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17 posts from February 2007

February 28, 2007

Stéphane Dion: My Kind of Superhero

SupersignStéphane Dion is one classy guy. I think he's got the makings of a Canadian superhero (and I don't use that term lightly). The last politician that I got really enthusiastic about was Pierre Trudeau.

Not only does Dion exhibit grace under pressure -- how many of the rest of us would have wanted to be in his shoes in recent weeks, dealing with the insulting bully tactics and over-the-top theatrics in the House of Commons? He manages to emerge with his sense of humour intact. (What can I say? I'm a sucker for a dry sense of humour.)

Gerard Kennedy is Coming to Peterborough


Maple Leaf Fundraiser for the
Peterborough Federal Liberal Riding Association
The Royal Gardens
Clonsilla Ave -- Tuesday, March 6 -- 7 pm
Featuring: Gerard Kennedy
StarmosaikTicket Prices:: Adults: $125;
Century Club and Chequemate: $75; Students: $25
Note: A portion of the ticket price is eligible for a tax receipt.
Tickets are available at Package Plus on Rink Street in Peterborough or by calling (705) 749-1661.

It's Iran Contra All Over Again When It Comes to Bush's Foreign Policy: Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker

Upwardarrow_1At least that's the message from Pulitzer-prize winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who draws some alarming parallels between the Iran-Contra affair and Bush foreign policy:

"Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal "lessons learned" discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: 'One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office.'" (Read the rest of the article.)

AlterNet -- MediaCulture: Seymour Hersch: Man on Fire
Democracy Now! Interview with Seymour Hersh
Salon Interview with Seymour Hersh

February 27, 2007

Peterborough Students on The Hill

ThumbsupthistimeOver the weekend, Conservative MP Dean Del Mastro took a group of Peterborough high school students to Ottawa to give them an opportunity to stage their own mock Parliament and to try to get them excited about politics and the political process.

Long-time readers of this blog know that this marks a historical moment: the first time I've ever posted something about Del Mastro that didn't result in the overuse of exclamation marks, much muttering under my breath, and a detailed search of Hansard.

What can I say? I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Elections Canada: Young Voters: According to Elections Canada's research, in the federal election in 2000, young voter turnout was approximately 25%.

February 26, 2007

The Politics of Posh

CommutestressI am trying to get inside Dean Del Mastro's head so that I can get a handle on his big-picture motivation(s). Is it political oneupmanship or is there something deeper that's not quite so obvious?

Take this speech in the House of Commons from February 23rd, for example. It seems to be all about trying to score points at Stéphane Dion's expense -- and in a particularly mean-spirited way. I don't see that it's doing anything to further the work of Parliament or to solve the country's problems; and it's certainly not making me proud that Del Mastro is my Member of Parliament. Am I missing something here?

Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has unearthed an inconvenient truth about the new Leader of the Opposition. Not only is it not easy for him to set priorities, apparently he loathes environmentally friendly modes of transportation. In fact, while serving as minister of the environment, the Leader of the Opposition took 98 separate posh limousine rides between Ottawa and Montreal in just 17 months.

While the environmental cost of providing a comfy commute for the Leader of the Opposition demonstrates his extreme hypocrisy, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation proclaims this is unfair to the taxpayers of Canada. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation was disturbed to learn the Leader of the Opposition billed the taxpayers $14,255 for commuting in stretch comfort as opposed to choosing a less expensive greener commuting option.

While it is clear the Leader of the Opposition did not get it done as minister of the environment, it is even clearer that when it comes to the environment his message is, “do as I say, not as I do”.

One other thing: Del Mastro is complaining about the cost of 98 "posh" limo rides costing a total of $14,255 over a 17 month period. That works out to $145 for a two-hour limo ride between Ottawa and Montreal (a rate that doesn't exactly scream "posh").

February 25, 2007

Four Free Tickets to Tonight's Acoustic Guitar Concert @ Elements

Number4I have four tickets to this intimate acoustic guitar concert and fundraiser in Peterborough tonight to give away, for free (value $160). It's from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. I was really looking forward to going with another couple, but they can't go (one of them is ill) and now we can't go (our childcare provider is ill), so if you live close enough to get to Elements Restaurant (King/Water) by 5:00 pm and you're the first person to email me, the tickets are yours, for free.

