Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Snowflake wants to play house.

With a provincial election expected next year, the PQ is making Quebec independence the centre of its platform.

"The PQ's new education critic, Camil Bouchard, will organize a special party meeting in June to debate how the school system would be managed in a sovereign Quebec. "We have to build a school system for a country," Mr. Bouchard said."

Essentially, their policy platform exercise will be a big game of "Let's play Independent Country! You be the President, I'll be the Minister of Pompous Independent-Country Ministries. No wait. I want to be the President." "No, I want to be President!" "No fair! Mamaaaaaaan!"

Let me get this straight: A school system for a country? You mean, a system with subsized daycare, elementary school books with nationalized history and geography sections, a pre-university college system, that perhaps could be called oh, I don't know, "CEGEP", their own post-secondary tuition program, and world class universities (but without the evil Anglo "Mc" in the name) and all that? Gee, I really hope the PQ achieves their goal of separation so that they will be free of the oppressive constraining evil Canadian Federal Minister of Education who has held them back for so long.

Monday, January 30, 2006

She knew!

Hard to believe, but I think my worship level of Chantal Hebert has increased.

I was giving some pork loin chops a lovely Spanish treatment and listening to CBC One when a light went off. Chantal knew McKenna wasn't going to run!

So did she figure it out or was she tipped off? Her style is analysis and logic like Coyne, not sources and rumour like Taber. Intriguing...

Anyway, here's my reasoning:

Here, I pointed out that she said McKenna's resignation from the ambassadorship didn't mean he was going to run, just that it was something he had to do.

And then today, in discussing the Liberal leadership race, she did not mention his name at all.

Odd, except until this afternoon when McKenna declined to run.

Granted, she didn't comment on what card game Frank was playing when he came to his decision, but still....tricky Chantal...if only you'd go back to that matte-effect hair product, I'd have a new religion.

Get over it

Why is it, that any time there is some preceived slight to Islam, all hell has to break loose?

I'm not saying passing on the cartoon, though it didn't seem like a big deal to me. But really, surely the hallmark of a civilized society is that we can all handle these things maturely.

I mean, when Americans started calling french fries Freedom Fries, the American embassy in Paris wasn't sacked.

When Pat Buchannan called Canada a "Soviet Canuckistan," there were no riots in the streets of Toronto.

When Carolyn Parrish said, "Damn Americans, I hate those bastards," you didn't see the Maple Leaf being burned in New York and DC and Air Canada offices being ransacked.

And that guy from Hamas who was on NPR yesterday, talking about how he'd visited the US and seen homosexuals and their "animal acts," and how as a result Hamas wouldn't allow decadent Western hedonist tourism. As I drove home to West Hollywood, I didn't see a gaggle of my bretheren protesting (with witty signs and fabulous outfits perfectly accessorized), beating up Palestinians, or rushing to any Hamas offices to redecorate burn them to the ground.

Are these people just anxious for any reason to riot? Is it because, in the dictatorships where they live, they never see unflattering presentations of themselves or their leaders and are thus so sensitive that the tiniest thing sets them off?

What if the West responded the same way? Every time a Church in the Middle East were vandalized, or a suicide bomber blew up a Western tourist, or some leader made a ridiculous remark about the West, we attacked mosques or trade missions or beat up someone with dark skin in retaliation? The world would manage some sort of collective apoplexy.

There's always going to be someone somewhere saying something stupid or rude or false or untrue. Grown-ups take it in stride and make a snappy comeback. Infants throw tantrums.

Executing executives who break the law

Today is the anniversary of the execution of King Charles I.

The critical point, so often missed, is that Charles was tried, as King. He was then executed, as King. He had not been deposed. His place had not been taken. He was brought to trial while still acknowledged as King, and remained King until the axeman's blade struck.

He was tried according to the Common Law of England for breaking the law. He was tried for having though himself above the law - for breaching the principle that the law applies to the common man as much as it does the sovereign. For example, Under Charles' reign, defendants were regularly hauled before the Court of Star Chamber without indictment, due process of the law, right to confront witnesses, and their testimonies were routinely extracted by the King and his courtiers through extensive torture. Sound familiar?

The English, and by consequence the Empire/Commonwealth, established that principle then, and have never deviated from it.

It is too bad that this lesson appears not to have been learned here in the US.

Big profits while screwing the little guy

It's very comforting to find out that Exxon has posted the largest profit for any company in U.S. history, all the while we're being told that skyrocketing gas prices have everything to do with supply and demand.

Now, I'm not an economist, but this seems just a little silly. While I have no problem with high gas prices, since it most impacts those jerks in SUVs who cut me off on my way to work or those guys with small penises who drive Hummers, and seems to have effectively snuffed out the market for gas guzzlers, it's galling at the same time to realize that all this time, big corporations are getting fat on their profits. Windfall tax, anyone?

The stars are lining up for Dion

Frank McKenna is not running for Liberal leader.

Wow. Dion vs. Ignatieff in my dreams. We might actually get a debate! of ideas! Wow.

The word according to Chantal, Part 2.

She may be a bit late joining the parade (ahem), but the Star's Chantal Hebert finally throws in her two cents: it may be time for the Liberals to consider Dion for leader!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Fanning the flames of hate

Sometimes, when the drumbeats of intolerance start to send out their messages of hate, couching them in arguments of "it harms families" and "children will be worse off," I wish people would look either to Massachusetts, north to Canada, or to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain.

If those countries were looked at, there would be evidence for or against the positions those into banning gay marriage take, on "damaging hetero marriage" or "hurting families." I'm pretty sure that those arguments would fail.

And then those who want to ban gay marriage would have to fall back to what their arguments really are: We just think it's icky, and that they're second-class citizens. I'm sure that the good people of this country, who might fall for the fallacious "fact-based" arguments, would wake up and say, "I may not like it, but I'm not going to write discrimination back into the Constitution, after so much struggle to get rid of it."

Speech from the Throne

Lewis Gold, in today's Washington Post (which I'm reading in my office, such is my life these days), in arguing the State of the Union Address should be abolished, makes this comparison:

[T]he State of the Union has evolved into a semi-imperial speech from the throne.

Not really. Two points. First, the State of the Union is meant to be retrospective or at least introspective - a comment on the state of the union. A throne speech is forward looking - this is what the government is going to do in this session of parliament.

Second, a throne speech has its pomp and circumstance, with the GG arriving in her Landau and various dignitaries being in the Senate chamber and whatnot, but they aren't like a State of the Union speech, with the applause every ten words or so. Watching a State of the Union is sickening - they remind me of speeches Stalin would give, where the party faithful would rise up and applaud and no one wanted to be seen either not standing, or to be the first to stop clapping. The worst part of it is watching Supreme Court Justices, in their robes, having to stand, but not clapping rather than being allowed to remain seated in acknowledgment of their co-equal status (given the Congress has abdicated its own).

Okay - I'm sure that the comment was an offhand one, given Americans obsession with the idea they were once subject to some sort of absolute monarchy and rebelled because they were routinely whipped and beaten by British Officers (as opposed to, say, being taxed to pay for the war Britain had just fought to make them secure, or being banned from expanding past the Appalachians and slaughtering Indians) from which throne Diktats routinely issued. But the point is nevertheless valid that events like the State of the Union are meaningless, partisan advertising made to the sound of the clapping of trained seals.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

On the outside looking in

In addition to Margaret Wente's "I'll say what you're really thinking, so you don't have to" columns, one of my guilty pleasures is reading the unashamed Toronto-centric musings of John Barber in the Globe and Mail. A self-professed eastern bastard, Barber's Saturday's column calls for a new urban agenda funded by energy taxes. It's up for grabs for the next Liberal leader to exploit. But he also suggests that the Tories might be the ones to realistically make it happen. Giving cities the funds they need via carbon taxes with its shades of the hated NDP might be something only the Tories can do. A line of thinking that runs along the lines of "only Nixon can go to Chindia"

The article lurches around with no focus, so I think that's what he's calling for. But his opening is just golden:

"On election day, a press release from the Centre for Family Literacy in Edmonton, headlined "Two in Five Adult Albertans Cannot Read," crossed my desk. Puzzled at first, I soon realized what that two in five was up to (apart from voting for Stephen Harper). They're blogging.

And they're still hard at it a week later, their triumphalism undercut by the usual complaints about the godless eastern bastards who have once again, perversely, voted for parties that promised to protect their own interests.

As lonely as it may seem, we are lucky to be excluded from this new world. Last week, the cities agenda was a vague wish list at the margins of Canadian political consciousness. Today it represents the single greatest challenge to the new government, a wish list made manifesto by city voters' wholesale rejection of Tory policies.

Now that the west is in, it's better for us to be out."

