After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Afghanistan is not Iraq

I have been reading both Conservative and progressive blogs in the Canadian blogosphere reacting to these numbers. Some are using it to flog their views about how much the majority of Canadians, especially of the lefty variety reflexively hate Americans no matter what and oppose anything they are a part of regardless of the actual interests and/or national security interests of Canada are concerned. This while being something I do agree exists in our population is not something I agree exists in anywhere near the percentage that some Conservatives appear to believe. I would peg this at maybe one in five at most, whereas those that are currently anti-Bush policies are not truly anti-American reflexively but anti the policies of a specific American government, which is not the same thing at all. Yet others are actually looking at this from a Canadian interests perspective, which is where I come at this one from. I should add that I got these blogs from either The Blogging Tories or Progressive Bloggers websites.

I read what Cherniak, The Amazing Wonderdog, Babylon Project, Kerplonka, Daimnation, Paper Dynamite Online, and Le Revue Gauche had to say on this topic.

Understand first that I actively and vigourously opposed the Iraq war from the outset. I can even state what caused me to really become completely and utterly opposed to it. A speech and press conference at Camp David on Sept 7 2002 between Bush and Blair that claimed the IAEA has issued a report stating Saddam was potentially as close as six months from a working nuclear device. I knew from following Saddam's actions since the 1991-92 Gulf War that this was bogus. I followed him because I had actively supported that war from the day Iraq swallowed Kuwait, long before any propaganda/media campaign was started to drum up support, a campaign I might add that nearly turned me into an opponent because of its patent religious overtones " A just war, a moral war" I believe GHWB sold it as. However, my reason was simple, this was the first significant international conflict since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain which was the de facto end of the Cold War. To set the precedent of one country being able to invade and assimilate another without challenge was a VERY BAD IDEA to me. It would lead to an extremely unstable and violent international reality, as opposed to the relatively peaceful one we got for the transition from the Cold War to what we live in today. Well, it was going reasonably well until 9/11/01 and especially after GWB and the GOP saw it as the perfect domestic tool to create the permanent GOP majority in both the Executive and Legislative branches by having a war on a domestic political timetable...aka Iraq.

However, Afghanistan is not Iraq, and it is to me incredibly irresponsible to even consider treating them as the same. Afghanistan was a reasonable response to 9/11/01 and the actions of the Taliban both before and especially after that fateful day where bin Laden was concerned as well as the training camps of the various Islamic terrorist groups particularly Iraq. The international community was united as I have rarely ever seen them be, especially on the topic of invading a country and overthrowing the government. This was not something bullied through by an aggressive America/Bush, indeed I was for the first six months or so after 9/11/01 being very surprised and having to give Bush credit for how sane and sensible his actions were up to that point. Seeing as I was someone that saw GWB as utterly incompetent for the Presidency since well before he chose to run for the GOP nomination that was no small feat.

Canada also along with every other NATO signatory declared Article Five was invoked. This stated that an attack on one was an attack on all, which given the makeup of those killed in the WTC attack in terms of nationalities was an additional reason to see this as not just an attack on America but the western world itself at the minimum. We have accepted responsibilities here that we have done our best in following through on despite the clearly deficient force and equipment levels of our Armed Forces for this mission. I happen to feel this is something we committed to for the right reasons at the time and that are still as valid now as they were then. The fact that Bushco caused America to abuse this so as to make it easier for them to attack Iraq by virtue of having the strong alliance in one front of this two front war they were embarking upon while regrettable does not change our commitment here. Indeed, I see it as very important to our long-term interests to follow through here even if it means we suffer significant casualties. The nature of warfare makes this an inevitable consequence of the profession. What is important is that this is not wasted, done for immoral/bad reasons, and especially not for a dishonourable cause/basis. This is despite all the Americans have done and not done in Afghanistan still an honourable responsibility Canada shares, we helped to overthrow a government and we have the responsibility to help stabilize the country and establish a better government that provides stability and hopefully the ability to become increasingly self governing/accountable to the people of Afghanistan. Until we have finished that task to the best of our and our allies abilities we cannot in good faith withdraw, at least I do not think so.

I do not like having to accept the fact that this position means I am inevitably supporting Canadian deaths as well as Afghanistani deaths, particularly any innocents as a result of collateral damage. However, we live in a world where force is in some circumstances necessary. Indeed, I fear this will be true so long as human beings exist, given our inherently flawed nature and our very human ability to self delude ourselves rather than face reality as it actually is. Combine that with the drive for power that runs through so many human beings and we will always need to defend against such abuses by those that see force and death as perfectly fine means to get ahead in the world. I realize that there are some in the progressive side that do not feel that Afghanistan is somewhere where we belong, but I cannot agree. While I think the "war on terror" is nonsense, I do believe there is a very real threat posed by these religious extremists/terrorists, and I thought this was a serious threat back in the mid to late 90s. 9/11/01 did not surprise me nor shock me the day it happened, although it certainly saddened me. I expected something of that degree from bin Laden, especially after the embassy bombings in Africa a few years earlier. We live in a world where asymmetrical warfare is going to be the main model followed I believe, and one where in which when one combines that reality with the increasingly powerful and available weapons of mass death and/or destruction is something we must treat seriously. We cannot afford to ignore that reality. I will add though that this religious extremism that threatens modern western society does not just comes from without, it also comes from within from many within the more fundamentalist Christian sects, especially in America but nowhere near limited to them. The main reason the American ones are so particularly dangerous is because of the power of America itself as well as the degree of clear political influence/control they have been demonstrating the last decade or two now.

One of the best works I have ever found for understanding much of the world around us is from Alvin and Heidi Toffler. Their works Future Shock, The Third Wave, and Powershift along with War and Anti-War help makes sense of so much I find. I see the rise of religious fundamentalism as a direct result of the fundamental change in the nature of power itself. No longer is it merely land or money, information itself has become the currency/form of power of the world we are in and even more so in the world we are creating and have been for the last several decades now. There are those people that find such a world where free flowing information and a necessity to be able to think/reason for oneself frightening. They find it too difficult to operate in such a world, they need things to be simpler and following routines they comprehend for them to be able to function. Then there are those religious figures/leaders that find the idea of their followers thinking for themselves instead of following what they are preaching/saying a direct threat to their power base. Not to mention those belonging to a political/philosophical/ideological movement/group which requires surrendering critical thought in deference of the leader and/or to the ideology/philosophy/political beliefs themselves. There is more than these generalizations in my thinking on this, but they do help demonstrate why I see the rise of religious fundamentalism and its increased presence in political affairs within governments as a symptom of something more than an underlying driving cause.

We are a very secular country, Canada is. We have an inherent interest in seeing religious fundamentalism not become the dominant political governance of other countries as well as opposing it in our own. The conflict in Afghanistan I see as something that furthers those interests, a reasoned response to a serious attack on 9/11/01, setting a limit on what a government can excuse within its borders and not be held accountable for it, and to not breaking our commitment when we invoked Article Five of NATO regarding Afghanistan. There are many other reasons that others will have for why they agree or disagree with Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. This however is mine, and it is a mission I continue to support and see as morally justifiable, even considering the abuses America has committed. We are still being seen as a country of laws and principles, and how we continue to deal with Afghanistan is something I believe that will have a significant long-term impact on this perception as well. I do think though that if there are not more resources poured in from the other partners, particularly America herself, that this is going to fail eventually. I am not happy acknowledging that, but is unfortunately what appears to be the reality. The Taliban are not gone, they are resurgent in the outlying areas. In the event of withdrawal before a stable government has been established with the means to protect itself from overthrow I suspect the Taliban would be the de facto government again within a year at the most given the current reality. However, until that point is reached we must continue to support this mission, even knowing the terrible price some will have to suffer as the costs of this mission inevitably increase over time.

