Thursday, January 31, 2008

I Took a Break

I am so angry about what is going on in Canada right now that I decided to take a break and watch the Dem debate. I follow what goes on in the Republican debates as well, but I cannot watch them. To me it's a given that the Dem's will win even if the moderate, lol, McCain gets the nod.

So, fresh off the debate having heard none of the pundits, my view is this. Obama is absolutely terrific at inspiration toward the future. Clinton is terrific when dealing with contemporary reality and how that will play out in the future. Guess what? That country needs both of these people.

Toward the end of the debate it was asked if the two of them were the dream ticket. Huh? Don't you think that a woman and a black man running for president answers that? Would that we had that here.

In the end, I think Hillary came forward with sound ideas. I think Barack came forward with sound ideals. There is a big difference, but they compliment each other.

How would you vote?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Communication Strategy? Casuistry

In my previous post I spoke to the result of a story that broke today. That result was Harper showing his vicious self guised as a diversionary tactic.
The story itself is a bit more interesting though, it's complicated therefore the details will not likely resonate with most Canadians. The essence of it should though. That would be the absolute hypocrisy of this government exposed, once again.
This photo depicts Dimitri Soudas. He is Harper's deputy press secretary. Apparently in August of 2006 he arranged a meeting with the PMO and Public Works to put forward an argument to ease up on a company, Rosdev, who was being sued by Public Works. Rosdev is a Real Estate developer who owns buildings that the government inhabits. The buildings went into a state of disrepair and the government asked that Rosdev fix what was wrong. They agreed, but did nothing so Public Works took them to court. Are you yawning yet? Yeah I know it's boring but it's important to understand the context of this issue.
Michael Rosenberg is the President and Chief Executive Officer of this company and apparently he has quite a bit of influence in Montreal, specifically Outremont.
So, let's go back a bit. Harper wins the election and all of the postmortems suggest that he needs to make more headway in Quebec. Well! Here they have a person who might help can they help him? Soudas decides that it would be good for the Con's to try to give this guy a break. He decides to arrange a meeting with the PMO and Public Works officials to intervene in the case. He apparently suggested that perhaps mediation would be a better way to go. Remember, he's talking to a department that is suing this guy and the case is before the court. Do you smell, yet again, the odour of influence? Clearly, he was looking for clout in Outrement.
The mediation route was not chosen, as the case is still before the courts but that is not what is important. The fact that they thought they could hold sway, is what is disturbing. Anyone who thinks Soudas did this without the ok from the PM is dreaming. What we don't know, yet, is if the government is still pursuing the case as it was started.
Here's the thing. Soudas is not an elected individual, but he certainly has an in as it relates to the PMO. The head of Public Works is not an elected individual, but, oh wait, he's attached to Quebec. Since when do staffers have the right to summon two arms of government to meet? It's pretty standard fare for MP's to plead cases to the PMO, but a deputy press secretary?
This is all about Quebec strategy and an attempt to influence the perception of Harper in that province. It's reported that Soudas was influenced by Leo Housakos.
Soudas was asked to intervene by Leo Housakos, a Montreal city councillor and longtime political ally who also organizes for the Conservatives federally and Mario Dumont's Action Démocratique du Québec party provincially. Housakos was appointed by Harper's government last month to the board of Via Rail.
Gee, I don't think we need Columbo here do you?
Harper of course is sloughing this off as having happened a long time ago and then he felt the need to divert this subject with his ridiculous comments about ethnicity. The fact is this government said they were going to be lily white. They were less than disingenuous. Example, upon example tells us that was yet another lie.

Sandra Bucker and now Dimitri Soudas. Communications aren't faring too well for Mr. Harper but it's clear who he likes in that position. Those that can spin a speedy response to the hypocrisy they employ.

I don't know if this story will have legs, because it's not simple, but trust the communications group on Harper's team to break it down to a few syllables. The sycophants can't cope with much more than that and he must feed them.

Isn't it sad that we've come to this?

We Knew it Wouldn't Last

Wasn't just a few days ago that reporters were ohhhing and ahhhing over the kinder, gentler PM? To be honest, I was shocked that anyone bought his performance at the press gallery, let alone some of our most experienced members of the press, but buy it they seemed to.

If you're Stephen Harper though, it must be tough to keep up all that nicey, nicey stuff. It must be a bit suffocating to keep your true nature reigned in.

That said, it wasn't too surprising to hear the mean spirited non sequitur come from his mouth in QP today. When asked about a this,

Mr. Guimond asked Mr. Harper if he had ever met with Mr. Housakos at the Prime Minister's official residence 24 Sussex.

Harper responds with this:

“The Bloc member mentioned two people who are of Greek origin,” Mr. Harper replied in French, “one who was an employee here in Ottawa, another one who is a supporter of the Conservative party in Montreal. The fact that [there's] two Montreal gentlemen of Greek origin doesn't mean there's a conspiracy here.”

What the hell is that supposed to mean? To arbitrarily throw out someones race when it clearly has nothing to do with the subject, is not only bizarre, it's pretty damned revealing.

As usual, Van Loan twisted the truth into a pretzel and accused the Bloc member of being racist.

Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan countered by arguing that the Prime Minister's remarks had been mischaracterized, and that Mr. Harper was actually “defending the people of Greek origin from what seemed to be unfitting attacks by the Opposition.”

This party hasn't changed one iota. I guess it's true when you say, you are, who you are, who you are.

I'll expand this post to deal with the real issue later.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mike Duffy and the Ethics Committee

So, the old Duff as he is wont to call himself, has received notice that Dean Del Mastro wants to have him as a witness at the Mulroney focused Ethics Committee.

Duffy expressed disbelief and a bit of discomfort as he read the message off his BB and frankly I can't blame him.

Del Mastro's motive is clear. It's a Conservative move to pummel the CBC and of course the Liberals.

This is about Krista Erickson's transfer and the accusation that she gave Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez a question to ask at committee.

I think Del Mastro's motion will be voted down, but it's odd that he would call Duffy. From the start, he's said that this is common practice. He laughed off the accusations on the first day that Del Mastro raised them. Tonight the conservative columnist Gregg Weston also laughed it off. (I think it's the first time I've seen that guy smile. Sort of smile. Grin maybe.)

At any rate, Duffy is this government's best friend. I'm not sure what they are trying to accomplish because in a unique set of events, Duffy does not support their effort.

If Rodriguez took Erickson's question and posed it verbatim, he's an idiot. I suggest he's not the first, but still, that is foolish. That she has been made yet another scapegoat, is also wrong. She was good and deserved to be in Ottawa.

Perhaps the Con's feel that by taking down Linda Keen, they can now focus on one more 'liberal' entity as they perceive it. That would be the CBC of course. Bit by bit, they are chipping at what makes Canada great. The CBC is not the be all and end all, but it's certainly not what the Con's portray it to be.

Duffy, if he's honest and is actually called will say this is ridiculous and if he doesn't there is tape to prove it. The dimwitted Del Mastro calling a witness that may speak against the con point is a demonstration of how inept this government is. He, Duff, was one of the saviour's in media the Con's had.

Lib's, I beg you don't vote against this. Allow the Con's to show their stupidity. That's a joke of course, because the committee should not waste it's time with this, but it's tempting.

Irony abounds.

No One's 'Fall Guy'

The highly anticipated Natural Resources committee meeting made it clear to me that there was government interference here and I don't think this issue is going to go away.

