Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday night ode to...truth

Happy Halloween and all that...Impolitical just officially ran out of goodies at the door. This was a remarkably busy year, lots of ghouls and scream-like monsters out and about...:) (I hate when kids wear that Scream movie mask!)

No Halloween themed music for me. And nice metal choices there, Mentarch. No, I'll go with a group that seemed like the logical choice going into a U.S. election on Tuesday that is poised to repudiate the Bush years and turn the page. So who better than the Dixie Chicks whose demonization symbolized some of the worst partisan excesses of the Bush years. Here's a live version of Truth No. 2, one of my favorites of theirs for lyrics that speak to free speech and other good stuff:



Natalie Maines was right...hope Tuesday's a good night for all those Americans who've suffered through eight long years.

"Stable enough"



In Rachel Maddow's interview with Obama last night, she asked him about Afghanistan (try the link if you want to go to the exact start of the question). Specifically, she asked him why a greater military presence would contribute to a greater likelihood of success in Afghanistan. Note how he says Afghanistan has to become "stable enough" and "focussed enough" on controlling its own borders to prevent Al Qaeda and the Taliban from returning (too late). He goes on with a lengthy list of factors that also need to be part of the solution, that Maddow characterized as a "Marshall Plan" for Afghanistan. He doesn't directly answer her question about what the exit strategy is, but perhaps the answer lies in that "stable enough" comment, whatever that might mean down the road, and I suspect it will get a lot more attention if he's elected. In any event, thought it was important to note given our presence there and how Obama, if elected, would approach the problem.

For the full interview, go to Red Tory, he also thought it was worthwhile and posted the whole thing last night. Plus he tacked on a Palin interview and that's always a hoot.

Conservative insiders dishing

I think I might like this Cannon Foreign Affairs stint after all. This has to be some kind of record for "Tory insiders." Well done:
On the face of it, Lawrence Cannon's ascendance to the traditionally coveted Foreign Affairs post stands out as the single biggest promotion in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's new cabinet.

Trouble is, Cannon didn't want the job. For one thing, Tory insiders say the senior Quebec minister hates flying. And he prefers to stay close to home - where he can preside over the distribution of goodies to his province - for political reasons too.

In fact, insiders say Cannon lobbied to be given the Industry portfolio, with added responsibility for Quebec regional development. And he wanted to retain his title as political minister for Quebec to boot.
Didn't want the job! Doesn't like to fly? You'd think after "Nosebleed" Emerson they'd have learned...:) More from another talkative Conservative:
Thanks to his unwanted promotion, Cannon will now spend more time flitting around the globe than stoking his home political fires. And that leaves some insiders wondering if he'll be a good fit for his new post.

"There's no pork in Foreign Affairs," notes one senior Tory.

"He's a man of the county. He wants roads paved and sewers and bridges (built). You can't do that from Berlin."
Um, it's rather early hours in the new mandate to be hearing such things, right off the bat. These comments are pretty tough on Cannon. Could spell trouble for him at Foreign Affairs. The word's been put out that he doesn't even want to be there. Should be a real treat yet again for the foreign affairs professionals.

Lunn also gets some help from his friends:
Some Conservatives suspect Harper simply decided Lunn is a lightweight.
There's more on others, go read it. Pretty telling stuff, the very fact that sources are willing to peddle the good, the bad and the ugly as to why Harper made a number of cabinet moves. He can't be happy with it, it exposes a lot of potential fissures in the cabinet. Kind of makes you wonder if this is the way things will shape up for Harper's second go round. If we see more of this, it would mean that people are feeling more free to create alternative narratives to the Harper one. Not a good sign for the future of the Strong Leader.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The art of saying nothing interesting and burying your real intent

Harper's got it down to a tee. Ever notice how he goes on and on yet says little of substance? For someone who is apparently a genius, he doesn't sound it at times. Here he is blathering on, in a report that actually may be significant, about financial rules at the international level:
"It is transparent that we need some kind of new rules," Harper said. "I think we need both new rules in some countries and I think we need as well, probably better international rules and certainly better ways of monitoring and providing early warning about failures of national regulation systems at the same time."

Harper has had telephone conversations over the last several days with his G7 counterparts about the global financial systems.

"These things are at the very preliminary stage in terms of ideas. I don't think at this point, anyone is coming with a really fixed package of ideas. I think there is still some considerable work being done in capitals and among capitals and we certainly ourselves are doing some considerable work here to prepare," he said.
Excuse me while I do some considerable yawning in and among the capital in which I live while I prepare for more considerable yawning. Watch what he says, on any given subject, he's rarely as clear as he claims to be.

Of note, however, in this report is the praise Flaherty and Harper have for the strength of the Canadian financial system. But of concern is the damage that they may be about to do to it:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has ordered a broad review of the rules and regulations that govern Canada's financial system, although neither he nor his finance minister identified what, if anything, might be changed as a result.

"I have initiated, since the election campaign ended, a pretty comprehensive internal evaluation of Canada's own domestic systems of regulation in response to the international financial crisis," Harper said at a Parliament Hill news conference shortly after naming his new cabinet.

"It is generally regarded around the world that Canada's situation has been very well-managed, that we have responded very well, not to say it is perfect, by any means, but I think there is a lot we can learn from how we have handled it.

"We are doing a comprehensive analysis of that, along with any other proposals we are receiving, but those proposals remain, I would say, at the embryonic stage."
...
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, speaking a few hours after the prime minister, suggested that Canada's system could be the template for other countries in difficulty.

"Our regulatory system (has) significant strengths and can serve as a model, quite frankly, for other countries in the world that are looking at their own national systems and saying what can we do to avoid what has happened," Flaherty said. "Our regulatory system has worked well. We have the soundest financial system in the world and that's a strong point we can share with others."
If it ain't broke, Mr. Flaherty and Harper, careful what you decide to tinker with under the guise of significant external events. There is a difference between fixing your own response and fixing the underlying sound financial system that you praise. So what is Harper really talking about here? Something to watch going forward.

Note also Harper talking up the possibility of a deficit, echoing Flaherty now:
...Harper on Thursday continued to moderate his election-campaign dictum that his government would never go into deficit. "We put a high value on keeping the budget balanced, but the truth of the matter is we are less certain about the future today than we were even a few weeks ago," the prime minister said in Ottawa. (emphasis added)
It's like an individual who lives on the financial edge, spending as they earn, saving nothing for a rainy day...and then a flood of bad things happen. Lose your job, credit cards cut up, etc. And blaming all those external events for your own position. People don't run their lives the way Harper and Flaherty have run our federal finances for the past few years. Blaming external events for a prospective deficit is more of the same weak excuses from supposedly strong leadership quarters.

Welcome back, boys

Well that didn't take long...my friend is back...same as it ever was...:)

A mediocre team for challenging times

It's difficult to get excited, at all, about the cabinet announcements today. This is the government Canadians voted for, so line them up and let's see how they execute. The face of the cabinet, while smattered with some new blood, is largely stale. So, here are a few thoughts for those interested...

Flaherty leads the pack in respect of the stale elements. That there are no other competent individuals who could possibly step up and take over from a minister who has so obviously failed is the most telling indictment of the whole effort. To claim that this is in the interest of keeping a steady hand on the economic tiller, as it is repeatedly spun, is a sad state of affairs, indeed.

Other stale members who may not live up to expectations in their new slots:

Clement in Industry. Has Clement ever had an economic portfolio? No, and he hasn't been the swiftest performer to date either.

Cannon in Foreign Affairs. The portfolio that Harper has systematically devalued to such an extent that it hardly matters who he puts there. Cannon joins a long line of mediocrities: MacKay, Bernier, Emerson. None of whom made any difference while there. Cannon looks to be another placeholder continuing to permit Harper to dominate the external face of the nation. And, perhaps the most partisan sort to occupy the position yet, who has exhibited every trait of the submissive Harper ministerial type:

Where's the panache, baby? We've had such a great tradition of Foreign Affairs Ministers in this country...and now, Cannon.