War is never a good thing, but it is unfortunately occasionally a necessary thing. One can be opposed to the abuse of war without being a pacifist or inherently anti-war at all costs, something I believe some people have a hard time understanding. Afghanistan is a necessary conflict, Iraq never was. The one thing Afghanistan will not become again quickly is the primary training ground for terrorist groups, Iraq has more than adequately replaced anything they could have learned in Afghanistan, both before the 9/11/01 attacks as well as after. We (NATO/West/America) are not doing as well by the Afghanistani people as we promised we would when we invaded and deposed the Taliban, but we are at least a lot closer to it than in Iraq and we have gotten there by at least trying to involve the local people in the rebuilding from the outset, again unlike Iraq. I am troubled by the massive resurgence of opium in Afghanistan, but given the shambles of their economy I am not at all surprised. I have to wonder how much better the situation would be if America had actually provided the follow through it had promised in the rebuilding instead of getting sidetracked onto Iraq so quickly afterwards. Even six to twelve months delay and a single focus on Afghanistan would have made a massive difference for the better. Unfortunately we have to deal with the reality as it currently exists, and at least for now I do not see we have much choice but to continue on. I do think it wise to continue to keep an eye on things, and if or when it does become necessary to withdraw we are not afraid to consider it, but I do not see that time as being anywhere close to here yet. I do think having our MPs discuss the mission itself though is not a bad idea, I just do not think we should be talking about withdrwal as the way to go at this time. I also think the poll question was misleading in the manner pointed out by Paper Dynamite Online in this post.

I do think these polls underscore just how much Iraq has undermined and damaged American credibility on these matters, as well as alienated the populations of traditional allies like ourselves towards Americans. I wish I could say this surprises me, but it was unfortunately an entirely foreseeable and foreseen outcome of the Iraq folly along with things like renditioning people, disappearing people when you even bother to acknowledge you them in your custody to begin with, torturing people, and killing them while they are in your custody, all the while still claiming America is that shining beacon of light in that city on the hill inspiring the best of humanity for all to strive for. People need to understand that much of the anti-American sentiment is anti-Bush, unfortunately once he was re-elected (assuming one believes that was a legitimate win, I do not if only because of the inability to verify/audit the votes of one in four votes cast for President in America along with some other serious questions which I am not going into at this time) that is being placed onto the American people for supporting such horrors. I see no easy answer for countering this phenomena, and it will as it already has further increased overall anti-American sentiment globally as well as in this country. That it has poisoned the well on Afghanistan to this extent in Canada is really a bad sign given that this is only four years old since the Taliban was overthrown.

Congradulations GWB, you have made America more hated, less safe, and less credible, destroyed her reputation as a nation of laws and rights, and most especially as a champion of democracy and freedom from persecution. Worse, you have done this in your allies, who unlike your country's enemies actually did have some faith/belief in America as the shining city on the hill. That so many Canadians now believe Afghanistan is a bad idea speaks volumes to just how much your policies have poisoned the well for your country.

Men's Curling...GOLD!!!

What a beautiful game by the Canadian men's team! This game was over after eight ends with a final score of 10-4. The end that decided this was the sixth, when Canada scored SIX to go from a 4-3 lead to a 10-3 lead, and the Fins could not catch up. They managed to score one more in the eighth, but they conceeded at the end of that end. This was one of the most enjoyable curling matches I have watched in some time. Up until the sixth end it was a nice nailbiter kind of game, where anything could happen for either side. Both sides played excellent games IMHO, and the Canadian team earned this gold, this was no easy win despite the final score.

Congradulations Team Canada (Curling), and I bet there are going to be massive partying on the Rock tonight! Way to go!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Team Brison appears to forming even before Brison declares

Well, browsing around the blogosphere I found this blogsite. Now, while I am well aware it does not have a candidate declared to date, I do find it noteworthy that such a blog has already gone up. I happen to like Brison. I respect Brison. I did even when he was a PCPC MP. I have met him when he was still a PCPC MP and came away very impressed, impressed enough that I thought if he won the PCPC leadership race he could be very powerful in restoring the PCPC to their original place in Canadian federal politics. The way he was defeated by MacKay for that leadership and the way MacKay immediately sold his leadership supporters out afterwards only underscores his commitment to principle unlike MacKay's. Not to mention also helping to pull in PCPC voters that still refuse to support the CPC but couldn't bring themselves to vote Liberal last time out.

He is articulate, has a very strong presence in both person and via TV, is very charismatic and attractive physically, young (38) but with almost a decade's experience in Parliament. He spent the last Parliament being the point person to handle Sponsorship/Gomery questions, (unlike Fortier who will not be available for such questioning, his being an unelected Senator running patronage central contrasts beautifully with Brison's having been in the House to face CPC and other opposition questions as PW Minister) which should have earned him some real brownie points within the Liberal party as a solid Liberal supporter and paying his dues as a new member of the party. The circumstances which led to him being a Liberal also works to his advantage, in that in his case he did not leave a party, his party left him leaving the Liberals as the party that most closely represented the principles and beliefs he has always stood for, which in turn underscores the inherent centrist/moderate nature of the Liberal party.

I also think that there are those on the CPC side of the bench, both in caucus and supporters, that if they faced Brison as Liberal leader that they would get carried away in their rhetoric both on his "traitorous" conduct in their eyes as well as his sexual orientation. That also would help repaint the CPC as being the natural home of those with such intolerances and bigotries, even if it is only a minority that fall into this pattern/trap. Indeed, the more these criticisms are leveled at him the more his principled actions will contrast themselves against the Emerson/Fortier hypocrisies as well as in other areas already noted. He has a lot to offer the Liberal party of Canada in my view, the question I am wondering is whether the Liberal party of Canada is wise enough to see this for themselves and act on it. Even if Brison does not win leadership I think his being in the race would be very useful and helpful to the rebuilding of the Liberal party of Canada as an acceptable choice for government again. Just take a look at this editorial he wrote for the National Post on the Fortier appointment and why it is such a bad thing

Understand something, this is coming from someone that is not a member of any party, including the Liberal party. While in the current political climate/environment the Libs are closer to my political beliefs than any other, that is at least as much the fault of MacKay as anything else. I used to be comfortable considering which progressive party had in my mind the best platforms for the needs of the day. That used to mean I could vote Liberal, PCPC, or even once in a while NDP depending on the local candidate and leader of the day. Nowadays I feel none of the parties work for me in terms of complete support, but for now the Libs come closest. It is possible Harper might change my mind on this through his actions as PM, but given what I have seen from him over the last couple of decades I am not exactly seeing this as a likely outcome.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

This is a dangerous claim to be making without evidence

Look, I do not like Peter MacKay. I consider him to be the picture perfect definition of the "promise/say one thing to gain power do the opposite once in power" kind of politician. I hold his actions campaigning for the PCPC leadership and his decisions once he came to that leadership against him. I consider him to be the most unethical federal politician sitting in Parliament of any party. I consider him to be the worst political traitor/betrayer in Canadian political history. In short, I loathe the man for his actions over the last three years.

All that being said though, this allegation I saw on a blog linked to by another blog troubles me. Not because I can't see it being true, given my opinion of MacKay I could believe pretty much anything where his ethics, or rather lack thereof is concerned. My problem is that this is a very serious allegation to be making, and to be doing so without providing any evidence of any kind to corroborate it is in my view more than a little reckless and not something to be encouraged. This blogger may well have heard this rumour floating around Calgary, I have no idea, nor any way of verifying it. However, until something more than this comes to light I would strongly caution Liberals from using this against MacKay. I would caution anyone that does link to it to underscore that this is a rumour, unsourced and uncorroborated in any manner. Even the Blogging Tory that had the Graham being a pedophile post provided more in the way of links/"evidence" to corroborate his argument/allegation. This is notwithstanding the reality that the evidence provided on this matter was nothing any serious minded person could take as valid/serious, but it was there. In the case of this MacKay allegation not even anything that thin/weak has been provided.

