Thursday, July 29, 2010

Iggy Pop

Ignatieff, visiting MuchMusic:

h/t Susan Delacourt twit pic.

Be kind in the comments :)

For BCL:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What The Hell Is Going On Here?

One thing about the human condition, we're adaptable and we gradually accept new realities as normal over time. Only when you provide a stark contrast to past practice do we see just how far we've come, or regressed as the case may be with this government. Bullying, strong arming the public service, rampant dysfunction and persistent disinformation, all standard practice in today's Ottawa, it's just the way of things. If you actually compare where we sit at this moment with what was considered acceptable years ago, you'd be shocked at how much the climate has changed.

Susan Delacourt's post yesterday, addresses the new reality and frankly the thesis deserves much more attention. It's time to wake up, the Harper government has fed off voter apathy, and like a thief in the night, made off with acceptable practice for any self respecting DEMOCRACY. People like Clement, under direction from the PMO, are able to put out patent mistruths and the only recourse for the public service, resignation. How SAD is that, manipulation, wherein the real casualty is honesty and truth?

Delacourt makes a fascinating point, relating to the Governor General, as part of her wider theme:
So what does this have to do with the coalition crisis? In that case, the battle was also over perception versus reality. By the time the matter landed in the Governor-General's lap, the public had been whipped up into a frenzy about separatists running the Canadian government. There was no public debate or education campaign about the realities of the coalition and minority parliaments. The Governor-General was spun into a corner and again, unable to speak directly to the public, because of ancient codes of silence and discretion. From what I understand, the GG was also worried about public perception, fearing that any decision to deny prorogation would unleash a PR campaign against the institution of governor-general itself.

A very shocking revelation, you have a situation where officials are not focusing on their responsibilities, but distracted by fear of recourse and a certain potential for payback. The question is now raised, did the GG accept Harper's prorogue because she weighed the constitutional arguments, or was her view influenced by what she felt the government would do in retaliation, if Harper was rejected? Public servants shouldn't have to operate under fear and intimidation, that is simply ludicrous in this country, in today's times.

Weaving back to the census debate, that a well respected man's only recourse is resignation to protect his integrity- something is clearly wrong and disturbing. We now have a host of completely independent examples, wherein this government uses intimidation, innuendo, bullying, to silence their critics and even mis-represent their positions. That these tactics have become standard fare in Ottawa, alarming, but also a testament to passive acceptance.

There is a wiff of totalitarianism here, somewhat analogous to the idea of "purges", strong men using threats and intimidation to solicit compliance. This paranoid and vindictive government, that seeks out enemies where none exists, has transformed our political reality. When you actually step back, what an ugly picture, how far we've evolved backwards. In Canada, I would have never believed it, if you asked me a few years ago.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Looking Good

Okay, this might be taking it a step to far. Great to see the image of Ignatieff enjoying a can of beer in his red hat, but donkey piss?:

h/t Globe and Mail

Monday, July 26, 2010

Afghan Verbal Gymnastics, With Host, MP Laurie Hawn

Conservative MP Laurie Hawn made an appearance on the CBC today, to discuss the release of all these Afghanistan documents. To put his comments into context, let's remember that when it comes to the Afghan detainee documents, Hawn has argued for months that a full release would jeopardize the mission and put our troops are risk. Hawn used the safety of our troops to deflect the opposition demands, despite the fact that all fair observers acknowledged our detainee practices have changed, the information was dated, some of it years ago.

Today's release of ninety thousand confidential documents on Afghanistan by Wikileaks was the subject of today's appearance by Hawn. These documents are quite damaging, painting a bleak picture of the mission in Afghanistan. With that in mind, note Hawn's comments, wherein he tries to fluff off the documents:
"A lot of them are dated, so it's really information that might make a good story but isn't that relevant to what is happening today. You know, it needs to be fairly immediate information to have a huge impact"

That's right, like other mission defenders, Hawn suddenly argues that all these explosive documents are "dated", not terribly relevant to "today". Hawn also says, that in terms of the mission, unless it's "immediate" information, it really has no strategic impact. Hawn has just undercut the entire line of argument he's used on the detainee file, particularly when most of those documents are, in fact, much more out of "date" than those released today. So, when the mission is threatened by disclosure, documents are minimized, but if said documents have the capacity to embarrass the government politically, they are exaggerated and it becomes an issue of harming the troops.

9.8 from the Canadian judge.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On An "Image Of New Blood"

The Mark has a video interview with Warren Kinsella and I think he raises a crucial point on "new blood", as key to any thoughts of a Liberal turnaround. Kinsella argues we need new people to run for the federal Liberals, if you want to appear fresh and able to contrast.

