Friday, February 27, 2009

Return to form...took about a month

In addition to his taunts of the opposition as "soft on crime" yesterday while in B.C., the PM brought out the really good nuclear stuff, threatening another election! Here's the clip (within first minute) and here's the report, "Harper demands MPs put rush on $3-billion in stimulus spending."

There's not much one really needs to say about the whole dynamic here. The Conservatives are in a box of their own making. Denied the country was in economic trouble through the fall election campaign, produced a partisan and misleading fall economic update that wrongly represented a surplus position for the government, prorogued parliament...the delay on stimulus spending is something they now wear. If you watch the clip, the PM's self-induced frustration is understandable. But the threat attached to it is not. Consider the reaction:
Strategic Counsel pollster Peter Donolo said it makes no sense for Mr. Harper to stir up election talk right now, particularly with the economy listing. “I don't think you should be threatening an election when you're dropping in the polls,” he said.

“It's difficult for a combative politician to always mind his Ps and Qs ... [but] sometimes they can't help themselves.”

The $3-billion fund will be part of an interim supply bill to be voted on by March 26 and, although the Liberals are supporting the 2009 stimulus budget, Mr. McCallum said they've not yet committed to backing the supply bill – which is also a confidence vote.

Mr. McCallum said he wasn't willing to give Mr. Harper a pass yesterday and said the Tory Leader's “super-aggressive” bully tactics were puzzling and irritating. He said if the Tories had moved sooner to offer stimulus spending – last fall, for instance, when other countries acted – then there wouldn't be a rush now.

“We don't want to penalize Canadians for this laziness on the part of the government, but neither are we going to cave to pressure from Stephen Harper to do what he wants us to do,” Mr. McCallum said.
Prediction, some kind of a climb down off the ledge. Big misread of the present mood where there is little appetite for threatening, my-way-or-the-highway politicians. Very "un-Obaman" in fact!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Criminal justice posturing from the PM


From the PM in B.C. today while announcing his crime sentencing proposals, in the midst of a troubled community struggling with gang warfare...there's always time for a shot at the opposition:
"The truth of the matter is, those who say that the tougher penalties on perpetrators will not work don’t want them to work because they don’t believe in his kind of approach," he told reporters.

"We know that we’re going to hear these critics, and we know that we’re going to hear the opposition parrot some of these critics because they all believe in soft-on-crime policies."

Shortly after the prime minister spoke, the Liberals and NDP announced they would support the bill in principle, while also criticizing the Tories for not going far enough in terms of crime prevention.
The Bloc is also expressing support. But here's more of the "soft-on-crime" reaction to rebut Harper's manipulation of the opposition positions:
Dosanjh told reporters the Tory bill simply "repackages" current offences, and accused the government of completely ignoring crime prevention programs over the past few years.

"We support the bill in principle, but we believe that this bill could have been done earlier and it doesn’t really create any new offences," Dosanjh said.

"This government has absolutely, miserably failed in advancing our agenda, the Canadian agenda, on crime prevention."

NDP justice critic Joe Comartin called on the Conservatives to fast-track the bill into law, saying it is consistent with themes that his party have supported in past elections.

"We will be supporting it and we will be pushing it through the House as fast as we can," Comartin said.

But he also called for more action to be taken as part of a comprehensive strategy, including more police officers on the street, especially in the Metro Vancouver area, as well as more diversion projects for youths at risk of joining gangs.

Remarkable to watch how many times the PM said "soft on crime" today, boldly attributing this position to the opposition in the midst of this violence. Watch the clip, he's in fine form. Even a mention of the "coalition" makes an appearance. Talking point governance in action.

Mr. Harper's been on watch for years now and at the height of media coverage on gang shootings out in BC, swoops in to announce such measures that experts rightfully point out are dubious:

Critics such as University of Ottawa criminologist Irvin Waller say that more jail time will not curb the kind of violence that the government wants to bring to a screeching halt.

"This is yet again a debate about penalties when it's very clear from looking south of the border that these penalties do not make a lot of difference to the number of people killed," Waller told The Canadian Press earlier this week.

"It's not a debate about what will actually stop them from happening."

Who is really the "soft" actor in this picture? Sounds like it's the leader who chooses to posture about enacting window dressing that will likely make no difference to the violence on the ground.

While people in B.C. are justifiably nervous about what's happening and likely are heartened to be receiving such attention, let's not avoid pointing out the obvious political motivation driving this legislation and the misrepresentations on the PM's part here in his characterization of the opposition. And an issue like this, causing such concern in the community where people are being gunned down in their cars, doesn't deserve to be accompanied by the cynicism and partisanship from the PM in his interactions with the media. Too much to ask from this PM again, I suppose...

Monday, February 23, 2009

The new Conservative talking points must be out

I totally believe these comments on the CTV site:
Peter in London
The Right Honorable Stephen Harper is first and foremost a family man who grew up in a middle class setting and understands the real values of life for the average citizen.
He is a top notch economist and a world history and political junkie.
His favorite pastime is hockey and he is also an historical buff on the subject of our national sport.
He is the leader of the newest federal political party in Canada and it's principal architect. It has not yet been corrupted by too many years in power and it's right of centre values appeal to most Canadians.

