Thursday, July 31, 2008


When law enforcement puts foot in mouth:
"Police Chief William Bratton said today that the city has had fewer problems with paparazzi since Britney Spears 'started wearing clothes' and other celebrities changed their partying ways.

'If you notice, since Britney started wearing clothes and behaving; Paris is out of town not bothering anybody anymore, thank God, and evidently, Lindsay Lohan has gone gay, we don't seem to have much of an issue,' Bratton told KNBC-TV.

Bratton said the altered behaviour makes proposals being considered for new laws to crack down on paparazzi an unnecessary ``farce' because photogs who swarm neighbourhoods and shopping districts have been losing interest in snapping stars in trouble.

'If the ones that attract the paparazzi behave in the first place, like we expect of anybody, that solves about 90 per cent of the problem. The rest we can deal with,' he said."
The citizens of LA are in fine hands indeed...

Big ruling against the White House

Eat this, Bushies: "Judge Rules White House Aides Can Be Subpoenaed."
President Bush’s top advisers must honor subpoenas issued by Congress, a federal judge ruled on Thursday in a case that involves the firings of several United States attorneys but has much wider constitutional implications for all three branches of government.

“The executive’s current claim of absolute immunity from compelled Congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law,” Judge John D. Bates ruled in United States District Court here.

Unless overturned on appeal, a former White House counsel, Harriet E. Miers, and the current White House chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, would be required to cooperate with the House Judiciary Committee, which has been investigating the controversial dismissal of the federal prosecutors in 2006.
The report notes the White House is "almost certain to appeal the ruling." They are now, however, presumptively in the hole. Legally and politically. The optics of fighting a judge's ruling on White House aides having to testify, not that they care so much about them, are very poor. It will be one more instance of the Bush White House putting itself above concern for the rule of law and, in this electoral season, above the Republican party brand.

Note that not all Republicans are supportive of the White House position. Watch the following remarkable video of Republican Congressman Walter Jones speaking out yesterday against Rove's contemptuous flouting of his congressional subpoena. It's unbelievable that when a Republican supports the obvious imperative of a White House aide obeying a congressional subpoena it is a revolutionary thing.

The wheels of justice may be turning slowly, but at least they're moving in the right direction in the U.S. capital as of today.

Update (6:30 p.m.): Further thought here...this represented impeccable timing on this judge's part with his ruling in the Miers executive privilege case, coming on the heels of yesterday's House Judiciary Committee vote to hold Rove in contempt.

More from the AP this afternoon:
"Harriet Miers is not immune from compelled congressional process; she is legally required to testify pursuant to a duly issued congressional subpoena," Bates wrote. He said that both Bolten and Miers must give Congress all nonprivileged documents related to the firings.

Bates, who was appointed to the bench by Bush, issued a 93-page opinion that strongly rejected the administration's legal arguments. He noted that the executive branch could not point to a single case in which courts held that White House aides were immune from congressional subpoenas.

"That simple yet critical fact bears repeating: the asserted absolute immunity claim here is entirely unsupported by existing case law," Bates wrote. (emphasis added)
Good luck on appeal, Bushies.

Update II (6:51 p.m.): Read Marty Lederman's legal analysis.

Why is this man so angry?

If pictures in politics are so important, Harper doesn't do himself a lot of good with the kind of demeanour on display here and in the video highlights from last night.

A few notes from last night's speech by Harper...

A no new taxes pledge, how absolutely Bushian (the father, that is):
As long as I will be Prime Minister, as long as I will have MPs like Jacques Gourde, there will be no new taxes!
Why must he be so enamoured of all things American? And this particular pledge is like, so 1988, man.

Is this the main plank in Harpie's new taxes? He waxed so eloquently on the topic last night:

But there is a fundamental difference between us and the Liberals, a difference which affects you directly, in your everyday life.

This difference is that the Liberals love taxes.

Their solution to every problem is a new tax.

See how inspiring Harpie can be? Heh...:) It's all a reaction to the Liberals. This is interesting stuff...when his government has taken the budget into deficit in recent months by hamstringing the government's finances and they've been spending like drunken sailors, $3 billion since the summer recess. Yet Flaherty had the nerve to say yesterday:
"This is not a year for big new spending projects or big new tax reductions," said Flaherty.
So apparently this is the route they will go anyway, despite their obvious frailties. Liberals, however, have a very good financial track record to run on from the Chretien and Martin years. Fresh in the voters' minds too. In addition, John McCallum stacks up quite well against Jim "Ontario is the last place to do business" Flaherty. If taxes are their "vision thing," I'd say they've got some work to do.

In total, at least a good third of the speech was spent attacking Dion and the Liberals. Including a gratuitous lie about the green shift being applicable to gas. And a bonus gratuitous low road shot from the esteemed PM:
Our Party fundraising is strong, not with stolen money, not due to well-heeled corporate donors or elites... (emphasis added)
No, see Conservatives don't steal money. Unless you consider what they're doing with their flyer-extravaganza mailout to ridings across the country to be stealing money from the taxpayer. Or unless you consider their attempt to get taxpayer refunds for their candidates in the in-and-out scam to be stealing money from the taxpayer. Or unless you consider Conservative cabinet ministers mixing fundraising and department business on trips, trips paid for by the taxpayer, to be stealing money from the taxpayer.

Is this the best he's got?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Well, it's offensive, but not particularly charming

"Tories woo Quebec nationalists, national media in charm offensive."

And oh yeah, I trust this:
Chasing the same coalition of western libertarians, social conservatives and Quebec nationalists that once formed the backbone of Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative majorities in the 1980s, Harper praised the local Conservative MP in this rural Tory bleu enclave as a "real nationalist."

"Because the real nationalism doesn't mean separatism," Harper said, delivering the lines only in French.

"The real nationalists are proud of their region and love Quebec without wanting to break up the Canadian federation."
The real nationalists, the real Quebecois...heard this stuff before. From the likes of Jacques Parizeau. Doesn't make me very comfortable.

And oh yes, Harpie, you abdicated your responsibility as PM to be able to call an election. Comments tonight, not so civil. Chomping at the bit, I'd say. Very unattractive to watch him squirm. But enjoyable, nevertheless. He'll get his, and we'll all be there with bells on...:)

It's OK to ignore parliamentary committees

Part of a theme today. Politicians and/or staffers who believe they don't have to formally and publicly account for their actions:
"Bernier brushed off the question of whether he will testify before a parliamentary committee that is probing the scandal, noting he has already participated in a review by the Department of Foreign Affairs."
The "page has been turned," Bernier parroted incessantly today. Well, there are still some pages to be turned in the fall, if you get my drift...

And colour me cynical, but the Public Safety Committee has not agreed thus far with Maxime that the page has been turned. In fact in June they were pretty adamant about pursuing his testimony before them. They are presently awaiting the Foreign Affairs Department review of the matter which was due in July. Today is July 30. And the Committee is not likely to be satiated by that report in any event:
The Harper government is leaving a probe into the security failings of Maxime Bernier in the hands of bureaucrats who could be implicated in their own inquiry...
Opposition MPs are convinced an official whitewash is in the works to mask the extent of government bumbling or duplicity.
Very early to be concluding that the page has been turned on Maxime Bernier, particularly when the surface hasn't even been scratched on the Public Works allegations, but great spin effort today.

The blowback begins

"Ottawa's autonomy talk empty rhetoric: critics."

Rumblings abounding in the federation today about Lawrence Cannon's ambiguous "autonomy" talk and what it would practically mean for provinces and the federal government and their relationship. The problem at this stage is that no one really knows what the heck Cannon is talking about. But the inklings of decentralization and weakening of the federal government aren't going over well, if you canvass the opinions here. I'm sure there will be plenty more discussion about this topic, particularly during a federal campaign.