This seems to be an emerging theme from urban leaders: We can get more out of Harper by being on the outside of power, so let's exploit it. Look how much return Toronto got from voting in Liberal after Liberal, twelve years of being taken for granted.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Why is it that Republicans, and many ordinary Americans, have this belief that democracy is in and of itself the answer to everything - that all we have to do is give the people a ballot box and peace, prosperity, freedom, justice, the rule of law, and cheap candy will blossom up? Bush constantly invokes this mantra - it's all about "Freedom" - some nebulous idea that we can all aspire to.

John Dickerson, in Slate, sums it up perfectly:

President Bush believes in a simple formula. Democracy is good. Terrorism is evil. When democracy is introduced in hostile countries it acts like enchanted water: Apply a drop and liberty flowers. That theory, never plausible, obviously has now been undone: The victory of the radical Islamic organization Hamas in the Palestinian elections demonstrates that democracy and terrorism are not mutually exclusive.
Add to the mix Iraq. Somehow, Dubya and co (he's just SO awesome) have this belief that "democracy" necessarily encompasses the meaning "secular westernism"; that in Iraq, once we opened up the polling stations, the masses would say, "oh yes, we want secular, nonreligious candidates and a western-style liberal democracy, and we'll add to that a secular Canadio-American Bill of Rights." Um. Wrong. Very wrong. That bit about the Shiites winning 48% or so kinda disproves the point. What's Bush's solution? "You can have any democracy you want, as long as it's one we approve of"?

That, as an expat, is something I've always thought Americans don't get. We (being one) think of foreigners as either a) Americans who dress/eat/talk funny, or b) if given the chance, would like nothing better than to become American. We assume that foreigners should or do react to events/stimuli exactly like we do, and then get mad at them (i.e. the French/Germans/Canadians) when they don't.

So now, we've bombed one country into democracy, and encouraged another, and what do we have? A country with a sharia-based constitution where the biggest party is made up of fundamentalists (Iraq), and a zone that we want to become a country run by a party of Islamic terrorists.

Apparently it takes a little more than just a ballot box.

Voting for Dion

Here's a fun single transferrable vote poll for liberal leader. Dion's apparently in the lead. YAY Dion!!!

Hat tip to Andrew Coyne.

Ethical purity . . .

It's quite entertaining to hear all the voices of Western and Tory triumphalism announcing an end to unethical behaviour, as if the Liberal party had a monopoly on it.

Apparently, however, before even forming the Government, Harper disregarded House ethics rules.

Politicians are politicians, be it that they're wearing red, blue, or orange. To pretend otherwise is delusional and ahistorical.

Lessons from Canada

Again, while most foreign media are taking the superficial view that Canada has gone right-wing, a few insightful articles are popping up here and there, looking for the real story.

The Guarniad says it's time to stop using the US as a model for UK politics. There are more valuable lessons to be learned in Canada.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pundit Hair Watch

Raced home to catch CBC National's At Issue panel tonight...shocked and dismayed to see that Paul Wells wasn't there. Where are you Paul? I know you were at Pearson this afternoon...

I had to settle for David Bercuson as his replacement. Easy hair to judge. Comb over. Nuff said. On to Andrew Coyne. Was looking good, neatly combed. As for Chantal, I was disappointed...her hair just hasn't matched the styling she managed back in December. But I'll still be watching.

Oh and if you're curious, they talked about the realities that have set in, 48 hours later. Essentially, Harper needs to govern according to his very narrow mandate, and consensus was that he realizes this. Chantal said he needs to get through his first 100 days exactly the way Martin didn't, that is, being decisive. First 100 days? More like Martin's entire term in office. All agreed that Harper owes nobody in his party anything, with regards to cabinet seats. Mackay didn't deliver the Atlantic, Alberta was all sown up, and Quebec was all his. So that process will be easy for him. Bercuson and Coyne suggested that the party's social conservative agenda is dead on arrival. Harper will hold the SSM vote, lose it, get it out of the way now while the Liberals are leaderless, and then move on.

They briefly touched on McKenna...Chantal felt that his resignation was logical purely from the standpoint that he was a political appointee. He had to resign, even if he wasn't running for leader. Coyne said a McKenna coronation would be a mistake. Bercuson said they must have a leadership race to bury the civil war wounds.

Over all, a great At Issue. Would have been better with Paul there. He could have cleaned up in the hair department. As it stands, I had to go with Coyne as having the best do. But if Paul comes back, and Chantal rediscovers that magical product she was using, hoo boy, watch out, all bets are off.

I just joined the ACLU

And you should too.

One more step

This is the ruling from Maryland saying that Maryland's law banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

It's all about baby steps. Of course we're hearing the usual "activist judges" nonsense, and how this is going to destroy marriage and destroy our freedom and society and whatnot, but it's a step nonetheless.

I think it very intersting that the opinion rests not on discrimination based on sexual orientation, but based on gender. I'm not sure if the logic can hold, particularly when Washington and Vermont rejected that argument. It goes like this: [The law] bars a man from marrying a male partner when a woman would enjoy the right to marry that same male partner. As compared to the woman, the man is disadvantaged solely because of his sex." Deane & Polyak v. Conway, 24-C-04-005390, Slip op. at 10 (Md. Cir. 2006).

Applying even a rational basis test, though, the court found there was no legitimate state interest served.

First, the court said that "the prevention of same-sex marriages is wholly unconnected to promoting the rearing of children by married, opposite-sex partents. This Court, like others, can find no rational connection between the prevention of same-sex marriages and an increase or decrease in the number of children born to those unions." The court also rejected the argument that opposite-sex households were the optimal environment to raise kids. Id at 15.

The Government had also argued that the law was necessary to preserve federal and interstate definitional uniformity. The Court also rejected this argument: "Under Defendants' analysis, a denial of a right, invalid under the Maryland Constitution, would be validated in Maryland when another state acted identically, engaging in conduct that would have been unconstitutional in Maryland except for the very fact of the other state's action." Id. at 17.

The Court finally smacked down the tradition argument:

Although tradition and societyal values are important, they cannot be given so
much weight that they alone will justify a discriminatory statutory classification. When tradition is the guise under which predjudice or animosity hides, it is not a legitimate state interest. Similarly, expressing moral disapproval of a class is not sufficient to sustain a classification where there is no other legitimate state interest.

Take that, conservatives.

Don't cry for me, US progressives

the truth is, we never left you! (cue Andrew Lloyd Weber)

Interesting, but not entirely unexpected. Elements of the US media have been spinning the Harper victory as a repudiation of progressive principles.

Well this well-written piece (aside from the irritating use of the incorrect 'Progressive Conservative' label) gives some advice and solace to US progressives alarmed at 'Canada's lurch to the right', and urges them not to 'cry for Canada'.

Why is Bush SO awesome?

This is fantastic: A video compilation of people answering the question "Why is Bush so awesome?"


The Star beats the drums again

Don't get me wrong - I'm as displeased by Harper as PM as anyone.

But really, this is going just a bit too far.

It is funny, however.

Ut incipit Fidelis sic permanet

With Martin gone, it looks a little like Ontario may be returning to its normal role - the nice, benevolent defender of federalism that puts its own interests second.

Murray Campbell writes in today's Globe:

But the prospect of victory in the Battle of the Fiscal Gap seems to make Mr. McGuinty nervous. Even as he said he welcomed Mr. Harper's overtures, he warned, "Ontario will not support any effort that would weaken our country."

Exactly. Always, Ontario has sat back and accepted being disadvantaged or accepted that it doesn't get its way, all to keep the country running smoothly. Ontario could flex its muscles and demand that its interests come first (much like, oh, Alberta and Quebec do).

[Were his comments] -- and this is more likely -- a warning shot across the Conservative bow to avoid that old Joe Clark "community of communities" shtick and not to go too far in accommodating the Bloc Québécois in the interest of sustaining his slim minority in Parliament?

This would be a welcome thing.

Dion's Quebec "baggage"

One of the main criticisms of Stephane Dion's leadership potential is that he isn't liked in Quebec...

Just like Chretien wasn't liked in Quebec.

And our new prime minister.

Dislike/shmislike. If you put forward policies based on truth and conviction and logic (ie. the federal Clarity Act) and are willing to defend them with passion and reason, then reasonable rational people will respect you, even if, shocker, they may disagree with you. They might even vote for you, especially when faced with likeable (matinee idol good-looking) but ultimately convinction-less alternatives.

"Live by the polls/die by the polls" Dithers never got that. Take an issue and ram it down their throats, if you truly believe in the correctness of it. That's leadership.

