Thursday, November 30, 2006

Jason Kenney: Ted Morton will respect all Albertans

I heard this clip on the radio during the drive into work this morning, and the first thing that went through my head was "bullfeathers!". Admittedly, considering the fatuous source, I'm not exactly surprised.

No, I don't think that Ted Morton will "respect" all of us at all. In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest that you can expect to be "thrown under the bus" if you are queer, female or a minority.

Remember, Ted Morton is the man who keeps on dredging up his godawful amendments to the Alberta Human Rights code - specifically to enshrine bigotry - as long as the bigot frames in terms of an objection to gay marriage.

I don't know where Morton lands on subjects such as reproductive rights, but given that he's part of the so-called "Calgary School" that is so influential with the Theocons currently trying to govern in Ottawa, I'd have to guess that he sees women's rights and health as "mere special interest groups" - expendable if need be.

Speaking of "expendable", back here, I started to express some concern about the potential for fraud in the current PC leadership race. Well, it turns out that MIA MLA Hung Pham has is now backing Ted Morton.

"So what?" you say? Well, let's not forget that the stench of corruption and rot comes strongly from Mr. Pham's direction. In Calgary, Pham and his people have been linked to misdirection of government funds in a community association, and horrendously ugly little bit of voter fraud during the last civic election. While I'm sure that Mr. Morton will be all too happy to have the votes that Mr. Pham can "arrange" on his behalf, I imagine some of those "voters" will be quite surprised to learn that they voted at all. (And, I have little doubt that they will be equally surprised at how quickly they get "thrown under the bus" by Morton and crew when their votes are no longer important.)

With the thick ties between Ted Morton and the Federal CPoC, I think we can look to the CPoC's policies and actions (such as cutting programs that affect women and minorities) and guess exactly where Ted Morton would head. (Just to further cement the relationship, remember that Vic Toews was openly musing about a federal version of Morton's lovely little enshrined bigotry laws.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Replacing Ralph - The No Ted Morton Edition

According to the Calgary Herald, Ted Morton is getting backing from the Federal CPoC MPs.

A growing brigade of federal Tory MPs, including high-profile Jason Kenney, will storm back to Alberta this week to throw their political and organizational muscle behind Ted Morton in his fight for the Progressive Conservative reins and premiership.


Right there, Ted Morton is on my list of "Not this side of creation" for leadership of the Alberta PCs. I don't like what the Federal CPoC represents, I'll be damned if that's what I want to see in the provincial legislature as well.

"It's a Reform party takeover in provincial politics," said David Taras, political analyst at the University of Calgary, adding the city could prove to be a battleground of epic proportions between these "two very different" visions for the party.

"This is the heavy ammunition coming in. Morton is bringing in the cannons and they're going to fire away in Calgary," Taras said. "Calgary is going to be at war with itself."


Just like the Reform/Alliance party took over the Federal PCs (with Mackay's collusion), we see the same thing going on here.

These are not people who believe in representative democracy - they believe in one thing - an ideology. If you don't follow their particular ideology, then expect to be thrown under the bus by them.

[Update:]
This article explains (fundamentally) that unless there's an exodus of votes from either Dinning or Morton, Stelmach doesn't stand much chance of actually winning.

To win, a candidate needs to receive 50 per cent plus one of the No. 1 rankings. If no candidate reaches that, the bottom candidate drops off. His votes will then be transferred in order of preference to the remaining two and a winner declared.


He's likely to be the "third place" name, which means that his backers are the "king makers" - I can only hope that they are smart enough not to put Ted Morton down as their "second choice" candidate.
[/Update]

Qui Est Ce, Les Quebecois?

Apparently, Prime Minister Harper doesn't even know who he was recognizing when he put forward his motion to acknowledge "Les Quebecois" as a "Nation within Canada".

When queried last night, he responded "they know who they are".

So, our Prime Minister put forth a resolution "acknowledging" a "nation" that he cannot even define. That's pretty rich when you think about it. There are as many ways to define it as there are people who claim to be Quebecois.

Is it all of the people who live in Quebec? Is it just those who are "pure lain" Quebecois? What about Quebeckers who have moved to other parts of Canada? I'm sure you get the basic idea.

Harper seems to be attempting to tap the notion of "ethnic nationalism" here, but he doesn't really understand what he's doing outside of gaining a few political points. The whole issue of francophone nationalism in Canada is a very old problem, and not one that has any easy definitions behind it. Even the notion of Quebec is open to discussion in the minds of many.

However, acknowledging as a nation a group you cannot articulate a definition of is simply foolish. It's right up there with acknowledging "The Scots" as a "nation within Canada". Who the hell is Scottish? Someone who can trace their lineage back to the traditional Clan held lands in Scotland? What about those mongrels who are only partially of Scottish ancestry, but celebrate that part of their heritage actively?

Just consider the implications for a moment - what is the political (and subsequent legal) meaning of the "recognition"? True enough, there is no legal weight to it yet - it was no more than a motion in the House of Commons. However, on topics of political negotiations between the provinces and Ottawa, it can carry significant weight. Does it create another grey area much like the notion of the First Nations as "Nations within" has done? (with all of the complications that includes)

It's quite conceivable that Harper is trying to provoke a constitutional crisis. It's no secret that the CPoC has long dislike parts of the constitution, and would love an opportunity to rewrite in their own image.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Federal ByElection Results

The results of the first two byelections in Stephen Harper's tenure as Prime Minister are in.

The Liberals won London North quite handily, with CPoC candidate Dianne Haskett coming in third place, behind Elizabeth May - the newly minted Green Party leader. Since this was a Liberal riding in the first place, it's hard to say that this is a statement about Harper's government per se, but I would say that Elizabeth May's showing is impressive indeed.

As for Repentigny in Quebec, it appears to have remained easily in Bloc Quebecois hands.

Cracks In The Caucus Ranks?

Well, it appears that Stephen Harper's little "cheap points" tactic of a motion to "Recognize the Quebecois Nation" may be exacting a small, but not insignificant price in the caucus. The Minister for Inter-Governmental Affairs resigned his post.

Remember, that in effect, Stephen Harper's motion undermined his minister quite explicitly. This motion is firmly in Mr. Chong's portfolio as the minister responsible for inter-governmental affairs, and Mr. Harper has taken not only the actions, but clearly has done so without regard for his minister's opinions on the matter.

Like Mr. Turner, I will put pretty good odds that mysteriously, Mr. Chong will find himself rapidly marginalized by the CPoC caucus as a result of his "disloyalty" - in spite of protestations to the contrary.

This kind of active undermining activity is classic micromanager technique, and reinforces the notion that Mr. Harper is not confident in his ability to unify and lead his team. So, instead, as the cracks begin to emerge, we can expect to see Mr. Harper take more and more upon himself, to the detriment of the effectiveness of himself and his team.

Unless Harper learns - quickly - to delegate responsibility, his government's implosion and failure is a matter of time.

Replacing Ralph...

I may be somewhat mistaken in my original prognostication about the odds for Ed Stelmach. As others have pointed out to me, he could "run up the middle" as a "second choice" candidate.

This afternoon, we find Ted Morton making similar noises, basically on the assumption that the Dinning campaign has little or no chance of gaining enough "second choice" votes to win, and presumably not enough votes to take the overall vote this coming Saturday.