It's OK to ignore congressional subpoenas

If you're a Republican, that is. Despite today's House Judiciary Committee vote, along party lines, to hold Rove in contempt for his flouting of their subpoena, the reporting today is rife with rationales as to why it practically means nothing. From the Times:
Contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison. In practice, however, disputes between Congress and the White House in which the specter of contempt charges has been raised have usually been settled well short of the jailhouse door.

As a practical matter, it is highly unlikely that the United States attorney’s office in Washington will seek to prosecute former White House officials on the contempt charges.
Associated Press:
The committee decision is only a recommendation, and a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she would not decide until September whether to bring it to a final vote.

With little more than three months before Election Day, it wasn't clear whether majority Democrats could take any substantial action in a political environment in which time for the current Congress is running short and lawmakers face a host of daunting legislative problems and a cluttered calendar.
So the sentiment is heartening:
“Mr. Rove has left us no option,” said Representative John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the committee. Mr. Conyers expressed regret that the committee had been forced to use its subpoena power.

“Today’s vote was an important statement by this Committee that no person — not even Karl Rove — is above the law,” Mr. Conyers said.
And I wish them well with the executive privilege case proceedings currently before the courts in Washington.

But this contemptuous display indicates that the American democracy is broken, broken, broken. Karl Rove doesn't give a f*$# about the congress or the constitution. This is the kind of being at the echelons of power in the U.S. that W has brought to his people. It's just breathtaking, still, after all these years.


Obama VP hunt reaches fever pitch.

Fever pitch? With names like Kaine, Biden and Bayh, I'm not sure that's the appropriate expression here. Try safe pick. Or run of the mill. Not upsetting the apple cart. With a whimper, not a bang.

Or insert your own favorite. It's all very underwhelming.

Guess that's what trial balloons are for...

Harpie about to get all asymmetrical on us

A suddenly chatty Lawrence Cannon with word of "autonomy" for the provinces. Firewalls for everybody!
The Harper government is prepared to let Quebec negotiate a unilateral labour-mobility deal with France, and is willing to provide each province with similar autonomy on economic issues, the Prime Minister's Quebec lieutenant, Lawrence Cannon, has announced.

In the clearest indication to date that the Conservatives are willing to offer exclusive arrangements for each province, Mr. Cannon signalled the Harper government is prepared to shift the way the national government works with its provincial counterparts.

Quebec offers potent political benefits for the minority government and with economic volatility affecting all provinces differently, Mr. Cannon said in an interview that it is time to deal individually with each province's needs.

While he declines to use the word "asymmetrical," Mr. Cannon concedes the effect of his proposed framework creates precisely such a landscape.
Ah yes, I can see it now...Quebec with its agreement with France to bring in French-speaking workers, Alberta with its agreement with Mexico to bring in cheap labour...because what's good for Quebec and Alberta is good for the nation as a whole, right? What's the deal here? Provinces negotiating deals with foreign governments to bring in labour as they see fit? What of the Canadian worker and how they're supposed to compete with such efforts?

The role of the federal government, being chiseled away at by these dismantling Conservatives to shore up Alberta and Quebec electoral bases. Reminds me of someone...gee, for the life of me I can't recall who...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rove contempt watch

It's moving along:
"Sanchez told the petitioners she is confident the Judiciary Committee will vote to recommend that Rove be cited for contempt by the full House."

CTV journalist still held in Bagram prison without charges

Apropos of Kinsella's post today on Ontario police impersonating reporters, a reader had sent along this link last week providing an update on the detention of 22 year old Afghan journalist, Jawed Ahmad, at the American detention center at Bagram Air Force Base outside Kabul. Note the relevant component of Ahmad's capture:
On Oct. 26 of last year, a 22-year-old Afghani journalist named Jawed Ahmad, working for Canadian Television, was arrested in his own country by the U.S. military. He was called to the Kandahar Airport, purportedly by a Canadian Television colleague (none reported contacting him that day), and promptly detained by American forces.

He has been held without charges or trial for the past eight months in the detention center at Bagram Air Force Base, just north of Kabul. He is one of 12 journalists detained by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004, according the Paris-based press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders. (emphasis added)
Posing as a journalist in order to ensnare Ahmad by gaining his trust clearly worked here. No doubt emboldening these practitioners to continue with the tactic. The dangers posed to the safety of actual reporters in Afghanistan by the use of such tactics, however, are obvious.

The broader implications of using the cover of journalism for police or military purposes are also raised by such incidents. The freedom of the press to obtain information in such zones is already circumscribed. To have military or intelligence personnel posing as journalists further sows the seeds of distrust and will have an effect on journalists' ability to gather information from sources. Probably an outcome that military types are not particularly concerned with.

Ahmad continues to sit at Bagram, Afghanistan's Gitmo, without having been charged. He's not the first:
Bilal Hussein, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Associated Press, was held by the U.S. military for two years before being released in April without charges. And Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj was held without charges by the U.S. military for five years at Guantanamo.
The petition filed by the Stanford Law School International Human Rights Clinic on Ahmad's behalf may force the U.S. government to reveal the nature of the charge against him. Without the government presenting at least an allegation of illegal or hostile conduct, a seasoned journalist might say that Ahmad was only doing a reporter's job well in contacting the enemy. A more cynical observer might conclude that he has been detained for committing an act of journalism.

Shocking, earth shattering news

No, not the earthquake...

Best sit down for this one. The Bush Justice Department...has indicted a Republican Senator: "Alaska Senator Is Indicted on Corruption Charges."
Though lawmakers have been aware of the Justice Department inquiry for some time, the news of an indictment still came as something of a shock this week, as both houses of Congress are trying to wrap up legislative business before the monthlong August recess.
I think that shock may have something more to do with the the actual fact that this has occurred, beyond the timing.

Is the earth turning in Washington? Might we see prosecutions of those fingered yesterday by that Justice Department probe for politicizing the hiring processes? More calls today for just that:
Attorney General Michael Mukasey, himself a former career prosecutor and judge, pledges to fix these problems going forward. But more is required. The department needs to hold individuals responsible for their actions. It needs to offer opportunities to those who were improperly denied them. And it needs to make sure that this never happens again. Restoring the promise of unbiased justice will take the efforts of both this attorney general and his successors.
"Justice Besmirched" also from the Post:
THE LATIN phrase on the seal of the Justice Department loosely means "he who prosecutes on behalf of justice." During the reign of Monica Goodling and D. Kyle Sampson it also should have read, "Democrats need not apply."
The inspector general concluded that Ms. Goodling and Mr. Sampson broke federal civil law and violated Justice Department policy. It is exceedingly frustrating that both could escape the punishment they deserve because they have left the department; Justice no longer has the standing to take legal action against them, but individuals directly harmed by their breaches could potentially file suit. In truth, the entire Justice Department and all Americans were harmed by their arrogant ethical breaches. Ms. Goodling testified before the House Judiciary Committee last year under a grant of immunity; the immunity, however, is pierced if the testimony is not truthful. The inspector general's report notes that new evidence seems to contradict several points asserted by Ms. Goodling during that testimony. These discrepancies should be investigated.
Yes, investigate and prosecute. And maybe, just maybe, these minions might turn on those above them who sent them along on their missions...

Mukasey's integrity on the line

NY Times editorial today, "There Was Smoke — and Fire," explaining what needs to be done in the wake of yesterday's Justice Department report on politicization within its walls:
"Mr. Mukasey’s response to the report focused on making sure that the improper and illegal activity “does not occur again.” He does not seem to understand that, as the nation’s top law enforcement officer, he has a duty to investigate crimes committed in his own department and to punish the offenders. The report’s authors could not interview Ms. Goodling because she no longer works at the Justice Department. Mr. Mukasey, who has subpoena power, presumably could get her to talk — as well as Mr. Rove, Ms. Miers and all of the others who need to testify under oath before this matter can be put to rest.

