Thursday, January 31, 2008

The "Stephen Harper photo gallery" commemorative poster

The Wingnuterer has painted a special portrait of Harpie to be placed in his personal hall of fame, aka the government lobby...:)

The Wingnuterer roars back in comic vengeance!

Enjoy...:)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Karl Rove gets some comeuppance

So sad:
When 17-year-old Alessio Manti heard that Karl Rove, the former chief political adviser to President Bush, would be delivering the commencement address this spring to his class at Choate Rosemary Hall — the elite boarding school that produced such liberal giants as John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson — he was shocked.

“I thought it was a joke,” Mr. Manti said. “Commencement is not the place for him.”

He was not alone. Although Mr. Rove played a major role in helping President Bush capture two terms in the White House, he could not gain the support of the senior class here. With students threatening to walk out on graduation, the school announced on Monday that Mr. Rove would not speak at commencement.
And here I was, all geared up for another Andy Card moment...:)

Good for the Choate students for standing up to the choice and defeating it:
At a meeting last week, a clear majority of the graduating class of about 230 said it opposed Mr. Rove’s invitation, students who were at the meeting said.

In an editorial titled “Rove in ’08: We Think Not,” the campus newspaper, The News, urged the school to withdraw the invitation.
I suspect that such incidents will be the fate for many of the Bush administration alumni who have yet to grasp the level of contempt for them and what they did to their nation over the Bush years. This is the least of what should happen to Mr. Rove.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

No science please, we're Conservatives

Mini Bush, following the conservative ideology to a tee, eliminating the National Science Adviser's position:
The one scientist in this country who had direct access to the Prime Minister is being dismissed. Canada’s National Science Adviser, Dr. Arthur Carty, was appointed by former Prime Minister Paul Martin to provide expert advice on the government’s role in matters of science and science policy. Now, less than four years after the position was created, the Harper government feels that it’s no longer necessary.

The National Science Adviser is a voice of reason to the government over actions it should take on issues such as climate change, genetically modified foods, managing fisheries, sustaining the environment - any time the politicians need to be educated on the basic science behind those often controversial issues. Of course, decisions are seldom made for purely scientific reasons; all too often, the interests of industry, special interest groups or a misinformed public will cloud the scientific truth. The Adviser’s job is to provide clarity and perspective.

Dr. Carty is extremely well qualified for this position. He was president of the National Research Council for 10 years and a prominent professor at Waterloo University for 27 years, among other accomplishments.
Yes, extremely well qualified. But what does that matter? In the Harper government's eyes, he was appointed by Paul Martin and that makes him capable of being characterized as a "Liberal hack" in the vein of the hatchet job they did on Linda Keen, the chief nuclear regulator.
All science involves uncertainties - that’s the way the system works. But it takes a scientific eye to determine whether those uncertainties are significant or not. Without that perspective, a politician hears conflicting views or biased information that clouds the issue and confuses the public.

That’s where the National Science Adviser comes in. He or she is an independent, expert witness whose job is to provide perspective and education to the people at the top where the decisions are made.

Apparently, that’s no longer going to happen in Canada.
To that we say, we are shocked that such a move would occur under the Harper Conservatives. In this as in so many other matters, Mini Bush is simply following the conservative script that's been written by the Bush administration.

Monday, January 21, 2008

TSX tumbling...so how's that GST cut working for you?

Those pennies saved at Subway and Tim Hortons are surely standing us in good stead in times like these, hey?
The S&P/TSX composite index plummeted more than 500 points in afternoon trading Monday as it joined a worldwide market sell-off prompted by growing fears of a U.S. recession.

The benchmark index was down 544 points at 12,193 at 1:07 p.m. ET. That's a 4.3 per cent drop and took the index to its lowest level in 14 months.
Ah, who cares if our mutual funds are taking a beating? Harpie kept his promise and cut the GST. More:
It was the biggest intraday decline since February 16, 2001, and the latest in a string of hefty losses that began last week amid writedowns in the North American banking sector and worries about the prospect of a U.S. recession.

