Thursday, July 31, 2008

Big ruling against the White House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why is this man so angry?

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

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

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

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

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

This difference is that the Liberals love taxes.

Their solution to every problem is a new tax.

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

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

Is this the best he's got?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The blowback begins

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

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

It's OK to ignore congressional subpoenas

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rove contempt watch

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

Shocking, earth shattering news

No, not the earthquake...

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

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

Monday, July 28, 2008

More excellent Harper financial management

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

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

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

Conservative ideologues and the deficits that love them

"White House projects record deficit for 2009."

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

Awesome parallels.

Just sayin...

Conservatives who just can't help themselves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Some Sunday items

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, July 25, 2008

What's this? Unfit you say...

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's a shame

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

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

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

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

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

Wherever are they going with this...

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

Carbon capture and storage

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

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

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Richard Lewis on Countdown

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

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

No new evidence for you

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

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

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

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

It still won't help

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

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

Rove in denial

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Doh! Not more election speculation...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A rising pol

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


Pesky headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The one, the only...part deux

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

Windfall Jim has a bounty to spend

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

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

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

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

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

The Conservatives' beloved Gitmo off the rails again

Chalk up another legal ruling that undermines the Guantanamo Bay military commission process: "Gitmo judge bars coerced evidence."
The judge in the first Guantanamo Bay trial barred evidence yesterday that interrogators obtained from Osama bin Laden's driver, ruling he was subjected to "highly coercive" conditions in Afghanistan.

The ruling could have implications for the trial of Canadian Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr, whose case is scheduled next.

The judge said the prosecution cannot use a series of interrogations conducted at the Bagram Air Base and Panshir, Afghanistan, because of the "highly coercive environments and conditions under which they were made."
Despite this ruling, the Kafkaesque outcome for detainees is assured:
But because of the administration’s claim that it can hold unlawful enemy combatants indefinitely, even an acquittal would not mean release. It would simply mean he would return to his status as a detainee being held indefinitely — until, according the administration, the end of the war of terrorism.
The prosecution can't lose. Even if ultimately, they do. This is the disgraceful judicial process to which the Harper Conservatives remain committed.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"Too much Karl Roving"

Yep. Lawrence Martin with a good one today. No big ideas from Harpie, just "war politics." Martin's suggestion:
The war mentality of governance can work in the short term. But, in the long term, something more is needed. With the tides shifting, the Conservatives need a bold new program, something to show the public they can do more than crack heads.
At the two and a half year mark, still skeptically waiting on all that...

The ironic thing is that Harper and crew likely feel the opposite, that they have been visionary with their "Canada's back" thing and their vision of the north, for example (remember the "north star?"). But other than those policy pittances, it's hard to say that there are any galvanizing rallying themes from this bunch. That's what happens when your leader is like a humourless accountant. Too much Karl Roving, not enough of that darn vision thing...

"Bon soir les Quebecois, bon soir toute le gang"

Paul McCartney on the Plains of Abraham...speaking a little French too. Pretty good shots of the massive crowd, looks like the filmed footage. All's well that ends well, hey? Looks like it was quite the event. Enjoy...:)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A capital idea

I'm joining Willy Loman today and posting this video as well in support of the "Send Karl Rove to Jail" effort. Rove's contempt for congress and the American people deserves all the attention it can get. On the day he was supposed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, he was jetting to the Ukraine for a plum speaking engagement. That's how little a congressional subpoena weighed on his mind.

In the backdrop, however, there are still some prominent Democrats, like Harold Ford Jr., who are suggesting that prosecution of Rove or other Bush officials should not occur. Too much trouble, in effect, to apply the inconvenient law when constitutional issues don't resonate with the American public. Leading to this mind-numbing proposition, which Glenn Greenwald provides support for in his blog item today:
As I documented last week, the idea that the Rule of Law is only for common people, but not for our political leaders and Washington elite, is pervasive among the political and pundit class, in both parties. While common Americans should be imprisoned in record numbers when they break the law, the worst that should happen to the political elite when they commit crimes is that they should be voted out of office. That's the dominant mentality governing how our political system works.
Note also this piece in the NY Times today on the prospect of Bush pardons to be issued before the end of his term. While the question is raised in the context of counterterrorism officials, does anyone have any doubt that pardons might be applied to include high profile Bush administration officials as well? It would be unprecedented. But not out of the question given the lawless streak in this bunch.
As the administration wrestles with the cascade of petitions, some lawyers and law professors are raising a related question: Will Mr. Bush grant pre-emptive pardons to officials involved in controversial counterterrorism programs?