The strength of American democracy depends on our ability to be shocked by abuses like these — and to punish them appropriately."
Nothing more that can be added to that. Well, there's this...if Mukasey had been around in October of 1973, we can well imagine that he would have been an obedient participant in the Saturday Night Massacre.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Poilievre and hypocrisy, they just go together

Poilievre's hypocrisy today on Dion's debt goes one step further than the fact that Conservative candidates have also been delinquent in repaying campaign debts. The Conservatives hypocritically introduced Bill C-29 where they could have done something about debt delinquency but chose not to do so. In fact, they favour extending loan repayment times.
The Harper government is promoting a bill that would allow political candidates to miss deadlines for repaying campaign loans, perpetuating a situation that the Conservatives have denounced as illegal when it comes to Liberal leadership debts.

Bill C-29 is aimed at making it harder for candidates to borrow money, forcing them to rely much more heavily on banks than on individual supporters. But it does not impose any new constraints on the repayment of loans.

The bill passed at report stage Tuesday with the support of Conservative, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs. It is expected to receive final Commons approval next week.

It would give candidates three years - twice as long as the current deadline - to repay campaign loans. And it would maintain the current rules for granting extensions to candidates who fail to meet the deadline.
Now that was a media report on June 10th. C-29 went through 3rd reading on June 17, 2008 and is now in the Senate. In other words, it's done.

So did somebody forget to tell Pierre about the laws being made by his own government? Or is he just incompetent? Or wilfully ignoring the truth? Quite an array of options. You decide...

More excellent Harper financial management

"Ad budget doubles under Harper."
The report shows Ottawa's advertising spending came in at $87-million in the 2006-2007 fiscal year. Only one year earlier, the government's total advertising purchases were just $41-million.
And yes sirree, they're on top of it:
A source said the problem is that advertising expenses are generated by a number of departments and agencies, and that there is a lack of centralized supervision of the activities. “The advertising budget doubled without anyone taking notice,” the source said.
Yes, it's tough running a government that oversees many departments, isn't it? Funny how expenses in each department get tallied up to a government wide total, brainiacs.

Of course, the report had to be pried by the Globe out of the kung-fu grip of the Public Works department. And the Liberals are blamed by a Public Works spokesthingy, natch.

See how much better the "governing" is getting under Giorno and Teneycke? Heh...:)

Lesson learned: be very careful when AECL tells you something is "fully operational"

The independent report on the Chalk River shutdown performed by the third party, Talisman, was released today. You can find it here (pdf report). If you attempt a read of it, you will find yourself baffled that system upgrades that were a requirement of AECL's operating license at Chalk River were described repeatedly as "fully operational" by AECL. But you'd be wrong if you in any way think that actually meant that hooking up the Emergency Power Supply formed part of that assurance. Apparently, the independent examiner has concluded, the terms of the license were not explicit enough for AECL to have thought that the Emergency Power Supply was crucial enough for a nuclear reactor that requires continuous power. Short of hitting these clowns over the head with a 2X4, I'm not sure what they needed.

Linda Keen was quite clear on what the system upgrades were that were required to be executed by AECL (see her letter of January 8, 2008 to Lunn) and points to a letter dated December 23, 2005 in which AECL assured that the 7 system upgrades were completed. Here are the screen shots from Keen's letter since it's been removed from the government website:

Keen's point is indeed acknowledged in the independent report released today:

The AECL staff took the position, internally, however, in a departure from their license requirements and without notifying anybody, that the EPS was an "enhancement" that could be "connected," but not working. Got that? Emergency Power was an "enhancement," not a need to have for the nuclear reactor.


There's much more along those lines, particularly at pages 29 & 30 of today's report that must be read extremely carefully in order to appreciate how AECL skated with the terminology that they deployed and to whom they spoke it. The bottom line is that they, in CYA mode, claim to have informed some of the CNSC staff that the safety upgrades were in place, including the EPS. See the following wonderfully clear finding from today's report at page 29:

That italicized part is equally capable of being interpreted to mean that the safety upgrades were in place but could have been designed better. And that the EPS was in place, but required further testing to ensure that level of "high reliability." It sounds like the CNSC staff thought the upgrades were in place but hadn't been fully tested. Does that sound like not connected? No. At a very minimum, it's clear that AECL was singing a different tune to CNSC Staff versus the CNSC Commission. Shouldn't AECL have mentioned this crucial information to the CNSC Commission? You'd think.

The report today goes on to blame a "culture of informality" in AECL and CNSC yet at the same time maintain that processes were "expert based" and not "process based" (page 49). Huh?

But, whatever, right? It's only a nuclear reactor and at this point it's all water under the bridge. Besides, AECL's got to be sold. So the blame game has continued here, where poor communications get spread around to all involved. And the new CNSC head is playing along nicely.

Conservative ideologues and the deficits that love them

"White House projects record deficit for 2009."

"Federal government starts year with$500-million deficit as GST revenues plunge."

Awesome parallels.

Just sayin...

Lawless Bush administration exploits exposed again

The Justice Department's inspector general has released a damning report today on activities that occurred in Alberto's Excellent Bush Justice Department. Politicization was the order of the day. But, but, but...Alberto knew nothing about it. Representative Conyers might make some criminal the Bush Justice Department for prosecution, but heck, we know that's going nowhere.

Just for fun, some of the highlights of the report as set out in the Times (although Muckraker's much better with the context):
Senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales broke the law by using politics to guide their hiring decisions for a wide range of important department positions, slowing the hiring process at critical times and damaging the department’s credibility and independence, an internal report concluded Monday.

The report, prepared by the Justice Department’s inspector general and its internal ethics office, singles out for particular criticism Monica Goodling, a young lawyer from the Republican National Committee who rose quickly through the ranks of the department to become a top aide to Mr. Gonzales.
In her position as White House liaison for the Justice Department, Ms. Goodling was involved in hiring lawyers for both political appointments and non-political, career positions. Regardless of the type of position, the report said, Ms. Goodling would run through the same batch of questions, asking candidates about their political philosophies, why they wanted to serve President Bush, and who, aside from Mr. Bush, they admired as public servants. Sometimes, Ms. Goodling would ask: “Why are you a Republican?”

Such questioning was allowed for candidates to political appointments, but was clearly banned under both civil service law and the Justice Department’s own internal policies, the inspector general said. Ms. Goodling’s questioning also generated complaints from one senior official who believed it was improper, long before the issue became a public controversy following the firings of nine United States attorneys. The inspector general concluded that Ms. Goodling knew that questioning applicants to career positions about their political beliefs was improper.

In one case, for instance, Ms. Goodling slowed the hiring of a prosecutor in the United States attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., for a vacancy because she said she was concerned that he was a “liberal Democrat.” After the United States attorney, Jeffrey Taylor, complained to her supervisors, he was allowed to hire the candidate anyway.

And in another case, colleagues said that Ms. Goodling refused to extend the appointment of a female prosecutor because she believed the lawyer was involved in a lesbian relationship with her supervisor, according to the report.

And in another case cited by the inspector general, Ms. Goodling blocked the hiring of an experienced prosecutor for a senior counter-terrorism position because his wife was active in Democratic politics. The candidate was regarded as “head and shoulders above the other candidates” in the view of officials in the executive office of United States attorneys, but they were forced to take a candidate with much less experience because he was deemed acceptable to Ms. Goodling. (emphasis added)
Apologies for the extended excerpt, but you just have to capture this stuff for posterity's sake. Did you catch the gist of the last italicized part? It's remarkable that the Bush administration, with its fear based politics and strong on terror posturing , would countenance such obvious incompetence. They're a fraud, pure and simple. Goodling should be prosecuted for her lawbreaking, no doubt about that.

But these are different times. Lawbreaking is A-OK in the U.S. of A if you are a Bush Republican. The Bush Justice Department tells us it is so as Attorney General Mukasey will not be prosecuting anybody.

Will anyone do anything to prevent these thugs from getting away with it?

Conservatives who just can't help themselves

For all of the talk about the Conservatives putting on a new face under Giorno and suddenly becoming interested in "governing," there's one of the following stories.