It's hard to say what will happen. I suspect it has a lot to do with how many more "Instant Tories" can be constituted between now and Saturday. (Personally, I think the same problem exists for both the Morton and Dinning camps - neither has a great deal of "leverage" with the existing membership.

I'd also like to reflect a conversation I had this afternoon. We were discussing the problems with the way that this current leadership selection process is being implemented, and one of the participants pointed out a key point I had been missing. Traditionally, leadership campaigns are an opportunity for a party to "turn inwards" and reinvent itself. The PC's system this time around is very outward looking, and attempting to maximize revenues by drawing in as many "short term" members as possible. I'm a little skeptical about how effective this will be, both in terms of selecting a leader that reflects the party and its goals as well as helping the party renew itself after a fifteen year stint as "The Cult of Ralph".

Remember that 1/2 Billion Slush Fund

That our government is handing to the denizens of the White House?

Any bets this is what is going to? (especially in the light of a disastrous mid-term election)

Harper and The TheoCons - Reprise

Via Evilscientist, I came across this article on CBC, which is a story about Garth Turner and his observations of how Stephen Harper runs things.

I agree entirely with what Evilscientist wrote, but I wanted to add a few bits of my own thoughts - because I cued on a couple of other aspects of the article as significant:

Earlier this year, Turner took part in a TV debate with Charles McVety, an evangelical leader who has been a driving force in the fight against same-sex marriage.

The MP says there was a telling moment in that debate when McVety looked at him and said: "You know what? I can pick up the phone and call Harper and I can get him in two minutes. It's going to take you a month."

Turner paused.

"I think he's right."


Consider this - McVety is not elected, he's not a registered lobbyist (that I know of at any rate), but he has better access to the PMO than many MPs? (Even accounting for Garth Turner's status as a relative outcast, this is unacceptable)

The Creation Of Government Policy

Imagine sitting in your office working away one day, and your boss walks in and drops a new assignment on your desk. Your assignment? To come up with all the reasons why your job shouldn't exist. This is the job you pursued, and landed; have invested heavily in personally, and now your boss is asking not to justify its existence, but in fact to justify its dissolution.

That is in effect what the Conservatives are doing in Ottawa today.

"They were all very committed to the programs they were working on," he said. "So for them to be asked to explain why they should be cut, really it's right out of [George Orwell's] 1984. It's telling bureaucrats to come up with lies to justify government policy."


Apparently, Rona Ambrose and her ever-so-inflexible boss, Stephen Harper, have decided in their infinite wisdom that not only is it inadequate to scuttle Kyoto (and not even attempt to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions), but in fact they seem quite determined to dismantle anything that might produce useful, science-grounded results.

I may have to resort to prayer before this lot are ousted from power, because by the time they are finished, that's all Canadians will have left!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Replace Ralph Race

I've more or less ignored the Alberta PC leadership race for a couple of reasons. First of all, I'm not a member of the party, and I really have a problem with the "Instant Tory ... just add $5 bucks" model of doing things. However, a few conversations I've had in the last few days have given me cause to sit back and look more closely at the race, and in particular the way that the PC party has framed it.

I find the apparent switch to a "grassroots" style of "one member, one vote" rather interesting - especially when one considers the amazingly top-down approach of leadership favored by Ralph Klein and his cronies. One thing that has to be painfully clear is that the party power structure is very much focused on concentrating power in the party hierarchy - centralized heavily around the Premier's office. This is a party which has long ago lost touch with the individual voter (back around the time that Don Getty was in office), and today seems to think of itself as a power in its own right.

So, the first question to all of the "Instant Tories" that have been voting this weekend is "Just how much do you think this party will listen to you?". My guess is that once the leadership campaign is over, the silence from Edmonton will be deafening.

The second issue that I have is with the marketing of this. The message has been in the media for weeks now - "buy a membership so you can vote for the next premier!" - sounds a little like a carnival huckster to me. More cynically, it puts forth messages that reinforce the bogus notion that Alberta is a "one party state". While the PC party certainly has reason to perpetuate the myth that they are the "natural governing party", to portray the leadership selection process as something that is somehow inherently "democratic", and therefore you should participate in it, is disingenuous in the extreme.

First of all, while the winner of this race will be Alberta's next Premier, that doesn't mean that the resulting government actually has a mandate from the people. Whoever replaces Ralph Klein will no doubt present a different government to us than Ralph did, and since the party has been very much "The Cult of Ralph" for the last 15 years, one has to assert that the party was elected on the strength of Ralph's personality. None of the contenders remaining has that kind of personal draw.

Second, in a party system like we have in Canada, the party goes off and selects their leader as an internal process. Once their leadership is selected, they attempt to improve the party's fortunes by presenting their "renewed" organization and policies to the public. Generally, this process is done by engaging the membership of the party. While one might argue that the Conservatives are doing this, there are some fairly deep problems with the approach being used.

First, how many of the "Instant Tories" are in fact reasonably aligned with the party and its stated goals? (Which of late, are decidedly ambiguous - other than holding onto power as long as possible)

Second, while the campaign has been aimed at "party members", the fact that one can purchase a membership at the polls is deeply troubling. Most reasonable processes have cut offs so that the membership rolls can be verified. The system that the PC's have implemented is rife with opportunities for fraudulent voting. I could easily run around to half a dozen different voting centers and vote and there's really no way to verify that I haven't already voted elsewhere. People could easily hold multiple memberships. Goodness knows what else is slightly off-kilter, with no real way to tell.

While I accept the notion that any leadership campaign is an opportunity for a party to sign up new members, I have serious concerns about the blocks of memberships that various organizations have been selling. Whether it is the ATA, trade unions or churches, this starts to look like a way to make significant "donations" to the party without having to declare them as such. No sizable donation is ever made without a tacit understanding that it brings with it a degree of influence later. ("Say, remember that $50,000 I donated last year...") While the process that the PC's have adopted has no doubt fattened their coffers considerably, I am suspicious of the consequences later.

Lastly, I find the whole idea of "pay to vote" downright insulting. If the Party wishes to claim that they are truly democratic, then they should commit to calling an election some fairly short time after selecting their leader. As a citizen in a (theoretically) democratic society, it is my right to select the leadership from all of the parties, not merely those who have a "vested interest" within a single party's power structure.

Looking at the race today, I'm somewhat (but not entirely) surprised by the amount of apparent support that Ted Morton has. I'm somewhat worried by this, especially as PCs spend the next week "picking their second choice". The real danger is that Morton could win by "running up the middle" with a split vote between Dinning and Stelmach. (It's not clear just where Oberg's supporters will go now, and I suspect a split between Dinning / Stelmach and Morton).

Personally, I think that Morton would be absolutely disastrous for Alberta. The man is far too focused on fighting old battles with Ottawa and protecting religious bigotry. On the other hand, the ties between Morton and Harper (via the so-called "Calgary School" are sufficiently strong that Morton could be quite damaging to Stephen Harper (and much harder to muzzle than Harper's caucus - which is well cowed right now)

Of the other two, Stelmach strikes me as "quietly competent", and could actually be a positive force in the province. I doubt that he has enough pull to draw much vote from the southern half of the province though.

Dinning has never impressed me overmuch. He's a bit too cavalier about some things, and has a very limited understanding of how policy affects individual voters. However, I'll take him over Morton any day.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

More From The Party of "Accountable" Government

With Harper's much publicized "Accountability Act" caught in a game of political handball between the Conservative-led House of Commons and the Senate, we learn of questionable financial dealings between the CPoC and The Manning Centre for Freedom and Democracy.

