Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Liberals Getting Desperate

With the Liberal party facing its greatest popularity crisis since Stephane Dion assumed leadership, the Liberal party stepped up its attack against Harper today, releasing two more ads.

This, added to a spot released three days ago, frankly show the Dion campaign in full panic mode, pulling the George W Bush card in a desperate attempt to polarize this election.

The first spot -- released on September 27 -- insists that Canada is "falling behind" under Stephen Harper. The Liberals are trying to counter-brand Harper as regressive and backward thinking:

The ad tries to portray Stephane Dion's Green Shift as in line with global trends by noting the other countries that are investing in Green economic growth. Newspaper clippings denoting the policy advancements by various countries -- Britain, Germany and (ironically) the United States -- appear cast against a fluttering image of each country's flag.

The ad then abruptly shifts, accusing Harper of cutting $60 billion to "Green jobs" (naturally, the spot doesn't mention that Harper quickly restored the funding under re-designed -- but similar -- prograns).

For the first time, the speaker providing the voice overs for the Liberal ads sounds increasingly outraged as the ad goes on. As one will see with today's pair of ads, this is becoming thematic of the Liberal campaign.

The second two ads push the anti-Bush button, and play it hard:

The first ad brings up an issue from five years ago, mentioning Harper's support for the Iraq war.

Soldiers are shown marching in between inter-cut photos of Harper with George W Bush, noting that if Harper had his way, Canadian troops would be in Iraq. The ad then turns to Afghanistan (ironically, a war the Liberals themselves committed Canada to) and questions Harper's commitment to withdrawing groups.

A now frantic-sounding male voice asks "Can we really trust him on something so important? Do you really want to find out?"

But the true desperation of the Liberal campaign comes shining through in the third spot, entitled "Harpernomics and Bush":

The first Liberal ad claims the Canadian economy is in a "tailspin" and accuses Harper of parroting and emulating Bush by claiming the economy is strong and allowing industry to self-regulate.

However, following a Bush-riddled attack on Harper, the ad then tries to abruptly shift into Liberal promises to "strengthen the social safety net in tough times" -- something they previously did the opposite of -- balance the already-balanced budget, and "put people first".

The spot concludes by telling Canadians the Liberal party is "always there for you."

These latter two spots coincide with the launching of a slick new website promoting a hypothetical Bush/Harper campaign.

A George W Bush impersonator greets visitors to the site, saying "welcome to our website. My pal Steve and I have the same economic plan... if you can call it that. Heck, he would've joined me in Iraq and you'd still be there. I'm going back to Texas. But if you vote for Steve, it'd be just like I moved up there with y'all."

Certainly, this new concentrated anti-Bush push may garner the Liberals some support. Or, conversely, all Canadians may recognize the party as simply desperate -- just as Canadians recognized Paul Martin as desperate when he challenged Harper to talk about abortion in the tail end of the 2006 campaign.

(Unfortunately for Stephane Dion, his primary collaborator, Elizabeth May, also holds some conservative views on abortion, so he can't pull that particular card.)

If this is the best Hail Mary play Stephane Dion could pull out of the playbook, the Liberal party has just conceded defeat in this election.

Leave This One to the Pros, Kids...

Cruickshank, Carlin not alone in their assessment of Mallick's "Mighty Wind"

In the wake of the CBC's mea culpa regarding Heather Mallick's "Mighty Wind" op/ed column, a distinct odour is spreading through some of the darkest corners of Canada's left-wing blogosphere.

It's the familiar stink of outrage.

The CBC is merely being gutless, and caving into right-wing interests, the consensus seems to be.

Yet the consensus among media professionals -- people who actually confront issues such as those surrounding the infamous Mallick article -- is that the CBC was precisely right in its judgment. As the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente points out, one need not even be a Palin supporter to figure this out:

"It's fun to bash Sarah Palin. I should know. I've been doing it for weeks. But nobody has bashed her quite as viciously as a semi-obscure columnist named Heather Mallick.

"Palin has a toned-down version of the porn actress look ... the overtreated hair, puffy lips and permanently alarmed expression," she wrote in a column that was posted Sept. 5 on the CBC's online news site. And she didn't stop there. She went on to refer to Republican men as "sexual inadequates," small-town Americans as "hicks" and "hillbillies," Bristol's boyfriend, Levi, as a "ratboy," and the Palins as terrible parents. "What normal father would want Levi 'I'm a fuckin' redneck' Johnson prodding his daughter?" she wondered.

Vitriolic drivel is all the rage these days. The blogosphere is full of it. But this drivel was bought and paid for by the CBC. And soon the organic waste material hit the fan. The National Post went ballistic. So did Fox News, which loves nothing better than denouncing the left-wing loonies who live up here in Canada.

"Is this what actually passes for commentary at a publicly funded broadcasting company in Canada?" seethed a Fox News babe. Even Fox's Greta Van Susteren got into the act. She called Ms. Mallick a "pig." Ms. Mallick was deluged with hate mail, and the CBC with hundreds of complaints. Ms. Van Susteren said it was all in fun and invited Ms. Mallick on the air, but she declined.

Ms. Mallick has professed shock at the hate mail she's received (tell me about it), while revelling in her new-found notoriety. But Sunday, the CBC finally ate crow and yanked the column from its website. "We erred in our judgment," said news publisher John Cruickshank, who called the column a "viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan" piece of political invective that should never have been published. The ombudsman had looked into the matter, and found many of her "most savage assertions lack a basis in fact." I'll say. For one thing, she obviously knows nothing about the sex lives of Republicans.

The Mallick affair is bad news for the CBC, because it reinforces the widespread belief the place is a hotbed of left-wing bias. That's not good news when a Tory government controls the purse strings. Nor is it entirely fair. The CBC's online commentary arm is not exactly the flagship of the network. It is a backwater that has served as a sort of semi-retirement home for aging lefties (think Judy Rebick) who could no longer find an outlet in the mainstream media and, one suspects, supplied copy cheap. They had little oversight and less influence - until now.

The truth about the CBC is more complicated. Its problem isn't an overt left-wing bias. Its problem is an earnest, mushy-liberal mindset that can scarcely entertain a contrarian idea. Its editors, producers and directors strive to be fair-minded. It's just hardly any of them would ever vote Tory. Oh, they try. Once they even had right-wing commentator David Frum guest-host The Current. But people were so shocked they never did it again.

Ironically, no one is more bothered by this groupthink than the top CBC managers themselves. More than one have told me that it drives them crazy. And it's no accident that left-wing faces such as Avi Lewis have recently decamped for the greener fields of English-language Al Jazeera. Although I haven't talked to Mr. Cruickshank (a former colleague), my guess is that part of his mandate is to vigorously encourage a wider range of world views. Too bad Ms. Mallick popped up to prove the critics right.

Meantime, I'm not feeling too sorry for Ms. Mallick. She is a sour, narrow-minded writer - the kind of who makes Michael Moore look like a world-class wit. Her reflexive anti-Americanism is heavy-handed and stale, to say nothing of casually racist. There are many, many ways of dissing Sarah Palin. But Ms. Mallick's naughty, coarse puerility is not among them.
This may be hard for lunatics like Lindsay Stewart to come to grips with, but plenty of people -- not merely right-wingers or denizens of the Free Republic website -- find Mallick's column objectionable, and unworthy of publishing.

But, hey, don't ask them -- they're merely professionals. What do they know?

Red Toryism Is Not Isolationism

But oddly enough, David Orchard seems to think so

One may wonder if Liberal leader Stephane Dion is disappointed or relieved that David Orchard, his star candidate in Desthene-Missinni-Churchill River riding, has manged to produce so little press coverage.

When the press did bite at that particular worm, it was

In a recent candidates debate in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, Orchard talked about what a few of his priorities are.

“One of my priorities is the war,” Orchard announced.

Indeed. Orchard priorities the war so highly that he's decided to join the party that deployed Canadian forces to Afghanistan in the first place, under a leader who was a member of the cabinet that decided to do so.

Orchard's views on the war are far from secret. In February of this year, Orchard published an article on Globalresearch.ca in which he makes some remarkable comments.

Orchard essentially compares Canada's involvement in Afghanistan to slavery, and also attempts to cast doubts on previous humanitarian interventions in Yugoslavia and Haiti.

Orchard would likely portray his comments as embodying the concerns with national sovereignty so deeply held within Red Toryism. But apparently Orchard never received the memo that Red Toryism does not condone genocides, such as those being perpetrated by Slobodan Milosevic.

Nor does Red Toryism condone unarmed civilians caught in the midst of civil conflicts being left to their own devices.

Nor does Red Toryism condone harbouring terrorists while they plan attacks against foreign countries.