Jim Prentice to Environment. It's almost comic at this point how Prentice is widely viewed as the lone competent in the Harper mix. Is there nothing superman can't do? Give him another tough one, let him prove his leadership mettle is likely what Harper's thinking.

Gerry Ritz stays in Agriculture. For all of the plaudits to Harper today for the injection of more women and the notional good will expressed for a new cabinet...choices like this undermine such sentiments. They say Harper still doesn't fully get it. Ritz is walking proof of that.

Peter Van Loan to Public Safety. Filling Stock's shoes. That sounds about right. The hard core partisans were rewarded. Another indication that the new guard may just end up being the same as the old, tone wise, that is.

Junior stays in Defence. Afghanistan turning for the worse. To oversee our "exit" in 2011 while perhaps President Obama starts pouring in brigades. Should be quite the feat. Another time bomb handed to a possible Harper successor.

On the newbies...
Health* Leona Aglukkaq
Natural Resources* Lisa Raitt
Fisheries and Oceans* Gail Shea

Good luck to them, watch for inevitable growing pains.

On the old faves...

What to say to Gary Lunn today who has been demoted and handed...Helena Guergis' old portfolio? Thud. That's the sound of hitting the bottom. The voters of Saanich-Gulf Islands may have been too thick to throw him out, it took Harper to demote him. The irony. Sport may be somewhat of a face-saver given the Olympics and all, but Guergis' old slot? The media coverage of his campaign and its fallout may have impacted on Lunn's fortunes.

Guergis to remain in cabinet and move to Status of Women. Happy to see Guergis, the Palin of the north, remain in cabinet. Small mercies. Not expecting to hear much from her from now on but one can hope. Oh yeah, and on the substance, the women of Canada can expect virtually nothing from this move.

Exciting? Not so much.

More scrutiny of the campaign in Lunn's riding

A columnist picks it up from the Tyee: "Saanich-Gulf Islands election tactics under microscope." The column recounts what the Tyee has uncovered, and makes two strong points. First, why exactly is no one in law enforcement concerned in the least about the apparent phone fraud that occurred in the campaign? Shoulder shrugging doesn't cut it:
One election dirty trick involved phone fraud and seemed both unethical and illegal. The RCMP response, which suggested election fraud allegations just aren't a priority, was disturbing.
...
West withdrew too late to have his name taken off the ballot, but Penn's prospects were still helped by the departure. The NDP riding association wrote to all party members saying West was not a candidate and the party wasn't endorsing anyone.

But in the days before the election, residents were flooded with taped phone messages urging them to vote for West. People who had caller ID saw the call was coming from the phone of NDP riding association president Bill Graham.

Except that was not true. Whoever made the calls used "spoofing" software to make it appear as if the calls were coming from Graham's number.
...
Elections Canada refuses to confirm or deny investigations. Telus says it can't do anything. The RCMP maintains no laws were broken.

But lawyers disagree. It's a Criminal Code offence to knowingly provide false information over the phone or to fraudulently impersonate another.
Shouldn't the "law and order" party be on top of this?

Secondly, with respect to that third party advertising that went on in Lunn's riding:
Each third-party participant is limited to spending $3,666 in any riding. Candidates, this time, were limited to $92,000. And it's illegal for third-party participants to split into multiple subsets to avoid spending limits.

The spending filings for Saanich-Gulf Islands will be watched closely. If Lunn spent to the limit, and several third-party groups with a common address spent heavily to support him, expect some tough questions.
And for that, we will have to wait and see.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Something for everybody!

Deficit Jim is signalling who will feel the pain from his and Harper's mismanagement of federal funds:
Civil servants will have to temper their wage demands, provinces will see smaller increases in the money they get from Ottawa, and short-term deficits are likely because of the global financial crisis and the slowdown in the economy, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Wednesday.

The finance minister said the government is doing everything to cut its costs as it prepares for a squeeze on revenues from corporate and personal taxes as the economy slows to a crawl.

A review of program spending now in its second year will be extended to Crown corporations to ensure they provide value for money, Flaherty said.

He also warned public-sector workers they cannot expect big wage hikes in the next round of bargaining for contracts.
Equalization is also on the table:
"Growth must be closer to the growth of the economy to be sustainable," he said.

"Without change, equalization is not sustainable and threatens the integrity of the program."
Well if that doesn't motivate the provinces before that meeting they're supposed to have with DJ next week, nothing will.

In the past few days we've seen news of pensions seeking federal funding relief and auto parts makers seeking federal help. Wonder what other time bombs are out there that these prudent fiscal managers have left us little to no contingency room to deal with?

Unpacking W's courts

Another one of W's legacies, a right wing set of appeals courts throughout the U.S. that will be the gift that keeps on giving for years to come: "Appeals Courts Pushed to Right by Bush Choices." Get a load of this incredible piece of legislation from South Dakota that's been upheld by an appeals court populated by Bush appointees:
After a group of doctors challenged a South Dakota law forcing them to inform women that abortions “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being” — using exactly that language — President Bush’s appointees to the federal appeals courts took control.

A federal trial judge, stating that whether a fetus is human life is a matter of debate, had blocked the state from enforcing the 2005 law as a likely violation of doctors’ First Amendment rights. And an appeals court panel had upheld the injunction.

But this past June, the full United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit voted 7 to 4 to overrule those decisions and allow the statute to take immediate effect. The majority argued that it is objectively true that human life begins at conception, and that the state can force doctors to say so.

Mr. Bush had appointed six of the seven judges in the conservative majority. His administration has transformed the nation’s federal appeals courts, advancing a conservative legal revolution that began nearly three decades ago under President Ronald Reagan. (emphasis added)
Can you imagine being a medical professional and being told to recite messages verbatim to patients! What kind of free country is the U.S. again, remind me? Just unbelievable.

The majority of his appointees are Federalist Society Members and were vetted under the oversight of Karl Rove. If McCain wins, the hold on these courts will cement. If Obama wins, there's a chance to reset the balance. Needless to say, another reason to be rooting for Obama.

Now that's scary


A hair-raising duo graces this week's Halloween cover of The New Yorker...:)

Doug Finley out as Conservative election guru

"Doug Finley to step down as Tory campaign director."
The Conservative Party of Canada's national campaign director plans to step back from day-to-day election planning as part of a quiet shakeup of the party's senior ranks, Canwest News Service has learned.
...
Another Conservative source said Finley, one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's most senior advisers, told party officials at the start of the campaign it would be his last because he's "not a young man anymore."

One party source said the move is part of the "natural" reorganization that follows any election campaign. Other party officials will change roles in the coming days, the source added.

However, some officials who worked on the campaign say Finley has taken part of the blame for failing to deliver a majority for the Conservatives on Oct. 14.(emphasis added)
Close but no cigar for Finley, architect of two minorities who's now had his chance. Harper has 143 seats and wants someone to get him over the hump. Whether that's a question of a new electoral strategy to game 12 more seats or a question of whether Canadians will ever give Stephen Harper the majority reins is something we'll find out in, say, another two years, with a new Liberal leader on the scene. That will be Harper's fourth election. A fatigue factor will be present.

Meanwhile, there is some talk out there about how Conservatives can become more like Liberals in order to get there. See Andrew Steele last night, with his thesis: "To permanently replace the Liberals as the strongest national party, Stephen Harper may have to borrow their approach to the Quebec question," by becoming the federalist option in Quebec. To do this, he points out, the Liberals would have to choose a leader in the coming race that would cede the traditional federalist position of the Liberals in Quebec and make it easy for the Conservatives to step in to the traditional Liberal role. Good luck on that. If they do, they'll lose a lot of support outside Quebec. I'm not doing the article justice, Steele's ideas are interesting, as always, and are worth a read for the assessment of the parties' relative positions in Quebec, their weaknesses, strengths, future areas of growth, etc. But the absurd proposition underlying it all, that essentially, the Conservatives must become Liberals to win...well, you have to wonder how their supporters take to such notions. Besides, Harper has already invested so much in the soft-nationalist play with his Quebec nation motion. Hasn't the die been cast?