Since last Tuesday, the index has lost more than 1,400 points, erasing all of 2007's gains. On Monday, the index revisited territory last seen in November 2006.
Garth with some political perspective:
And while Mr. Harper and Mr. Flaherty did not create the worsening situation we now find ourselves in, they’ve augmented it. As I have said for some time, and am now being proven right, sadly, this was not the time to jack federal spending to unheard-of levels. This was not the time for the finance minister to promote a high dollar. This was not the time to relieve seniors of tens of billions of dollars in savings. This was not the time to stoke inflation, nor to have raised personal income tax for a year.

Unfortunately, the cupboard is now bare, just when the weather’s turning worse. That $12 billion-a-year surplus Mr. Harper inherited has basically been spent. Federal program spending has increased at twice the rate of inflation (try that with your family’s budget), and everyone’s energy costs have soared. They may be doing okay in oil-rich, and Tory-loving Alberta, but in Ontario and Quebec, there are too many shuttered mills, factories and forestry camps.
How quickly things can change within a few short-sighted months.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Johnston report is out - PCO not out of the woods

Read it for yourself, here. At first glance though, there is a recommendation by Johnston that the PCO's handling of the correspondence from Schreiber should indeed be canvassed at a public inquiry.



I need to look further at this and its context, but still, it's there.

Kicking off the first ministers meeting with a thud

I guess we are seeing a new Harper strategy play out this year, after all. Yesterday, he announced relief for forestry and other laid-off workers, a $1 billion fund for all the provinces. But he tied it to passage of the federal budget. The budget that everyone knows is a confidence motion and that has been much discussed as a possible end date for this government should the opposition parties defeat it. So why would Harper play games with these funds? If he actually were serious about offering this relief, he would do it. And try to take the political credit for doing so in an election. But he's not prepared to offer this relief on a free and clear basis. Which likely means that they don't want the budget defeated. They want to stay in power as a minority government. It's all about survival.

This move tying the forestry relief to the budget is a defensive one, showing their weakness. Weakness in the sense that they must be giving up on their hopes for a majority, at least for the near future. A second minority would prove highly embarrassing for Harper and likely his death knell as leader. Can't have that. So make that budget pretty darned bullet proof. Make it incapable of being defeated.

You could also argue that he's just loading up the budget with such funding in order to make the opposition wear it in an election. That's possible too. But what he's done in tying this package to the budget is to make it harder for the opposition to defeat the budget. Not easier. He looks like he's trying to survive.

Seems to me that if this is their strategy, to stay in power as long as they can hang on as a minority government, then it's destined to eventually sink in as a losing one with Conservative party members. If Harper can't win a majority now, after two years, and his numbers stay where they've been parked, then Conservatives may start thinking it's time to start eyeing Harper's leadership. All this "clever" manoeuvring may be getting him exactly nowhere.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Iron your own shirt



Video of the "Iron-my-shirt" protester being thrown out of a Clinton event in New Hampshire. Note how when the heckler is escorted up the aisle a woman yells out, "Iron your own shirt!" I think we now know how this event and other goings on, such as Obama's condescending "You're likable enough" comment during Saturday night's debate resonated. For more of the instances that may have shaped this result, see Maureen Dowd's snarky column today.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Never count out the Clintons - she won

A must-read take on why Hillary pulled it out tonight, here at TPM. Basically, it's all about the media pile on and the way they're doing it, some with what seems like newly unbridled contempt for Hillary. Chris Matthews is being singled out as a big offender and I'd have to agree. He's been shockingly anti-Hillary since Iowa. Not so much against her personally, but in his glorification of Obama and dismissal of her candidacy. Olbermann's been countering him, bit by bit, to provide balance, but still.

That emotional moment she had yesterday may have indeed turned this thing for her.

You've got to think now, there's at least a 60% chance she's going to win this thing. It'll be a good fight now, and whoever the nominee is, they'll be better off for it.

Never write off a Clinton. They can bring the magic and win. And maybe, just maybe, the women of America are waking up to support her.

What a brilliant statement by the people of New Hampshire. And to politicians everywhere...beware.