In short, Red Toryism is not isolationism, and never has been. In fact, it never could have been.

Most historians agree that the very notion of Canadian sovereignty was born out of the two World Wars. Most Canadians felt our sovereingty had been earned in those conflicts, and many of the things that came in the immediate aftermath seem to bear this to be true.

In fact, the Canadian citizenship act wasn't passed until 1946. Prior to that, there was actually no such thing as a Canadian citizenship. Rather, Canadians were generally viewed as citizens of the British empire.

In 1926, between the two wars, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was instrumental in prompting the Balfour Declaration of 1926, which declared equality amongst Commonwealth countries.

It simply isn't logical for Red Toryism to be so offended by the notion of a foreign intervention, where necessary, considering that the very element with which it remains so preoccupied -- sovereignty -- was born out of such an intervention.

After all, Canada's involvement in the Second World War didn't end at the German border, nor did it end at the Italian coastline.

The great legacy of that war -- deposing one of history's brutal dictator and preventing the wholesale genocide of Jewish people in Europe -- remains an accomplishment of which all Canadians worthy of the name remain proud.

If Canada hadn't entered the Second World War not only would this legacy never have been achieved, but it's likely that key links between the United States and Britain would never have been forged. Without this support it's unlikely that Britain could have turned away the German attack, and that other preoccupation of so many Red Tories -- distress over ever-closer links between Canada and the United States -- would have come to to pass much, much sooner.

Ironically, Red Toryism never could have come to truly exist if Canada's leaders of the day had thought in the inherently isolationist vein that David Orchard does today.

Orchard also writes in a manner that suggests he believes Canadian forces bombed civilian targets indiscriminately in Afghanistan, Haiti and former Yugoslavia.

But even more concerning is Orchard's equation of Canada's efforts abroad with slavery.

"Military assaults against the poverty stricken farmers of Afghanistan and Haiti, and an Iraqi population struggling for its very survival, are part of a long, barbarous tradition going back to slave ships and colonial resource wars and will some day, I believe, be seen in that context," Orchard writes.

Unfortuantely for Mr Orchard, this is most unequivocally not the case. Should Canadian troops start herding Afghans on to slave galleons and forcing them to row their way across the ocean to pick cotton on plantations, then the war in Afghanistan will be seen in that context.

David Orchard can feel free to hold his breath until that happens if he so wishes. It wouldn't be a very good idea, but he's free to try it.

In the end, it seems, there's a reason why David Orchard is a marginal figure in Canadian political history, who only managed to attain a brief semblance of prominence when the Progressive Conservative party was already on its deathbed.

It's because he's a marginal thinker. Only a marginal thinker could look at the conflict in Afghanistan, look at the government that was deposed there, and see the Amistad.

Only a marginal thinker like David Orchard.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Now That's More Like It...

...But did Harper blink?

Over the past few days, Canada's opposition parties have been hailing the beginning of a "culture war".

It's ironic that a hallmark of extreme right-wing activism in the United States could be trotted out by Canadian left-wingers with so little protest from Canada's left, but one digresses.

With numerous polls suggesting that the focus on Harper's $50 million cut to arts funding may have been hurting his campaign -- particularly in Quebec -- Prime Minster Stephen Harper today promised to introduce $150 million in tax credits for parents of children enrolled in arts programs.

"The credit will apply on up to $500 of eligible fees for children under 16 who participate in eligible arts activities. This tax cut will encourage and make it easier for parents to give their children the benefits of activities such as music classes, drama or arts classes, and the parents will save money on their taxes," Harper said.

"For some children participating in arts, dance and drama classes these will be a fun and enjoyable activity. For others it could be the beginning of much more -- a life long interest or career."

In some cases -- notably, dance -- the tax credit would double with the already existing fitness tax credit.

Yet, at three times what the cut programs cost, one may wonder if this is merely an effort on Harper's behalf to regain some lost momentum in this election campaign. In other words, one wonders if Harper really cares about the arts, or if this program is merely another cynical attempt to garner votes.

For another thing, the program doesn't seem to go far enough. A good conservative arts program should include not merely tax credits for children to get involved in the arts, but also tax credits for those who would be interested in being patrons of the arts.

Many Canadians have long objected to tax dollars being used to support mediocre artists. If the Conservatives were bold enough to propose such a program, those Canadians could choose to support any artist they judged to be worthy of support and recieve a tax credit.

There certainly those who would suggest that artists should fund themselves and treat art as art, rather than as a vocation. After all, that's how Berthold Imhoff did it. Yet these individuals are certainly overlooking the fact that the modern-day Canadian artist doesn't have a personal or family fortune, as Imhoff did.

Art doesn't pay well enough to pay for the bills. While it certainly could be said that this should be incentive for some artists to seek a new line of work, there are many Canadian artists producing work of value that deserves to be supported.

Making it sensible for Canadians to support artists on a case-by-case and individual basis makes sense in this particular vein.

The new program is a step in the right direction, but not quite far enough. And many Canadians will wonder if Harper really is the "steady hand" he's portrayed himself as.

Birds of a Feather Hate Together

My, how shocking...

Of all the people to defend Heather Mallick, it's certainly unsurprising that Canadian Cynic's partner in hatecrime, Lindsay Stewart, one be among them.

Mallick's seething epithets are nothing more than fact, Stewart insists, and suggests that Carlin would have realized this had he simply practiced "due diligence".

As evidence of this, Stewart offers up alleged "close ties" between Sarah Palin and Thomas Muthee.

And yet, as one closely examines the coverage of the so-called "Mutheegate" controversy, one uncovers the sheer triviality of Palin's so-called "association" with Muthee.

She was blassed once by Muthee, on a single occasion.

Wow. Clearly Palin and Murthee are bestest buds.

Apparently, meeting someone once is sufficient to have a "very close relationship", as Scott Swenson describes them.

And while Palin could -- and perhaps even should have, hindsight being 20/20 and all -- have stopped Muthee in his tracks the minute he started wailing about "witchcraft", she would have had to interrupt his blessing in order to do so. Which would have certainly been impolite. But what's impolite when dealing with an individual who incited his largely-uneducated followers to mass murder?

Certainly, Palin could -- and perhaps even should -- have refused to meet Muthee at all.

Then there's the reason why hindsight is 20/20 -- because it's often so clear due to knowing that one didn't know at the time. And there is no indication that Palin had ever met Muthee before he delivered a guest sermon at a church she formally left in 2002, nor has she met him since.

There is no indication that Palin knew about Muthee's horiffic activities before meeting him, and no indication that she knew about these things until the news of them broke.

But then again, what's the truth when one is trying to run up political points by distorting reality?

Keep in mind that this is follows Stewart trying to prove "factually" that Republican men are "sexually inadequate" by citing a long list of sex scandals, including some featuring prostitutes underage children.

Interestingly, Stewart declines to mention numerous Democrat sex scandals, some of which also include prostitutes and underage children.

Curious, that.

In the end, much of Stewart's thesis lies on the revelation that there are, indeed, wingnuts amongst Palin's supporters.

Yet Lindsay Stewart takes the wingnutty comments of these wingnuttish characters, and declares that they represent all of Palin's supporters. A few of Palin's supporters could be described as "white trash" if one attaches a contemptuous value statement to their comments. A few of Palin's supporters could be described as "white trash". Ergo, all of Palin's supporters are white trash.

Stewart unsurprisingly tries to turn Palin's son Trig -- whom CBC reporter Neil MacDonald suggested may actually be Bristol Palin's child -- against her, echoing the full range of political snakes and vultures who are so eager to pick apart Palin's personal life.

Stewart also shamefully tries to envoke the Bristol Palin issue again, trying to stick his nose into a very private matter and exploit it for partisan gain. (Which is quite ironic, considering the things that could be said about one of his blogmates -- but won't be. Someone, after all, has to choose to be bigger than Lindsay Stewart and his pack of online hatemongers.)

The distinct pro-abortion anti-feminism inherent in the exploitation of this issue has already been addressed elsewhere.

Comically (and with dishonesty typical of himself), Stewart insists that "the Palin/McCain campaign are the ones responsible for making a spectacle out of the girl."

Apparently, Stewart himself never wrote anything like this.

Who's making the spectacle, indeed? Let's not forget that "journalists" like Neil MacDonald were out to drag Bristol Palin into some kind of controversy similar to this before the pregnancy story even broke. But, nope, it isn't the various left-wing activists out to destroy Sarah Palin who are making the spectacle, apparently it's Palin herself.

What a joke.

