Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hey Uncle Sam.... this is Iran... we need to talk....

Iran Requests Direct Talks on Nuclear Program

Iran wants to talk with the US.

We'll see if the Bush administration is willing to really use the diplomatic approach. After all, according to Condi, "all options are on the table".

I really think they aren't interested in talking, just in making war and further establishing US hegemony in the region.

The only problem is that a war in Iran will make the 3+ years in Iraq look like a cake-walk.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Harper's Ottawa

A nice synopsis of what it's like in Harper's Ottawa....

PM needs to show respect on the job
May 22, 2006. 01:00 AM

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be out on the road for much of this week, just as his government seems to be entering a new, tougher period.

Harper will travel to London, Ont., Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., by week's end, putting distance between himself and an increasingly nasty climate on Parliament Hill.

The Commons isn't sitting this week. But last week has been largely written up as one of the roughest for Harper since he took power on Feb. 6, featuring several less-than-positive displays of his leadership style — particularly his lack of tolerance for dissent and setbacks.

Harper reportedly made a tactical decision between the 2004 and 2006 elections: rather than trying to be liked, he would look for Canadians' respect.

Some of the developments last week open up questions into that all-important value of respect, not so much whether Harper is receiving it, but whether he and his team have any respect for those they see as mere obstacles to getting their way.

It's also a timely issue in light of a new book out this month by noted U.S. political writer Joe Klein, titled Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized by People Who Think You're Stupid. Klein appeared on CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition yesterday to talk about what he sees as the sad state of political debate in his country.

Some of what Klein is lamenting — politicians speaking down to the public through numbing repetition of "message tracks," focus-group-tested policies and avoidance of probing questions — are hallmarks of the Harper communications style, as well as the Liberal regimes that preceded it.

Equally toxic seems to be the "permanent campaign" mode that Klein also blames for the degeneration of political debate, in which leaders preside over a constant state of us-against-them. This was on display across partisan lines all over Ottawa last week, and no party covered itself in glory. But Harper in particular seemed to be on the pre-electoral warpath.

Facing a precarious Commons vote on the future of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan last Wednesday, Harper angrily pre-empted the result by announcing in advance that he would unilaterally extend the troops' mandate for a year, with or without Parliament's support. (He won the vote, as it turned out, with the help of some Liberals.)

Confronting the Commons committee defeat a day earlier of Gwyn Morgan, his chosen candidate for a new public appointments chief, the Prime Minister declared he'd just put the whole reform on hold until he had a majority government, when he could force it through Parliament.

What's more, the government announced it was beginning to wind down the long-gun registry without putting that decision to a parliamentary vote. As well, news emerged over the weekend that the Harper government is in the midst of withdrawing from the Kyoto air quality protocol by 2012 — again, without putting that decision to Parliament.

And then there was another public dustup with the parliamentary press gallery, which featured Harper cancelling a news conference because journalists would not go along with PMO's insistence on deciding who asks the questions at these events.

As a result, the PMO had to ask lobbyists and consultants to phone reporters and put out the "lines" Harper had wanted to convey for a midday news cycle.

Later in the day, it was an angry Harper who came out to witheringly disparage those who would oppose his public appointments commissioner or the Afghanistan mission. He said: "You know we're playing bigger games here," he said.

The problem, though, is that some of the "bigger games" don't look big at all when viewed close-up.

Though Canadians outside Ottawa may have a limited appetite for tales of power struggles between politicians and the press, this tension in the capital is quickly building to an unworkable situation for Harper, as evidenced by the fact the PMO communications team is no longer able or willing to impart even the most basic information to the media.

The press-relations job in Harper's Ottawa has been reduced to that of a low-level security guard, limited to shielding the Prime Minister and imparting little more than partisan banalities or "no comment" type of remarks. Cabinet ministers and caucus members are reined in, too, forced to scuttle out of the back doors of meeting rooms to avoid the waiting press pack.

Harper has also started literally speaking down to reporters from a perch on the stairway by the Commons when he does pause for the microphones. This blatant mimicry of former prime minister Brian Mulroney's style is curious, if Harper's goal is to keep his disdaining nature in check. Mulroney was not known at the end of his term as a prime minister in touch with the people.

