Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Pablo Rodriguez Question

My last post sparked some really interesting comments by some very articulate people who disagreed with me. My next reply was going to be too lengthy, so I'm writing it as a post instead.

The background is: During the Ethics committee interview of Brian Mulroney, Pablo Rodriguez (Lib) asked the following question:

Mr. Mulroney, you said you made no presentation to Maxime Bernier on the wireless spectrum issue. While he was the industry minister, have you ever had a private or public dinner or lunch with him in Montreal, or any other city? Have you ever met with him at all? If so, how many times, in which city? Have you ever placed a telephone call to him, or has he called you? On any of those, did you discuss the wireless spectrum issue?

There is a pretty fair description of the episode here. The case against Rodriguez is this:

- The question was suggested to Rodriguez by a CBC employee.
- The question was not within the mandate of the committee, which is to examine the Airbus settlement of 1997.

To me, the first point is meaningless. Reporters suggest questions to committees all the time, as do private citizens, bloggers, and interested parties. Everyone should suggest questions. There is absolutely no suggestion that the CBC bribed or blackmailed Rodriguez, or did anything other than suggest the question. Part of suggesting questions is suggesting wording, so the big debate over how well Rodriguez speaks English is beside the point.

The second point, that the question is outside the mandate, is more important. I watched the coverage of the hearing live, and when I heard this question I thought, Oh god, why are we getting off track on this nonsense? I want this committee to stay focused so it can get its job done, and don't want anything to distract it.

But since the controversy about the question has arisen, I have thought further about the relevance of the question, and I now see that it is extremely interesting and relevant.

Noone is questioning that the committee should open its investigation beyond the $300,000 cash payments by Schreiber to Mulroney. There have been lots of questions about other possible payoffs to Mulroney. The timeframe of the inquiry has been extended both before and after 1997 by all parties: everyone has asked questions about Mulroney's time as prime minister and even before, and Conservatives on the committee have asked lots of questions about Mulroney's contacts with Stephen Harper in the past two years. The Rodriguez question is about a possible current impropriety by Mulroney and is relevant in the same pattern and time frame of other questions. This is the background of the question:

- Mulroney is not a registered lobbyist.
- Mulroney is on the board of Quebecor.
- Susan Riley cites allegations that "Mulroney has lobbied the Harper government to proceed with plans to set aside valuable spectrum for newcomers, including Quebecor."
- On November 7, 2007, Harper ordered his cabinet and caucus to stop talking with Mulroney to avoid impropriety in the Schreiber hearings, but this alleged lobbying took place after that order.
- Stephane Dion asked Harper in parliament, "Has the prime minister ever discussed wireless spectrum with Brian Mulroney? Yes, or no?" and Harper refused to answer. (His office issued a statement later.)

So Rodriguez's question was very pertinent to the hearings:

- In a hearing about possible illegal lobbying in 1997, the question asks about a pattern of illegal lobbying by Brian Mulroney that may be continuing today.
- It touches on the possible Harper coverup that Tory MPs have raised in the committee.

I am not saying by any means that Harper engaged in a coverup, that Harper lied about ceasing contact with Brian Mulroney, or that Mulroney illegally lobbied the Harper government on behalf of Quebecor. But it is a reasonable question to pursue and the Ethics committee is an appropriate place to do it.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Conservatives Playing Silly Buggers on Ethics Committee

Conservatives on the Ethics committee are trying to side-line important business with a pointless political witch hunt.

Conservative MP Dean del Mastro is calling Mike Duffy and other witnesses to discuss the issue of who is "feeding questions" to MPs on the committee. In December, Mike Duffy interviewed someone who claimed that a CBC reporter suggested a question to a Liberal MP on the committee. Since then it has been widely reported that journalists and other citizens regularly suggest questions to committee members and there was nothing untoward in the event; in addition, the CBC has already disciplined the employee, saying they didn't want there to be any perception of wrongdoing. Mike Duffy, who is on CTV, has nothing to do with the issue at all.