Monday, January 07, 2008

That obsessed with majority ain't happenin'

I've been meaning to comment on the various polls showing Harper stuck in minority government territory and showing his various weaknesses, including lack of support among women, that we've been hit with lately. It would be an incredible development should such evidence FINALLY move the talking heads off their 2007 go-to story line. You know, the one about Stephane Dion being a leader in trouble. These polls are sending us a very compelling message. That Stephen Harper's got major problems all on his own. The pointing at Dion has been a convenient shield that Harper and his Ministers have deployed throughout this past year. Perhaps the media might now turn a critical lens on Harper this new year and not fall for the pretty, shiny ads telling everyone "look, look over there" and the Ministers at various turns citing "it's-all-the-Liberals-fault-they-were-in-power-for-all-those-years" fakery.

Kinsella had a piece the other day about how the Conservatives think a minimalistic approach to government might help. A la Chretien incrementalism. And again they are thinking that the more Canadians get used to Harper as PM, the more comfortable they will get.
Well, after poring through truckloads of internal polls and conducting extensive consultations with party activists and whatnot, the Tory strategists now believe (they tell me) that incumbency has the effect of diluting perceptions that the Harper regime is radical or to be feared. The longer they are in power, they say, the less successful Satanic Liberals will be in depicting them in an unfavourable light.
Well, respectfully, if this is what they're thinking, they're bound to hit a few road bumps. First off, Harper is a known commodity. And it's not a good one. That won't change. And secondly and more importantly, events are unpredictable. The Conservatives can't control for everything. The character of Harper and his Ministers can't be hidden. Meaning, they can't change who they are.

The Chalk River nuclear problem that raised its head in late November/early December, is a recent case in point. Their instinct was to trash the nuclear regulator as a Liberal hack, carried out by Harper personally in the House of Commons, and to deny they knew there was a problem in the first place, courtesy of Minister Lunn. The partisan finger pointing they engaged in following a mini-crisis for the government - that was not at all partisan in nature - is very telling about what their instincts are.

If they think they can put a lid on such behaviour and that they can suddenly become a bland bunch, well, that'll be fascinating to watch. There are bound to be other "Chalk Rivers" that crop up this year that will test them and that they can't prepare for and control. And besides, how do Senate reform and limits on the federal spending power fit in with goals of achieving modest, incremental change?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

George McGovern makes the case for impeachment of Bush and Cheney

"Why I Believe Bush Must Go." Great op-ed today.
Impeachment is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.

As former representative Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a key role in the Nixon impeachment proceedings, wrote two years ago, "it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws -- that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. . . . A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law -- and repeatedly violates the law -- thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors."

I believe we have a chance to heal the wounds the nation has suffered in the opening decade of the 21st century. This recovery may take a generation and will depend on the election of a series of rational presidents and Congresses. At age 85, I won't be around to witness the completion of the difficult rebuilding of our sorely damaged country, but I'd like to hold on long enough to see the healing begin.

Friday, January 04, 2008

"What's on those tapes is the original crime...torture"



Olbermann talks to Jonathan Turley on "Waterboarding-Gate" and the Justice Department's newly opened investigation of the CIA's destruction of videotapes recording such incidents. Turley, as usual, does not hold back, bringing the criminal questions right to the door of the Oval Office.

Happy New Year boys

They're baaa-aaaaaack:



Demonstrating once again that they have too much time on their hands...:)

A lighter note

"Red Sox officials to bring World Series Trophy to Halifax." Good for the Red Sox brass, Maritimers love the Red Sox...:) They're also the officially sanctioned Impolitical sports team, being the perennial underdog and all. Although, with two World Series wins in four years, the world as we know it has clearly changed.

"This is no way to ensure federal-provincial co-operation on the topics of major significance to this country"

This report on Harper's invitation to the Premiers to meet in Ottawa next Friday is rife with interesting angles. You can't help but think that Harper, following up on his message of economic uncertainty from the past week, has decided to acquiesce to Jean Charest and Dalton McGuinty on their request for a meeting lest he look inactive as an election approaches. It has all the hallmarks of a photo-op that's not meant to accomplish much other than create some pretty pictures and make it look like the PM's listening. And there was this little bomb:

One provincial official told The Globe and Mail that almost no planning at all has gone into the get-together and that will make it difficult to have a productive discussion.

"Frankly, this is no way to ensure federal-provincial co-operation on the topics of major significance to this country," said the source.