Now our Prime Minister impresses on the world stage and is about to be one of it's most influencial leaders to steer us out of the economic turmoil.

Yet, too many Canadians do not recognize this or should I say don't take the time to analyse before swallowing and regurgitating the cliches and propaganda. It is really a shame.

Harper is among the top five best Prime Ministers this country has ever had. PERIOD.
Another impressed citizen:
Richard L. Provencher
My wife and I are very proud of our PM Harper. He is the right man for this period of difficulty. He promotes co-operation and exudes pride in his country, and it shows. I believe many Canadians think more of him now as he deals with this "global" economic issue.
What about you, Lillian?
Lillian
This PM is one of the best we have ever had. He has the respect of leaders around the world. He hasn't been overly friendly to the media and won't be pushed round by them and therefore they refuse to give him fair coverage most of the time. I am thankful that Harper is PM at this critical time.
Totally, freaking, awesome.

Your end of day laugh...:)

Harper on Fox News, Canadian oil witches and other yarns


Just had a look at the Harper performance on Fox News and the train wreck transcripts, which Fox tells us, "may not be 100% accurate." Bit of an understatement. They do manage to get it down for the most part, but the Fox system still manages to entertain. In a brief segment on the oil sands, they come up with "Canadian oil witches." There was a phrasing in the conversation, "Canadian oil which is...," but you can see how the automatons would get to "witches." Second segment of Harper appearance in which that occurs, here: "PM Harper on the U.S. Financial System." Maybe they're trying to liven up the rather dull performance of the PM...:) But seriously now...

Let's see...during that second segment, some dubious claims by the PM. Must have gotten warmed up after the first, which was eventful in the fact-checking department, but not as eventful as the second:
"We don't have the mortgage problems certainly we have a downturn in our housing sector but it's not structural there will be no government bail out mortgages in Canada."
No government bail out of mortgages in Canada? Hmmm, what was this all about then? And no mortgage problems? Read this tale of the Harper-high risk-40 year mortgages.

Glossing over the Conservative induced deficit of between $46 billion and $105 billion over the next 5 years, prior to the recession and stimulus spending, of course:
We should be able to do that and emerge back in the surplus in about four years' time so we haven't got a structural deficit problem which which isn't a pretty good. Financial even running a budget certainly been -- budget surplus for over a decade for over a decade. And we're in a position to return to surpluses and as the recession is over -- obviously.
Yes, obviously.

And repeating the blame-the-U.S. environmental mantra now to the U.S. audience:
"We Canada for a decade wanted to have some regulation on carbon emissions but in an integrated North American -- economy."
Was very interesting as well to see Harper singing the praises of the highly regulated financial sector. See link above on the mortgage experimentation the Harper/Flaherty team engaged in.

As for the first segment of his appearance, video and transcript are here. Rather bumbled mumbling on protectionism in places, although he did seem to get the point out, eventually. But an intriguing mention of Canada's "second stimulus package." Really? I think we all missed the first. He's likely renaming the second GST cut and the fall 2007 update as the first "stimulus package," to convince us, wrongly, that he saw it all coming.

Always fun to watch...:)

Monday notes

1. We. Get. It. Ad nauseam. He likes hockey, he drapes himself in it at every opportunity. Apparently it's a state secret though that he is a Leafs fan, won't admit to it. Will gladly help him get back to that book on hockey he's supposedly "writing," gladly...a full time return to it would be a good thing for the book, don't you think? And for the nation?

2. The giant mess that the Bush administration left at the S.E.C. is the subject of this NY Times report, "S.E.C. Chief Pursues Reversal of Years of Lax Enforcement" that's worth a look today. Gives you a sense of how the commission, through the life of the Bush administration, was essentially rigged to quash investigations, Bush populated the commission with "opponents of government regulation." Leading to the commission missing major scandals. Brand new one today. Schapiro is said to be improving technology and looking at significant corporate governance reforms, including "...considering asking boards to disclose more about directors' backgrounds and skills, specifically how much they know about managing risk."

3. The NY Times editorial board is applauding the new EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, for the speed at which she is reversing Bush era intransigence on environmental action.
She has pledged to reverse or review three Bush administration directives that had slowed the government’s response to global warming and has brought a new sense of urgency to an issue that President Bush treated indifferently. She has also boosted morale at an agency badly demoralized after eight years of political meddling.
...
These would be major changes in regulatory policy affecting, all told, more than half the greenhouse gas emissions emitted in this country.
While we will await the content of these directives, the point is that the Obama administration is starting to act, quickly here, and Mr. Harper's feigned inability to act due to U.S. obstruction will be coming to an end. Surely he too is applauding, based upon his recent comments.

4. Liberals will use Kevin Page, Parliamentary Budget Officer when it comes time to review the Conservatives' progress in implementing the budget:
Mr. McCallum said however that his party will be working with the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page to dissect and study the report to determine if it is sufficient. He said although the Liberals and the Parliamentary Budget office still have to work out the details about what the party is looking for, Mr. Page will review the report. "He's done a very good job in providing economic professional advice to Parliamentarians and he will play a role in the report," Mr. McCallum said, adding the Liberals are looking for evidence that "the government has active plans to get money out the door fast [because] the money will not have flowed" by March 12.
See that? Cooperation with the independent types. Not so hard.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Only in Britain, you say?