If one is going to link to this and discuss it, one IMHO needs to underscore just how unsubstantiated this is, how no evidence supports it has been provided, and that the original blogger that claims to have heard the rumour in the "real" world (as opposed to virtual) is not someone known. That this is purely unsubstantiated rumour and that to try and make it sound like anything more than this with the current amount of information available may well open one up to some type of slander/liberal lawsuit. Besides, doing so is muckraking in my opinion, and that is not something I have a good opinion of.

The Liberal party right now cannot afford to be linked to making up scandals to attack the CPC with. Their credibility is already damaged enough, to do so would only make matters worse, which given the arrogance we have seen from the Harper government to date is not something Liberals need happening. Besides, I am not sure the Grewal fraud is gone and buried for good, so damaging Liberal credibility in this area would be a bad thing, as would it be for Liberal affiliated bloggers IMHO. Just my thoughts on this matter, at least for now given the paucity of information surrounding it.

5th Estate on Mulroney/Schreiber repeats Fri Feb 17 05

For those that missed it the first time around like I did, the Fifth Estate with the Schreiber interview and the new documents (well new to the public domain anyway) is on Newsworld Friday Feb 17 06 at 10PM EST. I haven't wanted to comment on this issue until I saw the show, going by the website alone was not enough, and I do not have a lot of luck running video files with the computer I use so I couldn't watch it online.

Just to let those that are interested know before it passes by again.

G'Kar, no more...Andreas Katsulas has passed away

Man, now this really is a case of a good actor dying way too soon. While the role which most likely will immortalize Andreas Katsulas is G'Kar of Narn in Babylon 5 he was a brilliant character actor that I had enjoyed in every role I had ever seen him in. This is also the second actor that played a primary character in Babylon 5 that has died since the series ended less than a decade ago. Richard Biggs, who played Doctor Franklin was the first casuality, and he was only 44, and now Andreas Katsulas at 59. I grew up a SF fan from the outset, although back then it was from books and not TV/movies, mainly because there wasn't much SF movies worthy of the name (as opposed to those using a SF basis for a fright flick of some type, never my cup of tea) and TV. I used to get nothing but teasing from both my peers and most adults for reading that "silly nonsense", for this was back when SF was seen as pure escapism only and pretty much nothing else, long before SF became recognized as the literature of ideas. These days SF has gone from being silly stuff to being a well developed and popular field of fiction, much to my gratification I must add.

Now, growing up I was a Trekkie, mainly because unlike every other SF premise of the day it had a positive vision for the future of humanity. It was not premised on a post apocalyptic event, alien invasion, etc. So for almost a quarter century there was nothing that beat Trek for me. Then came Babylon 5. The first series on TV, SF or otherwise, that was envisioned and written with a distinct 5 year story arc in the format of a great epic. It worked, indeed it worked better than anything I have seen before or since. Of all TV series ever Babylon 5 is my all time favourite. I have all the series on DVD as well as the movies, and it even now is a wonderful was to pass the time when my health went on a downwards trend to distract me. Now, of all the characters of the series the one that ended up having the best lines and delivery was Andreas Katsulas, something I think most fans of B5 would agree with, or if not agree with at least see why another might think so instead of say the characters of Delenn or Sheridan,

When I heard Richard Biggs had died I was sad, this though hurts like I lost a close friend or family member, not something I tend to feel for actors, but this man was truly a gifted and brilliant actor in my view, and to know I will never see him in anything new is a real let down. At least he has the legacy of his work in Babylon 5 to immortalize him that showcased him at his best doing what I would argue was some of his best work, especially in the later years of Babylon 5.

So this entry is for you Andreas Katsulas, you will be missed by many, I among them.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What does being rich have to do with Emerson's crossing being ok?

This is just a short entry, but it is in regards to one of the defences of Emerson being bought with a Cabinet seat. I have seen the idea dismissed on the grounds that Emerson is a wealthy man and is getting less than if he stayed in the private sector. Well, the same was true of Belinda Stronach, even more so when you get right down to it, yet that did not stop Conservatives from claiming she was bought with the power of a Cabinet position, indeed that she was motivated solely by her "lust for power". So anyone that thinks Emerson's personal wealth is any sort of defence for his being bought by POWER (which a Cabinet position is, never doubt it) by a PM willing to offer POWER to increase his minority position is clearly unable to understand this basic reality. Money and power are not the same thing, even though they are closely related to each other. Emerson was all about his own appetite for power being his motivation for running for Parliament, not principles, not political affiliations/beliefs, but his desire/lust for power. He may well have noble intentions for using that power, but it still does not change the underlying fact he was clearly motivated by power rather than he was by any principle, and that is not considered ethical/principled for any Parliamentarian of any party by most people in this country.

I know I have been focusing on this and Fortier a lot, but I really do find both of these quite offensive on grounds of ethics, which I happen to believe are important to try and follow. I think Andrew Coyne makes a very good point in this article regarding how for so many this is being completely overlooked. If there was any sense of a point of principle for Emerson I would not be being so harsh towards his decision, even given the timing although that I would have still been offended by. The problem is there are no principled reasons for this act, solely an unwillingness to be outside of Cabinet by Emerson, and the recognition of same by Harper who had no problem offering him Cabinet to cross. Fortier though is far worse ethically in my view, and his is the appointment that most troubles me in all of this as I have noted before. The one thing this matter has helped me with is to figure out which online Conservatives actually believe in their principles and which ones don't care so long as it is their guy doing it and not their opponents. The former I respect, the latter are no better than the Liberal partisans that could defend anything Martin/Liberals did, in other words mindless party partisan hacks/propagandists.

Incidentally, I have been seeing some whining from some Conservatives about how unfair it is of the media to be focusing on them like this, especially not when there are Liberal scandals to be reporting on in their opinion. One slight problem though, the CPC is the government now, not the Liberals, and therefore it is entirely appropriate for the CPC to be getting the most scrutiny, especially in their first decisions as a new government. Trying to blame the last week on the "liberal media out to get Harper/Conservatives" looks and sounds like childish deflection from the missteps of your leader and trying to avoid his personal responsibility for this mess, both in regards to decisions and in terms of having any kind of media strategy to sell these decisions to the general public since anyone should have been able to tell these would be controversial decisions for Harper to have been making. There is no "liberal" media in this country let alone a "Liberal" one, there is no solid evidence to support such a contention. Indeed, what studies have been done in the last two elections show that the Conservatives have not been receiving unfair/slanted/biased coverage despite the repeated contentions to the contrary by Conservatives. This tactic may have worked well in America for conservatives, but it is not working so well up here. Indeed, all it has done so far outside of the already convinced is make Conservatives advocating this notion sound like conspiracy theorists and slightly paranoid. Not exactly the thing to help Canadians feel the CPC is ready for prime time and has good judgment and understanding of the Canadian society/environment.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Do they not grasp the inherent contradiction they are embracing when they cite Liberal precedents for Fortier's uneccesary appointment to the Senate?

Something I have noted today while watching both Politics on Newsworld and Mike Duffy Live is how the CPC voice on each show when defending the Emerson/Fortier decisions by Harper is the amount of reliance on Liberal precedents to justify these decisions. Doesn't it even occur to these people (the paid professionals, I am talking about those defending this on the TV, not bloggers) that after spending literally years condemning the practices of Liberals as unethical, sleazy, crooked, etc, it is not going to help your case any that you are any better ethically than the Liberals when you cite their precedents to defend the contradictions between Harper as PM from Harper as Opposition leader/election campaign? I'm not trying to be flippant here either I really mean this. Consider just how dissonant that has to be to the average voter when they hear this defence, after literally years of hearing about how bad/corrupt/unethical/sleazy all of these practices the Liberals used and defended as being in the "best interests of the country" to hear the exact same defence to justify Emerson crossing into Cabinet at the very first opportunity after the election that cost him his Cabinet post in the outgoing government.