I've had intermittent rants on this topic, and frankly every time you address the need for turnover, on a series of fronts, everybody circles their particular fiefdom and it appears hopeless. God forbid somebody say Joe Volpe should pack it in and help revitalize a tired brand, that's just blasphemy based on a narrow self interest. Heaven help you if you say anything about Ralph Goodale and his disproportionate influence, we should all thank our lucky stars that he holds a seat in hostile terrority. In other words, Liberals don't seem capable of internally reforming themselves, only complete annihilation, brought about by outside events, will force what is SO PLAIN AS DAY.

Pecking orders, hierarchies, tenure, a bloated and stagnant machinery, all achieve a paralysis and the rest of us are left to sit here and hope that Harper implodes, because there is no proactive solution on the horizon. New faces, armed with fresh ideas, and most of all the passion and enthusiasm that tends to wane with tenure. The Liberals have some of these assets at our disposal, just not enough of them, and not used to maximium capacity.

It's is logically impossible to position yourself as a vehicle for change, as something decidedly different from the current, when people see the same old institutional faces for an eternity. Would a concerted effort to recruit a new breed of Liberals lead to the promised land? In and of itself, absolutely not, but that focused effort would certainly help in addressing a key liability, that of a tired brand, that needs oxygen.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cracks In Conservative Caucus

Given the across the board criticism, it was only a matter of time before a Conservative MP "broke ranks" on the census decision. Given Harper's iron rule, and his past history of punishment for any dissent, have to give James Rajotte some credit:
Tory MP breaks ranks on census

OTTAWA - The government continued to take fire Monday over its decision to make the long census voluntary as one of its own MPs publicly asked for an explanation.

James Rajotte, a Tory MP who used to chair the House Industry committee, wrote a letter to Industry Minister Tony Clement saying his constituents have "expressed concern" about the change.

"A number of my constituents have indicated that they rely on the information produced by Statistics Canada for professional and personal uses," he wrote in a letter dated July 19.

Rajotte says in the letter he wants to know why the government made the long census voluntary and how the government will make sure the change won't hurt the quality of the information collected.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On Optics And Body Language II

It's all pretty superficial of course, but since politics seems the antithesis of deep these days, Ignatieff's "digs" were quite striking. Great shirt, nice tones, relaxed jeans, Tim Horton's in the background, just some ordinary looking fellow grabbing donuts. Perfect. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Out of touch and elitist, the two narratives that Ignatieff must address to turn his fortunes around. These clothes aren't an accident, nor are they trivial. Ignatieff looks downright comfortable, doesn't appear to be trying, and that is the subtlety that might put a dent in the negative perceptions. Two months of those kind of images, and you might garner a second look.

Zsuzsanna, if you packed a tie, sports jacket, burn it now, because everyday, everywhere, this is exactly the image we want to convey. Thumbs up on the digs.

On Optics and Body Language

If you haven't checked out the new spread on the Liberal Party site, I suggest you do. Okay, so you're heading out for an all important tour of the country, with the primary goal of reinvigorating the Liberal brand, bringing excitement and traction. With that in mind, one has to wonder who exactly thought it a good idea to advertise Ignatieff's trip with a sidebar photo of an visibly irritated man, who looks like he'd rather be eating a bag of rusty nails, than listening to Ignatieff. What splendid optics, which leaves me wondering if there was an internal competition to find the LEAST attractive imagery imaginable. I suppose the kicker, the rest of the crowd looks like they are waiting for a colonoscopy.

Just oozes exciting and compelling, something you want to attend, doesn't it? All aboard!

Last Chance Express?

Ignatieff embarks on his much anticipated, election style, bus tour today. While it's true that the summer is a tough time to try and get traction, it's also true that the Liberals desperately need a catalyst to change their fortunes. Within that reality, this bus tour contains more expectations than your run of the mill bbq circuit, that we are normally accustomed to.

It's starting to feel like an election is near, the window between this fall and the next budget. It's difficult to see how this Parliament soldiers on for much longer, so in every respect Ignatieff's bus tour is really a campaign dry run. Liberals have ramped up expectations, you sense some enthusiasm, which places some pressure on Ignatieff to deliver. I'm not sure what exactly would constitute a success, but at the very least some sense that Ignatieff has turned a corner, in terms of perception. This tour must address the chief liabilities, that of an out of touch, elitist, wishy washy, uninspiring leader. One can't expect a complete makeover, but some progress is essential.

