Monday, March 31, 2008

Maxime Bernier, how do you like your new friend?

How I wish I'd stuck it out to watch the entire Question Period today. The Canadian Press has a tremendous little report tonight on Bob Rae's debut earlier today, suggesting how Rae sat in his seat, watching Maxime Bernier squirm and making the entire Conservative bench wonder just what the heck was going on, having Bob Rae wait 'till the end of question period to take his turn. Looks like Bob wanted to size things up. Turns out, it was worth the wait:
With less than 10 minutes remaining in Monday's daily 45-minute question period, Liberal MP Bob Rae finally rose to mark his return to the House of Commons after a quarter-century absence.

"Mr. Speaker, you will have to forgive me. I am trying to remember how to do this, but I wanted to ask the minister of Foreign Affairs a question," said Rae, one hand in his pocket, his red paisley tie slightly askew and shock of white hair dishevelled. Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario who last sat as a federal parliamentarian in 1981, was the most highly anticipated of the four new MPs sworn into office Monday.
The Liberal foreign affairs critic looked across the floor at Maxime Bernier and fired a dart at the six-foot-plus wisp of a foreign minister, perhaps the most over-scripted and underwhelming member of Harper's cabinet.

"I am sure that much like me, he spent the last couple of weeks studying the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act," said Rae, "and he will know that under that act, he has very specific responsibilities with respect to our radar technology ..."

When an anonymous junior minister of industry responded to Rae's question, hoots of derision rained from the Liberal ranks.

Rae tried again and this time Bernier, blushing like a fraternity pledge and doing his best Stephane Dion shrug, unfurled himself from his seat, offered Rae a welcome greeting and then sputtered a response that the sale of Canada's iconic Radarsat 2 satellite to a U.S. arms-maker was really under the Industry Department's purview.

Rae later scrummed on Afghanistan outside the Commons. But his first day's compare-and-contrast mission was already effectively over. (emphasis added)
Have fun, Maxime! Bob's been around the block a time or two.

We'll be watching...:)

So sad

Overwhelming boos for the President as he walks out to throw out the first pitch in Washington last night. Now that's satisfying...:)

A conclusion worth challenging

"Income trust report finds no proof of RCMP wrongdoing." Let me get this straight. The report clears the RCMP. Yet the former RCMP Commissioner and other officials declined to be interviewed. So how exactly does this report come to the conclusion that there was no wrongdoing? It's an enigma wrapped in a mystery:
There's no evidence to suggest the former commissioner of the RCMP deliberately meddled in the last federal election, although he has refused to shed any light on his motives for releasing sensitive information during the campaign, the Mounties' complaints chairman concluded Monday.

Chairman Paul Kennedy said former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli would not answer questions about why in the month leading up to the January 2006 election, the RCMP decided to announce that it was launching a probe into the former Liberal government's handling of an income trust taxation decision.

Other top RCMP officials also declined to be interviewed during Kennedy's investigation, in what Kennedy called an "inappropriate" move.

"The police officers who hold a public function, and are accountable to the public, ought to be accountable for articulating why they did or didn't do something," Kennedy told reporters in Ottawa while releasing the conclusions of his investigation.

"It does the RCMP a disservice to have a situation where we have half the members are participating, and half not.… I think it's inappropriate."
Without interviewing these individuals, nevertheless, the complaints commission chairman has rendered this verdict. How utterly non-reassuring. Let's recall what went on:
On Dec. 28, at the height of a heated federal election campaign, Zaccardelli announced that the force was launching a full-fledged criminal investigation into the matter.

He specifically named Goodale in the announcement. His media relations team drafted two press releases on the matter — one with Goodale's name in it, and one without — and Zaccardelli chose to issue the one with the name included, Kennedy said.

"But there is no evidence that Commissioner Zaccardelli relied on any improper considerations in coming to his decisions," Kennedy said. "I don't know what the thinking was, one can only speculate," he added.
What a bizarre, contradictory conclusion.

Welcome back parliamentary gang, new and old

I'm going to try to be polite, given that today is the Canadian Cynic's blogosphere challenge. I think I'm typically polite, but we'll see how I do...:) And by the way, good for the Cynic for trying to inject some civility in the blogging community, which, as any blogger knows, is at times extremely ugly.

And so, notes from the festive House of Commons Question Period today:

1. What a breath of fresh air to see the newly elected and still charmingly idealistic MP's be escorted into the House. The most genuine display of happiness had to have been from the beaming Martha Hall Findlay. You could see the emotion and pride in being elected there. That's the kind of MP we need in the House in spades. Big shout out to her today, and well done in the question period. I am fast becoming a big Martha fan.

2. Sticking with the theme of raw emotion, the death of the sealers on the weekend off the coast of the Iles de la Madeleine provided a sobering set of moments in the House.

3. Jim Flaherty, could you bumble through your responses a little more? Mistakenly using Bob Rae's name in one of his responses, a no-no in parliamentary decorum, betrayed the Conservative strategy of rattling off quotes from Mr. Rae, without context, to deflect Flaherty's ham-handed bashing of Ontario. Mr. Flaherty received a barrage of questions from John McCallum and Martha Hall Findlay, deservedly so, for his efforts of recent weeks and when given the opportunity to take the high road, did not. In fact, he continued his shameful display in the House today. He seemed uncomfortable and embarrassed to be called on the carpet for his harmful approach to the federation. Look in the mirror, Mr. Flaherty.

4. How afraid of Mr. Rae are the Conservatives anyway? Very, judging by the repeated effort to use Rae quotes and intersperse them in a variety of Conservative member responses.

5. Surprise, the Cadman case is not going away. Weeks away from the House have not made the issue disappear. Ken Dryden was devastating in putting questions to the Prime Minister personally, staring at him and welling up all the integrity and grit he could, in his own inimitable way, challenging the Prime Minister to explain himself and his words caught on tape discussing financial considerations for Cadman. But the PM deflected to James Moore, who repeated the Conservative smokescreen and evasion. A very effective technique from Mr. Dryden, visually calling out Harper's hiding behind his MP on the matter. And kudos to Joyce "Landslide" Murray as well, newly elected from Vancouver Quadra, who as a member from BC appears to be joining in on the Cadman matter. Her questions, in tone and clarity, were very effective as well. She certainly did not deserve the admonishment from James Moore that she should not come to the House to smear members of parliament. Not appropriate from Mr. Moore on such a day after he had earlier provided a gracious welcome. The civility doesn't last very long, does it?

6. The inappropriate insertion of immigration reform in the budget bill came in for some serious scrutiny today, with the Liberals raising it as the lead off set of questions and later followed up by NDP-leader-in-waiting, Tom Mulcair. Given the questioning, you can see how this is going to play in the next election. More on that another day.

7. Did one of my favourite MP's, Helena Guergis, actually say, in response to a serious question on Omar Khadr's continued detention at the modern day gulag, Guantanamo Bay, where abuses are well known, that "he is in fact having his human rights"? Huh? Ms. Guergis, I suggest you engage in some remedial English before you damage your credibility beyond repair. Or, on second thought, is it too late for that?

Glad to have the gang back, for better or worse...:)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Inconsistency, thy name is Stockwell Day

A reminder today of the double standard the Harper government is applying to Canadians facing the death penalty in foreign countries. The Canadian facing execution in Montana is not worthy of the government's help. Yet the Canadian facing execution in Saudi Arabia is. It's nonsensical inconsistent policy from our government, a departure from decades of consistent opposition to the executions of Canadians abroad, no matter where they may be and no matter the offence for which they've been convicted. When the government starts picking and choosing which Canadians will get its help, we're in trouble. As the lawyer for the Canadian in Montana remarked:
"I love the irony of it all. Un-freaking believable," Greg Jackson told The Canadian Press.
Yes, that's the un-freaking believable reality we live with in Canada these days under such luminary politicians as Stockwell Day, Mr. Jackson.

And of course:
A spokesman for Public Safety declined to offer an explanation on why Day was intervening on behalf of Kohail and not Smith, saying the Department of Foreign Affairs was "taking the lead role" in the case. The Foreign Affairs Department did not return calls.
Let's for Guantanamo Bay, NAFTAgate shenanigans at the consulate in Chicago, Afghanistan, the sell-off of historic Foreign Affairs properties abroad and radical policy shifts such as this one on the death penalty that are dropped into your lap...wouldn't you love to be a foreign affairs staffer at this moment?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Scenes from the messy Democratic Texas caucus conventions today

The Texas Democratic caucus results are being finalized today.

It ain't pretty:
Now, former Rock the Vote President Jehmu Greene, a Hillary Clinton supporter, is attempting to speak on behalf of her candidate of choice.

But she hasn't gotten far, as Barack Obama supporters are shouting her down with chants of "O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!" Ms. Greene just left the stage. "Yes we can! Yes we can!" many in the crowd are now shouting. Hillary supporters are visably miffed.

"How rude!" one man just shouted.
Exra police were sent to the second floor of Hulcy Middle School, where delegate credentials are being verified.