CTV journalist Graham Richardson said this on Mike Duffy Live: "This is the most trumped up, ridiculous pandering to the Conservative core who believe the CBC is part of the enemy... this is just bald politicking and unfortunately it's politicking with someone's reputation." Duffy replied, "They're trying to embarrass the Liberals and the CBC - get a twofer."

The Ethics committee has important work to do. Harper's Conservatives have made it abdundantly clear that they don't want the committee to succeed: they tried to extradite Karlheinz Schreiber before he could appear, and they have tried to pressure the committee into rushing its work. Now they are trying to subvert its important business.

If you want to try to stop this subversion of the committee process, here are the people I wrote to complain about this latest tactic:

Dean Del Mastro (C) -
Russ Hiebert (C) -
Our PM -
Paul Szabo (L), committee chair -

Update: For more info from the Conservative side, see this.


There Are Never Enough Pirates

There's a delightful post over at Une Femme Verte about microbial mediation for the formation of the Tumbiana stromatolites and how it affects the case for creationism.

Here's the Pastafarian take on global warming, arguing rather persuasively that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of pirates:

More Mulroney Perjury?

A January 17 Maclean's article, Secret US File Revealed, starts:
A secret U.S. dossier on the Airbus affair, shared with high-ranking members of Brian Mulroney's government, alleged that the then prime minister directly intervened in Air Canada's 1988 decision to purchase the planes, as his political friends pocketed commissions and his Progressive Conservative party grew fat on donations from Karlheinz Schreiber and campaign funds connected to the deal. The seven-page report, recently obtained by Maclean's, was presented as the product of inquiries by the FBI and other American agencies. Passed on by the U.S. ambassador on the eve of the November 1988 election, it traces the roots of the Airbus deal back to 1979, and paints a picture of a wide-ranging conspiracy that saw Conservative lobbyists, cabinet ministers, senior government advisers, bureaucrats and Air Canada management collude to ensure the European aircraft consortium got a toehold in the North American market.

The article provides some evidence that Mulroney perjured himself at his 1996 libel case (in addition to the alleged perjury in his statement that he had no business dealings with Schreiber):
When concerns were expressed [at the March 30, 1988 Air Canada board meeting where the Airbus purchase received final approval] about the potential U.S. reaction to an Airbus deal, the [US government report on Airbus] alleges proceedings were put on hold while "phone calls were made to Mazankowski and Mulroney." The U.S. government account of the board meeting appears to be at odds with the former prime minister's repeated assertions that he had nothing to do with the Airbus decision. "I neither directly nor indirectly at any time influenced Air Canada," Mulroney testified during discoveries for his 1996 libel suit against the federal government. "This was exclusively an internal decision by Air Canada, the government had no influence on it whatsoever."

It is so frustrating that Canadians are not learning the truth of what may be massive government corruption. The RCMP didn't even start an investigation of Airbus bribes until 1995, and has never released its findings. This US government report was not made public until now. It has been left to investigative journalists to tell us everything we know. And now, when it has been proved beyond doubt that Mulroney accepted masses of cash in questionable circumstances, the Harper government is still trying to prevent a full inquiry.


Stevie Cameron's Review of Mulroney's Finances

Stevie Cameron provided the following review on her blog yesterday:

Mr. Mulroney's money

As several people prepare to tell the Commons Ethics Committee what they know about Brian Mulroney and money he received from various sources, I thought it might be useful to offer a brief review of some of what I have learned about all this myself.

- Before Brian Mulroney was elected Prime Minister of Canada, a powerful cross-Canada network of fundraisers, led by Montreal Conservative senator Guy Charbonneau, offered a variety of ways to donate to his leadership campaign. One of the most interesting options, offered only to trusted insiders, was an account was set up for Mulroney in a downtown Montreal branch of Montreal Trust. Donors who were interested in privacy and who didn't require tax receipts could make out a cheque to Montreal Trust - Account # 830, and Mulroney could withdraw money from this account himself.

- Shortly before Mulroney's 1984 victory, one fundraiser I know was offered a senatorship by Guy Charbonneau (who died a few years ago) in exchange for a contribution of $100,000 to Account 830 at Montreal Trust. The fundraiser said no, thanks.

