Monday, March 31, 2008

So sad

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

Friday, March 28, 2008

Privacy Commissioner investigating the smearing of Brenda Martin

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

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

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

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Siegelman freed

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Conservative hatorade watch: Pierre Poilievre, please go away

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For those who cannot think for themselves

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

Monday, March 24, 2008

Score one for the heroic lawyers in Pakistan

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

Tell us more, Jim

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 21, 2008

Another johnny come lately

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Couldn't be happening to a nicer guy

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"Doesn't sound very Canadian to me"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The news program aired the footage last November.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Conservative hatorade watch: Gerry Ritz in action

The Conservative Agriculture Minister is rudely popping up on the radar screen these days due to the continuing debate over ending the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on barley. Talk about combative. Here's a sampling of this Minister's manner of issuing threatening communications on a significant issue of importance to Canada:
Canada's minority Conservative government will introduce on Monday a bill to end the Canadian Wheat Board's barley monopoly by August 1, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said on Friday.

Ritz gave few details about the bill on Friday, but said he hopes to get cooperation from opposition parties to move the bill through Parliament on time for the next barley harvest.

"If we have to use a hammer, we'll get out a big one," Ritz told reporters on the sidelines of a rally with farmers who want the ability to sell barley directly to buyers.
Here's more enlightened statesmanship from Ritz:
Ritz said his government may consider the option of making the vote on the barley bill a matter of confidence. A defeat on a confidence vote would bring down the minority government and trigger an election.

"I don't think anybody looks at this as a ballot question, but if the Liberals are stupid enough to make it one, then by all means, bring it on," Ritz said.
Bring it on? What kind of ego trip is this guy on?

And still more lessons in civilized discourse from the Gerry Ritz school of charm:
The chairman of the Canadian Wheat Board, which is controlled by elected farmers, said he opposed Ritz's bill because changes to the CWB's mandate should be up to farmers.

Ritz has not consulted with the CWB board of directors before legislating change -- a step required by law -- Ken Ritter said in a release.

Ritter also said the government would need to hold a binding referendum with a clear question.

A government vote last year showed more than 62 percent of farmers wanted the CWB either to be optional or out of barley marketing, but some groups complained the poll was flawed.

"It was not a proper referendum by any measuring stick," Ritter said.

Ritz rejected criticisms of the plebiscite question.

"If the Liberals or NDP or anyone else has trouble understanding that (plebiscite) question, my grandson can help them sound out the big words,"
he said. (emphasis added)
Despite Ritz's bravado, there were legitimate questions raised about the framing of the barley plebiscite. For example:
The federal government’s plebiscite on marketing barley from Western Canada has been rendered meaningless by the inclusion of three options on producers’ ballots, the CWB says.

The option asking farmers if they would prefer to sell their barley to any buyer, including the CWB, creates an unrealistic expectation that the CWB can continue to offer the same value to farmers without its single desk, said Ken Ritter, chair of the CWB’s farmer-controlled board of directors.

This question is not, in our opinion, intended to accurately gauge farmers’ feelings on the issue of barley marketing since it perpetuates the belief that the CWB can be effective without its single desk,” Ritter said. “Including an impossible choice is not the way to consult with producers on an issue of such crucial economic importance.

Minister Chuck Strahl announced the plebiscite question and voters’ list today in Red Deer, Alberta. The question asks farmers to choose between three options: the CWB single desk system, an open market, or an open market that retains the CWB.

The CWB recommended to the Minister that he adopt the questions forwarded by the major Prairie farm groups in October, which can be viewed at . This would have given farmers a clear and unbiased choice between maintaining their ability to market barley through the CWB single desk or removing the single desk for barley in favour of an open-market system. (emphasis added)
Referendums, or plebiscites, in this country, must adhere to basic standards of fairness. They should not confuse the issue. Gerry Ritz's blunt force rhetoric, as he seems determined to push through a bill, starting Monday, to end the Canadian Wheat Board's barley monopoly by August 1, reminds one of a bull in a china shop. If this is the guy who is going to be on the front lines for the government on the Wheat Board file, this is going to be good.

Filling the Harper government's void

Eddie Goldenberg's commentary on the question of the recognition of Kosovo's independence appeared in Saturday's Globe. It is one of the better pieces I've seen thus far which deconstructs the notion that Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence is something which Quebec separatists can point to as a useful precedent for their cause. In the void created by the Harper government on the issue, which separatists have stepped into, it's good to see those such as Goldenberg who were involved at the highest levels of government at the time of the two referendums in Quebec put the separatist rhetoric in its proper place. Still waiting, however, for any kind of leadership on the question from the Harper Conservatives.

Thought this was a notable piece of information in Goldenberg's piece:

In 2006, the Republic of Montenegro, in accordance with the constitution of Serbia-Montenegro, decided to hold a referendum on independence from Serbia.

Before the referendum could be held, the European Union cited both the Clarity Act and the Supreme Court's Secession Reference decision, in setting as minimum requirements a clear question and a majority of at least 55 per cent, as conditions for the international community's recognition of a new state after the referendum.

Only after both these conditions were met, was the new state recognized.

The Clarity Act and Secession Reference have clearly had an impact internationally. It will prove extremely difficult for separatists to skate around these standards, despite their recent efforts to do so in the wake of the Kosovo declaration.

Jack and Hill

Very cool. "Jack and Hill," Jack Nicholson's video endorsement of Hillary Clinton with clips from some of his infamous roles cleverly woven in to the message.