Pity:
The UK and US Governments have reached agreement on the transfer of Mr Binyam Mohamed from Guantanamo Bay to the UK. He will be returned as soon as the practical arrangements can be made. This result follows recent discussions between the British and US Governments and a medical assessment, undertaken by a UK doctor, that Mr Mohamed is medically fit to return.

The UK Government requested the release and return of all former legal UK residents detained at Guantanamo Bay in August 2007. The Home Secretary and I took this decision in light of work by the US Government to reduce the number of those detained at Guantanamo with the aim of closing the facility and our wish to offer practical and concrete support to those efforts. In reaching this decision we gave full consideration to the need to maintain national security and the Government’s overriding responsibilities in this regard.

Mr Mohamed’s return does not constitute a commitment by the Home Secretary that he may remain permanently in the UK. His immigration status will be reviewed following his return and the same security considerations will apply to him as would apply to any other foreign national in this country. As always, all appropriate steps will be taken to protect national security. (emphasis added)
That announcement was made yesterday by the British Foreign Office. Clearly, some cases are in motion, despite Obama's diplomatic words on Thursday about the need to review all cases and decisions in other cases such as Omar Khadr's not being imminent.

Update: This post probably gave too much credit to the British government here who have acted throughout the Mohamed case rather shamefully, in refusing to produce exculpatory evidence to him in order to defend himself. The point was to draw a contrast between the British government that has at long last acted to get this British resident out of Guantanamo with our own.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday night music

This is a singer I came across recently, very talented, Missy Higgins from Australia. Had never heard of her before, just incredible voice, especially in this first one.





Enjoy...and of course, shout out to Mentarch who's been quiet this week!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Harper on CNN/Wolf Blitzer

Here he is on the Situation Room, courtesy of the PMO.



Did Harper seem tired/sluggish?

Especially interesting, post the 4:30 mark, where Harper speaks about financial regulation in Canada: "we have the strongest banking sector in the world." That's a good point, Mr. Harper.

Harper also touts the government being in a position of financial strength...in surplus until this year. Yes...another good point, Mr. Harper.

Always interesting to see such interviews, but fact-check with care...:)

(RedTory has this up as well.)

Update (8:00 p.m.): CP has a report on it now, with a few quotes from Harper, this one picked up on by Adam Radwanski:
"This is a huge risk to the world right now," Harper said on CNN in an interview from Ottawa. "If there's one thing that could turn a recession into a depression, it is protectionist measures across the world." (emphasis added)
On our own efforts, still unpassed of course, due to much delay in governing from Conservatives:
"We have a stimulus package ourselves; we didn't impose 'Buy Canada' provisions," he said.
No, we didn't and it's still not done even though Harper has been in office all this time and Obama's been on the job for just weeks. And a fitting endnote to put Harper's appearance on CNN in context:
The prime minister was likely preaching to an indifferent audience, however. Canada-U.S. relations barely register on the radar screen south of the border, even as a new poll in Canada suggests Harper's countrymen are convinced en masse that the relationship will thrive under Obama.

Strange priorities

Here comes Senate reform, again. We just saw this movie and it wasn't any good the first time. But bring on the sequel:
The Harper government will introduce new Senate reform legislation that would force the new raft of Conservative-appointed senators to quit their jobs after an eight-year term.

The move means that such senators as Patrick Brazeau, 34, would have to leave the upper chamber after one, non-renewable eight-year period. Minister of State for Democratic Reform Steven Fletcher said in an interview that new legislation would put the limit on all senators appointed since the October, 2008, election and into the future.
...
Mr. Fletcher was quick to add that any changes would only be made after the government implements its budget. "Right now, we must get our stimulus package passed through Parliament and we need to do that quickly," he said. "It just has to be passed before we can deal with the Senate ... it's by far and away the No. 1 priority."
So glad, I'm sure Canadians are wondering when the budget will be passed so they can get on with Senate reform. That this is the next issue on the agenda demonstrates either how empty the tank is in Conservative brain trust land or how urgent the need is to placate that base. While we can understand the pressing need to get Senator Brazeau out of the Senate, there are still just too many questions here.

Where is the pressing demand from Canadians that this issue be dealt with? It's not there. Where is the broad support among provinces for these changes? Not there as of the end of November:
Opposition to the idea is also stiff in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador. The provinces have argued the Senate election and term limit bills are unconstitutional.
There are clear constitutional problems with Fletcher's proposals on term limits and elections, the Constitution says no. And there's little appetite to open that can of worms.

Around here, we do not get this fixation one iota.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Harper weighs in on Plains of Abraham reenactment, presto, event cancelled

Yeah, about that reenactment of the battle on the Plains of Abraham...events move quickly after the PM weighs in!

Harper on Friday:
Harper said Friday the decision to allow the re-enactment to go ahead rests with the National Battlefields Commission, which administers the Plains.

"That's for the commission to decide what is appropriate," Harper said of the Aug. 1 commemoration.

"What I know is this: For most Canadians and most Quebecers, that battle is an important event but it is an historical battle," the prime minister said to a burst of applause from workers at Montreal's CAE plant when he repeated the remarks in English.

He said the Bloc Quebecois "want to keep fighting today."

