member's bill ordering the government to meet the Kyoto targets for greenhouse-gas emission reductions.

The Tories have long contended the targets are unachievable without destroying the economy and, until recently, had been filibustering the bill to prevent it coming to a vote in the Liberal-dominated Senate.

But Peter Van Loan, the government's House leader, played down the significance of the Kyoto bill.

"It's a very odd piece of legislation," he said in an interview, noting that it commits the government to achieving emission reduction goals without spending a dime.

He said "there's some similarity" between the bill and a toothless motion passed years ago by Parliament to eliminate child poverty by 2000.

"Abstract goals like that are a tough thing to enforce as a law."
Yes, I can see why Kyoto would be "odd" and "abstract" to you, Van Loan. The environment is like kryptonite to Conservatives, as we know.

Quite the concept for a lawyer to be confronted with at this late date that laws would embody goals, standards, principles and would not spell out in every last detail how the goals are to be costed out in spreadsheet like efficiency. Seems to me that's what budgets and government departments are for. And regulations. Make the laws, then put them into effect. Do we budget out every last item before we pass every piece of legislation? Sounds like ideal fiscal management but impractical. If we increase penalties for drunk driving, do we include spending commitments in the bill to support the police in their enforcement of it? No, I don't think we do. We deal with that in budgets and planning. It's a give and take, it seems to me. If the people's representatives pass a law that commits the country to achieving a goal, then the government has to do what is necessary to support it. And if you don't want to do it, well, you can get out of the way for people who want to do it...:)

Harper's in good company

Gee, who else do we know who has scored well in response to inane polling questions such as who would you prefer to have a beer with? George W. Bush. And we all know how well that's worked out...:)
Planning a beer and barbecue bash? Forty-five per cent of respondents chose Harper as a guest, compared with 26 per cent for Dion.
So congratulations Mini Bush, you win this of the most hollow, irrelevant polling trivia!

We call him Mini Bush for good reason, don't ya know...:)

Some thoughts on the spring session as MPs head home

Now that the House is breaking for the summer - and we won't have all the parliamentary hijinks to kick around every day...well, we might, if the Conservatives remain true to form...:) - thought I'd get in on the end of session wrap-up extravaganza with a few observations. Along the lines of the Globe report today noting their Question Period underperformers and standouts, Harper's notable attacks on the opposition replete with quotes of some of his barbs, here are a few thoughts.

Most significant issue raised? The exposure of the Afghanistan detainee treatment allegations and the successful holding of the government's feet to the fire that followed. It exposed the mishandling of this file by the Harper government, its weak players and their collective tendency to extreme partisanship when pushed. Nothing like a gut check on a defining issue to test a government's mettle. And they came up short.

Question Period underperformer and standout, combined in one has to be our PM himself. Standout in the sense that no one stands out on the Conservative side more than Harper. We saw how the chaos on the Atlantic Accords flourished in his absence while at the G8. His party's little more than a one-man band and his being the face of it is no longer the strength it was once perceived to be. This session's seen to that. And in terms of being the underperformer as well...check out the mean-spirited quotes in the Globe report, some of which I've already included in previous blog posts, questioning the opposition's patriotism and here:
Mr. Harper on Mr. Dion's questioning style in the House: “Mr. Speaker, I honestly do not know what the honourable member is even talking about.”
(I don't know how to interpret this other than that he's going after Dion's speaking style. This latter line of attack against Dion appears to be a latent issue that they wish to float yet never come right out and say. I think they should be treading carefully with this stuff...there are millions of Canadians who speak with accents, Quebecers and others, that they are also mocking when they venture into this territory with such quotes and manipulative attack ads. Sleeper issue to watch in the future.)

Most effective provincial politician having an impact on the session...has got to be Danny Millions in this blogger's view. We have a saying around here based on observing this guy in action and it's that you don't mess with Danny Millions. You can try...but you do so at your peril, as Mini Bush has no doubt learned at this point.

