Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Frère Jacques...

There are some questions for you today. Lawrence Martin asks: "Are the NDP more Bloc than the Bloc?"

Claude Morin has a shopping list of questions along similar lines too. Not surprisingly, he's a bit more specific in his approach.

What is that saying? I mean, it's early going in the post-election world and all, so we'll see how this develops. But the cat is among the pigeons...or something like that, comes to mind.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Late night



Amy Poehler at Hahvad.

"Like winning bingo on the Titanic"

Briony Penn, 2008 Liberal candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands with some post-election thoughts:
On the evening of May 2, along with the majority of Canadians, I was stunned. “Like winning bingo on the Titanic” was the saying that captured the mood of progressive islanders. Saanich–Gulf Islands had made history by electing the first Green Member of Parliament in Canada, while NDP undergrads fresh out of McGill were heading off to Ottawa as the official opposition. But as one of my friends remarked, it was a homeo- pathic remedy for a very serious illness—that of a Conservative majority.
Now that the dust has settled, I have come to realize that young Canadians have been handed an opportunity—one that is larger than the tar sands and more exciting than being in a crowd with a cellphone in Cairo.
...
First, let’s consider the Liberals. The progressive MPs from the federal Liberals left standing—Justin Trudeau, Carolyn Bennett, Bob Rae, Stephane Dion, etc—won with solid margins. All of them share an interesting quality: they are biculturalists. By that I mean they are people who know what it is like to live, work and breathe in different cultures, whether it is political, cultural, generational or physical.
They are also capable of bringing people together in a hostile partisan environment. I got to know these men and women and liked them—a lot. They were kind and recognized what I had to bring as an outsider and a neophyte to party politics.
One piece of under-reported news from the election was that Stephane Dion won his seat with 43 percent of the vote. Sometimes good ideas and ethics just can’t be squashed no matter how many attack ads you throw at them. Remember that it was Stephane Dion who enabled Elizabeth May to participate in the televised leaders’ debate in the 2008 election and supported her in many other ways. And it was Stephane Dion who asked me to run in Saanich and the Gulf Islands and supported a platform that raised the possibility of bringing all three progressive voices—Green, NDP and Liberal—together in one candidate to beat the incumbent Tory. That attempt very nearly succeeded and created the foundation upon which Elizabeth May built her May 2 victory.

Of the fallen Liberal MPs and their riding associations, there’s an appetite now like never before to listen to and mentor a new generation of politicians. There’s nothing like failure to teach us a lesson. Michael Ignatieff is a teacher first and foremost, and he’s left politics for a position where he will help young Canadians learn about politics. The Conservatives might yet regret the day they lost Ignatieff to the classroom, where his formidable intellect and experience will be unleashed on the next generation of young political aspirants.
And it isn’t just Ignatieff who is open to sharing his experiences. In the riding associations, I met a generation of people highly committed to democracy who had entered politics during Trudeau’s time when they were fighting for multiculturalism and the rights of aboriginals and women. These are people who are passionate about their ideals, but who also know how to run an election, develop policy, canvas, and keep a democracy functioning. They, too, are ready to pass their skills on. A young person walking in the door of one of these riding associations now will probably be welcomed with open arms and get a free political education, as well as an opportunity to shape the party.
...
The Conservatives are now unleashed and will express their values with a cleaner precision than in the past five years. For young people wanting to be engaged in determining their future, there is less room in the Conservative party than anywhere else. There’s only one voice in that camp. It is Stephen Harper’s government, after all, and you are either for him or against him. That leaves a whole lot of young people with nowhere to go but this big, new fertile ground called Canada’s opposition. I predict the Conservatives will ignite indignation and reverse youthful apathy like never before as they continue to ignore the needs of the next generation on a range of issues: environment, education, child care, poverty, women’s rights, First Nations, and the arts.
A turning point has come. I first noticed it at an all candidates debate held at the high school where my 15-year-old son attends Grade 10. He’s a regular sort of kid who plays a lot of soccer, hangs out with his friends, and likes YouTube. A thousand people turned up for the debate, and amongst them was his soccer team. He and his friends queued in the long line-up to ask questions. They were great questions, covering all the issues. I had no idea they had even been listening for the last five years, let alone wanting to venture into an arena that was populated by those they likely saw as old, boring or angry people (my sons noticed the moustaches and penises drawn on their mother’s face during the previous federal election campaign). Politics changed last month. The fire is in their bellies and it will only grow.
There are some thoughts there about the NDP and Green parties too that are worth a look.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rae interview on Radio-Canada



Rae is interviewed on Les coulisses du pouvoir. He speaks of a culture of division, a lack of solidarity within the Liberal party that is dangerous, about how Liberals differ from the Conservatives and NDP and finally in the last two minutes or so, that are probably the most interesting here, about Quebecers' choice of the NDP that gelled during the second half of the campaign.

I like to hear laughter during an interview. To me, it means the person is enjoying himself.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

We're all in this together...except when it's bad for business

Totally agree with Patrick Lagacé this morning. There are 500 Canadian troops at present in the Richelieu River valley. Peter MacKay toured the area yesterday. He and the federal government have been asked to have the troops stay to help the people clean up after the flooding subsides. As Lagacé points out, they do seem to be available and it is a dire situation for the people there. Vic Toews' ideological rationale for rejecting the troops staying to assist just misses the mark:
"As you can appreciate, the role of the Canadian Forces is principally based on defence activities and, as a result, they must maintain a capacity to act in that regard when events occur in other provinces or overseas," Toews told Robert Dutil.

"Furthermore, the services you're asking for -- if they were authorized -- would place the Canadian Forces in competition with the private sector, at the local or provincial level, which could perform this type of repair work."
Come on, Conservatives, priorities. The SOS Richelieu committee is looking for 5,000 people to help the clean-up. Why can't the Forces help rather than be restrained by this nonsensical constraint?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Obama at Westminster



He's getting his mojo back! Man, that guy knows how to deliver a speech. Said for the thousandth time...

You go, Bob


(source)

A little bit of hope after a tough month. Bob Rae is now officially confirmed as Liberal interim leader.
"That means our party has to become, which it has always been at its best, a bit of a movement, a movement for change, a movement for progress, a movement for things that we believe in," he said.

Rae said Canadians sent Liberals a "tough message" in the spring election.

"It's a message that we have received and we have understood," Rae said. "We know that we have a lot of rebuilding to do, we know that we have a lot of work to do."
I hope everyone gives him support now and we move on to focus on more constructive things and re-connecting with Canadians.