These quests for national dominance undertaken by political parties in recent years don't seem to be working out. The Republicans are living the fruits of Karl Rove's quest for a permanent Republican majority at the moment. It's not going so well. The too clever by half linking of groups into a coalition that you can manipulate with shiny objects seems to be as bright as the strategy gets. Other people have shiny objects too. It's also very difficult to anticipate events that can fracture the coalitions that you are building. Then you have to govern in a manner that inspires the confidence of a majority of the population. That's a tough thing to do. Conservatives haven't been able to do it yet. There's also the little problem of Canada being a socially progressive nation. The Conservatives are not.

But I wouldn't put anything past Mr. Harper on his ongoing quest for a majority. He did resort to using his mother as a feature in his campaign speeches in those last days, after all...

A question for Gary Lunn today...

Does he understand the term conflict of interest? Just wondering. Because it really doesn't seem like he does.

So glad he was reelected...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Things we don't see enough of from our politicians

"Williams apologizes, takes 'full responsibility' at cancer inquiry."
Premier Danny Williams apologized Tuesday for any grief and anguish that Newfoundland and Labrador breast cancer patients have suffered because of flawed laboratory tests.

"We take this personally," Williams told the Cameron inquiry Tuesday. "We certainly take responsibility, full responsibility, for any actions ... that might have contributed to this problem."

Williams apologized on behalf of his own government, as well as for previous governments under former premiers.

Williams told Justice Margaret Cameron that his government will act quickly on recommendations that she will make next year, while pointing out that his government has already invested heavily in improving the health-care system since learning that hundreds of breast cancer patients received inaccurate hormone receptor tests.

"[But] money is not the answer," said Williams, who paid tribute to the "pioneers and martyrs" who died or were possibly hurt by flawed tests.

"That does not help the people in the back of the room who have lost something. Money can't replace that. We can't replace that for them," said Williams. "We sincerely apologize and take full responsibility."
This is a pretty clear cut case of a situation calling out for an apology from a government. But is there a politician anywhere else in Canada who talks like this?
"Should I have been told? Yeah," Williams said, adding that he is ultimately responsible for public services, and that staff are instructed not to withhold information to give him "plausible deniability."

"The consequence of any denying me information to protect me from being involved in it doesn't work with me, because, again, ultimately the buck stops here," Williams said.
This is a tragedy and this commission appears to be getting to the bottom of it, piling up all the reasons for the failures in government oversight of the misdiagnoses that occurred. Hopefully once this commission's work is done, there'll be a blueprint to ensure that such flawed testing doesn't occur again and that proper oversight occurs.

Open, public accountability with the Premier hauled in front of the commission. Exactly as it should be.

"Deficit Jim" gains traction...

A few late afternoon notes...

Don Martin today: "Flaherty poised to be 'Deficit Jim'." Nice column title...:)
Before this economic downturn hits bottom, it's almost a given Mr. Flaherty will wear the Deficit Jim label as the Conservative who put the red back into Canada's budget books for the first time since they were balanced in the mid-1990s.
A thorough critique of the wisdom of putting Deficit Jim back in charge of the federal coffers.

When you have an aide out there describing your running mate as a "whack job," this is truly a novel electoral strategy at work. Reminds me of a recent campaign in this here part of the world...

Kudos to the Khadr lawyers who are still fighting the good fight. In Federal Court today seeking judicial review of Harper's refusal to seek Khadr's repatriation, arguing the duty is "triggered given the numerous violations of Khadr's rights under both the Canadian Charter and international law and agreements, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child." The government's position is general: "The Crown maintains Ottawa has no legal duty under international law to help a Canadian abroad." Khadr's circumstances may lead the court to determine otherwise. May.

There was a very interesting column by David Brooks in the NY Times today, not political, but about "The Behavioral Revolution." Suggesting that decision-making as we have known it is in for great change.
My sense is that this financial crisis is going to amount to a coming-out party for behavioral economists and others who are bringing sophisticated psychology to the realm of public policy. At least these folks have plausible explanations for why so many people could have been so gigantically wrong about the risks they were taking.
Worth a look.

Voters have stood in line for 12 hours in Georgia! Unbelievable!

McKenna's out...not surprising at all. Dominic LeBlanc is in. Interesting candidate who will bear watching.

Not so much

Harper cited as inspiration for the presently imploding Republican party: "Neighborly Wisdom." Really, he is.

Memo to U.S. conservatives: we don't really like him. Look closer. We've given him minority governments twice now. Not exactly a rip roaring success. Yes, he did gain 16 seats out of 308 in the last election. But the desire of major regions (Quebec, Newfoundland) and interests (cultural) in our country to ensure he did not get a majority was strong. Um, not to mention that Harper's 38% of the vote can hardly be an inspiration to Republicans who, despite foreign and domestic disasters of their own making, are polling in the low 40's in the presidential election.

Guess they're pretty desperate down there these days...heh...:)

Tough times for Deficit Jim

Choices, choices, what ever will he and Harper do?
TD Bank Chief Economist Don Drummond wrote in a recent research report that if the government proceeds next year with the combination of tax cuts and spending increases that it announced in the 2008 Budget, Ottawa will run a deficit next year of at least $10 billion and will continue to run deficits, albeit increasingly smaller ones, for the next four years.

Economists and government sources say it is unlikely Flaherty can find spending cuts of $10 billion in one year in order to balance the books. For one thing, there may be too much political damage associated with massive spending cuts. Many Conservatives, after all, believe they lost their chance at a majority government partly because of anger in Quebec over just $50 million in cuts to arts programs.

The federal government will spend $201.2 billion this year, not including debt charges.

Though $10 billion is only about five per cent of that number, much of that spending cannot be cut.
The report lists the kinds of things that would have to be cut to find $10 billion. You'd have to axe the Natural Resources Department ($2 billion), cut regional economic development ($1 billion), cut the Universal Child Care Benefit ($2.5 billion), and make a whole host of other choices (see report) in order to get you close to $10 billion. I suppose there would be many other targets to pick as well. None of them are good options. (I am assuming tax increases are off the table as options for these guys.)

They could run a deficit and deal with public opinion like this:
An overwhelming majority of Canadians say Finance Minister Jim Flaherty should slash the federal budget to balance the books, according to a new poll for Canwest News Service and Global National.

Only a handful say Flaherty should raise taxes to meet any shortfalls as government revenues shrink because of the slowing economy. And just 43 per cent of those surveyed by Ipsos Reid say it's all right with them if Flaherty decided to run a budget deficit to get the country through a rough economic patch.
Now that's an online poll, mind you. But still, it suggests the resistance in the public mind to the prospect of a deficit. Besides, we know Deficit Jim just committed during the election campaign to not having one. So how they get out of this pickle will be a thing to watch.

A few other economic items kicking around that will have political ramifications...remember how Harpie and Deficit Jim have assured us that the big $25 billion asset swap between CMHC and the banks is nothing to worry about, practically meaningless, along these lines:
Canada plans to buy up to C$25 billion ($21 billion) in insured residential mortgages to help cushion banks from the global financial crisis and address a "scarcity" of private-sector lending, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday.

While details of the plan were slim, Flaherty stressed the program is not a bank bailout because the government is not buying equity, and that the mortgages are "high-quality assets" that are already insured by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC), a government-owned agency.
...
The prime minister, maintaining a lead in the polls, told reporters the move represented no cost to government.

"This is a market transaction that will cost the government nothing ... we are simply exchanging assets that we already hold the insurance on and the reason we are doing this is to get out in front," he told reporters in Brantford, Ontario. (emphasis added)
Well, here's a contrarian view:
Harper called the recent CMHC deal "simply a market intervention ... to ensure our credit markets are functioning strongly."

