Wednesday, January 30, 2008
If Stephen Harper was a limbo dancer, he'd be grinding underground right now.
Unfortunately, he's our Prime Minister, and his 'dancing' remains a divisive ploy which smears too many people.
The politically disenfranchised, independent judiciary bodies, Lebanese-Canadians, provincial premiers, and especially Liberals, have felt his cold gaze and hot blasts during unprime ministerial eruptions. Sometimes he even assigns some duties to his underlings, but apparently it's so much fun -- making fabricated, irrational accusations and smears -- that he keeps the best lines for himself.
This so-called leader plumbed, well, not new depths for him, but familiar territory during Wednesday's Question Period. In a question poised by Bloc MP Michel Guimond, Harper spun the volley into a strange, ethnic potshot that left many people stumped, if not stunned.
The question was fairly straight forward -- had CONserfative fundraiser Leo Housakas ever paid a visit to 24 Sussex?-- related to an issue regarding possible attempts at influencing a government decision by PMO secretary Dmitri Soudas and Housakas.
The Bloc member mentioned two people who are of Greek origin, one who was an employee here in Ottawa, another one who was a supporter of the Conservative party of Montreal.
"The fact there are two Montreal gentleman of Greek origin doesn't mean there's a conspiracy here," Harper said in French.
But, then again, looking at Harper's track record, it appears to be an evasion tactic with suprising effectiveness. Now, instead of focusing on a mildly serious ethical accusation, the media is talking about 'an ethnic reference' -- which is easily turned into a deflected volley by the robotic CON blogatons.
In other words, people are left arguing whether or not this was a slur against Greek-Canadians, or a poorly executed defence of two CON comrades in arms.
Clever but disgusting just the same. When you don't have a gulag for your enemies, just divide, confuse and conquer.
Apparently the PM has no bottom line when it comes to disrespectful and even amoral behaviour. There is a church that endorses this? But one thing we can deduce from all this: Harper is the reason why the CONs fail to rise above election night numbers.
When it suits his political ambitions -- and that's really all he has, since he never worked as an economist and barely hid his contempt for Canadians' liberal society -- he uses the military, ethnic groups, even his rivals, for his own interests. But if it suits the same cause, he just as soon cast that stone. Ahh, but he who lives in glass house...
It's all a charade, as anyone who naively believed his act as Opposition Leader. His commitment to turn the Gomery report into a guide for responsible governance was as serious as Pamela Lee Anderson's next trip to the alter. The only difference is that her vows last longer than his. Even Gomery sounds as though he misses the days of Mr Dithers.
We can't say he's sunk to a new low. This is just where he lives.
But is his faith in our cynicism going to lift him to more power, or drive a stake through his ambitions? Let's pray its the latter.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Whenever I have a chance to sit down and watch the Wizard of Oz, my childhood is reawakened by its technicolor charm, a generally gentle nature (but occasionally dark and scary in its tone) and its clever, comedic and eternal wisdom.
However, when someone like Stephen Harper tries to tie his dog-n-pony show to it ala 'The Northern Star' -- even if it is to those who'd embrace carpetbagging as a friendly sport -- I get a little indignant.
It's a film for the children in all of us and has been venerably kept pristine by most political figures. But Harper, in a speech to his starchy supporters the other day, tried to induce some kind of kindred spirit by invoking a moment from MGM's masterpiece by saying: "These apologists remind me of the scene from the Wizard of Oz when the wizard says, 'Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."
Harper was referring to those who record and report statistics on such incidents on crime, punishment, whoever may disagree with his overall agenda, which is that only one person and one person only should be deemed the truth-teller. Obviously he's not referring to a control freak who likes to hide his own fingerprints on anything when his plans go south.
Certainly, Harper isn't the first or last to try to train the public into distrusting empirical evidence, compiled often over a long period of studies. But Steve V at Far'n'wide does a bang-on job of dissecting Harper's mischief while succinctly wrapping up the so-called leader's aim to eliminate reason from the discussion.
Pay no attention to the stats, Harper urges. Believe in your fears and misconceptions. Let me tell you what is real and what is fiction.
Sounds very Stalin-esque. But thankfully, at his side is Stockwell Day, who believes men walked with dinosaurs. Fear is a powerful tool -- just look at how the Republicans have used it to legitimize dozens of foolish, even dastardly decisions over the past six years.