After hearing how a Harper/CPC government would govern differently then those sleazy, unethical, and corrupt practices, especially in things like appointments to the Senate of party bag men/loyalists/organizers (Fortier) to reward them for their service. Then on day one of the government Fortier is appointed Senate and Cabinet Minister of pork/patronage aka Public Works. Then regarding accountability/transparency, especially in regards to Public Works aka the Sponsorship Ministry and the traditional Cabinet post for pork and patronage in our country's history, having that same Quebec leadership chair and the last campaign organizer become the unaccountable to the House of Commons Minister of P.W. where he can issue contracts to his heart's content to help rebuild the old PCPC political network for the CPC in Quebec. Yet we are supposed to not only trust that Fortier will resign his Senate seat for the next election on the basis of his word alone, but that he will not abuse the position of being the chief government contracts awarder for partisan political purposes unlike every preceding government in our history despite his not having to answer to the elected opposition in the House unlike say Scott Brison had to throughout the Gomery investigation?!?! Riiiiiiiiiiiiight, nothing to wonder about here, move along, move along, or so we are being told by the CPC defenders of this decision anyway. Somehow though I think there is something here needing examination and I have no intentions of moving on.

Trying to defend Fortier's appointment as the only man that can root out Liberal scandals has got to be one of the more common defences of this appointment I've seen from the Harper defenders. That he is the only CPCer that can be trusted by Harper to run this department without problems is another. It hasn't even occurred to these so called principled Conservatives that were so against pork and patronage that Fortier fits the bill of a partisan patronage awarder and awardee in the "best" or rather worst traditions of Canadian political governments/history. No, they can only see the good side, cite Liberals appointing Senators (although that traditionally is when the government had no seats in a Province, which was not the case for the CPC in Quebec) to defend this Senate appointment. I also wondered if Fortier had to be a Senator to be put in Cabinet, and from what I can see it was unnecessary, so why did Harper do so? Fortier is still unelected so it doesn't help him get around his promise/pledge (the fact it was in French does not change its reality) to not have unelected members of his Cabinet, so why is Fortier appointed to the Senate if it was not to make him eligible for Cabinet? Now that is a question that I think really needs to be answered!

Seriously, if Fortier can be in the Cabinet without first being an elected MP or Senator, then why was it necessary to appoint him to the Senate in the first place? The idea that he represents Montreal is ludicrous, especially since the Senate seat he got does not have Montreal within its borders. He could look after Montreal's interests in the Cabinet as an unelected non-Senator could he not? For that matter it isn't like another Quebec CPC MP couldn't look after Montreal like Peter MacKay looks out for PEI, right? So what was the underlying need to appoint a party organizer to the Senate in complete contradiction to all Harper and the CPC had said about abusing the Senate to reward party hacks? In complete contradiction for that matter regarding the evils of appointed unelected Senators and only appointing elected Senators? Why was it so important for Fortier to be a Senator from day one in this new CPC government when there is no compulsory need for it to be in Cabinet, nor that to represent Montreal?

No, the more I think about this appointment the more I think we are missing something important here. As I said from day one I thought the Fortier appointment was the most stinky one of all of the scandals from the Cabinet choices made by Harper. However, there has been a lot of spin and rationalizations for Fortier in Public Works, but what I have yet to discern is the necessity for Fortier to be a Senator. Incidentally, claiming that his word that he will run in the next general election is sufficent that so many defenders of this decision have done might have carried a little weight if Fortier had not made clear that he did not run this time out was because he did not want to. That his job and kids were more important than facing an electorate. So if he didn't want to run when the perfect storm for the CPC was happening with the best chances of a CPC government being elected, does anyone really believe he will resign to run next time out, especially if it doesn't look like the CPC are going to be reelected? I somehow doubt it.

I think it is important for all of us to try and figure out why Fortier had to be appointed to the Senate, of all the decisions made regarding the Cabinet it is the only one I cannot make any sense of from all the public explanations provided to date by the CPC. Emerson, yes. O'Conner yes. While I take issue on the ethics side of them at least I can see rationales for them. Fortier's appointment to the Senate though makes no sense to me at all. It doesn't change he is unelected and in Cabinet, it doesn't change the fact it completely contradicts what may be the thing Harper is best known for, the need for elected Senators and to stop the practice of appointing party loyalists as a reward for service, yet that is the only reason I can even remotely see for Fortier's Senate appointment. Putting him in charge of PW makes sense if one wants to rebuild the CPC patronage machine in Quebec to increase seats in the next election. It is the Senate appointment itself that I cannot make any tactical or strategic argument for, and that bothers me. I do not like it when I can find no rational that makes sense from any perspective for such a serious decision made by a PM, especially one with the public record Harper does regarding Senate appointments. If anyone has any theories, please feel free to leave them in the comments I am really interested in figuring this aspect out.


Here is a page at the government's website listing all the members of Cabinet that were neither MPs or Senators at the time of their appointments. Here is a page showing the last time a Senator was Public Works Minister was 1922. So while not unprecedented certainly not something we have seen in the last 84 years, and that tenure was just over two months it appears. So one really has to wonder what Harper's true motives are for this decision to make Fortier a Senator given the clear evidence that it was not a prerequisite for Cabinet, and the reality that it has been close to a century since the last time a Senator was made Public Works Minister, well before true self government took place after the Act of Westminster in what 1936 I think it was? So this was a very unorthodox decision all in its own right, and had the Emerson flap not happened I am certain this would have been the major surprise story of the first Harper Cabinet/day. So why again was it necessary to make his campaign manager from Quebec a Senator? Why did he need to so clearly contradict himself regarding the evils of the Senate being used for party patronage appointments and do this? After all, this is not just another Conservative politician being rewarded, this is a man that has not won election previously as I understand it and chose not to run this time out because he didn't want to.

That I think is what bothers me so about this appointment, I cannot see any rewards outside of some fairly sinister/sleazy ones to explain it. To Cabinet, yes I could see that, even designated within Cabinet to look after Montreal's needs. It is the making him a Senator part that I am having particular trouble with, and the more I look at it the more I come up with more questions. While I also have problems with the appointment of him to P. W. I can see reasons for that appointment even if I disapprove of them. I have seen Fortier seen as someone that will be able to dig through looking for Liberal scandal and corruption in the file, however the problem with that notion is that Harper has to govern forward not backwards and he has to understand this. However the using of P.W. for patronage to reestablish political links within Quebec and a Conservative government in Ottawa is one I can understand and see being done, so that can be explained to me. That after all is traditional politics as usual in our political culture, whatever one thinks about the ethics of it or whether it is a good/bad thing. Not though the new way of governing Harper was telling Canadians the CPC and him would represent if given power.

The Senate though simply keeps hitting the tilt meter for me, it makes no real sense and was almost certainly going to aggravate a significant number of his base. It also countered one of his oldest and most consistent stated beliefs where the Senate was concerned from throughout his career, and something that had become associated with the man over the years by the wider public. So why do it? People always have reasons for what they do no matter how odd or mundane those reasons can sound to others. So far I haven't been able to come up with a good reason beyond rewarding a loyalist for this decision, and if anyone else had done it I might not be having such trouble with it, after all, it is hardly unheard of in our history. However, so is the condemnation of such by our new PM, and this is something that really can be pointed to as classic patronage sleaze and used against Harper and the CPC not just in the next election but for years to come thanks to it being done as one of the very first acts of the very first CPC government in history on its very first day. Can Harper truly be so limited in his political vision/perception to not understand just how damaging this can be for the long term, especially if any scandal ever touches Fortier now that he is in government? If so, then he is far more dangerous than I gave him credit for to our country, which isn't something that I was hoping to see.