But Grinspun dismisses that interpretation: "Taxpayers are assuming risky assets and giving away safe ones."
In addition, in that preceding Star link, you can find criticism by a number of economists that this $25 billion step has been taken without any assurances having been provided that the credit relief it provided to the banks would flow through to consumers/the public. This mirrors recent criticism in the U.S.:
It was good news when Mr. Paulson finally agreed to funnel capital into the banking system in return for partial ownership. But last week Joe Nocera of The Times pointed out a key weakness in the U.S. Treasury’s bank rescue plan: it contains no safeguards against the possibility that banks will simply sit on the money. “Unlike the British government, which is mandating lending requirements in return for capital injections, our government seems afraid to do anything except plead.” And sure enough, the banks seem to be hoarding the cash.
So, do we think Deficit Jim and Harpie have the stuff to manage all of these economic challenges? It's not looking good at this point.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Minister of listeriosis safe?

David Akin thinks so: " Gerry Ritz is safe, safe, safe."
Here's the thinking from my Conservative friend and it's thinking I tend to agree with: If you've watched Stephen Harper over the last several years, you would likely agree that that the last thing that works with him is bullying or underhanded tactics. He will conclude that someone tried to embarrass him into firing or demoting his Agriculture Minister by releasing contents of a phone call that ought to have stayed private. His minister, Harper will conclude, did the right thing upon this revelation. Harper will also conclude that, by and large, Ritz has been a relatively competent agriculture minister. Harper will note that voters in Ritz's Saskatchewan riding handily returned him to the House. And Harper will be damned if some
bureaucrat can get the idea that a minister can be felled if they reveal confidential information.

And if he sacks Ritz or demotes him, it will look like he gave in to demands from the likes of Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter, who Conservatives have a particular dislike for.

So Ritz is staying right where he is and that will be Harper's way of letting bureaucrats and anyone else know that there's no pushing him around.
That sounds just about right. Competence is not so high up on the scale for the Harper government. Ritz has surely been exposed at this point as not having been on top of his file and having a questionable sense of judgment when it came to executing. Partisan considerations were foremost in his mind when consulting with scientists on the listeriosis file, as he repeatedly pressed them to enable him to say the page was being turned on the crisis. He claimed the deregulatory moves put in place by his government on meat inspection only applied to slaughter houses, not processing plants. Oops, wrong. At the height of the listeriosis outbreak, Ritz tried to publicly represent that meat inspectors were spending 50% of their time inspecting on processing plant floors, later to be corrected by meat inspectors and his own federal officials. But, whatever. We can't have Ritz pushed out by, you know, people who care about such matters.

Another interesting one to watch when the Harper cabinet is announced.

So he is testing the waters...

Looks like I was mistaken last week in saying it didn't sound like Manley was looking to be a candidate in the leadership: "Manley tests Liberal waters." Although I still maintain that his predominant posture of reluctance is telling, and he is still citing money and organizational structure as key factors in his decision calculus. He's certainly a blunt guy who tells it like it is. Here was his statement on the inevitable question...yes, John, why did you provide political cover to the PM on Afghanistan?

He also acknowledged some Liberals may look down on his being appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to lead a panel that looked at the future of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

"But if there's anybody out there that thinks that being a Liberal is more important than being a Canadian, well I'm not in their party," he said.

Interesting that we're hearing from Manley today when the person whose name has really circulated much more so in the undercurrents has been McKenna's. Guess Manley's decided to make a bit of a move before other trains leave the station, so to speak.

Just in case things don't work out next Tuesday...



An "Elite" programme for Americans to escape to Canada...:)

(Thanks to rockatollah for the link)

What's going on in Pakistan...

Is perhaps the other front in a sought out October surprise: "'US strike' kills Taleban leader."
A suspected US missile strike has killed 20 people, including a top Taleban commander, in north-west Pakistan, witnesses and officials say.

Mohammad Omar was among the dead when the missile, reportedly fired by a pilotless US drone, hit a compound owned by him in South Waziristan.

Omar fought with the Taleban in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

The US has launched missile strikes against suspected militant targets in the Afghan border region recently.

The latest strike on Sunday night was launched at a compound owned by Mohammad Omar in Mandatta village in the troubled region of South Waziristan.
The Americans have been busy in ratcheting up Predator drone strikes since August:
Figures compiled by the BBC Urdu service show that some 80 people have been killed in a number of suspected US missile strikes in South and North Waziristan region over the past month.
The New York Times has a further in depth report on the strikes in today's paper, including last night's, setting out the context in which these Predator strikes are occurring:
According to American and Pakistani officials, attacks by remotely piloted Predator aircraft have increased sharply in frequency and scope in the past three months.

Through Sunday, there were at least 18 Predator strikes since the beginning of August, some deep inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, compared with 5 strikes during the first seven months of 2008.
Why such an increase in the past few months?
The decision to focus on an intensified Predator campaign using Hellfire missiles appears to reflect dwindling options on the part of the White House for striking a blow against Al Qaeda in the Bush administration’s waning days.

After months of debate within the administration and mounting frustration over Pakistan’s failure to carry out more aggressive counterterrorism operations, President Bush finally gave his approval in July for ground missions inside Pakistan.
Waning days, don't ya know. Wonder what else George and Dick have got in store for us?

There was a ground mission carried out by Americans in Pakistan in September that's reported on here that ended up killing some civilians. The Pakistani government erupted after that ground strike and so the American ground missions have apparently stopped. The Predator strikes though are ongoing, on a regular basis since August. Could they be looking for someone? Hmmmm? Because it's acknowledged by officials in the report that while they may be disrupting Al Qaeda operations to a greater extent, the attacks are not doing anything to dislodge the Al Qaeda hold on these areas.

Pakistan is also increasing its attacks on these border areas with Afghanistan and the unrest is startling.
Pentagon officials have publicly praised the Pakistan Army’s aggressive campaign against militants in the Bajaur tribal agency. But privately, some American officials are wincing at a full-scale military operation that is taking a heavy toll on civilians as well as insurgents, and has not diminished the cross-border attacks.

“They don’t have a concept of counterinsurgency operations,” one senior American officer said. “It’s generally a heavy punch and then they leave.”

More than 200,000 people have now fled the attack helicopters, warplanes, artillery and mortar fire of the Pakistani Army, and some officials in Washington say the Pakistani government has been slow to follow up with food, water and other assistance to help displaced villagers. The United States has approved $8 million to aid the refugee effort. (emphasis added)
200,000.

It's a fine mess the next President will be inheriting. Getting troops out of Iraq only to increase the U.S. presence in Afghanistan and fight this quagmire seems to be on the horizon irrespective of who wins. As for us, we're now Harper-committed to leaving Afghanistan in 2011 while it's difficult to see how this situation will be much improved by then.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More on the third party collusion allegations in Lunn's riding

The Tyee uncovers more evidence from Gary Lunn's riding that calls into question the independence of the third party groups that advertised in his riding: "Four Lunn loving groups share one financial agent." Said Elections Canada:
While the Canada Elections Act does not explicitly bar someone from being the financial agent for more than one group, a spokesperson for Elections Canada said it's the kind of thing the agency's auditors may well flag when they review the groups' documents.
Well, I think this has Elections Canada's attention now. Good work by the Tyee.

Update (9:10 p.m.): Bruce Hallsor, the lawyer who assisted all the third party advertisers in Lunn's riding, is a busy guy out there. He's also the lawyer for Troy DeSouza, the Conservative who was narrowly defeated in Keith Martin's riding, Esquimault-Juan de Fuca. See these reports for Hallsor's public requests for a judicial recount, as the margin of victory was not sufficient for the automatic recount to kick in: DeSouza lawyer alleges human error in vote count; DeSouza seeking recount. The recount request was granted and the paper there, the Times Colonist was granted standing to attend it.

Thanks to a reader for pointing out the Hallsor activities.

Conservative ridings in Quebec reaping financial gains according to Conservative Blackburn

"Quebec ridings that voted Tory will be better served, MP says." Talk about a distorted and inappropriate view of how government spending should occur. Conservative MP Jean-Pierre Blackburn rode to reelection by touting the "bacon" he brought home to his riding and seems to think pouring funds into Conservative ridings is an A-OK way for the government to operate. Are these the pro-Conservative parts of Quebec, Mr. Blackburn? Are you channelling Sarah Palin? I think so...
Jean-Pierre Blackburn saved himself in the last election campaign by repeatedly pointing out that he spread $247-million in federal pork as a member of the Harper government.