Which, in the end, is precisely what Stewart insists the Mallick article was:

"Oh how silly of me, you do think we're stupid. Reading Mallick's piece we are obviously not bright enough to recognize satire without a flashing light reminding us that this is not a dissertation, litany or insurance manual."
It wouldn't be hard to mistake Lindsay Stewart for stupid -- just like his blogmate mistakes Canadians for stupid. After all, apparently, Stewart doesn't know what satire really is.

Satire, first off, is best done when its humourous, but it's generally meant to make a hyperbolic parody of something. So what, precisely, does Stewart suggest Mallick is making a parody of here? Herself? Are we really supposed to believe that what Mallick wrote doesn't dislike Sarah Palin? The same Heather Mallick who has been relentless in her criticism of Palin?

Not that there's anything wrong with criticizing Sarah Palin. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms to be made -- starting with, but not limited to, her advocacy of abstinence-only sex education.

But describing her as a porn actress isn't one of them. Nor is using her down syndrome-stricken child to question her political judgement.

It doesn't take a rocket science to recognize Mallick's column as precisely what it factually was. Not satire, as Stewart insists it was, but invective as John Cruickshank recognized it.

But even the obvious simplicity of the issue doesn't abate Stewart's outrage:

"You Mr Carlin and your complicit and cowardly superiors have buckled to pressure from a handful of pearl clutching ninnies and let us not forget what put the real fear in your quisling heart. You betrayed one of your own freelancers because you were scared of the noisy reaction. You have become enemies of freedom and liberty, engaging in censorship at the behest of the liars who pretend to support freedom of speech."
Vince Carlin: enemy of freedom and liberty?

Apparently, "freedom" and "liberty" depend upon the CBC to allow Heather Mallick to publish whatever hateful diatribe she wishes on their website.

And, apparently, CBC executives should not have freedom of expression enough to decide that they don't want to be involved in the publishing of garbage like Mallick's column. Apparently, anyone writing for the CBC should consider their "freedom of expression" more important than the protection of the institution's reputation.

What an absolute joke.

"CBC is being run by cowards, it seems. Change your britches little man, the scary people will go away now that you've bent a knee and given in to their ignorant demands."
But at the end of the day, people with a moral compass far more effective and resolute than Lindsay Stewart's will decide whether or not Carlin and Cruickshank's course of action is the wise one to take.

At the end of the day, however, the question is thus: who is the bigger man? The man who decides that allowing a freelance journalist to use the CBC as a soapbox to attack a politician through their family is a mistake, or the one who denounces him for it?

At the end of the day, who is the coward? The individual who recognizes that attacking a politician through their family is wrong, or the invididual who indulges himself in doing so while accusing the politician themselves of making the spectacle?

Of course, this is all par for the course from Lindsay Stewart. What else does one really expect from an individual who insisted that a 69-year-old man pushed off the roof of a car simply slipped and "sucked pavement"?

The answer: you don't expect much. Which is precisely what Stewart delivered today.

What a joke.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Proof Is In The Pudding, John

Cruickshank promises better -- now he'd better deliver

One Heather Mallick turd, 300 complaints and a media circus later, John Cruickshank has finally taken it upon himself to fix what many Canadians have been saying for years:

The CBC is unacceptably biased.

In a column regarding CBC ombudsman Vice Carlin's recent judgement on Mallick breaking an intellectual Mighty Wind, Cruickshank commented on the controversy.

Among other things, he wrote:

"Mallick's column is a classic piece of political invective. It is viciously personal, grossly hyperbolic and intensely partisan.

And because it is all those things, this column should not have appeared on the CBCNews.ca site.
Which is precisely what, despite the protracted rantings of Mallick's defenders to the contrary, many Canadians have been saying ever since it blighted the CBC website.

More troubling than Mallick's column, however, has been the escalating bias and exclusion of conservative views by a news outlet that, by virtue of funding itself through taxpayer dollars, is obligated to try to represent the views of all Canadians -- or at least as many Canadians as possible.

This, Cruickshank insists, is about to change:

"As a public broadcaster we have an added responsibility to provide an array of opinions and voices to complement our journalism. But we must do so carefully. And you should be able to trust us to provide you with work that's based on solid reporting and free from the passionate excesses of partisanship.

We failed you in this case. And as a result we have put new editing procedures in place to insure that in the future, work that is not appropriate for our platforms, will not appear. We are open to contentious reasoned argument but not to partisan attack. It's a fine line.

Ombudsman Carlin makes another significant observation in his response to complainants: when it does choose to print opinion, CBCNews.ca displays a very narrow range on its pages.

In this, Carlin is also correct.

This, too, is being immediately addressed. CBCNews.ca will soon expand the diversity of voices and opinions and be home to a diverse group of writers with many perspectives. In this, we will better reflect the depth and texture of this country.
It's encouraging to hear this.

However, for many Canadians, the proof will inevitably be in the pudding.

In other words, those Canadians who are concerned about the current state of the CBC will take you at your word when you prove to us that it's good, Mr Curickshank -- and not a second sooner.

NDP Steps Up Its Attacks on Harper

As the 2008 federal election campaign passes halftime, the NDP has stepped up its attacks on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his governing Conservative party.

Over the last few days, the NDP has continued to release negative ads addressing health care and the environment, trying to counter-brand Harper as negligent on each.

In the first spot, the NDP accuses Harper of complacency on health care, repeating their prior claim that five million Canadians don't have a family doctor.

The ad features a cut-out image of Harper pointing, while a legion of silhouetted Canadians waits in a long and winding line to see a single doctor.

It also suggests that Harper's policies have deprived "millions" of Canadians of access to medication and early detection techniques.

The ad finishes its point with another cut-out image of Harper with syringes, medical thermometers and stethoscopes raining down the screen -- seeming to symbolize health care going "down the drain" under Harper's leadership.

Naturally, the ad doesn't address the fact that health care remains largely an area of provincial jurisdiction, and that none of the provinces recently governed by his country have medication plans in place -- in an area of their jurisdiction.

As with the previous NDP ads, the spot makes an abrupt shift toward the end, as the NDP strategists try to shift it into a positive ad. Jack Layton again appears against an orange background, promising a plan to train more doctors and nurses, as well as a program to make medication more affordable.

The second ad begins with a cut out of a bemused-looking Stephen Harper cast against a time-lapsed photo of the Canadian rockies. As the ad accuses the Conservatives of "giving oil companies an unlimited license to pollute", the rockies turn black and spouting oil derricks appear on the landscape.

Oil barrels are shown tipped on their side, leaking oil into lakes as pipelines stretch out from CO2-spewing factories stretched out across the horizon (Which is an odd image coming from a party that claims it's intent on protecting Ontarian manufacturing jobs).

The ad also claims Canada has a "worse environmental record than George Bush" (something that is actually unequivocally untrue).

The ad also claims that Harper has "no plan to do anything about it" despite having put forth a Climate Change policy that is actually more in line with the demands being made by most of the environmental lobby than his competitors (including the NDP).

Not to mention that oil companies don't even write themselves an "unlimited license to pollute" -- although the ads are clearly meant to play for Eastern and Central Canadians who have never so much as seen a Western Canadian oil well, and never seen the myriad of measures typically in place to minimize environmental impact.

In short, these particular ads are designed to play to the ignorance of the Eastern and Central Canadian voter.

An intriguing theme has emerged in NDP ads in the portrayal of the two leaders. Whenever Stephen Harper appears, it's as a cut out image, superimposed against nightmarish images slapped on a Tory blue background. When Jack Layton appears, its Layton himself, "in the flesh", as it were.

It's an intriguing way of portraying a time-old theme in political advertising: parties portraying themselves as lively and energetic, and their opponents as lifeless and static.

Again, the ads rely heavily on music composed of unsettling drum beats and remain reminiscent of 2006's batch of Liberal attack ads.

In focusing their ads almost entirely on Harper, the NDP seems to understand how they'll achieve success in this election -- not by fighting Stephen Harper and the Conservatives for the anti-Liberal vote, but rather by fighting Stephane Dion and the Liberals for the anti-Conservative vote.

Interestingly, by focusing their attack on Harper and the Conservatives, the NDP may well grow their vote total -- again -- at the expense of the Liberal party.

At least, that seems to be what they're trying to do. One could think of it as using Stephen Harper as a voodoo doll to hurt Stephane Dion. And, as recent polls suggest, it just might be working.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Will Strahl Cross the Lubicon?

Lubicon Cree remains contentious issue for Canada -- the time to solve the problem is now

In a bid to shore up support for his party, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl made a recent trip through Canada's north.

While campaigning in the north, Strahl naturally addressed numerous typical campaign issues.

However, one item related to Strahl's ministerial portfolio did not appear on the agenda: that of the Lubicon Cree.