February 13, 2007

Playing With Fire

THIS POST is as much for me as it is for anyone else. You see, I'm a hardcore idealist and also a slightly driven person. That leaves me at high risk of activist burnout. Having experienced work-related burnout in the not-so-distant past (confession: I think I'm still a bit singed around the edges because I'm definitely not performing at anywhere near my pre-burnout productivity level), I definitely don't want to end up heading into the activist burnout zone. I mean changing the world should be a positive, life-affirming experience -- not something that makes you want to beat your head against the wall, right?

Okay -- I'm willing to beat my head against the wall (gently) on the odd occasion. After all, I'm not working for change in Utopia. But a new friend wisely flagged the risks of burnout for me a week or two ago, when I was feeling discouraged by the less-than-noble behavior that some people exhibit when they are working for supposedly noble causes. I was feeling frustrated, disillusioned, angry, upset. He gently pointed out that it's possible to work for change on a part-time basis: that wanting to combat injustice doesn't have to take over your entire brain or become an obsession.

Here's the thing. I have this problem with moderation. To put it bluntly, I suck at it. But I'm going to have to get better at it if I want to have the energy and motivation and creative drive to work for change over the long haul. After all, I don't think the battle for social justice is going to be won in a day a week a year or even my lifetime. If I want to have the energy to further the cause and pass the torch to the next generation while I'm here to make a difference, I have to budget my energy for a marathon, not a sprint event.

The Wise Turtle's Remedy for Activist Burnout
Working with Activist Burnout
Avoiding Burnout
Sustainable Activism
Duluth Public Policy Alliance: Burnout -- Treating the Symptoms

February 10, 2007

Political Spin: The Game!

Political Spin: The Game!
Political Spin: The Game!,
originally uploaded by Ann Douglas.
Try the home version of the drama-filled game that's taking the House of Commons by storm!

The object of the game is to avoid providing meaningful answers to the opposition's questions. Simply dodge the question by pointing to the previous government's record.

You get extra points if you can toss in mentions of national symbols like hockey or if you can score a direct putdown of Stéphane Dion.

Bullying is encouraged, but please remember that politics is not a contact sport.

Macho Politics and Bully Tactics in The House

NosignSara E. Swerdlyk has a terrific piece in The Arthur: "Who Will Be the Bigger Man?. It discusses some of the "Is Stéphane Dion man enough to lead Canada?" innuendos that underlie the recent Conservative attack ads.

Swerdlyk's piece got me thinking about the overall Conservative pre-campaign tactics that we've been witnessing lately. I don't know about you, but I find it almost painful to read the Hansard transcripts or to follow media coverage of what's happening in Ottawa these days because the Conservatives, who were carefully coached by Bush spin-doctor Frank Luntz last spring, are doing exactly what he told them to do: as often as possible, hammer away at the credibility of the opposition -- and Dion in particular.

Funny thing. When this kind of nastiness happens on the playground (or pretty much anywhere outside the House of Commons), we call it bullying. When it happens in the House of Commons, we call it "rigorous debate" or "democracy in action" or whatever other euphemism you'd care to apply. So we end up tolerating situations like what happened in the Environment Committee meeting this week. One CBC radio story reported that, after kicking off the meeting by asking all parties to remember that the environment should rise above the level of party politics, Baird went on to lambast "the previous government" and Dion personally no fewer than a dozen times.

Now here's something truly ironic about the entire situation: the Canada Safety Council and the Ivey Business Journal have long been calling upon the Federal Government to enact legislation that would make the kinds of behavior that are tolerated in the House of Commons (and mandated at the Frank Luntz School of Politics) illegal in the workplace. They note that Quebec is the only jurisdiction in North America that has labour legislation that makes "any vexatious behaviour in the form of repeated and hostile or unwanted conduct, verbal comments, actions or gestures that affect an employee's dignity or psychological or physical integrity and that results in a harmful work environment for the employee" illegal. (Just pause and consider how attack ads measure up against that definition.)

So given the recent attack ads and the kind of behaviors we witness on CPAC on a day-to-day basis, what do you think the odds are of this government heeding the Canada Safety Council's call for leadership in this area?

I'm putting my money on zilch.

February 08, 2007

The Idea Pod: Video and Audio Podcasts

I've added a bunch of links to audio and video files in the sidebar of my blog (see "The Idea Pod: Video and Audio Podcasts").

You'll find links to inspiring historical speeches from Martin Luther King Jr., Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and others; and a roundup of noteworthy interviews, documentaries, and audio/video podcasts.

I hope you enjoy what I've put together here. I've aimed for a mix of the inspirational and the thought provoking; the historical and the contemporary.