Now the Quebec MP and minister says that ridings that elected Conservatives on Oct. 14 will continue to be better served than those in the hands of the Bloc Québécois. In an interview, Mr. Blackburn defended his campaign tactics, which left some Conservative strategists cringing and the opposition parties fuming.

He said that his reminders of Tory largesse were factual, and that his caucus colleagues benefit from the current system.

“You can't give everything [to opposition ridings]. At some point, your colleagues also have files and you try to help them,” he said. “You have a more attentive ear and try to see if you can help them.”

Mr. Blackburn pointed to a recent $112-million federal-provincial deal for twinning Highway 175 between Quebec City and Saguenay.

“Do you a think a Bloc MP could have gotten the Saguenay-Quebec City deal?” he asked. “Do you know how many demands there are for roads in Quebec?”
(emphasis added)
Let's see if Harper puts Blackburn back in cabinet now.

I would second this post.

Yeah, that's the ticket



A fitting lawn sign available for purchase, here...:)

This is what happens when you elect Deficit Jim



He delivers. An August deficit of $1.7 billion.
The government's revenues stagnated in August as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government dealt with its cuts to corporate taxes and the goods-and-services tax. Spending, on the other hand, continued to balloon, rising by 10 per cent – or $1.5-billion – over the same period in 2007.
See now this is the kind of thing that can really make an electorate cynical about little things like election timing, rosy campaign rhetoric, the honesty of their politicians and the like...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday night ode to...losing



But with hope ever present...:)

Just because I'm losing
Doesn't mean I'm lost
Doesn't mean I'll stop
Doesn't mean I will cross

Just because I'm hurting
Doesn't mean I'm hurt
Doesn't mean I didn't get what I deserve
No better and no worse

I just got lost
Every river that I've tried to cross
And every door I ever tried was locked
Ooh-Oh, And I'm just waiting till the shine wears off...

You might be a big fish
In a little pond
Doesn't mean you've won
'Cause along may come
A bigger one
And you'll be lost

Every river that you tried to cross
Every gun you ever held went off
And I'm just waiting till the firing starts
And I'm just waiting till the shine wears off
And I'm just waiting till the shine wears off
And I'm just waiting till the shine wears off
There you go, Mentarch...:)

Khadr's Guantanamo trial in jeopardy

"Khadr trial to start after new U.S. administration sworn in." January 26th is now the start date, six days after a new president will be sworn in. Leaving open this possibility:
...there is a real chance the new president could shut down or put a moratorium on the Guantanamo Bay trials before Mr. Khadr's trial begins.
I would not expect a McCain victory to do much in terms of stopping the Guantanamo processes, despite his public pronouncements. There'd be much pressure on him from Republicans not to quickly turn on this signature Bush policy and further, this campaign has shown that he's happy to follow Bush style politics rather than substance when making significant decisions. See Palin, Sarah.

Obama, however, would be much more likely to have an executive order ready to be implemented from the get-go. And with Khadr's case, his status as a child soldier and the international legal support for his repatriation to Canada would make his case a likely one to be disposed of rather quickly. Harper couldn't say no if an Obama or McCain administration sought to resolve Khadr's case, regardless of the views of his political base.

Perhaps the best news in a long time for those who view Khadr's continued imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay to be an affront to the rule of law.

Update your Liberal seat count

It's now 77 as the Liberal candidate won Brossard after all. News of the recount by a Quebec Superior Court judge just came through. Alexandra Mendes is the new winner by 69 votes over the Bloc candidate who thought he'd won by 102 votes. Just goes to show how close so many of these races were and how some of the other recounts (Dosanjh who won by 33 votes; Martin by 68 votes) could surprise as well.

On the radio...:)

Light blogging today...I was a little preoccupied this afternoon with a radio interview I just completed. I was fortunate to go on the "Blog Bunker" on Sirius Satellite Radio. It's a show on their Indie Talk Channel, 110. So if anyone out there is hooked up to Sirius, check it out, I believe they replay it in a few hours.

I think it went OK, actually. Spent some time talking about the usual suspects...the Canadian view of the U.S. election, the problems the next President will face, the vice-presidential candidates and who should have been chosen, the Republican endorsements that are piling up for Obama, etc. Hopefully I was able to add some insightful commentary to these much discussed topics.

It's a bit of a blur right now in my mind, but I do believe I was able to say at one point, "welcome to my nightmare" in referring to the reelection of Harper...:)

If they come calling, go ahead and do it, it was great fun.

Calls for an investigation by Elections Canada into third party advertising in Lunn's riding

Such talk of "collusion" to skirt spending limits might just land this thing in Elections Canada's lap:
York University political scientist Bob MacDermid said election officials should take a closer look at third party advertising spending that may have helped Gary Lunn win his Saanich-Gulf Islands seat.

“It's an interesting case. People should take it to the Election Commissioner with whatever evidence they can marshal,” he said. “It's worth investigating. These things always are.”

An Elections Canada spokesperson said the agency never confirms nor denies whether it is conducting an investigation.
People have the right to form third party groups...so why the big deal here? It's been noted that having five spring up in one riding was rather odd given the total number of third party groups across the country. There's also this implication:
MacDermid said the third party advertisers may well be working together to exceed the amount individuals are allowed to donate to campaigns. “Collusion undermines the ideas of limits on these groups,” he said. “If that's successful it will happen in more and more ridings. I have no doubt.”

University of Victoria political science professor Dennis Pilon said regulations around election spending need to be toughened. “It appears the powerful are able to spend their money anyway,” he said. “These people may not be breaking the law, but why are they representing themselves as something they're obviously not?”
Given that the third parties appear to have been mostly friends of Lunn, and the registration of these groups was handled by lawyer Bruce Hallsor, a "volunteer" for Lunn and the Vice-President of the Conservative's Saanich-Gulf Islands Electoral District Association, there are questions about whether they should fit within the definition of a third party:
A 'third party', according to the Canada Elections Act, “means a person or a group, other than a candidate, registered party or electoral district association of a registered party.”
Additionally, a Liberal official claims to have heard Hallsor identify himself as Lunn's "official agent" at a meeting during the campaign. So, it seems appropriate to ask questions about whether these groups were legitimate third parties or whether the spending should be attributed to the Lunn campaign. Elections Canada has now been made aware of this riding's third party spending, so we'll see where it goes.

They sure do keep Elections Canada busy, these Conservatives...

The post-election hilarity continues...

"Carbon taxes and cap-and-trade not that different: report."
Canadian politicians overstate the differences between carbon taxes and cap-and-trade programs as tools to reduce greenhouse gases, a new report suggests.

A study prepared by the Pembina Institute, an energy think-thank, on behalf of the TD Financial Group suggests neither approach will effectively cut emissions on its own. Furthermore, the two systems have more in common than politicians in the recent election campaign would admit.

Both the Conservatives and the NDP advocated variations of the cap-and-trade model, which imposes a limit on the emissions that a company can produce and then allows corporation who do not meet the targets to buy further credits.

The Liberals' much-maligned Green Shift proposed a new tax on fossil fuels that would fund cuts to income and corporate taxes. Conservatives quickly branded the Green Shift as a "new tax on everything."

But either method would result in price hikes for consumers, according to Don Drummond, TD's chief economist.

"It was not a balanced debate from anybody's perspective," Mr. Drummond said. "The ones supporting a cap-and-trade never mentioned the impact on households, pretending I guess that there wasn't going to be any impact, which of course is not true."

When they unveiled their climate change strategy, the Conservatives estimated it would hike electricity costs by 4% and natural gas prices by 2%. (emphasis added)
Oh well...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A moment worth noting

"Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation."
...in a tense exchange with Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of the committee, Mr. Greenspan conceded a more serious flaw in his own philosophy that unfettered free markets sit at the root of a superior economy.

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Mr. Greenspan said.

Referring to his free-market ideology, Mr. Greenspan added: “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.”

Mr. Waxman pressed the former Fed chair to clarify his words. “In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working,” Mr. Waxman said.

“Absolutely, precisely,” Mr. Greenspan replied. “You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
Amazing exchange that speaks for itself.