"Most Canadians have moved beyond this. We're not fighting battles across the country in workplaces like this. English- and French-Canadians work together and we're going to continue to keep this country together forever."
Note the additional context, however, in this report, entitled, "Harper lashes out at Bloc":
Harper was applauded by the assembled CAE employees when he repeated his remarks in English, but there was no audience reaction when he first said them in French.
Now this is not the worst intervention we've seen from the PM, and he should be singing the national unity hymn. But in the midst of this tense debate, the perception he created with his remarks, which could have been more tactful, was one of the PM stirring up the matter. That can't have helped.

The ensuing result today, immediately on the heels of his weighing in:
There are reports organizers of the planned summer re-enactment of the 1759 battle on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City have decided against going ahead with the event because of the potential for violent conflict between federalists and sovereignists.

According to the "Journal de Quebec", sources involved in making the decision said the event has been cancelled, due to strong opposition and a series of serious threats from extremists. The newspaper said organizers did not want to put people's "lives or physical integrity" in danger.
CP reporting it too. I am inclined to agree with this view, which a Twitterer linked to today. This is the kind of sense which we could stand to have a lot more of at the federal level these days and on such issues in particular:
The decision of the National Battlegrounds Commission to stage a full-scale re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham to commemorate the 250th anniversary of this event ranks among the most crassly stupid ideas I have heard.

I doubt that sensible people would welcome a recommendation by historians, for example, that they re-enact the sacking of Washington and burning of the White House by the British and the retaliatory burning of "Muddy York" (Toronto) by the Americans in the War of 1812. There are hundreds of examples of historical events that it is plain silly or even dangerous to commemorate.
...
The re-enacting of the battle is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. The proof of the pudding is that the Quebec nationalists are already up in arms because of this insulting reminder, whereas they have been relatively quiet in recent years.

Some argue that they re-enact old battles in countries as diverse as the United States, Great Britain and Spain. Once again, the point is that these historic battles are not between two ethnic groups still trying to accommodate each other in the same society.(emphasis added)
And then there's just the whole silliness of putting on these kinds of events. What the attraction is in watching adults in costumes reenacting such violence, put me down as a big question mark. In any event, looks like the heat will turn down now as it's been cancelled. That is a good thing and should not be perceived as a concession to separatists that they have somehow "won" here. It looks like this was an ill-conceived idea that lived just long enough to rile up tensions and now is being put to a proper rest.

The Governor General's "geography" mistake

That rather strange article in yesterday's Globe devoted to Michaelle Jean's public geography mistake that seemed to take up quite a bit of space was a bit of a puzzler. Was it really all about the geographic knowledge of the vice-regal? Did it really warrant that much real estate in the Globe? The point in publishing it may have been to put this mistake out there, yes, as it may have some minor newsworthy value. And there's actually a Globe editorial on that point today, that Jean has a duty to know such details ("The person who exercises the Queen's responsibilities as Canadian head of state, indeed who lends her patronage to a geographical society, should not be ignorant of one of Canada's foremost geographical features.")

Somehow this does not seem to be truly and entirely about the geography. Maybe the Globe is pushing this point as a metaphor...you know, in respect of the Governor General's duties to be well informed, in light of very recent historical events in which she made one momentous decision, then nearly another, for the nation. If that is the tactful and diplomatic point being made, that seems worth the column space.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday night music...Valentine's edition

Joining with Mentarch on the theme tonight...:) So sue me, too! Here it is. Yeah, I know. But I am not afraid....:)

Besides, it's the second last song on my treadmill mix at the moment and anything that makes me run faster at that point has to be right. Try it, I promise it will work. Exclamation point!

Have a good V Day, whether you celebrate or not...:)

Bush in Calgary

"A bird in the bush should stay in Crawford." This post was missed on Prog Bloggers last night, I believe. A Calgarian asks, seriously, what gives? Well said.

Still shuddering

First the good news...the Privacy Commissioner is on the job. She is immediately speaking up on the Conservatives' coming effort to enact eavesdropping legislation:
"My concerns are a huge increase in surveillance powers," said Ms. Stoddart, who has been raising objections since such an update was first proposed in legislation in 2005 by the Liberal government of Paul Martin. The commissioner, who has had general discussions with federal officials and has been monitoring developments in other countries, said she expects to be consulted on any federal legislation.

"The [obtaining] of a warrant for looking into people's private papers, private affairs, now e-mail conversations is a basic tenet of our democratic and constitutional rights in Canada. To erode this is a very serious step toward mass surveillance so I would like to get a copy of any draft legislation and look at how this could be possibly justified. I've said in the past I've seen no compelling argument put forward for its justification."
Sounds like the opposition will be taking a similar hard line:
Opposition critics said they share the commissioner's concerns and would want to see the details of any legislation before taking a position.
The proposed legislation from Liberal Marlene Jennings, however, contains a proposal that appears to be setting the bar low in terms of privacy: ...the Jennings bill would require ISPs to disclose customer name and address information to law enforcement without court oversight (via mattbastard). Even Stockwell Day has previously committed to court orders as a requirement, as Michael Geist notes. The Globe report does state that Jennings' bill would "...allow police to "intercept communications and to provide subscriber and other information without unreasonably impairing the privacy of individuals." Suggesting some means of assuring that doesn't happen. So let's not lose hope on that yet.