Tory leadership selection politics, an ongoing saga

Leadership selection rules are making a bit of a splash on the Conservative scene at the moment. Two MPs, Reid and Kenney, are said to be pushing for a rule change in the leadership selection process that would allot greater voting power to the big riding associations with more members, i.e., the western ridings. On the other side of the argument are Peter MacKay and now Hugh Segal voicing his support, both seeking to maintain the status quo and an equal regime among the associations across the country that won't discriminate against the smaller sized associations.

It is the beginning of a majority mandate for Harper and so it seems funny to have this rise to the fore now. Particularly when many are speaking of his tenure as reaching possibly beyond this majority mandate into a second given the powers accruing to him as PM and the political landscape he presides over. So does someone know something we don't? Or is this a "just in case" rule change being undertaken in order to get it out of the way for whenever that leadership race comes? They did try to change these leadership selection rules in a similar manner at their November '08 convention and the effort failed then. So this just may be the regular kick at the can as convention time rolls around. One of these tries it just might pass. It's interesting that it seems to be an issue with staying power, showing how the western Reformers still butt heads with the eastern Progressive Conservative types.

How this one gets resolved at the upcoming June convention will likely be a function of whether you-know-who wants it to pass. If it did pass, it would possibly signal the start of something leadership wise, very early rumblings, quiet efforts and possibly a blessing in the general direction of a successor from the larger riding power base. If not, it's likely a signal everyone should gird themselves for a very long haul with you-know-who.

By the way, combing through the blog archives, found this reminder on how open this convention is likely to be to the media who could relate how such issues are playing among the Conservative folk. Not. Very.

Not clear enough, Jack

Don't mess with the hard-fought clarity rules on secession, please:
New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton found himself embroiled in the riptides of Quebec constitutional politics Tuesday after he avoided publicly reaffirming his own party’s position that 50 per cent plus one is all that is needed for Quebec to separate from Canada.

Instead, Layton put the focus on the much vaguer criteria set out by the Supreme Court of Canada — that a clear majority of Quebecers have to vote in favour of a clear question for Quebec to be able to declare sovereignty.

The Supreme Court decision was accepted by the two sides of this discussion. I think this decision is the base to determine a result,” said Layton, refusing to give an exact number that would be required.
The base to determine a result? Elsewhere, as a result of differing translations I take it, it's reported that he referred to the court decision as "context" or as a "guide." There's a statute that does all this, however, the Clarity Act, and the NDP having voted for it will be pressed to hold to it. It's ok to mention the Act, you know. Strong federalists will be pressing them on it, that's for sure. Their party policy, the Sherbrooke Declaration contradicts the terms of the Clarity Act ("It says the NDP would respect a 50-per-cent-plus-one decision of Quebecers in the event of a referendum “on the political status of Quebec.”). There are more expansive considerations in the Clarity Act for assessing a referendum's result, for starters. You don't even get to the point of assessing a referendum's result if the question is not clear. And there are a bunch of considerations to be made there as well before any determinations on a question's clarity will be arrived at.

As Layton saw yesterday, reconciling the two positions is a difficulty the NDP is going to have to face. There are provincial politics coming in Quebec that will ensure it and there is a federal law in place that he theoretically supports.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blog notes - Tuesday, May 24th

For the life of me, I can't come up with a blog post title that expresses that I just want to include a number of items, briefly and that has some kind of appeal. It just never comes to me. Oh well. It's only been about six years I've been writing this thing. Maybe next week...onwards! So what's doing today...

1. Who had a worse week? Peter MacKay? Or was it...Peter MacKay? Yeah, I think it was Peter MacKay: "One military expert told me with the Afghanistan mission winding down, the real power and most important action in the years to come with the defence department is in the re-booting of it and that responsibility has been handed to Fantino."

2. Good work, boys! That may be a very necessary piece of equipment! At least something is going well with those things.

3. Who's the most popular guy in the PPG today? This guy! Give 'em heck, Lawrence!

4. Aw, the Globe has a crush. Ezra Klein and others don't.

5. Tim Powers is earning his spin stripes this week. This too is a head turner - for Canadian political junkies, anyway, no one else would know who the heck we're talking about - on Van Loan's reappointment as House Leader aka demotion: "Conservative strategist Tim Powers, vice-president of Summa Strategies, told The Hill Times last week that Mr. Van Loan was appointed as the government's House leader because he had previous experience, and "got good reviews" on his performance. "If you remember, his profile started to rise originally when he was in that role. He's reprising that role again. He did it pretty well," Mr. Powers said." Funnily enough, I said the exact opposite last week in surprisingly similar language.

6. Have you been following the big brouhaha over the LinkedIn IPO? If not, it's evoked a bit of a debate on valuations and whether or not the baddies on Wall Street have indeed been bad again. Joe Nocera got it fired up on the weekend, building on Henry Blodget's item. There was some counter reaction and now Felix Salmon has an analysis today that covers all the ground. I think he's got it about right. Nocera & Blodget were indeed on to something in that the best client buds of Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley did make out like bandits by being in on the ground floor on what turned out to be a very underpriced valuation and that is something that doesn't sit right. It warranted that closing "just in it for themselves" line from Nocera on Wall Street not having learned from the financial crisis. But on the other hand, valuations are inexact, especially a newbie social media company like this one. And really, the valuation is now set high and that will be valuable going forward for the company, even if they didn't bank more at the front end. Well, essentially that's some of what he said but in a much more economically credible fashion. Plus, link to bonus LinkedIn limerick that cleverly says it all.

7. Since it's a short week, Wednesday is creeping up quickly. I think the Libs pick a new interim tomorrow. And the NDP are also starting two days of meetings. Wonder which will get more attention...hmmm.

Have a good morning!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A U.S. shift to more reality-based journalism?

This really is a brilliant little post. Pointing to a "pro-reality" shift in U.S. media away from years of the press giving Republicans freedom to roam with "delusional" ideas such as birtherism, climate change denialism and their economic theories in particular. This shift of late, which is seeing the Republicans get a harder time from typically Republican friendly outlets, is said to have become more marked recently in the wake of a number of events, including Obama releasing his long-form birth certificate, the killing of bin Laden, another significant climate change report's release, #rapturefail and the current economic debates in the U.S. that feature irresponsible Republican ideas. Suffice it to say, it's an optimistic post for those of us on the progressive side.

Optimistic for those of us beyond American borders too. Here's an interesting point made about what it might mean, say, to northern neighbours that witness a lot of this brewing conservative theory down south only to hear echoes here, as if a signal has been received from the mother ship that legitimizes its correctness and green lights importation to our fair nation:
What of the implications beyond the US? In all the English-speaking countries, there is a large section of the conservative commentariat (most obviously, but not exclusively, the Murdoch Press) whose business consists mostly of importing and retailing Republican/conservative/propertarian ideas. If these ideas become the subject of consistent ridicule in their home, they will be steadily harder to sell abroad.
That is a pleasant thought. In the meantime, check out the fallout in Australia at the moment where a Koch tea party-trained organizer is drumming things up over climate change action and their politics is said to have become more toxic than ever, drawing inspiration from the U.S. The opposition leader is playing tea party populist too. The U.S. toxin travels, no doubt about that.