Coincidentally, one of the Vancouver Sun's finest columnists, Douglas Todd, wrote in today (Saturday) edition on just this thing -- and how the media, too, has failed to be a real inquisitive guardian of public interest at times.
If Harper had to pull a quote from the Wizard of Oz, I would have suggested something more in tune with his personality...
"[crying] You're right, I am a coward! I haven't any courage at all. I even scare myself. [sobs]"
"...(S)ome people without brains do an awful lot of talking... don't they?"
WIZARD OF OZ:
"You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you're confusing courage with wisdom."
THE COWARDLY LION:
"Put 'em up, put 'em up! Which one of you first? I can fight you both together if you want. I can fight you with one paw tied behind my back. I can fight you standing on one foot. I can fight you with my eyes closed."
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Let me get this straight, the Stephen Harper CON government, when questioned last spring about prisoner transfers in Aghanistan and the belief that some prisoners were being tortured by the Afghan forces after being turned over by the Canadian Forces, denied there was any such thing taking place. Their story proceeded to change and unravel by the day.
At first, they denied the whole thing. A few days later, they admitted that it may have taken place, but it wasn't an issue any more.
A few days later, they said it happened but they now had assurances and a system to ensure it would not take place again.
Flash forward nine months -- suddenly, after 10 weeks of silence, Brig-Gen Andre Deschamp says in a court case that the Canadian Forces halted all transfers as of Nov. 5, 2007 after finding evidence that torture of prisoners was still going on. It wasn't revealed on where the prisoners are now being sent, and apparently the transfers may begin again at any time. Only a parliamentary secretary is available to comment -- maybe the head honcho and his sock puppets all had a date with Gary Lunn's 'image fluffer'?
Let's give kudos to the Canadian Forces people who made the decision to halt the prisoner transfers -- what we are fighting for in Afghanistan is to help establish the conditions for a lawful and democratic government. We are not to condone the actions of those who we fight by turning a blind eye. Otherwise, we'd be sending troops to work in the poppy fields and pick the seeds to be shipped for East Vancouver's heroin market. And I can buy the given rationale as to why the Forces can't provide detailed info on where the prisoners are now being held.
But the government is fully deserving of a brickbat for its either secrecy and opaque operation routine, or for sheer incompetence. Maybe its both.
It wasn't long ago that Harper was shouting down questions in the House of Commons regarding this issue, denying that these events could happen, and taunting opposition members by suggesting they care more about the Taliban.
We know that now-old Harper trick, throw out a wild accusation so it sticks in the back of people's minds. No need to prove it. But that also can backfire, O' smartest geek in the closet, because...
The government, in a training manual, officially agreed that its nearest ally the US engages in torture, along with Afghanistan. It backed off on one count when Uncle Sam (and cousin George) fumed. The other country remains on the list.
In the meantime, he's been kept abreast but kept Canadians out of the loop -- and don't tell me he wasn't advised, unless you want to buy a piece of beach-front property in Kabul. There isn't much of anything that doesn't cross through the scrutiny of the tindogs in the PMO's anal retentive centre.
So is it that Harper cares more for the Taliban now? Or is he going to suggest that the major domos in the Forces -- recently neutered Rick Hillier, for one -- has developed a weak spot for pina coladas and getting caught out in the rain, and those Taliban fellas?
Monday, January 21, 2008
Rarely has a man done so little to be given credit for so much.
Apparently, Stephen Harper is bullet-proof. At least, some CONserfative cheerleaders think so.
In Monday's Irrational Toast, Donny Martin dusted off Harper's economic degree, likely hanging in 24 Sussex's bathroom, and reported that the so-called leader was free and clear of any blame for Canada's potentially wobbly economic situation.
Meanwhile, neo-spawn Johnny Ivison, also of the Asparian fishwrapper, waggled his finger at Stephane Dion's program to inject money into helping companies adapt and change through 'green research', and compared it to George Bush's $150-billion soup kitchen for the economy. There are two major differences that Ivison doesn't bother to plug into the equation: Bush has ran roughshod over his country's fiscal future, digging deeper and deeper into debt while ensuring that the rich remain filthy and happy until the piper comes. Dion's party, meanwhile, put into place a financial plan a baker's dozen years ago that enables Canada to act when needed, without shaking the roots of its economic foundation.