But the bad news today is that an Ontario Superior Court judge has made exactly such a ruling requiring no warrant in a case involving child pornography that could have wider implications:

An Ontario Superior Court ruling could open the door to police routinely using Internet Protocol addresses to find out the names of people online, without any need for a search warrant.

Justice Lynne Leitch found that there is "no reasonable expectation of privacy" in subscriber information kept by Internet service providers (ISPs), in a decision issued earlier this week.

...
The federal Personal Information Protection Electronics Documents Act permits ISPs to provide this information to someone with "lawful authority," which Judge Leitch interpreted as meaning a police officer and not requiring a court ordered warrant.
With respect, that sounds like an interpretation begging to be challenged. We'll have to see how other courts treat this ruling, whether it's applied or distinguished given its facts as a child pornography case. But you can see the potential for abuse. We don't even need the Conservative (or Jennings) legislation to get to privacy violations, sounds like the police have just been handed a licence to obtain this information at the onset of a criminal complaint without a court order. While the ruling could be limited to child pornography cases, then again, it might not be. And for anyone thinking, well, if you don't engage in criminal activity, then why would we care about the police getting this information without court orders? The answer is the potential for abuse, pure and simple, of such powers when there's not the proper oversight. It happens.

So yes, three cheers for the Privacy Commissioner, but the ground seems to have just shifted in a big way.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The captainless ship

Letter to the Editor, Winnipeg Sun yesterday:
CAPTAINLESS SHIP

Re: Canada's job losses.

When Harper asked for our votes just 100 days ago, according to him our economy was sound and we should be buying into the stock market. He said this even though Canada had been in recession for nearly a year and hundreds of thousands of quality jobs had already been lost.

Some say that Canada's problem is a worldwide banking crisis -- true in part. In Canada however, we have had three years of reckless spending, rudderless management of Canada's dollar and money supply, and zero actual action on infrastructure investment. More than a year into the crisis, we now have Harper's government reiterating prior and still unfulfilled promises of $10 billion in infrastructure stimulus.

The facts are plain.

We have a capricious federal government in charge of the Canadian ship. The sailors at the helm have been drunk on partisan power and too self-absorbed to notice that the ship is not sailing into safe harbour but rather heading into the rocks.

EUGENE PARKS
VICTORIA
Thanks for making it oh so clear...:)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Harper stuck to the course for 3 days

Somebody didn't "stick to the course" for very long!

Harper Friday:
...the Prime Minister directly rebuffed the Liberals' hints they might force the Conservatives into another round of stimulus spending in late spring.

"We cannot have in Parliament, quite frankly, instability every week and every month, every time there's a new number, people demanding a different plan…" Mr. Harper said. "We continue to believe this is the action we need, and we're going to need it in the months to come, and we're not going to be blown off track every time there's some bad news."(emphasis added)
...
"We have got to be able to stick to the course," Harper said.
Harper today, backtracking:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to have opened the door to his government offering more economic stimulus spending in the coming months, on top of the $40 billion over two years contained in the recently tabled federal budget.
...
"Obviously, Mr. Speaker, we will see how things unfold in the months to come," he said. "But, Mr. Speaker, it’s important that we proceed with a plan."
Yes, that's all perfectly consistent now, isn't it?

Not feeling the patriotism

You can find Susan Ormiston's report on the National last night about the New Brunswick anthem controversy including an interview with Erik Millett, the principal of the New Brunswick school at issue, here at this link, "Principal speaks out." It is well worth watching if you missed it. The impact on Millett is clear. In addition to the mob who commenced with telephone and email threats, a parent threatened, in person, to beat him senseless.

Note the parent who was pushing for the anthem to be played every day stating that the "pledge of allegiance" is not recited anymore...what is she talking about? This is Canada, we don't do that.

Note also the footage about halfway through of the Conservative MPs popping up in Parliament like lemmings, repeating the lie that Millett had banned the anthem. He didn't ban it. Given the similarity in what was read out off pieces of paper by these MPs, it's worth asking who was behind this apparently concerted effort to inflame this local issue having to do with one school in New Brunswick and bring it on to the national stage. Sometimes watching these Conservatives in government is like watching pyromaniacs playing with matches.

There's something very wrong here.

Update (3:35 p.m.): The Green party released a statement on this matter on January 30th as Millett was previously a Green party candidate in New Brunswick. That is mentioned in the CBC report and is perhaps an additional rationale for the pouncing by Conservatives on the issue. The statement defends their former candidate but supports the daily singing of the anthem.

Related posts:
"What's the matter with Kansas, Conservative MP Mike Allen?"
"Person of the day"
"Conservative jingoism has its consequences"

Monday, February 09, 2009

Conservative jingoism has its consequences

Our very own flag pin debacle is still playing itself out. You see, for the "majority," it's all about the symbols, not the substance:
Erik Millett, who returned to Belleisle Elementary School on Monday, admits in an interview with CBC News that he is now questioning his own future at the New Brunswick school or even in teaching following the anthem controversy.

"I received probably over 2,000 emails, most of them hurling abuse at me, saying everything that I should be at the end of a bayonet, I should be shipped out of the country, I should be put on the front lines with the Taliban," he said.