This is of little surprise. The sad tale surrounding the Lubicon Cree has been a traditionally overlooked issue in Canadian politics for more than one hundred years.

The story of the Lubicon Cree is one that will almost certainly be unfamiliar to most Canadians -- that of a band of Alberta aboriginals left out of the Treaty 8 negotiations, and who ever since have been fighting for recognition of their right to their land.

The Alberta provincial government has allowed billions of dollars in lumber, mineral and oil and gas developments to go forth in the Lubicon Lake area, with no compensation to the Lubicon.

Developments in the area have not only encroached upon traditional hunting and trapping grounds (although this is something that one should have expected would inevitably happened even under economic development directed by the Lubicon themselves). Oil and gas developments have also contaminated their water supply.

The government has been attempting to negotiate with the Lubicon Cree since 1939.

In 1999, prospects for a mutually satisfying agreement seemed strong. Yet November 2000 talks had broken down and the Lubicon cree were set to wait another two weeks for talks to resume.

By 2005, the United Nations has been pressuring Canada to resume negotiations and groups friendly to the Lubicon were forced to resort to protesting companies investing in the area and boycotting companies yet to invest there.

The national paradox that is the historical debacle surrounding the Lubicon Cree simply must be rectified. The rights of the Lubicon Cree must be recognized and respected, and the damage to their way of life reversed as best possible.

Certainly, there's little incentive for Chuck Strahl to solve this problem -- or even start talking about it. The media coverage of the controversy has been sporadic, and all too often sustained by protest action by groups such as Friends of the Lubicon.

But that may be the best reason for Strahl to finally be the man to tackle this issue head-on. Strahl isn't likely to score many political points by addressing the plight of the Lubicon. In fact, that in time may draw protest from those most slavishly devoted to the oil and gas industry.

The expectations of the Lubicon -- undiplomatically phrased as demands -- aren't altogether unreasonable. They are the standard expectations of Canadian aboriginals: self-government, restitution, and land claim settlements.

They also expect government help establishing a secure potable water supply in their community, although their demand that the focus on establishing the service of potable water to the homes of elders first should be rejected. (Instead, water service should be prioritized to homes with children of any age, especially very young children.)

But at the end of the day, settling the issues surrounding the Lubicon Cree is the right thing to do. That is why Chuck Strahl, for the good of all Canadians, must find it in himself to finally cross this (ironically) metaphorical Rubicon of Aboriginal affairs in Canada.

Here's One Way to Keep Heather Mallick Off the CBC

Hire Michael Coren.

You're Fucking Right It Is

Dion laments Conservative "dream of ending supply management"

It's hard to say whether Stephane Dion is much dumber than he looks, or too smart for his own good.

Today, the Liberal leader attacked Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his "attacks" on the Canadian Wheat Board.

Ironically, he did so in Ontario, where they farmers have long ago chosen to abolish the single-desk marketing system.

"Their dream is to get rid of supply management," Dion warned. "If he's attacking the Canadian Wheat Board, what will happen to supply management?"

That's a simple question. As it turns out, it will finally be what prairie grain farmers have democratically expressed as their will -- namely, the abolition of the single-desk marketing system as it regards barley. It will remain in place for other grains.

In the end, "supply management" will be left not up to CWB bureaucrats, but to producers and consumers of grain -- as it should be, and according to the will of the farmers, not entrenched CWB bureaucrats.

Dion has been campaigning hard to find a breakthrough in rural Canada. He's already lightened his Green Shift policy for farmers who would be disproportionately penalized by the inevitable increased costs of diesel fuel. But any gains he may have made -- however unlikely -- Dion can kiss good-bye with this little blunder.

After all, farmers may be characterized as simple folk, but they know when someone's screwing them. When Dion turned his back on the democratically-expressed will of prairie grain farmers, he screwed them.

On the prairies, there is a simple -- paraphrased -- adage: "[screw] me once, shame on you. [Screw] me twice, shame on me."

Dion needs to get his head on straight as it regards the CWB. Prairie grain farmers will not stand for being screwed by another Liberal government.

Vince Carlin On Heather Mallick

Big words, Vince, but can Canadians expect change?

Vince Carlin seems to be leading something of a charmed life.

In his time as the CBC ombudsman, Carlin has had to preside over a number of controversies at the CBC. There were the collusion allegations between Krista and Pablo Rodriguez. Then, there was the matter of a piece appearing on The National suggesting that Bristol Palin was actually the mother of young Trig Palin.

Now, there's the Mighty Wind of wingnuttery emmenanting from Heather Mallick.

While Carlin still has yet to address the humiliating dressing-down of Neil MacDonald, he has chosen to address the controversy surrounding Mallick's extreme and bizarre comments.

In a review released two days ago, Carlin address the controversy, and makes some intriguing conclusions.

First off, many of the self-indulgent statements made by Mallick in the column were contrary to the CBC's code of journalistic practices in that they were insufficiently based on fact (descriptions of Republican men as "sexually inadequate" and Sarah Palin's supporters as "white trash").

Secondly, the CBC's code of journalistic practices is applicable to, but improperly tailored to, the CBC's new role as a web-based news outlet.

Thirdly, that the CBC does not live up to its mandate in terms of providing a broad range of views.

Which is frankly, little surprise to anyone. Least of all to Canadian conservative thinker Michael Coren, who once had a secheduled appearance on the CBC cancelled due to objection to his views.

Carlin's candid analysis of the Mighty Wind affair and its implications for the CBC should be welcomed, even and especially by those who object to Mallick's comments. But a bigger question remains unanswered -- just as questions remain unanswered in the wake of the Erickson/Rodriguez affair:

What, precisely, is going to change at the CBC?

Canadians have the right to now how, having suffered yet another definitive journalistic black eye, how Carlin and CBC editor John Cruickshank will restore journalistic credibility and balance to the CBC.

Clearly, fundamental changes need to be made at the CBC. Someone, after all, is making the decision to publish absolute garbage such as Mallick's loonish commentary on Sarah Palin, and making the decision not to give voice to other views.

Concerned Canadians will be able to feel a good deal more comfortable that there will be some real reform in the CBC when someone -- and not simply Mallick herself -- is called upon to answer for the CBC's flagrant sharfing on its own journalistic integrity.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Debate To Be Remembered

Even if the leaders aren't up to snuff, the stakes in the 2008 federal election are historic in nature

Stephen Harper is no John Diefenbaker. Nor is he even Joe Clark.

Stephane Dion is no Lester Pearson, and he certainly isn't Pierre Trudeau.

Diefenbaker possessed the ability to rail vocally against outrage and injustice in a manner so intensely that he could make believers out of even cold-hearted listeners.

Lester Pearson, for his notorious lack of oratorical skills, always tended to know a good idea when he saw it. If one were to ask Diefenbaker himself, peacekeeping was one of those very ideas, deftly snatched by the Chief by Pearson.

Joe Clark had a broad-sweeping vision for Canada: his decentralized "communitiy of communities" that was so idyllic that it was almost utopian.

Pierre Trudeau was a mericless debater and oratorical master without compare. For his own part, he didn't merely adopt the great ideas of others. He also came up with a few of his own, evenif he could never be bothered to actually implement them.

Diefenbaker vs. Pearson and Clark vs. Trudeau stand among Canada's most historical and defining electoral contests. In each case, each man exchanged electoral victories over the issues that defined their times.

For Pearson and Diefenbaker it was Canada's role in the Cold War vis a vis nuclear weapons. For Trudeau and Clark, it was Canada's economic course in a post-OPEC petro-economy.

Harper is no Diefenbaker. His speeches may be elctrifying to the most partisan of his supporters, but they still fail to impress his political opponents. Nor is he a Joe Clark. Whether Conservative voters are comfortable enough to admit it or not, he has no grand vision for Canada. He barely has a vision at all, aside from "tightening the screws" of government via budget and tax cuts.

Dion is no Pearson. His Green Shift economic policy, as championed by Scott Brison and Green party leader Elizabeth May, is so ill-concieved that it can't seem to drive voters away from his party quickly enough. Nor is he a Trudeau. The man seems like he couldn't muster a believable ounce of passion is his life depended on it, nor is he resolute enough to stand by his policies no matter how unpopular they may seem. Pierre Trudeau would never have been caught dead tailoring a policy like the Green Shift to the likes of farmers. Not only were they too far out of the urban elite circle he prided himself on travelling in, but they were unlikely to vote for him regardless.

Yet Harper and Dion, like Trudeau and Clark and Diefenbaker and Pearson before them, do have a historical matter that will be decided in the course of this federal election: namely, the issue of climate change.

Canadians have a historical choice before them: a choice between the frugal, cautious economic environmentalism of Stephen Harper, sprinkled with a healthy dose of skepticism, or the risky approach of Stephane Dion, tearing up Canada's taxation regime in the name of leftist apocalypticism.