Ouch, and it hasn't even started yet. Sounds like the short notice of this meeting is backfiring already. Wonder who the province is? Could it be a member of the "small man of confederation's" staff? Or could it be Danny Williams' allegedly spied upon government? Heh heh...:)

But gee, it does sound like Steve's got a surefire recipe for a successful meeting:
On issues such as the strong dollar, the federal government has been criticized for a cool reaction to ideas like a support program for auto-parts producers, who have been particularly hard-hit by the high dollar.

Mr. Harper has also promised to ask the opinions of the premiers regarding potentially contentious issues, such as the government's plan to elect the Senate and pending legislation to restrict the federal government's to shape provincial programs through cash transfers.
Oh yeah, Senate reform and restrictions on the federal spending power. Sounds like sure winners in a climate of economic uncertainty and difficulties in the manufacturing sectors in Ontario and Quebec...I mean, talk about priorities for you.

You know, if I were Dalton McGuinty right about now, I'm thinking I could make a big national splash, in the wake of my brand spankin' new majority and in the wake of some speculation about a future on the national stage, in standing up to Harper on that pathetic redistribution plan for federal seats that leaves Ontario treated differently from other provinces. He's already had a few provincial allies step up for him, Charest and Doer, if I recall correctly. And I'm sure Danny wouldn't mind stickin' it to Harpie on that one. I'm sure there are others too. Could be a big way of demonstrating just who the "small man" is after all...

Hey taxpayers, we're paying $650,000 for a Harper campaign style ad

The Harper government is using taxpayer funds to put ads on the radio airwaves and in the nation's newspapers touting the benefits of the GST cut. At a time when most believe a spring election is in the offing, this is an affront to any pretense of there being a level playing field in elections financing. At a price tag of $650,000, that's a sizable contribution to the Conservative ad coffers that we taxpayers are making. And let's not kid ourselves, despite the ready spin that such tax measures have been advertised before, this is a calculated method of getting around federal spending limits here and now in a tight political spectrum. The ad is crafted in a blatantly political, not informative manner:

“The government of Canada is ringing in the New Year with another tax cut. Starting January 1st, the GST will be reduced to five per cent, the second cut in less than two years,” says the radio ad.

“This means significant tax savings on most everything you buy, like a coffee, a new home, a computer or a new car. To learn more about the GST reduction, visit Canada.gc.ca or call 1-800-O-Canada. 2008 will be a less taxing year for Canadians.”

The ad ends with a female announcer saying: “A message from the government of Canada.”

All of the italicized parts in the ad, above, are Conservative advocacy that we shouldn't be paying for. Let the Conservative party, awash in cash, foot the bill. Why should you and I be paying for this? I wonder if a complaint to Elections Canada might be in order.

The Conservatives have pushed the limits on taking advantages before, with their "in and out" ad scheme in the 2006 election. Seems they're starting early this time.

But you know, you have to wonder...after they've spent what must be millions ripping Stephane Dion, it's hard to imagine that an ad informing everyone of something they already know will do anything to improve Stephen Harper's fortunes. We've had two years to look at him. One more ad isn't likely to change that.

Access to security information for foreign torturing states? No problem

Well, if the Harper government doesn't mind the death penalty being applied to Canadians while abroad, it makes sense to read this news that they're taking the position they won't stop sharing information with states that are allegedly torturing foreigners, including Canadian citizens.
Human rights abuses are not necessarily enough to keep Canada from sharing information with security agencies overseas, Ottawa tells a federal inquiry on torture in a newly released submission.

Canada must maintain relationships with "non-traditional" allies, some of whom do not always treat people appropriately, in order to fight terrorism, says a government brief made public Thursday.

"The fact that a particular country may have a poor human rights record is not sufficient, without other compelling circumstances, to preclude the sharing of information."

Moreover, the government makes the blunt admission that, despite its best efforts, Canada's Foreign Affairs Department "cannot always ensure the protection of its citizens who are dual nationals."

It says some countries, particularly in the Middle East, will not recognize the formal rights of the other country of nationality, such as Canada. In such cases, even if Foreign Affairs can confirm that a Canadian who holds another citizenship is detained, "access to that individual may simply be denied."