Potential delegates have stood in line since early morning. Tempers are beginning to explode.

The credentials committee is meeting on the first floor of the middle school. The verification process is going down on the second floor. The process could take a few more hours and the convention won't start in earnest until all of the delegates have been seated. Thousands of people are waiting for verification.

No arrests have been made.
How heartening.

They even had a dose of celebrity, but alas it did not work out civilly either:
Heather Tom, a star on CBS-TV's "The Bold and the Beautiful," spoke at TJ in behalf of Hilary Clinton. The 32-year-old actress has also has also had turns on ABC's "All My Children" and CBS's "The Young and the Restless", where, according to one bio, she won an Emmy Award "for her portrayal of the tempestuous, troubled and oft-married Victoria Newman."

A few Obama supporters -- possibly, not soap fans -- started jeering toward the end of her short speech. They were admonished by the chair.
And finally, while you can peruse all the other entries yourself, let's leave it at this entry which summarizes why these caucus events are nightmares and likely to fade after this exercise:
State Sen. Royce West tried to keep a positive outlook about the chaotic senatorial convention process.

But when I caught up with his a few minutes ago, he faced reality.

"This process is a nightmare," he said. "The system wasn't designed to have so many people."

The credentials committee is still churning along. Some delegates have been in limbo since 7:30 a.m.

"It's democracy at work," Mr. West said.

The convention can't start its work until the credentials committee is done.

I'm told one committee has approved a resolution to changed the caucus system. The entire room was in favor.

The rule of law no match for Karl Rove to date

Freed ex-Governor of Alabama Don Siegelman is speaking out now about Karl Rove's involvement in his case.
Speaking by telephone in his first post-prison interview, shortly after he had left the federal penitentiary at Oakdale, La., Mr. Siegelman said there had been “abuse of power” in his case, and repeatedly cited Karl Rove, the former White House political director.

“His fingerprints are smeared all over the case,” Mr. Siegelman said, a day after a federal appeals court ordered him released on bond and said there were legitimate questions about his case. He was sentenced to serve seven years last June after a guilty verdict on bribery and corruption charges a year earlier.

In measured tones after spending nine months at the prison, the former governor, a Democrat, said he would press to have Mr. Rove answer questions to Congress about his possible involvement in the case.

“When Attorney General Gonzales and Karl Rove left office in a blur, they left the truth buried in their documents,” Mr. Siegelman said, referring to Alberto R. Gonzales. “It’s going to be my quest to encourage Congress to ensure that Karl Rove either testifies, or takes the Fifth.”
But Rove's lawyer has responded and read his statement carefully. Because it's the key to Rove's continued ability to escape accountability for his deeds, there are never any fingerprints.
Mr. Rove, who once ran judicial campaigns here and has long denied any involvement in the Siegelman case, could not be reached for comment Friday, but his lawyer, Robert Luskin, dismissed the accusation.

“There’s absolutely, positively, no truth to any of the allegations and literally no evidence for any of it,” Mr. Luskin said. (emphasis added)
That's right, Karl's position is that there's no evidence. Karl is pretty careful about these things and knows not to leave tire tracks. That's why it's so difficult to achieve any measure of justice against him. Just ask Patrick Fitzgerald about the slippery Mr. Rove.

Still, it will be interesting to see how Rove's lawyer gets him out of testifying on this matter. I assume they will bend the executive privilege claim into a pretzel, despite its inapplicability here or ignore the summons and rely on Bush's Justice Department to refuse to enforce his contempt. In other words, the oversight by congress of a political aide who apparently ran amok with the levers of the Justice Department will continue to be frustrated by these anti-rule of law hooligans. It will be interesting to see if America can overcome such strong man tactics or whether congress will accept it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Not memorial-worthy

"Inuit plan to name island after Harper following land-claims deal with feds." Oh, really? Well that's an interesting little story. Because Mr. Harper certainly deserves to have an island named after him, doesn't he now? A minority government PM with a third of the population supporting him? Maybe it's just my massive case of anti-Harper sentiment, but it seems to me that he doesn't exactly fit the bill as the type to be naming natural wonders after. He's no Pierre Trudeau, after all. There's nothing about this guy that speaks to the need to memorialize him eternally. For the majority of us in fact, we'd like to forget him as soon as possible, whenever that might be. And in this specific case, with respect to this land claim settlement, decades in the works, it saw Harper landing at third base thinking he hit a triple.

But whatever. Let's humour the idea. In fact, here are a few ideas for the Inuit to consider, with rationale in parentheses:

Harper's Gulag Archipelago (in honour of his continued commitment to the Guantanamo Bay debacle)

Harper's Partisan Peninsula (in honour of the new low in civil discourse that his Conservatives have brought to the House of Commons and further in honour of his wonder boy trolls that he dispatches to attack provincial governments)

Harper's Flooded Isle (in honour of the rising seas to come and the likely impact on this northern island as world leaders like Mr. Harper continue to deny and defeat concrete environmental progress)


Privacy Commissioner investigating the smearing of Brenda Martin

Foreign Affairs' leaking of details on Brenda Martin's imprisonment in Mexico, likely done to make her appear less sympathetic to the public, is absolutely worthy of the privacy commissioner's investigation:
The federal privacy commissioner is investigating whether Brenda Martin's privacy was violated when a government report wound up in the media.

The commissioner's office said Friday it has opened a file, but wouldn't confirm whether anyone has filed a complaint. Liberal MP Dan McTeague, the party's consular affairs critic, has called for the privacy commissioner to look into how The Canadian Press obtained a report detailing consular contacts with Martin.
Not that there's much in the way of a remedy now for Ms. Martin. The damage has been done by the Harper guided Foreign Affairs department. An investigation might be painful for them, however. And a record will be created in the form of the Privacy Commissioner's report should the complaint be deemed "well-founded."

Bring on the investigation. Using prison and consular records for p.r. purposes should not be something we tolerate from our government.

Good news for Dion

Yes, I said good news and Dion in the same phrase. Heaven forbid we defy the conventional wisdom, but here it is. In case you missed this gem yesterday, here's a bit of wisdom that makes the entire Dion-flog-fest actually quite bearable:
...Mr. Dion has no plans to leave and, so long as he holds the card of being practically even with the governing party in support, no campaign to unseat him has any hope.

In effect, St├ęphane Dion is being saved by Stephen Harper and his failure to open up a wide lead. As a close Dion caucus ally, Bryon Wilfert, put it yesterday: "If our guy is so bad, then what does it make theirs when we're tied with him?"

Mr. Wilfert is right. It's a dismal comment on the state of the governing party to be about even with a party led by a man that the Conservatives allege is one of the wimpiest Opposition leaders of all time.
That's a darn good question, Mr. Wilfert. And thank you for reminding us that the eminently unlikable Stephen Harper is the luckiest guy in Canada at this moment. Because his continuing unimpressive, unprecedented poor showing in the polls for a PM two years in on the job is conveniently masked by the Liberal infighting.

If only these Liberals would get their act together...the base they have to work with is tremendous.

In that vein, I'm starting to think that Stephane needs to have a very serious come-to-Jesus moment with Mr. Ignatieff. Threaten to strip him of the deputy leader position if this bunk from his supporters continues. Where there's smoke, there's fire, Mr. Dion. Ignatieff is looking like a problem, not your best bud in the front row. Wielding such power may be exactly what is needed at this moment. Heck, in fact, tell him you'll give the position to Bob Rae. That might expedite things.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Siegelman freed

Big news out of Alabama for anyone following the ludicrous imprisonment of prominent southern Democrat Don Siegelman for being just that, a prominent, successful southern Democrat: "Ex-Governor of Alabama Is Ordered Released."
Donald Siegelman, former governor of Alabama, was ordered released from prison on Thursday by a federal appeals court, pending his appeal of a bribery conviction that Democrats say resulted from a politically driven prosecution.

In its order, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, said Mr. Siegelman had raised “substantial questions” in his appeal of the case and could be released on bond from the federal prison in Oakdale, La., where he has served nine months of a seven-year sentence. The order did not say what those questions were, but his lawyers have argued for months that the bribery charge on which he was mainly convicted revolved around a transaction that differed little, if at all, from a standard political contribution.

Mr. Siegelman’s lawyers maintained that — as is standard in many white-collar crime cases — the veteran Democratic politician never should have been imprisoned in the first place while he appealed his conviction.

“He should not have been manacled and taken off in the night,” said his lawyer, G. Robert Blakey, also a professor at the University of Notre Dame, citing the ex-governor’s immediate imprisonment after his conviction, a point of contention for his supporters.
A great first step. Now hopefully we'll be seeing him testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee in the near future as well because the Bush Justice Department, led by Gonzales-acolyte Mukasey, is obstructing investigation of the serious allegations that Karl Rove had much to do with Siegelman's imprisonment in the first place. This development could push this outrageous abuse back on to the front burner in the U.S. Congress, where it deserves to be.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Conservative hatorade watch: Pierre Poilievre, please go away

Rolling around in the muck again today. The effort to slime the Liberal brand is full on. Details from enlightened statesman Poilievre:
The federal Conservatives have launched a fresh attack on the Ontario government, accusing Premier Dalton McGuinty of having run a “sponsorship-style” slush fund.