For those who think, well, at least the Harper Conservatives aren't as bad as the Republican delusionals, they're not discrediting anyone's birth certificate or anything..."Just Visiting" was another form of birtherism, just by degrees, really. Both campaigns were about creating the less patriotic alien enemy. Then, you can go down the line with the Harper Conservative shtick, think about all the experts they choose to ignore, think about the unreal scale of attack politics executed over the past five years, think about climate change action obstructionism, and yes, think about the disputed economic plans of this government who believe they can cut their way back out of a structural deficit and who have imported holus-bolus the American anti-tax orthodoxy.

If the mother ship breeding ground for Conservative think becomes more discredited, it may have some impact here. That would require a whole other analysis of the state of Canadian media, however, and where might some of that heightened scrutiny of Harper policy come from. Maybe some other day. Anyway, it will be interesting to see whether this supposed shift in the U.S. is sustained. The CT post might be a tad optimistic but it's worth noting.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday notes

A good read today from Doug Saunders:"Why did all the West’s big centrist parties go down the drain?" A useful comparative piece that suggests there are larger issues at play with the demise of many of these parties in addition to nation-specific factors. Something for Liberals to digest along with all the other analyses of late.

Second, it has been confirmed that yes, the budget will bring the axe to the political party subsidies. Joel Denis Bellavance says the government will follow through on the campaign promise of a three year transition period (phase in period, but not three years specifically, also confirmed here). Guess we'll see how fair that transition will be.

Lastly, there is a sensible letter here by some Quebec Liberals on the need for party renewal and also on the interim party leadership issue.

Have a nice long weekend Saturday morning!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday night



I go with something fun and light this week. Have a good night!

Behold another power accruing to the PM

Kudos to Boris for keeping a watch on the PM and his (and other cabinet members) creeping tendency to wear military garb. It may seem like a small thing, but this is how symbolism is being used to reinforce a presidential aura around this PM. Lawrence Martin had an excellent piece today, "Behold the most powerful PM ever," describing the powerful advantages accruing to Harper in this era, some out of his own political calculus (divided opposition), some a windfall (Conservative supporting media). This creeping commander-in-chiefism bears watching too as another bullet point to add to the list. It's beyond the garb, seen previously in the meddling in the honours/awards realm and on one Canada Day, a salute. Again, these seem like small things when viewed in isolation but eventually they add up and paint a presidential picture for the public who will see it on the nightly news.

Having said all that, it is commendable that the PM has been active in visiting the flooded areas in Manitoba and today visited the Slave Lake devastation to demonstrate empathy and support on behalf of all Canadians. But neither warrant the civilian PM being in military related attire.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rae for interim leader

Confirms he will run for interim leader in a statement that is unifying and optimistic:
Colleagues and friends,

I want to advise you that I am willing to let my name stand for the position of interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. It is my understanding that this issue will be discussed by the caucus on May 25, 2011, and by the national board of the Liberal Party before the deadline of May 30.

After the worst election defeat in our history, it is vital that we come together as a party, and engage directly with Canadians about what matters to them. The pursuit of social justice and a sustainable prosperity in a united Canada has to remain our focus. We cannot afford to get caught up in internal wrangling.

Canadians want a progressive party that is committed to building the country. At our best we can be that party. We have to be the party that can take the country forward.

The task facing us is great, but you know I am a “glass half full” person. We have a talented and hardworking caucus in both the House and the Senate. We have much goodwill in the country. There is a strong need for a party that is not caught in the trap of ideological excess. We need to use the talents of every member of the Liberal team right across the country.

I shall abide by any rules about the interim leadership, agreed to by the caucus and the Board. I have made it a watchword of my time in public life to practice the politics of unity and principled compromise. I shall continue to do so.

The party has to make a choice between having a leadership convention soon, and having a period of rebuilding and then a leadership 18-24 months from now. I favour the second option, and that is the context within which I would accept the appointment as Interim Leader. If this longer period is agreed to, it is my understanding that the exact timing of the leadership election will be recommended by the caucus to the national board.

I look forward to discussing these issues with you in the days ahead.

Hon. Bob Rae

MP for Toronto Centre
With emphasis added above to one of the key messages.

Additionally, despite some talk about a future run for permanent leadership, should he do well as interim, he's ruling that out explicitly: “I’m not planning to run for the long-term leadership.”[...] A permanent leader has “got to be prepared to commit to a decade and it’s a decade of work. I think that’s obviously a factor in my decision, as it would be in anybody’s decision.” Partly why putting a leadership race well down the road is a good idea. Candidates committed to a long haul need to have appropriate time to consider taking on such a major challenge.

I also agree with the key Jim Munson comments here: “We need to be on the page and I think he recognized that he was the person that had to be on the front page, had to be talking about what those of us who believe in the party feel.”

Marc Garneau is still in the running for interim leader, let's not forget, although it does appear Rae has a lot of support among the MP caucus and the Senators. Hopefully this will be resolved by the 25th and the party can get to work and put some of the leadership distractions behind it.

Governance conundrums & other notes

1. I would smile if I were this guy too. Very smart social networking site that gets the short shrift in comparison to the Twitters, the Facebooks.

2. An interesting international governance conundrum demonstrating how important succession rules are. Now that DSK has resigned as IMF Managing Director, all eyes turn to the process. Paul Martin has come out strongly for a merit based succession, as rational governing types of long ago Canadian eras would be expected to advocate, rather than sustaining the tradition of Europe leading the IMF. There's talk of that evolution, with other emerging nations floating names (Turkey, Singapore, Israel) but it seems that the French finance minister, Christine Lagarde is the front runner and yes, European successor. Despite the touting of Carney by Canadians, there seems to be little mention of him as an option in the world press. A prediction on how succession will work? "...the leadership of the IMF and the World Bank will be decided through “political agreement, behind the scenes.

3. Associated Press covers the John Baird promotion, here's some of what the U.S. would have seen:
Canada’s new top diplomat has a reputation for being hyper-partisan. He often escorts Harper’s wife, Laureen, to official events when Harper can’t make it.
...
Baird, 41, oversaw how Canada spent its stimulus money during the global economic downturn. He has also served as a minister in Ontario provincial politics. He has little international experience.
4. There was an indication from Flaherty yesterday that the political subsidies may be in the budget about to be brought back before parliament:
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Wednesday he will reintroduce the 2011 budget in June, and that it will "fundamentally" resemble the document unveiled before a national election was sparked. Flaherty added that the budget will include some promises made during the election campaign, but didn't elaborate. Among the possible measures is a multi-billion-dollar compensation deal for the French-speaking province of Quebec related to a harmonized sales tax, and a promise to scrap a taxpayer-financed subsidy for political parties.
Recall that Harper rather explicitly promised a phasing in period of three years during the campaign, with consultation:
The Conservative leader said on Friday he would not cut the subsidy without discussing a transition plan with the other political parties to phase out the program.