Harper's approach, stretching reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over a period longer than 40 years, or Stephane Dion's imaginings that, given what he feels is the proper economic incentive, Canada's biggest polluters will pull off the feat in time to comply with the Kyoto protocol.

As was the case with Trudeau/Clark and Diefenbaker/Pearson, the outcome of this election likely won't be up to the contestants alone. While the Presidential election in the United States may keep individuals such as Al Gore and Barack Obama too busy to attempt an intervention in the Canadian campaign, the individual gaffes offered up by each campaign -- there have already been many, and there will likely be many more still -- may yet prove to be decisive by the time this election concludes.

Then, of course, there's always the NDP. The "conscience of the nation", as it were, may yet prove to tip the scales in this election. Jack Layton holds a very powerful position in the country right now, as did Tommy Douglas and Ed Broadbent before him.

And as with Trudeau/Clark and Diefenbaker/Pearson, the next 20 years of Canadian history may be charted by the outcome of this election.

One way or another, this federal election will be one for Canadians to remember. Canadians may remember the outcome -- and, no matter how one slices it, the potential consequences -- for longer still.

Michael Byers Shows His Concern for the Working Class

Shut down the oilsands, says NDP candidate

Thank god for the NDP -- Canada's "working-class" political party. Always so full of concern for the working class.

...Or maybe not.

In a debate yesterday at the University of BC's School of Journalism, Byers made what have been described as controversial remarks. More than simply controversial, they make one wonder if the entire NDP isn't suffering from some kind of deeply-rooted identity crisis.

Lamenting that climate change may mean that his sons will never see a polar bear in its natural habitat, Myers remarked on the alleged urgency of the alleged crisis.

"We have to do something to address the climate change crisis, we need to do so now," Byers announced. "We need to go after the big polluters, we need to shut the tarsands down."

And all the working-class men and women whose livelihoods -- their ability to support themselves and their families -- depend on the Fort MacMurray oilsands?

"Yeah, fuck those guys," Byers remarked.

Well, not really. But he may as well have.

For her own part, Liberal incumbent Hedy Fry was truly shocked. "That's a headline," she said afterward. "It's quite a statement."

And it is. It's a statement on the true nature of the NDP.

For decades, the NDP has portrayed itself as the "conscience of the nation", as the party of the working class.

Yet the party remains notoriously weak in rural and suburban ridings where most working-class people actually live. Instead, the party finds the bulk of its strength from urban ridings in Vancouver and throughout Ontario.

Those of its ridings that do represent the abstract working class all come from within Ontario's "golden horseshoe". Meanwhile, the ridings that represent the working class throughout the rest of the country tend to find themselves in the hands of Conservative candidates.

If anything, the NDP is increasingly becoming the party of the urban elite. After all, Michael Byers' appeal to working-class individuals has likely just taken a rather significant dip in the wake of his comments, which demonstrate certainly a lack of concern, if not outright contempt for, working class individuals who happen to work in the "wrong" industry.

When one considers that all of those working class men and women whom Byers would so readily put out of work produce a product that is complementary to, and necessary for, that produced by so many of the NDP's constituents in Ontario, one has to wonder precisely where Byers' head and heart are at in this federal election.

Certainly not in Alberta, where he's just fucked his party royally. Edmonton-Strathcona candidate Linda Duncan, running neck-and-neck with Conservative incumbent Rahim Jaffer, may have just found her campaign complicated significantly by her colleague's unfortunate remarks.

Even what should otherwise be a bastion of strength for her campaign -- the University of Alberta, with its campus located within the riding she seeks -- may turn out to be significantly less so, as Engineering and Business students, counting on continuing prosperity from the tarsands projects Byers so desperately wants to kibosh, turn away from her campaign.

All of this for a policy point that runs contrary to that of his party -- NDP Jack Layton has called for a moritorium on tarsands development, not for a complete shutdown.

In the end, the damage Byers has done to his party may actually turn out to be minimal. The party is in contention for a single seat in Alberta. Not exactly difference-making stuff.

But the damage Byers has done to that working class vineer the party has traditionally spread over its very real inner shell of urban elitism may turn out to be more devastating in time.

At least for once the NDP will be able to be honest -- both with Canadians and with itself -- about from whom the party actually draws its support.

So, in that sense, thank god for the NDP and all the positive things that they've accomplished for this country. (Public health care is a wonderful thing, mr Douglas and we love you for it.)

But thank god for Michael Byers, as well. For shining a little light on the otherwise obscure shadows of the inner party.

Define "Fiscal Disaster", You Fucking Idiots

Rick Dykstra does the right thing, Liberals show their oportunism

In federal politics, St Catharines Conservative MP Rick Dykstra is a one-man revolution.

“Let me do something revolutionary, something politicians don’t do,” Dykstra announced during the course of his debate with Liberal candidate Walt Lastewka. (NDP candidate Julian West resigned over a skinny dipping incident, but oddly enough could still win the riding.) He then apologized for his party's about-face on taxing income trusts. “We made a commitment. We didn’t keep that commitment, and for that I apologize to the people of St. Catharines.”

Lastewka's previously demonstrated not-so-classy side reemerged again when he mustered the temerity to demand an apology for Ralph Goodale.

“I would hope when [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper comes into town, he will apologize not only to Mr. Goodale but the people of St. Catharines and the people of Canada and put forward an action plan,” Lastewka announced.

The Liberal party national office also insisted that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty should apologize for the "fiscal disaster" that emerged from the decision to phase in taxes on income trusts.

This leads one to wonder precisely how the Liberal party defines a "fiscal disaster".

Certainly, Stephen Harper did decide not to tax income trusts. But following that promise, as Dykstra noted, many of Canada's largest corporations began to discuss converting themselves into income trusts in order to skirt their taxpaying responsibilities.

Should that have happened, individual taxpayers either would have had to carry a larger portion of the federal tax burden, or kiss public health care and social services good-bye.

Taxing income trusts in order to take away the incentive for Canada's largest taxpaying corporations to convert was, sadly, the only responsible thing to do. Which leads one to ask an important question.

The expressed Liberal position on income trusts, in many ways, carries the same subtext as the Liberals' 1993 promises to abolish the GST. After all, the Kim Campbell Progressive Conservatives had already paid the political price for the GST, so what would the sense really have been in abolishing a perfectly good source of revenue?

If the Liberals manage to defeat the Conservatives in this federal election (a prospect still well within the range of possibility), it will at least partially be because the Conservatives have paid the political price for taxing income trusts.

Liberal governments being as thirsty for revenue as they've historically tended to be, why would they keep their promise and forgo all of that precious, precious revenue? Especially considering that Stephane Dion has spent the last 18 months decrying the lost revenue from the Harper government's tax cuts, and is proposing a Green Shift plan that would inevitably mean a further still loss of revenue?

And even if Canadians could expect the Liberals to keep their promises, that other, more important question emerges:

What would they do to prevent larger corporations from converting to income trusts? How would they protect the revenue stream so necessary to maintain Canada's most vital social programs? Could they really be so irresponsible as to simply let it slip away?

No matter how one slices it, the lost revenue from corporate taxation -- and the inevitably accompanying loss of public health care and social services -- would be a much greater fiscal disaster than taxing income trusts.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Harpernomics" New Buzzword of Liberal Campaign

Two days ago, the Liberal party released two new anti-Harper advertisements.

Both ads seek to counter-brand Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper as bad for the economy, accusing Harper of misleading Canadians while cutting economic development programs.

Both spots are short -- 15 seconds apiece -- dark, and clearly intending to invoke fear of a continuing Harper government.

The first ad, "Harpernomics and You" outlines what the Liberal party wants Canadians to believe the impact of Harper's economic policy has been.

They claim that Stephen Harper cut economic development programs -- yet the news story they cite doesn't turn up on a Google search.

The second ad, "This is Harpernomics" accuses the Conservatives of "giving big polluters a blank cheque while they make record profits", cutting "economic development programs" (most of the cuts were actually either funds previously budgeted but not used or "efficiencies"), and attacking Ontario by criticizing their tax policies.

The ads are short, cast mostly in dark colours and black-and-white images.

Most important, however, is their brevity. At 15 seconds apiece, these ads make their point quickly -- if incompletely.

They also play to the weakness of the Liberal fundraising machine. It's unlikely that the Liberals could compete with the Conservatives and their campaign treasury by running 30 second ads. At 15 seconds, however, they stand a chance, at least in terms of bulk advertising.

And by presenting only the raw figures, devoid of any of the broader details -- such as the fact that most of the 55,000 jobs lost in July were actually part-time manufacturing jobs -- the Liberals may benefit by turning the Conservatives focus on the economy against them.