The most usual of the usual suspects

Ok, so we didn't mention Alan "Cipro" Rock, or Captain Canada (Tobin). In all honesty, we forgot.
Amazing that Bevilacqua gets mentioned, but not Rock or Tobin!
Who is he paying? And why isn't it us?

Christian Heritage Front calls Dean an "Abomination"

Now, I'm sure some of our acute readers have noticed that Mike and I have more than a passing or academic interest in certain issues like Same-Sex Marriage. My riding in particular meant a lot to me, given that the Liberal candidate Mark Holland was being challenged by Rondo Thomas, a nutcase theocon who thinks that God's law should be imposed on us all and we homos sent off to camps or something.

What unfortunately escaped my radar was that there was another theocon running for office in Ajax-Pickering: This guy. He managed all of 435 votes (to Holland's 25,556). Naturally, being the somewhat fesity boy that I can be, I wrote him to congratulate him on his successes.

His response was wonderful. After congratulating me in my interest in Canadian democracy, he made the following wonderful observation:

We live in an orderly world- there are laws of nature that make this planet what it is, whether you believe them or not. Take gravity, for example. I have the freedom to choose whether I believe in it or not. But if I jump off a skyscraper, my beliefs have no effect because the law is there- I will experience the negative consequences of breaking it. Likewise, there are moral laws put in place by the Creator of humankind, which when contravened, will also have negative effects. God created these natural and moral laws because He cares about the people he created just like a loving parent cares about their children and makes rules like "don't touch the stove" or "don't go in the cookie jar." It's not to spoil our fun, but because He wants what's best for us. But, like the law of gravity, it is your choice to believe that the moral law

I love it. It certainly speaks for itself. Of course, my parents always let me go into the cookie jar, so I suppose that they're headed to hell with me. Naturally, of course, he does his biblical cherry picking, which I've commented on before.

But then came the kicker. After giving me this nice lecture about God's law (and I'm sorry, to me, our law is much more important), he proceeds to call us abominations:

Often gay people have been hurt by Christians who tell them that they are commiting an abomination." I feel that it needs to be made clear that God also calls lying, cheating, and pride an abomination- of which I myself, and probably most of us are guilty of at times. But God's love for us is greater than His hate for sins of all kinds- that is why He will forgive us if we are sorry.

Notice he doesn't say that he doesn't think we're committing an abomination. No. He says that lying, cheating, and pride are also abominations. And guess what? I'm not sorry, and I don't think I need to be forgiven. Well, maybe by the woman I cut off as I drove through Beverly Hills, or that guy I never called back, but not by Norng's god.

Norgn has two kids (they must be young, the guy is only 25). One day I hope one of them comes to him and says, "Dad, I'm gay." The touching part will be watching him choose between his God and his child. The sad thing is, there are too many parents who make the wrong choice there.

What gets me the most about these theocons is how they preach love from one side of their mouth, and then hate from the other while couching it in some patronizing christian-man's-burden tone. He also, of course, misses that other churches don't quite have the same take on god's law as he does.

Anyway, if any of our good readers would like to join in the chorus of congratulations, he can be reached here.

I confess to having some bias here. The Christian Heritage Front/Party targeted members of my family some years ago. In the pre-internet days, members of my family found themselves featured on the CHF's phone-in hate line, for doing such unchristian things as opposing racism . . .

Update: As my tag teaming buddy Mike points out, if it really is against god's law, god's pretty lax on the enforcement side of things. A few well-placed lightning bolts would do wonders for deterrence.

Never give power to those who seek it

To follow up on Dean's post about Dion below (and what a post, it got us noticed by Paul Wells and Andrew Coyne...high honours indeed. Hi guys! I guess I'll have to be nicer when I do Pundit Hair Watch tonight).

I've noticed that quite a few media commentators preface their reports on the Liberal leadership race by saying "while I personally think Dion would be a great choice..." and then go on to talk about the Usual Suspects.

This morning, I listened to Jane Taber on CBC's The Current this morning, going over the Liberal leadership hopefuls. Not a word about Dion. Well, sometimes Taber misses an angle. Hard to believe, considering she reported on the menu at Boolinda's floor-crossing negotiations.

But anyway, I digress. The Usual Suspects were trotted out:

McKenna: Obvious messianic choice. We saw where that got the Liberals.
Manley: My secret (well, not anymore) preference. His northern tiger idea was always dear to my heart.
Cauchon: To be watched. not sure why. just a hunch.
Bevilacqua: I keep shaking my head at this one. How does his name keep getting trotted out? Who is he paying?
Ignatieff: To much baggage. And he has barely lived in Canada. So now you want to lead it?
Brison: You've got to be kidding. Nice guy, but he has baggage too. Dean and I met Brison once. And we'll leave where and when out of it.
Boolinda: Baggage! too tangled of a past. she's coming into her own as an MP, but not as leadership material.
Rae: He's being 'wooed'. wooed? please. see above, re: baggage.

And the elephant in the room nobody is talking about: Sheila anyone? Anyone?

Perhaps the Liberals should avoid the big leader, the flashy leader, the charismatic leader. In fact, I'd say that they should try and make the party larger than the leader. Make it a party of ideas, with a vision. A party of one man will fail, as it just did. Whoever ends up leading the party should become great by circumstance, and not by ambition. You know, that line about great leaders having power thrust upon them. Naive likely. Idealistic, you bet. But that's how people think in moments of change and hope, before cold hard realities descend.

So who is best to make the party itself more important than the leader, and leave party leadership politics behind? Just prior to Martin's concession speech, they asked Dion about Martin's future. He said "I am always loyal to the leader". An admirable statement, but possibly also a dig at Martin. Loyal to Chretien, loyal to Martin, sure. But what he was really saying was, loyal to the party, loyal to the person who leads it. Dion understands that the party needs to be bigger than one man.

Another piece of wisdom: be suspicious of those who want power. Only give it to those who don't want it.

Dean and I agree: Dion for leader!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Why is no one talking about Dion

Why why why why why???

The usual names are being thrown around - Manley, Rock, Ignatieff, Stronach (please!), etc. But no one is bringing up Stephane Dion. He's the one minister that throughout the sponsorship inquiry maintained integrity. He's the strongest federalist in the country. His methodical, passionate defence of the federation during the Chretien years was wonderful. He is brilliant.

If one percent of the attention being lavished on Ignatieff were being focused on Dion, we'd be signing his praises to the heavens.

And another note: They should have parachuted Ignatieff into a western riding. Given that Westerners never seem to go for Ontarians, even though Quebecers and Ontarians will apparently happily vote for a Westerner (just not us treacherous latte-sipping Torontonians), if the Liberals want to get the West back, they should have put him in a Vancouver riding.

Sometimes, it takes looking South . . .

. . . to see how good we have it. No matter what you think of our leaders' ideological stance, at least ours can string a sentence together (even the Jeanfather at his worst wasn't so bad). Could you imagine Bush in Question Period? Here's his verbatim, off-the-cuff answer to a question at his recent unscripted briefing:

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: I don’t really understand. How is it the new plan going
to fix the problem?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Because the — all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases There’s a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those — changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be — or closer delivered to that has been promised. Does that make any sense to you? It’s kind of muddled. Look, there’s a series of things that cause the — like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate — the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised
benefits grow, if those — if that growth is affected, it will help on the red.’

Is Same Sex Marriage Safe, Part 2

Worth considering is that 3 of 5 Tories who lost their seats in BC were social conservatives. Also, I don't think it is safe to assume that all Tories will vote against SSM. John Baird and James Moore are two MPs who are on record as being in favour. There are undoubtably more, particularly the Quebec Tories.

The key thing to consider here is that Stephen Harper commands a very narrow minority. With at most two years to govern, he will be looking to translate this into a majority. That majority will come from BC, from Quebec, and most importantly, from the urban areas of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. He has to hold this vote, he has committed to it. I'm not convinced he wants to win it. Consequently, I'm not convinced all members of his party want to win it either.

But it will be interesting. And yes, my money is on it happening sooner rather than later, while the Liberals are in disarray.

Is Same Sex Marriage Safe

I've done this while I should be working so it's rough, but here are some thoughts.

Let's evaluate the Same Sex marriage free vote potential. I'm going to take worst-case scenario for Tories and best case for NDP and for Bloc. I figure that the few Tories who vote to maintain it will be cancelled out by the few NDP/Blocheads who go against their party lines.

That means, absent Liberals, we have 124 against, and 80 for.

With the Liberals, last time around, 37 voted against SSM (or were absent or paired). Many of them were re-elected. By my count, 28 of those 37 were re-elected (only Carr, Gallaway, Lastweka, Longfield, Savoy, and Ur lost).