Harper has done precious little to make the good times continue. He first raised personal taxes to pay for a 1% consumption tax cut that favoured the wealthy, then he flip-flopped on a major promise regarding taxation of income trusts. That move alone blew $35-billion from the accounts and savings of a broad cross section of Canadians. It ended up triggering numerous sell-offs of Canadian companies to foreign corporations, putting Canadian workers' lives in the hands of offices in Zurich, Tokyo and London. In a continual vote-buying spree, Harper shovelled out hundreds of millions of dollars, many to Quebec, in hopes of purchasing a Diefenbacker-style cottage where to live his majority dream. Harper's spending spree also included such necessities as the largest poll and focus group purchase in Canadian government history. On what appeared to be the brink of a fall election, he unleashed tax cuts (back to the level of Paul Martin's government) and a second 1% GST cut -- which again left nine out of 10 economists shaking their heads. While there was no election, there was also little bounce in the polls for the guy so desperate for some mclovin'.
Harper's financial dwarf ignored the pleas of Canadian mayors, chastizing them for expecting a piece of the taxation pie. The PM set about quickly in his mandate to bristle some key international trading partners and provincial premiers just because he could, and maybe score a political point.
He ignored the plight of the manufacturing sector until the devil was at the door, and waited until Christmas time to point out that rough seas may lie ahead. Apparently, he has a real crumby psychic on his payroll, too.
He's hung Canadians out high and dry, and suddenly, the Liberals -- you know, the party that turned the tide of a decade of federal deficit budgetry -- are somehow weak on the money matters.
First of all, when it comes to recessions, which some economists are saying torture-free America is swimming towards, the Canadian economy is at the mercy of larger players. Recessions occur, and our federal government is left to react.
So no, I'm not laying the blame at Harper's feet to this potentially economic Armaggedon. But he has done precious little to protect the Canadian economy, and has even made some serious blunders that have knocked out a few of its weight-bearing walls in just two years of office.
Meanwhile, Dion has made measured comments and proposals that suggest someone who understands the severity of the problem and isn't going to panic nor stand aside while the engine catches fire. Dion is talking responsibly. His economic proposal has the same price tag as Harper's recent bon mot, but is geared towards spurring companies to adapt and prepare for a new reality. After hearing about the CON's game, US trade protectionists got their hackles up , ready to spend some of that $500 million Harper signed over as a parting gift to the so-called softwood lumber agreement.
Gord Henderson recalls the tough times of 1980, when Chrysler stood on the precipice of disaster. Had it gone down, it would have taken Windsor's economy with it. The Trudeau government stood up to the plate and agreed to give $250 million in loan guarantees, ones that were never cashed, which prevented a disaster and at the same time ensured the U.S. automaker invested millions into research and development of a newfangled kind of people mover, the minivan, here in Canada.
Times have changed. There are no more 'New Deals', or leaders like Franklin Roosevelt, who during his term in office, lambasted the rich for neglecting their duty to pay taxes during tough times. Today we have people like Bush and Harper, protecting the rich from being part of the solution.
It's no wonder that comfortably ensconced columnists like Martin and Ivison prefer to pitch their cow patties as brown pearls of wisdom.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Boffo-shirt model Maxime Bernier did his best imitation of an ostrich (well, since Mini-minister Lunn prior to his 'emergence' from the Harper witness protection program) this weekend when he fired off a press release (apparently the PMO read it to him) apologizing to the Republikan administration for 'mistakenly' listing their country among the world's best torturers.
CTV owl Craig Oliver's comments tonight compared Bernier's mea culpa to that of Robert Gates, US minister of defence, who had earlier in the week put a broad-brush stroke labelling NATO's contingent in southern Afghanistan as "not properly trained..."
After much great outcry and anger from various NATO countries, Gates took a page from his brother David, and presented his on-air apology...
Meanwhile, the Harper Team's clumsy response to their honest 'insult' of America's treatment of foreign prisoners, especially at Guantanamo Bay, was, to put it mildly, limp. Oliver summed it up by saying, while Gates put his apology in a press conference, with real cameras and such, Bernier's came off sounding not as sincere, being mere printed words.
But no doubt the box of Jo. Louis went over well in the Oval Office.
Perhaps all that evidence of torture actually going on made it hard for him to keep a straight face while issuing an apology.
C'mon Craig, do you know how much it costs to get an image consultant to work on weekends?