Such a pardon would reduce the risk that a future administration might undertake a criminal investigation of operatives or policy makers involved in programs that administration lawyers have said were legal but that critics say violated laws regarding torture and surveillance.

Some legal analysts said Mr. Bush might be reluctant to issue such pardons because they could be construed as an implicit admission of guilt. But several members of the conservative legal community in Washington said in interviews that they hoped Mr. Bush would issue such pardons — whether or not anyone made a specific request for one. They said people who carried out the president’s orders should not be exposed even to the risk of an investigation and expensive legal bills.

“The president should pre-empt any long-term investigations,” said Victoria Toensing, who was a Justice Department counterterrorism official in the Reagan administration. “If we don’t protect these people who are proceeding in good faith, no one will ever take chances.” (emphasis added)
Libby's already been effectively pardoned by Bush as his prison sentence was commuted. He may yet get one when Bush is on his way out the door. I don't think anyone would really be surprised if Rove were to be given one as well as part of some blanket immunization of Bush officials in jeopardy. It could also come earlier, in the event that he were to be jailed as a result of any contempt proceeding. Can't have him exposed to "expensive legal bills," after all.

There are a ton of issues that Rove needs to be questioned by congress about - Valerie Plame's outing, the Siegelman prosecution, the dismissal of U.S. attorneys, the politicization of government departments - but I fear that the Democrats have moved too slowly. Time is running out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The one, the only...

Boy, they don't make videos like this anymore do they...:) I can't help but think of the scene from "Muriel's Wedding" when I see this. In fact, here it is:

In honour of the Mamma Mia release this's all the rage, don't ya know...:)

Enjoy...I know, secretly, you will...heh...:)


Mini Bush gets owned by Stephen Colbert. It's at the 2:00 minute mark...enjoy...:)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Khadr video is riveting

Watch here: "Khadr video released."

My reaction? Overcome with sadness and shock, could not take my eyes off it.

The fact that we have let, for years, a young Canadian citizen sit in that gulag is inexcusable. I hope a ton of Canadians watch this today.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The elephant in the room

Oh, fascinating, there's a Premier's meeting in Quebec City this week. And surprise, there's an X on somebody's back going in: "Premiers eye Alberta's massive surplus." In light of the phenomenal Alberta surpluses that are being racked up, to the tune of $12 billion this year, this report raises the issue of "a rebalancing of the federation and the national equalization program." A potential solution comes from Thomas Courchene:
With Alberta's energy wealth directly untouchable, he suggested a solution to levelling the economic playing field across Canada is for Ottawa to begin scaling back federal health and social transfers to the richer provinces.

"You have a surplus up to $10 billion or $12 billion (in Alberta), you don't need all of this. You can do with a smaller cash transfer from Ottawa," Courchene added.
Courchene is an "eastern" perspective. What say the western think tank types?
With its mounting wealth, Alberta must somehow show the rest of Canada - possibly through a financial or environmental gesture - that the entire country is benefitting from the boom in the oilpatch, suggested Roger Gibbins, president of the Canada West Foundation, a Calgary-based think-tank.

The provincial government's announcement last week that it will invest $2 billion to help kick-start carbon capture and storage in Alberta - in an effort to reduce the province's environmental footprint - was a good first step, he argued.

But Premier Ed Stelmach also must get out ahead of the issues at this week's conference and in the months to come, and set the parameters for the debate, before others do it for him.

"If we don't find a way of sending out those signals, then we are at least exposing ourselves to a national political environment that could be really tough," Gibbins said.

"If we simply pull back, paint a big target on our chests with a (potential) $15-billion surplus - when other parts of the Canadian economy are struggling - it's risky politics."
That's interesting. Not a firewalls-around-Alberta kind of approach.

