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10 posts from November 2007

November 30, 2007

Entire Party is Vindicated: Del Mastro

EthicsNever mind what was or wasn't said in Ottawa. Dean Del Mastro has reassuring words for the nation and his fellow men * in CPC blue who may be worrying that this annoying business between Schreiber and Mulroney won't disappear like a jumbo jet into the night. "It has absolutely nothing to do with us," Del Mastro told The Peterborough Examiner. “[Schreiber] has had no contact with anybody in this party. It vindicates us."

* And 12% women.


Not to be missed: Godammitkitty of Hope and Onions analyzes The Ethics Committee -- in five parts!.

Win Big With the CPC's Dunk Dion Contest

Today is the final day to score points with Stephen Harper and possibly win some cool prizes over at his site. All you have to do is enter his fall video contest.

And here's your SPECIAL INSIDER'S GUIDE to scoring major CPC bling.

SUPER SECRET TIP! Read the blogs of the featured activists to get a sense of the CPC style before you submit your own video entry.

Contestentries_2The first blog entry slams Dion in the first sentence and compares Harper to God in the headline ("In Harper We Trust").

The second blog entry mentions Dion in the headline and in the first sentence.

The third blog entry doesn't slam Dion until almost the end of the post.

Our advice? Slam dunk Dion right at the outset because the competition will be fierce for these fabulous prizes: a Nintendo Wii with 2 Games; an iPod video; and an iPod Nano.

Remember to read the contest criteria carefully when you're preparing your contest entry. We've given you some subtle hints about what the judges will be looking for.

If you need more help, read the contest rules carefully. They also contain lots of SUPER SECRET CLUES!

"We are looking for student activist [sic] to create an original video to be featured on the CPC Energy website and to compete for awesome prizes. Your short video can be about anything - a policy, your favorite or not-so-favorite politician or even a rant about the tired old left. Funny or serious, anything goes! Be creative! Be original!"

SPECIAL INSIDER CAUTION! Think negative energy, like the kind of energy that's defined the CPC ever since Dion became Liberal Party leader.

If you want to walk away with the Wii, don't focus on what Harper has to offer, focus on what Dion doesn't have to offer.

GET IT? We hope so because any entries featuring positive energy may be spotlighted on a forthcoming website -- Not an entry.ca, modelled after Not a Leader.ca, where they will be mocked along with the person who submitted them.

Now good luck and have fun (or else).

November 29, 2007

Del Mastro: We Have the Ultimate Weapon: Mail!

EthicsDean Del Mastro, Conservative MP for Peterborough Riding, has announced to the nation that he has ways of making Karlheinz Schreiber talk. Or shut up. Whichever the case may be.

Sure, Rob Walsh, the Commons legal counsel, has already told the ethics committee chair, Liberal Paul Szabo, that they have the power to send Schreiber to jail for perjuring himself or failing to co-operate. That's all legal mumbo-jumbo. Del Mastro is really talking tough.

"We might also give him a very stern letter and really scare him," he told the Canadian Press.

Only residents of Peterborough Riding who have been on the receiving end of Del Mastro's mailings know the hell of which he speaks.

On their behalf, I issue this warning to Schreiber:

Once those mailings start coming, they will never stop. You can seek refuge in jail, you can leave the country, but there will always be another Dean Del Mastro mailing on its way to you.

Of course, as Szabo told the Canadian Press yesterday, it's not like Karlheinz Schreiber needs to feel like he's facing an inquisition in Parliament: "This gentleman is subject to an extradition order called for by Germany. He is a Canadian citizen. He has not been convicted, or even charged, with any crimes in Canada and he has rights."

We'll see how that plays out.

Not to Be Missed:

Brian Mulroney: The Unauthorized Chapter: An entire archive of material unearthed by CBC's Fifth Estate about unseemly goings on within the Conservative Party during the period leading up to and following the Mulroney Years. The package kicks off with material on the "Dump Joe Clark" movement -- yet another decidedly unproud chapter in the history of how the media can make or break certain politicians, with a little help from their frenemies.

Comic Relief: The Wingnutter has friends in high places.

November 28, 2007

Keep Your Eyes on the Puppet


"It appears to me that the prime minister is speaking out of one side of the government's mouth and the minister of justice is speaking out of the other."
- Edward Greenspan, lawyer for Karlheinz Schreiber, commenting in an email to the CBC about the remarkable ventriloquist act that been carried off in Ottawa recently.