I think Stephen Harper probably had this kind of performance in mind...
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Give the government credit this time. After their miserable performance during the Mulroney-Schreiber committee hearings, where they appeared to be befuddled and often out-manoevered, today's performance (and I guess a few days earlier, too) showed what some coordinating and cahooting do for a gang that tries to paint the whole world blue.
First, they ensured that their hidden minister was first on the agenda. And Harper timed the news release of the firing of Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission head Linda Keen at about midnight Ottawa time. It resulted in Keen's disappearance from the scene -- perhaps while seeking legal counsel? Then minister Lunn's appearance came off as slick and pit-bullish -- and for the best coverage of that, go to the always awesome Kady O'Malley blog. The Harperesque chess game (still playing the 'partisan' home version) forestalled a conflicting he-said, she-said battle of headlines in back-to-back days.
Lunn's appearance made headlines alright. I'm not sure how his performance will go over, but as long as the gov't continues to play the 'Lives were at Stake' card, while fuzzying over the risk involved of running a reactor without emergency back-up power, there appears to be a dangerous trend here. If they are successful in convincing popular opinion of their motive, then the independence and stability of Canada's quasi-judicial agencies is now on shaky ground -- CONservative revolution is on the Air!
The slippery and seemingly dastardly nature of Stephen Harper's government continues to peel another layer off its self, while the whole nation is watching American Idol.
But let's get this straight. The role of the CNSC was and is to ensure that the nuclear reactors in Canada are operated safely. That is its first and only duty.
Whether there was a pissing match between the CNSC and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd or a lack of forsight on government and industry's part seems to have fogged the issue. As it is defined, and as has been noted by the likes of Dr. Reg Whitaker of York University
At least we can rest assured that privatization is not in the cards. What's that you say?
And yes, wasn't it Almost-Done-Lunn making a lot of sales pitches last year about nuclear as a cleaner generator of power, not long after grousing about whether "Ottawa [can} properly regulate a company it also owns"? Does he have his lobbiest credentials already? Harper has already promoted the idea of nuclear reactors to answer that 'so-called global warming' thing. And you know what CONs think of gov't-owned industries. Wouldn't it be interesting if AECL was one of the first out of the gate after that Diefenbacker-like wave of approval washed over Canada?
Moving uranium, pitching nuclear energy. Maybe Harper will next help sell more asbestos.
Saturday, January 12, 2008
There he goes again, Stephen Harper going on the attack.
Funny that he's accusing the head of the nuclear regulatory agency of 'threatening Canada's health care system'.
The health care system that was once one of Harper and his CONservatives' Five Priorities?
The Priority that quickly disappeared from the list once Harper figured that, like ol' buddy Bush, you can score more points with fears of terrorism than fixing wait-times?
That Priority which became even more orphaned following poll after poll, focus group after focus group in the biggest polling orgy of any Canadian government in history, which showed Harper that the public was seriously concerned about that so-called global warming thingy?
Funny how its now a concern of his -- although why it wasn't at least a question back in September when the first report on the Chalk River issue first crossed Minister Mini-Lunn's desk? Didn't Harper's psychic dresser not warn him that things like this could bite him on the butt later?
Perhaps Mini-Lunn is heading towards the witness protection program for lost CON check presenters, ala Michael Chong, Rona Ambrose and Gordon O'Connor.
Perhaps Harper's gag writer belongs to that Hollywood union that's out on strike, making the PM have to read his old teleprompter anecdotes.
If that's the case, I'll stick with Celebrity Apprentice. At least that fat, blowhard with an oversized ego and terrible hair has some knowledge of economics, and the talentless pool of sidekicks that he's going to fire will at least be an answer to a trivia question someday.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Quelle surprise. Stephen Harper's inquisition into the Schrieber-Mulrooney blinko game (lame Price Is Right reference to you none TV gameshow watchers) is going to be done on a thin wedge.
We wouldn't want to get nitty gritty on this because it just might splatter mud on some 'innocent victims', yah, that's the ticket.
But let's go back and follow our so-called leader Stephen Harper's trajectory on this thing:
1) with the opposition smelling something akin to blood, Harper threatens the Liberals with a "Don't dare me to look, because I'll give you a wedgie and you won't like me when I give wedgies."