So we have 28 guaranteed Liberal votes against SSM (or for a Harper motion repealing). Now that there is no cabinet, it's anyone's guess how they fall. I'm going to guess that the remaining Liberals vote in favour, since the incumbents did last time and no one knows how new candidates will go. That means there are 75 Liberal votes for SSM.

Thus, my simple, simple math gets us to this calcuation:

Against SSM: 124 Tories and 28 Liberals = 152
For SSM: 51 Bloc + 29 NDP + 75 Liberals = 155
One independent.

Basically, it's close. Very close.

Two calculations then come into play. First, how many Liberals who voted against SSM last time will decide either a) the issue has been put to bed, let's just leave it; or b) decide that it will help the Liberals to portray the Tories as socially conservative barbarians by swallowing their objections and voting to uphold SSM.

Second, given how close it is, will Harper decide to just let this issue slide in order to build his government and focus on other priorities, not wanting Canadians to get an early impression that he has a social agenda.

At the same time, Harper could also profit from ramming his motion through now while the Liberals are headless, rather than face the issue later in his Parliament when the opposition will be less inclined to make it work.

Western Triumphalism

I'm a bit over hearing this stuff about the West "being in."

First, all the snivelling that Albertans did the last election and the one before when their man didn't become PM, and they blamed us treacherous easterners. Let's look at history. First, provincially, in my lifetime, Ontario has had a Tory government (Davis), a Liberal/NDP (Peterson/Rae), a Liberal (Peterson), an NDP (Rae), a Tory (Harris/Eves) and now a Liberal government. For exactly how many years in the last 50 have Tories been in power in Alberta? Since 1971, Tories. From 1935-71, SoCred (i.e. Tories).

How about Federally? Alberta has returned nothing but Tory or Reform/Alliance MPs, apart from the occasional Liberal exception. Ontario? Gave Mulroney plenty of Tories, gave Harper some, gave Harper more this time. Ontario sends some NDP MPs too.

So to hear the one-party state complain that the rest of the country, in the last few elections, didn't wholesale go for the Tories/Alliance/Reform parties is ridiculous. Have you heard Ontarians complain that the rest of the country doesn't follow its lead? Never. Did you hear Atlantic Canadians lamenting their rejection ever, or saying "We should go it on our own?" No. Only from Alberta, which incidentally has fewer MPs than ignored and disregarded Toronto.

Further, in Alberta, the Tories commanded only 48% of the vote, but got all the seats. That means a majority of Albertans would rather have someone other than Harper as Prime Minister. Democratic deficit? That's Exhibit A right there.

So, please, let's get over "the West is in." No. We now have real national parties, which means we're ALL in. And if Harper tries to govern as if now Calgary and Calgarian values are those of Canadians, wonder how long he'll last. Not long, I'd say.

Let's also remember that the left wing parties still have a commanding majority of the seats. It is not the case that Canadians have embraced Tory values - 64% of Canadians voted for left-wing or centre-left parties.

Bush made the mistake of claiming a mandate with his recent win. Harper does not even have that. He shouldn't make the mistake of governing as if he has.

This feels right

It's a grey conservative morning in Canada, but it's a good day for Canada.

  • The West is finally in, but not so 'in' that they are insufferable.
  • Quebec has decided to play ball again with federal politics. The Bloc reduced to 40% support! I'm sure Gilles and Snowflake are worried.
  • The power couple of the Canadian Left is together at last! If you thought the Jack show was good, just you wait for the Jack and Olivia show!

All is right in my little political world right now.

Let's see how long it lasts.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Improving relations

While I'm all for cross-border cooperation, and especially good cross-border interaction, Harper's promise to "improve relations" with the US strike me as a little silly.

The principal reason relations are not the best is because we're actually sticking up for such quaint ideas as the rule of law and adhering to signed agreements. You know, free trade, torture, illegal wars, that kind of thing.

So while an argument can be made that maybe Martin should have said "Please, sir," a little more before he said, "Why don't you honour the agreements you sign with us?" at the end of the day, anything Harper says he would do seems like it would come at the expense of our interests. Like conceding the softwood lumber deal.

A colleague of mine here made this observation, with which I'll close:

Oddly, the Tory idea of "improving relations" is similar to a large swath of Democratic leaders' (think Lieberman) idea of "bipartisanship." Which is convenient, since Bush's ideas of both "improving relations" with Canada and "bipartisanship" is largely "bending them over and screwing them."


No, not the end of Paul Martin.

The end of electronic manacles. An end to wireless bondage. Casting off email handcuffs.

If my Blackberry were shut down tomorrow, it would easily be the best thing that has ever happened to me. Being able to leave the office in the office, to not be perpetually on call, to not feel guilty if you leave the house for an hour and forget the damn device - i.e. a return to normal, civilized business culture - would be the greatest miracle ever.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Movies changing people

This, on Daily Kos, is an interesting read on how a movie can change the minds of men.

Hat tip to John at A Lie a Day.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I'm the Judge

Some days, I particularly enjoy my job. When you spend the day reading some really boring transcripts, something like this makes it sort of worth it (yeah, I'm a dork)

THE COURT: You asked him what he said. He's told you ad nauseam what he said.

ATTORNEY: I object to the "ad nauseam."

THE COURT: I'm the Judge. I get to make cutting remarks.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Law firm musings

As some of our regular readers know or can guess, I work at a big law firm. Most of the time, I enjoy my job, the hours notwithstanding. I certainly got lucky and have good cases that actually engage my brain; some of my poor colleagues don't have it that way and loathe their jobs for more than just the hours and the sense of always being on call.

As a big firm, we obviously pride ourselves on "excellence." But I'm starting to think that this obsessions, which we tout as one of our big selling points, really hurts our clients.

For example, a case I'm on is approaching trial right now, and it's a huge trial. We have a lot of stuff that needs to be done and done NOW.

I recently did a big memo, answering a bunch of questions. I sent it to a partner for review, who made no disagreements with my logic or my answer, but wanted me to make it more "concise" before it could be sent to those who need it. So I spent an extra four hours editing it - even though it contained the answers we needed and needed NOW, and even though during those four hours I could have been answering any one of the remaning 500 questions that need to be answered before trial.

Likewise when we write things. Sometimes we spend all-nighters editing documents for style, when these documents are trivial things that will be read by the clerk and filed. Debating whether we use the word "Thus" instead of "therefore."

At our billing rates, this seems ridiculous. Our clients pay us for results, not pretty memos with the words aligned just so, or for perfectly concise writing in internal memos.

At the end of the day, I shouldn't care - as long as I have work, I can bill hours, and leave it to the partners to explain to the client. But really, when our focus is to get the job done, if the internal steps aren't pretty, they'll at least be more cost-effective. I would hate to explain to a client that we lost an issue at trial because we couldn't research it because we were busy making a prior memo a work of art, rather than a functional tool.

Ridiculous public opinion polls

This is such nonsense.

These sorts of opinion polls are meaningless. Do you think that there are 10,000 people in all of Canada who can even name 5 supreme court opinions, other than the Separation Reference and the Same Sex Marriage Reference? Or even name five justices? Sure, they might be able to articulate the words "politics has tained the Supreme Court," but then if asked to explain exactly how, they could no more give a meaningful answer (other than invoking the shibboleth of "activist judges") than they could translate R. v. Oakes from English or French into Amharic.

These sorts of polls should be prefaced with a qualification quiz. And polls like this make me believe there should be a basic qualifying exam before people are allowed to vote in an election. When you have, as here in the US, 12% of the population believing that Joan of Arc was Noah's wife, trusting complex matters of national policy to an unthinking, uninformed electorate means politicians pander to fears, make populist arguments that ignore nuance, ignore meaning, and ignore any sort of substance.

The eternal war

A Lie a Day makes an excellent point today: It took the US and UK (and Canada) less time to invade, defeat, and occupy Germany, Italy, and Japan, than it has to track down Osama bin Laden.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The knives aren't even out . . .

. . . and yet the backstabbing has begun.

Shows you the calibre of people Martin surrounded himself with - not True Believers, but rather, people who wanted power. Now they know their great white knight is about to exit not with a bang but with a pathetic whimper, they jump ship, trying to find the next great star to attach themselves to.