It opened with Sheila Fraser and as usual she was her composed, measured self. She mentioned again that the Chalk River incident did indeed raise questions as to how the government deals with independent regulatory boards. She spoke to the report she had issued last September. It highlighted three strategic challenges that AECL faced, including "the replacement of aging facilities at Chalk River Laboratories." It also said that the Chalk River facility required at least $600 million to deal with "urgent health, safety, security and environmental issues.''

It did not seem to specifically address the problem that that is at issue here, but the statement, "urgent health, safety, security and environmental issues", is important to remember.

Next up the star of the meeting, Linda Keen. Anyone who doubts her tenacity and obvious desire to set the record straight, wasn't watching. She strikes me as a professional, personable individual that is extremely dedicated to her work. She is a stickler for detail and seems to be precisely the type of individual that you would want to head such an important commission.

During her opening statement she went over much of what we already know, clarifying some time lines and explaining why she was not prepared to allow the reactor to go back on line. She made mention that some MP's had stated that after the vote in the HoC that the reactor was safe enough. She then went on to state what the international standards of safety actually are. The risk of accident must be 1 in a million. At the time she was being asked to give the AECL a pass, it was 1 in one thousand. The reactor was 1000 times more dangerous than what is internationally acceptable. So in keeping with her mandate, she felt the only safe and responsible thing to do was to keep it shut down.

Her mandate is what is really at issue here. The conservatives are determined to define it as something that it is not. In fact, they currently seek to change it to include what they believe it currently lacks, which would justify their action of course. The phrase I highlighted in Frasier's report that had to do with, urgent health, safety, security and environmental affairs, is what the Con's are hanging their hat on.

Linda Keen states that indeed she is responsible for those things, but only as they relate to a nuclear accident, not the production of medical isotopes. Logical right? Not if you're a Con. No, they believe that her mandate extends or overlaps if you will into the AECL's and the Minister's. So, those who are responsible for isotope production.

The Con's tried there very best to twist her words and of course the facts, especially Cheryl Gallant. I mentioned she was a bit odd during the last meeting, well nothing changed. At some point she blurted out some leak of nerve gas as Chalk River? Huh? Again, non sequitur is their forte. At any rate, she was no match for Ms. Keen. During one specific distortion, Keen simply stated, "that's not true". It didn't stop Gallant from rambling on, but she got nowhere.

The kicker came when Ms. Keen described how the firing occurred. She had been busy getting ready for the committee meeting the next day and left the office about 8:00 pm. Her office later received a call from the PCO saying that they were sending over an urgent package. Her staff waited around for it, called her and told her what it said then sent it over to her. To say she was devastated would by an understatement.

Now to put that in context, you have to remember that the con's had failed in their bid the previous day to have her testify before Lunn. This of course so Lunn could simply deny all that she said, but that didn't work so they had to speed up what was apparently already in the works.

Keen also spoke of two phone calls from Lunn. She said they were unusual, especially given that she had not had contact with him for over a year. The first call did not disturb her, but the second one did. Specifically, Lunn was telling her what she would do and when she would do it. Naw, this government isn't involved in any interference.

Tony Clement was next and basically parroted what he's already said. It's pretty clear to me that this guy is way out of his depth, but that's not anything new. I cannot see what he added to the debate, except to further highlight his incompetence. Natural Resources Canada was made aware of the shutdown on November 30, Lunn on the 3rd, but Clement was not made aware until December 5 . Had he sought replacement isotopes from other countries in November, we may have avoided all of this.

The bottom line here is that Linda Keen should not have been fired. The government isolated her as their scapegoat for their own incompetence. Why? Well there is more digging to do there I suppose and it will be interesting to hear from AECL.

One thing seems clear. For some reason they felt that she was an easy target. Harper made that clear with his overtly paranoid partisan comments that preceded this whole affair. In my view, they chose the wrong person.

Linda Keen is no one's fall guy and she is determined to illustrate the need to keep government at arm's length from commissions such as the CNSC. Personally I'd like to see the former president of the Wheat Board, Adrian Measner, join her in her effort to make clear how this government is determined to impose their ideology, even when it flouts the law.

Some are inclined to laugh all this stuff off, specifically the Con's, but this is no laughing matter to me. I know people don't buy that the current government is out to change some fundamentals in our country but they clearly are. They don't like a law? They ignore it then set about to change it after the fact.

You tell me what government has been in the news lately for firing those who strove to uphold their independence only to have the government pass laws that agreed with their ideological view? Thankfully we have a parliament to keep the con's in check, so the extreme example I use will not happen here, but they are doing everything they can to change how this country is governed.

Harper underestimates who and what he is up against and how he will be exposed. That is a good thing, but only if people are paying attention.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shocking...Harper Agrees To What He Said He'd Agree To

Well, I wonder who was surprised that Harper agreed with the report submitted by the Manley panel? He agreed with it in broad terms. I'm not certain what that means really except to say that there were no specifics offered on what action he intends to take.

So in the end his press conference told us very little, oh, except that he will continue to speak with Stephane Dion. What a concept in a minority government, consulting with the official opposition.

When asked if he would take the advice to be more transparent, his first impulse was to point out that that the report criticised both governments then said that his government had already taken steps to be more open. How he's done that is completely unclear to me. He did not answer questions about detainees from either reporters or in the House. Reporters were not asking for specific operational details, but that is how he responded. The question was when did he know about the change. Mr. Open, obfuscated as usual. How anyone can say with a straight face that they are going to be open and follow that comment with stonewalling is a mystery that I'm not ever going to solve.

Another comment that I found curious was that Harper said many of the recommendations that the report made have already been acted on. If that is the case, why did the panel find them necessary to include? What purpose did this report serve exactly? Oh yes, I remember. As Pamela Wallin said on QP over the weekend, it was designed to get Canadians on side with the mission. What better way than to impose conditions that are already being met? In other words, it's a sales pitch with a few scary sounding criterion. Anyone who believes that this government would accept those stipulations without knowing full well that they could be met, is smoking something better than I have ever heard of.

This entire exercise is a charade from start to finish. Watching how many are lapping it up is disturbing. I may be wrong, but I do not recall a reporter asking, "Prime Minister, do you have any assurances from any NATO country at this moment that they will provide troops and/or equipment?" or "Prime Minister, are you currently in negotiations with a NATO country to achieve those ends?" Actually, as I think about it, that second question may have been asked in a different way and I think he answered that no, he was not involved in a negotiation but he did say that he thought some discussion had gone on.

He also said that compliance with the demands outlined in the report would be needed before going to the House for a vote. So there is the clue. How quickly or slowly will the government begin the debate? If it's soon, it's an indication that they've had it sewn up for a while. If they wait, it either tells us that they haven't nailed it all down, or, it intimates that they are perpetuating the charade. Too cynical for you? Sorry, this government tends to have that effect on me.

So the Kabuki Theatre troupe that calls itself our government continues to sing and dance and it's audience continues to ask for encores. No one seems to care that plot doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Sad isn't it?

As a complete aside, but a follow up to my last post, I noticed something odd at the press conference. Between some of the first questions asked, Harper would strike a pose of sorts. Lean his head on his hands, put a fist under his chin, etc. When that happened, the photog's went nut's. To my eye, he seemed to notice that and when not taking a sip of water between questions, yep, he struck a pose. I admire his ability to follow the question while considering how he will look in print but, it's creepy.