I really would have liked to have been pleasantly surprised by Harper and be shown that my concerns were groundless about his willingness to place expediency before principle, no matter the principle. I accept the inevitability of pragmatism and the need to recognize there are times in governing such is necessary, the question is the judgment used to determine when it is appropriate. I don't see that here, nor do I think most Canadians that have given this any matter of thought and are not blind CPC loyalists/partisans. There needs to be significant gains for the sacrifice, and simply saying that Harper is playing chess while everyone is playing checkers is just another way of saying trust in the Harper because the Harper is good. Sorry, but that kind of open ended trust is not something just given right away, it does tend to need to be earned by example first. For a man that could only get this weak a minority despite having a near perfect storm working in their favour against the Liberal to be expecting such from Canadians on the fundamental issue of the election (ethics in government/leaders) to make such decisions and then defend them as he has done does not inspire one to imagine he is playing chess but something else, and not something to be proud of either. That being playing Canadians for fools.

Oh, these moderate Muslims condemned the violence, too bad so many didn't notice.

Thanks to the Green Night and my tendency to read back several days on blogs I noticed this excellent post. In it the Green Night proved multiple links to several rather large/numerous numbers of Muslims and Muslim groups decrying the violence done over the cartoon controversy. I guess though it is more comfortable for some to believe that these voices are always silent rather than to actually go and see whether they are speaking up or not.

Just because you do not see it on the news does not mean it has not happened.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Hunting...Nottawa style

I've seen several blogs with a post on Cheney and his hunting accident, but this one was just priceless! Please, take a look for yourself, especially if you are a fan of American political humour...

Is Emerson's cross typical or not?

I have been reading a lot of material in the last seven days regarding Emerson and the propriety of floor crossing (this includes the comments at these sites and not just the original posts), far more places then I have chosen to comment at about this issue. I have seen many defences of Emerson based on the "many that have crossed the floor previously in our history, including recent history" premise. So I have a simple set of questions that once answered can tell us exactly how usual or unusual Emerson's cross was.

1) In the history of the federal Parliament of Canada how many members have crossed from one party to another?

2) Of those crosses, how many were from an opposition party to a government as opposed to a member of a governing party crossing to an opposition party or as an independent?

3) Of those that crossed into the government how many were immediately given Cabinet positions?

4) Of those that received Cabinet positions how many gave as their sole reason for crossing as the benefit of being in Cabinet and made clear that if their own party had been government that they would not have crossed, thereby making it clear that it was the Cabinet position that was the deciding factor in this cross?

5) Of all those that ever crossed the floor, how many did so on the first day of a new government being sworn in, well before Parliament itself reconvenes? For that matter what is the shortest time from an election to a cross in our history and how does Emerson's compare with it?

6) Finally, how many Cabinet ministers in Canadian Parliamentary history have gone from being a Minister in a government to winning their seat but their party losing office thereby losing the Cabinet seat, to immediately being sworn in the first Cabinet of the new incoming government along with changing their party affiliation (this of course also requires that the parties have changed with the government)? I add the change of affiliation because that is also significant, it is not like Emerson was asked to join but stay a Liberal, which I believe is the sort of thing that has happened in our history in a coalition minority government.

That is the best way to see how typical Emerson's crossing is in Canadian Parliamentary history. While I know there are many examples of floor crossing, I rather doubt they were motivated solely by the unwillingness of the crosser to lose a Cabinet position and a PM willing to offer one in exchange for crossing. This was supposedly one of the main objections to the idea of Stronach having left the CPC for any reason other than her "lust for power" as it was characterized by her detractors in the CPC party and movement/supporters. While I thought she crossed mainly out of principle, I also thought at the time it was not the smartest thing of Martin to do to put her in Cabinet. .Although I could understand it, if only so as to rub the CPC's nose in their loss as well as reminding Canadians that a former leadership contender AND founding member of the CPC (indeed, she did play a role in helping it come together that seems to be forgotten by many) felt the Liberal brand was superior. That is not incidentally a defence of Martin, simply that I could understand why he did it even though it opened him up to the argument that he bought her with a Cabinet seat. The fact that I don't think that was the main reason she left does not change the fact it certainly had that appearance, and so it was not unreasonable (edited at 11:31 pm Feb 12 06 from "reasonable", sorry for any confusion) for CPCers to think that is exactly what happened.

So suddenly though many of those CPC voices that thought buying a crossing with a Ministry was such a vile and evil thing to do to Canadian democracy have zero problem with their guy doing the same thing. Worse, their guy does it and provides no other explanation other than he thought he would be good in Cabinet so he offered him a Cabinet position that the crosser would be losing if he stayed in the Liberal party/opposition he had been elected as a member of. Emerson also made it clear that he would not have crossed into the CPC without the Cabinet position being there. I have made this point elsewhere by challenging others to provide any evidence that Emerson would be in the CPC caucus now if there had NOT been a Cabinet seat offered to him. To date zero evidence has been offered by anyone. This is why I say Emerson was bought by Harper, pure and simple. It is not that I can't conceive of any other possibilities, but that all the evidence available makes it impossible to come to any other conclusion. The notion that Emerson will be a great Minister is irrelevant to the underlying issue, and while it is a great smokescreen, ultimately that is all the CPC defenders of this act have to offer, smoke.

It is also important to understand that in terms of affecting the balance of power in Parliament there is zero difference between Emerson and Stronach. When Stronach crossed it brought the Libs and NDP combined to within one vote of a working majority, in this case to block a CPC/BQ vote of Non Confidence. In this case Emerson's crossing brings the CPC to within one vote of a working majority with the NDP in the House (assuming that the Speaker will be coming from the CPC side, which is probable since I doubt either remaining opposition party wants to give Harper a working majority with the NDP). As in both Parliaments there was an independent that could tip it either way, Cadman back then and the radio host from Quebec City (sorry, still haven't gotten his name straight yet) nowadays. The argument that there is any difference because of the Confidence vote and so was much worse than two weeks after an election is another nice piece of smoke. If anything the fact this was right after the election, clearly done by Emerson to retain a Cabinet position and by Harper to increase his weak minority by a seat be willing to offer a Cabinet seat to a Liberal that he thinks he can get to accept such a (let's be honest here, one can speculate about noble motives but it still comes down in the end to being such) bribe, Emerson. In many ways it is Harper's act that is the most offensive. He went looking for a Liberal that would cross the floor to his party and was willing to offer a Cabinet seat to get him to cross. Seeing as Emerson himself made clear that he would not have crossed without the Cabinet seat to make any other argument seems rather dishonest to me.

The problem is not just his crossing after two weeks from the election, although that on its own is pretty underhanded/unethical in its own right. It is that he is clearly crossing because the new PM waved a Cabinet seat under his nose if he were to cross into his new governing party and first Cabinet. I spent a lot of time last spring reading about how buying a floor crossing with a Cabinet position was so unethical, so dishonest, so contemptible. I find it saddening though hardly surprising that many of the stronger voices that thought it was evil incarnate last year suddenly consider it great strategy and a sign of Harper's brilliance and his ability to play the Liberals like they played him and the CPC. One problem with that line of reasons though, Harper was elected primarily on the belief that he would be different from the Liberals, that he would not be embracing time worn Parliamentary tricks and games like the Liberals did. So his doing this on the first day is not a small problem for him, and contrary to the thoughts of many in the CPC, this will not be soon forgotten. The symbolism of the first day of a new government tends to be one of the things that helps define that government for the rest of its term. Harper's definition of the CPC was to confirm what so many of the opponents said about the CPC/Harper pledge of ethical accountable, transparent government being empty rhetoric and how Harper would be no better if not worse once in power. This was a major opportunity for Harper to dispel these negative perceptions in the electorate, instead he confirms them for all except the hardcore Harperites/CPC party loyalists. Every person that voted CPC this time out with some degree of skepticism and unease though just got given a great reason to not vote CPC again, especially not with Harper as the leader. Does anyone really think this is not obvious to all the opposition parties to the CPC/Harper and that they will not make as much use of it as they can get from it? Really.