2)Wearing jailbird stripes (but his pants up at least), Karlheinz S. sings like a canary facing extradition to Sylvester's hideaway. He mentions that for nearly a year he's waited for his good friend Britan, er Brian, to put in a good word with the current so-called PM, that Harper guy that the Germans would have liked if he hadn't already filled his dance card with American Oilmen. Once that hits the newswire, the so-called leader tries his second Trudeau-esque piro-ette (Income Trusts still warms the cockles of many deceivers' hearts) and now says there's a need for an inquiry.
To help cover his tracks, and make people forget his open threat 'to investigate Louis St. Laurent's shockingly high starched collar bills', Harper puts his puppet gallery on a 'no-Mulroney, not even Benny' fly zone.
3)A Committee is formed and parliamentarians from the opposition benches find that the Justice minister, one of the few surviving Mulroney men left, to be less than cooperative when it comes to guaranteeing that Karlheinz, pants and all, will be kept in Canada to do his rummaging through boxes bit. But eventually, it gets done and the committee faces both of questionable character. It's enough to make one of Canada's vanguard leaders of conservative thought question the existence of a higher power, like John A Macdonald.
4) So-called leader Harper assigns respected University prez David Johnston with the task of deciding if there is to be an inquiry and its perameters -- nothing like letting someone else be 'the decider'. It buys Harper time to work on his hockey tome.
5) Johnston says Yay on the inquiry, but chooses to limit the area of question to 4:12 pm Tuesday March 3rd 1993 and 7:39 am Wednesday March 4th 1993, or something to that effect. Harper celebrates by breaking out the leather cowboy costume for Laureen -- which he'd prefer to see in the newspaper again rather than this and this. But the Spanish Mulroney-Karlheinz 1993 Inquisition will have to wait until the parliamentary committee is finished cribbing CBC reporters' notebooks, which could take a few months.
Of course, much of the public's interest is in if Mulroney should be forced to repay that 2.1 million settlement, which rested on his sworn testimony that he knew a Karlheinz, but he was taller and never ever handed over envelopes stuffed with thousand dollar bills that could be hid in a US safety deposit box.
Fortunately, Mulroney hasn't had to testify under oath yet, leaving many fun-filled days ahead for political junkies, millions of Canadians who still curse the word Mulroney whenever they see Canadian Idol advertisment, and the starved dogs of the media and opposition.
For one of the better rundowns on the whole wacky affair, go here or here.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Silence here at RKO Rosebud, thanks to a new baby daughter, a wicked virus and general seasonal laziness. But well before groundhogs' day, we're ready to pop back into action with some cheap comments from the over-inflated cheap seats.
Our faithful leader has been getting broadsided fairly heavily, at least from some inside corners, for his appointment of Joan Beatty, current NDP MLA in Saskatchewan, to run in the upcoming byelection.
Some people have qualms over the mere idea of 'appointing candidates' and robbing the local members from having their vote. It is a little troubling, but I've been involved in a similar situation where the candidate was head-and-tails the best person for the job, and while he didn't win, brought us closest to a victory that we've seen in this riding in decades (and since then, the NdP candidate who nearly won that year has since joined our party -- Nah-nah-nah-nah!)
Others are not pleased that we've accepted another 'turncoat', even though as a party without an ideology and expected to survive with the 'big tent' mantra, it makes sense to welcome and entice members from all parties at all times. Naturally, I was a Bob Rae supporter during the leadership race, so you can guess my opinion.
However, I'm not one to say there isn't reasonable qualms to this act.
Beatty was just elected to the Saskatchewan legislature barely two months ago, but now sees fit to leave before they even sit for greener pastures. That does seem a tad 'Emersin-esque', an opportunist with self-interest at heart.
Perhaps that's politics.
But without David Orchard coming out and standing behind Ms. Beatty, this has become an internal quagmire that the media will play with until the votes are cast. And that didn't work out so well in a riding where we had a fairly comfortable edge last time. Here we are holding on to a 67 vote margin.
Still, I'm impressed with Beatty's credentials and wish she would have taken out her membership before running in the provincial election. Then I could have swallowed this a whole lot better.
So I'm going to hope that our fearless leader decides to withdraw his decision and let democracy back into the fold for the people of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River.
Let the CONs have their Mark Warner moment, the NdP their Micheline Montreuil hypocrisy, and lets get back to basics, shall we? We've already got possibly the best team of potential cabinet ministers ever to hold and run for office in Canadian history.