"For the transition on the subsidy, we have in mind a transition of three years," Harper said.

"We will talk about what idea they may have in that regard. This is where we want to go and where we think voters want us to go."
A promise designed to make him look reasonable about it during the campaign. If they are intent on bringing in the subsidy changes in the budget, a document they don't appear to be consulting on, then either the three year transition period as promised will be in the budget or we'll see something else that is...less.

5. The latest on Liberal party issues from Canadian Press: "Liberals eye fall of 2012 for choosing successor to Ignatieff." Fall 2012 seems better than summer 2012. Summer next year means campaigns will start gearing up shortly. If the party is supposed to be all about rebuilding now it makes sense to put off leadership for a period which allows that to happen. For those processes to be given priority (note the NB Liberals process for e.g.). Some might even say summer 2013 is better, I've heard that. But clearly there are those advocating even for the fall of this year. Which is why it would be good if everyone could vote on the date, i.e., choose from multiple dates, at that fast approaching special convention to be held this June. Contact your riding association for details on the day and mechanics of delegate selection.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Documenting the atrocities

First, a few choice words from John Ivison who has an angle that may bear fruit in coming years. Yes, years.
The line from the Harper government was this a new ministry that will govern for all Canadians – particularly, it seems, those Canadians who voted en masse for the Conservatives for the first time. The Cabinet included new faces from a range of faiths and ethnicities, including Joe Oliver, a Jewish former investment dealer from Toronto, as the new Natural Resources minister; Tim Uppal from Edmonton as the new Minister of State for Democratic Reform; Alice Wong from Richmond as the new Minister of State for Seniors; and Bal Gosal from Bramalea as the new Minister of State for Sport.

Such blatant pandering is understandable, given the Tories’ electoral success, but it is unlikely to sit well with the legions of Tory MPs (I counted 86) who have been waiting patiently on the backbenches for their chance to shine. Two pale male veterans – Rob Merrifield and Rob Moore – were demoted to free up room for the new appointments.

As one person with inside knowledge of the Tory caucus put it: “I think the issue is now all the egos sitting on the backbenches. The bitching won’t start until the fall – everyone will be too impressed with their new Blackberries and travel points. But wait for it.”

This may, in part, explain why Mr. Bernier is back in Cabinet. Anyone with leadership ambitions and time on their hands could find fertile ground to sow discontent in the coming years.
The "enemy within." Well, we can use all the help we can get.

Other follow-up notes...

Here's the full list of the shuffle. Many of the "big" names stay where they were.

Tony Clement is the new Minister of Axe, he lands at Treasury Board. Not so surprising.

Kenney stays at Citizenship, Immigration & Multiculturalism. Four more years of curry and likely cultivation of leadership chits!

Van Loan returns to Government House Leader, reprising his former role that he played to limited acclaim.

Ritz stays in Agriculture and the dismantling of the Wheat Board is in high gear.

What else...Joe Oliver, Harvard man, becomes Natural Resources Minister. A file that Christian Paradis bumbled his way through, it may as well be given to a newbie.

Bev Oda undeservedly stays in International Cooperation. Landslide Raitt stays in Labour. Rona keeps Status of Women as a part time hobby. Aglukkaq stays in Health. Finley stays at HR. That's essentially the female face of the Harper government effort.

Moore stays in Heritage. Kent stays in Environment, zzzzzzz. Nicholson stays in Justice to oversee the coming omnibus crime bill extravaganza.

Fantino becomes Associate Minister of F-35s Defence, a new junior sidekick for MacKay.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's your Harper Majority Cabinet™2011. Enjoy!

Baird to Foreign Affairs & other shuffle notes

The last time I wrote one of these cabinet shuffle posts I was angrily and ceremoniously unfollowed by a guy on Twitter. Apparently I was being "disrespectful" to the Prime Minister who was in the midst of a lengthy prorogation and yet who had suddenly become a hero on the Haiti file according to this chap. My view then that the Harper cabinet is largely about one person, Mr. Harper, did not go over so well. That still seems to be a legitimate view to me, however, proven over much time now. Long story short, I will do my best to live up to that precedent and garner another unfollow with this...

Baird to Foreign Affairs. My. What is Canada coming to these days. Well, you can't blame Harp, really. Baird is the best he's got - relatively speaking - and the U.S. file is quite important to him right about now. And always. That Security Perimeter deal in particular just might be shaping up to be some kind of legacy thing for Harper. Further, the U.S. is on to his whole partisan act. The Arctic Sovereignty pageantry has been recognized for what it is by the 'Merkins and they really were quite humorous in the way they went about dissing on it in the back channels. Not so funny if you're Harp though. So Mr. Fixit is on the way!

With the tremendous gift of the gab. Not sold, in this corner, on the merits of the speed talker as diplomatic ingenue, however. Has he suddenly taken an interest in world affairs? Is there some heft in his background that makes him a natural choice for such a post? Is he a budding Axworthy? Nope, probably not.

In fact, if we recall Baird's achievements on the international stage during the Harper era, one of the standout moments has to be his obstructionist performance at Bali. The climate change concerned world will no doubt be intrigued then by his reemergence as Foreign Affairs Minister. Secondly, Baird is the one who was instrumental in getting Harp to go with the stance that saw us booted from Camp Mirage in the UAE at a cost of hundreds of needless millions. Already displaying he had Harper's ear on foreign matters, over defence concerns, for example. On both counts, living up to that bull in a china shop kind of thing he has going on.

But...these are not normal times when such matters would work against him. Not in Harper's Canada. So it's onwards to Foreign Affairs. Assuming all this reportage is correct, that is.

Other things that will be interesting to watch today...

Who "gets" the Environment portfolio. Oh, wait. See above. And it's likely to stay with Kent, who has an ability to keep people in a somnambulant state. Suited for that ministry given that even today, reputable voices in the U.S. are characterizing climate change action as an "enormous long shot." And we all know what our motto on this file is. As the U.S. goes, so goes Canada.

Where on earth does the force known as Jason Kenney end up? Surely he's eaten enough curry by now and is due a promotion to....Treasury? Harp doesn't dare. Does he? Or Heritage maybe? Or does Moore stay there.

Mad Max to swing the axe at Treasury? Harp doesn't dare. Does he?

Who "gets" Status of Women. Will there be a full time minister or will Rona keep it as a part time hobby?