Yet what do we see from the PM these days while these issues are percolating in the background? A PM who seeks to exploit division, who inflames the national discourse in response to an opposition party's national environmental policy by inciting Albertans with talk of the National Energy Program. And after reading the report set out above, outlining the challenge the nation faces in dealing with a situation where one province is exploding in revenue, you can see the damage that's been done by Harper's NEP talk. He's creating a climate in the country where it is more difficult for such issues to be addressed. He's telegraphed his intention to do nothing by way of federal leadership, in case anyone was wondering. And he's tried to harden his political base in Alberta by practically reiterating, if not using the exact same words, his firewalls position on Alberta. Making the growing elephant in the room more difficult to deal with as we go forward.

This is an ongoing problem we have with Harper as PM. The self-interested political positioning as a priority, characterized by intemperate rhetoric that we shouldn't have to hear from a PM, with regard for the national interest a secondary consideration.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Prosecutions for war crimes of Bush administration officials

As discussed on Countdown with constitutional lawyer Jonathan Turley...on the U.S. using torture techniques: "it's not a close question...". As the brilliant Rachel Maddow points out, the question is whether anything will be done about this, legally.

Further reading in this vein today, Frank Rich's ominous column, focussing on Jane Mayer's new book, "The Dark Side."

Secretive Bush and Harper governments

What is it with these right wing conservatives that they must cover up and preclude basic access to information? The parallels, as on most other fronts, continue between Bush and Harper.

Harper's penchant for secrecy, as articulated by a leading access to information expert in Le Devoir this weekend:
The information control exercised by the Harper government has become "unhealthy" and "undemocratic", according to a lawyer and an expert on access to information, Michel Drapeau. He accuses the Conservatives of being reached a point where such control is "dangerous" for the general public. "This is not normal and it defies all notions of transparency," he said in an interview with Le Devoir.
"The government does not want unpleasant surprises in the media, but it does not good surprises. He simply wants to control everything. This is not normal. The media is the general public. It is the source of information most important to citizens. It is undemocratic, "said Michel Drapeau.

The reason for this control is simple, he says. "The government does not trust the people. He believes that all information will harm him and that citizens are not smart enough to share things. "
Le Devoir recounts trying to get routinely publicly available information from the Ministry of Defence this summer, namely the recruiting numbers for the Canadian Forces. Suddenly, these numbers are no longer readily available to the Canadian public. Le Devoir had to battle for months to get them, and it finally did late Friday afternoon, while the figures had been available within the Ministry of Defence since May. The recruitment levels for the Canadian Forces are being treated like a state secret and Ministry staff must sit there like dolts, passing inquiries to the Privy Council when there is no legitimate reason for the silencing to be occurring. Can you feel the chill?

And from the NY Times today, "History Deleted at the White House," an editorial decrying Bush's efforts to destroy records that should properly be kept for history's sake:

After watching wholesale lots of the Bush administration’s most important e-mails go mysteriously missing, Congress is trying to legislate against any further damage to history. The secrecy-obsessed White House is, of course, threatening a veto — one more effort to deny Americans their rightful access to the truth about how their leaders govern or misgovern.

We fear we may never find out all that has gone missing in this administration, although we urge Congressional investigators to keep trying. What we do know is that the Bush gaps of missing e-mails run into hundreds of thousands during some of the most sensitive political moments. Key gaps coincide with the lead-up to the Iraq war — and the White House’s manipulation of intelligence — as well as the destruction of videotapes of C.I.A. interrogations and the outing of the C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame Wilson.

Missing e-mails include entire blank days at the offices of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Also mysteriously wiped from the record are e-mails from Karl Rove, the president’s political guru, and dozens of other White House workers who improperly conducted government business on Republican Party e-mail accounts. The White House now claims that nothing has been lost, though officials previously acknowledged large-scale purging, claiming they were accidental.

An administration with nothing to fear from the truth would be in the forefront of protecting the historical record. The Senate must stand with the House and ensure that at least future administrations are stopped from doing wholesale damage to history.