Did I just somehow link Harper and Madonna?

Update - Steve has some new numbers that suggest that some of us are listenting. If that is sustained, I'll have more faith and less cynicism. We'll see.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Week Before Us

For political wonks, next week is surely going to be an interesting one.

Tomorrow's Question Period is obviously not expected to be a yawner. In fact, I think we all know that it will be quite raucous.

Obviously the opposition will rightly question the government on the detainee revelations brought forward last week. What will be interesting to watch is how the government responds.

Harper in general terms agreed with the Manley report and recommended it to all Canadians at his campaign style speech the other day. Interestingly, one of the most extensive sections of the report deals specifically with the need for more transparency and honesty by this government about the mission. Will he extend his general support of the report to actually answer questions? Don't count on it. Based on MacKay's recent comments it appears that it will be business as usual with no attempt to raise the debate to the level of adults. In fact Peter Van Loan and Laurie Hawn, (parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Defense), have been all over the air waves echoing MacKay.

While they have for the moment ratcheted down the 'Taliban lover' idiocy, they still manage to suggest that Dion is prepared to give the enemy Canadian military information. So it would seem that they are still in the kindergarten sandbox. What would be interesting to see is Harper contradict these Ministers and actually provide something of substance.

It would be interesting because it would give us a clue as to where he may net out on the report, while showing a lack of confidence in some of the only members of cabinet that he has allowed to speak. Will it happen? It's a long shot in my view. Old dog's, new tricks? Somehow Harper does not strike me as the exception to the rule.

It's been argued that Harper may change because he has not seen real gains in the polls. While that is true and we know he wants a majority I think he believes in his strategy of decimating his opponent and the opposition, though I'm sure he uses the term enemy in his mind. When you think of his history, he has always said and done things that fly in the face of logical advice. He moderates on some issues, fashioning himself as a moderate in terms of policy, but on strategy I see no evidence of that. He is described as bland and lacking charisma and that is true, though he is not lacking in arrogance. He shows himself to be a man that is convinced of his own greatness and the only one who really knows what to do, what is right.

There is a big difference in this kind of individual and one who believes in him/herself. Those who are open to either opposing or differing expertise tend to have a more realistic view of the world. Someone who believes that there is always an opportunity to learn does far better than those who think they know it all. Those who believe they know all there is to know, live in a world that defies who we are as human beings, imo. That mentality is isolationist and shuts down intellectual curiosity. Without that, where would we be?

The week to come also will bring Linda Keen back to centre stage, on Tuesday. There is no doubt in my mind that she will have much to say. Shrinking violet does not come to mind as I think of this woman, in fact, she may well dig at the opposition for having supported the Conservative motion, even though it was on division. Somehow though I suspect she'll reserve her sharpest barbs for the Con's. Most of us have seen how they grill those they do not agree with in an effort to support their case. Think Schreiber, think RCMP. Yes, this will be an interesting committee meeting.

And speaking of Schreiber, that too is coming up. Yes indeedy! There is much to keep political wonks sated in the near future.

It will be interesting to see how it is reported. I hope perhaps that the media felt supported by recent events and the public reaction to it. There has been a tendency on their part to claim that we don't care what they think, specifically the shun they have received by the PMO. I believe that is really wrong headed. We do care how they are treated or at least we should be because they are all we have to tell us the truth. I've seen a bit of a shift in that arena and will write on that at another time.

Meanwhile, see you during the drama!
Update - Here's a little more insight into Harper and the Conservative Party. Go to Jan. 27/08, 18:05. h/t to ruralsandi and Kady of course.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Truth...A Refreshing Change

We all know that some media can be tough on Dion but if you contrast this scrum with Harper's hesitant message scripting, it's a breath of fresh air to hear some truth. Allowing him to be who he is, that is his strength though it's cited and repeated to be a weakness.

Call me crazy but I think some media got too caught up in the phe-nom of Harper and they forgot what matters to the country. Was it ever thus? Not to this degree I don't think. More on that tomorrow.

Anyway, there is too much going on tonight in the States, so take what you will from the vid.

One last thing. Listen to that French compared to Harper's. They cannot be compared of course. Harper is given credit for trying and learning, why is Dion not afforded the same opportunity over the same amount of time? Those of you who continue to profess that you cannot understand him, get out more! He may not sound like you, but consider how many of us have accents as we speak English in this country. You are insulting many, not just Dion.

Media has done him a disservice here too, imo. Again, tomorrow.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

They Know Nothing

Are you kidding me? According to reports last night the government knew nothing of the decision to stop turning over Afghan detainees in November of 2007.

This government? Our government? The government led by a man who has to approve all and everything that is uttered by a Minister or backbencher? Are we really meant to believe that they had no idea of what the actions were being taken by the military as it relates to a policy decision as important as this?

Well, I don't find it plausible but if in fact that is true, the news is even more grim. If they didn't know, they should have. In April of last year Harper announced the new deal that allowed Canadian officials full access to detainees. Such an agreement implies that Canadians would be provided with the truth. However, in July we learn that Hillier put a stop to the release of any news of detainees through the Access to Information Act. Though problems continued to surface, the government never did anything to clear them up with facts.

By stating that they didn't know suggests to me that this is a government that is not focused on the broad issues of governance in terms of Foreign Policy. It reinforces that they are more concerned with partisanship and sound bite politics. After 2 years in power, they still seem to have no sense of what it is to run a country, ideology aside.

As I said, I do not believe they did not know. This morning Dr. Amir Attaran who really started this whole investigation, said that an e-mail associated with this latest revelation had PCO in the address line. Could PCO know and not tell the PMO? I suppose it's possible but it makes no sense.

Conservatives like to remind Liberals that we exaggerate when we speak of the damage that this government is doing to this country. This particular incident is rather an odd example because on the one hand it's a good news story. The detainees were removed as they should have been. On the other hand however it's a glaring example of what a tentative grip this government has on its responsibilities, the departments it oversees and the policy they put forward. The only issue they seem to have an iron grip on is message control.

When you consider how often Ministers and the PM were up in the House, telling Canadians what we now know were lies, knowingly or not, that is dangerous. Canadians have been given a message, ad nauseum, that the opposition parties were ill informed. It clearly shows that this government has no respect for our system and rather than getting to the bottom of what the opposition is raising as a problem, they spend their time trying to make the opposition look bad at the expense of the very serious issue before them.

I hope this does not fly under the radar as so many stories seem to. There is precious little coverage for those who do not pay attention to politics, local radio coverage etc., but perhaps that will change when the House returns.

As an aside, this story also reinforces to me that the Manley panel did not go into depth on this very important aspect of our mission in Afghanistan.

In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail on Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's communications director, Sandra Buckler, said the military did not tell the government about the suspension.

Ms. Buckler called Friday to say she “misspoke” but would not say whether the military had or had not informed the government.

“I should not have said what I said to you, I misspoke, and I wanted to make sure you were aware of that,” she said. “I made a mistake…what I said was wrong.”

When asked whether that meant that the military had informed the government that the transfer of prisoners to Afghan jails had been suspended in November, Ms. Buckler would not comment.

“I shouldn't have said it and I'm not going to comment on operational decisions made by the military,” Ms. Buckler said.

Huh? This is a very clear example of how so many of the Conservatives never respond to a question. They are the masters of the non seqitur.