Pathetic. If McKenna - or anyone else - has any sense, he'll tell Martin's lot that, far from being an effective group, they took down the most successful modern Prime Minster, they took the leadership not because of a competing vision for the Party but just so they could have it, and then ran a bad, and then an absolutely incompetent campaign, thrusting power into Steven Harper's hands.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Proof the Libs know they're doomed

Warren Kinsella give a compelling proof that the Liberals know they're about to lose:

A sitting Prime Minister personally approving an ad that defames a sitting president, with whom he would presumably need to work, after an election? That's a Prime Minister who is returning to the private sector. He knew it was all over when he approved those ads. They were designed to protect what few ridings he had left, not expand his base.
An excellent point. I agree completely with TDH Strategies on this being a good thing:

What people tend to forget is that being a Liberal has never had to do with the outcome of a leadership race, and so those underlings and hanger-ons (including those MPs and Ministers that were so anxious to sack the most successful leader
in a generation for their own personal gain) who took a trip on Paul Martin's train deserve everything they get for forgetting why they believed in Liberal values in the first place. . . Paul Martin never represented those ideals for thousands of party faithful across the country, and now is the time to not only choose a new leader, but to reform this party into something we can all be proud of once again.
Martin has been a spectacular failure as a leader, as a politician, as a liberal or as a Liberal. Let's now pray there's a Tory minority, a massive Liberal bloodbath, and a rebirth of the true Liberal party. Of course, my view of the true Liberal party more or less necessitates the resurrection of Trudeau, but I'll leave the mechanics of that to the more metaphysically-inclined.

Ghosts of Mulroneys Past

Today's Globe cartoon is brilliant.

It must be that enough time has passed that Canadians have forgotten Mulroney enough to move on. The interesting part to me is that Ontarians, only a few years after Harris, are able to deal with Harper. But then, federal and provincial parties have enough disconnect (i.e. Quebec Liberal Party and Federal Liberal Party) that Harris might be vaguely irrelevant.

If you're beneath them, attack them

For all the Sturm und Drang that goes on about the recent attack ads in Canada, nothing compares there to what we have to endure down here.

E.J. Dionne, in the WashPost, points out how Bush and Cheney - neither of whom have served in the military (well, Dubya "served") - have turned on John Murtha, as they did on Kerry, questioning his patriotism, his loyalty to his country, and his support for the military.

Forget that he served in Vietnam - where they didn't. Forget that he has constantly supported the Administration. Oh no. Forget that he was awarded two Purple Hearts. Apparently he didn't deserve them.

Dionne writes:

In any event, what we know about Murtha, McCain, Kerry and, yes, Bailey, is that they served in combat in Vietnam. What we know about Bush and Vice President Cheney ("I had other priorities in the '60s than military service'') is that they didn't.

What's maddening here is the unblushing hypocrisy of the right wing and the way it circulates -- usually through Web sites or talk radio -- personal vilification to abort honest political debate.

And he continues, with the double standard:

When a Democrat went to war, there must have been something wrong with the way he did it. Gore's service was dismissed because he worked "only" as a military journalist. You can even find Bush's defenders back in 2000 daring to argue that flying planes over Texas was actually more dangerous than joining the Army and serving in Vietnam the way Gore did.

The Republicans had an even bigger problem with Kerry, who did unquestionably dangerous duty patrolling rivers. Not to worry. The Swift Boat Veterans simply smeared him.

But then - we know all about the double standard. Clinton lied about a blowjob from some saucy intern. And they impeached him. Dubya has lied about the war in Iraq, he's broken the law with spying and with torture, he's lost a major city, his Congressional lieutenants are all facing corruption charges - and not a single Republican bats an eyelash.

As I've said before - I'll take one for the team and blow him. Then we might get progress.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Alito - all process, no humanity

As my tag-team buddy keeps up his commentary on the Election, I'll keep up a sustained banging on Alito hearings.

David Broder, in the Post, makes the excellent point that Alito's a company man. He writes, "At no point that I heard did Alito express sympathy for the men and women who came to his court looking for help -- and were turned away." This matches my own view on Conservatives - if they can find a way to read a statute ueber-narrowly, they will, letting the statute triumph over either the intent behind it (think of the ADA or various civil rights provisions), or the people whom it is meant to benefit.

A shocking case Broder points to is one in which an all white jury convicted a black man, where the local prosecutors had eliminated all blacks from the jury in five trials over the past year. Ignoring supreme court precedent to the contrary, Alito dismissed the complaint (mercifully in dissent) with the trite line: "Although only about 10 [percent] of the population is left-handed, left-handers have won five of the last six presidential elections."

His fellow judges criticized this analogy, which he explained in the hearings with some dry, technical answer, ignoring completely the human fact behind the case.

If this is what we want - machines who will do their best to ignore the fact that the Constitution protects the individual, that the Constitution is a shield for the average person, that the goal of our society should be the expansion of protections and the increase in individual freedom - then Alito is perfect.

But as we lurch ever forward, giving the president authoritarian power, gutting the Bill of Rights, all while intoning a belief we're following what the Constitution requires, and ignoring that behind every law suit is a person coming to the court for help, Alito will be in the vanguard.

I, for one, am scared.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Layton's Revenge

After Paul Martin urged soft-NDP voters to go Liberal in the final days of the 2004 election, we now see Jack Layton returning the favour . Describing the current incarnation of the Liberal Party as nothing like the party of old, Layton is urging disappointed Liberals to flock to his banner.

The article describes the new NDP strategy as "picking the Liberal carcass". Fitting imagery indeed.

With a "Liberal carcass picked clean" and the inevitable (and overdue, and likely entertaining) descent into yet more vicious leadership battles among the survivors, we may witness the emergence of the NDP as the effective Opposition in Parliament. Not necessarily the Official Opposition, but at the very least, the Opposition as far as English Canada is concerned. And if a party can form an effective and credible Opposition, the next mental jump in public perception to Credible Governing Alternative isn't too far away. A matured NDP, dropping the far-left baggage and moving to the centre...

Far-fetched? Hey, two months ago, a Conservative government was unimaginable for most people. Now it is openly embraced and welcomed by those who previously would have been babbling incoherently in fear and loathing.

Editorials from Toronto

The Globe&Mail's editorial board has made its decision, and it's eloquent and convincing: It's time for a change
The Toronto Star's editorial board (or as I like to say PMO South) chooses to write up pure speculation to scare voters. Clearly they are still hoping for a last-minute turn around of Martin's fortunes. Today they write about the Canada that would have been without the Liberals. Tomorrow they'll turn the fear screws a bit more and write about the Canada we'll get if we don't vote for the Liberals.
No idea what the National Post is editorializing about (not that you can ever really tell the difference between an editorial and a regular news item). Their editorials are behind a subscription wall. But it's not hard to guess who's side they are coming down on.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Bible Thumpers don't know their Bible

Harpers Index is one of the coolest things ever. A gem from this month's:

Number of Alabama state senators co-sponsoring a bill last summer to protect public displays of the Ten Commandments: 10
Number of them who could list the Commandments: 1

Of course this just follows along the same lines as those Zealots who quote Leviticus for its prohibition of homosexuality, but then ignore the bits about stoning adulterers (20:10) or not eating shrimp (11:10) or not touching menstruatingng women (15:19) or eating rare steak (17:10-14) or not wearing mixed fabric (19:19) (I'm sure I saw Pat Robertson wearing a polyesther tie with his cotton suit).

Impeach Bush

Now, I'm sure that this post is going to result in my phone being monitored every time I call my Dad in Canada, but this piece on impeaching His Imperial Highness is worth reading.

We have a President who has spied on americans, in violation of the law, has said he won't follow the law, has authorized torture, has presided over the ballooning of the deficit and national debt, has cut back on programs for the poor, lost a major city, and entangled us in an unnecessary war.

In most countries, this person would have been shot, deposed, exiled, or forced to resign.

Here, he's at 45% approval.

Memo to Murphy: reduce your role by 80%

Margaret Wente believes that Paul Martin should fire his chief strategist: himself.

In this interview with the Queen's Journal, alumnus Tim Murphy, Martin's Chief of Staff, reveals just how much of his day he spends with Martin...

On Martin's debate performance: "He was fabulous".

Um...yeah. You need to go too.

The View from Abroad

Now that Canada looks set to press the eject button on 12 years of Liberal rule, the rest of the world is starting to take a look.

Some choice views from abroad:

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the story that one of Harper's campaign strategists is an Australian who helped John Howard to victory.

The Boston Herald reports on the anti-US slant of the campaign, and the recent attack ads.

The Financial Times of London reports on Harper's lead

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer takes a poke, from a BC perspective.

And it appears Reuters is running this story internationally, on the challenges facing a Harper minority.

"Apply the law" is such nonsense

One of the most vexing things to listen to in these hearings, and indeed whenever some conservative opens his trap, is the incessant intoning of the phrase "apply the law." Of course we want judges to "apply the law."

The thing that this phrase, which sounds so appealing, completely misses is that the law is almost always not clear. If it were, why would we need lawyers? Why would we need judges? Why would we have cases and trials and appeals? You could just plug facts into some legal computer and it would spit out an answer.

The law is unclear in so many ways, and I'll use the Michael Jackson trial to illustrate.