And it involves this little pipsqueak, Ryan Sparrow. Just read:
If the governing Conservatives lose their battle against Elections Canada in the so-called "in and out" $1.3-million Tory campaign advertising scheme, the government will forfeit much of its reputation for integrity and accountability it trumpeted in the last election, says one expert to be called to testify at the House Ethics Committee investigation.

"The potential significance of all this for a governing party is profound. The rule of law is a fundamental principle of legitimate democratic government," said Heather MacIvor in an email interview with The Hill Times last week.

Prof. MacIvor is an expert in elections law and teaches at the University of Windsor, but is currently on a medical leave. She was recently contacted by the House Ethics Committee clerk, but offered to submit a written brief because of her health issues.

Ryan Sparrow, manager of communications for the Conservative Party, accused Prof. MacIvor of being a "Liberal partisan witness for partisan political purposes and part of a kangaroo court proceeding that is going on in the House of Commons."

Prof. MacIvor responded that Mr. Sparrow's allegation is "one of the most ridiculous things I've heard for a while," adding that if she were to belong to a political party, it wouldn't be the Liberal Party. (emphasis added)
Not having a political affiliation is a common thing among academics. Maybe if Mr. Sparrow had some life experience he might be a little more aware of life in the grown up world where political affiliation in some job occupations is actually not a choice one wears on their sleeve for reasons that abound. There are a lot of people who choose not to join a political party in order to maintain their independence and prevent little incidents like this one from colouring perceptions of that very independence.

Mr. Sparrow is too focussed on the point that his party is being accused of violating the rule of law. A serious and entirely warranted characterization of the Conservatives' actions in their in-and-out scam. Therefore, the minions must demonize any opposing view in order to obscure.

More of what Professor MacIvor had to say which explains the partisan attack upon her:
"I have read the CCE's affidavit very carefully, along with the supporting documents. It is for a court, and no one else, to determine guilt or innocence. Having said that, I find the conclusions which the CCE drew from the adduced documents to be entirely persuasive. It does appear that one or more persons involved with the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) deliberately engineered a scheme to take advantage of the fact that several CPC candidates spent far less than their legal limits, and that they deliberately set up the prearranged bank transfers with the intent to conceal the true origin of certain ad spending. I can also say that the 'five factors' identified by the [Chief Electoral Officer] appear to be fully supported by the evidence collected by the CCE," wrote Prof. MacIvor.
Yeah, that's dangerous stuff, what with its reasoned intelligence and all. There is nothing in Professor MacIvor's words in this article that bespeak a partisan bias whatsoever.

Yet Sparrow has the chutzpah, at the ripe old age of 26 where he's had just about zero life experience, to dismiss a respected professor's views in this manner when the professor is on health leave dealing with medical issues.

These tykes have no regard for the institutions they're undercutting with such tone deaf and disrespectful bleating. Or for the good, independent citizens out there who agree to share their expertise, disrupt their lives and haul ass to Ottawa to appear as a witness before a parliamentary committee. That enriches us all. That Mr. Sparrow sees this as an opportunity to marginalize someone as a partisan hack who has shown no signs of being that...file this away as one more example of the ugly character of this government that just keeps on shining right through...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Harper conflict of interest in framing Mulroney inquiry to come under scrutiny

An interesting development in Mulroney-Schreiber land: "Harper's relationship with Mulroney to be reviewed." There is something to the angle Democracy Watch is pursuing, as outlined in this report. While Harper ostensibly took himself out of a conflict of interest position in appointing David Johnston to recommend a course of action on the Mulroney-Schreiber issues and then set of terms of reference, ultimately, Harper left himself in a position to decide how far the pursuit would go. Given that Johnston has in the end produced what is seen to be a narrow examination of the Mulroney-Schreiber dealings, and the terms of reference of the public inquiry have been so narrowed, it is arguable that Harper's oversight of the process has demonstrated that his conflict of interest, i.e., his relationship with Mulroney and his interest in not letting a former Conservative PM's issues cloud the current Conservative PM's political agenda, was not effectively mitigated by his appointment of Johnston.

From the report:
Duff Conacher, co-ordinator of Democracy Watch, says Harper, who admits Mulroney was an adviser to him, should have recused himself from all discussions and decisions relating to the affair.

The government should have asked an independent officer of Parliament, such as the office of the public prosecutor or the ethics commissioner, to make decisions about if, how and under whose direction the inquiry should proceed, Conacher said.

Among other things, the Conflict of Interest Act says a public office holder is in a conflict when "he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests or those of his or her relatives or friends or to improperly further another private interest."

Conacher said Mulroney qualifies as a friend.
Conacher said he hopes the case will be heard within the next three to six months.

If Democracy Watch wins, he said, it could spur interested parties to challenge the legitimacy of the inquiry's terms of reference in court, which have been criticized by the federal opposition parties and others as being too narrow.
So the ethics commissioner's ruling on the point has been overruled and Democracy Watch's court challenge of Harper's decision making will continue.

No complaints here.

Wilkins out from under a rock

Pal Wilkins says it's OK to bring the Canadian citizen home from Khartoum.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, the ambassador suggested that the U.S. would not view as an affront Canada bringing home anyone red-flagged by the Americans.
Maybe now Harpie and gang might get over their 007 wannabe complex:

Last week, a national newspaper cited classified documents showing that senior Canadian intelligence officials warned Ottawa against allowing Abdelrazik to return home because it could upset the Bush administration.

According to the newspaper, "Senior government of Canada officials should be mindful of the potential reaction of our U.S. counterparts to Abdelrazik's return to Canada as he is on the no-fly list."

Bush's guy is signalling. Problem is, Harper et al. are even more to the right on such issues than the Bush administration...

Some Sunday items

Trying to have a quiet blogging day but here are a few items you may find of interest...

1. The debate over the value of online versus print reading is a feature in the NY Times today:
“Learning is not to be found on a printout,” David McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, said in a commencement address at Boston College in May. “It’s not on call at the touch of the finger. Learning is acquired mainly from books, and most readily from great books.”
Critics of reading on the Internet say they see no evidence that increased Web activity improves reading achievement. “What we are losing in this country and presumably around the world is the sustained, focused, linear attention developed by reading,” said Mr. Gioia of the N.E.A. “I would believe people who tell me that the Internet develops reading if I did not see such a universal decline in reading ability and reading comprehension on virtually all tests.”

Nicholas Carr sounded a similar note in “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” in the current issue of the Atlantic magazine. Warning that the Web was changing the way he — and others — think, he suggested that the effects of Internet reading extended beyond the falling test scores of adolescence. “What the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation,” he wrote, confessing that he now found it difficult to read long books.
Some scientists worry that the fractured experience typical of the Internet could rob developing readers of crucial skills. “Reading a book, and taking the time to ruminate and make inferences and engage the imaginational processing, is more cognitively enriching, without doubt, than the short little bits that you might get if you’re into the 30-second digital mode,” said Ken Pugh, a cognitive neuroscientist at Yale who has studied brain scans of children reading.
It's not all so one-sided, those were some of the more interesting quotes.

2. In the Calgary Herald today, "Alberta's courts should recognize French is passe here":
The diverse language and ethnic reality that is now Canada should lead to one more change in Canadian practice, but it won't and for strictly short-term political reasons. As it stands, the ability to speak French in the federal civil service still leads to preferred hiring and promotions. That policy, where English-French bilingualism scores career points should be replaced by one where bilingualism of any sort (one official language plus any other) counts to an equal degree. It would be a sensible reform given Canada's new language demographics, especially when services in Punjabi and Cantonese are more needed in Surrey and Richmond respectively than is French.
Is there really an appetite in Canada for demolishing this federal principle in civil service hiring? Likely from such quarters, but not a principle to be diminished by any new policies.

3. A good question...that will see some resolution, one way or the other. Neither of which will be good historically for the Bush administration.