Obviously not all is well in Harper-land.

More - This just keeps getting weirder.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Torture of Detainees in Afghanistan and the Manley Panel

Well I was going to expand on the Manley report a bit because I find some things rather fishy. One item for example is how the panel dealt with the handling of the detainees. In fact, they didn't really deal with it all. They got assurances from our military that we were abiding by international standards and Canadian international agreements, but they did not have any access to the detainees or the process itself. I do not see how that closely examines a very important issue.

Then I read this.
Compelling evidence that Canadian-transferred detainees are still being tortured in Afghan prisons emerged Monday from the government's own follow-up inspection reports, documents it has long tried to keep secret.
Unlike the endless denials of this government and their supporters, it seems pretty clear that torture is going on and this government has needlessly put our troops at risk.
In one harrowing account, an Afghan turned over by Canadian soldiers told of being beaten unconscious and tortured in the secret police prison in Kandahar. He showed Canadian diplomats fresh welts and then backed up his story by revealing where the electrical cable and the rubber hose that had been used on him were hidden.

“Under the chair we found a large piece of braided electrical cable as well as a rubber hose,” reads the subsequent diplomatic cable marked “secret” and distributed to some of the most senior officials in the Canadian government and officers in the Canadian military.
The Globe and Mail has established that the report of the case is recent, written after a Nov. 5, 2007, inspection of the National Directorate of Security prison in Kandahar. That was six months after a supposedly improved transfer agreement was put in place to monitor detainee treatment. The agreement was designed to address problems raised by critics about the ill treatment of prisoners taken by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and handed over to Afghan authorities with insufficient follow-up.
Then tonight, Mike Duffy reported that the government ordered the end of transfers of detainees in November 2007. Here is the story. Here is an interesting quote:
"It is unfortunate that the Government has chosen, yet again, to reveal new developments on detainees only when an injunction hearing is pending. The Canadian public has a right to know this information and shouldn't be hearing about it only because the government is being sued."
What a pathetic bunch this government is. I'm obviously thrilled that they took the action they did, but just how many have been tortured? Tortured as Harper, MacKay, O'Connor and the shrieking Guergis stood in the House of Commons defending their ideology and calling the opposition Taliban defenders, etc.
The Liberals were right to ask the questions they did and one would hope that this revelation at the very least ends the idiotic rhetoric coming from the right. This government chose to ignore valid and in my opinion, obvious concerns. The article speaks to the reputation of our men and women stationed in Afghanistan and to see in black and white, the party who claims to have the sole right to defend them actually had no regard for them at all in this case, is pretty telling.
What will be done with the detainees? That will be interesting to see.
So, back to the Manley report. One has to ask if this is a group commissioned to seriously examine the success of our mission, how could they have missed this? The front line military component is what is in dispute in Canada and part of that includes taking prisoners and transferring them. It seems to me that this should have been a priority.
I'll just quickly say that I am disturbed by all the Kudo's this report seems to be receiving. I did read it and frankly, I saw nothing new. As I noted on my last post, Scott Ross took note of how Manley seemed to rely on his previous writing to provide some content to the report. I also look at what Paddy Ashdown has said and see a repetition of obvious facts. Senlis, the Red Cross, numerous groups have made all these points for some time. That list does not exclude the Liberals. Indeed the report took some of what Dion submitted to the government and the panel and included it in it's findings.
So to me, this is little more than a consolidation of views that have been out there for a long time. Bloggers of course cut and paste, but the panel's mission was to gather "real time" facts and to be independent. That would mean ignoring conventional wisdom and previously cited views and looking at this from the beginning. That does not appear to have happened here.
Meanwhile, here's what is going on now in Afghanistan.
A reality check is needed and the panel has not given us that, in my view.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Manley Report

Well as I'm sure everyone knows the Manley report was delivered today. Was it what everyone expected? I don't know but I think few believed that the panel would deliver a message that Canada should pull out now or even in 2009.

When the panel was appointed it was obvious to me that it was comprised of hawks so I certainly didn't expect a withdrawal date but let's take a look at what the report says.

Full disclosure, I haven't had a chance to read the entire thing and have only skimmed it. I also watched the press conference given by the panel. I may come back to the subject once I've read it fully.

Essentially, the report says we should not leave in February of 2009 but it puts some caveats on that statement. That's rather interesting considering we are displeased with other NATO country caveats, but let's go on.

The caveats are that NATO must supply 1000 troops to assist us in Kandahar and the government must ensure our troop safety with medium lift helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance before 2009. So, it's stay the course, but if these two items are not addressed by 2009, we leave.

Sorry, but that has me shaking my head. One of the questions always put to Dion re' his plan in Afghanistan, is what if NATO doesn't come up with a replacement, would we just leave? Well, exactly the same thing could be said here with the same result obviously. An unprotected Kandahar province. There is a bit of a difference though, Manley is suggesting that our troops and commitment could be used as a bargaining chip. That makes me sick to my stomach.

Will this work? There is no way to know unless of course Manley got some assurances that we are not aware of. It seems to me, or the last I heard, that we weren't getting helicopters until 2011 and as for troops at this point I'm not convinced that the members we pressed thus far will suddenly shift their position. I know the Netherlands extended to 2010 but they said that was their final extension so there is already (presumably) an effort being made to fill that gap. Had Canada, Harper, said the same thing when we last extended, perhaps we'd already have relief for our troops in the waiting.

Overall, Manley said the mission at this point is failing and without assistance Canada cannot win in Kandahar. Finally a statement I can partially agree with and one that many of us have been saying for some time. Security has been deteriorating in Afghanistan, not improving. Without more of it, we will lose and the mission, our mission. Canada in Afghanistan is in serious jeopardy at this moment.

That's at odds with what the Con's keep telling us of course. They say, everything is fine, we're winning, blah, blah, blah. In fact the report is highly critical of how we are handling every aspect of the mission. From political leadership to humanitarian co-ordination, every file has been bungled.

So as we move forward, it will be interesting to see what the government agrees with in this report. It will be more interesting to see if they can stick to their objective of appointing the panel to take the partisanship out of the debate. If I were a betting person I would put money on Harper's inability to maintain that stance.

It will be argued by some that the Liberals got us in to Kandahar and of course that is true. Manley made a point of saying many times that Canada chose this mission. That is also true, but that is not the whole truth as I've read it. In their book, Unexpected War Canada in Kandahar, Janice Gross-Stein and Eugene Lang speak to how Martin was lobbied by Hillier.

The authors say that Canadian officials never foresaw the kind of toll the mission would take on Canadian soldiers when they approved it, nor did they know that our role would end up being a counterinsurgency rather than a rebuilding of the country.

In interviews with Lang and Gross Stein, Martin reveals he was unenthusiastic about Hillier's proposal to deploy forces to Kandahar to repair Canada's relationship with the U.S. and had other priorities for Canada's resources.

"Afghanistan was not a priority for me the way Darfur, Haiti and the Middle East were," Martin told the authors. "Afghanistan had become our biggest aid commitment, and it shouldn't have been."

In fact, Martin was one of the few members of the government to openly challenge Hillier's proposal and doubted it would bring the political and military benefits Hillier had promised.

"The prime minister responded that he was concerned Afghanistan would consume resources, both military and financial, even though it was not central to the kind of foreign policy Canadians wanted their government to pursue," the authors write.