First, there are areas where the law says one thing, but its application is unclear. In First Amendment law, with regard to California's SLAPP statute, there are public figures, and nonpublic figures. Michael Jackson is a public figure. My sister is not.

The seminal California Supreme Court case states: When an individual achieves pervasive fame or notoriety, they are properly classified as all-purpose public figures. Reader's Digest Assn. v. Superior Court, 37 Cal. 3d 244, 253 (1984). [This explains the citation system].

But then there's the grey area. How about the boy who was allegedly abused? He's pretty famous. The case generated massive publicity. He probably is not a public figure, since merely being part of litigation against a public figure is usually insufficient - you have to willingly inject yourself into the controversy. So - how about the mother? Normally, she wouldn't be one, but then, there is a compelling case that, because of the added publicity she sought out - press conferences, media appearances, etc., she could be called one.

How about someone who's dating a star? Their fame and notoriety comes only from being with the star, but they necessarily choose the attendant fame.

So - from one statement of California law, a set of unsettled questions.

And then let's look at unsettled law. The law in California is not clear of the pleading standard necessary to survive a demurrer.

How about the Fourth Amendment? To get a search warrant, you have to have probable cause. That standard has been elucidated as "information sufficient to warrant a prudent person's belief that evidence of a crime or contraband would be found in a search." Well - how much information is needed?

And then once you have it - the police must "knock and announce," ('Police, we have a warrant, open up!') wait a reasonable time, and then they can kick the door down. Two seconds isn't enough, ten minutes isn't required. What about what's in the middle? If it's a granny in a walker who might take more time to get to the door? What about if it's for drugs that can be flushed? What if the person says "I'm coming" and can be heard walking to the door?

The point is that our system of laws allows for general statements of the law that can be easily applied in some situations, but not in others. The majority of situations are unclear - they're on the edges, which is why they're in court.

So any statements of "applying the law" are disingenuous. "Clear law" is still unclear. Judges - conservative, liberal, middle of the road - make these calls all the time. Was the search reasonable? Was the force excessive? Is the person famous? Were the words defamatory? Was the warning label adequate? Did the shareholders have sufficient notice. So to pretend that conservative judges apply the law with no regard to their own views is sheer nonsense.

The word according to Chantal

I remember Harper's run at the Alliance leadership. He ran as a social moderate in contrast to his rival, Stockwell Day. Everybody seems to have forgotten this. The man is not stupid. If he gets a minority, he'll hold his same-sex vote knowing full well that he will lose it. It's just to appease his base. And he's not going to do much more than that with social issues. Why? Because he needs to translate his minority into a majority, and that requires Quebec, and more Ontario seats.

I'm not afraid of Harper's so-called social agenda, and that's why I see Martin's increasingly hysterical rants as just that, hysterical. Unfortunately, many left-leaning voters have bought this argument, and will likely flock to the Liberals out of fear of the Conservatives, leaving the poor NDP to dangle in the wind. I have little patience for people who vote out of fear, for people who vote against a candidate. Especially when they don't critically think about what their candidate or party really stands for.

Few in the media have bothered to point out the glaring inconsistencies between what the Liberals profess to stand for, and actually believe in, when it comes to social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. In particular, I refer to the 'gang' of Scarborough social conservatives that run as Liberals.

Chantal Hebert's article in today's Star brings this point out in force, and it's about time. And while I feel she went easy on Martin in the 2004 election, she has pulled no punches since. She concludes her article with this final dismissal of the Martin Liberals:

"This is the week when columnists have to decide where they want to be on election night to be on hand for the post-victory news conference of the winner. Until further notice, I am headed for Calgary."

Chantal, take me with you.

Alito for the big guy

E. J. Dionne, in the Washington Post, makes this observation:

Cass Sunstein, a University of Chicago law professor, has noted that Alito follows the law when it's clear, but he almost always tilts toward his conservative predilections when the law is less settled.

Exactly. Andrew Sullivan recently denounced Emily Bazelon's statement that

In almost none of these cases, though, does Alito seem like a little-guy champion. He seems like a judge who dutifully follows the law. When the law instructs him to find for the criminal defendant or the plaintiff, he does so. When you get to the Supreme Court, though, you get to rip up the instruction manual and rewrite it. There's very little in Alito's record that suggests his revisions will favor the little guy. And a lot that suggests they won't.

Sullivan said:

Just so we're clear: Alito's record as a judge indicates that he only rules for the little guy when the law dictates that he should. And this is really bad, because we need Supreme Court judges who are willing to "rip up the instruction manual" (I believe it's known as "active liberty" jurisprudence these days, but maybe Bazelon didn't get the memo) to help the little guy, or at least the little guy as defined by Ted Kennedy. And the way we should pick them is by nominating lower court judges who have . . . torn up the instruction manual on the lower courts?

Sullivan is dead wrong. First - it is conservative nonsense that only purportedly-liberal judges "tear up the instruction manual." There are countless examples of conservative judges going against settled precedent - just as there are with liberal justices. Judicial activism crosses the aisles.

More importantly, what Sullivan misses, with his cramped view of individual liberty, is that the Constitution does protect the person. The rights guaranteed by it, unlike, for example, the Constitution of Canada, inhere ONLY to the individual. There is no reasonable attorney or jurist or lawmaker who would dispute the fact that when a lower court comes up against settled precedent of a court superior to it, it must follow it. But the point is that where precedent is unclear, or where the law is murky, it should err on the side of individual liberty, of privacy, because that is the common thread of the Constitution. Look at the Amendments: The First guarantees the rights of the individual to speak and to believe. The Third guarantees that the individual cannot be forced to quarter troops. The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth all guarantee the individual's rights in criminal proceedings, along with the glorious Eighth.

(I will point out - as a second year attorney, I see countless examples of unsettled law, even on a Constitutional level. The law is just not clear on so many things.)

So, Sullivan is right - follow the rules. I doubt Bazelon or Dionne would disagree. But where they part ways is in the grey area (and we all know Republicans don't believe in grey). Bazelon and Dionne would support the individual. Sullivan and Alito would support the state.

And when the State is arresting you and holding you without cause, and spying on you without a warrant, I'd far rather have the courts on my side.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Obligatory Attack Ad Joke

I was walking down University Avenue this afternoon, and I heard the wop-wop-wop of a helicopter landing at the Sick Kids hospital helipad. I can't resist watching the landing and take-off. But this time, it wasn't an air ambulance coming in for a landing.

It was a military helicopter.

Landing at Sick Kids.

A military helicopter. Maybe with guns.

In our city.

I am not making this stuff up.

Sorry, I had to get in my own version before it becomes cliche. Woops, too late.

Law professors, former AGs on the NSA Wire tapping

Their letter can be found here.

It speaks for itself.

Alito is a disaster

In the ten minutes it took me to drive to the gym, and the twenty to the office, I heard enough on the Alito hearings to terrify me.

First, he said he'd never heard of the Rule of Four. Did he not go to law school? Does he not read the papers and legal journals? It comes up ALL THE TIME in death penalty cases - and he says he'd not heard of it until the Roberts hearings? What does that mean? Either, as Nina Totenberg suggested, he's such an ivory tower academic that real world events pass him by, or he's just, well, weird.

But FAR FAR more chilling to me were his comments on the death penalty.

Sen. Leahy was questioning him on what would happen if a jury convicted, a court of appeals affirmed, and the Court either affirmed or didn't grant cert. I.e. all set to inject. And then suddenly DNA evidence, or a confession of someone else (i.e. proof of actual innocence) surfaces. What happens?

First, Alito dodged, saying something like "well if he'd been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt," which Leahy smacked him down on with something to the effect of "being found guilty by a jury and actually being guilty are two different things." (And lord knows that's true - all you have to do is follow recent death penalty exonerations to know that).

And then Leahy asked him: "Does the Constitution countenance the execution of an innocent person?" To which he replied, "The Constitution is designed to prevent that."

Those are entirely different things! Congress, in its wisdom, is making Habeas petitions even more difficult, to the point where convicts won't be able even to raise claims of actual innocence. Sure, the Constitution is designed to ensure maximum due process, but that doesn't mean that it always succeeds. Alito seems to believe that if all the procedures are followed, an innocent man can go the gallows. At least Roberts said that no, the Consitution does not permit the execution of the innocent.

And final, this whole CAP kerfuffle. Recall that Alito put on his resume that he was a member. Recall that the CAP has quite nasty views on women, minorities, gays. After yesterday's Specter-Kennedy punch-out, the CAP files were inspected and apparently there's no record of Alito's membership.

Does this mean that, in order to please the Reagan administration in his job applications, and to burnish his conservative credentials, he lied about his membership? He found the most nasty conservative group he could think of and put it on his resume, even though he wasn't a member?