Ottawa filed the submission in advance of hearings next week at a commission of inquiry into the cases of three men who claim Canadian officials set the stage for their torture overseas.
...
Ottawa filed the submission in advance of hearings next week at a commission of inquiry into the cases of three men who claim Canadian officials set the stage for their torture overseas.
Let's see...respect for the Geneva Conventions, obviously good. Information sharing with torturing states that may end up torturing Canadians? Bad. Very bad. They do have a choice here, and they're making the wrong one again. Another in a series of very strange decisions being made in Ottawa these days about information sharing.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Who said bloggers don't make news?

"Edmonton bloggers break world record, boost computer literacy." Good for them.

A vow for the New Year

The stellar Scott Horton with a vow for the New Year, that, typical of his writing, is always well worth the read. Also quite appropriate on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. And a good reminder of what could happen in our own country:
The developments of the last three years have exposed the leaders of the current Administration. They want us to understand them as figures from a Chuck Norris film–Rambos who know instinctively what must be done for the security and good of the greater whole, and who won’t be restrained by foolish legalities. History knows many such characters, and all of them have ended badly, some as catastrophes. The reality is starkly different from the Hollywood illusion. Team Bush is not composed of Rambos, but of rambling incompetents. Everything they touch turns sour. They are driven not by concern about our security (which they undermine with every breath) but by their own monomaniacal accumulation of power.

And their nobility of character can be encased in a few scenes. They do not stand up and take responsibility for their decisions. Instead they cower behind deception and falsehood. They offer up 19-year-old soldiers, whom they have sent into battle without guidance or support, as sacrifices to be consumed by the anger of the public and the world. They deride these young soldiers as “rotten apples,” and send off-the-record spokesmen out to imply that we’re recruiting too many criminals into the Army today. We watched this happen in the wake of Abu Ghraib, but no one could muster the fortitude to say what was obviously passing before our eyes. Their lies reverberated in stereo and on HDTV.

And now, in these very weeks, we see it again with the scandal surrounding the destruction of the torture tapes, done with the full complicity of the White House at the highest levels. Now they busily prepare again to scapegoat some young case officers at the CIA, and perhaps some middle management figures. For what? For crimes that they designed, worked out and ordered to be performed. These men have long forfeited any claim to moral leadership. They are staining our nation and its high offices. But we cannot despair over the task of purging these stains.

I too feel a vision of America slipping away. It’s the Founder’s vision of America, of a republic erected as a bulwark against tyranny with individual freedom as its aspiration, and the threat of accumulation of power in the hands of a few men acting in concert—or of a sole tyrant—as its nemesis. The protections that the Founders put in place to defend us against the one true nemesis—the internal one–are being disassembled one by one. First habeas corpus is abolished, and then the protection against warrantless intrusion sputters and fades. To cover their vandalism they maintain a drumbeat of fear, encouraging every cowardly and servile impulse. The media who should be our watchdogs have gone silent. In their place come corporate interests playing a siren’s song, luring us all to complacency, to sleep.

So let’s put one resolution at the top of our list: Not another step! We will not abide one more step in the destruction of our civil liberties. Nor will we tolerate further contempt for what the Founders called “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” by destroying international law in the name of security. We will defy the forces of tyranny that are vandalizing our Constitution and traditions. We will guard the Founders’ vision. In 2008, the time is here to give expression to values we want to retain, or see them vanish forever. It starts with remembering what we have lost. It continues with thought, word, action and vote.
So you think to yourself, gee, we're much better off in this country, aren't we? Well, by how much? The glaring inclinations of the Harper government to manipulate the media and conduct government by photo-op, to slow access to information to a veritable drip, to control news coverage and limit questioning, to beat the drum for more war in Afghanistan, to echo the Bush administration on environmental and international matters, to tar opponents and civil servants with some of the most extreme partisan rhetoric that continues to shock...it's all of a piece with the worst tendencies we've been seeing for seven years from Republican thugs. I have inklings that we're falling down the same rabbit hole, bit by bit under Stephen Harper.

So let's all make our own vows for the New Year...to keep shining a spotlight on the eerie similarities between the Bush and Harper agendas and modes of operation. To continue holding these guys - and they are mostly guys - to account, despite their best efforts to avoid it. And basically to not let them get away with jacksquat.