Most hilarious incident, and happily, there were many...the NASCAR sponsorship that put the Conservatives at cross-purposes with their environmental politicking has got to be right up there. They're certainly leaving on a high note in that regard...leave 'em while they're still laughing I guess...:) Or how about the Conservative insider who said this:
"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."
You said a mouthful, my friend. How I did enjoy the many anonymous Conservative insiders who unburdened themselves with tidbits through back channels. Or how about the hilarious Young Liberal ads? Or perhaps, saving the best for last, the PM having to deny he gets psychic advice from his personal stylist?

Think I'll end on that note...:)

Quote of the day

Ontario A.G. Michael Bryant on fire:
After the tragic death Monday of trucker David Virgoe on Highway 400 in an accident allegedly caused by racing, Bryant yesterday threw down the gauntlet at The Fast and the Furious wannabes.

"Just on the balance of probabilities if we can establish that a car is being used for the unlawful purpose of street racing, we will seize it and you will never see it again.

"We will crush your car, we will crush the parts."
This has to be one of the most vibrant statements I've heard from a Canadian politician of late. Those Ontario Liberals seem to be consistently in sync with the public on major issues these days...could be trouble for opposition parties to find any elbow room...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hilarious

Bush appoints first "Total-Fucking-Mess Czar."

Really.

The Onion Radio News has the hilarious details...:)

"Belligerent federalism"

If I lived in Saskatchewan, I'd be mightily peeved at the flippant treatment of my province's concerns at the hands of the federal Conservatives of late...they seem to be going out of their way to mock Calvert. From today's reporting on Calvert's appearance before a Senate committee:
Calvert told the committee he doesn't believe the unelected upper house has the right to change or defeat the federal budget, which overhauls the federal-provincial equalization funding program.

"Oh, I see. So this is just all some fluff to support your lawsuit?" Tory Senator David Angus replied.

Calvert's NDP government is going to court in the fall to challenge the constitutionality of the federal budget's changes to equalization.

Calvert fired back at Angus: "I take a little offence at a senator of Canada calling what I'm saying 'fluff.' Just as I take a little offence from your prime minister standing up in the House of Commons and saying to the people of Canada that what Saskatchewan is doing is, quote, absurd."

Harper dismissed the Saskatchewan lawsuit as absurd after challenging any disgruntled premiers to take the government to court.

Calvert fumed that other federal ministers have variously called Saskatchewan's campaign for justice "nuts" and "juvenile."

"What I'm doing here is trying to stand up for the people of Saskatchewan because we don't have a Conservative in the House of Commons who will," he snapped.

One Tory MP from Saskatchewan, Andrew Scheer, later said Calvert is "out to lunch," reinforcing the premier's complaint that the Harper government practices "belligerent federalism."
Calvert's got his legal action together and we'll see how that goes. I'm never as quick as the federal Conservatives appear to be, to dismiss any legal claim so easily. There are competing provisions in the Constitution that are at issue here and there should be, at a minimum, more respect emanating out of Ottawa for the legal process now that it's begun. Is that too much to ask, especially in the wake of the plaudits for the decorum in evidence on the Hill yesterday - or was that just a one day thing for the Conservatives?

Summer BBQ's and Senate reform, they just go together, don't they?

What better topic to raise with Canadians in the summer months, hey? Good luck with this one, brainiac Conservative strategists:
Conservatives are promising to take their beefs with the Liberal-dominated upper chamber to the public this summer after a Tory bill to limit Senate terms was shelved indefinitely.
...
"We'll have a lot of time back in our constituencies and we'll have a lot of time to discuss that with our constituents," Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said Wednesday.
Now I can see this being a big hit at lawyer Van Loan's summer festivities, but for the rest of us...I think we'll give the arcane Senate composition and reform efforts a big honkin' pass...:)

PMO obsession with Dion continues

Thanks for your concern, anonymous PMO guy...about Dion having Martha Hall Findlay and Rae get in line to come on board the Liberal team...but having strong people around you, contrary to the Stephen Harper school of leadership, is not a sign of weakness. It might just be me, but you'd think a leader would want the best calibre of individuals around to give candid, rigorous advice in the caucus. Maybe if the current Conservative regime had such a strong front bench, it might be in better shape. The Conservative wonder boys have certainly failed to impress the population throughout the spring session. So when I read things like this:
But a senior PMO source said Liberal Leader Stephane Dion might want to keep an eye over his shoulder.