My chief worry with this tour, is that Liberals adopt a traditional, safe approach and don't grab any headlines, don't present something different that tweaks interest. I admit a big red flag when I first heard that Chretien and Martin will join Ignatieff at stops to support and bolster. Truth be told, it makes Ignatieff look weak in some respects, and it also highlights a persistent problem for the Liberals- looking backward for inspiration and relevance. Apart from Liberal partisans, there is no great affection for government's past, and the former leaders presence (one defeated by Harper) only serves to reaffirm an old guard feel to a party that so desperately needs a FRESH, forward looking presentation. Count me as unimpressed with this decision, it tends to support my view that we still don't quite get it, in relation to where Canadians are at- the nostalgia routine is a one way street I can assure you.

Ignatieff has a lot to offer, and hopefully this tour generates some lather as time goes on. Ignatieff is quite strong and affable in these type of settings, so there is an opportunity to show a contrast with the perception to date. You don't want to overstate expectations, but one must also accept a sober reality, which in many respects makes this tour a make or break it moment. Time is running out to put a pre-election positive stamp, and unless our only real hope is to pray for a complete Harper meltdown, Ignatieff needs to crawl out of this daunting hole in short order.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Detainee Deal A Dud- July Edition

A month on, since the last minute, save face, horribly flawed detainee deal was finally announced. I saw on a news ticker yesterday that MP's have begun to pour over the documents. Wow, dare I say it sounded like progress- well at least until you inquire further.

What is particularly striking, the MP's still haven't decided on the panelists, although I'm sure the government side is working tirelessly in this regard- cough. What is happening, if you can call it that, MP's are being allowed to view the most benign documents, as denoted by the government. Any document which the government says falls under "legal advice" is not being viewed by MP's, at least until this panel is constructed. In other words, it would appear the parties are trying to give the appearance that this "deal" is starting to bear fruit, when really people are spinning their wheels.

The bottom line, the MP's aren't viewing anything with any meat on it, and I would submit, nothing which isn't already in the public domain. I note the Liberals are giving the Conservatives the benefit of the doubt, arguing the delay in appointing panelists is simply due to finding people to devote substantial time throughout the summer. If that's true, then maybe do away with the farce of looking productive, when your admission suggests otherwise. About all I can see, another month stroked off the PMO calendar, given that's clearly the strategy- delay wins the day again.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Harmonized Shaft Tax

I suspect consumers will be waiting a long time for the "trickle down". Proponents make some interesting arguments in favor of the HST, but in the end there seems a disconnect from theory to reality.

The fact the HST, in Ontario anyways, targets the basics, such as electricity, heating and fuel, tells me it's a fools hope to think an improved business climate will lead to lower prices. Fact is, everybody will pay it on the chin for the most elemental needs, and hope some other, mostly tertiary items, are cheaper as a result of lowered costs. You do the math, it's hard to see how it's revenue neutral, in fact it resembles a scenario wherein corporate taxes are lowered, while personal taxes are raised. Maybe the bottom line for the government might be revenue neutral (say proponents), but the BURDEN has changed once again.

I received my first "hush money" from the Ontario government, the fact it was sent part proof positive that it will impact me adversely. On top of this one year "transition" payoff, we hear that personal income taxes will be lowered in the future, if it turns out consumers have been negatively affected. Curious, to make these assertions, when you are trying to argue the opposite now, there will be no adverse affect.

I note that fiscal conservatives and business are the HST's biggest fans. Generally, these people hate any new tax, because that burden will leave less disposable income, acting as an ultimate drag on the economy. And yet, here we are, people arguing the classic trickle down economics nonsense that has already shown itself a failure. Taxing new homes, home renovations, what a terrific way to stimulate growth? The raw materials don't suddenly get cheaper, the cost of gas isn't lower, so where oh where will we find these terrific savings based on competitive capitalism? If history is our guide, about all we will see is more money divvied up amongst the executive class. Oh maybe a few crumbs will fall from their mouths, but human self interest tells us the fat cats will retain as well.

This HST isn't a wash for the consumer, it's a shaft. It's disguised corporate welfare that we all have to pay for. The argument that it will increase jobs is superficial, because if my disposable income is affected, I'm paying more for CORE costs, I'm buying less goods and services, which contradicts the supposed benefit. This is a case where theory never translates to the practical, and unfortunately we all pay for the error.

Anyways, between the higher electricity costs and higher internet fees, I best logoff right now, because this post is killing my bottom line!