Apparently, the Manning Centre has extended both "training" for CPoC MPs and a significant loan that was interest free until 2006. Arguably, both constitute a form of donation to the party, although I think that the Liberals are playing a little bit with semantics on this one.

However, the CPoC has been playing semantic games with funding issues for a long time, and are now trying to amend their own accountability act to make their own dishonesty "legitimate" in the future.

Again, Canadian voters find themselves in the awful place of having to ask just what "accountable" means in the lexicon of the Conservatives. So far, it appears to have been little more than a campaign slogan.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Trashing Talking Points - Another Installment

One of the more noxious assertions that the religious anti-gay lobby likes to fling about is the utterly silly notion that homosexuals are pedophiles.

Earlier this month, I mentioned Regina's own home-grown bigot, Bill Whatcott, who was being martyred by Lifesite as some kind of crusading hero for refusing to pay a fine levied for some particularly nasty literature he was distributing around the capital city of Saskatchewan.

In the Regina Leader Post today, we find this letter, which points out the idiocy of the argument so nicely:

Whatcott uses select information to promote and justify his campaign against homosexuals. He is missing the point; child molestation is a serious crime and children who have endured it should not be exploited to promote the misconceptions of homosexuals within our society.


I imagine Mr. Whatcott will find himself spending a little time behind bars before his little escapade of self-martyrdom is over.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Conservative Mathematics

It would appear that our CPoC government thinks that they can not only pay down the debt, but do so at the same time as reducing government revenues.

With Canada's debt running in the neighborhood of $400 billion today, fifteen years means that we would have to retire it at a rate of nearly $26 billion a year. Now, that's an aggregate number including balloon payments and normal debt retirement. Given that much of the current government debt was run up during the Mulroney years (remember him - the last Conservative PM?), a sizable chunk is no doubt due to be retired in the coming fifteen years. Which may mean that sizable surplus payments against the debt may be able to retire a sizable chunk in fifteen years.

However, this plan makes huge suppositions about the state of the Canadian economy over a very long period of time, and further supposes that provincial governments will not run into the fiscal red as well. (A risky assumption at the best of times)

The part of the calculus here that doesn't quite add up is the notion of simultaneously reducing government revenues. It's sort of like agreeing to reduce the term of your mortgage, and then at the same time agreeing to a gradual reduction in your salary at work. Of course, I find it interesting that the government is putting the CCP - and any surplus revenues it generates - into the coffers of "general revenues" here. If the CCP is generating a surplus right now, and it is expected to provide funding to Canada's seniors as the baby boom generation retires (which, by the way will be near it's peak retirement right around 2021, I suspect), chances are that those very surplus dollars will in fact be required to fund the program without the government incurring further debt as the taxpayer provided revenues gradually drop off.

Looking at the experience in Alberta, I think that Jack Layton has it pretty much bang on:

"They're just simply saying, 'We are going to pay down the mortgage unbelievably fast. It doesn't matter if people are sick…. We are going to focus single-mindedly on reducing taxes and debt.' And that's not a balanced approach," he said.


(Believe me, it's not only unbalanced, it's ultimately very damaging to the infrastructure and engines of the economy)

Conservatives and "Justice"

[Update 20:50]
Here's the CBC story

Again, we find the Conservatives reversing the onus obligation in the situation. Do these fuckwits have any idea what the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" means?
[/Update]

The Harper government is clearly functionally illiterate when it comes to criminal law.

According to CBC's broadcast news this morning (I'm waiting for the story to appear on the website), they are going to introduce another "reverse onus" legislation in the House of Commons today.

This one is designed to make it harder for someone accused of a gun crime for the second time to get bail. The brief synopsis presented in the news boils down to if you have a previous firearms conviction, you would be required to demonstrate to the courts that you should get bail.

Remember, people, an arrest and charges are not the same thing as a conviction. At the point in time where bail is involved, the person is accused of the crime, not convicted.

Per se, I have little difficulty with making bail harder to get if someone has prior convictions that appear to be similar to the current charges, but as with Bill C-27, the Conservatives are once again attempting to place the onus upon the accused, rather than upon the accuser.

If you want to make it harder to "get bail", by all means, alter the laws to give more weight to prior convictions, or in such a way that prior convictions make it easier for a judge to deny bail (or set it high enough that the accused might have difficulty getting the dollars together). (Both of them easy enough to do, and far less damaging to the principle of innocence before trial)

As soon as we place the burden of proof on an accused, prior to their criminal trial, we are asking them to answer to the charges themselves - at a time when legal counsel probably has not done more than a superficial review of the case on either side. This opens the door to a significant risk that the accused will feel obliged to perjure themselves either at the bail hearing or in trial.

I'm sure Conservative apologists will argue that if the person really is innocent, then they won't have to perjure themselves. However, it's rather like the old joke question "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?" - except this time it's "You won't use a gun again, will you?" It presupposes that on accusation, the accused is guilty of the crime.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Harper's Still Thinking Like Opposition

Stephen Harper just doesn't get the concept does he?

He's the Prime Minister now. It's his job to lead Canada.

Instead, we see him playing games in the House of Commons in a tawdry attempt to score a few political points on the Liberals.

Yes, a week or so ago, the topic of "Quebec as a Nation" was bouncing around the Liberal leadership race as a result of some musings by Michael Ignatieff. Now, we find Mr. Harper making such a transparent attempt to "call a bluff" that it's almost laughable.

Tactics like this are what I expect from a second rate opposition party, not the alleged Prime Minister of Canada.

Mr. Harper needs to learn that you lead from the front, not from the rear.

Smells Like Something Rotten ...

After the past couple of week's Disinformation Shenanigans at APEC, something about a letter from a "new FLQ cell" strikes me as a conveniently timed bit of fiction.

I'm sure that the letter is real enough, but coming from a government that is all too quick to try the George W. Bush tactic of "Fear and Misinformation", I can't help but imagine that this letter was engineered for a specific propaganda purpose.

The CPoC has been trying to convince Canadians that we have hoards of "terrorists" running about the nation, and we need to exercise the same level of fear-addled paranoia that has emerged in the United States.

I'm particularly suspicious of this little "news item" for a couple of other reasons - it coincides with a rather odd comment from Harper regarding Quebec's status in Canada and the fact that the only news outlet carrying it is CanWest's "National Post". (Remember, it was CanWest that was running about with a false story about Iran and Jews earlier this year...)

Remove The Muzzles ... Please!

With Vic Toews announcing a "vote" on "reopening the marriage debate" in Parliament, it's time to consider just what that means.

First off, I'll note that the Prime Minister is putting it forward as a "motion" rather than a piece of legislation. That will considerably reduce the length and amount of debate in the house. Second, many observers suspect that there is relatively little chance of the motion passing.

From Stephen Harper's point of view, I'm quite sure he'd be very happy to let this motion fail. That would mean that the next election will likely be fought on other issues, where the Conservatives don't have so many obvious liabilities (other than Rona Ambrose...)

However, I don't think that this motion will be "the end of it" for the SGM discussion - especially if voters give Harper his vaunted majority next election. We've already seen enough intellectual dishonesty from this lot to be pretty confident that the issue will be raised once again by a Conservative majority - but they won't do anything unless they have a majority that would allow them to railroad it through.