By the way, could John McCain have any more icons in American society undercut his campaign this week? Powell on Palin, Greenspan on deregulation...anyone else?

Deficit Jim in a quandary

Or should we say, a swamp of his and Economist Harper's own making?
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the government is reviewing its spending commitments to determine whether it can afford them in the current economic downturn.

Flaherty said today that Ottawa expects to post a modest surplus when the books are closed on the current fiscal year at the end of March. But all bets are off for the 2009-2010 year that will be the subject of his next budget.

Flaherty told reporters that "this is obviously a serious situation," as "events are unfolding day by day."

He says the government will "have to gauge where we are as we go forward" and he can't be more accurate than that at this stage.

Last week, two prominent economists predicted the government will fall into deficit next year by as much as $10 billion.

Deficits may be unavoidable given the expected fall-off of corporate profits and other revenues form the economic slump, which will likely approach recessionary territory next year. (emphasis added)
$10 billion you say. Item in the news, Monday:
If Prime Minister Stephen Harper had not cut the GST by two percentage points in his first mandate, he would not be starting his second heading into a projected $10-billion deficit for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, but government spending has been on the rise since before the federal Conservatives came to power, says TD Bank Financial's chief economist Don Drummond, considered one of the country's leading economists.

"On the spending side [the Conservatives] just continued a track that was already embedded by the Liberals, spending has been increasing very rapidly since 2000, 2001.... Of course, the Liberals did start tax cuts as well, but the Conservatives no doubt did add to them and they have cut $12-billion out of the GST, so that probably would have been enough to keep them out of deficit," Mr. Drummond told The Hill Times last week.
The economic challenges brought to us via the U.S. sub-prime meltdown, one could argue, might have been weathered by us more readily by a government that put the nation's interests first, not its own political programme. Oh well. What's $10 billion anyway...

Harper's awesome new team coming soon...

Canwest with a few interesting notes last night:
Most insiders believe the need to rebuild in Quebec will mean a bigger role for Cannon, a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister with connections in the province's biggest city. But they are not ruling out the return to cabinet of Maxime Bernier, who resigned as foreign minister after he left sensitive documents at the residence of his ex-girlfriend.
Second time we've heard of Bernier's return to cabinet. And some old faves might be left out or held back from a promotion:
With all the new faces, several individuals are believed to be on the bubble, including junior cabinet minister Helena Guergis, Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda and Revenue Minister Gordon O'Connor.

Health Minister Tony Clement and Environment Minister John Baird are said to be seeking new portfolios, but the stars will have to line up for them to receive promotions.
Awkward!

The report floats Prentice, Nicholson or Cannon in the Foreign Affairs post, not exactly the most interesting types for that role. But then again, there's really no one in the Harper crowd that has the stature for that portfolio now, is there? Note the way the report frames that pick:
It is believed that Harper will choose someone who will avoid any embarrassing diplomatic gaffes - the last thing the government needs as it navigates choppy economic waters.
Aim high there, Conservatives, aim high...

Powerful stuff

A tale from early voting in Indiana seen on Andrew Sullivan's blog:
For me the most moving moment came when the family in front of me, comprising probably 4 generations of voters (including an 18 year old girl voting for her first time and a 90-something hunched-over grandmother), got their turn to vote. When the old woman left the voting booth she made it about halfway to the door before collapsing in a nearby chair, where she began weeping uncontrollably. When we rushed over to help we realized that she wasn't in trouble at all but she had not truly believed, until she left the booth, that she would ever live long enough to cast a vote for an African-American for president. Anyone who doesn't think that African-American turnout will absolutely SHATTER every existing record is in for a very rude surprise.
For Canadians who are uninterested in the U.S. election...the power of that report has to shake you up a bit, doesn't it? It sure as heck shocked me with the emotion it evokes. There's something potentially huge going on that we are just getting a glimpse of with such news...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

But, but, but...


"Tories brace for deficit, plan to share blame."

I sincerely hope the opposition is more skilled than to fall into this trap. I hope. Policies such as the GST cut, spending the surplus and massive spending increases on top of these moves are solely the Conservatives' to wear. If we're on the brink of a deficit, it's policies like these that have put us in this position.

Where's all that strong leadership the nation was sold? If you read this report, the Conservative strategy sounds like a lot of shirking and you-first kind of manoeuvring.
A Conservative MP made it clear what political tack the government would take if forced back into the red. When asked whether he expected a deficit the MP smiled and replied: "Only if the opposition agrees."
There you go...

Gary Lunn's reelection and the third-party advertisers in his riding

Questions are being raised about election financing in Gary Lunn's riding during his re-election campaign. Five third-party groups sprang up in Lunn's riding to advertise during the election, all registered through a long-time associate of Lunn:
Yet another shadowy community group has registered as a third-party advertiser with Elections Canada using Conservative Victoria lawyer Bruce Hallsor's contact information.

On Oct. 16, the Citizens Against Higher Taxes registered under Lynda Farmer's name, using the 800-1070 Douglas Street address and phone number of the law firm where Hallsor works, Crease Harman and Company.

Hallsor is a long-time associate of Conservative incumbent Gary Lunn and worked on his campaign in a hard-fought victory against Liberal challenger Briony Penn. In 2006, Hallsor was a co-chair of the Conservative campaigns in B.C. The groups using Hallsor's contact information were all supporting Lunn, he said. "That's how I know them." They did things like buy lawn signs and ads in the local daily newspaper, he said.

Citizens Against Higher Taxes brings the total to five groups registering through Hallsor's office to advertise during the election. To put that in perspective, as of Friday there were just 59 third party advertisers registered throughout the country, or less than one for every five ridings. (emphasis added)
All of which raises some interesting questions:
Eugene Parks is a self-described "disgusted former Conservative" who until a few years ago was a director on the Victoria riding association. Parks said Elections Canada needs to look closely at the groups supporting Lunn. "It's the same kind of thing they were doing last time, except through a third party," he said. "It's the same schtick, just slightly different."

It's not clear the Conservatives broke the law, but it's worth investigating, he said. Among questions he would like to see looked into:

Were donors buying ads directly to help Lunn get around the spending limits of $92,000 per candidate in the riding? Did contributing this way allow the donors to avoid the $1,100 contribution limit? It is illegal for third parties to split into more than one organization in order to circumvent the limits. Would that apply in this case?

There is no hard evidence of wrong doing by any Conservative supporter in Lunn's riding, nor by Lunn himself.

More may become clear in four months when Lunn and the advertisers who supported him have to file their financial disclosures with Elections Canada.

On the other hand, said Parks, Hallsor's groups may file disclosures that don't tell the whole story. "It would take a warrant, a raid, to get those individuals' accounting records and find out where they got their money from," he said. "It's the same tactics. That's it. No change, no accountability, no transparency."
Did Gary Lunn's suddenly tightened election, as a result of the withdrawal of the NDP candidate, prompt such action? This may be a story to watch in the days to come.

A big clue on John Manley's leadership aspirations

This "Globe Round Table" podcast discussion, chaired by Edward Greenspon and published today, features among its panelists, John Manley. If you have a listen, I don't see how you come to the conclusion that Manley will be anteing up in the Liberal leadership. He speaks of there being obvious front runners, how anyone else coming in is clearly behind in the ground game, of the money required to run a "first-class" campaign being in the neighbourhood of $2 million. At $1100 limits per individual, he wonders about the effort needed to then properly fund such a campaign. He spoke about transparency being more important than the monetary limit.

The latter half of the podcast focusses on the issue of the dumbing down of politics and the media's role in facilitating it, if any. It was satisfying to hear Manley take Greenspon to task by criticizing the proliferation of anonymous sources, describing their use now as "pandemic." Manley also speaks of the "snapshot discussions" that are featured in politics now, as opposed to "thoughtful discussions," a dynamic fostered by the electronic media. He cites this as a worry for democracies, that it's quite difficult to get the public's attention on difficult issues. He makes comments about faulty education, a lack of history being taught in high schools, kids coming out of universities without proper economic understanding. All of which he says suggests a less informed and less educated electorate to which newspapers are catering. I may be a little crude in my characterization of that last point, but if you listen to the podcast, it's pretty close.