Tory MP Pierre Poilievre drew parallels today between McGuinty's Liberal government and the corruption seen in the federal Liberals' infamous sponsorship program.

The attack comes after Finance Minister Jim Flaherty spent weeks blasting Ontario's economic policy.

It occurred after Mr. McGuinty warned the federal government to avoid what he described as a short-sighted view that favours skilled immigrants in new immigration reforms.

The Tories responded by sending out Mr. Poilievre, who said the only thing Mr. McGuinty has ever done on immigration is run a disgraceful, sponsorship-style slush fund that cost him his citizenship minister.

He was referring to Mike Colle, who resigned last year when it was revealed that his department gave $32.4-million in grants to multicultural groups with no oversight procedures.
Um, does the Harper government not have anything better to do than run around the country and point fingers and launch partisan bombs? This is the kind of thing that Newt Gingrich used to do quite a bit. It didn't get him very far. The viewing public doesn't like such excesses. We have enough to deal with in our everyday lives to see juvenile, petty partisans like Poilievre engaging in such frivolities. And yes, it's particularly annoying when they dispense these rabid conservative wonder boys to spew their hatorade like this. This is so counter-productive to the federation. I mean, the federal government is doing its utmost to destroy the credibility of the Ontario government. It's unheard of.

I wouldn't expect that the McGuinty crew will make life very easy for the Harperites at all. After all, the McGuinty team just demolished the Conservatives provincially. Why the Harper crowd thinks it can poke a stick in that hornet's nest and come away unscathed is beyond lil ol' me...

Supreme Court of Canada wonders why Harper's government is still so oddly pro-Gitmo

A welcome development at the Supreme Court as it appears that the justices today, in the matter of Khadr's lawyers seeking transcripts of interviews done by Canadian officials with Khadr in order to aid in his defence in the process at Gitmo, held the government's feet to the fire: "Supreme Court presses Crown on Khadr." These were just questions in the hearing, of course, and don't necessarily indicate what the court's ruling will be. But it was refreshing to read the Globe report and cheer on the Justices' questions as to why our government could not provide this information to Khadr's defence and what conditions were placed on the sharing of that information with U.S. officials. The public airing of these questions from the nation's top court was a breath of fresh air in contrast to the positioning of the federal government. The Harper government continues to solidly back the U.S. with respect to the Gitmo procedures and are the lone Western nation to continue to do so. Refusing to provide information to Khadr's defence on the grounds that his defence should be asking the U.S. for such information given that there is no "Canadian connection" with the case seems on its face absurd. Canada put itself in the mix by interviewing the child Khadr back in 2002. And the position that they're taking implicitly approves of the American process by assuming it's fairness. The Khadr defence team wouldn't be in Canada seeking such information if they had a chance at obtaining it in the U.S. It's ridiculous positioning by the government.

And in the background to this hearing, there was a notable procedural attempt by the federal government to strike out the intervenors appearing before the court. But, as noted here:
The Court denied the Canadian government’s motions to strike certain pleadings, to preclude the hearing of fresh evidence, and to revoke intervenor status granted to two parties, the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law — International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, the Court .
This effort strikes me as part of the Harper government's war on independent legal advocacy groups that should be noted by Canadians. The court quickly dispensed with the effort, however. Here's a sampling of advocacy present in the court room today that would not have been heard had the Harper position had its way:
A joint brief to the Supreme Court by the University of Toronto law faculty, International Human Rights Clinic and Human Rights Watch, argues that it is unconscionable for Canada to have interviewed Mr. Khadr at all, let alone turned over summaries to U.S. investigators.

”As early as November, 2002, Canadian officials were aware that Omar was not being afforded any special treatment or status as a child, and that he was at a continuing risk of arbitrary detention and exposure to other human rights violations - including an unfair trial,” the brief states.

”A state is not relieved of its obligations to its nationals simply because they are in the control of another state. ... At the very least, a state must not abet or condone violations by the other state.”

In a submission for the Criminal Lawyers Association, lawyer John Norris appealed to the Court to restore Canada's respect for Canadian values being applied outside the borders. The entire interrogation of Mr. Khadr was reprehensible, he said, since he was a youth and was denied legal counsel.

"Whether or not Canadian officials took the Charter with them when they went to Guantanamo Bay, it was undoubtedly waiting for them when they got home," he told the court.

University of Toronto law professor Audrey Macklin stressed Mr. Khadr's youth during her submission, saying that international agreements protecting children were violated by the interrogation.

"To put it in colloquial terms, by interrogating Omar Khadr at Guantanmo Bay, Zanadian officials piggybacked on human rights violations by the U.S." she said.
That's the kind of advocacy that the Harper government does not want before the courts. It's demonstrated this through its previous de-funding decisions and motions such as the one in this case, in attempting to strike the intervenors from appearing in this Khadr hearing. Contrary to over twenty-five years of a rich, informative tradition at the Supreme Court. It's an exclusionary, narrow approach that would put a lid on such representations being made by groups with specialized knowledge in such cases. It underscores how radical the Harper government approach is, not only in making us a pariah internationally, on board with the Americans and their extra-legal Gitmo show trials, but also in such efforts to eat away at a full, inclusive process at our Supreme Court. It's not impressive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For those who cannot think for themselves

We give you the Conservative Party, circa 2008. They're issuing talking points and scripts for drone wannabes to spew on talk radio. Freedom of speech? Not so much. Brains? Not so much.

Patience is a virtue

Stories like this one that arose over the weekend, further glorifying some blowhard in Quebec who felt the need to broadcast his internecine feuding rather than put his head down and work to fix the problem really just confirm what we all have known for months now. The Liberals need to be more ready in Quebec. Big freaking surprise. Outremont, remember? Other than that, not much to see here.

Dion, in the above linked report, has handled it exactly the way he should. Dignified, a call to unity and challenging those nervous nellies in the ranks to rally and focus. He's exactly right. If the Liberals in positions of authority in Quebec won't play ball with the leader, they're engaged in a self-defeating circular firing squad that's going exactly nowhere. Dion's the leader they've got, like it or not. The self-aggrandizing Liza Frulla's of the world aren't helping, despite how convinced they all might be that they're performing a valuable public service for the Liberal party.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Score one for the heroic lawyers in Pakistan

"Detained Judges Freed in Pakistan":
"To thunderous applause from fellow lawmakers and a packed visitors gallery, the newly chosen prime minister of Pakistan on Monday immediately released the judges detained by President Pervez Musharraf when he imposed emergency rule last year."
No sooner had Gilani ordered the freeing of the justices than police removed the barbed wire and concrete barriers blocking the way to Chaudhry's house on a bluff overlooking Islamabad. Chaudhry and his family had been held incommunicado for the past four and a half months. Even his school-age children were not allowed to leave the house. Upon hearing the news, hundreds of lawyers, supporters and journalists converged on the justice's hilltop house. Many made their way onto the front lawn by climbing over an eight-foot fence. Finally, Chaudhry and his family made an appearance on the second-floor balcony of the large, two-story house. Wearing a black tunic, Chaudhry waved to the jubilant crowd gathered on his front lawn and outside on the street. "I thank all the people who struggled very hard for the rule of law and to reach this day," he said.
The lawyers in Pakistan have been instrumental in achieving this important step. Good for them.

Tell us more, Jim

Jim "I-left-a-$5-Billion-dollar-deficit-in-Ontario" Flaherty mind bogglingly continues to dispense financial advice to the McGuinty government, representing an unprecedented level of partisan political interference in Ontario's affairs on the eve of a McGuinty budget. Um, he does know that his political track record is not invisible, right?

The Harper government strategy here is quite brash and puzzling on two fronts. They appear to be calculating that their attack on McGuinty will pay off electorally, despite McGuinty just having been re-elected to a majority government. Yet the Harper government can speak of no such support.

And secondly, the choice of publicly rallying corporate tax cuts is also odd. If this is the kind of economic message they intend to run on in Ontario, it's not exactly inspirational. We can just point to the Bush tax cutting disaster to the south, and the Harris common sense revolution for precedents on this issue. They're likely just using it as it's a convenient cudgel, just to make the argument that Ontario's problems are McGuinty's, not Harper's. Good luck with that fellas.

What is that phrase that comes to mind...oh yes, the small man of confederation continues to apply, doesn't it?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Another johnny come lately

"Quebec minister says no link between Kosovo, Quebec independence movements." A voice of sanity from Quebec on this issue.
Quebec's intergovernmental affairs minister is scoffing at any attempt to link Kosovo's independence with the province's own sovereignty movement.