The old joke that this incident recalls...why is there no "u" in Qantas? Because they don't give a f*$# about "U"...:)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Emerson speaks

How low the bar had been set:
"Emerson's first trip to Afghanistan offered some sharp contrasts with those by his predecessor.

He did not hand out cupcakes, did not cause a diplomatic incident, and did not falsely declare that insurgent attacks were down - all of which Maxime Bernier did during his two trips here."
It's not difficult to look like a freakin' genius in comparison...

Except there's word today that additional troops are being sent in support of new helicopters to be delivered there, around February. This is a couched rationale for their being sent that makes it difficult to oppose this development. It follows on the Manley report's recommendations of more helicopters. In the bigger picture, however, additional troops are not the order of the day for the Canadian public. Mission creep is something to watch going forward.

At least Emerson seems to be talking straight about the difficulties at hand there:
"The insurgency is not going to be amenable to a short-term fix," Emerson told a Kandahar news conference Friday.

"The Taliban is not going to go away in my opinion - not in the near term. . .

"It will be something that will have to be managed with great care, and vigour, for a long time to come."
And he's signalling that our long term commitment will likely come up for future political debate:
"We have a very acute sense of realism as to what can be accomplished by Canada in the next few years - culminating in 2011," Emerson said.

"Will the job be completely done for the whole country by 2011? Clearly not."
That's something to keep in mind in the context of a coming federal election.

Video of his trip, here. [Includes bonus "historical" footage of Bernier handing out Jos Louis'...:)].

A bit more on that Cadman case court order

This part of the Vancouver Sun report interested me:
"As part of the Superior Court order, Zytaruk is asked to go to Ottawa in September to give evidence at the first hearing of the libel suit, Gibson said.

He said the Ontario court must apply to the B.C. Supreme Court to enforce the order.

'Tom's position is, of course, that the tape is authentic and he's astounded that anybody could think otherwise,' Gibson said.

'He was just trying to write a book about Cadman and all of a sudden he's ended up embroiled in this litigation between the two parties.'" (emphasis added)
Gibson is not suggesting Zytaruk won't comply. There seems to be little room to object to an interprovincial summons to a witness once the order has been granted by the Ontario court. That Interprovincial Summonses Act leaves very little room to object to what is essentially a motion brought by Harper's lawyers, alone, before a judge. It is up to the judge to assess the evidence before him or her (section 5), here the affidavits of the experts arranged by Harper's lawyers. It's really not a very high threshold and there's little room for opposition to the motion. It largely would have been up to the judge to say no. And with no other party motivated to put finances behind supporting the authenticity of the tape, in the absence of that, what else would we have expected from the judge?

Remember that this lawsuit has done nothing thus far to take us away from the central point. That they are Harper's words on the tape. His experts thus far have not disturbed the words that Harper has spoken. But the optics of being seen to attack the tape are what is important to Harper's team. And such procedures, as above, are being utilized to the fullest to support those optics.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Harper's Canada, in which media audiotapes and recorders are seized by his lawyers

Well, we knew this effort to have Tom Zytaruk surrender his original audiotape and recorder for examination was in the works. Now that it's been ordered, the draconian implications can be assessed by all who care to do so.

If you have the funds, produce some expert opinions attacking a reporter's audiotape. Now you have a precedent for seizure of the reporter's materials. And a precedent hauling the reporter before the courts to answer for his audiotape. Are you comfortable with this kind of Canada that the Prime Minister is foisting upon us? Some details from the CP report Friday night:
A Superior Court judge has ordered a court-supervised analysis of a controversial audio tape at the centre of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's $3.5-million defamation suit against the Liberal party.

Justice Charles Hackland recently issued the extraordinary order compelling author Tom Zytaruk to surrender the tape of an interview he conducted with Harper about Chuck Cadman, the late independent MP.

Harper's lawyer, Richard Dearden, obtained the court order after filing affidavits from two audio experts who maintained the tape had been doctored and a third who concluded the tape's authenticity couldn't be determined without laboratory analysis.

On the tape, Harper can be heard saying he was aware that two Conservative party representatives had discussed "financial considerations" with Cadman as they attempted to persuade him to vote against the minority Liberal government in a crucial confidence vote in 2005.
Dearden also obtained a court summons compelling Zytaruk to testify at the first hearing in the lawsuit, scheduled for September in Ottawa.

Liberal party lawyer Chris Paliare said a conference call was held Friday between himself, Dearden and Justice Hackland to hammer out the final details for examining the tape.

He said he could not disclose details of the session, or even identify the expert the Liberal party will retain for its examination of the tape.

Other details hammered out likely include which party's expert will get to examine the tape first.

The court order reveals the legal intricacies involved in what could be an unprecedented examination for a libel suit in Canada.

It spells out that a senior British Columbia lawyer, Murray Clemens, will be appointed, under the authority of the B.C. Supreme Court, to take responsibility for the tape once Zytaruk turns it over.

Zytaruk will have to give Clemens the original tape and the recorder he used to interview Harper. And he will be examined under oath by Clemens about the process he used to record the interview in September 2005, as well as "the chain of possession" of the tape from the time it was recorded to the time he surrenders it.
Does that sound onerous enough for you?

Zytaruk the author has been emphatic that he'd have to have rocks in his head to have messed with the interview of the PM/then opposition leader. Yet he's been subjected to a process which has directly called into question his integrity, honesty and motives. And now sees his materials confiscated for multiple third party analysis.

We'll see what happens with the mechanics of this examination and the outcome. Mr. Clemens, the third party lawyer will have to tread very carefully in this minefield of political war.

But who wants to bet that the Conservative expert the tape is handed over to produces another "doctored" conclusion? The process the judge is setting up here in which both the Liberals and Conservatives get to examine the original audiotape could very well prove useless if competing experts produce a stalemate. Perhaps that's exactly what the Conservatives are looking for in having brought this motion.

In addition to that legal maneuver, this seems to be a striking development in libel law that the Prime Minister has achieved.

Can you feel the chill?

What's this? Unfit you say...

Letters to the editor, a wonderful way of influencing public opinion:
Government should bring Khadr back home

There are serious reasons why critics of Stephen Harper are aggressively attacking him over his Conservative government's position on Omar Khadr, Canada's alleged child al-Qaida soldier held by the Americans.

Omar Khadr has been in prison for six years and tortured, without due process. When the American trial of Khadr begins, he will face either a life sentence or the death penalty.

In response, Canada must defend the rule of law and its sovereignty over its citizens. Sovereign countries take responsibility for the actions of their own people. They repatriate their own and bear the responsibility of imprisonment when required. In the particular case of Khadr, his torture and imprisonment is a violation of both international and Canadian domestic law. Sovereign countries also defend their citizens against abuse of process.

Through his inaction, Harper has abdicated his responsibilities as prime minister to defend Canadian sovereignty and the rule of law, signifying that he is unfit to continue to hold the highest office in our country.

Eugene Parks, Victoria, B.C.
Well put indeed...:)

That's a shame

This kind of thing just might put a crimp in a guy's lifestyle:
Four Iowans were arrested today while attempting to make a Citizens' Arrest of Karl Rove in Des Moines, Iowa. Citing Iowa Code provisions for making Citizen's Arrests as well as citing Federal Statute violations they claimed Rove had violated, the four were stopped at the gate of the Wakonda Country Club in Des Moines where Rove was scheduled to speak at a Republican Fundraiser.

The four arrested were retired Methodist minister and Peace and Justice Advocate, Rev. Chet Guinn, 80, as well as three Des Moines Catholic Workers, Edward Bloomer, 61, Kirk Brown, 25, and Mona Shaw, 57. All four were cited for trespassing and released.

The four maintained that they were acting within the guidelines of Iowa Code that obligate private citizens to make such an arrest if they believe a felony has been committed and turn Rove over to police officials to bring Rove before a judge for formal indictment. By law, a federal judge should consider the charges and determine if an indictment should be made.
Yes, somebody certainly know, you really couldn't wish this kind of pursuit on a more deserving guy...