Now, we certainly all embellish on our resumes ("Managed and developed innovative client interaction strategies"="worked as salesminion at the Gap"), but to put something on there that has no foundation in truth, just to tell the prospective employer what he wants to hear, is scary.

Does that mean he's doing the same this week?

He was either lying then, or lying now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Confirmation Report

The media here are blessed with three truly amazing Supreme Court reporters (whose reporting, obviously, interests but a tiny fraction of the nation's population.) There's Nina Totenberg on NPR, and Daliah Lithwick and Emily Bazelon on Slate. (Total aside: Lithwick's article on whether you should move to Canada is one of my favourite articles ever).

Lithwick (a Canadian) has been providing a day to day commentary on the Alito hearings.

Emily Bazelon has a great article today, dissecting the rulings in which Republicans claim that Alito sometimes rules for the little guy. She thinks this is nonsense and concludes with a chilling comment:

In almost none of these cases, though, does Alito seem like a little-guy champion. He seems like a judge who dutifully follows the law. When the law instructs him to find for the criminal defendant or the plaintiff, he does so. When you get to the Supreme Court, though, you get to rip up the instruction manual and rewrite it. There's very little in Alito's record that suggests hisrevisions will favor the little guy. And a lot that suggests they won't.

This much is true. Every single time that Alito has given a break, it's been through a dry application of procedural rules. The concerns of the individual are really an afterthought.

But this is the general conservative approach - all those strict constructionists. They argue for things in an almost academic vacuum: "The Constitution does not grant a right to privacy" - forgetting that this ruling has consequences to peoples lives. "The Constitution does not expressly permit X and thus it is not permitted," disregarding that not being able to do X has life-changing consequences for people.

A fun example is recent Republican attempts to limit habeas procedings even more - on procedural grounds. So, sorry semi-literate inmate who may not be given access to library and writing materials, you're one day late in filing your habeas petition, you can't challenge your incarceration even if your conviction is illegal, off to the gallows. (I've read and handled countless habeas petitions. I'm an attorney. I know a lot about criminal law and criminal procedure, and I struggle to understand the rules. Asking a prisoner to do so - and penalizing him so severely - is cruel.) So, no - it's not that we want to see you hang, we just want to make sure that you follow deadlines.

But then, it's easy to hide small-mindedness behind some dry constitutional argument rather than make the argument from belief.

Tory bloggers already planning to remake the country

No hidden agenda, eh?

(Okay - one blogger isn't indicative of everyone out there, but still - lends some credence to the idea that Harper's "We're Almost Liberals and There Won't Be Much Change" message isn't exactly honest).

Taber and Wells on Studio 2

Caught the Globe's Jane Taber and Maclean's Paul Wells on tonight's TVO Studio 2.

Steve Paiken (brilliant debate host from Monday night) asked why everybody was talking about the Liberal Red Book leak, and not the Liberal Red Book itself.

Paul Wells' reply was "because there's nothing in it!" He went on to characterize it as the least forward-looking Red Book in a decade, and that it made Jean Chretien look like Lincoln and Mahatma Ghandi rolled into one. Although it speaks to the rising importance of the thoroughly dead and beaten horse that is Chindia (at least in terms of Globe&Mail special reports), the Liberal platform proposes nothing new whatsoever to deal with it.

And as Jane Taber piped in, it contains no reference to that central plank of Martin's debate performance, the removal of the Notwithstanding Clause. Made up on the fly. Big surprise.

Paiken solicited advice for Harper and Martin in the last week and a half:

Taber: Harper needs to keep his cool and keep a lid on his team, and Martin, well, she doesn't know what she'd say to Martin.

Wells: Martin will be tempted to go negative hard like in 2004, but acting dignified might be a novel approach. And if he's going to go, he might as well go out dignified.

This corner would much prefer he go out kicking and screaming. Preferably to the gleeful cackling of the JeanFather.

We're not making this stuff up

from Wells

To quote Napoleon, an army marches on its stomach

from Kinsella

The Liberals' anti-Harper military ad is " officially, the 2006 Reptilian Kitten Eater moment. MEOW!"

Journalistic smackdown! Yeah!

This exchange is priceless. John Duffy tries to spin his way out of a legitimate question on the "soldiers in the streets" ad, and Mike Duffy rips him a new one. Nice. It's so refreshing to see a journalist stand up to a politican's spin. I've always argued that that was one of the strengths of our press corps in Canada - a willingness to go after politicians and not accept their bull.

Sadly, down here in the US, it's not the same. The deference that journalists give to the President, their unwillingness to hound him, is depressing, and keeps the truth from coming out. Of course, the fact that George Bush never gives unscripted press conferences makes it all the more difficult.

I wonder what it would be like if Bush et al. had to endure a daily scrum like Canadian politicans do. For our American readers, a scrum is where journalists mob politicians as they exit the Commons Chamber ever day. No scripts, no moderation, just the politican and a bunch of microphones and recorders stuffed in his face and journalists asking questions.

Of course I'm sure His Highness Bush would avoid them anyway - national security.

More proof of the Imperial Presidency

Yet more examples of Dubya thinking hisself above the law. So his highness, who's never vetoed a bill, exercises a stealth veto: the bill still is in force, but just has no effect. Wonderful.

This is crazy. If Congress rolls over and takes it, accepting that the President, whenever he feels like it, can say, well, okay, but I'm going to do what I want - well, we've entered true depotism.

If the Congress - if the legislative branch of the government - is merely advisory, and the laws they pass are merely suggestions, we have reached a turning point.

For all the talk in American mythology and hagiography about the word "freedom," and the national belief we have that the Revolution made Americans "free," it should be said that neither George III, nor any British Monarch since Charles I, had ever claimed the power that Bush II has claimed.

Well, this is a big surprise

The poor getting screwed more? Not in Bush's America!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Liberals exercise the nuclear option

Faced with oblivion, the Liberals bring out the heavy guns.

To be honest, they're pretty effective. All very simple: Grey screen. Courier text. A woman's voice, slightly urgent, but not terribly (Not like Paul Martin last night). A super-zoomed in blurry shot, which gradually resolves into a VERY scary picture of Harper.

But the scariest part, in my mind, is the drumming. A soft, martial beat. What is it meant to evoke? For me, I think of Shostakovich's 7th Symphony, 1st movement, with a drum beat that's meant to symbolize Nazi hordes invading Russia. Somehow I suspect not everyone else thinks that. But it still has a military sound to it. Menacing. The evil Tories, the barbarians beating at the gate, coming to take your rights, kill your sons, ravish your daughters.

The best two are Hotel and Washington Times. The quoting the hotel speech might be disingenuous, but reciting lines from the Times article is brilliant. Of course, they don't mention that Harper disavowed it, but still - many a good attack ad has been ruined by too close adherence to the truth.

So - will the public see these ads as a sign of desperation, or will they, in tandem with the Star's headline screaming "Tories Head for Majority" spook everyone into voting Liberal?

UPDATE: Apparenlty, as noted by Paul Wells and Andrew Coyne, the ad threatening the presence of soldiers in the streets has been pulled. Good. That ad was just a little silly. It was the French language ad (there may have been an English one too) that basically says (I was translating on the fly): "If Harper is Prime Minister, there will be many 'Fors' and 'Against': Against the Kyoto accord. For the war in Iraq. Against the right of women to choose, for the presence of the military in all our cities. Against same sex marriage, for the American missile shield, against banning handguns. And Gilles Duceppe can do nothing. Don't vote to send us backwards. Vote Liberal."

Now, come on. Harper has promised more military bases throughought the country. He hasn't promised to stick a soldier on every street corner. He's not planning on subjecting us to a perpetual October Crisis (though in the months after Sept. 11, there were young, jumpy soldiers with guns on every street corner in DC. Biking back and forth to law school was just a little scary. Americans now are inclined to shoot first and ask later - can you imagine what they were like then?). But seriously - that claim is so completely risible that, in addition to insulting viewers' intelligence, damages the credibility of all the other claims.

Confirmation hearings snore

I wasted half an hour of my life I'll never get back, listening to the Alito confirmation hearings on NPR/KPCC on my drive to work. (Well, not exactly wasted - I was going to be in the car anyway).

As foretold, the hearings are focused entierly (and legitimately) on Alito's belief that really, the President can do no wrong. Senator Kennedy rightly cited to the Knight-Ridder study that Alito's never seen a Government abuse he didn't approve.

The problem is, the way they're going about it is long speeches, reciting obvious points, declaring their outrage at the President's conduct (which I certainly share), and declaiming the importance of standing up to Emperor W.

Someone needs to send them a memo: apart from Senators, pundits, and dorky lawyers like me, no one is listening.