"I bore a very heavy price for something that I think was very, very misrepresented in the media."
Now that's a reasonable, intelligent way to be conducting ourselves. In contrast, listen to the reaction of the man at the receiving end of it all:
"There are many ways to demonstrate one's patriotism or one's love for a country," he said. "The anthem is one, flying a flag is another, volunteering in your community is another. I would argue that teachers and staff at my school, caring for children to make sure they don't go hungry or don't go cold or have all they need to learn, that is being patriotic.

"I think really it has nothing to do with the decision that my staff and I arrived at. It has everything to do with one person having a very driven agenda and misrepresenting what the school did in the media and the media reproducing the myth, that mythology to a point that people in this country were whipped into a hysteria."
Unfortunately for us, in Mr. Harper's Canada, it's all about who can shout louder on talk radio than the other person. And it's fair game to connect the Conservatives to the fallout here and the forces unleashed. They went right after this. They latched on to it and blew it up beyond proportion. They went national, attracting the attention of national media in the House of Commons. 2000 emails resulted? Message well sent. On this and other issues, they continue to demonstrate that their preferred method of providing national leadership is to irresponsibly demagogue and sow division. They don't seem to give much thought about the consequences that may result. They may be playing nice on budget matters at the moment, but the undercurrent of incivility remains.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Just for fun...



Now this is a much better picture of the festivities tonight in which a certain group - that we play a lot of around here on the Friday night scene - cleaned up...:) Yaya.

Senator Brazeau on "Question" Period today

The young Senator was on Question Period today, facing a "barrage" of questions. He claimed again that he had been cleared of wrongdoing in respect of one of the allegations of sexual harassment. Others disagree:
Brazeau said the allegations were investigated and dismissed by an independent mediation firm last year.

"The conclusions of the investigation was that there was no wrongdoing, there was no sexual harassment and therefore, the allegations were false, and that's now case closed," Brazeau told CBC News on Wednesday.

"My integrity is not at stake here."

But Will Menard, one of Brazeau's former board members from Manitoba, told CBC News that the board voted not to release the final investigators' report, but the executive summary said there was inappropriate behaviour.

"In my mind, he's not cleared at all," Menard said.

Menard added it is true Brazeau's behaviour didn't breach CAP's sexual harassment policy, but only because the policy is so weak.
And of course, there's the obvious point, if there's no wrongdoing, why did the claim end up in front of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal?

You know, I really try to stay away from criticizing media. But here, one just has to shake their head. Why did Ms. Taber not ask serious follow-up questions? Does she not read the material and anticipate what he'd say? The Menard information, the contrary viewpoints, should have been put to him. The complaint at the Human Rights Tribunal is against the Congress, not him? Please. Just ask him, "what does that mean, Mr. Brazeau?" He was just vice-chief when the allegations about misspent funds from Health Canada occurred. Oh well then. Ask him what the vice-chief does. Or better yet, have an idea of what the vice-chief does before you ask the question. But moving on...

No questions on the long-term viability of the Congress given the reporting that it's possibly fracturing in the wake of his leaving. Or about the challenge now from an AFN candidate to subsume the Congress within it? All of which he's left in his wake going to the credibility of Brazeau as a legitimate choice made by Mr. Harper. Speaking of Harper...what kind of vetting did Brazeau go through? Any questions in that area? Nope. What was the process like? Who did he speak with, etc., etc., etc.

Watch the "interview" here. To think that U.S. Senators are nervous prior to Meet the Press appearances. No such fears here!

"Lehman Brothers and Sisters"

A fascinating column from Nick Kristof today in the NY Times: "Mistresses of the Universe." One of the big questions coming out of the financial crisis that started on Wall Street has been, of course, how could this happen? How could these institutions leverage themselves to such an extent and expose themselves to the huge risk of subprime mortgages? These are supposed to be places that employ some of the smartest, most educated beings around. The boards of these institutions are populated by business leaders and luminaries. Kristof advances the theory that the problem is essentially this:
Wall Street is one of the most male-dominated bastions in the business world; senior staff meetings resemble a urologist’s waiting room. Aside from issues of fairness, there’s evidence that the result is second-rate decision-making.

There seems to be a strong consensus that diverse groups perform better at problem solving” than homogeneous groups, Lu Hong and Scott E. Page wrote in The Journal of Economic Theory, summarizing the research in the field. (emphasis added)
Significantly, one study cited by Kristof indicates the differences in risk tolerance as between men and women:
One of the shortcomings of any system of men sitting in front of screens making financial bets was reported last year in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, in case you missed your copy. That study found that men are particularly likely to make high-risk bets when under financial pressure and surrounded by other males of similar status.

As for women, their risk-taking was unaffected by this kind of peer pressure.
There are at least three other studies he cites as well, all coming from distinct disciplinary fields that are suggesting similar conclusions. As I said, fascinating stuff, applicable not just to the boardrooms of financial institutions and corporations, but political institutions as well.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A week on Twitter

So I've been on for just about a week now...here are some random thoughts...