Flaherty remains at Finance. Lord. It's gonna be a long four years.

Well, I think I'm all tapped out on the interest level. I did my best.

To be updated later if events warrant or anything remotely interesting happens.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Opposing the Lawful Access legislation

The folks over at OpenMedia.ca are starting up a campaign to engage Canadians on the Harper government's proposed lawful access legislation, likely to come back before Parliament when it returns in early June. It is supposed to be part of that 100 day omnibus bill extravaganza of justice related bills promised by Harper during the campaign, although it's not clear how the summer break factors into that one. I suggest heading over to their site to read up, they've got some of the concerns about the bill highlighted: "Internet Surveillance: How Do We Stop It?" Further, they're looking for input on what kind of campaign might be effective, building on their recent successful Stop the Meter campaign.

There's just no way this bill should be rammed through a majority Parliament without proper legislative diligence being undertaken. As you can see from below, they've been talking about this legislation for a while but they've never given it time to get through parliament. They introduced it in the summer of 2009 on the second last day of the session, for example, and the 2010 Harper prorogation further stalled his own crime bill efforts. So there remain a good number of concerns about privacy rights, the potential for abuse of warrantless production demands by police and other unanswered questions that need to be addressed in the lawful access bill, despite the Conservative talking points likely to come. The majority situation will make public opinion all the more important in ensuring that those significant concerns actually do get scrutiny and hopefully reined in.

Other related posts:
Harper's aggressive internet surveillance push
Coming soon to an internet near you
June, 2009: Conservatives to introduce their internet eavesdropping bill today
Feb, 2009: Still shuddering

Monday, May 16, 2011

Harp will no doubt take note

He may have help as he seeks that $4 billion in cuts:
The clout of these and other advocates for government unions could be significant in the coming battle over departmental budgets. Harper has vowed to find $4 billion a year in cuts to direct federal spending, not including transfers to the provinces and individuals. Dewar says the NDP is sure to oppose any job cuts proposed to achieve those reductions. But he argues the NDP is uniquely positioned to try to bring government unions into discussions about saving money without shrinking the bureaucracy. “We can actually talk to public sector unions,” he says, “about finding ways to innovate.” And doing more than merely combatting restraint at every turn, he adds, will be vital to solidifying the NDP’s election gains. “The stereotype,” Dewar says, “is that we’ll just oppose cuts and that’s it.”
I for one will be watching with interest the new cooperative era between the Conservative axe wielders and the NDP innovators.

Economy, economy, economy

Throne speech June 3rd:
“The throne speech will be focussed on the priority of Canadians - the economy,” said a senior official. “Canadians elected us because we were focussed on their priorities: their jobs, their financial security and their future.”
Is that all Canada is about these days? My.

They're always missing something, these Conservatives. They got no heart, baby. No heart. The economy is important, of course. But Canadians care about so much more than this. That is where opportunity lies.

Republicans evolving their anti-tax obsession

These indications are notable as the U.S. Congress grapples with its debt problem:
Republicans are working hard to enforce their no-tax-increase-ever orthodoxy, but there are signs that the dam is beginning to break. On April 7, former Reagan budget director Dave Stockman said, “It is simply unrealistic to say that raising revenue isn’t part of the solution. It’s a measure of how far off the deep end Republicans have gone with this religious catechism about taxes.”

On April 17, former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, who has been the Republican Party’s leading economist since the 1960s, said that raising revenues to deal with the debt is imperative and recommended letting all the Bush tax cuts expire. As he put it on Meet the Press, “I think this crisis is so imminent and so difficult that we have to allow the so-called Bush tax cuts all to expire [and] put the rates back to where they were in the Clinton administration.”

Even those representing the GOP’s conservative wing are starting to question the party’s anti-tax obsession. On April 19, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told his radio audience, “I never understood when it became a mark of conservatism to run up debt on your children’s credit card instead of biting the bullet and paying your own bills.” He further noted, correctly, that Ronald Reagan supported many tax increases in the 1980s.

There is some evidence that House Republicans are starting to get the message that their tax position is crumbling. On May 11, a senior Republican staffer told Atlantic reporter Derek Thompson that his party’s position on taxes is intellectually dishonest. “There are two worlds,” the aide said. “One world is political and the sole objective is to maintain party message. The other world is real and in the real world fixing the deficit is a matter of national survival. When you get down to the real world decisions, it’s not about whether to raise taxes; it’s about the ratio of spending to revenue increases.”

Press reports say that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad is preparing a budget resolution that will propose a 50-50 split of higher taxes, including a surtax on millionaires, and spending cuts to reduce the deficit. With the Republican zero tax increase option rapidly falling apart, a workable deal might be put together in which there are $2 of spending cuts for every $1 of tax increase.
I would normally say as the Republicans go, so may go Canadian Conservatives given how much of their agenda is imported from the U.S. But I wouldn't hold my breath in the near future. We are not where the Americans are in terms of our debt being a question of national economic peril, no matter how historically large and how structural our present deficit situation is. It is pressing. And it is still a mystery as to how the Conservatives will hack $4 billion a year from $80 billion of pretty firmly committed government spending.

We are, however, nearer to the beginning of our ride on that failed American orthodoxy under a Conservative majority government.

Builders and deathers

What this guy said:
It is time for the media and the professional pundits to calm down and take a few days off before declaring the Liberal Party of Canada dead on arrival. Someone please force them to turn off Twitter for the moment and think in broader historical terms.

Two key facts that might help put the losses the Liberals suffered on election night in perspective. The first is that the Conservative party in 1993 went from being the government to having two seats in Parliament. The second is that political parties or movements are built around a few individuals with good ideas. The lesson to be learned: Where there is a will in politics, there is a way.
...
Through creative and innovative policies, the next generation of concerned Canadians will create an organization and provide the war chest required to convince a sufficient number of voters that the Liberal party’s distinctly Canadian approach to consensus and pragmatic progress is what will be required to navigate the problems lying in wait for the balance of this century.
Elsewhere, you can check out the deathers watch...no, not this kind. In Canada, we have our very own deather cottage industry these days. I think I've read that column about 10 times now in the past few weeks.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The first Liberal interim leadership candidate

It's Marc Garneau. Just a quick post here on Thursday's news out of Ottawa that the Liberal party has its first post-Ignatieff candidate for the party leadership, at least for the interim job, anyway.

Garneau was Canada's first person in space, travelling three times on American space shuttle missions. Garneau was a "payload" specialist with expertise in operating the Canadarm of the shuttle, its famous Canadian content. Post space ventures, he became President of the Canada Space Agency. A scientist, engineer, military officer, it's quite an impressive background and definitely would be a contrast to other party leaders in Ottawa.