If this was just an issue of inconvenience for the media, it wouldn't be worth noting at this point. But it's highlighting a Conservative obsessiveness about control that could backfire in the larger electorate if it revives fears about Harper's "hidden agenda." Or, in Klein's analysis, it could be an impediment to Harper's majority hopes if it begins to be seen as a tactic designed around the contention that people are too stupid to know anything beyond staged, scripted announcements and "priority" lists.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Edmonton does have more class!

I watched the Edmonton-San Jose game on OLN tonight, they (OLN) were just tapping into the CBC feed and at the beginning of the game the commentators made mention of the Edmonton fans' reaction to the Star Spangled Banner.... Cheering.

They have class...

Now let's pray that nobody gets stabbed on Whyte Avenue tonight.


Monday, May 15, 2006

I hope Edmonton has more class. : Sharks fans boo “O Canada”

This is very offensive.

If Oilers' fans had done it, they would have been accused of rampant anti-Americanism.

Instead, it's just half a stadium full of rowdy disrespectful fans who are 'really into the game'.

Shameful. I really hope the Edmonton fans have more class.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

A great take on Mr. Haper's first few months.... : In Harper's regime, Big Daddy knows best

This is good work, and since it kinda slams Harper, I think it's GREAT!

My favourite snippets:

Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien approved big speeches and major pronouncements. But Mr. Harper and his team vet even MPs' letters to small-town newspapers. “Paul Martin was accused of micro-managing,” a government insider says.

“But this guy micro-manages more. The business of government has ground to a halt on anything that isn't a declared priority.”

And this one...
The PMO no longer advertises the time and location of cabinet meetings, which means reporters can no longer scrum ministers as they leave the weekly brain mash.

As a result, they've resorted to buttonholing ministers as they climb into their limos. The PMO recently volleyed back by asking cabinet ministers not to park their limos near the members entrance to the House of Commons, so as not to tip reporters that a cabinet meeting is in session. Mr. Harper himself has allegedly resorted to sneaking up to the meeting on a freight elevator. All these antics make the nation's business look like a high-level game of sardines.

And this one...
The Prime Minister now tries to limit the numbers and kinds of questions reporters ask, and has adopted the Bush White House strategy of favouring friendly questioners.
And this one....
In the PMO, Mr. Harper consults a small circle of advisers that includes Ian Brodie, his young and smart chief of staff, another Reform loyalist (who reportedly tried to make staffers stand up whenever Mr. Harper walked into the room for his morning briefing, to no avail)
HAHAHAHA! I knew my former poli-sci prof was a character but that one takes the cake!

Anyhow, read the whole thing. It's pretty good.



Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Will the real Conservative Party please stand up!... Please stand up!

Read the full Globe article here.

So Harper is muzzling his MPs again... big surprise!

What is interesting is that this perhaps opens some cracks in the Harper government's small c conservative base... aka the crazy right-wing nutjob factions who have held their noses and aligned themselves with the moderate righties like Peter MacKay, et al.

I like the references to the two Calgary schools. That being "the Calgary School" of politics, and the one based in reality The University of Calgary Law School.

My favourite graf:
The real Conservative Party will reveal itself only if it eventually gains a majority government, Prof. Levy said. "I really wonder how much longer the party can keep itself muzzled. When they have a majority -- which is a definite possibility given their current strategies -- it will be interesting to see how the cracks widen."
Like the title of the post suggests, will the real Conservative Party please stand up, please stand up!

A. Liberal

Monday, May 08, 2006

Harper's Americanization of Canadian Politics is a Myth!....

Or is it?

Frank Luntz is a noted GOP pollster and language meister...

He brought the world conservative word gems like:

"Death Tax" instead of Estate Tax.

"Personal Retirement Accounts" instead of Private Accounts in the Social Security Debate.

"Values Voters" instead of Bigoted, anti-gay, Christo-fascists.

"Healthy Forests" in place of clear-cut logging.

And one of my faves...

"Clean Skies Initiative" is what you call deregulation, gutting the EPA, and allowing the fossil fuels industry to self-regulate.

If I were Harper, trying to gain the trust of the more liberal Ontario and Quebec in order to secure a majority in 2 years, I'd make sure I hang with the second-most evil Republican strategist on the continent... that's sure to go over well.