Crossing the floor over matters of principle is something with a long and noble tradition in our system. Crossing out of a lust for power and a willingness to satisfy that lust by tempting it though does not have that same kind of history. More Canadians understand this then I think those of us in the political chattering classes are willing to believe. I for one have never agreed with the idea that the voters are basically sheep, or that most voters do not think about their votes and who they vote for. I find that line of reasoning incredibly arrogant, incredibly condescending, and incredibly hostile to the very idea of citizens being the ones governments are accountable to. To hear this from Conservatives seems more than a little amusing given that Conservatives are generally big on the idea of personal accountability and allowing the individual the power to make their decisions instead of the government/State.

Incidentally, if there are people that truly believe that after an eight week election campaign where the election question was accountability and ethical government that two weeks is enough time for most Canadian voters to forget that, then I really have to question your political understanding and competence to be considered having an informed political opinion. What makes this particularly bad is that effectively since it was born the CPC has run an ethics/morals campaign against the Liberals, something that has penetrated the general electorate. So after two years of this "crusade" against immorality and unethical sleaze in government by Harper and the CPC their very first decisions are ones seen outside of the hardcore CPC/Harper loyalists as immoral, unethical and sleazy. Worse, the defences by the CPC rely on these being things done prior by Liberals and therefore have precedent behind them which in turn makes them alright, indeed brilliant politics as some have claimed it to be. For those that are committed believers that works, for the rest of the country including many that gave the CPC/Harper the benefit of the doubt with their votes though this looks exactly like what it is, more of the same from those that spent years claiming to Canadians they would be anything but the same old same old Liberal style government if they were given power. Doing this with a weak minority is an additional act of arrogance in most eyes, seeing as the will of the electorate was that they wanted the Liberals out of power but still a strong Opposition and the CPC given government but a weak one so they could see whether they might be interested in a CPC majority next time out. This did nothing to help make that sale, indeed it most likely turned those voters away from the product.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Harper harpoons Harper's ethics harping in his first week

Well, this is effectively the end of the first week of Stephen Harper's new "clean cut" Conservative government that he sold to Canadians and won his small minority government with. One of the best overall assessments I have read so far comes from Dave at Galloping Beaver here. I have to say I agree with him about just how profoundly Harper has misunderstood not just the will of the electorate in the election but the general Canadian public as well. How anyone could have thought having Emerson cross into his Cabinet two weeks after the election day would not cause a massive uproar is something I still cannot understand. Let alone someone that campaigned not just for the last election but for many years on the notion of ethical, transparent and especially accountable government doing this on the very first day of his very first government, indeed the very first CPC government in history. Especially not when the election question was ethics in government. Whether the CPC and Harper are willing to accept that the skepticism from Canadians is fair or not, Liberal media brainwashing or not, they have to acknowledge that it is there. Indeed, the last election campaign in its stealth nature demonstrated that understanding within the CPC and Harper. So why in the name of all that is holy would they expect that skepticism to evaporate between the election where they got such a weak minority and two weeks later on their very first day being sworn into government???

Harper blew a lot of CPC capital with his actions on Monday AND his absolutely horrible defences of them as well as the explanations provided by both Emerson and Fortier defending these decisions. He rocked the boat within his own base, as demonstrated by the clearly split reactions inside the online Conservative community noted in an earlier post here. He also killed not just the media honeymoon governments normally get for their first weeks to months thanks to not just these decisions but their inability to defend it afterwards and their effectively nonexistent media machine to sell it to the public and explain why these were such good decisions despite their "unusualness" and "inconsistency" with what was pledged in the election campaign. Finally, as Dave noted he completely misunderstood the level of scrutiny his government would get in its first days. That in many ways I think is the most damaging thing of all.

The election results make it clear that Canadians despite clearly feeling the Liberals needed to be dismissed from government were not comfortable with the CPC alternative. After what was a brilliantly crafted and run campaign designed to make Harper and the CPC look mainstream/moderate and trustworthy to the Canadian public they were able to get the small minority they have. So it should have been obvious that the public would pay attention to the first moves made by this government to see whether their skepticisms had any real basis in reality, or whether they had been suckered by a political fear campaign as the CPC and Harper had always claimed was the case. So the importance of the symbolism of the first day should have been apparent to a first year poli-sci student, let alone the new government and PM. Yet their conduct and decisions make it clear they did not expect this.

What bothers me is why didn't they expect this? Why didn't they realize that they were on shaky ground, despite an election just having passed? Why have they appeared to forget all their own cautions to Martin when he won his minority about arrogance and such when they have a minority even weaker than Martin got from the electorate? These decisions seem to have been taken with the belief that no matter what they do, no matter how much they might be controversial, they can make decisions for the first say 6-12 months with effective impunity because the electorate doesn't want an election again soon and because of the Libs needing to find a new leader. That demonstrates a level of arrogance completely at odds with the Harper of the election, yet is completely consistent with that which was said about Harper by his opponents. So why feed this perception like this? Does Harper believe that this perception is really that weak in the public despite all the evidence to the contrary? Does he believe he will have long enough as a government to allow people to forget these decisions and the underlying arrogance of them? Does he believe that ultimately it doesn't matter how people perceive him so long as he can run a campaign that looks nice new and shiny?

I mean really, what would the CPC have done if the Libs had made their Minister of Public Works one of their unelected (not even defeated but not even run in the election) Quebec bagmen/organizers right after putting him in the Senate at the same time? Fortier is the decision that is truly worrisome in terms of potential corruption practices within the CPC government. Emerson is bad enough in terms of demonstrating contempt for the voters, but Fortier is unelected, could not be bothered to run to be in Parliament by his own words, suddenly controls pork/patronage central AND is entirely unaccountable to the elected House of Commons for his Ministry?!? Put these together and you have a really massive turnaround from everything the average citizen was led to expect from a Harper government. Adding a lobbyist to the Defence Ministry is also a really lousy move as well, and the thing of it is all three of these appointments/decisions impact the main selling point the CPC and Harper had, honesty/accountability/integrity in government and that they would be different from the past, especially the Liberal past. Yet to defend Emerson and Fortier they have had to rely on examples of Liberals doing the same in the past. Do they not understand just how badly that undercuts their credibility with those that were still not convinced about Harper and the CPC but were willing to give him this chance to see about him?

On a related point, I should add that trying to dismiss the criticism of these appointments when made by Liberals with a "well who are they to lecture us on ethics" works far better when there is some question as to whether there is a serious ethical question there to begin with. Unfortunately for the CPC/Harper, Emerson in particular by going to the Cabinet immediately after the election in another party is something very easy for people to grasp the ethical challenges of. Worse for the CPC the explanations both Harper and Emerson gave make it clear that if Harper had not offered Emerson a Cabinet position then Emerson would have stayed the Liberal he was elected as. That is impossible to sell as anything other than the sale of a seat and the willingness to purchase one, no matter how qualified for the government Cabinet the individual in question is. I have seen the defence of floor crossing is a historic tradition in this country, which is true, although usually on matters of principle. However, I wonder how many times in Canadian history has a minister in the Cabinet of the defeated government/party been retained by the incoming party/government as a member in its first Cabinet, especially where the Minister must change party affiliation in the process? I somehow doubt there are many examples of that in our history, and that is part of why this is causing such grief for Harper. Especially two weeks to the day after the man was elected under his first party affiliation.

The irony is that these were all self made troubles by Harper and the CPC. None of this had to happen to them on what should have been their moment of shining glory as they took over the reigns of power/Parliament for the first time ever. Instead Harper and the CPC have seriously weakened their position with the public and quite likely impaired their ability to move their agenda through what would already be a difficult environment in Parliament because of his weak minority. I will be extremely surprised if at the end of the day this ends up having been anything other then a net negative for this government, Harper, and the CPC itself. The arrogance that was so bad that the Liberals were turfed for it appears to have shown itself in the CPC on the first day of power, and that is not a good sign/omen in most people's books whatever their political interests. The clear contradictions between what Canadians heard Harper and the CPC say about Stronach are already ringing in their ears as they watch Harper and the CPC defend Emerson. If/when the public starts to understand just how unusual it is for the Minister of Public works to be an unelected campaign chair that also got a Senate appointment out of it on his word he resigns it to run in the next general election, not byelection, general election that ethical lapse will really be used against the CPC. Harper needs to be trusted by the public to be able to run a trust me government. So far he is not off to a good start for doing that, and given his reluctance to defend his choices vigourously in the media other than to effectively say trust me this is going to be a problem for him in the longer term I suspect.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Is this smart politics, especially after Emerson/Fortier on Day one?