Benoit Pelletier says there are no parallels between Quebec and Kosovo, which has a history of violence and strife. In that context, Pelletier told a news conference in Quebec City today that Kosovo has nothing in common with the province's "secessionist" movement.

"The same problem of international recognition would be a question if Quebec would want to acquire its sovereignty," Pelletier said.

"But there are no parallels between the two situations."
Good for that guy. Better late than never, although having that matzoh ball out there for a long time on the part of the federal and Quebec governments didn't help us.

Rambling thoughts from the Detroit airport

My semi-blogging hiatus is coming to an end in the next few days...I'm presently sitting in the Detroit airport in flight delay mode on the way home to Toronto from my southern sojourn that I was blessed to have these past ten or so days. Back to the northern climate with a looked like we would be snow bound in Detroit but no, just a flight delay, as of now. So here I sit, paying $4.95 an hour, bless the Detroit wi-fi network. Blogging makes the time much more bearable.

Some miscellaneous thoughts that have been on my mind these past few days:

1. The Democratic nomination for President is messed up, big time. Can someone please explain to me how the putative nominee is now running behind his opponent by 6 points in the latest Gallup? How exactly is that supposed to work? Kind of puts a damper on the Obama love-in. Despite the massive anti-Hillary climate out there - other than the voters of many states, of course - this is not yet over. There are a number of delegates required to win that nomination, 2025 I believe, and neither of them will have that number when all is said and done. So why Clinton is supposed to fold up her tent and politely bow to Obama is still beyond me. It is a contested process, after all...isn't it? I'm going to be very interested to watch this over the next month or so and see how the upcoming states go and what the final numbers in the popular vote are. If Obama implodes any more than he has in the last month, I'm thinking there will be a lot of people glad that she's stuck around. And sorry to all you Obamans out there, I'm not playing, for now.

2. I think Obama's handled the issue of his pastor's statements reasonably well given his speech. But the haters are still out there in force. Karl Rove issued some kind of veiled threat about it on one of the Faux propaganda shows last night. About how it'll be back, no matter if it dies down now, and it'll be in the general election when it returns. And Obama didn't do himself any favours by waiting for the issue to blow up in his face. They knew about some of the most controversial statements dating from his announcement. Could have been more proactive, that's for sure.

3. Whatever happens, at least they've got John McCain to run against. Watching him plod around the world this week hasn't exactly left the word "presidential" ruminating in my mind. But heck, I'm massively biased, heh...:)

4. I find the American political scene, in terms of accountability for the Bush administration's law-breaking to be eminently frustrating these days. I was reading an entry in a recent New Republic (March 12) on the earlier flight to the effect that it was good for Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in not rolling over and passing Bush's desired amendments to FISA. And the editorialist wrote this:
"When Bush leaves office in eleven months, the radical theory of untrammeled executive power propounded by his administration will leave, too."
How angry that made me to read that line. It concedes that the American democracy is, and has been, essentially vulnerable to one man's massive power grab and that he has to be out-waited, out-lasted in order for any semblance of checks and balances to be restored. What about his staff, Josh Bolten and his former counsel, Harriet Miers, who are currently in contempt of congress and who likely hold informational keys to the partisan firing of the U.S. attorneys? Well, the congress has sued for their appearance in civil court. But that's likely to reach beyond Bush's term. What about the Abramoff corruption that has been quietly swept away and suppressed? It's an utter outrage that a President has such contempt for the democracy in which he lives.

It reaffirms my gratefulness that we live in a nation where, for example, the government's policy on Afghan detainees can be challenged in court, relatively quickly, and a decision can be rendered within a few months, in the life of that government. (Although admittedly, the Harper government is doing its best to trample such activities, de-funding legal advocacy groups as they have done.) And further, that we have majority opposition populated parliamentary committees that can theoretically put the issues of concern to Canadians on those agendas, despite government obstruction manuals. The Cadman affair, that in the U.S. would be denied, not investigated, and swept under the rug by an administration's complicit Justice Department is in Canada brought to the Justice Committee for scrutiny. And the RCMP undertakes an investigation at the request of the opposition.

We're still OK. Although I fear that the longer the Harper government has to say about that, the less well off our democracy will be.

5. On a completely unrelated topic...why do Americans not recycle? It's the most exasperating thing! The bottles that are just tossed in the garbage cans, everywhere, at hotels, malls, restaurants that should be recycled is just criminal. The most consuming nation on earth and they have no sense of the right thing to do. Maybe it's just where I travel lately, but I don't see it happening. There's got to be some way for Americans to make a buck by doing it (face it, that's the only reason they will).

Now let's see if I get out of snowy Detroit tonight...:)

Why yes, it is a dog and pony show

Calling it like it is:
"Yesterday a distraught Ms. Martin called her meeting this week with Conservative MPs Jason Kenney and Rick Norlock “a dog and pony show.”

“It was a photo op for them for political gain. And I am not a political pawn, and I don't care to be a political pawn any more. My life is at stake,” she said in a telephone interview."
Jason Kenney and his backbench pal's appearance in Mexico has apparently not gone over well. No wonder. Not having any Foreign Affairs credentials doesn't help. And to Ms. Martin, their visit, in the wake of Paul Martin's, was substantively and qualitatively different from the former PM's. I think if I were sitting in a Mexican prison on a bs charge, in squalid conditions and my government was transparently going through the motions, I'd be equally outraged.

If the Conservatives were sincere about this case, they'd be upping the economic pressure and seriously raising talk of a boycott of Mexican travel rather than mouthing off about the independence of the Mexican judicial system, like it's some paragon of justice in the world.

Prove us wrong, Conservatives. Shock us all and actually do something here rather than continuing with the useless, waste of time, typical, all talk macho bravado.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Have no fear, Stock is on the job people

Uh oh...big oops on Stock's watch: "Plans for counter-terrorism unit found in Ottawa trash." Yeah, that's a little bit of a problem. But never mind, Stalk has dug up a new word to apply to his security fiefdom to reassure us all that finding special ops plans in the trash is actually not an issue. Can you spot Stock's new word?
“We have a very secure parliamentary precinct,” he said. “We continually analyze the levels of security and test those and make sure those are more than adequate. I have great confidence in not only the buildings and the precinct and the areas, not just here, but around the city, that are dedicated to dealing with crime, dealing with terrorism.

“We'll wait for the actual report in terms of what exactly these documents are and were and make determinations if there needs to be more things put in place.”
Yes! Batten down the parliamentary precinct, my man! It's all a secure police precinct. Except...not so much.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Conservative hatorade watch: why do you hate Ontario so much, Mr. Flaherty?

The model of leadership we have as a federal government, ladies and gentlemen:
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has ratcheted up his war of words with Ontario's Liberal government, saying that Canada's most populous province is on track to become a 'have-not' province if its weakening economy is not turned around.

And Mr. Flaherty laid the blame solely on Premier Dalton McGuinty during a meeting Tuesday with Sun Media's editorial board, the latest in a series of attacks by the Finance Minister over corporate taxes and the provincial government's handling of the economy.

"If this continues — this is not hyperbole, this is a fact — Ontario will become a have-not province in Confederation," Mr. Flaherty said.
Well, Mr. Flaherty would certainly be privy to that knowledge, having played such a principal role in Ontario's economic destruction himself. It takes a special kind of guy to leave behind billions of dollars in debt while Ontario Finance Minister.

What's so disturbing about Jim Flaherty's comments are their inherently political nature above all else. You'd think a Finance Minister would restrain himself from such damaging remarks and would be cognizant of the repercussions his words would have. Let's not kid ourselves as to what financial markets hear when the Canadian Finance Minister speaks to a national media editorial board and utters such strong condemnation of the economic policies of the nation's largest province. Do you recall Paul Martin ever making remarks of such a calibre to the national media?

And it's no doubt part of the Conservative electoral machine's calculations as to how such comments will play, for electoral purposes, driving up support in 905 regions or beyond the Toronto Liberal base, in order to divide and conquer. If Conservative electoral gains mean publicly trashing the nation's largest province and doing untold damage to Ontario's fortunes while doing so, then by all means proceed. Nothing is off limit to the Harper Conservatives in their pursuit of a majority government.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Maxime finally figures it out on Kosovo

Putting their finger to the wind no longer and recognizing Kosovo in a written statement. The timidity of the Harperites in foreign affairs, led by Maxime Bernier, is certainly ripe for Bob Rae's arrival and overdue for some serious ongoing analysis.

And the Serbians are making noise as a consequence, withdrawing their ambassador and unwisely raising Quebec as a comparator for Kosovo. No thanks guys, not interested in the threats. The two are apples and oranges. But you're welcome back anytime you like...:)

A big shout out to all those Liberal winners tonight

Hit hard, Martha, hit hard:
"Hall Findlay, meanwhile, had 59.4 per cent of the vote in the Willowdale riding, well ahead of Conservative Maureen Harquail's 30.0 per cent. The result came as 260 out of 270 polling stations were reporting numbers.