UPDATE: A friend in DC who's listening reports that Alito just said he wouldn't use foreign law to interpret US law, and that Dems should therefore filibuster. I think that's a nonstarter. While I of course believe that the US should do more than gaze at its own navel and realize that other countries do occasionally confront similar issues and address them in ways that might provide guidance to the US, that argument is far too complex for middle America. The easy Republican response is "they want us to be bound by the rulings of courts in Zimbabwe" - outrageous mischaracterization, of course, but one that will resonate.

Far better to mount a filibuster on the "leave me alone" front: "This is a man who thinks it's okay to come into your house, strip-search your daughter (the words of the warrant notwithstanding) who's 10 years old, and get away with it."

That said, it completely mystifies me how Republicans, who are supposed to be all about being left alone by the state, seem to be getting collective hardons by letting the government be as intrusive as it can with as few checks as possible.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Pundit Hair Watch

Yay, a post-debate At Issue panel on The National. Stay tuned for the latest news of Chantal Hebert's hair.

Update: Looks like the product is gone. Or perhaps it was never there. Of course, Chantal's not in the CBC studios, she's at the debate set. So maybe there wasn't time. I don't know, I love her work to bits, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. Coyne needs a haircut.

Upperdate: (to borrow Paul Wells' terminology) Hebert's view on tonight's Notwithstanding Surprise: Only one leader has mused about using the Clause, and that is Martin with protection of religious rights, so if that's the best he can do on the unity file, their campaign is finished. Coyne's view is that he doesn't like the Clause, but to bring it out in the middle of the debate is just bizarre.

Dean P's meditations on the debate

Unlike my tag teaming buddy, I'm multitasking at work - thank god for cpac!

However, a few thoughts:

1. Martin is shrill. Talking too fast. Hysterical. I agree with Mike - Chindia as a reason for unity?

2. The Notwithstanding Clause. Do we NEED to go there? Do you think, once we open up the Constitution for amendment, all those people out there with other interests aren't going to come forward. Please. We had so many horrible, divisive years of Meech and of Charlottetown - do we need more constitutional fighting?

3. Harper - poised. Calmer. Apparently smiles at the wrong time.

4. I thought the response by Harper regarding working with the Bloc was excellent. He acknowledged that there are three, not four national parties, and that the Bloc's goals aren't the same. He said when working with the Bloc, he'd keep pan-Canadian interests in mind. I thought that was excellent. Neutralized the fear that he'd sacrifice the interests of Canada just to keep himself in power using the Bloc.

5. Duceppe's answer about Same Sex Marriage being settled but Separatism not was ridiculous. Group v. individual rights. He gets Supreme Court doctrine on that one wrong. And anyway, on the divisibility of Quebec, he got that one wrong too. Quebec came in as Lower Canada - a tiny little lump around the St. Lawrence. We'll take Ungava back, thank you very much, and any part of Anglophone Quebec that wants to come (given Duceppe said that French is the national language of Quebecers and that's why he doesn't run ads in English). Traitor. It takes a lot of my legal mind to keep my emotions in check and not think he should just be.... But when I think that way, I channel Trudeau: "Reason over Passion. Ommmm. Reason over Passon. Ommm."

6. Martin's "if we'd said give them a dollar a day" comment is old. Get a new line, buddy.

Debate observations AKA what I'm yelling at the TV

Harper always looks like he wants to break into a smile.

Harper's going after the support of working families and seniors? That's Layton's area.

Layton's going after the support of working families and seniors? Well duh.

Martin? Duceppe? You want the support of working families and seniors too?

Good on Layton to go positive amid the negative.

Martin going positive isn't as convincing.

Martin's response to the fact his ships use flags of convenience: "I want to see Canadians succeed on the global stage". Huh?

Canvassers at my door. Fools, don't you realize what's going on?

Oh lord, here comes Martin and the Charter. What does that have to do with the question asked?...Repeal the notwithstanding clause? What? Martin wins the Award for Deft Removal of Objects in One's Posterior.

Martin needs to stop bobbing. Pity the cameraman assigned to him. Although, it makes his job more interesting. I bet Harper's cameraman is asleep.

Phone call from the Tony Ianno campaign. Uh, sorry, I'm busy watching your leader self-immolate.

Watch it, Stephen Harper. Sgro was cleared of that immigration scandal. All the leaders are playing loose with the truth in their attacks.

I love the proportional representation question aimed at Duceppe. Let's see him squirm out of this one!

Martin wants more women in Parliament? His hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Jack! Jack! You could have nailed him on that, but you didn't!

That gun crime question to Harper, "would the 4 Mounties, would the Laval policewoman, would the 15-year old Toronto girl still be alive under your government?" Horrendously inflammatory.

Steve Paiken speaks too quickly.

Enough of the flags, Harper.

Yay public transit gets a mention.

Boo, public transit gets forgotten.

Harper refuses to look at Martin. Martin refuses to look at Layton except with contempt. Duceppe never speaks to the camera.

Martin: "We gave $5 billion to the aboriginals because that is one of the root causes of poverty in this country". Nice. Real nice.

Oh, finally, Martin throws a pitch at working families and seniors. Eeesh. Duceppe? Your turn.

As Steve Paiken asks the question on agriculture, all the leaders but Martin flip madly through their briefing binders. Martin looks poised, they look frantic. Guys, it's a wide angle shot, pay attention!

Oh Layton and your down-home stories from the campaign trail. Touching. Cue violin. Actually, you did a good job with that one. You kept it mercifully short.

Oh, so now suddenly, Martin is of Southern Ontario farming heritage? But of proud federalist Quebec heritage?

Question on the NDP working in a minority government: Jack, answer the damn question! Clever Martin turning the small-business tax cuts against Layton. Martin says we have to fund education? Then why haven't you? Duceppe's is the only decent answer.

Oh Steve...nice follow up on Layton working with the Tories. Answer it, answer it....come on! Oh well. I don't know why Layton is afraid to say he'll work with them. Classy Harper response, that he will still work with Layton anyway: perhaps he is trying help woo Liberal voters over to the NDP, in hopes it boosts Conservative chances.

Fiscal imbalance, booooooooorrrrrrriiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnng.

Oh, I LOVE it. They nailed Duceppe on the "same-sex marriage has been settled with a vote, no need to revisit it/ Quebec can revisit the independence issue over and over"

Uh oh, first the Charter, now Martin is pushing Chindia. Where's my Paul Martin speaking-points bingo card?

Damn Tony Ianno campaign, stop calling!

Jack Layton, stop saying "winning conditions". That is a separatist term!

Oh, I love love love these Duceppe questions: "Is Quebec divisible?" Nonsensical answer.

Good on Layton for being positive on unity, but he comes off as naive. And kinda lame. "Love is the answer!" seems to be his message.

These unity questions are GREAT. Question to Martin "Do you believe the country is so fragile it can't survive a change of government?" Martin's essential response: "Vote for us or have no say". Worst possible answer.

Sure, Martin has no problem referring to Quebec as a nation, except he won't say it. He'll call it a 'peuple' though. One thinks he's hoping Albertans won't know what that is.

Watch out Harper, Quebecers love their childcare program. Don't diss it...oops, too late.

Martin: "I have no problem using the word 'nation', I use it all the time". Except before the words 'of Quebec'.

Paiken to Duceppe: "Do you care who becomes Prime Minister?"
Paiken to Layton: "You haven't said you're running for Prime Minister..."
I am LOVING these questions. I don't think Paiken is running from a script anymore. I think he's free-wheeling it. This is where Martin will fall apart.

Closing statements:
Boring and predictable. Harper's 'redeem federalism and remove a government pre-occupied with scandal" is going to resonate.

Steve Paiken has done an absolutely outstanding job. I've watched him for many years on TVO, and this was his breakout opportunity. He smacked it out of the ballpark.

And a last note: stunned confusion amongst the leaders bumbling about as the credits roll. I suppose it's better than having their loving families running out to greet them as in the Edwards-Cheney debate of 2004. Not that Cheney's family loves him. Or are capable of love. Could you love an android? But I digress...

Dumb soldiers, dumb decisions

It should be obvious that the war in Iraq should be having a negative impact on military recruiting, although one hears via NPR and other sources that the military is meeting its goals (if not the reserves). Well, it appears that one of the ways they've been doing that is by lowering the bar.

This is pretty dumb headed. As the article points out, citing to a Rand study, dumb soldiers don't perform as well as smart soldiers, even with things like aiming guns (which you'd think would be more instinctive than anything else - how otherwise to explain the skills of hunters in the flyover states?).

So not only has Dubya's decision to smite Saddam damaged America's reputation in the world, as well as creating more terrorists than it got rid of, it's now making the American army a weaker, dumber fighting force.

Well done, King George.