And you'd think the poisonous modus operandi of the Bush administration would be something a Canadian government would run as far away from as possible...

Friday, July 11, 2008

And this guy too

Rick Salutin tears a huge, well-deserved strip off Harpie today. One of the most pointed columns I've seen in a while. Harpie's G8 performance has set Salutin off. He captures the "imperial" essence of Harper's representation of our nation, as exemplified by the past week's showing, quite effectively. For those of us who chafe at Harpie's presence on our TV screens and who sensed that he may have gone a bit far this week in his visions of grandiosity as to his own power and influence on the world stage...well, this one's for you. Here's a sample:
He was at his most smug and patronizing as he lectured those "less developed" than us about climate change - a term he and others have managed to substitute for global warming. "The developing world is up against some simple mathematics, and we've simply got to make that point to them," he said. Did he want to add, as he likes to, that he's an economist and knows about this tricky stuff? "I could show you the graphs," he told the press. Did he expect the developing countries to squeal, Oh look, he has graphs. Do show us your graphs. And "this is not a philosophical position. This is a mathematical certainty." It's way more glorious than philosophy, folks; this is math! Bow down before it.
Salutin has certainly put his finger on some incredible arrogance from a Harpie unleashed. Enjoy...:)

Lazy Friday blogging, I know...:)

What this guy said

Most excellent quote today :
"'It is preposterous that a Prime Minister of Canada would say that there's nothing he can do,' said Lieutenant-Commander William Kuebler, Mr. Khadr's U.S. military defence lawyer. 'He can stand up as the Prime Minister of Canada and protect the rights of a Canadian citizen ... and he can stop taking his orders from the Bush administration and stop being the last leader of a Western country to subsidize a failed process in Guantanamo Bay.'"
That about says it all, doesn't it?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Frankly, we do

Blatantly mimicking the Bush position on Gitmo, Harper emphatically says no to Khadr's repatriation. But completely ignores the existence and availability of the Canadian justice system for any legal process necessary to address Khadr's situation. Heard of it, Steve?

Here's his blunt talk on Khadr's repatriation - as blunt as his "mathematical certainty" condescension to developing countries yesterday:
“The answer is no,” Mr. Harper said. “The former government and our government, with the advice of the Department of Justice, considered all the questions there, and the situation remains the same.”

He argued that the special U.S. military trial that Mr. Khadr faces – in which he does not have the same standard of legal representation and rights he would in an ordinary criminal trial – is the only way he could be brought to answer the charges against him.

“Mr. Khadr is accused of very serious things. There is a legal process in the United States. He can make his arguments in that process,” Mr. Harper said on a visit to Tokyo after the three-day summit of G8 leaders in northern Japan.

But frankly, we do not have a real alternative to that process now to get to the truth about those accusations, and we believe that this process should continue. So we are looking at that process with great interest. And we continue to seek assurances of the good treatment of Mr. Khadr.” (emphasis added)
There's his "tell" again...when he says "frankly," that's when the real dirt's coming.

And frankly, we do have a real's called the Canadian justice system and it's open for business. The Canadian Bar Association has called for Khadr's repatriation and trial here. I suppose Harper thinks they've lost their marbles?

Harper's position that the process at Gitmo is somehow laudable as a legitimate means to "get to the truth about those accusations," is laughable. He fails to take into account the fact that all other Western nations have found some other alternative to try their citizens accused of similar acts in their own home countries. There's no reason Canada can't do the same. And whatever truth there is to be gotten at Gitmo's been horribly undermined by revelations of torture and biased politically driven proceedings.

Frankly, the Canadian legal system would do very nicely in contrast.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What was that giant sucking sound today?

Oh yes, it was the air being let out of the hot air balloon known as the green shift lawsuit.