'When I get to Ottawa, [Conservative Prime Minister] Stephen Harper won’t know what hit him,' a jubilant Hall Findlay, 48, told supporters in Toronto, her family at her side."
Martha Hall-Findlay, with all respect to Bob Rae, clearly knocked out her opposition tonight. The NDP and Green candidates garnered very low results in her riding, much lower than in the other ridings this evening. Ms. Findlay was clearly the biggest winner in that respect tonight.

And Mr. Rae...looking forward to having this guy in the House, big time.

As for Vancouver Quadra, at this point in the evening, looks like Joyce Murray's lead is holding up. As for that margin of victory that will be smaller than Stephen Owen had, how many votes did Tony Clement win by last time? 21? Enough said. A win is a win is a win. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

The Saskatchewan riding, as noted, it's been in three party's hands in the last ten years. It was a crap shoot. Perhaps David Orchard could have pulled it out, perhaps not.

Three wins. A very good night for the Liberals.

As for Mr. Harper...when was the last time we had a Prime Minister who could not win seats in Toronto? Martin did. Chretien did. Mulroney did. What's the deal with Mr. Harper?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Prepare for the walloping

``The Conservatives are going to get walloped,'' said Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto.
Yes, I sincerely hope that it will be so. Despite the frantic spin about watching "margins," it'll be quite apparent that Mr. Harper has absolutely no appeal in Canada's largest city and has failed to attain any in over two years now. The verdict is quite likely to be the same in Vancouver. That will be a major failure despite the major push by the Conservative media machine. And it will look quite good on these Conservative ideologues who are out of sync with Canada's urban centres.

And I quite like the prospect of Bob Rae and Martha Hall Findlay joining the Liberal front bench to put it to the Harperites day after day. Where are the Conservative equivalents? They just don't exist. This is like adding two solid players as you go into the Stanley Cup playoffs...

Let's hope the voters in these ridings deliver quite a walloping indeed. The thuggish Conservatives deserve to be taken down a peg.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A leaky boat

Stephen Maher has a worthwhile report on the Cadman affair today that moves it along. Yes, it's still moving along, much to the chagrin of the Harper Conservatives. The allegations of the $1 million life insurance policy are an affront to our democracy. And they shouldn't be let go until they're cleared up. Maher is pursuing the angles.

Today, he has two former Conservative/Reform MP's who don't doubt Cadman was telling the truth when he spoke of the million dollar offer:
Some of Mr. Hanger’s old colleagues from the Reform days — former MPs who knew Mr. Cadman well — believe that someone offered Mr. Cadman something, and that the powers that be in the Conservative party will try to prevent anyone from finding out what.

Randy White and Val Meredith are so confident in the integrity of the Cadmans that they speak about the million-dollar offer as if it were fact.

"It doesn’t surprise me that an attempt was made," Ms. Meredith said in a telephone interview.

"It’s the logical sort of thing to have done. Under the circumstances, there weren’t many things that one could do for him that would sway his vote or make a difference."

Mr. White, who persuaded Mr. Cadman to run for the Reform party in the first place, has no doubt an offer was made.

"If Chuck Cadman says someone made him an offer like that, an offer like that was made," he said.

"Chuck Cadman was not in any way, shape or form the kind of person who would mislead anybody."
And he has former Conservative MP John Reynolds now stating that it's a possibility that yes, he might have met with Cadman on May 17:
Mr. Reynolds, a trusted backroom fixer, was the man Stephen Harper relied on to make deals with candidates in the days before the 2006 election. He negotiated the settlement with Ottawa Tory candidate Alan Riddell, agreeing to pay him $50,000 to step aside so Alan Cutler could run.

Mr. Harper publicly denied that such a deal had been made, although a judge eventually ruled there was an agreement.

And it was Mr. Reynolds who first contacted B.C. Liberal MP David Emerson to lure him across the floor.

Mr. Reynolds, who has retired from politics, says he may have met with Mr. Cadman on May 17 but he can’t remember.

"I met with him lots of times," he said in a telephone interview. "I don’t remember dates. I was House leader. I was always trying to encourage him to come back into the party."

But the idea that someone offered Mr. Cadman a million-dollar life insurance policy doesn’t make sense, he says.

"Who in their right mind would ever think that you could get a life insurance policy for a man who was dying of cancer? It’s just so far out."
Not so far out that two of your former colleagues don't believe it given Cadman's integrity. Reynolds' denial in the Cadman matter, juxtaposed against his involvement in other offers, doesn't help him. Reynolds needs to be put under oath and examined by a good lawyer. Further, there is the suggestion here that it could have been any number of people that may have made the insurance offer. The denial that it was Doug Finley or Tom Flanagan is largely irrelevant if it was indeed someone else:
Ron Wood, a Parliament Hill veteran who worked for Mr. Reynolds, says his guy wouldn’t have done it, but someone else likely offered something to Mr. Cadman.

"I don’t think that either Chuck or Dona would have invented this thing," he said. "It’s possible there were other conversations that went on."

It was common knowledge among Tory MPs at the time that Mr. Cadman was concerned about his life insurance policy. In the event of an election, if he didn’t run, the policy’s payout to his wife would be cut in half. Some Tories may have wanted to let Mr. Cadman know he shouldn’t worry about that, Mr. Wood says.

"I’m sure that around that time, there were all sorts of friends, members of Parliament, that talked to Chuck," he said. "I’m talking about popping in to see the guy. Someone could have said, ‘Hey, Chuck. If that’s all it is, we can look after that.’ "
Maher also points out the conflicted situation Cadman's former Executive Assistant, Dan Wallace is in, as he currently remains employed by a Conservative MP, suggesting that the statement that was issued by the Conservative party on his behalf bears further questioning.

Hopefully, the RCMP is following up on all such angles too.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rove and Mehlman on board with McCain

In the wake of the brouhaha over Obama's pastor's sermons that are spreading like wildfire in the U.S. right now (I'm here and listening to talk radio, it's a big deal), here's a timely reminder of who it is lining up to help McCain with his campaign:
Ken Mehlman, who ran Bush’s 2004 campaign, is now serving as an unpaid, outside adviser to the Arizona Republican. Karl Rove, the president’s top political hand since his Texas days, recently gave money to McCain and soon after had a private conversation with the senator. A top McCain adviser said both Mehlman and Rove are now informally advising the campaign. Rove refused to detail his conversation with McCain.
Don't think they or a 527 won't be using these sermons in whatever form they can to taint Obama's character. McCain, no doubt egged on by the likes of Mehlman and Rove is already in on it:
On Friday, Senator John McCain’s campaign forwarded to reporters an article in The Wall Street Journal in which Mr. Wright was quoted as saying, “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run,” and accusing the United States of importing drugs, exporting guns and training murderers.

Later in the day, Rush Limbaugh dwelled on Mr. Wright in his radio program, calling him “a race-baiter and a hatemonger.”
Obama, after a few days, is putting on a full court press now to disassociate himself, somewhat, from his pastor's words. Calling Wright the quaint old "uncle" we all have who says crazy things, shrug. Counting on people taking the high road, again, to put aside any transference of the "God damn America" message from Pastor Wright to his campaign. We'll see how effectively they can beat this distraction back, but this is the kind of thing that can do him real harm if it continues to percolate, rightly or not. He has had a relationship with the pastor for a long period of time. And the American voter has proved in the past that they will give credence to such matters (Swift Boat anyone?). I'm not betting that they've radically changed since 2004. It's a major test for Obama, let's see if he is another John Kerry or something hopeful and different.

H/t to a regular reader on the Politico news...:)

Friday, March 14, 2008

A glimmer of hope from the gulag

Khadr's defence team wins a few motions on disclosure of evidence being withheld by the prosecution. Khadr's team will be able to examine the U.S. army officer who wrote a report that may have been altered in respect of the firefight in which Khadr is alleged to have killed a U.S. soldier. So the long slog against Kafkaesque justice continues in Gitmo. Meanwhile, the Conservatives proceed merrily along in Ottawa, with blinders on and still missing the boat:
Following the revelation that a U.S. military report on the firefight was altered, Mr. Khadr's case was raised in Question Period in Ottawa Friday morning. In response, the Conservative government repeated the same position they have previously stated on the case: the charged against Mr. Khadr are very serious and the government has received assurances he is being treated humanely.
Maxime Bernier, lawyer, leaving quite a legacy as Foreign Affairs Minister.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oh yes, Steve's very litigious

Where's the suit against Dion and others personally, Steve? Nowhere to be found. Harper's backed down on that front although I have no idea why. Harper does make reference in the Statement of Claim to Dion's statements outside the House in media scrums where Mr. Dion has indeed mentioned "financial considerations" in exchange for a vote which constitutes bribery. So that's an interesting development that he's not included Dion in the lawsuit.

