Saturday, March 30, 2013

Abortion and the robot revolt

How heartwarming it was to watch five brave Con backbenchers rise up to defend Langley Con MP Mark Warawa's right to independent Steve-free abortion speech in the House of Commons. After years of having to recite member statements on whatever idiotic repetitive talking points the 30-somethings in the PMO assigned to them every day, this week the robots are revolting.

Con MP Brent Rathgeber : I would submit that if the House does not jealously protect the rights of members to bring forward matters of concern to their constituents and if it does not strictly enforce those rules, the roles of the private member, Parliament and ultimately democracy have all been equally compromised.

Really. You're just noticing this now?
And just like that it's no longer a matter of keeping the abortion debate on a constant low simmer in the House until we all get used to hearing womens' rights questioned there  - no, indeed our very democracy has been compromised if Con MPs aren't allowed to bring it up on a regular basis. 

Andrew Coyne has written two impassioned columns in as many days defending Warawa' right to speak. 
His Backbench revolt isn’t pro-life vs. pro-choice, it’s for the freedom of all MPs repeats some of the arguments he put forth in his 2008 column :
It's time to talk about abortion : This is not about abortion. This is about democracy 
and another one from a year ago :
The idea we can’t debate abortion is unworthy of a democratic country. 

The five Con MPs bravely supporting Mark Warawa in his campaign to save the very soul of democracy are Brent Rathgeber, John Williamson, Stephen Woodworth, Kyle Seeback, and Leon Benoit.  And here, as a gentle reminder, are the answers three of them - Woodworth, Seeback, and Benoit - gave to the Campaign Life Coalition Candidate Evaluation election questionnaire in 2011 and 2008 :

Williamson, Steve's former communications director, and Rathgeber declined to answer the Campaign Life questionnaire but both voted in favor of Woodworth's alternative abortion ploy - Motion 312 - to study when life begins in the womb, along with 86 other Con MPs and one third of cabinet.

While there are principled reasons to support MPs' right to speak freely in the House, it is notable that of all the issues this government has made a point of muzzling of their MPs on, including this one in its various previous anti-choice disguises, suddenly we are being asked to put the right of MPs to speak their minds in the House ahead of women's rights as a point of principle, led by MPs who have already committed themselves to introducing anti-choice laws.

So are we looking at a Backbencher Spring here?             
Here's Warawa free speech supporter Con MP Leon Benoit immediately after the weekly caucus meeting with Steve the following day :

Nope, guess not. Looks like Steve muzzled the groundhogs for yet another spring.
Monday, April 1 update :  Con MP Brent Rathgeber, after the same caucus meeting :
“I think it was a good meeting. The media have reported, and I think accurately, that many members who were upset for a variety of reasons, seem to be satisfied that the issues have either been resolved or the issues are not worth resolving.”
The 24 hour Con Backbencher Spring is over.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Economic Action Panda Rental

Pandas are the new Con mascot.

Apparently pandas are short-sighted, ill- tempered, and not well-adapted to the world, but have nonetheless achieved a 40% increase in population over the last 20 years.



Friday, March 22, 2013

Rebranding Canada as Harper Canada

Harper Canada ...
On a website, no less. This is presumably what the HarperCons call our country amongst themselves - Stephen Joseph Canada being just a tad too informal I guess.
h/t David Akin

Update : Glen McGregor counts 449 press releases using "Harper Government" from crown or government departments from Sept 21 to Dec 11 2012. That's 8 per day, as Glen says - twice that number if you include the French version. 

Upperdate : Toronto Star, March 3, 2012 : Tories rebrand ‘Government of Canada’ as ‘Harper Government’
"A directive that went out to public servants says “Government of Canada” in federal communications should be replaced by “Harper Government.”
One year later, Global, Natty Post, and the G&M are all running the same CP story on this :
"It could have been a post-budget typo, or a cut-and-paste accident, but one government agency briefly rebranded the country “Harper Canada.”Agency spokesman Alex Smith said it was simply an editing error, and was promptly corrected — to read “Harper government.”
So we're all good now it's back to "Harper Government", are we?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Penashue's political dodgeball

I thought Con MP Pierre Poilievre held the dodgeball record for giving the same identical non-answer seven times to seven different questions put to him by a single reporter in November 2012, but three months earlier now-former Labrador Con MP and cabinet minister Peter Penashue had already swallowed the ballgag whole at eight identical non-answers to eight different questions from a reporter about his election spending violations. Eight "working closely with Elections Canada"s in just over 2 minutes.