Will Tyler Kinch Call For Natalie Odd's Resignation Too?

Calgary NDP candidate demands Conservative incumbnet drop out of campaign

Calgary Centre MP Lee Richardson has found some controversy injected into his reelection bid as NDP candidate Tyler Kinch has called for his resignation over some comments he made to Fast Forward magazine.

Earlier this month, Richardson gave an interview to Fast Forward concerning a rash of recent shootings in Calgary.

“Particularly in big cities, we’ve got people that have grown up in a different culture,” Richardson said. “And they don’t have the same background in terms of the stable communities we had 20, 30 years ago in our cities… and don’t have the same respect for authority or people’s person or property.”

“Canada accepts so many refugees, for example,” he noted. “These are people that have had a very difficult life from whence they came. If you’ve been in a refugee camp, then you live day-to-day. And those are troubled people. They come here and, well, it’s easy to take advantage of people that are trying to help.”

"Talk to the police. Look at who’s committing these crimes. They’re not the kid that grew up next door,” he concluded.

When hearing of Richardson's remarks, Kinch was certainly outraged enough for an NDP candidate, saying he "should resign out of this election for those comments.”

"Crime comes from everywhere, and there are many immigrants in our country that contribute to our society in great ways,” said Kinch. “I don’t think those comments are productive, and I don’t think those comments should come out of an MP’s mouth.”

Certainly, Kinch is right. Immigration very much is the backbone of modern Canadian society, and will only continue to be.

But it seems that Kinch is being fairly selective in his outrage. After all, one need not look much further than Green candidate Natalie Odd's comments regarding the matter.

“There definitely are people from other cultures involved in crime in our cities,” Odd said. “However, we cannot ignore that poverty and exposure to domestic violence… are huge determining factors in people becoming involved in crime. That crosses all cultures.”

And therein lies the rub. Odd notes essentially that Canadian law enforcement needs to also address the contributing factors to crime. And in a country that admits 30,000 refugees annually, it isn't at all unfair to ask if the conditions in most refugee camps -- notorious for their impoverished and overcrowded conditions -- could be a contributing factor to a life of crime, particularly for those who may have grown up in said camps? Perhaps even disproportionately?

Of course it's fair to ask.

But Natalie Odd's resignation from the race in Calgary-Centre isn't likely to make Kinch's bid to win election significantly easier. Better to oppose his opponent of being politically incorrect at best, racist at worst, and see if Kinch can't significant;y improve his odds of winning.

For his own part, Richardson seems to understand how unsavoury his comments truly are.

"That is not my intention. If I misspoke, I apologize to you for that,” Richardson lamented, noting that he only meant to refer to a "small minority" of immigrants.

Richardson also noted that he had based his comments partially on anecdotal evidence collected from his constituents. “What their comments are based on is probably anecdotal — what they read in the newspapers,” he said. "We see anecdotally — and through our experiences here — the differences from the Alberta that I grew up in. And that’s the same in a lot of big cities across the country. That’s really all I was trying to say…. I regret having said that yesterday.”

Some sources, such as Cam Stewart, a former cop and now cross-cultural consultant, note that most criminals in Calgary are "mainstream caucasian Canadians". But in a city where one in four residents is an immigrant, it raises significant questions about what "mainstream" really is.

Not to mention broader questions about what kinds of crime one is talking about. There is, after all, a huge difference between a gang- or drug-related shooting and a kid shoplifting a candybar from the corner store.

(Stewart also talks about the "rise of hate groups" in Calgary, yet seems to overlook the fact that Calgary's Aryan Guard recently had to offer financial enticements to get white supremacists from across the country to move to Calgary. Cleary, hate groups are not on the rise in Alberta.)

In terms of basic political correctness Richardson's comments certainly do seem ill-advised. But at the end of the day, the questions raised do remain legitimate.

If we're going to point to poverty in Canada as a root cause of crime, we have to consider that the poverty and desperation experienced in a refugee camp may be a root cause of crime -- particularly violent crime -- as well.

Kinch's outrage may potentially work wonders for his campaign, but it may only serve to cloud the real issue at hand.

One Good Reason to Vote for Justin Trudeau

These douchebags don't like him

There are plenty of good reasons not to vote for Justin Trudeau.

His party leader's policies are clearly one. The real (read: not mythical) legacy of his father is another. The risk of passing the Trudeau political mythology along to another generation is another still.

But in the course of a move clearly meant to embarrass Trudeau, running for the first time in the riding of Papineau, Les Jeunes Patriotes du Quebec gave voters a good reason to vote for him -- he really pisses off separatists.

"[Justin Trudeau] long refused to recognize Quebec as a nation," Francois Gendron, a spokesman for the group, announced. "We are a people and we are a nation."

"If he's going to play rock star he has to deal with the consequences. We're giving his campaign a little colour."

There's little question that, as the 2008 federal election progresses, Justin Trudeau very much has been cast into the role of the rock star. The news that he and his wife are expecting a second child garnered considerable attention on Canada's celebrity talk show circuit.

As the natural heir to the aforementioned Pierre Trudeau political mythology -- one that casts him into the role of national saviour, yet somehow overlooks that Trudeau made the at best boneheaded decision to negotiate the patriation of the constitution while a separatist government was in power in Quebec (just think about that) -- Trudeau has already inherited the mantle of unofficial leadership in the Liberal party. If Stephane Dion is the brains of the party and Bob Rae (who attented Trudeau's campaign launch) is the heart, then Trudeau is certainly the spirit of the party.

His father's role in the decisive defeat of separatist forces in the 1980 referendum made Trudeau a natural target for the separatists.

Normally, it should be considered fickle to support a political candidate simply because one particular group of people doesn't like him. But in Trudeau's case, the contempt separatists hold for him is actually quite the boon for federalist forces in Quebec.

When individuals like Gendron denounce Trudeau for his support of bilingualism -- apparently insisting that Quebec should be unilingually French and the Anglo-Quebeckers who've lived in the province for generations should go to hell -- it really underscores separatists for the bigots so many of them really are.

This is separatism at its worst, and a reminder to Quebeckers who may flirt with their organizations for other reasons to think twice about doing so.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Toronto Star Caught Red-Tongued

Liar, liar...

With the Toronto Star clearly behind Stephane Dion's Liberal party to the extent of distorting reality, it was only a matter of time until they tried to help Dion's erstwhile party leader, Elizabeth May (since she's writing his policies and all) win her uphill battle against Conservative deputy Prime Minister Peter MacKay.

Which they did yesterday when they dug up a story about a $16,400 bill for feeding some Passport Canada staff in March 2007. The author of the story, Dean Beeby, claimed that MacKay had "bent the rules" in order to approve the expenditure. But, as it turned out, some Toronto Star readers were kind enough to write in and reveal that the only one doing any bending was Beeby -- and he was bending the truth.

First off, we have Stephen J Leich of Mississauga, Ontario:

"I have been in private sector management for a number of years and I find the tone of this article to be unnecessarily antagonistic.

The total cost quoted in the headline looks like a big number and another example of government waste. Once you read the article, however, you can see that the amount spent comes to $42 per employee, over three weekends.

Most companies think nothing of providing lunches to employees working extra time for necessary projects; in fact, it is usually considered good employee relations. These Passport Canada staffers were dealing with a huge workload, caused by factors outside their control. If providing this minor amount per employee made it more palatable to them to put in this extra effort, I fail to see where it can be considered any sort of problem. Yes, it's unfortunate that the total was so high, and perhaps the deputy minister should have realized that this would be the case before the $5,000 limit was exceeded, but it appears he took steps to rectify the situation.

I know a number of people who were caught up in that backlog of passport applications, and I can't help but feel that this is not an unreasonable cost to minimize the impact on so many Canadians.

One would think that Beeby must have had a hard time explaining that one to his editor. (This is the Toronto Star we're talking about here, so probably not. -ed.)

But it's entirely possible, as some Liberal partisans will likely rush to insist, that Stephen J Leich is merely a Tory hack reacting on behalf of the party.

Fortunately, Toronto's Geoff Rytell pitched in:

"Breaking news: Peter MacKay bent government rules in giving the nod to $16,800 for passport officials' lunches. The facts, unfortunately, don't support the claim. The regulations say that civil servants can be fed at taxpayer expense if they're working overtime. If the cost is more than $5,000, the appropriate minister must approve. MacKay was solicited. He approved. The rules were followed. Assuming that the bureaucrats in question did not imbibe several bottles of Bollinger, where's the story? I, too, am anxious to show Stephen Harper the door but not at the cost of the truth."