On the other hand, I think it would be good to take the muzzles of the CPoC caucus for this debate. I'm quite sure that people like Mr. Vellacott have some words of wisdom they'd dearly like to impart to the public...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Harper on Foreign Policy - Review

As the last couple of weeks have demonstrated, Harper is a bipedal disaster for Canada on the world stage.

A brief review of his track record on foreign affairs shows an incompetence borne of naivete.

His first accomplishment - establishing "warm" relations with George W. Bush. While one can certainly argue that this is a positive accomplishment, promptly becoming "Bush's second poodle", replacing an increasingly impotent Tony Blair is hardly something that has done Canada's image on the world stage any favours. (and this Canadian is appalled by the degree of sycophancy involved)

Harper's second "major accomplishment" was a softwood lumber "deal" that is more detrimental to Canada's interests than pursuing the lawsuits was. Putting nearly half a billion dollars into a "slush fund" for the White House Rethuglicans to abuse is an absolute abuse of Canadian interests. Taking that money out of Canadian taxpayer coffers is downright offensive.

Then we get to move into the Afghanistan discussion. While we have a variety of issues to deal with where Afghanistan is concerned, the "mini-shrub" and "mini-darth" spontaneous visits to Afghanistan - mostly for the purpose of holding a "propaganda photo-op" news conference - are irritating, and less than persuasive of the reasons we should be there. The sudden overcommitment of Canadian troops to the most dangerous regions of the country is also very troubling. On the world stage, it creates an image of Canada swaggering about - thinking it looks "cool", but really looks as ridiculous as the the teenagers we see today wearing pants with the crotch down around their knees.

The whole business about climate change is highly visible on the world stage, and we send Rona Ambrose off to spout immature drivel at a world conference - just after the CPoC government has tabled the most ludicrous piece of legislation on the topic that one could imagine. Climate change is a huge issue around the globe, and the nations of Europe are rightly pissed off with Canada for the sudden turnabout of direction.

Harper's made this one step worse by refusing to attend a meeting of the EU leaders when he's going to "be in the neighborhood" anyways for a NATO summit. After aligning himself with a world leader that is almost universally despised in Canada, and most of the rest of the world doesn't exactly hold in high regard, Harper's antics on this front merely serve to diminish not only Canada's stature on the world stage, but make Harper out to be little more than a yapping poodle on W's leash - not exactly a credible place from which to defend Canada's interests.

His antics at APEC, especially with the Chinese president, show us a man who is illiterate in the language of diplomacy and persuasion. His "frankness" is not a sign of a decisive man, but rather it is the tactic of a blowhard who vastly overestimates his position and significance in the eyes of his audience. With the Conservative government's approach to the Kelowna Accord quite visible in the world's eyes, not to mention a number of other topics, Canada is in no position to be playing "holier than thou" with China on matters of policy and human rights. Anybody with a modicum of common sense will have long ago realized that Harper's holier-than-thou stance on many topics is a front for a very small man trying to act bigger than he is.

As a Canadian, I find Harper's utter ineptitude on the world stage embarrassing - his inability to admit when he's screwed up is offensive.

On Rona Ambrose ...

Heather Mallick says it all for me.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My God The Man Is Clueless

Every so often, I start to think that Harper is beginning to "get it", then I run into idiocy like this, where he starts bragging about about talking tough with China and how the Liberals never did that.

For starters, it was a "brief meeting", and certainly not formal; and "talking tough" isn't exactly credible when it comes from a country whose population would fit comfortably into one of China's minor provinces.

Like his greasy parliamentary secretary, Jason Kenney, Harper just doesn't seem to understand that cross-cultural relationships are delicate, subtle things. Harper is probably still trying to spin the snub that he received from the Chinese as a "miscommunication" - instead of understanding it for what it is in the language of diplomats.

Of course, CPoC apologists will no doubt be cheering Harper on, making the grossly incorrect assumption that China cares on whit what Harper and is bunch of testosterone driven goons think is international relations.

(Of course, on the world stage, even if Canada threw everything we had at weapons, we wouldn't be much more than a minor annoyance to other nations by ourselves. (And ignoring the Celil case at the outset sent a pretty clear message to the Chinese about just how "interested" Harper's government really is)

Like his White House idol, George W. Bush, Harper seems to think that diplomacy is best delivered with one finger on the trigger of a Smith & Wesson. (and we all know how well that's turned out in Iraq, don't we?)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

OverControlling The Message

[Update: 20/11/06]
You gotta know Harper blew it when his own pet media outlet is writing stories about this as well.
[/Update]

Why is it that Canadians are finding out about our government's foreign policy actions from the governments of other countries?

In the last week, the APEC summit has become a veritable petri dish experiment in just how much Harper is micromanaging the "message" that he allows out of the PMO to Canadians.

We learned that our government had sent our ambassador to S. Korea north to Pyongyang to deliver a "strong message" from Korean officials, with Canadian government people only speaking after the Koreans made it public knowledge.

The media learned of the mission assigned to Marius Grinius from a briefing by South Korean officials after Harper met with their president, Roh Moo-hyun, earlier Saturday.

Grinius is "now in North Korea and plans to deliver a strong message for the resolution of the nuclear issue," Roh's office said in a statement.


Then, we find the Chinese talking more openly to Canadian reporters than our own government after Mr. Harper meets with the Chinese President:


"The president engaged the PM in a conversation that was frank and constructive," said Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman. Mr. Soudas did not say what form the meeting took - whether, for example it was a full formal bi-lateral discussion or a more informal discussion.

It was left to a Chinese spokesman to elaborate with reporters about the meeting.


Really? Wow, our Prime Minister meets with the leader of one of the largest, most economically important nations on earth, and our officials have nothing to say?

Not quite...it turns out that what was to be said had to be carefully massaged, and came out in an e-mail some twelve hours later:

The official, Liu Jianchao, told Canadian reporters that the meeting was "very brief" and that Mr. Harper re-iterated his position on Huseyin Celil, the Canadian citizen in jail in China who has been barred from seeking consular assistance. He said the general issue of human rights was not discussed.

In his e-mail, which was forwarded 12 hours after the meeting took place, Mr. Soudas characterized the discussion as "frank and constructive."

"They discussed a range of issues from economic to political, including consular cases." Mr. Soudas said the two men agreed that bulding the relationship between the two nations is important.


Besides being mealy mouthed pablum that really says nothing of consequence, this is probably among the most irritating bits of excrement I've ever read. For starters, why does it take twelve plus hours to get a statement out about a relatively short meeting - especially when the Chinese officials seem quite willing to talk immediately afterwards?

Mr. Harper is an ELECTED PUBLIC OFFICIAL of Canada. We didn't elect him "supreme dictator for life" or anything other title that might exempt him from telling Canadians what his government is up to. He is Prime Minister by the accident of being at the helm of the leading party in Parliament - that's it.

So...if he's being so secretive on relatively minor matters, what else is he trying to cover up so that Canadian voters won't notice?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Micromanagement Implosion

In my personal life, I've had a number of opportunities to watch micromanagement tactics implode. Inevitably, in times of crisis, the Micromanager becomes overwhelmed, and either lashes out or turtles. Neither response is terribly productive, and neither response will ever solve the problems being faced by whatever the micromanager is responsible.

Such is clearly the case with our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. It quickly became apparent that Harper is a Micromanager after he was sworn into office this winter.

This past week, we have had quite the dollop of examples showing just how destructive and ineffective this approach is.