Just a short thought on this. Meech Lake is not only tied to the memory of the Constitutional fights of the late eighties and early nineties, but the failure of Meech Lake is what directly led to the creation of the Bloc Quebecois. It is also tied in most people's minds with a PM that was willing to gamble the future of the country on what he himself described as a roll of the dice. That was a level of arrogance that truly infuriated many Canadians, and Harper is reminding Canadians of this two days after the Emerson switch and the Fortier appointments to Senate and Public Works on his first day as PM? I mean the hubris/arrogance of Harper to appoint a unelected party friend/worker to the Senate and then to Cabinet is classic patronage rewards in action, pure and simple. The Emerson thing coming right after the election as it did (two weeks for cripes sake) and Harper's embrace of the man after he spent weeks tearing Harper and the CPC to shreds in an election campaign also reeks of arrogance and ends justifying the means instead of principles and ethics. So what can Harper do to make this look even worse this week? He has the first Cabinet meeting at a place that has become synonymous with Mulroney/PCPC arrogance.

One cannot govern purely out of concern regarding optics, this is true. However, one cannot afford to ignore them either, especially if you are in a weak minority! I really do not see the wisdom in this, and the message it sends to Canadians about how different and better this government/party would be in power is that we only said this to get your vote, now that we have it we are going to do whatever we feel we need to regardless of ethical concerns and no matter how expedient it is. The last thing they should be doing is adding to the Emerson/Fortier scandals with a reminder of one of the greatest failures in Canadian history of an act of arrogance by the last Conservative PM, who reduced his party from a majority to two seats with these kinds of actions. All this in 48hrs from the moment we first heard about Emerson and Fortier to this. Seems very much like insult to injury myself.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The value of Harper's pledges on so far

I have spent much of today browsing through the Canadian blogosphere to see how PM Harper's first acts as PM have been sitting, both in the progressive side and the Blogging Tories side of things. It is interesting to note that most of the CPC commentators that were offended by today's actions (which I will get into detail shortly) were those with known aliases/blogs while most of those that were supportive were anonymous posters. I wonder why that is.

Let us start off with Mr. Emerson, that paragon of virtue that campaigned as a Liberal, denounced the CPC and Harper for a government while running, won as a Liberal, and suddenly decides he prefers being a Conservative (at least so long as he is a Conservative Cabinet member, I really doubt he would have crossed without the Cabinet position given his explanation for making this cross) to the Liberal he was elected 14 DAYS ago. This notion that it is an acceptable/ethical reason to cross as he did because he felt his riding would be better served with him being in Cabinet has got to be one of the most lame rationalizations I have ever heard. It is nigh well impossible to read that as anything other than he is more interested in power and being in government than he is what party he belongs to for that to be the case. If he had not crossed this would have been his last day as a Cabinet Minister. As for Harper, while I can understand wanting to increase seat totals in a minority, placing him in the Cabinet while bypassing some of his long time loyal supporters is not the best politics, let alone lousy optics. However, it is also clear that Harper bribed Emerson with a Cabinet position, the very thing he was so adamantly offended by last year with Stronach and that he claimed the Grewal proved the Liberals were unethical enough to do as "proven" by the recordings. So last year it was offensive, this year now that it is his Cabinet it is smart politics and good for Canada. Got to love that example of moral relativism.

However, it is not the Emerson appointment that really is offending me, it is the Fortier appointment. Here we have a man, who did not run for office suddenly not only being appointed to the Senate but into the Cabinet in a portfolio traditionally known to be a patronage appointment for rewarding party loyalists with government contracts. So who is Fortier? Well he is the Quebec chairman of the CPC/Harper election campaign. In other words a partisan loyalist of Harper. So we see a loyal party man who helped deliver Quebec seats to a Harper government being rewarded with two patronage appointments in the same freaking day. First he is Harper's first Senator selection, yet he was not elected or any of the other things Harper said his Senate seat choices would be. He is a Harper loyalist, a party flack even and his reward is a cushy Senate seat from which he can stay for the rest of his life if he wants, this idea that he will have to resign his seat for the next election sounds as convincing to my ears as MacKay's promise to never merge the PCPC and CA turned out to be. Not to mention Harper's pledge to not have an unelected member of his Cabinet broken as well.

That would be bad enough. However what really makes this particularly ugly is that this man is going to be responsible for the contracts let out by a Harper government, yet he will NOT be in Question Period to be questioned by the opposition parties, despite being one of the most important/influential Cabinet Ministries where government money is concerned and who gets it. This is by Harper's view transparency and accountability in action?!? At least Scott Brison was in the House to face the questions he dodged, this guy won't even be doing that. It is also really odd that a partisan unelected party loyalist is being given what has traditionally being the patronage rewards Ministry in our history. It leaves one forced to wonder what exactly Harper intends to do with that Ministry that Harper does not want the opposition being able to question the Minister about. If anything this is less transparent and less accountable than it was under the Martin regime, yet this is supposed to be a better more ethical and honest government as promised by Harper and the CPC as their central reason for Canadians to elect them? Massive hypocrisy here, and unfortunately what many of us feared would happen if Harper became PM.

The one moderately bright spot to me in all of this has been the generally negative response to Emerson from many (here are links within to many other BTs upset with this thanks to Damien's work) of the Blogging Tories. Andrew at Bound By Gravity is particularly disgusted, which I would have expected from him as he has always struck me as one of the most honest, honourable, and principle driven CPC online supporters. Unfortunately, one of the more common defences I have seen for Emerson is how he is qualified and a competent man for Cabinet while Stronach was clearly not as if that somehow made it all right what just happened. Another is the idea that it is more serious to cross the floor before a Confidence vote whereas doing so two weeks after an election is not so bad, again an argument that is nonsense. If anything Emerson's timing is worse than Stronach's, especially since Emerson is clearly acting out of person interests for power and not anything remotely resembling principles. If he was then he would have a history of being opposed to Liberal party policies/direction, yet there is zero evidence of that. Especially since he ran in a riding that is one the CPC got 18% voter support in, it is hard to see this as anything other than driven by expediency on his side and a willingness to bribe for an additional seat by Harper, one of the main things he felt should have brought the Martin Liberals down last May/June. What amazing hypocrisy.

I expected there to be something like this soon into Harper's time as PM, I never expected though that he would do things this offensive on his very first day as PM. I do not know what to call this aside from hubris and arrogant presumption that he feels he can get away with this kind of reversal from his campaign promises on accountability, transparency, and honest government which was the central theme of his campaign and what he was ultimately elected on. After all, more people voted CPC to remove the Liberals for their corruption and arrogance than did to support CPC policies. So for Harper to do this right on taking power must have more than a few Canadians going WTF and wondering if Harper is going to be as sleazy as the Liberals why then did we kick them out? At least the Liberals were known qualities on economics and social policy, whereas Harper has just demonstrated that the Harper of the election campaign is not the Harper moving into 24 Sussex Drive.