Pesky stuff, this:
Mr. Ferguson noted that Green Shift Inc. does not have a registered trademark and that the Liberal Party is not using the words “green shift” in connection with the sale of any products or service, which is necessary to meet the legal test for trade-mark infringement.
Settlement is always the wise route in such situations, grasshopper...:)

Another federal public servant gets the boot in questionable circumstances

This story just doesn't sit right: "Scientist fired after circulating confidential government documents." This scientist with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, a biologist with a "20-year "unblemished record" in government, has been fired because he came across confidential documents that were posted on the CFIA's internal network and shared them with union officials. While the document at issue appears to have been marked "confidential," there was no clarity about its status that was apparent to the employee. It wasn't marked in the typical manner that confidential material was in this employee's experience and according to rules in the agency. And someone had placed it for all to see on the CFIA network.

The document(s) were not helpful to the Conservative government. They provided details on budget cuts to be implemented, including "...sensitive plans to turn over food inspections and labelling to industry...". And further, the changes were not ready for public consumption at the time union officials read them, as noted in the document:
The document, marked confidential, is a letter from Treasury Board Secretary Wayne Wouters to CFIA President Carole Swan, explaining that the government approved the proposed cuts, but warned some have "communication risks," so will have to be deferred until a communication plan is ready.
Given the confidential notation that appeared on one part of the document, and despite the confusion about its status, the doubt should probably have caused the employee to turn it over or point it out to superiors. But at the same time, one would also think that a 20-year employee with an "unblemished" record would certainly have earned some goodwill and the benefit of the doubt in the circumstances. Especially where the document's confidential status appears to have indeed been uncertain. Apparently there's a grievance procedure underway in which those issues will no doubt be raised.

The major sin appears to have been that potentially controversial cuts from the Treasury Board were about to be announced but the Conservatives didn't yet have their ducks in a row to deal with the fallout. Seems to me the public servant doesn't deserve to bear the burden of a controlling federal government or pay for the incompetence of someone else who put the documents on the agency's network.

I think this employee's just been "Keened"...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Still pursuing the white whale

This is a good discussion of the legalities involved in pursuing Rove's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee now that Rove has stated he won't show up. How do you enforce a congressional contempt citation against someone who thumbs their nose at congress and the rule of law? There's talk that a federal district court in Washington will force Harriet Miers to testify by issuing an injunction and that the same route may be followed with Rove.

We'll see.

Harpie building castles in the air

Path-breaking leadership from the PM on the environmental front today, in case you missed it. And you might have, given its illusive nature.

See, the G8 has decided to unanimously "share the vision" of cutting global emissions in half by 2050. This is an "important advance" in progress, according to Harper. Last year, the G8 only agreed to "seriously consider" the 2050 goal. But of course, this is spun as a major victory as now the U.S. and Russia are also "sharing the vision." China will be heavily influenced, according to the PM, by the G8's vision sharing - but dearth of action.

I'm just bowled over by the can-do attitude of the G8 and its cautiously worded statements. Profiles in courage, all around.

Update (4:47 p.m.): Canadians don't share the cautious approach Harper has taken at the G8 on the environment. Beeg surprise.

Further update: The G8, captured in song:

Harper is the new Bush on the world stage

After Bush is gone, Harper's well positioned to pick up the slack, should he remain in office that is: "PM blocks progress at summit, critics say." Look at what's happening at the G8 on a range of issues.

On pledges for fighting health programs in Africa:
Rather than a firm G8 recommitment to spend $60 billion over several years to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases in Africa, Canada is trying to ensure that the G8's final communiqué refers to these measures only as a recommendation, according to Oxfam spokesperson Max Lawson and other activists here. The pledge was originally made at last year's summit in Germany.

"A number of countries are trying to water down that language ... We're very concerned about the Canadians in particular," Lawson told reporters during the first day of this year's summit in Toyako, located in northern Japan.
On blocking hard targets for emissions reductions:
"Basically, Canada is not playing a constructive role," said Dennis Howlett of Make Poverty History.

"The only way we are going to get an agreement on climate change is if the industrialized countries who are responsible for most of the pollution take the lead."
On the world food crisis:
On the food crisis, Canada is taking the position that it has already done enough to respond to the worldwide unrest caused by the price increases that are driving tens of millions of people into poverty.
...anti-poverty activists continue to question Harper's commitment to Africa.

"The Canadian government is so focused on Afghanistan that it can't seem to think about anything else," Howlett said.