- While Mulroney was prime minister, his blind trust and other financial affairs were managed by Bruce Verchere, a Montreal tax lawyer who later shot himself. The whole story - or rather, the part I was able to tell - is in Blue Trust, a book published by Macfarlane Walter & Ross in 1998.

- When I was researching a story about the Mulroneys' decorating expenses at 24 Sussex Drive, a story that appeared in the Globe and Mail in 1987, I discovered the PC Party was underwriting many of the costs - at least $324,000 worth. Buried in the receipts was one cheque on CIBC account number 72-1112 at their main Montreal branch on Rue Rene Levesque. This cheque, made out to the Mulroney's interior designer, Giovanni Mowinckel and bearing the signature of PC Canada Fund Chairman David Angus, had no logo or identification on it; a call to the bank confirmed that it was a PC Canada Fund account. But Robert Foster, the man who succeeded Mr. Angus in 1994 as head of the Fund, told me that the Fund only had one bank account and it was held in the CIBC in Ottawa.

- Mulroney and his spokespeople always denied that he received any financial support from the PC Party while he was in office. When I interviewed Mr. Angus in his law office in Montreal on June 27, 1994 I asked him about reliable information I had obtained that Mr. Mulroney was receiving about $300,000 a year from the party. Another source, the Mulroneys' former chef, Francois Martin, had also told me that for several years he would go to the Prime Minister's Office to pick up envelopes of cash from Fred Doucet or other persons; the envelopes were always unsealed and contained thousands of dollars - he remembered amounts of anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 or so. The money, he told me, was "walking-around money" for Mila Mulroney. Martin also did banking for Mrs. Mulroney, taking envelopes of cash to deposit in her account at the Bank of Montreal on Wellington Street in Ottawa. (Many years later I met a former bank manager who handled the Mulroney accounts. He wouldn't talk about them but he did admit the work was often, as he put it wryly, "quite ... exciting.")


Trey Ellis on Bill Bashing

Keep Bashing Bill to Retain a Republican Presidency:

The Democratic Presidential race is pure politics between consenting adults and the barbs traded on all sides have been well within the norm of contemporary politicking and positively tea-party genteel compared to past elections in our nation's history. As James Carville put it, they're not campaigning for commencement speaker at Williams College. Bill Clinton plays hardball because winning politics is hardball.

I mean, have Democrats forgotten how absolutely tepid and passive we have been on a national stage ever since Bill left office? Have Democrats forgotten that since him we have always lost and if the war in Iraq hadn't capsized the Bush presidency Democrats would be about as relevant to modern day governing as the Whigs?

Folks who called his aggressive boosterism for his wife "Rovian" do so because they genuinely love Obama and take it personally when he's criticized. That type of adoration is wonderful and admirable and inspiring, but it can also smack of a cult of personality that can easily cloud the hardboiled rational judgment one needs to defeat the Republicans.

Obama himself is better and smarter than that and no cry-baby.

The MSM not only has a visceral disdain for Hillary (who fanned that predisposition herself for years by perpetually snubbing the press), they have also hated Bill, even though he is by far the nation's most popular Democrat since JFK. If it were constitutionally possible to run again Bill would probably trounce even (the new) Al Gore (who seems to be pretty much every Democrat's dream candidate).

Bill knows the drill and has said publicly that if Obama wins the nomination he will fight tirelessly to get him in the White House. We Democrats need to remember that. We need Bill healthy for the coming fight and need to remember that taking him down early is the Republicans' best hope at retaining the White House.

Although I'm 6' 2" and black I suck at basketball. Nevertheless I love it as a metaphor. We're in the playoffs now and people take sides and the players throw elbows to win. However the real prize is the all-star game against the other conference. Bill Clinton is our Shaquille O'Neal and we need to make sure he stays in the game.


Monday, January 28, 2008

It's Baaaaaack!

The Ethics committee reconvenes tomorrow, and a column by Geoffrey Stevens gives us some cause to be optimistic about its progress.