1. I am enjoying following politicians who use it in a way that informs people following what they're up to substantively. Two good examples are Mayor David Miller in Toronto and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill. It's fun to read where they are, the adjectives used to describe the meetings or activities, the mood conveyed, etc. It is possible to convey something informative in the brief Twitter message. Here's an example from McCaskill earlier today:
Proud we cut over 100 billion out of recov bill.Many Ds don't like it, but needed to be done.The silly stuff Rs keep talking about is OUT.
From the Senate floor the other night:
Kinda fun to be here late.Everyone on the floor. A constant low murmer. Dozens of simultaneous conversations. How friends are made.
The former gives you a sense of her place in the Democratic spectrum and both, her personality. When you read it along side many other updates, it's the totality that conveys something interesting. She's using it exactly as I hoped to see from a politician. Miller too. I wish more Canadian politicians would use it in this manner.

Martha Hall Findlay is trying to engage the online community. Still have to do that Liberal in six word thing ("the green shift; bring it back"...? just kidding).

But here's an example of a twittering politician who could add much more, Harper yesterday: "Heading to Miramichi, New Brunswick." Add something insightful. What for? What happened? Not just picking on him - my usual, I know - there are some others in that vein too.

2. Are the personal details interesting? Not always but again, they do paint a picture about the people you're following. I'm fine with it all. I'm trying to find a balance with that and we'll see how it goes. My last update was a real barn burner...heh. Oh well. I've kept mostly to using it for mini-blog links, either to mine, someone else's or to a news item I'm not going to blog on. I do feel like I know some of the Canadian bloggers better after one week though. I think that's a good thing.

3. I've also learned a lot of new pop culture items this week, simply by others mentioning things they're reading, hobbies, how they're using Twitter. Someone got a job in the Canadian economy! Someone was proposed to. You get to "see" a lot more of the world through this different online window that comes to you, you don't need to seek it out.

So it seems to me that Twitter is not just about what quality you can convey in 140 characters, it's the larger interaction that it's about.

So far, so good.

Friday, February 06, 2009

With a whimper, Harper's Cadman suit dropped

BCer has tipped us that the Cadman lawsuit, that unprecedented action taken by a sitting Prime Minister of Canada to attempt to muzzle his political opposition, has been dropped. And we get word late on a Friday afternoon, par for the course.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Harper's No. 2 guy leaving

Despite a heavy dose of spinning, this doesn't look good: "Harper's election architect returning to private sector."
Patrick Muttart, one of the architects of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's last two political campaign victories, is quitting.

The decision of the 37-year-old marketing whiz to return to the private sector, likely in the United States where his wife's family lives, leaves a big gap in Harper's inner circle at a time when the Prime Minister's judgment and leadership during a deepening economic crisis are under intense scrutiny.

Senior Conservative sources told the Star that Muttart's decision to leave in the spring is "personal" and that he had never intended to remain in Ottawa after overseeing the political strategy for the party in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
...
Harper spokesperson Kory Teneycke, clearly concerned about how the loss of Muttart at this politically sensitive juncture might be portrayed, called the Star, unsolicited, to say "there's no story here. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
Kind of difficult to ignore, however, the circumstances in which this move takes place. Harper's at what has to be the lowest point of his tenure as PM. And as noted in the report, the new chief of staff Guy Giorno's been shaking things up since he arrived. Further, we had someone pointedly telling the Globe about a week ago that "the grown-ups" were in charge of the budget process in the PMO, implying that staff were being displaced by new more senior hands. So while it's possible that this is a personal move, it's just as likely that they're shaking things up in order to survive because what got them to this point has not been working.

Muttart, the Star report notes, is the "marketing" whiz of the Harper government. In that vein, note what Lawrence Martin writes in his column today about what the Canadian people are in the market for at the moment, politically speaking:

Dumbing down has been equated since the Reagan era with having the common touch. But, according to pollster Frank Graves, there is a growing appetite in Canada for a more sophisticated, intellectual form of leadership. It comes not just from Barack Obama's having lit the fuse, Mr. Graves says, but from our own experience and conditions. We haven't had the elevated style since Pierre Trudeau, who remains, according to polls, Canada's most admired PM.

Since that era, it's been largely populist and visionless. The country's politics have swung so low in recent years not just on account of Mr. Harper, who exists almost entirely in the realm of tactics, but on account of Liberal leaders as well.

"We've been punching well below our intellectual weight," says Mr. Graves. "We have the most educated public we have ever had but, instead of reaching higher to them, our politicians go the other way." They should understand, he says, that "you don't have to be aw-shucks and lowbrow to relate to average people. Average people are smart. Obama's victory showed that. On the Republican side, Sarah Palin was making George Bush look like a Nobel Prize winner."

Throw all that into the mix as context for this departure as well.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hypocrisy? Say it ain't so

Word is making its way round the blogosphere on the issue of bloggers of the Conservative variety not donating to their party. Yet carelessly leaping to incorrectly accuse Michael Ignatieff of not giving (see Tribe and Kinsella). You know, the search mechanisms on the Elections Canada website are a wonderful thing. Try them sometime, there's lots of fun you can have.

I'm not going to disparage people overly, circumstances dictate what one can give and there are other ways to contribute, yes. But one would think that the stars of the Conservative side of the blogosphere might be a little more enthusiastic about their party. You know, set an example.

And if you're wondering, around here, we put our money where our mouth is. Some (probably not many, but maybe a few...:)) would say it's even an exceedingly large, blowhard type mouth. Therefore, I contribute accordingly, roughly half the limit in '08. I figured, if a person like me doesn't give, then who will?