If this government were any more transparent, they'd be completely invisible but for the scandals.

h/t Diamondwalker at Pogge's for Penashue vid.

Monday Update : Kady reports Penashue has already hit the campaign trail for his election do-over even though the byelection hasn't been called yet. Well that's handy - until it is officially called, Penashue's pre-writ electioneering won't count as a campaign expense. Also noted by Kady, Penashue's re-election website went up 4 days before he resigned.

This could be the start of a whole new election strategy for the Cons - spend whatever you like in an election, accept corporate donations and change the paperwork later, whatever. Then when you get caught, resign and begin again outside the spending limits time period, secure in the knowledge the Con Party will repay your illegal debts.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Harper's Parade of Perps with Perks

Time to update Harper's Parade of Perps again, says Canadian Cynic.
Ok then ... let's add three more to make it an even ten Parade of Perps with Perks.

New entrant below the still unidentified Mr RoboCon is Saskatchewan Senator Pamela Wallin, seen here in 2000 advertizing her stint as host of  Who Wants to Buy a Millionaire? in New York where she owns an apartment. Senator Wallin is not currently being investigated for clocking $321,027 in "other" senate travel expenses because she does visit her Saskatchewan residence even she holds an Ontario residency health card just like PEI Senator Mike Duffy. However the former investigative journalist does not want to discuss it, explaining it's a "point of privacy". 

Between Duffy and Bruce Carson stands Labrador MP and Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue, who resigned from both yesterday following reports of illegal overspending and accepting corporate contributions disguised as individual donations in his 79-vote win over the Liberal incumbent in the last election. The Conservative Party transferred $44,350 to his campaign last November and this month to cover his overspending repayment debts.
Penashue explained that "mistakes were made by an inexperienced volunteer" - Reg Bowers, the campaign's official agent - who was subsequently appointed by Resources Minister Joe Oliver to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. The CNLOPB bio describes Bowers as "having extensive business involvement" and "a Bachelor of Commerce" as well as "post secondary work with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants." Still, you know ... math.
Penashue intends to have a do-over election, presumably before Elections Canada gets around to finishing an investigation which could bar him from running for election again.
Yesterday a Conservative Party spokesman explained : Nice riding you got there, Labrador, be a shame if something happened to it :
He will be the Conservative Party candidate in the by-election and if Newfoundland and Labrador want to continue to have a strong voice within government they need to re-elect him as the Member of Parliament for Labrador.
Under Steve is Dean Del Mastro, Steve's parliamentary secretary and pointman on the robocall election scandal, being investigated over his $21,000 personal cheque to Frank Hall at Holinshed Research Group for voter ID/GOTV servicesAh, I see the Frank Hall vid I reposted a month ago is "no longer available" at Youtube. So how's the rest of the RCMP/Elections Canada investigation into Del Mastro's scandal-ridden 2008 election campaign going, huh?
Fun fact : Del Mastro has now missed 26 consecutive Ethics committee meetings.

Well that's all for now, folks. Stay tuned though - it's only March.

Update : Collect the whole set!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Manning conference : Big Brother's big data

The Cons opposed collecting data for the long gun registry and the Canada long form census as "too intrusive" - and also muzzled Canadian federal scientists to keep any of their data from leaking out - but on Saturday they eagerly attended a conference to hear 'big data' proponents discuss how to collect more data about you in order to win elections.