"If I were Dion, I would be a bit concerned with so many leadership people overly keen to get to Ottawa to 'help me."'
I think to myself, really, don't they have better things to do in the PMO? Maybe they're a bit sensitive, since you don't hear any high profile names lining up to join the Conservative team. In fact, they're declining to run for the Harper team.

Methinks the anonymous PMO staffers doth protest way, way too much...

Is someone upstairs trying to tell Gary Lunn something?

The Minister of Natural Resources supposed to deliver an attack against Danny Millions in a speech in Newfoundland yesterday...yet he couldn't fly in due to fog. How absolutely metaphorical.
Mr. Lunn was scheduled to deliver the hard-hitting speech at a conference that included the major oil companies and the local industries that service the offshore projects. But he was unable to land due to fog; his office released the text Tuesday night.
Maybe this little Lunn speech was supposed to take the edge off all that testimony in Ottawa today from the likes of MacDonald and Crosbie, hey? I'm sure Danny would have appreciated your advice, Gary, in undercutting his position with the oil companies and shown you a real good time...:)

And thank you for showing us where the federal Conservatives' loyalties lie. Maybe you guys should be siding with the elected government in Newfoundland and not the oil companies.

Perspective please

The Globe reports today on that threat of suicide bombers being dispatched to western countries, courtesy of Brian Ross' ABC News site.
ABC News obtained footage this week of a reputed Taliban graduation ceremony. In it, a top commander lines up about 300 young training-camp graduates. Then he announces plans to send them on missions to the United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom in retaliation for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's presence in Afghanistan.
While this is to be taken note of, it should be kept in mind that this is Brian Ross' reporting and while he gets a lot of interesting stuff, some of his reports just never pan out. Remember the hype over the DC Madam recently where there were supposed to be a bunch of high profile Washington politicians and military officials being disclosed by Ross? Didn't really pan out as hyped.

Besides, I'm more concerned about driving on Ontario highways these days...

A few things catching my eye today

YouTube has lost it. They took the categories off the front page! What the heck are they thinking? Talk about a recipe for turning viewers off...they've certainly found a sure fire way to do so. Now you can no longer browse, say, "Most Discussed - News & Politics." Or, "Most Viewed - Music." Forget it. It now appears to be Google-ized with a generic search that means you can't use the "honour" system to see what's getting the most hits. They have truly lost their minds.

News that "Microsoft Will Alter Vista Operating System" in response to Google's complaint about it slowing down when other desktop search programs were used. A political angle here...the top antitrust DOJ guy is a former partner at the firm that represented Microsoft - in true Bush administration form - and he initially said "no" to Google's complaint. The states defied him and in the end, he backed down and now Microsoft's altering Vista. How's that for more evidence of a neutered, weakened Bush Justice Department? Maybe pain caused to corporate donors will be the impetus for Bush to give Gonzales the heave ho. Because it certainly isn't disdain for the rule of law that'll do it...

Maureen Dowd's column, "Carmela Got Gold Jewelry. Hillary Wants a White House." Playing up the clever Sopranos video spoof the Clintons did (see previous post from last night) and mocking the choice of Celine Dion's, "You and I" as the campaign song...well, we can all be a little too cynical sometimes. Because sometimes...a song is just a song. I like it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Welcome back, John Crosbie

A few colourful words, including at least one I have never heard before, from that Mulroney era Progressive Conservative:
Former federal finance minister John Crosbie, a Newfoundlander, made a similar appeal a few hours later. While he said he still supports the federal Tory government, Crosbie said he can't pretend he's not bitterly disappointed that the budget breaches the Atlantic accords.