Instead, the Prime Minister is alleging that the Liberal party website has defamed him and goes to great lengths in his Statement of Claim to explain how every word of certain web articles are apparently defamatory. This should be a good one. There is a ton of stuff put in issue by the Harper Statement of Claim for the defendants to examine Mr. Harper on. Such as his tendency to litigate, for example, and of course, the content of those tapes with Tom Zytaruk. A key part of the Statement of Claim alleges that the tape is incomplete and edited. Zytaruk has said no to this, however.

Meanwhile, here's Harper today, sounding all aggrieved and maintaining the strategy to deflect from his own words on tape:
"For the past couple of weeks, both inside and outside of Parliament, the Liberal party and its agents have been making allegations against me that are of a criminal nature, that are absolutely false and that are despicable," Harper said.

"I have every right, as does my family, to defend our reputation, and Mr. Speaker, the Liberal party will come to regret engaging in this illegal and untruthful behaviour."
Well, I guess we'll see about that won't we? The long process of litigation has begun in which Steve too will be up to his ears in questions. Prediction, this one gets quietly settled a few years from now and no one gets any win out of it, particularly not Mr. Harper.

Johnny come lately

What took you so long, John?:
"Speaking to the committee, he raised concerns about the political staff in the PMO, saying they are not elected and are not subjected to any rules or laws, yet 'have the ear of the most important and powerful person in Canadian government.'

'I suggest that this trend is a danger to Canadian democracy and leaves the door wide open to the kind of political interference in the day-to-day administration of government programs that led to what is commonly called the sponsorship scandal.'"
Stephen Harper is a man with a record as head of the National Citizens Coalition that has been out there for all to see. There's been a ton of wilful blindness exercised on his behalf to it given the change dynamic he was elected on. Harper has made statement after statement in his well established adult life that have conveyed significant contempt for the institutions of Canadian society. Example:
It is imperative to take the initiative, to build firewalls around Alberta, to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction.
Why a man who views the federal government as fundamentally a problem in the Canadian federation would be viewed by Judge Gomery in the wake of the sponsorship scandal as an approved of agent of change to better Canadian democracy has always been a puzzle to me. And Harper has continued his tirade against traditional institutions, pummeling the Senate whenever he can, undermining the Canadian Wheat Board with a ridiculous referendum, etc. Gomery may be late to the party, but at least he's got a clue now. Mr. Harper's ride into town standing up for Canada, accountability and accessibility is long a thing of roadkill hundreds of miles back just about now.

And as for those PMO staffers referenced by Gomery...the level of power they're apparently exercising, in questionable incidents such as Buckler's attempt to blame the military for not advising the government of the halt in detainee transfers, Brodie's NAFTAgate media involvement and Soudas' efforts to get involved in a real estate dispute before the courts are all certainly not helping things are they? But they're just doing what the man in charge wants them to do now, aren't' they?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Good for Paul Martin - and Maxime Bernier, it's strike ten for you

Paul Martin's taking action on the issue of the Mexican jailed Canadian woman who has turned suicidal at the turns in her case. While in Mexico attending other meetings, he's pressing her case. Apparently at news of such efforts, milquetoast Maxime Bernier has taken the bold step of a writing yet another diplomatic note to Mexico. Way to go, Maxime. The written word never fails him. The "Canada is back" crowd, writing stern notes to allies who are mistreating our citizens. What a great team to have fighting for us overseas. They get exactly nowhere. Meanwhile, this is encouraging:
News of the diplomatic note came amid renewed efforts to get Ms. Martin out of prison, including a bid by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.

Mr. Martin, who isn't related to the jailed woman, met Tuesday with Mexico's vice-minister of foreign affairs to press her case.

The former leader was in Mexico City for meetings aimed at expanding the G8 to include a dozen more countries, including Mexico.

"He feels very strongly that she should be released and returned to Canada, and he informed the vice-minister that Canadians feel very strongly about this case," Jim Pimblett, Mr. Martin's spokesman, said Tuesday.

The former prime minister is attempting to schedule more meetings with top Mexican officials to press Ms. Martin's case, and the Mexicans appear receptive to his diplomatic efforts.

"Mexico has been a big proponent of reforming the G8 because they would be one of the first five allowed in," Mr. Pimblett said, but he hastened to add that the woman's case would not affect those efforts.

Mr. Martin is also expected to ask the Mexican government to intervene with state prison authorities to stop them from returning Brenda Martin to the general population from hospital, where the Trenton, Ont. native has been on suicide watch for the past four days.
If you read the details of her case, it looks like a grave injustice has been done in respect of this woman, Brenda Martin. Why aren't Conservative government members exhibiting the same level of diligence as Paul Martin here? I mean, really, what is the problem? This is the latest incident which suggests that they like to talk a good game, but when it comes down to it, aren't willing to rock the boat with allies. They need to step up here. I hope Paul Martin embarrasses them by obtaining relief for Ms. Martin, in whatever measure he can.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Couldn't be happening to a nicer guy

What life on the outside will look like for Karl Rove for the foreseeable future: loud protest. More here:
But the real action happened after Rove's speech (he ducked every question thrown at him or retreated to ideological arguments that obfuscated the truth), when the reconnassiance wing of the UI Antiwar Committee received secret intel that the Lecture Committee was treating Rove to dinner and drinks at the bourgeois 126 restaurant.

About a dozen of us rolled up to 126, unfurled some banners, and began speaking through a bullhorn.

"Karl Rove, we know you're in there," I said through the bullhorn. "We have the place surrounded. Come out with your hands up."

Students began pouring out of their apartments, many joined our picketline, we received alot of support, and two guys even brought us hot coffee. When Rove tried to sneak out the back door, we ran around to Dubuque Street and blocked his escape route out of the alley. Rove ran back inside and eventually walked out the front door and drove off.

Iowa City police were stationed in a squad car outside of 126 part of the time, but they never asked us to leave or to turn off the amplified noise.
A lifetime of ducking from those who will confront him for his deeds. Yep, couldn't be happening to a more deserving guy.


Hey all my blogging homeys...well, as you might have guessed by my lack of posts in the past few days, I'm travelling this week. March break, people! Even we peanut bloggers are entitled to a break here and there. So we'll see how much I get to. Some things are irresistible, however, some of which are found below.

This stuff is just plain irritating to hear on a regular basis: "Liberals refuse to defeat government on non-confidence motion." And the public yawned. If the likes of holier than thou Peter Van Loan want to run around Canada arguing what amounts to a tattle tale kind of position, prattling on about the Liberals' supposed dereliction of duty, more power to them. There will be plenty of substantive ammo to launch back in their rotund faces. It is strictly a matter of opinion, and that's all I'm offering, but the incessant harping from the Conservatives and NDP that the Liberals are not following their parliamentary script to those parties' convenience doesn't seem to be winning them over any gushers of public support these days, does it now? Mom, the Liberals aren't following Roberts' Rules of Order! Boo, freaking, hoo. Parliamentary procedure, now that's the stuff that really grabs the public's imagination and inspires millions.

Eliot Spitzer targeted by the Bush Justice Department? Why yes, it could very well be another of the Bush Justice Department's specialties, you know, a politically motivated prosecution. Say it ain't so, Mr. Mukasey! Yes, we are all truly well and shocked at such speculation. But it has happened frequently in Bush's America where Democrats are targeted for investigation at a rate more than 5 times are Republicans. And yes, as always, you must read Scott Horton on this. And for the truly outraged out there, two words for you: Senator David Vitter (R), still gamely employed in the United States Senate and proudly representing the fine state of Louisiana. A bountiful load of trips to the whorehouse didn't end ol' Republican Dave's career. The politics of the thing stink. It doesn't help, however, that the Governor allegedly helped them along.

The Cadman case is still of prime importance in holding the Harper Conservatives to account. What the heck, exactly, did they offer to Chuck Cadman? Still unknown, and due to Steve's voice on tape talking about financial considerations, the questions will still keep going, and going, and going...and James Moore, what did you do to earn this special place in the Conservative spotlight? He's a slick one, all right. But no Conservative seems inclined to say no, we did not offer Mr. Cadman financial considerations. So the big Matzah ball is still out there...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Will he fight back against the kitchen sink?

Advice from Bob Herbert today to Obama. You know, the kind that resulted in two successive presidencies by an imbecile:
Whatever anger and frustration he may be feeling, he should stick to the high road. He can’t win wrestling in the mud with Hillary Clinton. That will not put Barack Obama in the White House.
That is why Senator Clinton still has a chance in this thing, IMHO. Can he fight back? Will he assuage nervous Democrats who have had their brains beaten in by the Karl Roves of the Republican party for years now? Still waiting on that verdict from Obama. If he can't stand up to Hillary, he's got no hope in hell of standing up to the Republican machine. Should be quite the ride from here on in.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A scandal plagued government

Their amateur grip on what is and what is not permissible as a government continues to plague them. Harper has relented and apparently will have the Privy Council investigation, whatever that may be, as we really don't know the depth and breadth of it, include Harper's own office.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who on Tuesday told the House of Commons his chief of staff was not responsible for the leak that many believe helped undermine the campaign of U.S. Democratic candidate Barack Obama, was not as explicit Thursday.