Attention Political Shoppers! Treat yourself to your own ventriloquist dummy this holiday season. Available for purchase from ThrowThings.com. Description: "The head is mounted on a wooden post and can turn full circle, tilt, and nod! The mouth and eyes are controlled by levers on the control stick and are easy to use. The hard hollow body is made completely of wood with no cardboard pieces. They come clothed and can wear a children’s size 3T. Shoes are not included. With unmatched character, realistic wigs and eyelashes, these 35 inch professional ventriloquist dummies are truly the finest figures on our site! David has black hair and brown eyes. Actual outfits may vary from those shown."

November 27, 2007

Bully to You

WrongwayIn a bang-on essay in yesterday's Globe and Mail, Lawrence Martin gets to the heart of the problems that have dogged Stéphane Dion over the past year.

Dion -- Martin argues -- has been a victim of " a system that can make a mockery of any thoughtful, idealistic man."

And the media, by making much of Harper's "Machiavellian genius" for "blitzing [Dion] with attack ads before he even got out of the gate" has spent far too much time analyzing personalities rather than policies, something that has allowed journalists to play judge and jury, with no journalism school critics (the traditional check when the media gets carried away) keeping them in check. ("Where are the journalism school critiques?" he asks.)

"It's about proportionality [in reporting on policy vs. personality]. The media have to get the weighting right. They set the standards, and the standards -- the lack of honour in the system - won't change unless they change."

To Martin's comments, I would add these questions of my own, questions that are fueled by a year of frustration that comes from having observed the Prime Minister and members of his government behave with disrespect -- and even disdain -- toward members of other parties.

Most Canadians would agree that the standard of conduct -- as well as the morale -- in the House of Commons slipped to historic lows during the past year. Was this all for the sake of the political gain of the current government? If so, should the Speaker of the House not be held accountable for not holding Members of Parliament to certain standards of accountability and behavior?

Canadians often claim that they want a leader of vision -- someone who will bring real ideas to the table. And yet when someone with these very characteristics enters the political scene, the bystanders (the Canadian public) don't seem to be prepared to look beyond the actions of the individual who is being bullied (Dion). They are so distracted by the behavior of the individual who is doing the bullying (Harper). Does this mean that Canadians are, in fact, more impressed by bullying and bravado than by someone with a quieter, more gentile style?

If so, party politics aside, what does this say about our ideas of respect and decency in 2007? Has a great sound-byte come to mean more than substance and policy?

What price will we pay as Canadians if Dion's career has been irreparably damaged by the feeding frenzy that has taken place both inside and outside of the House of Commons? How many thoughtful Canadians have forever sworn off any run at politics at the federal, provincial, or municipal levels, after seeing how Dion has been savaged by none other than the Prime Minister? And how many others have lost all remaining respect for politics and politicians?

At a time when bullying is running rampant in our society, children are committing suicide in response to cyberbullying attacks, workplace bullying is becoming commonplace, and bullying is now treated as entertainment in everything from sports to movies, I find it unacceptable that a man of principle who is heading up ta major political party has had to endure a year of this kind of disrespectful treatment. Once again, I find myself feeling embarrassed by the actions of my government and my Prime Minister.

I want Stephane Dion to know that there are a lot of us who have a great deal of respect for him and who have watched him respond with grace and dignity to a year of unrelenting and unprovoked attacks. If this was any other workplace, this problem would have long since been dealt with. The employee in question who is responsible for the harassment would have been dismissed and/or sent for therapy and all the employees who kept urging the bully on would have been told to get back to work.

I can only hope that Canadians have had their fill of the bully-style entertainment on Parliament Hill.

I know I have.

November 26, 2007

Political Doublespeak: Why Orwell is Still Relevant Today


Nicholas Lemann's essay in the Columbia Journalism Review (about the political writing of George Orwell -- specifically Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language") raises some important issues about political double-speak -- ideas that have as much currency on this side of the border as they do in the U.S.

In "Politics and the English Language," Orwell describes how rhetoric can be used to give pretty much anything a positive spin -- a lesson politicians and political speech-makers have mastered and applied with disheartening brilliance. “Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind,” write Orwell. (And this was before he wrote his classic novel 1984.)

Watch Your Language, Stephen Harper!

Harper is a master of the double-meaning: of being able to toss off a lone-liner that is true on one level -- like his comment this past weekend that Canada's voice was heard on the international stage ("For the first time in a very long time Canada's voice is being heard") -- but that simultaneously hints at a deeper and more significant meaning that may not ring quite so true -- or at least in the way one would traditionally read that sentence (Harper claimed Canada made a meaningful contribution at the meeting of Commonwealth nations when, in fact, Canada was widely criticized for its actions . According to the Canadian Press, one foreign diplomat called the Harper approach the perfect approach for ensuring nothing gets done.