First, Micromanagers try to control information flow - both up and down the ladder. Sure enough, at the APEC conference, Canadian media is being kept away from him, as far as possible. Apparently because he doesn't want to answer awkward questions.

Second, micromanagers often undermine their own people. We have a beautiful example of this kind of behaviour when his aides go running around asking senior bureaucrats to report on how "effective" their bosses (cabinet ministers) are at communications. (The question isn't invalid, however trying to do it in secret is another classic sign of incompetent management that is so insecure about their context that they feel it necessary to be highly secretive in their actions.

(Perhaps somewhat justified in a way, especially given the utterly embarrassing performance of Rona Ambrose this past week)

However, Stephen Harper is demonstrating several aspects of micromanagement that indicate that he is actually a very weak political leader. By attempting to control the flow of information to Canadians while he is abroad, he further raises questions about his actual conduct and intentions. By "going turtle" as soon as he receives an "unexpected" question, Harper further demonstrates an inability to respond to the fluid realities of the world around him.

The currents of public events are water to his stony demeanor. Remember, sooner or later the water will erode the rock.

More Open, Honest, Accountable Government, Harper Style

Remember a bit of a dust-up over "convention fees" as political donations? Let me refresh your memory - the Conservatives took in a huge amount of money from a convention just prior to last election, and when it was revealed that they didn't declare these funds in their campaign finance disclosure they claimed all sorts of things about how they 'weren't really donations' etc.

Well, it appears that they are amending their "Accountability Act" to open a loophole so that they can have it their way - at least in the future.

Remember, this is a government that ran on being open, honest and accountable. When they are held accountable, they try to change the rules? Really? Just how "accountable" is that?

Earth to R.C. Bishops...your reality cheque bounced

I'm getting quite irritated with the various Bishops of the Roman Catholic faith running about making pronouncements about topics that they are so obviously utterly clueless about.

In the last week, Bishops have issued edicts on all sorts of topics:

US Bishops: Homosexual Inclination is "Intrinsically Disordered" Act is "Evil"
Calgary Bishop Calls for Public Input on Same-Sex Marriage Decision

US Bishops Approve Letter Telling of the Harm of Contraception
US Bishops Instruct: No Communion for Those Who Oppose Catholic Teaching on Life and Family

The clerical interest in what goes on in people's bedrooms must be leading to all sorts of unhealthy speculation among these people as they sit about in their cassocks.

Per se, not being Catholic myself, I certainly don't consider myself to be bound by any of these, nor do I find the notion of refusing communion to be a particular threat to myself.

However, two of these are plays into the political sphere of both Canada and the United States, and that does affect me. In recent years, politicians in both countries have been repeatedly threatened with denial of communion or excommunication because of their stance on various legislative issues. I find this to be little more than a form of blackmail, and a particularly odious form at that. It essentially says "do as the Church dictates, or we will cut you off".

Bishop Henry's latest foray into Canada's politics is once again into the discussion around SGM. He's calling for "study" of what the "probable impact" of SGM on Canadian society might be.

Among his worries:

"Prior to doing so, following the initiative of the National Assembly of France, to ensure an intelligent and responsible vote, he should create a task force or commission to produce a Parliamentary Report on the Family and the Rights of the Child."
...
"We need to draw a clear distinction between the public institution of marriage and other voluntary relationships. The marital bond is different because of its stability, the environment it provides for the development of families, and the protection its accords spouses and children."

Bishop Henry acknowledged the "extraordinary sacrifices" that many single parents undertake in order to raise their children, saying a "just and compassionate" society must support such families, but he said such support "is far different than deliberately creating motherless and fatherless families by establishing same sex unions."

"Prohibiting "same sex marriage" is not unjust discrimination. Most Canadians agree that homosexual persons must be treated with respect, compassion, and sensitivity because all human beings are equal in their intrinsic dignity. It is wrong to discriminate against persons, but it is right and necessary to distinguish between different kinds of relationships."


Now, really, let's be rational. Gays and Lesbians have been "out" since the late 1960s when homosexual acts were removed from the criminal code. That means we have nearly forty years of gay families running around this nation. I don't really need to point out that those families haven't exactly caused the world to stop turning, or anything else. Some of those families have been raising children - adoptive or otherwise - and it's not like there's any evidence that those children are maladjusted or anything like that.

As for his fears about "creating motherless or fatherless families" by enabling SGM in law, he's simply blowing smoke. Families without a mother, or without a father, happen all the time, and have happened throughout history. It is the height of arrogant stupidity to assert that allowing gays and lesbians to be legally married is going to impact that reality in any significant manner. (Notably, prohibiting SGM hasn't stopped single parent families; it hasn't stopped lesbians from having children, nor gay men from having children by past relationships or surrogate parents.)

As for the American Bishops and their declaration that homosexuality is "Intrinsically Disordered", my only comment is that this bunch of pedophile-enabling twits need to get out of the pseudo-Freudian pop psychology business. The simple reality is that there is no evidence that homosexuals are "disordered" as a result of their sexuality.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Dear CPoC:

Quit blaming your own governmental inadequacies on past governments.

Bitching and whining about the fumbling of the Liberals on climate change policy doesn't do anything to address the problem. Neither does a piece of brain damaged legislation that defers doing anything material to 2050 and beyond.

Don't point at AdScam as an example of Liberal corruption when your own actions have buried over $15 Billion in defense expenditures under the cloak of "national security", or you sign agreements with BushCo that hand over nearly half a billion to a White House slush fund.

Learn to govern - preferably, by actually providing the kind of government you claimed you were going to provide - open, honest and accountable - of which you've delivered exactly none. (and no, I don't consider the sop you call the "Accountability Act" anywhere near adequate)

What a Load

Via Canadian Cynic:

Adam Daifallah's latest piece of drivel is busy trumpeting how the Conservatives are the "party of human rights" - making references to a variety of human rights actions that various parties holding the "Conservative" name have made in the past, and referring to Harper's stance with regards to a Canadian muslim being imprisoned in China. I'll come to that in a minute.

Let's put the Conservative party on human rights in more current terms - what have you done for me lately?

Lessee:

- An amazing amount of screeching about gays getting married. Complete down to a dishonest push-poll.

- A series of spending cuts that disproportionately affect minorities and women.

- A party that bitches and whines incessantly about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms - especially when it's applied to someone other than a WASP. Anyone else remember the Conservatives running around with It's the Stupid Charter buttons last year? (One of Ezra Lerant's more farcicle maneuvers).

Oh yes, and before you go thinking that Harper's playing some nuanced game here, remember that this is the case of Mr. Celil, who was imprisoned in the spring and the Conservative Government ignored until August, in spite of pleas from his family who live in Ontario.

Oh yes, and in case you thought the "Defense of Religions Act" might be a positive step in human rights, I'll point you to Ted Morton's Bill 208 - the obvious model for DoRA. And one last reminder - the man who made the most radical human rights moves in Canada in my lifetime was Pierre Elliott Trudeau - he decriminalized homosexuality, and was the driving political force behind the current Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our Constitution...he was a Liberal. (in both the "big-L" and "small-l" senses)

Yes, Mr. Harper's Conservatives are such a model for "human rights" - if you happen to be a male WASP.

What various incarnations of the Conservative party may have done in the past do not constitute the C.V. of the current party.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Afghanistan...