The things you never think you'll learn on the internet in a given day...

Person of the day

Words of wisdom from one of the parents at that New Brunswick school that was the subject of a dispute over the playing of the national anthem. Well worth a look:
Days after a school superintendent ordered the national anthem back into Belleisle Elementary, a member of the local parents committee in the southern New Brunswick town is criticizing the decision for damaging the school's welcoming atmosphere.

Kelly Cooper, the vice-chair of the Parent School Support Committee at Belleisle Elementary, said the anthem controversy that erupted last week subjected the school and its principal to unfair hostility and created an "us-against-them" mentality in the community.

"We all have our reasons to sing or not sing the anthem. But for me this is about how do we treat the people who are different in our community," Cooper said.

"How do we treat the people who disagree with us? Do we respect them, listen to their point of view, or does the majority say, 'We're the majority, too bad for you and we've got rights.' That doesn't make me feel very comfortable."
...
Cooper said the welcoming environment at Belleisle Elementary has been damaged because of the anthem debate.

She said she would rather her two daughters miss out on the daily singing of O Canada than have other students feel excluded for a length of time each day.

The Belleisle Creek mother said the divisions created by the debate have altered the close-knit atmosphere in the rural school.

"Two weeks ago that's what we had, a school where parents felt like a community. It was a warm place," she said. "Now we have division, but we have the anthem every day. And I hope the people who wanted the anthem every day feel that it's worth it." (emphasis added)
That is the kind of Canada a lot of us want, where the Kelly Coopers of the world prevail, not those who want to enshrine anthem playing into law in order to claim some patriotic mantle. The Conservative MPs who injected a national political lens on this situation have won. Congratulations.

Monday, February 02, 2009

The awful truth

Latest fundraising numbers for the political parties in 2008 that show how tilted the playing field is:"Tory war chest nearly four times that of rivals." Massive ouch:
The Tory fundraising juggernaut steamrollered its opponents in 2008.

New figures from Elections Canada show the federal Conservatives raised nearly four times more money than their closest rival.

The $21.2-million raked in by the Tories easily outpaced the $5.9-million raised by the Liberals, $5.45-million by the NDP, $1.6-million by the Green Party, and $713,000 by the Bloc Québécois.
A silver lining for the Liberals:
While the Tories have declared that talk of a coalition prompted a flood of donations, only one party's revenues actually increased in the final quarter.

That was the Liberal party, whose contributions jumped 23 per cent from the third quarter, while Tory donations dropped slightly from the previous months.
The recent unhappiness from the Conservative base about the budget may impact Conservative numbers in the coming year, but even if it does, they'll still have a heck of an advantage.

And the silver lining for Rocco Rossi, there's nowhere to go but up. If that Liberal brand is just so darn resilient and historic, it has to be able to compete with the Conservatives financially. Otherwise, our democratic discourse and the political playing field in this country are going to continue to be hopelessly skewed.

Just when you think the Brazeau Senate pick couldn't get any worse...

It does. Further to this post last week, the Globe confirms: "Brazeau hires former colleagues amid drinking-at-work allegations."
The two most senior officials at the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, both of whom were accused of drinking at work, have resigned from the organization and have now been hired as aides by Senator Patrick Brazeau.

Mr. Brazeau resigned from the congress after his Senate appointment in December amid criticism that he would be drawing two six-figure salaries at taxpayers' expense if he stayed on.

As national chief of the Congress, Mr. Brazeau, his chief of staff, Lorraine Foreman, and his director of public affairs, Al Fleming, regularly returned to the office after lunch outings smelling of alcohol, several former congress staffers have told The Globe and Mail. Drinking would also take place in Mr. Brazeau's second-floor office, according to former staff, where there was Scotch on hand and a small fridge stocked with beer.

Ms. Foreman - who also goes by the name Lorraine Rochon - and Mr. Fleming are now listed on the Senate website as the only employees of Mr. Brazeau's office.
Now that's not Senate reform we can believe in!  

Also of importance here, Jade Harper, the former employee who initiated a grievance alleging sexual harassment against Brazeau, wrote a letter to Mr. Harper last week which appears to expand the allegations of sexual harassment to others: 
Ms. Harper sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper dated Jan. 26, 2009, asking him to postpone Mr. Brazeau's appointment to the Senate until all allegations against him are fully investigated.

"I have been contacted by several young women since my own story was repeated in the media and their stories are similar to mine in their encounters and the resulting emotional and mental stress that they continue to experience," wrote Ms. Harper, offering to brief the Prime Minister further in confidence.

"There are many of us willing to step forward to attest to the track record of Mr. Brazeau as an employer and community leader. To date, there have been no investigations into these claims. Instead, we look on in amazement as Mr. Brazeau is appointed to the Senate."
While these are not formal allegations, it sounds like they're willing to put them on the record, further clouding Mr. Brazeau's appointment.

Also of importance here, the information that the board of the Congress met throughout last week and "...will release a statement on the future of the Congress tomorrow."  Whether that has to do with the east-west divisions, we'll see.  

The implosion that continues to roll on and on and on...much to the embarrassment of Mr. Harper, who clearly exercised very poor judgment with this pick.