"I made four demands of Hillier before I agreed to the mission,' recalled Martin. 'I want in, but I want out. We do peacemaking and reconstruction and win hearts and minds. I am going to make a big demand on Darfur soon and you have to tell me I have have all the troops I need. And you must have the capacity for Haiti if that blows up again. I told him none of this could be constrained by Afghanistan or I wouldn't agree to the mission."

After Hillier gave Martin the assurances he was seeking, cabinet finally approved a mission in which the combat infantry task force would withdraw from Kandahar early in 2007.

This is supported by Scott Taylor's article today.

Canadian officers, familiar with the way in which the fiasco in Kandahar evolved, have called Gate’s comments the "height of hypocrisy." Even American Special Forces soldiers who participated in the battles that cleared the Taliban from Kandahar in early 2002 admit that the U.S. strategy was flawed from the outset.

When I visited Kabul last January, I was introduced to a U.S. Navy SEAL who had been assigned as an adviser to the Afghan Northern Alliance. When he learned that I was a Canadian, he had insisted on paying for my drinks. "We sold you guys a bucket of crap down in Kandahar, and for that I apologize," he said.

The SEAL explained that after the Taliban were chased out of the region, the U.S. left just one battalion stationed at the Kandahar airfield and fewer than 500 soldiers in all of Helmand province. The Pentagon had been completely focused on the invasion of Iraq and, as a result, from 2002 to 2005, the once scattered Taliban were able to regroup and rearm.

Supplies and recruits came in from the Pakistani side of Pashtunistan, but the small U.S. garrison in Kandahar was only concerned with self-protection at the airfield itself. Thus, when Canada accepted the change of location from Kabul to Kandahar, the Americans knew that the Canadians were walking into a veritable hornet’s nest of insurgents.

This was a mess from the start and Hillier seems to have known it. He appears to be the common denominator, with knowledge. I know Canadians love him, but his motives and actions have been glossed over in my view. I don't think he's a bad man but I think he was looking out for his one true love. That would be Canada's military and it's impact in the world and I'm sad to say his legacy.

This is an extremely complex issue and one that we are not being given all the facts on. Manley etal, brings out some serious flaws but in the end I think their recommendation is faulty.

The panel said that they could find no operational logic for choosing Feb. 2009 as the end date for Canada's military operation in Kandahar.

Pretty clever language no? Except it's not. That date was chosen as a rotation date and had nothing to do with operational logic nor a date by which anyone thought the mission would be completed. The panel has chosen language that obfuscates the reality of our decision/vote. This plays to Harper and is perhaps one of the biggest failings of the report.

I'm not yet clear on where the Lib's will come out on this. They have stated that they want to see how much of the report the Con's take seriously. If I was Dion I wouldn't shift, but I'm not him and I've been accused of being left of his stance more than once.

History is valuable in these matters and history has told us that no one has ever been successful in keeping unwanted forces out of this area. If there is time to build up the army and police in Afghanistan, I suppose they have a shot, but NATO members don't at this point seem to share that sentiment.

For all the nonsense that was spewed about Dion last week vis a vis Pakistan, that is a key issue and not one that will be solved quickly given that country's problems. Additionally, the report failed to look at real issues such as the poppy trade. Trial projects at this stage are not enough.

None of what they proposed is an excuse for Canada to use it's troops as a bargaining chip. It's time for a rotation and if in a couple of years it looks like success is near, I wouldn't be adverse to rotating back into the fray...BUT, it would have to be evident that the end was nigh.

Sadly, I do not think we'll see that happen.

I apologise for the disjointed post. There is much to take in and it's difficult to keep emotion out.

Update - This blogger has an interesting take. Michael Byers seems to concur.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Time To Deal With Reality, Not Lobbyists

Last week was not a good one in Toronto. For the second time, in one week, an innocent man was caught in the middle of gunfire in the city.

While overall I would still consider this city to be safe based on stat's, it's disconcerting that innocents are being caught in the middle of a problem that has not been dealt with as it could be.

Two years ago, Stockwell Day said he would increase police in this country by 2500, designating 1000 to Toronto. As with everything this government says, it has not happened. They, the Con's, are full of rhetoric and big on swagger but in the end they do very little.

Of course one of the first things that Day had to say about this issue was:

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has rebuffed calls for a ban on handguns, insisting tougher jail terms, more police and strict border security will win the war against gun violence in Canada's cities.

Nobody is suggesting that those efforts shouldn't be employed but to suggest that a ban would have no effect is to live in a very small box with lobbyists and the dearly devoted to Harper sleeping beside you.

O'Keefe was shot by a legal gun owner. Over 5000 guns are stolen from legal gun owners each year in Canada. In fact, the Toronto Police Chief has said that 52% of guns used in crime are smuggled in and that the remaining 48% come from Canada.

26% not registered
35% stolen
36% unknown
06% too old to trace

So, over 1/3 of guns used in crimes are stolen from legal gun owners. 26% think they are above the law and I suspect the bulk of the unknown 36% are also stolen from other legal gun owners but those who breached the rule of the law on how to keep them and therefore they did not report them stolen. Even if you dismiss that concept, 35% of our problem lies with legally owned guns. Hello?

Who needs a gun? Target shooters? My honest reaction is, tough! Get over it and get another hobby. Failing that, house the guns where you target shoot.

Oh I know, the lobbyists will tell you that you will create a repository prime for thieves by doing that, but that is absolute BS. It's 2008 people. We have the technology to protect these environments 24/7. Does it cost money? Of course, but that is not gun lovers argument. No, their argument is they have the right to own a gun.

It is time to tell them they don't.

Oh I know some right wing smart ass will bring up the Olympics but to them I say, same deal. Keep them locked up in one place.

This is crazy people. No one and I mean no one needs a gun in this country or any other. It's time we put our foot down and tell government that this is how we feel. Odd, the Con's are very keen on polling but have never polled on this issue. That would be telling, no?

They, the current government, are cowards as it relates to guns. They do not have the courage to stand up to the Gun Lobby nor could they afford to tick off their base. I've not heard one argument that doesn't support either of those groups.

Say what you will about Martin and yes it was political, but he at least took them on and said he would ban them. It's time for Canada to bring some sense to this argument.

To those who insist on focusing on smuggled guns, don't you think that some sort of technology could be inserted as they are manufactured that would detect them quickly as they are attempting to cross our border? Good grief, we have RFID in our credit cards, employee cards and many other forms of ID. That's almost simplistic in today's world. We have GPS tracking. Couldn't that be used from inception to use? Of course we could implement these things and many others but the US won't allow that will they? No, they believe as many here do, that they have a right to own a gun.

It is time that the Libertarian wing of the right was shut down. They serve no purpose in this current context. Ayn Rand is dead and you misquote her often and lean on her work like a religion.

2008 deserves a new head shake. One that will awake to the reality we face. Our current government is firmly footed in the past. It's time to stop day dreaming and musing about the world as it is not.

Banning anything is unpalatable, but it's time to down the medicine.

"How High Should I Jump?" Caving to Political Pressure

While the right managed to fabricate an international incident for Dion last week, let's talk about a real one shall we?

As I'm sure you know a manual and training course for diplomats on how to recognise torture victims was released a couple of days ago. It was produced by Foreign Affairs.

The document, and the accompanying course, was a result of a recommendation by the Maher Arar inquiry that the government come up with protocols on how to deal with suspected torture cases abroad.