All of which suggests to me that it is either Manley drastically lowering expectations for his possible run or that it is what it is. A description of the obstacles he sees that will lead to the likely decision that he's not in. He just doesn't sound like a candidate if you give it a listen.

Khadr's Guantanamo trial could be delayed, again

The sad spectacle of the Khadr trial continues today with his defence team now requesting an indefinite delay as it has come to light that records to which they are entitled have not been provided while they are supposedly on the brink of a trial.
It was revealed in court Wednesday that the military's psychiatric records of Khadr during his past six years of incarceration still have not been given to the defence.
The new judge, who was called in to replace the somewhat defence sympathetic Judge Brownback, has become just the recent iteration of Brownback, seeing such prosecution failures and having to act accordingly in response. The reports suggest that Khadr's trial may be put off now to a date under a new president, raising questions about whether Khadr's Guantanamo trial will even occur at this point.

And the Canadian government, in the face of such abuses of process, continues to stand back and defer to this "judicial process" to the bitter end...

Rachel Maddow's show taking off

"A Fresh Face on Cable, Rachel Maddow Produces a Sharp Rise in MSNBC Ratings." Apparently Maddow is giving Larry King a run for his money in the ratings these days. Good for her! What a great addition she is to the news world for political junkies. I particularly liked this quote from the preceding story about her recent success:
While Mr. Olbermann watches Mr. O’Reilly’s show on a monitor embedded in his desk, Ms. Maddow insists that she has never watched either Mr. King’s program or the 9 p.m. program on Fox News, “Hannity & Colmes,” which garners more viewers than either of the other shows.

Partly, she said, that lack of competitive interest is an effort to remain original. “I worry every day about the homogenizing forces at work in my professional life,” she said, adding that it can be difficult to preserve creativity within cable’s production process. It helps, she said, that she does not own a television at home.
I think there is some wisdom in that approach, not trying to be something that others are, but doing what you do best. She clearly is.

Maddow is smart, liberal and a great communicator. She doesn't offend by being over the top (as some might say of Olbermann), likely expanding her viewership, and is respectful and thoughtful toward her guests, even when she disagrees with them. She's very quick to take on an issue as well, as she, and Olbermann, did by immediately challenging the Republican allegations of voter fraud last week. Seems to me that we need more of that from the liberal side of politics in Canada if our recent campaign is any indication. Where is the Canadian Keith Olbermann? The Canadian Rachel Maddow? They don't exist.

Here's a clip from last night that's kind of funny:



There you go, a good news type of story for you this a.m. for a change...:)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bernier for cabinet...a capital idea

L. Ian MacDonald makes a pitch for Maxime Bernier to be Harper's new Montreal minister. As a blogger always looking for new and entertaining material, I would wholeheartedly support this move:
This being said, there’s one other possibility for a minister for Montreal -- Maxime Bernier.

Don’t laugh. Though his roots are very much in the Beauce, Bernier’s professional network is in the city, from his days as an insurance executive to his time as executive vice-president of the Montreal Economic Institute, to his tenure as industry minister.

There is, of course, the slight matter of his resignation as foreign affairs minister last spring, where he failed to do his homework in a demanding portfolio, to say nothing of his inappropriate choice of company in Julie Couillard. Her kiss-and-tell memoir, published during the campaign, quotes him as saying Stephen Harper is an overweight junk-food addict who drinks Pepsi (actually, it’s Coke and Harper has since shed about 35 pounds).

The voters of Beauce made their own decision last week, re-electing Bernier with a majority of 25,000 votes, easily the largest in the province. In the Westminster tradition, they have given him a clean slate and it’s up to Harper to determine whether he deserves a second chance and whether he’d be vulnerable to a Commons committee circus over documents left at Julie’s place.
That last paragraph kind of smacks of a Bernier trial balloon through the Mulroney channels, doesn't it? Someone's lobbying for cabinet...

For the couldn't happen to a nicer guy file...

May there be many more such instances to come for Karl Rove as he travels the U.S.: "Protestor tries to arrest Rove in SF." Video here:



Worth a look for former Majority Leader George Mitchell putting Rove in his place at the end...:)

Give it a rest

What to say about this bit of wishful thinking? Not much, except read the comments made in reply. They do a nice job of stomping all over the argument offered.

But keep fomenting unrest, it looks quite unseemly. Any Liberal who took up Janke's implicit suggestion at this point, to attempt to push Dion out, would be met with responses like this one:
...Rae said Dion has a right to stay on, adding he didn't see his presence as "problematic" for potential leadership candidates.

"I think Mr. Dion is a leader who was elected by the convention," he said. "He won fair and square. He beat me and he beat Michael and beat others and he's there. He's just there.

"He's entitled to stay on as leader and to do his best in the House and to do the things that he wants to do as he makes his departure, and that's perfectly legitimate. That's fine."
Exactly. Enough already.

Chris Matthews interview yesterday



This Chris Matthews interview of Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is kind of hilarious...you can hear Matthews laughing in the background for the first few minutes. And he throws in a great Zell Miller zinger to boot...:)

The interview is about Michelle Bachmann, who is seriously backpedalling from her "anti-American" shtick on the Matthews show on Friday. Bob Herbert had a great response to that development in his column Monday.

One more big gift to his successor

The imbecile has decided to keep Gitmo open, doing nothing to prepare for its closure, despite rhetoric dating back to 2006 when Bush first raised the prospect of closing it. What an absolute shocker.
Despite his stated desire to close the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, President Bush has decided not to do so, and never considered proposals drafted in the State Department and the Pentagon that outlined options for transferring the detainees elsewhere, according to senior administration officials.

Mr. Bush’s top advisers held a series of meetings at the White House this summer after a Supreme Court ruling in June cast doubt on the future of the American detention center. But Mr. Bush adopted the view of his most hawkish advisers that closing Guantánamo would involve too many legal and political risks to be acceptable, now or any time soon, the officials said.

The administration is proceeding on the assumption that Guantánamo will remain open not only for the rest of Mr. Bush’s presidency but also well beyond, the officials said, as the site for military tribunals of those facing terrorism-related charges and for the long prison sentences that could follow convictions.

The effect of Mr. Bush’s stance is to leave in place a prison that has become a reviled symbol of the administration’s fight against terrorism, and to leave another contentious foreign policy decision for the next president.
Sure, why not. What's one more disaster to throw on the barbie for the next guy? Make no mistake about who's driving this legacy:
...administration officials say that even Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the most powerful advocates for closing the prison, have quietly acquiesced to the arguments of more hawkish advisers, including Vice President Dick Cheney.
As the article makes clear, the rationale for keeping it open is the difficulty in deciding what to do with the prisoners, where to put them in the U.S., or where to send them abroad. The danger posed by a number is cited as further rationale for its continued use. Making it all the more ridiculous that the lone Canadian, Omar Khadr, former child soldier, continues to sit there...we could easily take him and subject him to the Canadian justice system, thank you. Such progress could be made toward closing this abomination, but it's likely too big a pill of defeat for the Bush administration's hubris to swallow.

If Obama wins, however, his administration should know that if they want to send Khadr back to Canada, most Canadians would likely come to support it:
...while the topic is still seen a political hot potato due to the unpopularity of the Khadr family, grassroots support has been steadily growing over the last two months.

The Facebook site, "For the Immediate Release of Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay," has thousands of members and is reportedly the fifth most popular in Canada. Law students and young lawyers across the country are organizing panels, protests and petitions this week.

Unnamed Conservative party spokesman says Newfoundland can take a hike

Anonymous Conservatives speak too and not so high-mindedly. Just give them the opportunity and they rarely disappoint.

In response to the mayor of St. John's asking that Harper appoint a Newfoundland senator or some other individual to represent Newfoundland in cabinet, in the wake of no federal Conservative winning a seat in Newfoundland, we read this:
...an unnamed Conservative party spokesman said Newfoundlanders had their chance to send a message to the prime minister and have an elected member at the cabinet table.