"I'm not going to accept any codswallop that says that (the accord) hasn't been changed. I mean, we're not that stupid. The public isn't that stupid," he said in his typically colourful manner.
...
"...MacDonald bristled at the "underlying insinuation" that Nova Scotia and Newfoundland "want to have our cake and eat it too." He insisted the two have-not provinces are only asking for their fair share from federal transfer payments, and no more.

Crosbie echoed that argument, saying: "We are not going to have our cake and eat it too. We haven't had the freaking cake yet."
The damage has been done on this file, we are where we are, irrespective of flawed political promises or whatever the feds are peddling right now. Conservatives are toast in the Atlantic provinces and there's trouble in Saskatchewan brewing as well as Calvert prepares to unveil his legal action options tomorrow. Think it's a little difficult to buy into the supposed backlash out of Ontario and its crocodile tears about other provinces outperforming its fiscal capacity. The day Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are making announcements like this one, then you might need to do some serious adjusting that contemplates clawbacks to the "have-nots"...

On Michael Bloomberg

And his announcement today that's he's renouncing his GOP status, widely interpreted as an initial step in an independent candidacy for the White House in 2008...I"m more inclined to believe the case against his candidacy, most helpfully set out by Chris Cillizza. A billionaire buying himself the Presidency is not on. And Mikey may be an effective mayor, and of a big city, but stepping on to the wider American stage could be a problem. Ultimately, the two party system in the U.S. is so entrenched that he'll be performing a Nader-like service to Americans and acting as a spoiler. Unclear to me for which candidate as of yet. It'll depend on who the nominees are. If it's Hillary and Giuliani, from whom would he take votes? Hillary's outclassing the current Democratic field, I wouldn't be surprised to see her have the same effect on opposing candidates from other parties once they're all lined up.

Brilliant Clinton Sopranos parody



This is hilarious...watch for a Sopranos cameo in the clip...:)

Is that the sound of major Conservative backtracking?

Or is it just a NASCAR backfiring?
Canadians should not link a Conservative party ad stamped on the hood of a pollution-causing NASCAR vehicle to the federal government's effort to halt climate change, a top cabinet minister said yesterday.

Four Conservative cabinet ministers helped launch the unusual ad at a racetrack east of Toronto this weekend, but Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said "there's a difference" between the government and the political party.

"I don't think it's something that is related directly with the government of Canada," Cannon said. "It's a party initiative and I think that the officials from the party are the ones that should answer."
Can you say major, major goof?

Thank you, oh Conservative party gurus for the gift you have given bloggers like me on what might have been a very average news week...:)

And then there were four...

A New Brunswick MP joins the equalization fight: "Dear PM: You're cheating New Brunswick out of a billion dollars." And John Crosbie goes at it today as well.

So sad to see Mini Bush reaping the fruits of his divisive policies.

No-fly list ripe for problems

You can't help but read the reporting on this thing and shake your head. The procedure is littered with problems not to mention the fact that our government could be taking actual constructive steps to make flying more safe. Like improving technology in airports to examine baggage and cargo and prioritizing such measures over p.r. exercises undertaken to align ourselves with the most obtuse administration ever to wield power in Washington. How about that? Think a no-fly list is going to catch any terrorists in its net? Think we'll be safer for it? It's likely to produce more horror stories than anything.

So let's consider the mechanics of it in this report:
The list applies to all flights, both domestic and international, and was created by an advisory group to the Transport Minister composed of CSIS agents and the RCMP.
Is that the "broken" RCMP that's in on this? What kind of oversight exists on this advisory group's exercise of power to ensure it's not being abused and that names placed on the list are not done so for improper purposes? Is there any? Who appointed the advisory group and who's in it? Within any organization there are factions with known beliefs on issues...I wonder about the choices of individuals for such groups, particularly when there's no public disclosure of such matters.

Next:
Those named on the list are believed to pose an immediate threat to air security. They must also have been involved, or have been suspected of involvement, in a terrorist group, or they must have committed a serious and life-threatening crime against Canadian aviation.
Um, question for you...why aren't these people being arrested instead of being left to be halted by the airlines? Please explain that one to me like I'm a 10 year old.