A good move I thought and long over-due. As we now know the document contained a list of countries that Canada believes engages in torture and the US and Israel were of course on that list.

Not surprisingly the US was not happy with that revelation. In fact Ambassador Wilkins looked visibly angry on QP last week and said:

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins told CTV television Thursday that it was "offensive" his country was on any such torture list and it should be removed.

In Haaretz:

"We find it to be offensive for us to be on the same list with countries like Iran and China. Quite frankly it's absurd," U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins told The Associated Press. "For us to be on a list like that is just ridiculous." He said the U.S. does not authorize or condone torture. "We think it should be removed and we've made that request. We have voiced our opinion very forcefully," Wilkins said.

Israel was none too happy either:

"If Israel is included in the list in question, the ambassador of Israel would expect its removal," said Israeli embassy spokesman Michael Mendel.

Well being the strong principled government that Harper professes to be, what do you suppose they did? I mean this is a government that is tough and sticks to it's guns right? Wrong. They rolled over faster than a puppy looking for a belly rub.

Bernier, our fumbling, inexperienced Foreign Affairs Minister basically asked the two countries how high he should jump.

"I regret the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual used in the department's torture awareness training," he said in a statement released early Saturday.
"It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies.
"I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten. The manual is neither a policy document nor a statement of policy. As such, it does not convey the Government's views or positions."

I guess in the same way that Harper believed he knew more about nuclear reactors than the safety commissioner, he and Bernier must feel they know more about torture and where it exists than the panel assigned to investigate same and design the course.

I'm not well versed on Israel, so I will not go there. The US however is quite another matter. We obviously have plenty of evidence of how the current Administration has conducted itself. Images of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay come to mind of course as do Dick Cheney and Roberto Gonzales comments. And we cannot forget what triggered this document, the rendition of Maher Arar.

Beyond what seems obvious to most of us, deeper questions must be asked. Questions that Bernier obviously did not take the time put forward based on his quick, pathetic acquiescence. Chief among them obviously is how was the list compiled? I cannot believe that the department of Foreign Affairs would throw together such a list based on hear-say. To put together a course of this type would require an incredible amount of research. It seems clear that Bernier hasn't taken the time to speak with the department in depth on the subject, but rather took his orders from on high and simply demanded a re-write.

So two things could happen here. They could re-write it clearly putting future individuals at risk and turn a blind eye to what the panel has determined to be fact or, they could issue the re-write demand but not remove the countries, in which case we will never know because you can be sure this new document will not be released again without heavy redaction.

In either case this decision is not based on integrity nor is it grounded in sound policy. No. This, like all other decisions taken by this government is all about optics and politics. Specifically, our relationship with other governments that Harper shares his ideology with. That is his only consideration. Not Canadians potentially being tortured, not Canadians on Death Row in the US and certainly not Canadians being held at Guantanamo Bay without a fair trial. These things are not on Harper's radar. Begging for a relationship with an administration (read Bush) that doesn't even register on the radar in the US, is what Harper is concerned about. He wants a Conservative world and is willing to do anything to achieve that.

Harper is obviously more concerned about a lame duck in the US than Canada having an independent voice in the world. Had Bernier come out with proof today that the report was incorrect, I would have taken notice. He did nothing of the sort.

Will another civil servant's head roll? Who knows? What we do know is that we have a cowardly government, who comes running anytime the current US Administration snaps it's fingers.

Disgusting in my opinion, but entirely predictable.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Spinning 101

For 2 days now, we've been treated to a story that the Conservatives glommed on to in an effort to distract from what is going on as they attempt to present government in this country.

The story, and I use that word with the definition of fiction in mind, is of course what Stephane Dion said vis a vis Pakistan and NATO.

Peter MacKay wasted no time in distorting Dion's comments yesterday.

We have this:

"Mr. Dion can't be serious to suggest NATO "intervene," in another country while simultaneously saying Canada should abandon its United Nations-mandated NATO mission in Afghanistan," he said in an e-mail.
"He has to explain to Canadians why he wants an "intervention" but wants to turn his back on Afghanistan, which has asked and continues to ask for Canada's help. It's inane."

Then this:

"This is ludicrous," Defence Minister Peter MacKay told CTV News yesterday. "Mr. Dion seems to be suggesting that we now invade Pakistan as opposed to continue or further our mission in Afghanistan. ... To suggest that we should now go into Pakistan is absolute lunacy and I'm surprised that a leader, somebody who's just visited this country, would make such a suggestion."

So, it's obvious that he was told to torque the story. Grab that little granule of untruth and spin, spin, spin.

Harper too had to jump on the bandwagon stating unequivocally that Dion is suggesting that NATO invade Pakistan. Go to the 5th vid on the right under Mike Duffy. It's BS of course, but facts don't matter.

If you were a member of the media at that press conference with Dion and you heard his comment wouldn't your first question be, do you mean that NATO troops go into Pakistan? We of course do not know if that question was asked because we only see that short clip. If it wasn't asked, the media are really showing their need to get headlines.

Rather than look at media bias in the traditional right/left prism, let's look at it in terms of what they are trying to accomplish and what they provide us with.

Leading stories and headlines rule the day. Accuracy, depth and considered opinion or argument seem to have disappeared. Am I showing my age? Likely not because it is difficult to think back and have experienced that level of reporting. There are historical documents that give you a taste of that though. In my opinion what we see, hear and read today is difficult to differentiate from Entertainment news. It's all about who they can draw in.

Obviously there is a need to be competitive and I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is how this need ("market forces") has reduced the discussion. The omission of fact seems not to bother most of us. We accept the pap, which tells me that we just don't care. We're allowing the media to dumb us down and we cannot be bothered to demand more. Perhaps we no longer think we have a voice. I think it's time we start demanding more. It is time for media to stop trying to shape our opinion.

Of course the argument could be made that people are tuning out more and more. Media may be making themselves, not obsolete, but certainly their credibility and irrelevancy come to mind.

To get back to Dion and what he said but was not carried.

"If they (Pakistani leaders) are not able to do it on their own, it is something we could consider with NATO, how to help Pakistan help us bring peace to Afghanistan," Dion said just days after returning from a trip to Afghanistan.
But the solution would not be a military one, stressed fellow MP Denis Coderre, sitting next to the Liberal leader during a news conference in Quebec City on Wednesday.
"It would not come about with a military intervention, it would be a diplomatic solution," Coderre said.

You see? Coderre was right beside him when he made the comment and he expanded on it. Was that reported outside of this story? No. That is pretty disturbing to me. Clarification was provided at the moment that Dion made the comment, yet the media chose to remove that from the equation. After all, it's not a story unless you focus on the headline. It would be a non-story, a waste of time, so they stretched it beyond reality and seemed fine with that.

We have a big problem here. There is no question that the media are setting the agenda but it's so damn insidious, I'm not sure we notice.

The example I've given is one of the most obvious but you have to dig. Who is going to that? I will, but my voice is meaningless in the grand scheme.

I'd love to hear some suggestions.

Let me make this clear. I am not bashing journalists here. I'm looking to what they must deliver to their masters and those are the one's who have it wrong. How do we fix that?

In his own words.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fusion or Fission?

The Standing Committee on Natural Resources held it's meeting this morning and what a meeting it was.

It began with Lunn making a statement that had many words, but said nothing more than I did my job really well.