Note the location of the attempted arrest. Rove's hanging around country clubs again, when here he told us it was Obama who was the country club guy...:)

Here's a follow-up report on Rove's letter of the other day to the House Judiciary Committee, in which he issued denials about his involvement in the politically motivated prosecution of Don Siegelman. Unanswered questions remain.

Wherever are they going with this...

Could it be the Digby-Saint John ferry service is about to get some federal bounty? Junior MacKay has been pushing New Brunswick to step up but it may be that the feds will just pour in the cash at this point. Who knows. But judging by the massive Conservative spending spree going on to fund the Conservative permanent election campaign, particularly in Nova Scotia of late (how much must we pay for Junior's re-election?), grabbing a funding opportunity that's been twisting in the wind seems very consistent with recent activity...

Carbon capture and storage

A reader passed along this item on the Huffington Post: "Why Did Tom Friedman Misrepresent Al Gore's Challenge?" You can read it for the author's correction of a point Friedman made in regard to carbon capture technologies.

Also in the post is reference to an MIT study on carbon capture and sequestration, The Future of Coal, which concluded that the first commercial CCS plant won't be on stream until 2030 at the earliest. I took a look at the summary but didn't see the 2030 reference. I suppose I'd have to leg through the entire report. But it's Friday. Maybe some other day. The report, however, does seem like a worthwhile reference in light of Alberta's recent announcement that it is funding CCS heavily and putting a lot of stock into its future.

Lazy Friday in July blogging

1. Dion mentions carbon tariffs the other day. NDP and Conservatives knee-jerk oppose. But see today, when some initial reporting is done, there is support for the idea out there in many quarters:
Thomas Courchene, director of Queen's University's Institute of Intergovernmental Relations, said tariffs would bring tremendous pressure on China, India and Korea to reduce emissions - a goal of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"Even though China doesn't sign on the dotted line, there'll be an incentive for the Chinese and the Indians or the Koreans or whoever to develop a low-carbon intensity production," Prof. Courchene said.

He said a GST-style carbon tax on all imported goods could sidestep any problems with international trade rules. Private-sector importers could then apply to have the tax returned as a credit if they can prove something was produced abroad in an environmentally friendly way. Prof. Courchene said that would lead companies such as Wal-Mart to press China to move more aggressively on climate change.

John Drexhage, director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, said carbon tariffs are being considered seriously in Paris and Washington.

"In fairness, this isn't something totally out of the blue," Mr. Drexhage said. "Both the EU, in the form of France, and the United States, in the form of some very significant bills on the Hill as well as some regional initiatives out of the [Western] Climate Initiative, have definitely raised this issue and have made proposals not dissimilar to what Dion is proposing."

The Canadian executive director of the United Steelworkers, Ken Neumann, also came out in favour of a Canadian carbon tariff last month.
Sounds kind of like an idea that's not off the wall and so easily mocked as the dynamic tag team duo of the Conservatives and NDP do here...peas in an unlikely pod.

2. Two B.C. Conservatives drinking some serious Kool-Aid today. James Moore, sowing the seeds of division in this country, as only a Conservative can:
"We're very sensitive [in British Columbia] to politicians flying in from Central Canada and raining down policies on us without asking us whether or not it will be in our best interest," Mr. Moore, MP for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, said in an interview yesterday. "That's what [Liberal Leader] Stéphane Dion is trying to do, and that's what British Columbians will be very quick to reject."
Does that kind of Alberta shtick fly out there in B.C.? Seems a little off. And, um, kind of fake. And oooh, "we're very sensitive" in B.C.. Are you kidding me? Moore's soundbites are always a little too canned for my taste, but heck, maybe it's just me...:)

And get a load of Conservative candidate John Duncan, overstating something just a wee bit:
"He's the best prime minister we've had for a long time, and I think people are just starting to appreciate that."
They kill me with this stuff, they just kill me...:) What to do with this one? If Harpie is so fan-freaking-tastic, why are his poll numbers stuck in the low 30's, only to peak in the mid-30's? If he's John freaking-A, seems to me this kind of statement wouldn't provoke such peals of laughter across the country...but again, maybe it's just me...:)

3. Funny, but we don't seem to get any of the Conservative propaganda here in the leftist enclave of Parkdale-High Park. Not that I in any way countenance such wasteful taxpayer funded exercises, but jeez, a citizen feels left out sometimes...:) Won't somebody send me a Bev Oda flyer? I can think of plenty of good use I'd put it to...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Richard Lewis on Countdown

From the other night, another Lewis rant as only he can do it: "I can't take this anymore..."

Can't help but smile when I hear this guy...:)

Need a job? Try communications planning in Ottawa

Recall the new Canadian Food Inspection Agency rule changes that the Conservatives have failed to release under the guise of having no communications plan in place to manage the information as it is presented to the public. The changes involve farming out food inspection to private industry and cuts to BSE funding. Another instance of that same m.o. is reported today with respect to an imminent Health Canada report on the impact of climate change. Someone has leaked parts of the report to the Canadian Press, it appears, so that it will not suffer the fate of burial at the Conservatives' hands. Word from the uninterested Minister:
Health Minister Tony Clement dismissed media reports this week that the Health Canada study will get a "low profile" release on the department's website.

Clement said he hadn't yet read the report, and the government is still crafting a communications plan for its eventual release.
Ah yes, the old communications-plan-not-being-in-place excuse. Looks like Health Canada staff don't agree, however, and are leaking/talking to ensure attention is paid by the public to the report:
The report, titled Human Health in a Changing Climate: A Canadian Assessment of Vulnerabilities and Adaptive Capacity, was supposed to be released this spring.

There's some concern among those who worked on the report that it will be quietly relegated to a dark corner of Health Canada's website without any fanfare.

E-mails are now circulating saying the report has been sent to the printer's and is being readied electronically so it can be posted on the department's website. It's expected to be released sometime next week.
Released next week. Huh. You'd think Clement should be reading the thing.

Isn't it interesting that the more the Conservatives clamp down on communications, the more leaks that seem to be sprung...

No new evidence for you

The Conservatives' latest gambit in their civil lawsuit against Elections Canada has failed. They had sought to introduce new evidence along the lines reported on Tuesday:
Yesterday, lawyers for both sides ran up more billable hours arguing in a hearing about the admissibility of new affidavits in the Federal Court case.

The Tories want to present new evidence based on an affidavit sworn by an Elections Canada official that, they claim, shows the agency presented a new interpretation of the law regarding allowable candidate advertising. (emphasis added)
The above evidence that they sought to introduce sounds like what Pierre Poilievre had made reference to in the House of Commons at the end of April, that the Conservatives were being singled out and had been on the receiving end of a new interpretation of the law by Elections Canada. Well, today they lost their motion to put "evidence" supporting that claim before the court:
The federal Conservative party has lost a last-minute bid to enter new evidence in its Federal Court lawsuit against Elections Canada.

A court official dismissed a motion from two Tory campaign agents who wanted to file new affidavits in response to Elections Canada's explanation of why the agency refused to reimburse 67 Conservative candidates for $1.3 million worth of campaign advertising.

The court official set a date in late August for the two Conservative agents to file their final submissions, with an October deadline for Elections Canada to respond.
That's a shame...