Next up, the delightful airport experience:
Airlines are not permitted to print boarding passes for anyone with a name that matches someone on the list until that passenger proves he or she is not the person in question.

That means all passengers must arrive at the airport with one piece of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's licence or a passport, that gives their name, sex and date of birth – or two pieces of government-issued identification, such as a birth certificate, that shows their name, sex and date of birth.
I can just imagine the stories that will emanate from individuals having to prove they are NOT the person named on the list to these airline personnel. Are they receiving any security training on such matters? Doubt it. Sounds like the airlines are shunting people off to Transport Canada to appeal. If your name's on that list - and we have no way of knowing who's on it, why they were placed there, etc. - and you've got ID confirming your name...what's going to happen? Kafkaesque arguments with airline and Transport Canada officials over your identity and likely a preponderance of decisions denying individuals the ability to fly.

This list is ripe for abuse in terms of who gets placed on it and why, discretion in the hands of airline officials over individuals mobility rights, issues that haven't even arisen yet.

(h/t to James Laxer's blog on this issue, great post.)

Defence committee highlights the detainee issue

The House Defence Committee has released a report on the Afghan mission, timely considering the likely impending termination of the current parliamentary session. Puts a meaningful stamp on the actions of the government to date on this file.

Of note is the focus on the handling of the detainee issue and how it's tarnished the mission. Despite the improved agreement recently entered into on the issue, there's still a neverland of questionable accountability that can't really assure whether detainees are being properly treated or not. That's the situation we're in. The investigating authorities of torture allegations remain the Afghan government. We can monitor, but we're really just sitting around awaiting the Afghan verdict on whether their own people are torturing. Given the track record thus far, it's reasonable to question whether we should be condoning this system in the long run.

Because, as the report points out, all the witnesses that appeared before the committee are of the view that the mission will be far from complete by 2009. The words picked up on by the committee are "decades" and "generations" to describe the duration of the time commitment that's required to make a real difference in Afghanistan.

I find it remarkable after this spring session that a committee of this House could produce a statement in the form of such a report that actually speaks to the issues (I haven't mentioned them all, by the way) and requests a debate a year from now to prepare for the 2009 looming deadline. How low has the bar been set when what should be routine - a House committee rigorously assessing a problem on its substantive merits - becomes the remarkable...

Monday, June 18, 2007

The lawlessness knows no bounds

Henry Waxman's going to town on the Republicans and he's coming up big: "White House Aides' E-Mail Records Gone." This is potentially a big problem for the Bushies...the Presidential Records Act imposes requirements on the President to ensure that all communications that inform government decision making be preserved. Rove and a pack of other White House staffers, however, used RNC and other political email accounts to conduct the preponderance of their business, it certainly appears. The question is how much of that email activity is purely political - which it would be OK to separate off - versus legitimate government business that they were conducting and that they were seeking to shield from such record keeping requirements. I'm sure Americans should just trust that Rove et al. exercised their judgment properly for these many years, hey? And that the old White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, saw to it that this law was abided by, right? Lol...

Here are the gory details:
The Oversight Committee has been investigating whether White House officials violated the Presidential Records Act by using e-mail accounts maintained by the Republican National Committee and the Bush Cheney ‘04 campaign for official White House communications.
...
White House officials made extensive use of their RNC e-mail accounts. The RNC has preserved 140,216 e-mails sent or received by Karl Rove. Over half of these e-mails (75,374) were sent to or received from individuals using official “.gov” e-mail accounts. Other heavy users of RNC e-mail accounts include former White House Director of Political Affairs Sara Taylor (66,018 e-mails) and Deputy Director of Political Affairs Scott Jennings (35,198 e-mails). These e-mail accounts were used by White House officials for official purposes, such as communicating with federal agencies about federal appointments and policies.