In the past year, he distinguished himself on the F-35 purchase issue (see video here, for example, where he really seemed to be enjoying himself in the political sparring) and in challenging the Conservative decision to axe Canada's long form census. Both issues were in his wheelhouse, given his background, and he seemed to mature politically due to his involvement in those issues. He's only been in Parliament since 2008.

He also has a sleeper likability about him as well. Unassuming and solid are two other adjectives I'd use. And see his twitter feed for more of the personality aspect. That May 9th tweet suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

Interesting that news of his bid came one day after the caucus first met to begin discussions on the interim leadership, among other things. This Canadian Press report indicates the caucus has still not accepted the national executive's conditions for the person seeking the interim leadership. Meaning he threw his bid out there before the question of whether the interim leader can become permanent leader is resolved (at least, that question is unresolved to the public eye). That's interesting and it may say something about a selflessness he brings, or, he just doesn't have any ambition for the permanent slot at all.

There still may be other interim leadership candidates to come, but that's a brief initial take on Garneau's bid.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Class act

This:
Outgoing Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuszanna Zsohar, stopped after a final caucus meeting with his colleagues on Wednesday to say thank you to the people of Canada for the time he spent in office.

“The only thing, really, to say is this: Everybody always tells you how tough a game politics is and how brutal it is. What they don’t say enough is how incredibly good the Canadian people are to you even when they don’t vote for you,” Mr. Ignatieff told reporters at the same microphone where he has regularly answered media questions as leader of the official opposition.

“And, as we take our leave of politics, I just want to express my enormous gratitude to all the people we met as we went along the road, their kindness, their civility, their sense of humour,” he said. “It was a privilege to serve the Canadian people and we leave politics with a sense of what a privilege it was and what an honour it was.”

After offering the same words in French, he said “merci, bye bye” and headed out the front doors of the Commons for the last time as a politician.

The cart before the horse

What I suspect will happen as well:
Potential leadership candidate Bob Rae — who would be required to choose between a temporary or long-term crown — said MPs will hear from party president Alfred Apps but suggested there could be different views on the road ahead.

“The executive of the party has its views and the caucus will have its views and we’ll work it out,” he told iPolitics. “We’ll just see how it goes.”
With caucus down to 34 MPs, it seems to me the more important consideration in choosing an interim leader is who the caucus wants. As simple as that. As Dion mentioned yesterday in the Le Devoir piece, it's going to be tough work ahead, with the talented MPs who remain, to do the committee work, to be the public face of the party in media representations and yes, in the House of Commons. It's a tough time for that caucus and their choice of who they want to lead them should be given great priority.

Somehow tomorrow's leadership politics have started to drive the choice of who today's interim leader is and it's getting in the way. A whole host of talented MPs, including Rae, are being excluded from consideration now out of a concern for who can run for permanent leader down the road. That seems to be a backward consideration. I understand the desire not to want to give anyone a leg up in a future contest but again, that's emphasizing a future leadership contest where we don't even know who will run.

Performance in the House of Commons, who the caucus wants to lead it, those seem to be more important considerations right now. There has to be a good foil to Layton, to Harper. With the demise of the Bloc, it's down to 3 main parties - with official status - now. Not 4. The best emphasis now, for an interim leader choice, should be on who can be the best leader in the Commons to take advantage of the new landscape.

Two cents offered up as the caucus meets today and begins to discuss options. Those discussions will continue on next week, as far as I understand it, so I'm sure there'll be plenty of other views to come.

(Have I told you how much I hate writing these blog posts? I do. I'm now on record.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Coming soon to an internet near you

"Will anonymity and hyperlinks be illegal in Canada?" Good question! Bill C-51, the Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act has some issues, to say the least. Namely, these ones that are highlighted by a Maclean's blogger this afternoon:
From the Library of Parliament’s legislative summary:
Clause 5 of the bill provides that the offences of public incitement of hatred and wilful promotion of hatred may be committed… by creating a hyperlink that directs web surfers to a website where hate material is posted.
That’s just stunningly ignorant. Let’s put aside the ridiculous leap of reason that equates linking to something with saying something, and instead direct our attention to the sheer stupidity of this law on technological grounds. Namely, we usually do not have control of the things we link to. They can change. So if something I link to later becomes “hate material” then I will suddenly be guilty of a hate crime. Any sound legal advice in a country where such a law exists would be to stop using hyperlinks entirely, as they present too great a liability. And that would sort of kind of make the Internet itself illegal.
...
Here’s the Library of Parliament explaining a change from an earlier version of the bill:
…regarding the offences of sending a message in a false name (via) telegram, radio and telephone. Clause 11 of the bill amends those offences by removing the references to those specific communication technologies and, for some of those offences, substituting a reference to any means of telecommunication. As a result, it will be possible to lay charges in respect of those offences regardless of the transmission method or technology used.
Wow. No “false names” on the Internet (or through telegrams, which bothers me less). Real names only kids—that’ll thwart the perverts!
During the election, Harper pledged an omnibus crime bill which will be passed within 100 days of the beginning of the new parliamentary session. That omnibus bill will include the lawful access legislation with its significant privacy breaching aspects and potential for abuse. See this post which highlights some of the worst aspects of that proposed legislation. The above problematic provisions on hyperlinking and false names also form part of the new lawful access legislation.

Will a majority Harper government listen to complaints about such obvious problems as those set out above? Will they listen to the objections of federal and provincial privacy commissioners from across the country who question the merits of this legislation? Now that they have a majority mandate, having made an explicit promise to enact this legislation within 100 days? There is a lot of work that should be done on this lawful access legislation. We're about to see how legitimate criticisms will be handled by the new majority folks.

How fast

Lawrence Martin says very, on leadership selection.

On the other hand, Stephane Dion preaches patience.
Il n'y a pas le feu: l'ancien chef du Parti libéral du Canada, Stéphane Dion, prône la patience comme approche de reconstruction du parti qui vient d'encaisser la pire défaite de son histoire. Une débandade que l'ex-premier ministre Jean Chrétien a pour sa part expliquée hier par le besoin de stabilité ressenti par les Canadiens.

Selon M. Dion, les libéraux commettraient une erreur en se lançant immédiatement dans une nouvelle course à la direction. «Il faut laisser le temps au temps et se garder de toute précipitation et agitation», a indiqué M. Dion lors d'un entretien avec Le Devoir, hier.

«La seule bonne nouvelle de cette terrible défaite, c'est ce que nous avons quatre ans devant nous pour rebâtir le parti. Nous n'aurons pas à nous demander à chaque vote s'il faut aller en élections. Ça nous permet de regarder davantage vers le long terme.»

À l'instar de Denis Coderre, M. Dion croit que les libéraux devraient nommer un chef intérimaire pour une période d'environ deux ans avant de déclencher la course à la succession de Michael Ignatieff. «Il faut en discuter en caucus [demain], mais je crois que c'est une idée qui fera consensus», dit-il.