With defense moron Gordon O'Connor running about spewing the "stay the course" meme (remember how well that worked for Bush?), Afghanis are asking the UN to make peace with the Taliban.

I'm not sure how feasible that is, but I find it interesting that Afghanistan's people are starting to say (in effect) "help us rebuild, but get out of our politics".

The problem that negotiating with the Taliban presents is not the obvious loss of face for the chest thumping gorillas, but it's a little hard to negotiate with a group that has no identifiable leadership. I'm not even sure that there is an identifiable entity called "The Taliban (tm)" in Afghanistan - it strikes me more as a banner under which the various pockets of resistance operate.

However, the original intent of Canada's mission in Afghanistan was to rebuild the place, not take sides in what amounts to a civil war. I suspect that in reality a certain recognition of the Taliban and other "resistance/insurgent" groups might have a better calming effect in Afghanistan than our Leopard tanks and recycled Vietnam-era troop carriers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Garth The Independent

I'm not surprised by the basic contents of Garth Turner's announcement today that he is resigning his membership in the Conservative Party of Canada.

No doubt, conservative apologists will start to belittle Mr. Turner as quickly as possible.

However, I'd like to take a slightly closer look at Mr. Turner's comments for what they reveal to us, especially about the inner workings of a supposedly "grass-roots" party like the CPoC.

The people who selected me as the Conservative candidate in Halton, sent 10 questions to the leadership of the Party. Among those questions:

1. What was the reason the MP was booted out and where's the evidence? After all, they selected him and sent him to Ottawa.

2. What is the MP's status as a candidate for next election? The local party people nominated him twice in 18 months, the last time just 8 weeks ago.

3. What happens if the people in the riding nominate him again? Who decides who represents the people - the people, or the party?


Basically good questions, although the last one is a bit of a leading question - but let's just see what The Party's repsonses were:

Here is what the leader of the Conservative Party, its top officials and the National Caucus chair, have determined:

1. I have been disqualified as a party candidate for in the next election. I am a card-carrying member of the party, and yet denied the right to be a candidate.

2. That decision came in a closed meeting by the Party’s national executive. No reason given.

3. The national president of the party says I will not be permitted to seek a Conservative nomination again.

4. My suspension from caucus is indefinite, no reason will be given for it. No evidence will be provided to my electors. And I don’t know what indefinite means…

5. National caucus chair Rahim Jaffer tells the local riding all of these matters are all internal.


My, but there's a persistent theme going on here. Basically, it boils down to Garth did something to really annoy party brass and whoever they listen to, and the party isn't going to tell either the MP or the electorate what their reasons are.

Unsurprising, really. Ever since the last election campaign it's been pretty clear that Harper has been micromanaging every aspect of things with the CPoC. No big deal, but when as a party they promised us more open, honest and accountable government, I tend to feel that the responsibility for delivering on that promise starts at home.

My guess is that while McVety lost the battle last summer over Garth's nomination, he's been campaigning up and down the hallways to find a way to oust Mr. Turner. Whether or not his gambit to unseat Garth Turner plays out successfully remains to be seen.

Canada’s New Government is suddenly looking a lot like the old ones - controlling power in Ottawa while it makes both MPs and the people who sent them here irrelevant.


Well said.

My own experience has proven that not only is dissention unwelcome, but that the party poohbahs of all colours have made themselves more important than millions of voters and tens of thousands volunteers.

If this can happen to one MP, it can happen to any MP.

Seven hundred members of the Conservative Party in Halton nominated a guy as their candidate - twice. And yet a few party officials, accountable to nobody and meeting in secret, deny their actions. How is this democratic?

At the same time, this is the party that took an MP elected by a majority of people as a Liberal in Vancouver, and made him a member of the Conservative government. It makes you wonder. Sure makes me wonder.


Well, that more or less summarizes what a lot of critics of the CPoC government have been thinking for quite some time. It also tends to lend a certain credibility to the suspicion I have voiced that the party is being less than honest with Canadians in regards to it's real intentions legislatively. There is a growing body of evidence that shows the theocon base of the party is trying to exert control, and in doing so is beginning on the path of purging anyone who dares to question their dominance. I suspect Mr. Turner will be but one of many "classical" Canadian conservatives who find themselves firmly placed on the margins of the "Conservative Party" - unless they are will to at least appear as though they will kowtow to the theocons.

Wandering Around The Swamps

I went for a wander through the swamps of 'Christian News' this morning and found a few choice gems for consideration:

1. Regina Family Activist Refuses To Pay Fine

Wherein we find the latest ravings from Bill Whatcott after losing his case with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal:

The Regina Leader Post reports that Bill Whatcott has said he would not pay, even if the Regina Court of Queen’s Bench rules he must. The court heard the case on Thursday and Justice Fred Kovach reserved his decision.

Whatcott, an evangelical Christian and a licensed practical nurse, was instructed to pay the money to the four persons who complained when, in 2001 and 2002, Whatcott distributed flyers that denounced the teaching of acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle in schools.


Of course, there's more to the picture than this. I haven't seen Whatcott's "flyers", but I think this paragraph gives us a pretty good idea what they contain:

But Whatcott responded that only facts, not hurt feelings, ought to count in law. “If you can find factual inaccuracies in my flyers or if you can find that I said something in bad faith, at that point there should be civil penalties,” he said. “I’d be the first one to agree with that.”

The Leader Post quotes Whatcott: “If I’m lying by saying that homosexuals are predisposed to sexually transmitted diseases at a rate greater than the general population, by all means find me liable for slander. If I’m wrong in saying….that there is a predisposition in homosexuality towards the sexual abuse of children, if that can be factually proven to be wrong, find me guilty of libel. But don’t tell me that I can’t say something that is true.”


Ah yes, the usual "homosexuals are all disease ridden" routine. It's well enough known that promiscuity increases the odds of contracting an STI. I'd put pretty good odds that the rates of STIs among heterosexuals that are promiscuous are similar to those for promiscuous homosexuals. Of course, when we treat homosexuals as though they should be ashamed of themselves, we get horrifying cases like Ted Haggard popping up. You've got to suspect that cases like Haggard aren't all that unusual simply because of the social pariah status that guys like Whatcott would impose.

If I’m wrong in saying….that there is a predisposition in homosexuality towards the sexual abuse of children, if that can be factually proven to be wrong, find me guilty of libel.


Ummm...this one is factually wrong. There is no credible evidence that links homosexuals to pedophilia. In fact, if we must turn that on its ear, the vast majority of pedophiles consider themselves to be quite heterosexual - outside of the proclivity for young children.

2. Catholic Medical Professionals Criticize New US Bishops Document on Homosexuality

Continuing in the campaign of misinformation about sexuality, we find this little gem in which we find some "Catholic medical professionals" group complaining that the Bishops' latest paper on ministering to homosexuals is "omitting good science".

According to WorldNetDaily, one of the memos sent to select bishops attending the November 13-16 conference in Baltimore objected that "the health risks inherent in the lifestyle and the real grounds for hope of recovery and healing are never mentioned in the [proposed] document."


Yeah, well, when you source from Wingnut Daily, you might as well get your news from the National Enquirer or Weekly World News - you'd have a better chance of finding real journalism.

However, let's take a look at their claims, and who they seem to be citing, shall we?

"Persons with SSA (Same-Sex Attraction) suffer real physical and emotional physical illness in this lifestyle. There is no mention [in the document] of the deleterious effects of homosexual behavior on the person; the abuse, the diseases and the psychological pain that accompanies that lifestyle," said Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D., a contributor to the Catholic Medical Association's statement on "Homosexuality and Hope."