That one must have been a little bit harder to take.

But in the end, this entire episode is considerably less than unsurprising. After all, this is the Toronto Star -- where publishing stories inflating mundane government business into manufactured scandals in the name of hurting the Conservative party is just another day on the job.

One would almost expect some kind of retraction of the obvious mistruths. But, then again (once again), this is the Toronto Star, where journalistic integrity isn't only something they talk about -- it's also something they discard.

At the very least, it's very kind of the Star to come out and actually say what they think of civil servants: they shouldn't be rewarded when they do more than what Canadians expect of them. Apparently, even a working lunch is too much to ask for the suddenly-converted fiscal tightwads at the Star.

Fists Starting to Fly

As the 2008 federal election reaches the middle of its third week, the war for the airwaves has definitely picked up.

Two days ago, the NDP released this ad. Once again, the ad features the general motifs of the infamous ads that sunk the Liberal party campaign during the 2006 campaign.

The ad takes aim at Stephen Harper's treatment of the economy, accusing Harper of being "strong enough to dangle tiny tax cuts in front of [voters] while handing over $50 billion to coprorations".

The ad features an image of Harper with a string tied around his extended finger. Hanging at the bottom of that string is a tag reading "tiny tax cuts", which seems to be distracting a collection of silhouetted Canadians while heavy haul dump trucks (very similar to the dump trucks used at the Fort MacMurray tarsands) haul cash to an awaiting board room.

As in the previous ad, the blue toned background of the ad then gives way to an orange background, against which NDP leader Jack Layton stands. He then asserts that "the new strong doesn't trick people with token tax cuts," asserting that Stephen Harper and the Conservative party have tricked Canadians with their tax-cutting ways.

He then insists that the NDP would reward companies that keep jobs in Canada.

The ad counter-brands the Tories as misdirecting Canadians with baubles while essentially giving the shop away to major corporations, while branding the NDP as the party that is friendly to the interests of the abstract working-class family.

This is an ad that should play well to the NDP's core constituency. The barely-concealed hostility toward "big corporations" that permeates the typical NDP supporter should be satisfied by this kind of rhetoric.

But the ad does feature a critical weak point. Layton promises to reward companies that keep jobs in Canada.

Yet, to pay taxes in Canada -- and thus be elligible for tax cuts in the first place -- major corporations would have to be operating in Canada. If anything, the Conseratives' "$50 billion giveaway" could be looked at as doing exactly what Layton is insisting he'll do: rewarding companies that keep their operations -- and the jobs that come with it -- in Canada.

It makes one wonder: how, precisely, would Jack Layton reward these companies? By staying true to his election rhetoric and raising taxes on them again by $50 billion?

This ad may prove to have been unwise in raising the spectre of such questions. Then again, it may be unreasonable to expect the anti-corporate constituency this ad is aimed at to even bother asking such questions in the first place.

Hijacked Film Screening Hijacked

Green candidate tries to upstage film screening

Sometimes, the most amusing stories about an election campaign are those that never hit the news media.

The story of Brian Tobin being turned away by a normally-reliable Liberal voter because his party had called an election in the midst of Manitboa's Red River floods is a story that comes to mind.

Under the "lost cause" category of politics, the following is one of hundreds of such stories that almost certainly will emerge in the course of the 2008 federal election:

"Never Mind the Ballots - Politician hijacks film screening I have been organizing and attending all kinds of rallies, discussions, and gatherings arround many issues for many years now, and one thing has over and over made me angry.

Tonight there was a film screening at a local volunteer run community space that I work at. I was there as the host, it was a great video, with a great turnout, about 50 people showed up to see "Hijacked Future" a documentary about the pattening of seeds, and how GMO crops, and corporations are destroying local agriculture.
it was a diverse crowd, many farmers, many seniors, many anarchist punks, and youth, and one guy in a suit.

After the film there was a discussion, the first person to put up their hand was the skinny guy in the suit. He introduced himself as someone who works on a farm, and is running for office in the election as a Green party candidate. Throughout the night he kept putting his hand up to keep adding something about how you could join groups that were working to stop this, like the green party, or how you could support good politicians, or similar crap that really boiled down to "vote for me."
Three things bothered me about this;

First off, the fact that over and over the conversation kept being centered around his campaign, he spoke a lot each time he spoke, he kept speaking, which took up a lot of the time, and many people never got to speak at all...

Secondly how the resistance to this corporatization was narrowed into 2 options, vote green party, or buy organic and local. These are both very problematic. I, for example, could not afford to buy organic. Many people cannot which means that we could not be part of the activism if that's all we can do. This option makes activism only possible if you are middle or upper class.

As well with the voting (as if that ever changed anything) if the candidate does not win, then what? Wait till next election?? But the problem is continuing on right now... As well, what if the majority does not care about your issue, or understand it, dose that then mean it is not important? Democracy is based on majority rule (not like we actually have a democracy anyways), thus meaning that if the majority does not agree with your opinion, your voice does not count, and what you think does not matter. this is what Bakunin called the tyrany of the majority. As well there are other options, but the candidates don't went us to think about them. In Oaxaca, and Chaiapas for example the indigenous farmers have decided to go with solutions to their food security that do not involve the government at all, like collectivism, and these strategies have worked well. As well there are many good strategies against corporate control that have been used by other groups like SHAC which is a anti-animal testing group that has done incredibly successful campaigns against HLS a huge animal testing lab based out of the UK and the USA. They have almost shut down this company, and used strategies that are neither based on political parties nor having enough money to be part of it. Rather they have used ecconomic stratagies based on targeting the companies that do buisness with HLS, causing over 500 companies to quit buisness with them, and almost bring the corporate giant to it's knees.

The last thing that bothered me about this was the opportunism. I have known many people that became politicians, often for good reasons. At first they see it as a strategy to get issues dealt with, then after a while it reverses, they seam to see the issues as a strategy to get elected. If he had been there to support the event, he would not have crowded the speaking time, he likely would not have gone home and changed into a suit first, he would not have handed out buisness cards, and would not have made sure to be the first person to speak, and the last for that matter. But this is typical of the politician. He, a new farm hand, came to a meeting attended by many farmers, and told them what they needed to do to resist, as if the farmers did not know better that he did about thier own lives. This attitude is the same attitude that colonialsist used, that many white activists use towards non-whites, and that many men use towards womyns groups.

It seamed ironic to me, the film was called Hijacked Future, and what we ended up with was our event being hijacked by the Green party. They, like all other parties want our support, and will say anything to get it... These are people who show in their actions that they will do almost anything to get power. Do we want them making decisions that affect our future?
The organizer in question is Victoria-area social activist Conrad Fletcher. Among other things, he's involved in groups such as Noise Not Bombs.

The Green party candidate in question is most likely Adam Saab, who's running in Victoria, the riding in which the event was held. His behaviour should have Green Party leader Elizabeth May asking herself a question:

Is hijacking community film screenings really the kind of behaviour she condones? Like the Liberal party and their troubles with Green Shift Inc, does May really want her party to be in the business of cutting the throats of those whose support she would otherwise be soliciting?

Just like it's hard to build a Green industry when you're constantly making adversaries out of environmental firms, it's hard to build a relationship with the grassroots -- especially the radical grassroots -- when you're constantly disrupting their events.

One would think that a fringe party like the Green party would understand the fringe political movements they want to appeal to. Instead, it seems that they just don't get it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Intellectual Slavishness of Mallick Worship

"Nothing wrong here", says Unrepentant Old Hippie

As the Mighty Wind of outrage sweeps through the United States and Canada concerning Heather Mallick and her extremely intemperate and, frankly, loonish comments regarding American Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, it's unsurprising that a few members of Canada's extreme left is lining up alongside her in the impending scrum.

Among them, naturally, is Unrepentant Old Hippie JJ, who thinks there's nothing at all wrong with Mallick's extreme commentary, and that so-called right-wing "moonbats" are simply milking "fauxtrage".

However, what JJ in particular seems to miss is the impliations of Mallick's comments on her own personal pet cause -- the pro-abortion lobby.

Now, as with all intellectually dishonest pro-abortion lobbyists, JJ will be among the first to insist that she isn't, in fact, pro-abortion. Instead, she insists, she's pro-choice -- and yet, under the "wrong" circumstances will actually oppose choice and refuse to answer qeustions about that.

Yet when one takes a close second look at Mallick's comments about the much-maligned Briston Palin, it doesn't take a drastic intellectual leap of faith to understand the broader implications:

"Palin has a toned-down version of the porn actress look favoured by this decade's woman, the overtreated hair, puffy lips and permanently alarmed expression. Bristol has what is known in Britain as the look of the teen mum, the "pramface." Husband Todd looks like a roughneck; Track, heading off to Iraq, appears terrified. They claim to be family obsessed while being studiously terrible at parenting. What normal father would want Levi "I'm a fuckin' redneck" Johnson prodding his daughter?