Canada ‘light years’ behind U.S. on data mining in election campaigns, time to catch up, say experts 
Innovations in big data have started a “revolution” in the way political parties target voters and win election campaigns ...
 “There is a revolution in the way campaigns are not only run, but won,” said Mike Martens, director of the Manning Centre’s School of Practical Politics, at the Manning Centre Conference March 9 in Ottawa, at a session called, “The Cutting Edge in Practical Politics, The Data Revolution.” 
At the conference, Washington Slate columnist Sasha Issenberg explained in the years since the 2000 election in the United States, detailed voter registration information has been combined with information on individual customers from corporations to produce a detailed portrait of voters, how much they earn, their ethnicity, political affiliations, age, gender, annual income, and more.
It’s “a breakthrough,” said Mr. Issenberg, who wrote The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.
Tom Flanagan, "the godfather of CIMS" the Cons' voter database, told the G&M last year that purchased consumer data on spending habits was not added to CIMS while he was with the party.
But last year I posted a 2008 vid of CBC's Keith Boag getting a walk-through of CIMS by a Con staffer, augmented by commentary from Garth Turner and Michael Geist. Google took it down sometime this year so you can't watch it now and all that remains is a quote beneath it left by an outraged commenter :
"All of them have access to the list of voters provided by Elections Canada - from there they are free to buy data commercially."
But there's this :
Can Press, October 18, 2007Tory database draws ire of privacy experts
The federal Conservative party's central database is set up to track the confidential concerns of individual constituents without their knowledge or consent, says former Tory MP Garth Turner. Privacy experts agree the practice is a clear breach of standard privacy ethics -- but probably not the law, because federal political parties fall into a legislative grey area. 
Both the federal Liberals and the NDP have separate databases for constituency work and voter tracking. Data does not migrate between the two. But the Conservatives use a single clearing house for all data collection, storage, data mining, mailing lists, voter tracking and any other partisan use such information may serve.
A single clearing house for all data. 
And now a further blurred line between "the Party" and the government, courtesy of Michael Sona last week :

Really? Government staffers in the public service working on the Hill "were encouraged" to add info about Canadians to a partisan Con Party election campaign database? Government subsidizing a political party?
I guess that's why they call it "the Harper government".

Update : Kai Nagata covered the Manning Conference for The Tyee. Here he catches Blogging Tory founder Stephen Taylor, who now holds Harper's old job as head of the National Citizens Coalition, bragging on the 'big data' panel about the Conservative Caucus Research Bureau's use of public funds for micro-targeting voters in 2008 :
"We sent out, I think, probably a hundred million pieces of mail. Paid for by the taxpayer, I should say. They were each barcoded, and they were each very issue-specific. Most people would sort of ignore it or say 'this is garbage.' But the few people who would actually send it back and say 'Hell yeah, that's what I'm all about' -- you would be able to put them in a database." 
Taylor's group, the NCC, gathers and cross-references sets of data to build pictures of voter types and figure out how to speak to them. 
"We found that CBC privatization petition signers are most likely Molson Canadian drinkers, they watch Dexter on television, they enjoy Sun News Network, they vote Conservative, they're from Toronto, and they donate to World Vision." Those discoveries help shape the messaging. 
A voter who proves unusually engaged on an issue can often be recruited as a volunteer. That's where Mike Martens comes in. Formerly the regional organizer for the federal Conservative Party in B.C., he now runs the School of Practical Politics at the Manning Centre. From now until the next election, Martens will be training thousands of volunteers online and at the school's new campus in Calgary.
From the Conservative Caucus Research Bureau to CIMS to your ear - your tax dollars hard at work re-electing the Harper government.

Best irony overload at the conference came from Tony Clement, MNC big data panelist and President of the Treasury Board of the most secretive government in Canadian history :
“I happen to think of data as Canada’s 21st century resource. … When all the information is supplied to the citizenry, why does government have to make the decision?"
And speaking of Tom Flanagan ... You know all those writers' and academics' editorials coming to Flanagan's defence over his child pornography remarks :
Jonathan Kay : The mobbing of Tom Flanagan is unwarranted and cruel 
Barry Cooper : Some academics are coming to the defence 
Rainer Knopff : U of C owes Tom Flanagan an apology 
William Watson : Tom Flanagan, meet George Orwell
Conrad Black Turning public discourse into a never-ending shriek of ‘unclean!’
Jonathan Kay again : Tom Flanagan’s media critics leave their spines at the door

Photo of Knopff at MNC 2013 sporting Flanagan button : David Climenhaga, Alberta Diary