There has been extensive destruction of the e-mails of White House officials by the RNC. Of the 88 White House officials who received RNC e-mail accounts, the RNC has preserved no e-mails for 51 officials.
...
The RNC has preserved only 130 e-mails sent to Mr. Rove during President Bush’s first term and no e-mails sent by Mr. Rove prior to November 2003. For many other White House officials, the RNC has no e-mails from before the fall of 2006.

There is evidence that the Office of White House Counsel under Alberto Gonzales may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records.
And so what is the import of all this? Chairman Waxman reports as follows:
At this point in the investigation, it is not possible to determine precisely how many presidential records may have been destroyed by the RNC. Given the heavy reliance by White House officials on RNC e-mail accounts, the high rank of the White House officials involved, and the large quantity of missing e-mails, the potential violation of the Presidential Records Act may be extensive.
Rove, Gonzales and Bush have repeatedly thumbed their noses at Americans. This Records Act exists for many reasons - historical accountability and transparency among them - and these initial findings are unfortunately consistent with the Bushies' abhorrence for the rule of law. They really don't give a s*%#.

The question is, what's going to be done about it now that it's being exposed? Waxman's laid out his plan, good luck to him...

Nice contrast

"Ontario poised to put $600 million into developing green cars" while the Conservatives are sponsoring gas guzzling NASCARs driven by the author of Canada's own Mini-Drudge report...:)

That's a shame

Rupert's got company in his bid for the WSJ/Dow Jones as the Bancroft family maintains its anybody-but-Murdoch stance: "GE and Pearson Discuss Joint Bid For Dow Jones."
As Dow Jones & Co.'s controlling Bancroft family continues to fret about selling to Rupert Murdoch, General Electric Co. and Financial Times publisher Pearson PLC are in talks about making a joint bid for Dow Jones that would allow the family to keep a minority interest.

The two companies have discussed a scenario in which GE's CNBC business channel, the FT and Dow Jones would be combined into a privately held joint venture, according to people familiar with the matter. The venture would be owned equally by GE and Pearson, with the Bancrofts holding a minority stake, these people said.

The GE-Pearson talks -- which these people cautioned are preliminary and could collapse -- signal that an alternative may be emerging to News Corp.'s $5 billion bid for Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal.
They have good reason to stay away from the Faux News tycoon. Not that this new proposal is ideal, it continues a pattern of consolidation of media ownership in North America. But it's better than letting Murdoch get his hands on the Journal...

Could these guys be any more comic

Yee haaa! The Conservative wonder boys have got themselves a race car!

Maybe the good ole boys staking out the GOP primary might be interested in this Conservative gimmick, sponsorship of a race car, not so sure about Canadians' reaction. The roll out of this thing must have been quite comic to watch, given the Conservative attendees - none of whom you can really picture going to the racetrack on their own time, despite their protestations of being the party of the "ordinary" Canadians:
The federal Conservatives, who are awash in cash after several years of successful fundraising, are sponsoring a car on the Canadian NASCAR circuit.

Following the lead of Tim Hortons, Home Hardware and Milwaukee Electric Tool, the white No. 29 car in the Canadian Tire auto-racing series now sports a big blue "C" on its hood and side panels.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan and Immigration Minister Diane Finley were joined by nearly a dozen Conservative MPs at a racetrack east of Toronto yesterday to watch their party's car do the laps.
Just a few fun lovin' Conservative guys and gals out at the racetrack on a Saturday. I bet Van Loan's never been near one in his life. How wonderful of some of the stranger Conservatives to try to make an effort to fit in with the ordinary Canadians. You see, NASCAR people are "our kind of people" says Finley in the report. Well unfortunately, Impolitical does not fit into this race car loving exclusionary group...:) What does this mean? That I'm not an ordinary Canadian and am to be mocked and put down instead? Am I extraordinary maybe? I think I'm truly offended by this reverse elitism thing they've got going on....:)

By the way...here's a question...how's that there thing on the environment, brainiacs? And is it a coincidence John Baird wasn't there?

Can't wait to see the reaction to this thing. Wonder if it'll surpass the reaction to Mini Bush's taped message at a recent Senators game that was roundly booed...:)

About that last episode of the Sopranos...