*addition* For those interested in reading some Blogging Tories defending this Emerson Cabinet appointment, try here and here.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Now this is ugly, I hope Conservatives do not embrace this without some real hard proof to support it

He hasn't been interim leader for 24 hrs before some in the Conservative online community are racing to the bottom in their choice of rhetoric to oppose Bill Graham with. This is truly disgusting. I do not know how true these allegations are, but since they were made several years ago and there does not seem to be any follow-up confirming these allegations I think it is a very dangerous road for any CPCer to be walking. This is arguably slanderous/libelous, and I guarantee that if this becomes known to the general Canadian public then there had better be real evidence to support it. Otherwise every CPCer that makes this claim will further help to paint the CPC as not only intolerant and extreme in their willingness to embrace anything that might discredit their opposition, but also that there is this guilty until proven innocent standard that CPCers use for Liberals on issues of criminal matters from Gomery to Grewal to Dingwall's expense accounts (unlike the lobby aspect which looked like it might actually have something to it) the Income Trust investigation and now this atrocity. This is very disturbing, and it is certainly a smear style piece of work. One other thing, if this becomes a CPCer talking point anytime soon it will also help paint the CPC as sore winners and nasty pieces of work, not exactly the image they have been trying to project since the election campaign began last year.

As well, this headline this blogger gave it not only paints Graham as a pedophile but the Liberal party as a "Pedophile cult". Is this what principled Conservativism in this country these days truly embraces?!? This is simply unacceptable language unless one can prove that this claim has facts behind it, and to date I know of no facts to support the contention that the Liberals are a "pedophile cult". This willingness to make such outrageous claims on the flimsiest of evidence (when there is any at all or it hasn't been faked up a la Grewal) speaks to a very dangerous mindset, and a complete contempt for anyone not of the "right" party/political affiliation. One can despise the Liberal party on principle, on ethics, on scandals without having to embrace such despicable, sleazy, and stomach turning tactics such as this piece of filth. Something that makes this particularly dangerous for the CPC to embrace this piece of filth instead of enouncing it is the fact that in 2004 Harper said Martin supported child pornography, and that did NOT sit well with the majority in this country, especially when Harper refused to apologize for it. If this charge is picked up by CPC supporters and repeated in the mainstream media sources then it is a virtual certainty it will cause many to remember the 2004 Martin charge by Harper, assuming of course the media itself doesn't do that first. That makes this particularly dangerous ground for the CPC on top of the other reasons I already listed.

***UPDATE Feb 4 06***

Already this is being pushed by both an anonymous poster (I wonder if it is OttawaCore's defender in my comments) and at least one commentator with an alias at Jason Cherniak's blog, Cherniak on Politics in two threads here and here. It would seem that there are those willing to push this despite the risks/dangers of doing so. Yet some critics thought I was making more of this than it deserved, that only one blogger commented on it therefore it was no big deal. Problem is, what one blogger posts can eaily be picked up by their readers and then spread, much like a virus can be spread by contact and in terms of how far and wide it can spread in a short period of time. I think this is something all of us that take such allegations seriously regardless of who makes it need to take to task wherever we can. It would be one thing if this allegation could be backed up with anything resembliing solid evidence, but to date that has been missing from all of this. Yet again though some CPC online supporters are more than willing to presume a Liberal is guilty until proven innocent on the flimisiest of evidence (if one even considers it that much) . Yet when any criticism is made of the CPC or any of it's members, then there must be solid evidence provided otherwise it is nothing but smear and fear politics. Well, calling someone a pedophile as a criticism of someone as a leader can only be described as fear and smear politics. Isn't it remarkable the moral relativism of these CPCers? What they decry when applied to them is something they will gleefully embrace where any of their political opponents are concerned. Yet these are the same voices for the most part that claim it is the "Left" that are the moral relativists and that they are the only ones with morals, consistency, principles, and apply them properly.

Boy they love to talk the talk, but when it comes time to walk the walk they are nowhere to be seen. Already we are seeing the importation of a philosphy that has taken root in America's conservative movement, IOKIYAR (It's O.K. If You Are Republican). For them it is IOKIYACPC. Got to be impressed though by the brazen hypocricies they are willing to commit while all the time claiming they aren't the ones doing so but all of their opponents/critics.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Now this was a disturbing read through

Every so often I go and read through some of the threads at the self described voice of principled Canadian Conservatism, Free Dominion. Not because I am inclined to agree with the views held by many there, although I will admit there are a few genuinely conservative voices there that I find reasonable, rational, and principled even on topics I disagree with them on, but to understand the thinking in that segment of our society. However, I also end up reading a bunch of regulars who fail to see the naked hate in their posts regarding homosexuals and homosexual rights in our society, and their confirmed belief that there is a long standing conspiracy of some sort in the "Left" in this country to legitimize homosexuals. From many of those that hold this view I keep seeing comments about how they hate the lifestyle, how they cannot abide sodomites, etc. One thing that never ceases to puzzle me though is the regular use of the word sodomite and the fixation on anal sex when discussing things like gay marriage. It bothers me because I would think that if one is truly opposed to gay rights, especially SSM, then you would be equally upset with the idea of two women being married, yet inevitably whenever sex acts are brought up it is always dealing with man-man sex only.

Why is that I wonder? Why is there such a monofocus on gay male sex and gay male relationships in so many comments by people that are opposing gay rights and SSM? Does this make any sense to anyone else? It has left me wondering more than once if the problem is not that these people are against gay equality in our society because they find it disgusting, but because at some point in their lives they found themselves aroused by the idea and this is a backlash response. Not to mention the theory some hold to that the more virulently anti-homosexual one is the more likely it is that this person has had some sort of homosexual experience or fantasy that left them feeling very confused, ashamed, and therefore feeling they need to be protected from any suggestions of homosexuality so as to not be tempted again. For myself, I suspect that is true for some and not for others, and since it is a very difficult thing to measure accurately it is not a theory I tend to subscribe to because to do so is to have to basically take it on faith as opposed to verifiable fact. Which incidentally is one of the problems I have with some of the more extreme suggestions regarding homosexuals, like they are mainly pedophiles, it is a claim of faith not fact, and worse since the facts actually have been measurable and measured and it is found that such is clearly not the case, that most pedophiles are heterosexual.

Then there is the claim that homosexuals receiving equal secular rights in our society is somehow inherently anti-Christian. What I find anti-Christian is the idea that it is appropriate to use the laws of the country to forcibly require citizens to have to follow the Christian doctrines on such issues, basically conversion by force instead of conversion by persuasion and example which is how I was raised to spread the word of Christ when I was still a practicing RC. Churches still are not required to recognize anything about homosexuality that conflicts with their doctrines within their congregations/churches. This idea that Churches will be forced to SSM against their will because of the Charter rights being recognized for homosexuals on SSM is nonsense. The legal history of the Charter on such is clear, just ask those that sued the RC Church to allow divorcees to remarry in the Church and the woman who sued under equality provisions to become a priests which were tossed out on Charter protection grounds in place for religions/Churches. This is a false argument, pure and simple.

As well at that thread it is interesting to see already some complaints from the socon crowd about Harper's campaign being without any focus on their issues, and this feeling of possibly being sold down the river by Harper and the CPC. This is not helped I suspect by some of the other FDers that support Harper abandoning any socon agenda and govern as a moderate party thereby making sure they can continue winning in elections. I knew there was going to be some grumbling about this after the election, although I did expect it to take a little longer. It will be very interesting to see when and how Harper fulfills the pledge to hold another free vote on SSM in this session of Parliament, and how this goes over within the socon constituency of the CPC base. We may already be seeing the beginnings of yet another fracture between the socons and the fiscons within the CPC, which also suggests to me that this merged party is far less cohesively knit together than has been claimed by CPC supporters over the past year or two.

Finally though, I would say this. Anyone that believes that homosexuality is deviancy and therefore needs to be eradicated from public view is in my mind a bigot. I don't care whether the belief is based on religious beliefs or not, such a belief is inherently bigoted. Last time I checked homosexuals were human beings just as we all are, no more and no less. They are also equal citizens of this country and have every right and reason to be expected to be treated as such by the laws of our society. They have the right to have equal access to ALL government institutions and structures, just like all other citizens are supposed to. To deny this is to deny equality, and worse IMHO, denies their essential humanity itself, which is something I cannot describe as anything other than xenophobic behaviour and intolerant bigotry. No doubt this is not going to sit well with some, but that is how I see it.