Friday, March 08, 2013

Media : Chavez failed to build gigantic skyscrapers

Many vile and stupid editorials have been written about Venezuelan president Hugo Ch├ívez following his death on March 5 from cancer, but none of them are quite as honest as this one from business writers at Associated Press :

Little Reaction In Oil Market To Chavez Death
"Chavez invested Venezuela's oil wealth into social programs including state-run food markets, cash benefits for poor families, free health clinics and education programs. But those gains were meager compared with the spectacular construction projects that oil riches spurred in glittering Middle Eastern cities, including the world's tallest building in Dubai and plans for branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi."
... duly reposted at the Calgary Herald, and also the Edmonton Journal who deleted the ridiculous paragraph above while I was writing this post.

h/t to FAIR, who fixes AP's original headline for them : Chavez Wasted His Money on Healthcare When He Could Have Built Gigantic Skyscrapers

Harper : "At this key juncture, I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights."

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, 2012 :  "As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.".

With voter registration in Venezuela at 96.5% and an 81% turnout in 2012, Chavez received 55 to 63% of the popular vote in his last four elections compared to Steve's 29 -39% in his last four.

Silly Venezuelans - they shoulda voted for a "better, brighter future" based on neo-liberal skyscrapers instead of $500 billion in social programs.

See Purple Library Guy at Pogge    and    Dr. Dawg    and Venezuela Analysis [h/t Beijing York in comments]

Friday, March 01, 2013

Harper's parade of perps

Notable how many of Steve's patronage peeps are grifters, conmen, or alleged perps .

Starting from the left ... picture updated to include Pierre Poutine and the robocon network [h/t Beijing York in comments] - no charges and no arrests, 21 months and counting... 

Dr. Arthur Porter, "His Excellency, Ambassador Plenipotentiary, Republic of Sierra Leone", also Harper-appointed chair of CSIS watchdog SIRC and lead investigator into CSIS' treatment of Abdelrazik. Money once paid to former Israeli arms trafficker to sell infrastructure deals to Sierra Leone, and now subject of an arrest warrant for fraud, money laundering and bribes/kickbacks in connection with SNC Lavelin's successful bid to build a $1.3-billion hospital in Montreal.
Viv Toews, minister responsible for CSIS and SIRC, says somehow it's the fault of the NDP and Libs.

Senator Mike Duffy, Harper-appointed lollypop, whose very useful 2008 election coverage included running Stephane Dion's three time stumbled interview restarts 5 days before election day. Duffy now being investigated for his housing expenses as a senator due to apparently having no idea which province he lives in.

Bruce Carson, Harper's "The Fixer". A lawyer disbarred for fraud in the 80's, Carson was charged last year with influence peddling on behalf of his 22-year-old ex-callgirl fiancee - the only bit anyone remembers - to sell water purifiers to First Nations and lobbying for a $25 million government grant within 5 years of leaving government

Senator Patrick Brazeau, 38, suspended from the Senate he barely attended with full salary. Dodgy alleged financial record going into the Senate, now highlighted by sexual assault arrest and an investigation into questionable Senate housing expenses. 

Tom Flanagan, Harper's one-time Calgary School mentor and election mastermind. Fired from CBC and on leave from U of Calgary till retirement since yesterday for framing the watching of child pornography as a victimless crime and an issue of 'personal liberty'. Accused Paul Martin of supporting child pornography during 2004 election. Toast but his legacy lives on.

Con MP Rahim Jaffer, once Harper's Chair of Con Caucus. Ran election campaign ads accusing Jack Layton of being soft on marijuana. When Jaffer arrested for drunk driving, cops and defense lawyers couldn't agree whether the cocaine was in Jaffer's pants pocket or in his jacket pocket so he got off.

Nathan Jacobson, busted in the US in 2008 for fraud, $46-million in money laundering, and running online no-prescription pharmacies, but neglected to tell his Canadian hosts he was a fugitive due back in US to serve his sentence. Arrested in Toronto last October. 
Nice photos of Jacobson with Harper and Benjamin Netanyahu presumably no longer available on government website. 

As noted at DJ, Con propaganda machine stressed to the breaking point here but Steve still scraping them off when and only when their public behavior becomes an embarrassment. 
A further updated picture : Harper's Parade of Perps with Perks

Update : Collect the whole set!

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