I know that I have an attachment to children that verges on the irrational, but why don't the Palins? I'm not the one preaching homespun values but I'd destroy that ratboy before I'd let him get within scenting range of my daughter again, and so would you.


Who delivered this line: "To do then now would be retro. To do then then was very now-tro, if you will." Was it Rev. James Dobson of Focus on the Family talking about Bristol Palin's shotgun wedding or was it a flashback to the Kingston Trio?
It's not too hard to get the gist of Mallick's comments: Palin's relationship with the equally-maligned Levi Johnson is a disgrace, and the pregnancy resulting from it doubly so.

Never mind the fact that Mallick -- and those who, like her, are delighting themselves in throwing darts at what they've picked out as a vulnerable bullseye -- have never actually met Levi Johnson, and are extremely ill-equipped to judge his character.

Yet the question that remains is this: if Bristol Palin were to do what individuals such as Mallick seem to insist that she should and break off her relationship with Johnson -- again, something that these people actually know very little about, aside that a teen pregnancy has resulted from it -- what would be her alternatives?

This is a very simple question to answer: single parenthood, or an abortion.

Either way, Bristol Palin would spend a significant portion of her life carrying the very real stigma that still accompanies single teenaged parenthood: in short, damned if you do, damned if you don't.

If Palin were decide to keep that child, she would face numerous disadvantages -- economically and socially. Whether individuals like Mallick or JJ care to admit it or not, society still tends to treat unwed teenage mothers as "tramps", "sluts", "whores", or any number of other epithets. This stigma encompasses nearly every facet of the young mother's life, both economically and socially.

Worse yet, after the child is born and continues to grow through their school years, that stigma will begin to attach itself to the child, instead.

Then, of course, there's an alternative: abortion. Once again, after having recieved an abortion, the young woman would still carry a very similar label. She would still be regarded as a "tramp", "slut" or "whore", and would actually have to double that with the "baby killer" epithet that the more extreme elements of the anti-abortion lobby would inevitably heave upon her.

The difference, of course, being, that at least after having had an abortion, the young woman in question could at least move somewhere else to escape that stigma (unless, of course, you're living under a media microscope, as Bristol Palin is).

While gleefully rushing to label Bristol's mother as a "toned down porn star", Mallick doesn't seem interested in coming to Bristol Palin's defense, as she's labelled a "slut" in a very public manner.

Defeating the public stigma surrounding teenage pregnancy would go a long way toward empowering young women like Bristol Palin to keep their babies without keeping their (actual or alleged) "ratboy" boyfriends.

But Mallick seems very disinterested in that. Especially not when there are partisan political points to be scored -- in a foreign country, no less -- by helping pile it on.

It would take very little for Heather Mallick -- or JJ, for that matter -- to do the right thing by coming out and admitting that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is a private matter, and not a political football to kick around. Instead, we find JJ fetching Mallick the kicking tee in the extremely fickle name of pissing off some "wingnuts".

In Mallick's view, Bristol Palin is a "pramface", her fiancee a "ratboy", soon to be joined in a "shotgun wedding". "White trash", all around. A "slutty", "trampy", "whorish" "Alaskan Hillbilly".

There is, of course, the matter of thousands of other unwed teenaged mothers-to-be in the Unites States, likely taking note of the public humiliation being heaped on Bristol Palin and her family and thinking that an abortion is a much more attractive option than socially stigmatized single parenthood.

And JJ and Heather Mallick, north of the 49th parrallel, fiddling while their alleged "pro-choice" Rome burns to the ground.

They certainly insist that they don't favour abortion, and would prefer that women seek out other options. The other option, however, involves a great deal of social hardship -- and when the one who would suffer such hardship happens to be the daughter of an ideological enemy, all bets are off.

On a fairly similar vein, there's always Martin Rayner and his insistence that "well, other people are doing it, too".

Which doesn't make it any more acceptable, and one can expect that Bill Maher will be taken to task for his comments in time as well.

Then, there's the naturally-emerging protest that "well, the other guys do it, too!" Likely that's what Mallick herself meant when she told herself to "think like a Republican".

The problem with this being that dragging Bristol Palin through the mud in order to get at her mother is no less wrong than right-wing activists targetting the families of their political opponents. (No intellectually honest individual could pretend that such things have never happened.) And while it's abhorrent when right-wingers do it, it's equally abhorrent when left-wingers like Mallick do it.

Which, of course, takes one away from the point: when one considers all the social implications of Mallick's attitude toward Bristol Palin, it actually turns out that her comments regarding Sarah Palin are only the tip of the iceberg.

That's the irony of the entire affair: slavish Mallick worshippers, claiming to be feminists, lining up against the interests of legitimate feminism.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Just Call Him Mr Lost Cause

Adam Campbell doesn't stand a chance in Vegreville-Wainwright -- And he knows it

For a party as politically doomed in Alberta as the federal Liberals are, it probably pays to have an individual one can kick around, wheeling him out in various ridings as a glorified punching bag.

For Liberal leaders Paul Martin and (now) Stephane Dion, Adam Campbell is that very individual.

In 2004 and 2006, Campbell lost to Crowfoot MP Kevin Sorenson, who on each occasion captured 80% of the vote in the riding. In 2008, Campbell has been parachuted to run against Vegreville-Wainright incumbent Leon Benoit, who has consistently claimed more than 70% of the vote in his riding.

To credit his acceptance of reality -- if not his competitive spirit -- Campbell seems to have resigned himself to his inevitable October 14 defeat.

"It's going to be a real uphill struggle," Campbell acknowledged. "I'm aiming to get over 10 per cent of the vote."

"I know I stand a very poor chance of winning. That leaves you much more freer. You can be much more controversial, there's much less responsibility," Campbell added.

Which makes a certain amount of sense, if one thinks solely in terms of one's own electability, and not the electability of their party.

Of course, no one's going to suggest that the Liberal party shouldn't run a candidate in Vegreville-Wainwright. After all, an election in which any significant number of candidates are elected by acclaimation is significantly short of democratic.

And certainly the Liberals need a candidate there. Clearly, Duff Stewart must be tired of getting crushed.

One almost has to admire individuals like Adam Campbell. Canadian politics, like anything else, needs its lovable losers.

Obama Pledges to Keep American Trudgery at Home

Dion Makes His Case as a Leader

Ever since his ascension as Liberal party leader, one of the Conservative party's criticisms of Stephane Dion is that he is "not a leader".

The Conservatives played and re-played footage of Dion's embarrassing breakdown onstage during the Liberal leadership contest when he complained that now-deputy leader Michael Ignatieff's criticisms of the Liberal party's performance vis a vis climate change -- and ergo Dion's as Environment Minister -- were "unfair".

With more than a year of these ads -- and necessary interventions by Bob Rae into the Liberal campaign -- erroding the Canadian public's perceptions of Dion as a leader, it's only natural that Dion needs to re-brand and re-assert his leadership qualities during the 2008 campaign.

Thus, the introduction of this new ad.

In it, the Liberals document Dion's leadership at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. As the spot claims, Dion's efforts, despite the incooperativeness of "one country" (guess who?), the Liberal leader secured an agreement among 182 countries to fight global warming.

It seems like an impressive accomplishment -- the very thing that should help to improve impressions of Dion's leadership skills.

Of course, the agreement reached at the UN Climate Change conference seem less impressive once one realizes that so little action was taken by Dion to satisfy Canada's obligations under the agreement afteward. To that end, it seems that Dion is able to assert leadership as it pertains to how other governments are supposed to act. Toward his own? That has, to a certain extent, already been seen.

The spot also plays to an anti-American constituency that the Liberals and NDP have each sought to harness on a regular basis over the past few decades, and particularly over the past eight years.

In noting the alleged incalcitrance of the American government, the ad seems to take on a dramatic note -- Stephane Dion standing up to the goliath of the global stage. But it hardly asserts fresh leadership to follow the same course so often tread by Liberal leaders ever since Pierre Trudeau made it fashionable.

As a further weakness, this ad is merely an election-time reworking of an ad ran by the Liberals in response to the "Not a Leader" ads run by the Tories.

It plays to the necessary frugality of the Liberal campaign -- such an ad can be produced fairly cheaply. But if such an ad failed to improve Canadian impressions of Dion's leadership skills before an election, one has to wonder if it will do so now.

In the end, such questions are largely irrelevant. After the sustained attacks on Dion's leadership abilities, re-branding was necessary one way or the other. Whether or not it succeeds will only be told in time.