Afghanistan the Narco-State

A NY Times piece on the hold that the opium trade has on Afghanistan is well worth a look this week. An American counternarcotics official writes:
The trouble is that the fighting is unlikely to end as long as the Taliban can finance themselves through drugs — and as long as the Kabul government is dependent on opium to sustain its own hold on power.
A huge challenge that has been secondary to military priorities. Hamid Karzai is said to be at the center of the effort to defeat the eradication strategy:
Karzai was playing us like a fiddle: the U.S. would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure improvement; the U.S. and its allies would fight the Taliban; Karzai’s friends could get rich off the drug trade; he could blame the West for his problems; and in 2009 he would be elected to a new term.
The author debunks some of the myths that have arisen over who is producing the opium. The conventional wisdom that poor farmers have been driven to the Taliban when their crops are eradicated is challenged:
Unfortunately, most media outlets clung to the myth that the problem was out of control all over the country, that only desperate farmers grew poppies and that any serious law-enforcement effort would drive them into the hands of the Taliban. The “starving farmer” was a convenient myth. It allowed some European governments to avoid involvement with the antidrug effort. Many of these countries had only one- or two-year legislative mandates to be in Afghanistan, so they wanted to avoid any uptick in violence that would most likely result from an aggressive strategy, even if the strategy would result in long-term success. The myth gave military officers a reason to stay out of the drug war, while prominent Democrats used the myth to attack Bush administration policies. And the Taliban loved it because their propaganda campaign consisted of trotting out farmers whose fields had been eradicated and having them say that they were going to starve.
The real situation?
"...poppy growth decreasing in the poorest areas and growing in the wealthier areas..."
There's a 5 step plan at the end of the article to get the opium trade under control in Afghanistan. The plan, in the author's view, would "...bring the rule of law to a lawless country; and...cut off a key source of financing to the Taliban." One of the steps:
5. Ask the allies either to help in this effort or stand down and let us do the job.
We are one of those allies who have refused to take part. There may be other solutions as well, but it's clear that the issue hasn't been dealt with properly to date. Barack Obama's got more to do in Afghanistan than send more brigades.

It still won't help

This, in respect of Harpie's GTA fortunes, that is:
"Speculation around the provincial legislature is that the Harper government wants to time completion of the Spadina deal to the next federal election, which could happen as early as this fall. Liberal Leader Stephane Dion hinted yesterday that a fall election centred around his party's Green Shift plan for combatting global warming is on the horizon.

Ottawa's $697-million contribution to the $2-billion subway extension is part of $1.5-billion in funding the Harper government announced in March, 2007, for Toronto-area public transit projects. A spokeswoman for Mr. Cannon denied earlier this month that Ottawa was dragging its feet on the subway project to announce the funding closer to an election."
We'll be waiting on that timing then to be proven wrong...

Rove in denial

Interesting juxtaposition here in a brief LA Times note of two items.

Item one being the news Wednesday of 's letter to a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee in which he extensively denied any involvement in the Don Siegelman prosecution, widely viewed as a politically motivated prosecution executed by Republicans in Alabama with an assist from Rove.

Item two being the recent high profile effort to send him to jail:
...a coalition of anti-Rove organizations has collected more than 100,000 names on a petition, created by Brave New Films and housed here, urging the committee to hold Rove in contempt and send him to jail.
The Rove forces must sense, despite their outward cockiness, that such efforts make it very difficult for him to continue to avoid that congressional subpoena. He and his counsel must be concerned enough that they are acting to stave off a growing public movement now. Also of concern to Rove would be legal prohibitions against corruptly influencing a criminal prosecution. All of which provides the rationale for Rove's sudden bout of penmanship.

TPM published the entirety of the letter Wednesday which some view as amounting to, well, not much given that it's a letter and is unable to be tested by examination under oath. Previous Rove denials of involvement in chicanery have proven to be false - see Plame, Valerie, outing of. Without examination, there is no ability to probe statements Rove makes that require follow-up. And without examination, nobody gets to ask any questions beyond the open-ended ones posed by the Republican member who arranged the responses with Rove's counsel. I'm sure there are plenty of thoughtful, independent questions to be posed, beyond those emanating from Rove's sweeping denials.

Further, the letter is largely geared to attacking the credibility of Dana Jill Simpson, the "whistleblower" who claims to have been on a phone call when an Alabama Republican implicated Rove in Siegelman's prosecution. Simpson, however, has provided sworn testimony to the Judiciary Committee, unlike Rove. Simpson has phone records and showed the Committee she had letters establishing her legal work over many years with one of the principals on that fateful phone call. If Rove is in the denial camp so clearly with regards to these allegations, what's he got to hide? Why not testify just as Simpson did?

Wednesday's Rove letter-bomb reeks of a p.r. gesture designed to head off growing public sentiment for serious proceedings. Here's hoping the Judiciary Committee answers the contemptuous exercise with what it deserves.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Doh! Not more election speculation...

Slow news day but there's buzz that Dion is talking up a fall election. I'd have to agree with the BCer that it would be preferable to keep the timing of an election an open question. As in, do not telegraph to your political opposition what plans you may or may not have. It's superfluous at this point. Having read the Globe article, however, it's just natural conversation Dion appears to be engaging in during the course of a question and answer session, along the lines of "So we'll see what will happen in the coming months... ." Nothing too much to get excited about. Election speculation is irritating, particularly in July.

Now having said that...let's consider the upsides of a fall election, heh...:)

Numero uno, parallel election track in the U.S. in which change versus more of the deadening, right wing, horrible same is featured. Not a bad backdrop. Guess where Harpie fits in this picture?

October 8, Omar Khadr's trial begins. It will be an issue during a domestic campaign, emblematic of the Harper/Bush foreign policy. Expect it to be getting lots of attention as it has been set up to be the Pentagon's show trial, scheduled for the heat of the presidential campaign.

If Parliament is not prorogued, expect further investigations of the Conservative in-and-out ad scheme by the Ethics Committee, further investigations of the Bernier-Couillard affair by the Public Safety Committee and...expect the Oliphant Commission on the Mulroney-Schreiber dealings to be getting underway, as it must report its findings by June of 2009.

Plus, we have the Cadman case motion on September 16th in which the Conservatives will seek to suppress use of the Harper/Zytaruk audiotape, damaging as that is to the PM and which will be all over the news once again.

And let's recall a certain book that will be released in the fall...

Are the stars aligning for the fall? Who knows. Seems like a pretty bad time for the Conservatives to be subjected to an election. And setting aside all of these events, this bunch has made quite an impression at this stage by force of their very personalities. It's all sunk in. (See Ryan Sparrow yesterday with more stellar commentary from the upper echelons of this government: “We'll be ready whenever Mr. Dion stops himself from flip-flopping,” he said. Please. This stuff is just embarrassing and unbecoming of any Prime Minister's office.)

Whenever it's on, we'll be there with "bells on," to quote a famous Canadian...:)

A rising pol

I'm posting this conversation with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom who has been described as an empty suit but who is nevertheless fascinating to watch. This is one guy who clearly loves the camera and is somewhat of a Clinton emulator, replete with the lip biting (at the end) and constant touching of the person who's interviewing him. I wonder if he'd be so touchy feely with a woman interviewer. Anyway, he's establishing an exploratory committee in respect of his possible run for Governor in 2010 so we may be seeing much more of him in the future on a wider scale. The conversation early on is about connecting environmental progress with social justice issues, some of the subsidies offered at the city level for environmental improvements are interesting to hear about.


Pesky headlines

Who knew the in-and-out scandal would provide such intriguing summertime fodder. A headline that's making news today: "Tory ad scheme in Quebec was illegal, watchdog says." Now that's the kind of thing that'll get some attention in Ottawa. And by the way, I'm sure Elections Canada would say that the in-and-out scheme was illegal everywhere it was executed, not just in Quebec.

Today's report comes courtesy of a court filing of a recent cross-examination of a Conservative finance official in the Conservative litigation against Elections Canada. This report is Quebec-centred, as Quebec was the real locus of the Conservative in-and-out scheme:
Four-fifths of the cost of the Conservatives' 2006 election-campaign advertising in Quebec was funnelled through local campaigns in a financing scheme that Elections Canada alleges was illegal, according to testimony provided in a court case.

Ann O'Grady, until April the chief financial officer of the Conservative Party of Canada, said Quebec candidates claimed about 80 per cent of the roughly $1-million in Quebec campaign advertising costs as their own, although the party gave them the money to spend.