Dans l'intervalle, M. Dion affirme que le parti devra «s'ajuster» au nouveau rôle de deuxième groupe d'opposition. «Il faudra être efficace avec peu de moyens, de temps, de représentation dans les comités. C'est un gros défi.»
Something for everyone today.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Party changes

I haven't had too much to say about all the internal party machinations commencing, for a few reasons. Have been adjusting to the loss and thinking about what it means, what to do that's useful to make a contribution in coming years (more on that another time). Also, I haven't really been too fussed about who will become interim leader. I would be ok with about 4 or 5 people in caucus as it is constituted. But now it does seem like wheels are turning and it's hard to ignore: "Liberal party brass have scheme to postpone choosing leader for year or more." Any views here are just my own, just one member, that's it. Everybody will ultimately have a vote on any major changes being proposed, as I understand it.

It seems that a consensus has developed in terms of moving the leadership beyond the five month period, in order to allow for a breathing period and some rethinking to occur. There may be some objection to that but the larger view does seem to be that more time is needed to ensure that the party gets things in order, or at least adopts a process that will allow it to get things in order is put in place. Before a leadership review is undertaken. That seems fine and sane to me. Why, historically, the five month period was built in has been proven to be shortsighted given what transpired last week. If we are going to have an online vote of some kind on that point, as the Canadian Press report suggests, that sounds like a good development. [Update 9:30 p.m.: Specifically on the online vote point, it's a virtual convention that has been proposed to occur in June, which would change an October convention date - which satisfies the five month requirement - and choose one at a date between May 2012 and June 2013.]

For those who are objecting to such changes, I would just say that maybe we should be considering that constitutions are only so finite as their amending formulas. If there are flexible ways to amend such a constitution that are built in, that's a reflection of the culture of the organization. If people want to make it more difficult to amend a document, that's a whole other discussion.

What I am not so comfortable with are the conditions that seem to be coming forth regarding the choice of a new interim leader. It may be that the initial favourable response to moving a leadership date back has now morphed into some sense that other changes are permitted. Like placing restrictions on what the interim leader can do. I am not steeped in this party stuff and what typically occurs, but those conditions seem to be a reach a bit far. Ultimately a new leadership choice will be put to the members. If they want to vote for the interim one, so be it. If not, they won't. And to think that an interim leader would be able to pursue existential options for the party as some kind of rogue actor seems foolish. There would be a price to pay and the legitimacy of that pursuit would be undercut immediately.

Those conditions, if they are directed at Rae, seem insulting to him. All I've seen of him post-election have been statements in response to media questions. Those responses seem to have been puffed up. I'd be fine to see him as interim leader, to be quite honest. He has gut political instinct which the party could use in the near future. It's long past time that his NDP past stop being used against him. But as I said above, that's just my view and I would be open to others as interim as well. It's not really a time for bickering or power struggles and I certainly intend to be as constructive as possible.

Words of the day

Some items for you this morning...

Bob Rae uses a word that made me laugh out loud for the first time when reading a political news story over the last week. Just one little word did it.

In a similar vein, Manon Corneiller has the must read column of the day (translation for those in need). Here's a sense of it: No one would ever run a unilingual francophone in rural Saskatchewan. Nope, they sure wouldn't. Favourite word used by her? Have to go with "hypocritical."

Meanwhile, Harp is off sharpening his budget axe somewhere when he's not out walking the streets of Ottawa, looking all deliriously happy at his fortunes. Or dancing the night away. $11 billion in cuts over 4 years coming our way: "With a majority, Tories can be more aggressive on deficit." Probably nothing too radical this early on though. Not the way he operates. More stealth-like à la census axing. So I'd expect things like, say, maybe a study on public broadcasting in Canada, for example, with a result to come in a year or so from now. Or possibly even more generic and non-threatening, as in a deficit commission or something of the boring variety to the public where agencies and programmes and their very existence can be reviewed in a most bureaucratic manner. Something that the public won't really pay attention to. What ever will Harp do with all the powah. Oh, and favourite word used by Harper in his little walkabout? "Ecstatic."

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Idea 2

For Liberals, get going on this promise now, adapted to circumstances of course:
Even further innovation is possible, deploying internet technology to involve Canadians directly. Under a Liberal government, all Canadians will be able to participate in People’s Question Period, where the Prime Minister and Ministers will respond directly to unscripted, user-generated questions online. Ministers’ participation in the weekly online question and answer session will be rotated and as Prime Minister, Michael Ignatieff would participate at least monthly in the online People’s Question Period to answer citizens’ questions unfiltered by political parties or the media.
Would there be any downside in pursuing that? The name, People's Question Period, could be kept. It's a good one and the above could be adapted as seen fit. The main idea would be to open up the questions asked by Liberals in the House of Commons to online participants. Do it in real time if you can. Bet you'd get some good ones that would go right to the heart of some issues without all the managed parliamentary massaging. It's an opportunity to be the vehicle to bring that connection into the House of Commons. How it's executed can be worked out but the premise of the idea seems to be a good one that is workable.

It would distinguish the party from others and permit an ongoing mechanism to connect with people, make Parliament a little more relevant to people. It would also symbolize a commitment to pursuing a more open, democratic Parliament, perhaps in bigger ways down the road, as Liberals renew their brand and efforts all around. Something to think about.

The Attention Deficit Society

If you have the time this weekend, there is a very worthwhile video at the Milken Institute site from a conference held this week. The session linked to was titled, "The Attention Deficit Society: What Technology Is Doing to Our Brains," where four expert speakers addressed this subject matter:
Put down the iPad and pay attention: Technology may be rewiring your brain. Scientists say our ability to focus is being undermined by Twitter feeds, smartphones and other digital distractions. Many experts believe excessive use of technology can make users more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even narcissistic. It may reduce the ability to process information and think deeply and creatively. Distracted drivers have become a menace on the roads. Even worse, tech-obsessed parents spend less quality time with their children, causing not only hurt feelings but potentially stunting a child's vocabulary and development. At the same time, studies show Internet users are more efficient at finding information, and gamers develop better visual acuity. Is the technology that was intended to make us more productive actually dumbing us down? Is its use in the classroom counterproductive? How does it change our culture and society in general?
That our brains are adapting to the constant use of technology is the contention of the first panellist, Nicholas Carr. Doesn't sound like rocket science when you put it that way, it sounds like common sense but I'm not sure how much time people actually spend thinking about how they are using their own technology - smart phones, iPads, iPods - and how it is really changing their lives and their own capacities. It is very intriguing to hear the entire panel speak about the issues set out above. One of the other professors on the panel is presently living in the dorm rooms at Stanford to observe the way students are using technology. The MIT professor is fascinating.