He made the obligatory statements, that this is all the Liberals fault and of course it's the former President of the CSNC fault too.

As expected, Lunn answers no questions he just drones on and on in a robotic monotone, repeating at least 100 times that he did his job well and he would have been remiss to have not fired Keen. Oh and did you know that a special Parliamentary session was held in December to vote on whether or not to order the reactor to restart? Geez, he must have said that 100 times as well, always pointing out that Parliament voted in favour insinuating that he's off the hook basically.

The Q&A went something like this. He ignored the Lib questions, he avoided the Bloc questions, he occasionally gave the NDP an answer, (who btw managed to work accusations against the Lib's into her questions and oddly kept referring to the Minister as Gary?) and then he sat back as the members of his own party blew him kisses across the room. (An aside. What is with Cheryl Gallant? She is one odd duck.)

There are so many holes in his explanation of all the events surrounding this controversy, it is difficult to know where to start.

Let's start with yesterday's meeting shall we. It was the usual nonsense of the Lib's putting forward a motion and the Con's doing their best to change it. The Lib's wanted to hear Lunn first, but the Con's said that Keen should be heard first. Clearly the Con proposal made no sense as Keen was there to defend herself in view of Lunn's previous and current accusations. Why would you put her on first, before hearing Lunn's reasoning?

In the end the Lib motion was passed which may or may not have resulted in Linda Keen being fired at 10:00pm last night and subsequently not coming to committee today. This is just my speculation, but it seems to me that having lost the battle to have Lunn rebut any comments made by Keen, the order to fire her was given. Lunn admitted that he made the decision to fire her yesterday.

Fast forward to today and toward the end of the meeting Omar Alghabra has heard that the chair Leon Benoit had new information on this afternoon's meeting with Linda Keen. Alghabra wants to know this info before letting the Minister go. Benoit balks, refuses, then caves at which point we learn that Keen e-mailed the clerk at 0900 to say she would be there, then a 2nd e-mail arrived at 1045 saying she would not appear. That one was sent by the CNSC apparently with her knowledge.

The only thing I can think of is that perhaps for legal reasons related to her being fired, she couldn't appear. Convenient? I'll say.

Many things came out of this meeting that I find really disturbing.

Since when in Canada does the government insert itself into a semi-judicial regulatory body, then threaten it's President and finally fires her close to midnight, hours before she is supposed to testify before a committee?

Throughout the testimony, Lunn continually repeated that had he and government not taken action to hold a special session, people would have died. Tests were being delayed and that was not good, but he said that within days critical medical procedures would have been cancelled resulting in deaths. That's the first I've heard of that. I do not recall MDS-Nordion speaking to that issue. I do recall they were worried about losing money and I do recall a commenter on another thread informing me that MDS-Nordion has an agreement with a supplier in Belgium for just such an emergency. This same commenter also reminded me that Harper and co. had floated the idea of privatizing the AECL last summer. And while this whole issue of shut-down originated with AECL, absolutely no blame was cast their way by Lunn. That makes absolutely no sense, so obviously we are only getting part of the story.

David McGuinty brought up the fact that if you do your job as an independent regulator, you get fired or harassed. He reminded everyone of Harper's famous comment at the last election. I'm paraphrasing here: For those who are worried about the Conservatives pushing through their agenda, you needn't be. We have Liberal appointed civil servants, Senate, regulators and judiciary, so we won't be able to push through a Conservative agenda.

McGuinty further reminded us of the actual individuals who have been fired or harassed, since this government took over. In one case a conservative appointee quit out of frustration.

Jean-Pierre Kinsley - Chief Electoral Officer
Joanne Gelina - Environment Commissioner
William Corbett - Commissioner of Elections
Mark Mayrand - Chief Electoral Officer
Linda Keen - Pres. NCSC
John Reid - Information Commissioner

I'll end on this. Harper and Lunn are covering up their bungling and whatever other plans that have not yet come to light. Their defense and justification as I mentioned earlier seems to revolve around the fact that everyone voted to restart the reactor the special session. In their usual delusional fashion, they took that to mean that the opposition agreed with them. They did not. The opposition parties were given a choice of 2 evils. They had not lost confidence in Linda Keen, but they had to choose which risk was higher. The health risk or the risk of a possible seismic event that could present danger. They voted for the lesser of the two evils.

This is not going to go away anytime soon and Harper will wear this. The next meeting has been put off until parliament returns, Jan. 29 to be precise, at which point the Liberals have called Sheila Fraser, the head of AECL and Linda Keen.

Stay tuned.

Update: Scotian reminded me of an additional action taken by this government. The firing of the Wheat Board president.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Surely There is a Statute of Limitations on Blame

It's one thing to be an incompetent Minister, but it's quite another to be delusional.

In a recent interview Peter MacKay blamed a Liberal decision made 15 years ago, on his current woes. Apparently the 28 Sikorsy helicopters ordered in 2004 were supposed to roll out beginning in November 2008. The article says January 2009, but according to the DND web-site the first one was due this year.

So what are his current woes? Apparently the orders are going to be 30 months late. What is his knee jerk reaction to that delay? Blame the Liberals, of course.

Nearly 15 years after the Chretien government cancelled a deal to replace the Sea Kings, Defence Minister Peter MacKay is still blaming the Liberals for delays in acquiring a new maritime helicopter.

He makes this incredible statement:

"And this underscores the importance of making smart decisions around military procurement and not playing partisan games with peoples’ lives, literally, because the impact of not having those helicopters puts peoples’ lives at risk."

Partisan games? With respect, this almost sounds insane let alone delusional. How can you make a partisan comment then accuse the opposition of that offense? Oh, I forgot. This is how the party operates.

Would you like some facts around the subject? The Mulroney PC's had left the Lib's with a $42 billion deficit. The order for 43 EH-101 helicopters was going to cost $6 billion. Given the choice of a $500 million penalty or borrowing $6 billion while trying to slay the deficit, the Liberals made their choice. In fact, it was projected that the interest on that loan would have cost us a further $6 billion over 10 years. If you're not a numbers person, the choice was tough, but clear.

Pete's daddy was part of the government responsible for that deficit of course and obviously the man responsible for the fiasco, Mulroney, is close to Harper, MacKay and many more.

So, once again we have the Con's distorting history to their own end. In this case, not only distorting but relating it to anything that makes sense seems too much to ask. Watch for the, it's Trudeau's fault, next.

I do not know how long they feel they can keep this up. It's the Liberals fault has worn thin and if they believe that they can shift all blame for their incompetence during an election, I think they have another thing coming.

Facts are difficult to put out during an election and we need someone skilled at truth telling to sell the message. The anti-spin "spinner" if you will.

MacKay has shown his inadequacy in two portfolios. From the Prime Minister on down, the cupboard is bare. It is time to expose that and expose it clearly.

I think the statute on incompetence is about to expire.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Inexperience Equals Danger

I cannot find an article to refer to it at the moment, but I'm sure it will show up soon. I heard the story on the radio.

Apparently Helena Guergis, (Secretary of State Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport) , in a pitched moment commenting on Dion's tour of Afghanistan stated where he'd be visiting next.

Think about that for a moment. She is telling all and sundry where the leader of the opposition to this, our government, is going on his next flight.

Can you say irresponsible? What an idiot. She compromised Dion's security. As the right is all too ready to tell us, don't you think the Taliban are listening/watching?