The way Tory ad expenses were treated varied greatly between Quebec – where, in the 2005-06 election campaign, most Tory candidates were considered lost causes – and the rest of the country. Outside Quebec, local candidates only claimed about 7 per cent of Conservative ad costs as local expenses.

Elections Canada has alleged that, in the last campaign, the Conservatives took part in an “in-and-out” financing scheme that allowed the party to exceed its national campaign spending limit by funnelling advertising expenses through 67 local campaigns that would not use up their local spending limit.

The Tories' national party headquarters transferred money to each of the local candidates' campaigns – who then wired it right back as payment for advertising arranged by the party.
Threw in those last 2 paragraphs as a reminder of the basics of the scheme...

So to be clear...80% of the money spent on Conservative advertising in Quebec came from the national party, was quickly transferred in to local campaigns, then transferred immediately back out to buy national ads (with local tag lines). Followed, of course, by local candidates seeking taxpayer refunds for money that was in their hands for but a few hours or minutes. Integrity riddled, these Conservatives, I say.

Once again we're reminded of the potential bonanza of spending that could occur were a court ever to rule that such machinations are acceptable. A cash flush party's national spending limit could easily be exceeded simply by transferring money in-and-out from the national party into those uncompetitive ridings where there's lots of gaping budget room in the candidate's empty campaign coffers. And throw in the extra twist of the national party shifting around expenses from riding to riding to ensure no one exceeds their local limits, why you've got yourself a recipe for not just the present $18 million federal limit...but say a $24 million national spending limit, out muscling your opponents by a good $6 million. Or more, or less, depending on how far a cash rich party wants to push it.

Today's report reminds us that the bulk of the in-and-out spending on advertising happened in Quebec. Next time, they just might dare to go as big nationally.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The one, the only...part deux

More on Muriel's Wedding, from the NY Times critic. Thought I'd follow up on my Friday post given this item in the Times and for all those who are interested...:)

More Gitmo horror the Harper Conservatives are on board with

Bob Herbert provides more perspective on that historical blight today by highlighting Jane Mayer's new book:
When the constraints of the law are unlocked by the men and women in suits at the pinnacle of power, terrible things happen in the real world. You end up with detainees being physically and psychologically tormented day after day, month after month, until they beg to be allowed to commit suicide. You have prisoners beaten until they are on the verge of death, or hooked to overhead manacles like something out of the Inquisition, or forced to defecate on themselves, or sexually humiliated, or driven crazy by days on end of sleep deprivation and blinding lights and blaring noises, or water-boarded.

To get a sense of the heights of madness scaled in this anything-goes atmosphere, consider a brainstorming meeting held by military officials at Guantánamo. Ms. Mayer said the meeting was called to come up with ways to crack through the resistance of detainees.

“One source of ideas,” she wrote, “was the popular television show ‘24.’ On that show as Ms. Mayer noted, “torture always worked. It saved America on a weekly basis.”

I felt as if I was in Never-Never Land as I read: “In conversation with British human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, the top military lawyer in Guantánamo, Diane Beaver, said quite earnestly that Jack Bauer ‘gave people lots of ideas’ as they sought for interrogation models.”
Well, Jack Bauer is played by a Canadian after all. Maybe that explains the Harper support for Gitmo.

But seriously, here's the kind of perspective that the Harper Conservatives must contend with:
The U.S. shamed itself on George W. Bush’s and Dick Cheney’s watch, and David Addington and others like him were willing to manipulate the law like Silly Putty to give them the legal cover they desired. Ms. Mayer noted that Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the late historian, believed that “the Bush administration’s extralegal counterterrorism program presented the most dramatic, sustained and radical challenge to the rule of law in American history.”

After reflecting on major breakdowns of law that occurred in prior administrations, including the Watergate disaster, Mr. Schlesinger told Ms. Mayer: “No position taken has done more damage to the American reputation in the world — ever.”
And Harpie is right there with them.

Perhaps someone should ask Mr. Teneycke for his considered opinion on Arthur Schlesinger's comments.

Windfall Jim has a bounty to spend

"Government not sure how to spend wireless windfall." I think we can safely predict where this windfall will be going:
The federal government has not decided what to do with a $4.3-billion windfall from the wireless spectrum licence auction, but tax cuts are among the options, Industry Minister Jim Prentice said Tuesday.

Prentice said the auction "far exceeded" expectations that proceeds would total $1.5 billion. He said the decision on how to spend the $4.3 billion has not yet been made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative cabinet.
"The prime minister and his cabinet will assess the fiscal parameters of the government and how these funds are allocated, the process by which they are accounted for and the decisions that need to be made as between reducing debt, other governmental priorities, reducing taxes, are decisions that remain," he said at a news conference in Edmonton.

A note in the this year's budget said the government would allocate the proceeds from the licence auction to debt reduction.

But Prentice made it clear that was not necessarily the case, since the proceeds were so much higher than expected. (emphasis added)
Yes, why ever would we be so naive as to think they would stick to such commitments?

Expect the Conservative electoral fortunes to figure largely in this decision. What ever would make me say such a thing? Oh, just little things like their record to date.

The AECL blame game

I'd been perusing the CNSC/AECL stories the past few days and had been meaning to post...I see the Jurist did so this morning. He pointed out the lunacy of AECL's post incident reporting on the Chalk River incident which focussed on communications breakdowns with the regulator when the key question was why AECL had been non-compliant with the terms of their license, i.e., they failed to ensure the backup power system was hooked up and didn't notify the regulator about that little oversight. That issue remains unaddressed by AECL.

I'll just add a few points now...

As a reminder, the CP framed the story this way:
Canada's nuclear safety watchdog rejected a preliminary report into last year's reactor shutdown that sparked a critical shortage of medical isotopes, say newly released documents.

In the wake of the medical isotope controversy, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. was supposed to explain why key safety measures were not in place at its research reactor in Chalk River, Ont.

But the federal Crown corporation's January report instead focused on the communications breakdown between AECL and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, say documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act. (emphasis added)
CP focussed on the main issue in their report. Why was AECL in default and why did they not "fess up" as to why they were in default in their post incident reporting?

By contrast, the CanWest reports went in an entirely different direction. Check out this one in the National Post, "Snafus plague nuclear bodies," which builds on the earlier report in the Ottawa Citizen, "Report exposes AECL's communication meltdown." AECL's focus on communications issues as an explanation for the Chalk River incident seems to have had a certain effect. The media, in these two examples, picked up AECL's lead and spread responsibility around to include the regulator. The blame game remains the thing.

The Conservatives decided in January who the principal scapegoat would be: Linda Keen. This follow up incident reporting, or lack thereof by AECL, just takes that ball and runs with it - as best as they can, that is. But AECL's hiding behind communications issues does have its problems.

Because despite the headlines and the slant chosen by the CanWest entities, even their own stories make clear that AECL is the one that fell down on the communications front, if you were to accept that it was a cause of the Chalk River problems.

And there is further motivation that is quite apparent as to why AECL and any "independent" consultant hired would either obscure responsibility for the Chalk River incident or refuse to address it at all.
The federal government is reviewing AECL to determine the future of the Crown corporation, which employs 4,800 people. Some have speculated it may be spun off into private hands or sold to a foreign company.
A sale might be a tougher thing to do now, particularly when MDS, the buyer of medical isotopes from AECL, is suing AECL and the federal government for AECL's abandoning of its plans to replace Chalk River's production with two new MAPLE reactors. But there was interest expressed in the past. And it is still the intent of the government to effect that sale. The potential privatization of AECL would explain AECL's efforts to broaden responsibility for their license non-compliance to communications difficulties with the regulator. Now that the difficult regulator is gone, at least that "problem" has been solved. And at the end of the day, there's lots of money at stake in the nuclear reactor business that still evokes interest in AECL's "reactor commercial business."