“I'm not going to comment on rumours,” Mr. Harper said during Question Period.

“The Clerk of the Privy Council will inquire into the entire affair. We're going to investigate this entire matter and take whatever action is deemed to be necessary based on the facts that we are able to discover,” he said.
If that is the case, and this investigation has any teeth at all, it should result in a measure of accountability for Brodie that is commensurate for what has been done. It's been widely reported that he's the source of the information for reporters. It started the entire ball rolling and arguably, the document which was later leaked, the account of the meeting in Chicago between the Obama adviser and the Canadian consulate officials, would not have been leaked but for Brodie's comments to reporters. It appears to have been done to bolster Brodie's account to the media which suggests a wider level of discussions internal to the government on the matter once it was developing.

The apparently chummy relationship that they have fostered with CTV has put them smack in the middle of the American election campaign. You have to wonder if that influenced Ian Brodie's disclosure to the CTV group as the budget was being released. While he may have thought he was providing innocent background to reporters he was comfortable with in order to inform their coverage of an issue facing the government, he was in effect disclosing confidential diplomatic communications to the national media with untold consequences for Canada.

There's something about this entire mess that speaks to a level of hubris, to think that they have the right to insert themselves into the midst of another nation's high stakes political contests at such a crucial moment. That just because they are privy to certain facts that they are entitled to play with them to their own partisan advantage. If it's catching up to them, and I say if, given the unknown nature of what will result from a Harper government internal investigation, then they certainly deserve it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Public inquiry into Mulroney-Schreiber is on

Schreiber's staying for the big show:
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson has confirmed that the federal government is going forward with a public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair and that lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, who was due to be extradited to Germany, will remain in Canada until he has had a chance to testify.

In a letter to Mr. Schreiber's lawyer Eddie Greenspan, Mr. Nicholson has agreed to delay the extradition of Mr. Schreiber to Germany, where the German-Canadian businessman is wanted on criminal charges of bribery, fraud and tax evasion.

“I'm satisfied that it would not be unjust or oppressive to Mr. Schreiber to delay his surrender for a period of time at his request in order that he may testify before the Mulroney-Schreiber public inquiry. Accordingly, I agree that subject to any change in circumstances, Mr. Schreiber will not be surrendered until he has testified before the inquiry,” Mr. Nicholson wrote in a letter, dated March 3, to Mr. Greenspan.
So it appears that Mr. Harper is not backing down from a public inquiry as had been speculated, and given the public pressure from the Mulroney forces to forego it. Maybe their thinking is that with inquiries and battles raging on the Cadman front, the Obama leak front and who knows what other ethical/accountability matters yet to arise, that at least this one mostly involves someone else.

Now we'll wait to see the terms of an inquiry and whether they will be so circumscribed as to be meaningful or not.

Stop the presses, the PM speaks

How's this for a publisher standing by his author:
The crucial date of May 17, 2005 - the date on which Conservatives allegedly offered dying MP Chuck Cadman a $1-million insurance policy in exchange for his vote - has been removed from the final version of a book that has sparked a political storm on Parliament Hill.

Publisher Howard White told Canwest News Service on Tuesday that he "stopped the presses" to update the book with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's denial that party officials tried to bribe Cadman and to remove the May 17 date cited by Cadman's widow as when her husband received an offer from unidentified Conservative representatives.

The government has restricted its reaction to the bribe allegation to a meeting two days later, May 19, during which, it says, the only offer Conservative officials Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan made was to invite Cadman to run as Conservative candidate in the next election with the backing of the party apparatus.

The Harbour Press book by Tom Zytaruk, Like a Rock, now will say the alleged bribe was offered "sometime" before the May 19 confidence vote, in which Cadman's vote saved the minority Liberal government from defeat. (emphasis added)
The changed date comes despite Dona Cadman sticking with the date of May 17th, two days before the May 19th budget vote:
White said Cadman's wife, Dona, still believes, as reported in a leaked manuscript of the book, that the meeting took place Tuesday, May 17. The book recounts how her husband came home angry and ashamed of the Conservatives. She didn't know who was at the meeting; she said Cadman showed the two the door.

But the date has been removed because "we simply don't know," White said. The decision was made after the publisher and author received a statement from Dan Wallace, Cadman's legislative assistant at the time, which says there was only one meeting among Cadman, Flanagan and Finley and that was on May 19, just before the vote.

"It would be pretty deceptive for both the Conservatives and Dan Wallace to say what they're saying if in fact they're aware there were other meetings," White said. "But who knows? Politicians have played tricks before."
No profile in courage for this publisher.

Note that Cadman's assistant, Wallace, doesn't say there weren't other meetings, just that there was only one meeting, of which he was aware, among the three individuals he names. Does that mean Cadman couldn't have had other meetings? No, it does not.

Note in the CP report last night that the book claims Harper met with Cadman in early April, 2005:
Stephen Harper visited Chuck Cadman at his home just a day before damaging revelations in the Liberal sponsorship scandal were made public in 2005, says a soon-to-be-released book.

Cadman's biographer, Tom Zytaruk, says Harper met with the Independent MP in early April 2005 for one hour, according to a leaked version of the manuscript of Like A Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story.

Zytaruk doesn't say what was discussed at that meeting.

The prime minister's office said Tuesday that it was a personal visit to see how the ailing MP was doing. But it's also clear that Harper, as then-Opposition leader, knew Cadman's vote could be crucial in bringing down the governing Liberals over the sponsorship issue.
Apparently Harper was getting the lay of the land from Cadman, well in advance of any alleged offers being made to Cadman. This we did not know before. And further, it's also confirmed in the book that local Conservative officials also met with Cadman around that time:
The book says two local Tories and John Reynolds - then a prominent Conservative from British Columbia and a key Harper adviser - urged Cadman to rejoin his former party.
Who these officials were, when they met with Cadman and what they discussed will, I'm sure, be of interest to all parties asking questions about the Cadman allegations.

The changed date is unfortunate. It will give the Conservatives the opening to begin to undermine the credibility of the book, even though the central allegation, that a $1 million insurance offer was made at a meeting prior to May 19, 2005, is maintained. Any slip will do for the Conservative vultures. The changed date will not, however, change the stories of Dona Cadman, Jodi Cadman and her husband who were each independently told by Chuck Cadman of a $1 million insurance offer from Conservatives. It will not change Tom Flanagan's book which also references multiple efforts to get Cadman onside. And it does not change the fact that Mr. Harper's words are on tape and remain for all to hear. He confirmed yesterday that yes, indeed, it was his voice. Incredibly so, we might have expected to hear that it was his evil twin Darren at this point.

On a few other aspects of this still big story:

1. I'm still in agreement with Pat Martin in terms of the Ethics Committee not having hearings on this at the present time. Although not for the same reasons. Paul Szabo is also coming around to Martin's position.

2. The notion that the financial offer to Cadman was as described by the PM yesterday is ludicrous. Here's Harper's story now:
The Conservatives were “prepared to assist Chuck Cadman in securing his nomination and to ensure, financially and otherwise, that he was able to fight a successful election campaign,” Mr. Harper told the Commons yesterday.

“Those are the facts. Chuck Cadman is on public record saying those are the facts. The Leader of the Opposition says they are otherwise. We will see how that theory stands up when he has to deal with it in a court of law.”
Yes, we certainly will. As highlighted by Gilles Duceppe yesterday, paving the way financially for a terminally ill man to prepare to face a new election is laughable. It just doesn't hold up. This is the kind of thing you hear and you wonder, how do they live with themselves?

3. Here's a helpful list of key questions the PM/PMO refuse to answer to date. One of my faves:
2. If Tom Flanagan and Doug Finley offered Cadman a repayable loan, what was the amount and what were the terms of repayment?
Good question. I wonder if the accountability government will ever provide us with any answers on these questions.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Clinton wins the night

Ohio just declared by CNN and MSNBC. And by the numbers right now, she won a blow out in Ohio. That's really something at this late date and following the number of states Obama had racked up. And given the Ohio polling numbers that had it much closer than that. Texas is looking like she's going to have a narrow win as well, but it's still not called.

So the question must be asked. Did the Harper government's shenanigans in leaking the supposed NAFTA political posturing of Obama to the American media have an impact in Ohio? Well, it certainly didn't help him and judging by the wide margin, may have had a sizable impact. It was arguably the first road bump he's encountered, at this late date, and it's been left to fester, unwarranted as the Harper government's moves have been. It's a precursor to what Republicans will do to him in the fall, the Harper Conservatives have obligingly given their brethren to the south a test drive against Obama.

I find a few dynamics coming out of this to be interesting.

First, she's got an interesting message to campaign on from here on in, that she's won almost all the big states. New York, California, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and now, possibly Texas. Obama hasn't and has instead excelled in caucuses that highlight organizational ability. The November presidential vote is not a caucus.