Oxfam lumped Canada in with France and Italy as countries whose aid effort for Africa is less than it should be.
The Conservatives hide behind the guise of making "real commitments," to use Bev Oda's talking points, yet our funding commitments are falling noticeably short and, as noted in the report, are sought to be couched in watered down non-committal language.

For his efforts, Harper is attracting negative commentary:
Of Harper, Oxfam's Lawson says, "I don't think he's particularly interested in these issues and I think he's ignoring a big grass roots campaign in Canada. Until the recent government, Canada was always a champion on these issues. So it's really sad to see this turnaround."
It's clear that Harper's presence on the world stage is having a distinct impact. The world is beginning to really get a sense that it's not just Bush who is the problem, it's the Canadian PM as well. The world has never seen a Canadian PM quite like him.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Look who's interested in the Green Shift lawsuit

Surprise, surprise.

Keeping tabs on Conservative muckrakers, no doubt...

Bush and his lackey hangin' at the G8

Bush commands Harpie at the G8 summit today in most statesmanlike terms: “Yo Harper!” Telling us that yes, it's Harpie who is the one with whom Bush feels comfortable enough to joke with at spare moments at the G8. CanWest reports:
In a television feed of the event, Bush at one point can be seen putting his arm around Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua.

"You're a good man, you're a good man," says the president.

Bush then wipes his finger below his nose and calls for the attention of Harper.

"Yo Harper. The president of Nigeria."
Bush's summoning of Harper is also picked up by Reuters today: "Bush summons Canadian leader with a "Yo Harper!""

Yo, Harper. Ditch this boor, pronto, your nation respectfully requests. Try hanging out with those other G8 types know, the ones actually trying to do something about real targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And what say you, Harpie spokesthingys?
Asked for a reaction to the "Yo Harper!" comment, Harper's spokeswoman said she had not been at the lunch.
Yes, that's away! Run away!

Bush gets heckled, big time

At the risk of posting one too many a video of late and the laziness that goes along with that...there's a must-see moment on this video of Bush speaking at July 4th ceremonies at Monticello. Hang in there to the very end, you will not be disappointed:

What a rare occurrence over the past eight years. Hecklers and/or dissenters have not been permitted to attend Bush events. How to ferret out those, however, who dress normally (no t-shirt slogan, for e.g.) and show no indications of the trouble they are about to cause? This event saw heckler after heckler stand up and show the thug just how they feel about what he's done to their country. Cries to impeach, cries of "war criminal," and yes, "F*$# you."

A blessed event it was.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A golden oldie

Footage of Harper and Stockwell Day, back in 2003, pressing the government on why it was not doing more to support the U.S. effort against Iraq. This footage was posted a few weeks ago to YouTube. Wanted to post it here as well as a record of the orientation of these Harper Conservatives. It's an interesting look back, seeing how angry and frustrated they were at the time at the Canadian position in saying "no" to invading Iraq.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Looks like the Conservatives need new leadership

Scott's writing about the new Harris-Decima poll today. Just wanted to pull this sentence out from the report, on the Conservative electoral fortunes at present:
"'I think they would be challenged to repeat their success of 2006 with the kind of numbers we've seen in the last month or two - let alone do better than that.'"
Leading me to ask, once do the Conservatives stand having such a poor leader for their party?

Just asking...:)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Harper again taking his "all or nothing" position to the G8

PMO spokesman Dimitri Soudas yesterday staked out the Canadian position going into the G8 meetings on greenhouse gas emission reductions, reported here. We hear this not from the Environment Minister or Jason Kenney, the substitute Environment Minister, but from the PMO. Anyhoo, that's just a process issue to note...the big news is that we're once again going to be walking hand in hand with the Bush administration at next week's summit as a front that will oppose any targets being reached by the group.
The Conservatives have staunchly maintained that the battle to cut greenhouse gases is for naught unless all major polluters curb their emissions. Both Canada and the U.S. oppose any new agreement that does not contain targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from the big emitters.

A White House spokesman reiterated this week that the G8 nations alone cannot set effective long-term goals to cut greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide.