While you may not care about Dion, (though I think few of you would wish him dead), you must care about the troops in this case. She put them at risk too in a big way.

Foolish inexperience. Man, I kind of understand why Harper yanks such a tight leash. He has no one in that group that knows what it is to be government. Their focus is partisanship. That's it that's all. The interest of the country? They don't get it.

Guergis is shrill, vindictive and dangerous. I presume you put her out there because she's a women, pretty in your terms and that is what you want to present.

You forget that most Canadians care more about what you say and stand for, than how you look.

Update here.

Far Right Voices Getting Louder

I have mentioned in previous posts that I see a disturbing trend in this country. That is the rise of the voices from the far right. Are they entitled to speak? Of course. Let me begin by saying it should be obvious to those who read here that I believe in freedom of speech and I have no desire to shut it down. My concern lies in what is suddenly coming back into mainstream conversation.

I read this piece by Barbara Kay of the National Post. It speaks to the Death Penalty. That, in and of itself didn't disturb me. Though I am vehemently against it others obviously have the right to hold another view. It is a subject however that is has long disappeared from our everyday lives. We dealt with it in this country and moved on long ago. That is until it's spectre was brought forth by the Harper government in the HoC, when it was stated that we would not ask for clemency on behalf of a Canadian citizen on death row in the US.

Since that comment, a subject that should only be mentioned in the context of our history, it's being discussed again. I expect outlandish comments from some blogger's at the BT's, but it does not seem to be restricted to those extremists.

Barbara Kay, is a columnist at the National Post. As I said that she believes in the Death Penalty doesn't surprise me in the least. Some of what she is attempting to bring into the public discourse does though. In fact, I found some of it jaw dropping.

As one of the lonely few in Canada - in the whole Western world nowadays outside of the U.S. - who never stopped believing in the justice of the death penalty, I have often pondered the methods of execution I could feel morally comfortable with.

To think of anyone pondering methods of execution in their spare time is truly disturbing to me. That she is on a journey to decide how she could feel morally comfortable with it tells me quite a bit. It suggests that she innately knows that there is something wrong with the concept. She's arguing an eye for an eye, while trying to assuage her unease with it. Rationalising killing, is rationalising killing.

She goes on to refer to another article that speaks to the guillotine as being humane. She finds fault with that method, not for what it is, but because it does not encourage the dispassion that should come with killing. Huh? Correct me if I'm wrong here, but don't most who support the death penalty cite the dispassion with which criminals treat their victims? To me, it sounds as though she is trying to achieve that same sense of distance.

She goes on to examine other methods of execution, finally landing on one that would allow her to sleep at night, after having witnessed it.

In the end I keep coming back to the firing squad. It is by far my own preferred way of execution, should the occasion arise. First of all, it involves no loss of body parts, which is important in terms of human dignity. The families of the executed should have a whole body to bury. The face remains unblemished, again important for the family. The executed faces his executioners and stands upright. That is good. Lying on a gurney or strapped into a chair, the person’s helplessness and humiliation are exaggerated. A man - it is usually a man - wants to die like a man. Standing up at the same level as those who will kill him.

Viewing a firing squad execution is the least damaging to the psyche for those who wish to be, or must be, present. After all, we have all “witnessed” such executions in countless films without disgust, even though none of us can bear to watch a realistically “aestheticized” beheading, a hanging or a gassing, not to mention a botched electrocution or injection.

There is so much to argue there...but I won't. It is what she is saying in the context of January of 2008 that is important, not her stance. She is using her public voice to influence opinion, which is of course her right but here again is that whole cloth invention by the right that I find so disturbing.

I really think we have banished the death penalty for the wrong reason: because we don’t like the methods used. That is, we all think certain unregenerately evil people deserve the death penalty, but we are too squeamish about the actual process to square the decree with our guilt at causing torture. If we could view the actual process dispassionately, I think we would be a lot more objective about the arguments for capital punishment. But objective justice and sentimentality are now too inextricably tangled together for rational review of the policy.

No! We did not abolish the death penalty because we are "squeamish". We abolished it because we have evolved beyond that barbaric method of retaliation. Well, most of us.

I'll leave her and her views alone for now because she only serves as an example of what seems to be a green light to the right now to raise and shift popular opinion. I understand why the right is using this time to spread their voice. They rarely have the chance given a that a sympathetic government isn't in power very often.

What is important to me though, is that this attitude does not seep into our consciousness. Whether the right want to admit it or not there time is past.

Bush is going and we all know that in North America he brought on this wave. The tide is going out though and if you've ever watched that phenomenon, you'll also know when it comes back in it begins with a gentle roll then huge crashing waves. We're watching that in the US at the moment and I'm convinced that the Democrats will build such momentum that a wave will crash over our borders too.

If Harper is still in power, we'll look like dinosaurs vis a vis the US on such issues as environment, crime and justice, the war on terra, etc.

The right is raising their voice, but it's my view that they will end up shrieking in the wind because the majority of this country won't be listening.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dion in Afghanistan

So today we learn that Stephane Dion made a surprise visit to Afghanistan.

All the usual suspects have the predictable comments. In spite of the relentless taunts by Harper supporters...when is Dion going to have the guts to go to Afghanistan?, are now of course are crying, How dare he? and all manner of derogatory remarks. The problem with being a hypocrite is that you take the side of convenience. It's impossible to realise that you are deviating from your original stance because you never believed in it in the first place. It simply suited you at the time...period, full stop.

Anyway, I see this as a good move. Most of our country is in favour of ending our combat mission in 2009, (around the 60% mark if memory serves) and to have an opportunity to discuss that with Karzai I see as a good thing.

I've never believed for a moment that Harper wants to stay on to make a difference in that country. His stance provides him with the macho foil that he believes he requires for a majority. (Yo, Steve, have you checked out the female following of your party?) It's not working obviously looking at any of the recent polls. Here's the latest.

I'll leave my feelings out of the mission for the moment. A military analyst, Sunil Ram said the following today. I'm paraphrasing, but he said the military mission for Canada is unsustainable. Our fleets require replacement having been in that climate for so long and our Army, which is small to begin with, is having it's core burned out. He commented that these issues are rarely made public, but seemed to imply that Dion would be aware of this.

If Dion is aware, you know Harper is. We're not being told that part of the story of course. It's all about presenting a tough image for Harper. That said there has to be some caution in speaking to these issues in my opinion. No one wants to demoralise those who are there for they are simply following orders and we are all proud of them.

Here's the thing though. If they are given new orders they will follow those too with the same dedication and honour.

We've done our shift people. You cannot expect anyone to work overtime forever. Had Harper listened to Dion, NATO would be negotiating from a different place imo, though there is a discussion that must be had about how effective NATO has been thus far. I do not want to nuke it, but it must be re-evaluated.

Knowing that the Canadian troops were not going to stay after 2009, NATO would have had a different negotiating base with which to pressure other members. Harper attached nonsensical terms to Dion's strategy, mainly because it did not and does not suit his.

I'll wait to see what more we can learn from these meetings, but on the surface I see Dion doing in Afghanistan what he's done across Canada.

It's downplayed of course, but this man has spent a year listening. He's not listening to what he wants to hear, he's listening to us.

I think Dion is being mis-underestimated, ;), by the media. They love to make it short and sweet, but this man is doing his homework.

Contrast Harper coming into government. Totally unprepared.