This bit of linguistic sleight-of-hand is disturbing because it is so misleading. In that sense, it heads into territory Lemann identifies as a modern-day political peril -- intellectual honesty. (Lemann warns specifically about the political misuse of facts and data -- something we should be mindful of whenever a political committee tables a report that tries to use -- or misuse -- statistics, like the infamous Baird environmental graph.)

"Intellectual honesty about the gathering and use of facts and data is a riskier and more precious part of a free society than is intellectual honesty in language. We ought to guard it with the same zeal that animates Orwell’s work on political speech."

Here's why.

  • It disrupts the flow of real political information. (Remember how things played out last spring in The House of Commons? It was like Orwell's Ministry of Truth in action.)
  • It causes the public to lose further faith in politics and politicians. It's hard enough to get Joe Average Voter to tune into politics long enough to cast a vote, let alone to try to make sense of all the political double-speak dispelled at carefully orchestrated press conferences that try to control the flow of carefully packaged "truth."

And as for Harper's comments this past weekend? His comments shows incredible disrespect for the intelligence of the Canadian voter. Are we really expected to buy that line about the fabulous "contribution" we made this past week when Harper convinced other countries to agree to an environmental agreement that said nothing at all? And his long-standing pattern of interacting with the Opposition and the Media have shown nothing but disdain for them as well. We know that he's extremely tough on members of his own party, who aren't allowed to exercise the rights that many parents grant to their teenagers (Facebook, anyone?). It makes you wonder if he's been hanging out with the wrong people. Peer pressure is a powerful force, after all.

So what do you see as the impact of Harper's communication style on the political life in this country?

November 24, 2007

Dean Del Mastro: From Ethics Committee to Cartoon Film Star

Thanks to the valiant and exhaustive blogging of Maclean's Kady O'Malley, we are able to gain rare insights into the mind and actions of Dean Del Mastro, MP, Peterborough Riding -- specifically his actions on a particularly important day in the life of Parliament (last Tuesday).

Of course, this is just a taste of what is to come. We're going to get to see plenty of Dean Del Mastro in action during the weeks ahead, as he serves on the Ethics Committee that will be looking into the $300,000 cash handshake. (Dean's already made a few off-the-cuff remarks about the inquiry.)


Last night Dean starred in a locally made cartoon, which cast his likeness as an arts-hating villain who wants to turn downtown Peterborough into a used car lot. (See the poster for the event.) He was an extremely good sport about it, telling The Peterborough Examiner: "It's ok. Every cartoon needs a villain."

The cartoon fundraiser was for a great cause (raising money for Five Counties Children's Centre). Let's hope his performance on the ethics committee can leave Peterborough residents smiling and feeling good, too.

Howard's End: A Hopeful Tale for Canadians

HopegraffittiAs the election results are finalized in Australia and the Labor party scores a decisive victory over the ultra-right government of John Howard, his political soul-mate in Ottawa might want to note that voter frustration with the Howard government's lack of action on Kyoto (it refused to sign the Kyoto protocol) and its unpopular stand on the Iraq war ultimately proved to be the government's downfall.

"After too many years I can finally hold my head up and be proud to call myself Australian again," Anne in Brisbane told the BBC.

Maybe there's hope for Canadians yet.

November 23, 2007

Betsy's Blog is Back Up and Running

MaryandbetsyBetsy McGregor's blog is back up and running. I'm helping out behind the scenes once again after taking a few months off to recharge my batteries and to deal with some family issues.

Frankly, all it took to light a fire under me once again this fall was seeing the Conservatives back in action (have we ever had a Canadian Prime Minister who is more of a control freak and a bully than our current PM; and who has strayed further away from the things that Canada has always stood for on the international stage?) and wanting to do my part to ensure that people in my riding have the chance to see what Betsy (Federal Liberal Candidate, Peterborough Riding) has to offer.

November 22, 2007

Test Driving the Typepad Connection with Facebook's Project Beacon

This is a test to see what, if any, information will be forwarded by TypePad to my Facebook friends if I post to my TypePad blog while my Facebook account is open. You may have read about Facebook's Beacon ads. If not, you should do some research about them, whether or not you're a Facebook user, if only because they mark a significant milestone in the history of privacy creep.) Anyway, Typepad is one of the companies that is participating in the newly-launched Beacon program. I'll let you know what happens at the other end -- in my Facebook account.

UPDATED: November 30, 2007

Facebook has decided to switch to a user opt-in system, after hearing from 50,000 very unhappy Facebook users. This represents a major victory for Internet privacy and Internet democracy. Yippee!