Stevens laments, as I did, the pruning of witnesses that was caused by Stephen Harper mandating that the public inquiry can't begin until the committee is finished. Stevens questions, as I did, the bully tactics of the Mulroney defense team.

But Stevens also says something I had not heard before:

The strategy behind the committee's hurry-up offence seems to be to bring in an early report recommending a full public inquiry; use the opposition's majority in the Commons to win adoption of that recommendation; and force the government into a much broader inquiry than it wants at a time when a general election may be on the horizon.


Thank You, Dr Morgantaler

I've posted this two-year old quote before, but on the 20th anniversary of the Morgantaler victory for Canadian women, it's worth repeating:

As the only democratic country in the world with no legal restrictions against abortion, Canada serves as a valuable model for other countries. In the eighteen years since the Supreme Court declared our abortion law unconstitutional, we've shown that a lack of laws actually leads to earlier and safer abortions. In Canada, about 90 percent of abortions are done by 12 weeks, and about 97 percent by 16 weeks. This is a better record than in the US, where numerous legal restrictions serve mainly to delay abortions and increase the medical risk. Moreover, Canadian women have almost one-third fewer abortions than American women, and at rates comparable to countries in western Europe. Canada also enjoys one of the lowest maternal mortality and complication rates for abortion in the world.


Correcting the Record: Too Little, Too Late

The demonization of the Hillary Clinton campaign by media and bloggers was slightly mitigated today by an article in the New York Times (replicated in full below) that demonstrates how Bill Clinton's comments about Jesse Jackson were twisted. However, the damage is done and will not be repaired: Bill Clinton, against all odds, is being recreated in the minds of the people as a racist. Here are a few quotes from blogs on today's Huffington Post:

- "Bill Clinton's comments equating Obama to Jesse Jackson... is as overt a pitch to racial stereotyping"
- "The Big Dawg strayed completely out of control"
- "Slick Willie... went a mound of dung too far in South Carolina"

A HuffPost headline even concocted the following fake quote: Clinton to Obama: "Oh, Just Get Out of My Way, You Horrible Little Man".

After completely overblowing the importance of Bill Clinton in Hillary's campaign, and then fictionalizing a divisiveness and attack mentality that is not there, another HuffPoster writes, "Bill seems to have become a problem. He is overshadowing his wife." This is the equivalent of: I take your photo and paint it blue, then attack you for being blue.

Here's the article. Jackson: Not Upset by Clinton Remarks:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson said late Sunday that he was not offended by comments on Saturday by former President Bill Clinton, who brought up Mr. Jackson’s name in response to a question about Senator Barack Obama.

Mr. Clinton had noted that Mr. Jackson had won South Carolina in the Democratic contests in 1984 and 1988. Pundits and many in the blogosphere interpreted Mr. Clinton’s mention of Mr. Jackson as an attempt to diminish Mr. Obama — and what would turn out to be his landslide victory Saturday in South Carolina over Senator Hillary Clinton — because Mr. Jackson had not gone on to win the Democratic nomination.

But Mr. Jackson said he did not see it that way.

"I don’t read anything negative into Clinton’s observation," Mr. Jackson said in a phone conversation late Sunday night from India, where he is taking part in a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

Still, Mr. Jackson said that he had spoken to Mr. Obama on Saturday night and to Mr. Clinton a few days earlier and that he had appealed to both to "take it to a higher ground."

Mr. Jackson, the long-time civil rights activist, is supporting Mr. Obama while his wife, Jacqueline Jackson, is supporting Mrs. Clinton. Their son, Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., is supporting Mr. Obama.

While Mr. Jackson made race a prominent part of his own campaigns, Mr. Obama has sought to downplay it and presented himself as a transcendent figure.

In his conversation with Mr. Obama on Saturday, Mr. Jackson said, "He told me what Bill had said. And I said to Barack, as a tactical matter, resist any temptation to come down to that level. There may be temptations, especially when the media keeps saying 'Barack is black,' and they never said 'Dukakis is white' or 'Hillary is white,'" he said, referring to Michael Dukakis, who won the Democratic nomination in 1988.