Wow, that's quite a mouthful. Last I checked, the rational research out there shows quite clearly that any emotional problems that homosexuals experience is due not to their homosexuality (which they are usually quite comfortable with), but the hostility and bigotry of the world around them.

A quick google search turns up quite a bit about Richard Fitzgibbons. Let's see, he shows up with associations to a "marital healing" organization, Leader U (a group that names Stephen Harper and several other prominent CPoC members among its alumni) and NARTH.

If one thing leaps out at me, it was this little piece of tripe, which once again raises the utterly bogus link between effeminate behaviour and homosexuality. For crying out sideways, how long does it take these clowns to pick up on the real world research that long ago debunked the stereotype of the "mincing queer"?

Reading further in the article, we find them citing Dutch Psychologist Dr. Gerard J. M. van den Aardweg

"Among psychotherapists there indeed is consensus that the key factor in the development of homosexual feelings is a defective gender-identification in childhood and adolescence," writes van den Aardweg, who added that many experts also agree that "diverse forms of therapy, counseling, and guidance can help change a homosexual orientation -- at least in part in most cases, and in a minority of cases, deeply and radically."


Again, a little bit of digging on Google turns up a few tidbits about van den Aardweg - and none of it particularly promising.

First off, he is citing a consensus that I've never been able to find - and certainly none of the psych. material I've read over the years has ever asserted that homosexuality has roots in "defective gender-identification in childhood and adolescence". I've some evidence that suggests that there is a higher probability that an effeminate boy will be gay, but it's far from conclusive - nor does it explain any more than a handful of cases.

Of course, digging through Google's results, we again find van den Aardweg associated with NARTH, and a couple of obscure books that he has published here and here. A quick search on Amazon suggests that these books are no longer in print.

A quick dig through a number of psychology journal indexes doesn't turn up either of these people as regular participants in the research world. Both of van den Aardweg's books are the "gays can change" type of material, with all of the credibility that the "ex-gay" movement possesses. (Slightly less credibility than the phrase "honest politician").

In other words, when they can't find credible researchers to corroborate their idiocy, the religious "family values" movement turns to people willing to prostitute their names in order to lend a false legitimacy to their arguments.

Monday, November 13, 2006

You Break, You Buy...

With Iraq descending into the depths of civil war, we are starting to see calls for the troops to be pulled out.

I'm sympathetic to the families of troops stationed in Iraq. It's not like the individual trooper started the quagmire that they find themselves in the midst of. No, the responsibility for that lies squarely in the hands of their political leaders - George W. Bush and Co.

At this point in time, it's unclear to me what, if anything, the Americans can do successfully to settle Iraq down. However, given that it was American forces that brought down the regime of Saddam Hussein and opened the door to the current situation, it seems quite rational - possibly even logical - to assert that the US now has a moral obligation to assist the Iraqis in restoring some form of orderly peace.

The obviously sectarian nature of the violence suggests to me that the political notion of a unified Iraq may be impractical, and the interests of the people may well be better served by some kind of "union of autonomous regions" for a time.

Either way, US troops are unlikely to be coming home anytime soon - no matter what the political mood in Washington may be.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Mangling The Judiciary

It seems that the resident sub-geniuses currently occupying the seat of control in the Justice ministry wish to start turning the judiciary into some form of semi-populist creature that's as close to "elected" as they can make it.

According to Vic Toews:

Mr. Toews said, however, that "the law-enforcement process is a very important aspect of the justice system and to date, they have been underrepresented in that process. We are getting all the names in place so that this can commence fairly quickly."


Let's be clear on something - our police forces are semi-military organizations with a high degree of knowledge about dealing with the law on the street. They are, however, not lawyers per se. This isn't to say that they are not knowledgeable, but simply they are not qualified to evaluate the qualifications of lawyers whose names are put forward as candidates for the bench.

Of course, our knuckle-brained Justice Minister doesn't see that - he sees an opportunity to turn the judiciary in Canada into something that more closely resembles the elected judiciary problem that exists in the United States. (You know the one - where the county judge is always looking over his shoulder about the next election, instead of actually interpreting the law - both in letter and spirit)

Notably, the current system is understood to have its flaws, most notably:

The main criticism of the current vetting system has not been the composition of the committees, but how the government chooses from the pools of candidates it has ranked. Successive governments have appointed judges from those who are merely qualified, ignoring some of those ranked as highly qualified.

It is far too easy for marginal candidates to be ranked as qualified, Mr. Russell said. "Right now, they just screen out the utterly incompetent," he said. "If you are in Kingston Penitentiary or something like that, you don't make the list, but that's about it."

Most of those pushing for reform insist that the government should be obliged to choose only from the pool of candidates ranked as very qualified.


In other words, the problem is the fact that the politicians who make the final decisions aren't obliged to select the most qualified candidates in the first place. So...how does Toews' little manipulation address that issue? It doesn't.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What I Hope Will Happen ...

In the wake of Tuesday's mid-term elections in the United States, I've been musing about what could happen now that the US government's legislative houses are no longer aligned with the executive.

The current situation for George W. Bush is actually similar to where Stephen Harper finds himself today - neither of them "fully control" the political environment anywhere near as much as they would desire to. (Yes, I realize that the powers that Bush holds are quite different from those that Harper holds as Prime Minister, but neither has the ability to "railroad" their policies through the legislative process right now)

If the Democrats are reasonably smart about things, and this may depend heavily on how effectively Nancy Pelosi can manage the caucus, then I would expect to see anything that originates at the behest of the White House to get approved - after major revisions are made.

The Democrats have a delicate balance to achieve this time. They can't be seen as simply blocking everything, or the Republicans will have an enormous club to use next election. Yet, they must be seen to be doing everything they can to temper and moderate the extremes coming out of the White House. (This might mean, for example, scrutinizing money bills - especially for military spending; placing conditions on that spending, demanding full accounting audits of prior disbursements etc.)

If they can play this game effectively for the next two years, then Bush will find himself forced to do one of the following:

a) Veto the legislation. {Pretty poor form, actually - and a maneuver that will come back to haunt the Republicans in 2008}

b) Sign it, but issue a "signing statement" (as he has done a record number of times already)

c) Grit his teeth and sign it.

I suspect we'll see very little c), and lots of b).

The Democrats will have to be a bit cautious in their handling of Bush himself. As a friend commented, there's something vaguely feral about his responses, and I wouldn't want to see how he reacts when he feels cornered.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Returning to (ab)Normal Programming

Closer to home, we have yet another glimpse of the duplicity already emerging in the Conservative government.

It seems that Faux News North is not only lobbying the Federal Government on various issues (unsurprising, that), but is also sponsoring and organizing fundraisers for the very minister that they are lobbying.

To Bev Oda's credit, when the story broke she at least had the common sense to cancel out. But when you consider the close ties between the CPoC and CanWest Global's executive (the President is Derek Burney, head of Harper's transition team and former Mulroney advisor) and the "lobbyist" that organized this little faux pas is one of the company VP's, it's a bit of a reach to believe that this is "mere coincidence".

The CPoC, sinking to Republican levels of arrogance and corruption - before they have held a majority government. Can you imagine what will happen if they get a majority?