There was a great column in the Washington Post yesterday, "Eureka! Solving 'The Sopranos'," that's worth a look if you're still mulling over the meaning of that last episode. This analysis, and it's detailed enough for sure, suggests the final scene and events leading up to it were a recreation of the last supper that was, as the title of the episode suggested, "Made in America." Fun stuff.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The big question for Obama

Maureen Dowd highlights it once again today, in "Can He Crush Hillary?"
The Clintons act high-minded and do-gooding, while employing a staff of hit men. Obama is tangled in contradictions of high and low, saint and killer, while Hillary moves like a shark.

“She’d lean over and bite his ear off if that’s what it takes,” says Charlie Cook, the political analyst. “The question is, will he do what it takes to win? This is a guy who did not have to deal with a single negative ad being run against him in the primary and general campaigns for the Senate. It was almost an immaculate conception.”
Still waiting on that one...

Mini Bush's phantom issue

He's just wishin' and hopin' for a break: "Harper warns Liberal senators to pass budget."

A freebie for Mini Bush...jump on the bandwagon and issue your stern budget warning...then when they pass it, you look like you're the in charge guy and can sternly lecture everybody about how they did the right thing. If they don't pass it, you've egged them on to defy you. Machiavellian Mayberrys are at it again...yeah, rail against the Senate. Canadians are on the edge of their seats and primed for some big time outrage against the Senate. Love to see them try this one.

Caught the report on CTV of Harper fake-smiling through his gritted teeth issuing his supposedly friendly advice to pass the budget. Smiling is like forced punishment for this guy...it's like nails on a chalk board...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It's a good thing

The sleeper effect of those ads:
"The ads have created such low public expectations that some people he's met have remarked that the slightly built 6-foot-1 Dion even appears bigger than they expected.

'The bar is low,' he said. 'In some ways it is helping me.'"
The perpetually misunderestimated pol...

Of mice and men - exactly

This CP article, "Of mice and men; best-laid plans go awry as MPs head into summer break," analyzing the Conservatives' disastrous spring session prompted me to look at an exchange referenced in it....Ken Dryden taking on Harper in the Commons this week over his excessive partisanship. Here it is, needs no set up from me:
Hon. Ken Dryden (York Centre, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, we saw it again last week: the science of climate change and the great majority of the G-8 saying one thing, the Prime Minister another, his pride always getting it done; his problem, Canada's problem, always the wrong “it”.

On the environment, Africa, our role in the world, our relations with the provinces, his strategy is to set the bar low, really really low, and then hit it decisively and call that success, but success for whom? For him politically? Maybe, but for Canadians, for the world, no.

When will the Prime Minister understand that?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I think all Canadians should be very proud of the unanimous G-8 statement that committed the world to move toward obligatory reduction targets for all major emitting countries. Specifically Canada, the European Union and Japan believe that it should be half by 2050.

The previous government under the Liberals let the world down and now the world has left them behind.


Hon. Ken Dryden (York Centre, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, getting it done wrong, decisively wrong; set the bar low and you get low.

How will history write about the 16 months of the Conservative government? About just how little was attempted, about just how little was done. For the government it has all been a campaign, a lot of politics and manoeuvring, signifying almost nothing.

With an election no longer imminent, the Conservatives have no direction and no idea what to do. When will they learn? A prime minister, a real leader, campaigns to govern, he does not govern to campaign.

Hon. John Baird (Minister of the Environment, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, let us not look at what the Prime Minister said. Let us look at what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at last week's G-8 meeting. He said that he welcomes that G-8 leaders have agreed on a strong and early action to combat climate change. He said that he is greatly encouraged by their commitment . He also said that the acceptance by the leaders is to be commended.

The member opposite used to go around Canada asking, “What stopped us? Why didn't we do better?” Maybe he could answer those questions.
They really undo themselves, don't they? As for any wishful thinking that they can dial back the partisanship in the fall...what are the Conservatives going to do, undergo boot camp psychotherapy this summer?