"To us, it is not appropriate for the G8 countries alone to set a goal or to pick a numerical target and then seek to impose it on major developing economies," said Dan Price, assistant to U.S. President George W. Bush for international economic affairs.
So once again, Harper will argue that unless the U.S., China and India are part of the one should be part of the equation. He's right there with the Bush administration.

This is an extremely frustrating position for Harper to be taking. As noted in the report, it could result in the European members of the G8 ignoring Canada and the U.S. and proceeding with their own agreement on targets. It's hard to believe that Harper is willing to put us in this position and ally himself so squarely with the Americans on this. He's banking that Canadians would prefer to do little to nothing unless the Americans do, relegating us to a bystander role versus a leadership role. In other words, the same position as last year. There's no improvement here and this will not resonate well with the Canadian population.

Unless there is some real prospect of the U.S., China and India moving from their positions, this all or nothing mentality is an abdication of responsibility on the environmental file. It's virtually an amoral position. And a signal that for now Harper's position on the environment is hardening, not moving as a result of the early debate on the Liberal carbon tax policy.

Smoked out

“I think it's a sorry day when they give that man the Order of Canada … He's not deserving of it. What has the man contributed to this nation?” asked Conservative MP Art Hanger. “Apart from providing a so-called service which I don't believe should be even offered in the nation, but is unfortunately, because we don't have a law governing the taking of life of the unborn.”
...Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion called for politics to be put aside and asked Canadians to look at Dr. Morgentaler's contributions to society.

“Dr. Morgentaler has stood up for a woman's right to choose for his entire career, often at great personal cost and risk,” Mr. Dion's office said in a statement. “The Order of Canada process has been designed to keep politics out of it and I think we should all respect and celebrate the decisions of the panel and the Governor-General.”
Nothing more to see here...oh, except for JJ's take...

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Effects of the Grasso litigation

Pretty big news in the corporate world today out of New York: "New York Ends Pay Suit Against Grasso." The epic executive compensation lawsuit brought originally in 2004 by Eliot Spitzer, then A.G. of New York, has been fully thrown out now by the action of the Manhattan appeals court today.
New York’s four-year-old case against the former head of the New York Stock Exchange, Richard A. Grasso, has come to an end.

On Tuesday afternoon, a midlevel New York appeals court ordered the dismissal of the remaining claims against Mr. Grasso, the former chairman and chief executive of the exchange, over his $187.5 million compensation package.

A short time later, a spokesman for the New York Attorney General said the office would not appeal the ruling.

In its ruling, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court concluded that the state attorney general’s authority to pursue the claims lapsed when the stock exchange changed from a nonprofit to a for-profit corporation. Last week, the Court of Appeals — New York’s top court — dismissed four claims against Grasso’s 2003 compensation package.
That last paragraph is the crux of the ruling today...that the conversion of the exchange from a nonprofit to a for-profit entity essentially ripped the guts out of Spitzer's original claim, that a nonprofit corporation in New York must pay its executives on a "reasonable" scale. The fact that the conversion occurred in 2006? Not so important to the majority, but a point seized upon in a dissenting opinion.

And so, the "I told you so's" from those involved such as Kenneth Langone, the former chair of the NYSE comp committee are bursting forth today. That's Kenneth Langone who gleefully cheered on Spitzer's demise this past year and was the subject of speculation as to what role Langone might have played in that demise, given comments Langone made to the media about personal knowledge of Spitzer's trips to the post office to post mail orders to hookers.

While the outcome in the case was a failure and there was a lot of money spent pursuing and defending the litigation, the case was one of the more high profile examples of excessive executive compensation to be put under the microscope by Eliot Spitzer and the media over the past few years and it served many useful purposes. It brought significant attention to an issue in need of reform. It put executive compensation committees on notice that their actions in approving such packages might come in for uncomfortable public scrutiny. Committee practices have changed in the wake of the tremendous attention that the Grasso case garnered. SEC disclosure requirements on executive compensation reporting in annual reports, etc., were enhanced in 2006. So in these respects, the cheers going up in corporate media today for Grasso's triumph should be taken in with that context in mind.

Happy Canada Day

To all my blogging homeys...have a good one...and play safe out there, kids!