US Election Results

I don't have a lot to say other than I'm relieved to see the legislative arm of the US government positioned to act as a counter balance to the pseudo-religious thuggery of the current White House.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Income Trusts: It's the NEP all over again!

If you listened to the whining coming out of the "Energy Trusts", you'd think that the Conservatives had resurrected Pierre Trudeau's disastrous NEP.

Of course, this is an entirely predictable response out of the energy industry, which has nursed a sore spot grudge about the infamous NEP for decades. Every time a government does something which affects this industry in some form, the spectre of the NEP is raised.

Personally, I see this as little more than recycled hysteria. Governments need money t operate. What do you think is going to go over better - insisting that anonymous corporate entities pay taxes, or the massive increase in taxes that the middle income earners would have to bear as a result of a growing backlog of "deferred" taxes. (especially when those 'trust' units are held within people's RRSP plans. Anybody who didn't smell something wrong when every company and their dog started to become "income trusts" couldn't have been paying attention.

If nothing else, this creates an opening for other political parties to make some real gains in Alberta as long time "Conservative" voters wake up to the reality of the party they've been voting for blindly for so many years.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Thin Skin of Conservatism

Apparently, the creature that is running around calling itself "conservative" today is an astonishingly thin-skinned being indeed.

Today, we find Stephen Harper is opting out of an EU summit. The "official" excuse is given by the PMO as follows:

However, Sandra Buckler, the Prime Minister's director of communication, said that neither Kyoto nor trade relationships played any part in the government's decision.

“We had an EU summit this past summer,” when European leaders met with leaders of the G8 in St. Petersburg, Ms. Buckler said yesterday. “There was a conclusion that one would not be needed so soon afterward.

“The government does have a heavy legislative calendar in November,” she added. “The Prime Minister has a great deal of extended travel as well this month. Given those reasons, along with the fact the Prime Minister feels strongly he should be in the House of Commons, it was decided a trip now wasn't possible.”


Hang on a second here - according to the CBC, Harper will be attending:

Still, the prime minister plans to attend an APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) meeting in Vietnam later this month, as well as a NATO conference in Latvia around the same time.


So...this doesn't exactly add up. You can make it to these other conferences, but not the EU? Horsefeathers.

The natural speculation from EU leaders is probably closer to the mark than either Harper or his communications advisor Sandra Buckler are willing to admit:

“The undertone is pretty bitter,” stated one European official who asked not to be identified.

There is widespread belief that Canada cancelled the meeting because EU officials announced that the question of Kyoto Protocol targets would be placed on the agenda.

European leaders are upset with the Conservative government's proposed Clean Air Act, which abandons Canada's pledge under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.


Of course, Harper's going to be miffed about this since the climate change issue is on the agenda - especially when Tony Blair (Bush's former toy poodle) has started to diverge from the opinion of the American government on the matter.

Given how the CPoC has not dealt well (at all!) with the "dissent" (read - differences of opinion), it's a pretty good guess that Harper doesn't want to be caught "on the record" by European media over his non-policy on the environment.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Arming The Border Guards

Remember the Conservatives (or whatever the nom du jour is today) wailing about the "billions of dollars" that were "wasted" on the long gun registry? OMFG, what a boondoggle, the Liberals wasted BILLIONS of taxpayer money on that program. Oh, the outrage of it all.

Well, back here we have Stephen Harper promising $100 million to start the process of arming our border guards. Then, today, Stockwell Day starts musing that the bill will hit $1 Billion.

Haven't I heard this script before? (and, at the end of 10 years, I'll put pretty good odds that the $1 Billion will be a lot more than that!)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I Know It's Been Cold Lately

I've said in the past that when Stephen Harper does something I can support, I'll acknowledge it. Yesterday, they took away the tax exemption for "Income Trust" companies.

I've been watching income trusts for a while, but I've not fully understood just what they are from an investment standpoint, so I've chosen to stay away from them. (Something felt intuitively "wrong" about the whole concept) Sometime last summer I learned that the income trust structure allowed a corporation to essentially download its tax burden onto the individual investors.

So, when Finance Minister Flaherty announced yesterday that the loophole that excused these companies from paying taxes was being closed, I was quite happy. One of my big criticisms of the Chretien and Martin governments was that the tax regime had disproportionately downloaded the tax burden on to the backs of middle income Canadians, and it was my becoming my belief that "Income Trust" structures were merely another aspect of that same downloading.

So, for once, the CPoC government has done something that I believe is an appropriate policy direction. {and perhaps, judging from the weather this week, hell has frozen over...}

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More Follow Up

A few days ago, a commenter asked for some "digging" because a character by the name of "Brian Roodnik" in B.C. had started to threaten a defamation lawsuit because a newspaper had used the term "anti-Gay" in a headline about "Concerned Parents B.C."

In a comment back here we find a brief update. It seems that Mr. Roodnik decided that it was politically expedient not to start a war with the media over the matter - as he has ambitions of political office.

While "Concerned Parents B.C." tries very hard to hide their biases, links like this make it quite clear what the root affiliations are. (Try finding references to "Concerned Parents B.C." outside of "Christian" media organs - there aren't many to be had) Note: Concerned Parents B.C. was set up immediately after an optional course curriculum was introduced in B.C. - not exactly advanced calculus here...

BTW - Thank you Shaun, for keeping us updated on what you've found.

Abbreviated Ezra Levant: Look ... Cows!

Over on Buckdog, we have a fairly gentle trashing of Ezra Levant's latest column in the Sun newspapers. I'd probably have ignored it but for one comment that appeared:

Why is the Western media more critical and skeptical of our own democratic governments than they are of terrorist groups? I ask that and other questions in my Sun column today. What do you think?

Posted by Ezra Levant on October 30, 2006 | Permalink


Apparently, Ezra thinks we should be more worried about terrorists, and less critical of our government:

Our press corps is so cynical and skeptical when it comes to interviewing Prime Minister Stephen Harper or President George W. Bush -- doubting everything and assuming even basic pronouncements to be tricks. But those same tough-as-nails reporters turn into mindless stenographers when they interview a foreign tyrant -- a perfect example being the fawning reception Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad receives.


Ummm...lessee, as a citizen of Canada, I can do what about Iran's current government - diddly squat. In fact, I'd go as far as arguing the Ahmadinejad, nutty as he is, has very little real power in Iran.

On the other hand, as a Canadian citizen, I have a great deal of very immediate interest in questioning every action my government takes. The press does not exist to make politicians happy - in fact, if they are making the politicians happy, they probably aren't doing their jobs very well.

You see Ezra, Canadians have had a chance to watch the Rethuglicans in the United States bully, bash and otherwise demand that the media toe their party line. We see exactly what the fear factor has done down there. While the US government very successfully diverted people's attentions abroad, legislation has been pushed through that erodes civil rights and has incarcerated people for thought crime.

In Canada, we've already seen the Harper government lie to us repeatedly, they have already begun a full on frontal assault on fundamentals of our legal and civil systems (e.g. a 3 strikes law that violates sections 10 and 11 of the charter, and arguable breaches the principle of habeas corpus as well).

So, when it comes to looking at threats to this nation, I don't need to look past Ottawa. Frankly, the propaganda being spewed by random terrorist organizations halfway around the world is quite irrelevant to me - a Prime Minister who is trying to conceal his real agenda is far more relevant. {especially when that Prime Minister is muzzling his caucus and refuses to talk to the "media" because they won't necessarily write nice flattering puff pieces about him}