Secondly, I've heard a few times now about how the exit polls are indicating that those who decided in the last three days have gone with Clinton. Could be that the inexperience argument and her panned red phone ad actually worked. And if there's any argument that could still pull it out, that seems to be the good bet. She also made an appeal to women in her speech tonight, a factor that's seemed to fall off the radar of late. I'll be interested to see the percentages of women supporting her in these votes tonight.

And thirdly, is this the SNL effect kicking in here or what...:)

The pundits, on MSNBC at least, are already debating almost obsessively the time frame for Clinton's departure from the race though. They keep writing her off but somehow, she's still there.

The helpful Mini Bush

Sing it, Bob. Talkin' straight about what Harper's partisan apparatchiks have done in messing with the Democratic Ohio primary. We'll see tonight, but it's a distinct possibility that in leaking a damaging characterization of an Obama adviser's words to the U.S. media, the Harper Republican wannabes may have delivered Obama's campaign a serious wound. Talk about an unwelcome intrusion and flawed judgment in action:
Republicans would certainly use the affair against Obama in a presidential election to win votes later this year in Ohio, a bellweather state where the free-trade deal is unpopular.

The Liberals say it's clear who the Tories are trying to help.

"They will use the instruments of government, whatever they can glean from the public service, to do their dirty work," Liberal foreign-affairs critic Bob Rae wrote in a blog.

"The answer is they will do what is necessary to help Republicans. They're a nasty, unprincipled bunch, who are incompetent to boot."

While helping its Republican buddies, Rae said, the Tory government is hurting Canadian interests.

Rae said people around the world follow U.S. politics, and people might now think twice before confiding in Canadian diplomats, knowing their conversation could be leaked for partisan gain.

He also wondered what kind of relationship the Tories could now have with an Obama government, if he's elected president.
I think having Bob Rae in Ottawa is going to make a nice qualitative difference. Even more heft added to the Liberal side of the equation to call out the Harper tactics.

Meanwhile, Mini Bush is obfuscating the story today:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has denied that a leak now hurting Barack Obama's campaign for the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination came from his own top official.

On the day of the critical Ohio primary, Harper said his government is trying to find the person who leaked a memo that has embarrassed Obama and raised questions about his sincerity.

But Harper denied U.S. reports that his chief of staff Ian Brodie was the person who transmitted details of a private meeting between Obama's economic adviser and a Canadian diplomat.

He issued the denial as Obama's poll numbers sputtered amid suggestions he's engaging in double-speak on NAFTA.

"The leak of this particular document is not only regrettable . . . it's completely unacceptable to this government. And we will do our best to find out who did it," Harper told the House of Commons on Tuesday.

"It is not my chief of staff." (emphasis added)
I don't think it's the leaking of the memo that Brodie is alleged to have done. It's his leaky words that are in issue.

The audiotape that just keeps on giving

Don Martin, as written about by many bloggers today, calls out the PM to explain what he meant back in 2005 when captured by the magic of audiotape.
The person on trial is the person on tape admitting that "individuals" representing the Conservative Party of Canada were in last-ditch discussions to procure Mr. Cadman's pivotal vote at a critical time for a teetering Liberal government.
But Mr. Harper is wrong to warn that the Liberals are making a grievous political error in slandering or sliming his name beyond the protective walls of parliamentary privilege. Until the Prime Minister puts his own recorded words in a proper ethical and legal context, he's the one inflicting damage to his own reputation.
Good for Martin. It's the elephant in the room and as much as Mr. Harper would like to ignore it, the more it is likely to haunt him. Imagine sitting there as a Conservative MP and thinking, what the heck was Harper talking about? Has he explained it to any of his own caucus? There have to be many who are extremely uncomfortable with this revelation. They're playing along like a good team in public, but you have to wonder whether this will be the episode that sows some seeds of quiet machinations in the Conservative party.

"Doesn't sound very Canadian to me"

Very poor reaction at the Genies last night to the Conservative government plans to implement censorship in the film industry via withholding of tax credits. A sampling:
During the telecast, host Sandra Oh drew cheers from the audience when she took a swipe at the tax-credit proposal.

"Censorship has had a little work done and is trying to make a comeback," the Grey's Anatomy star said. "I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound very Canadian to me."

Producer Robert Lantos also hammered Ottawa, saying "Eastern Promises is a screenplay that is chock full of the powerful, frank, honest, original scenes. Just the kind that if some barbarians have their way, is no longer going to be permissible in Canadian cinema."
In that same Globe report, Heritage Minister Josee Verner tried to downplay the changes, arguing this:
"The movies we go to see at theatres and film festivals will continue to be eligible for tax credits," she wrote. "The measure contained in [the bill] addresses only the most extreme and gratuitous material, not mainstream films such as Eastern Promises, Borderline, and Ma fille, mon ange."

She said that under the current rules, the creator of a film who could be prosecuted under the Criminal Code could still be eligible for a tax credit. "This is a legal absurdity," Ms. Verner said. The "modifications in question will affect only a small number of the over 1,000 productions that receive tax credits annually," she said.
Hmmm. But how does that square with another report in the Globe today which indicates the following broader standards that will be applied:
Last week, Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, said that his lobbying efforts influenced the decision to have Canadian Heritage officials expand the criteria used for denying tax credits. The new grounds are expected to include gratuitous violence, significant sexual content that lacks an educational purpose, or denigration of an identifiable group.
Those grounds sound pretty broad to me, contrary to how the Minister is selling this. And that's the problem in going down this road, isn't it? Who defines the material that Minister Verner decries as "the most extreme and gratuitous?" The growing backlash to this issue is a potential sleeper election election issue, that's for sure.

And the evangelicals are not all of the McVety variety. Here's one who disagrees with the proposed law and articulates why the issue will resonate in an election:
John Stackhouse, religion professor at Regent College in Vancouver, is more direct: "My first reaction [upon hearing about the government's tax credit move] is if it came from Charles McVety, it's probably a bad idea. He is usually going public in a way that I wish he wouldn't."

Prof. Stackhouse said he shares many of Mr. McVety's commitments to fundamentalist Christianity. He listed a number of topics - hate speech, corporate advertising, pornography - that he doesn't believe should get government funds. However, in a free and pluralistic society, he said, the decision of what art is should be left to recognized artistic communities, not government staffers, even if that means offending one person or many people.

"The only alternative is either ideologically correct art, which is just propaganda," he said, "or banality."

By pushing for this kind of change, Prof. Stackhouse said, Mr. McVety gives credence to the theory that conservative Christians, if given absolute control, will turn Canada into a purely conservative Christian nation.

"Charles McVety is the nightmare that the Liberals want us to worry about," he said.
You said it pal...:) Minister Verner has started the effort to put McVety back in his jar. But I think the train has left the station on that one. There's videotape.

Speaking of conservative ideologues interfering where they shouldn't...

Dick Cheney's office is alleged to be the source of the leaked videotape to 60 Minutes of Omar Khadr while in Afghanistan. The videotape was highly prejudicial and the leak a violation of even the military tribunal procedures in place at Gitmo. And the source of this information? A highly credible former prosecutor who was in charge of the Gitmo prosecutions but left due to what he publicly rebuked as political interference in the prosecutions. Khadr's lawyer spoke about the Cheney involvement to the Globe last night:
In an interview with The Globe and Mail Monday night, Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler said he is trying to find out how a highly secret video showing Mr. Khadr in Afghanistan was leaked to the U.S. news program 60 Minutes. The video appears to show Mr. Khadr building a bomb.

The news program aired the footage last November.

Lt.-Cmdr Kuebler, Mr. Khadr's top U.S. military lawyer, said he met with Colonel Morris Davis, the previous top prosecutor of military commissions – the body that is expected to try Mr. Khadr in Guantanamo Bay later this year – last week.

At the meeting, Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler asked the Colonel where he thought the leak may have come from. In response, Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler said, Col. Davis offered the opinion that the Vice-President's office may have been involved.

Col. Davis resigned as chief prosecutor in October of last year, saying political pressure was interfering with his job.

If the allegation that the Vice President's office was involved in the leak is proven to be true, it would be a violation of the protective orders imposed on evidence in the case, Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler said.

But he added that it would also show the length that the government is prepared to go to prejudice the public against the detained Canadian.
Someone violated the court orders here, that's clear from the leak. I don't hold out much hope that Cheney will ever be held accountable for anything. But the source of the information that it likely was Cheney's office, Col. Davis, is a well respected one who frequently received pressure from Washington on the timing of the trials, the evidence to be used and the conduct of the prosecutions. He knew where it was coming from in Washington. And he used to be one of them, an early defender of the military tribunals. Needless to say, he changed his mind.

What more will it take for the Harper government to wake up and realize that the Gitmo process is a sham political circus where anything goes. Their isolated position in the western world, continuing to sidle up to the Republican administration in the U.S. rather than assert respect for the rule of law and bring the lone Canadian back to face real Canadian justice is an ongoing embarrassment to us internationally.