If you have time for it, even part of it, it's a good one. Our politics are affected by the way people are living with, using new technologies and getting changed by them. Anyone interested in crafting policies and messages going forward might be interested in giving it a look.

(h/t)

Friday, May 06, 2011

Mulcair's unresolved question

Let's indulge this one, because it may say something about the NDP's new role and how they tackle questions from here on out. A new softening of pure ideological, third party positioning to conform to new pressures. Mulcair said this on Power and Politics the other day where he was pigeonholed on the question of the existence of pictures showing the death of Osama bin Laden. To me, however, it remains an unanswered question as to whether Mulcair as deputy leader of the NDP believes the killing was illegal. In other words, it wasn't just about the pictures and conspiracy theory, it was about what Canada's official opposition believes in this regard:
Mulcair also said the killing requires "a full analysis" on whether it was self-defence or a direct killing because "that has to do with American law and international law as well."

"I think that if the Americans have taken pictures in that circumstance, it won't be able to prove very much as to whether Mr. [bin Laden] was holding a weapon," he said.
Mulcair didn't seem to drop that point on the legal justification for the killing Thursday after admitting he agreed that yes, there were pictures:
Thursday morning on CBC Radio's Montreal morning show Daybreak, host Mike Finnerty took another crack at Mulcair, who admitted his exchange with Solomon was "meandering," blaming post election "fatigue and/or joy at victory."

Mulcair told Finnerty what he had meant to address was whether the shooting of bin Laden was "vengeance" or "justice."

"Justice means that we are going to be applying rules of law, whether they be international or they be domestic," he said.

"And those were the type of questions I raised yesterday, although not as adroitly as I might have, I have to admit."
Paul Dewar's statement didn't address that point at all about the legality of the killing, going with the media hype on the pictures. Although, you could consider the line "We have no reason to doubt the veracity of President Obama’s statement," as blanket agreement with the American position. The NDP seems to have skated on Mulcair's point, letting it die in the maelstrom over whether he's a conspiracy believer or not.

Here is an explanation of the rules of engagement being used with "high value" targets from an American commentator that explains how the Americans may ultimately be justifying the killing and this may be where Mulcair, in pre-official opposition days may have wanted to go, with the Human Rights Watch questioning:
The executive director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, has criticized the White House for its public handling of the killing. He recently wrote on Twitter, “White House still hasn’t clarified: OBL ‘resisted’ but how did he pose lethal threat to US forces on scene? Need facts.” This may be a worthwhile thing to know for broader ethical or policy or tactical reasons, but it is not the most pertinent question when judging the action against our existing military laws. The key legal question is not whether bin Laden was armed before he was killed, or even whether or not he posed an immediate “lethal threat,” but whether he was “positively identified” before the trigger was pulled, and whether Holder is accurate when he says that “there was no indication” that bin Laden was actively attempting to surrender. Those are the more relevant facts. And if there is a formal inquiry into the incident, this is what it will undoubtedly seek to establish.

For some people, the scope of such an inquiry might feel frustratingly narrow. If that’s the case, the frustration is not so much about the legality of the bin Laden raid but about the laws that governed it. Status-based operations, which the U.S. military has come to use widely in South Asia and the Middle East since 9/11, are in a sense extrajudicial, even if they are legal by our own standards as a society. They are instruments of war, not law enforcement, which means that even when they are technically and brilliantly precise, they are not designed with the nuances of due process in mind, and are often guided by difficult (and roughly calculated) collateral damage assessments. Such operations are not inherently bad; if they are conducted with careful oversight, they can have a high utility, which is why the military seeks to use them. But they remain blunt instruments, guided by principles and conditions that differ from those in civilian society.

To be uncomfortable with such operations is, in a sense, to be uncomfortable with war itself.
As the author there points out, during the Second World War, an S.S. officer having lunch in France might have been shot, for example, without the need for him to have drawn a weapon simply based on his being a high-value target, under a similar rule of engagement scenario...as long as he wasn't surrendering in that moment.

So it might seem like a small thing in our new majority scenario and something that got lost amidst the conspiracy focus. But whether Mulcair believes the Americans have justified the killing, legally, seems to be an open question that's still unaddressed.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Idea

The internets will be this generation's Cité Libre, methinks:
Cité Libre was an influential political journal published in Quebec, Canada, through the 1950s and 1960s. Co-founded in 1950 by editor and future Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau, the publication served as an organ of opposition to the conservative and authoritarian government of Maurice Duplessis.

The journal published contributions by intellectuals such as Trudeau, Gérard Pelletier, René Lévesque, Pierre Vallières and other intellectuals and activists. In doing so, the journal gained a reputation for its radical viewpoints at a time when anti-Duplessis views were difficult to get into print. The journal was anti-clerical and often criticised the strong influence that the Roman Catholic Church then had in Quebec. It also favoured civil libertarianism, as shown by its opposition to such measures as the Padlock Law (adopted by Duplessis in 1937) and its support of the Asbestos Strike. Editor Trudeau helped form the Rassemblement, a group devoted to turning the public against Duplessis. This group, combined with Cité Libre, helped foster the intellectualism that revived the Quebec Liberal Party, which defeated the Union Nationale in 1960. Many of the themes raised by Cité Libre found fruition during Quebec's Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. A number of the journal's contributors went on to take leading parts in that movement. As the 1960s progressed, Quebec society became divided between Quebec nationalists and sovereigntists such as Lévesque and Vallières and Canadian federalists such as Trudeau and Pelletier. This caused a rift among the journal's board members, ultimately leading to the magazine's evolution into a federalist journal. As well, the journal abandoned its earlier interest in socialist ideas and became more and more liberal in orientation. The division among Quebec's left, as well as the entry of a number of Cité Libre figures into electoral politics, led to the journal's demise in 1966.
Let a thousand ideas bloom. Among and from the many, not the few usual suspects. Grassroots, baby. That's where it all has to come from.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Election Day


The big day is here. I don't really have much to say and haven't for the past few days because there's not much to say until the results roll in.

As for today, hope everyone is out there working hard. I'll be helping in my riding to get out the vote all day until polls close, then counting, etc. The whole election deal. One last day, then we rest.

It looks like this is turning out to be anything but the election many of us imagined. We'll see what the voters choose tonight. Lots of thoughts in my head based on what I've seen, what has transpired, what's to come...but plenty of time for all of that in coming days and weeks. So as far as today goes, have a good one! Revel in the democratic process. That's what's on my agenda.

By the way...did I tell you about the 18 year old kid I met while canvassing the other night? First time voter eagerly listening then he reached out and shook my hand and said thank you. A personal highlight from the past four weeks or so. And yes, it helped that he's voting for my candidate!

Best of luck to all who have run honourable campaigns. See you on the other side!