"They spoke at the ballot box, and if they support and agree with the premier's message that it doesn't actually hurt them to not have someone at the cabinet table to speak for them, I don't see what would even spur this campaign on."
They just can't help themselves. Way to handle this request, Conservative high roader. Whatever you may think of the request from the mayor, coming in the wake of the clearly expressed intent of the Newfoundland voters, it wouldn't do the Conservatives any harm to refrain from punching such individuals in the gut. It makes it sound like they're really not so by-gonesy about Williams after all (having Junior call Williams a "mad hatter" the day before the supposed niceties are being exchanged doesn't help either)...and the we-told-you-so kind of attitude is a little annoying.

Harper/Cadman case update for Conservative donors wondering how their money is being spent

A few developments you may have missed given the election campaign and its aftermath...

1. First, back on September 5th, a Globe report revealed that in addition to the alleged $1 million life insurance policy offered to Chuck Cadman, there were another series of items alleged to have been offered:
Chuck Cadman was not only offered a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for helping bring down the Liberal government in 2005, but also a spot as the Conservative deputy justice critic, the late MP's widow has said, according to documents filed in court.

Dona Cadman says that when as-yet-unnamed operatives came to meet her husband on May 17, 2005 - two days before a key confidence vote that could have brought down the government - they were armed with a list of 10 incentives.

The list, she said, included the deputy justice critic position, as well as a promise to prioritize a piece of legislation on street racing - a topic very near to the MP's heart.

Again, leaving some of us to wonder how it is that Dona Cadman ran for and has now been elected as a Conservative MP. If someone approached your spouse with a request or some kind of offer, then your spouse was deeply angered by it, and spoke of these efforts to both you and your child just before the spouse died...it's difficult to comprehend how the surviving spouse then goes ahead and enters into a long-term political relationship with the people who so angered your spouse. But I suppose that's a moral dilemma we each have to resolve in our own way. Me, I wouldn't be so inclined. And for a lot of people out there, I imagine it's the same way. Which makes this case interesting and explains why the questions on this case won't be gong away, at least until it is resolved, one way or another. Particularly now that Dona Cadman is an MP, oddly sitting in Stephen Harper's caucus.

2. Further, we had Jodi Cadman writing a letter to the national media last week requesting an apology from Stephen Harper and James Moore over their trashing of Tom Zytaruk:

Re: Cadman Tape Not Doctored, PM's Audio Expert Says, Oct. 11.

I am happy to hear about the findings of the audio expert. I am especially happy for author Tom Zytaruk. He has been subjected to attacks on his character as well as on his professionalism based on Stephen Harper's --or more pointedly, MP James Moore's -- insistence that the tape was doctored. I think they owe Tom an apology.

Ironically, if this government had not been so quick to try to keep people in line and file lawsuits, we would not even be speaking about this now. Instead, the Conservatives need to explain this finding by their own expert, and how it differs from their very public position that the tape was altered. They can try and spin the fact that it was recorded in two parts, though Tom has acknowledged this from the beginning and has explained why.

I know this does not lay to rest all of the controversy about "who knew what" and I'm sure that it will never be resolved, but it does at least solidify my thoughts and feelings about the current top ranking people in the Conservative Party of Canada. I am not naive enough to think that spin and even outright dishonesty are inherent characteristics of the Conservative party. The Liberal party has had its fair share of scandal over the last decade too. Is it any wonder the public has become so apathetic?

I think that a lot of changes at the top may need to happen before I can happily mark an X for the Conservatives again. And once again, watching this behaviour and game-playing makes me miss Dad even more.

Jodi Cadman, Vancouver.

Asked about the letter on Monday, Dona Cadman declined to discuss it. Marking the second time in a week she's refused to speak about anything having to do with the alleged offers to her deceased spouse on the grounds that the subject matter of the case is before the courts.

3. We also witnessed Harper breaking his silence to the media at the end of the campaign last week, making a big show of his team leaking the Liberal expert report on the Cadman tape to the media. Harper believes that the Liberal expert report helps him, and this was his effort to ensure he was on the record about it just as the election came to a close. On close examination of the CP report, however, it's not so clear that the Liberal expert helps his cause much either.

Recall that the key part of the tape occurs within the first minute and a half or so. The Liberal hired expert confirmed that part of the tape is intact, similar to the finding of the Harper-hired expert.
Crucially, Hollien said there was no indication from his study of the tape that the first 48 seconds of the interview a B.C. author conducted with Harper after Cadman's death in late 2005 had been changed.

It is during that portion of the interview with Cadman's biographer, Tom Zytaruk, that Harper addresses Zytaruk's question about a $1-million life insurance policy Cadman's widow claimed two Conservatives had offered her late husband in return for opposing the Liberals in a 2005 confidence vote in the Commons.

When Zytaruk asks Harper about the insurance policy, Harper replies: "I don't know the details, I know that um, there were discussions, um, but this is not for publication?" Zytaruk says he is asking Harper the question for a biography he was writing about Cadman, and Harper replies: "This is for the book. Um, I don't know the details, I can tell you that I told, ah, ah, the individuals, I mean, they wanted to do it, but I told them they were wasting their time".

Harper has testified in a cross-examination in his libel suit that during that portion of his exchange with Zytaruk he told the journalist he knew nothing about an offer of a $1-million insurance policy to Cadman.

But Hollien and a former FBI agent Harper hired as a forensic expert to back his lawsuit against the Liberals both say that portion of the interview appears intact. (emphasis added)
Harper ignored this inconvenient fact and on the eve of the election sought to hitch his wagon to conclusions that do not detract from the previous finding, that his key words remain intact. Here's the part Harper likes:
"It would appear that this recording is not an original, but rather a copy," said Hollien.

His analysis of the tape in some ways matches that of former FBI agent Bruce Koenig, who said in his a report filed in Ontario Superior Court last week, that the first minute and 41 seconds of the tape was original.
He also said the last minute or so was an over-recording of a subsequent exchange between Harper and Zytaruk.

"Even though it can be argued that several sections can be considered complete in and of themselves, and hence the evidence they contain accepted as reliable, those parts that are missing could include information that counters such inferences," Hollien stated.
So, again, both experts confirm that the key aspects of Mr. Harper on the tape are intact. Yet Harper said this to Global BC on October 12th:

In the Global BC interview, Harper said some parts were doctored and others were not. However, "a doctored tape is a doctored tape," he said.

"These various expert reports disagree on some details. . . . They all agree the tape has been significantly doctored and that's a fact."

This was a very self-serving conclusion spinning the report to his advantage. The two expert reports, Liberal and Conservative, both actually agree on some very essential details, namely the undisturbed part of the tape that is the crucial part containing Mr. Harper speaking. If anything, all Harper has to latch on to are unknown missing parts for which we are presumably to take his word at this point. And about that possibility...

We also have to keep in mind that Zytaruk claims the tape we've heard is all there is to it and that he has not done anything to it. He has yet to testify. Harper put off Zytaruk's testimony due to the election. So it was disingenuous for Prime Minister Harper to be peddling spin about the tape on the eve of the election without that step having occurred and where the Harper team has in effect prevented Zytaruk from giving his evidence.

It's also worth remembering that the Prime Minister is also the plaintiff in this lawsuit and on October 12th, in speaking to the media, he was self-servingly attempting to manipulate media coverage of it to his own advantage, issuing conclusions about the meaning of the expert reports. Leading us to wonder how the judge is going to appreciate such remarks as the case resumes.

We might also recall that Dona Cadman, Conservative MP, testified under oath that Mr. Zytaruk played the original tape for her immediately after he conducted his original interview with Mr. Harper. She testified that in her view, the tape she heard then is the same as the one that Harper still maintains is doctored now.

Mr. Harper was clearly spinning on the eve of the election. Not surprising given the position these experts have put him in. It appears, however, that his key words on the tape remain undisturbed. People can make their own judgments on that. And I suppose at some point, the judge in this case will as well.

I sincerely hope Conservative party donors - and the general public who also pay for Conservative party expenses - are enjoying how their money is being spent.