But, Mr. Jackson said, "Bill has done so much for race relations and inclusion, I would tend not to read a negative scenario into his comments." He said his chief concern was that Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton not "bloody themselves" so much that they can’t unite against the Republicans in November.

Several other prominent Democrats had also talked with Mr. Clinton earlier in the week, urging him not to escalate racial tensions within the party. One, Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, said on CNN that Mr. Clinton should "chill."

Mr. Jackson said that on Saturday, Mr. Clinton had simply been recognizing Mr. Jackson’s success and said Mr. Obama recognized it too.

"He said that he felt his success was built on my 84 and 88 campaigns," Mr. Jackson said of Mr. Obama. He said there had been a "growth and maturing of the electorate" since he ran, and he saw Mr. Obama's win as "part of the historic evolution of the New South."

Before Mr. Obama's win on Saturday night, Mr. Clinton was at a polling place in Columbia, S.C., and was asked by a reporter, "What does it say about Barack Obama that it takes two of you to beat him?" referring to Mr. Clinton’s full-time campaigning for his wife.

Mr. Clinton laughed and replied, "That’s bait too." (He had just responded to a question about Senator John Kerry by saying he would not take the bait.) He then added: "Jesse Jackson won in South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88, and he ran a good campaign. And Senator Obama is running a good campaign."

There is video of Mr. Clinton's response to that one question but not of the entire exchange with reporters. But Mike Memoli, a campaign reporter for MSNBC and the National Journal, wrote the most complete account of the exchange, and it contains no other reference to Mr. Jackson. Mr. Memoli said in an e-mail that no one had mentioned Mr. Jackson until that point.

As word of Mr. Clinton's remarks about Mr. Jackson spread on television and the Internet on Saturday, the blogosphere exploded with accusations that the former president was gratuitously mentioning him as a way of diminishing Mr. Obama’s candidacy and suggesting that his win in South Carolina would have little long-term significance. Comments on numerous blogs reflected anger at Mr. Clinton for his increasing visibility in his wife’s campaign; some said that his remarks about Mr. Jackson had pushed them over the edge and that they were no longer supporting Mrs. Clinton.

On Sunday, Mr. Obama was asked on ABC’s "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos whether he thought Mr. Clinton had been engaging in racial politics. Mr. Obama responded that Mr. Clinton's "frame of reference" about South Carolina was Mr. Jackson’s campaigns, which were more than 20 years ago, implying that Mr. Clinton’s view was out of date.

In his comments Saturday, Mr. Clinton admitted to getting a little "hot" in some comments, but added, "My message has been 99.9 percent positive for 100 percent of this campaign."


Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Canadian View of the United States

The Globe & Mail published a very interesting column by Lawrence Martin on Thursday: Why Canadians Don't Care for the Grand Old Party. He says that Canadians favor Democrats in this year's presidential election by a four to one margin. "Even among Canadians identifying themselves as conservative, the pollster found a two-to-one margin backing the Dems."

He notes that the current leader in the Republican race, John McCain, is considered a moderate but "is such a gun enthusiast that he voted against a ban on assault weapons... he opposes universal health care, has a tax policy that is God-bless-the-rich and sees a terrorist around every pop stand... [has] a bull-headed unilateralist approach... and [is] all about extending the culture of fear."

Martin notes that Canadian support for our military participation in Afghanistan might improve if a Democrat, and not a Republican, were leading the forces there.

Lawrence writes, "Canada is so profoundly Democratic that we can drop any remaining concerns about ever being annexed. Republican America would never allow [it]."

Republicans tend to support free trade and open borders more than Democrats, so it looks like the Canadian support is more about values than self-interest.


Obliterating the Front-Runner, cont.

Obama won South Carolina and he won big.

This was predicted weeks ago for two reasons: over half of South Carolina voters are black and it's John Edwards' home state - which bleeds some Hillary support. Obama's win is bigger than expected, but not any sort of surprise to anyone who is following the primaries closely. South Carolina has long been seen to be Obama's strongest primary state. Alabama, which is another state with a high population of black voters, is polling for Clinton.

The media reaction is a tad disingenuous. As the South Carolina results came in last night, CNN reporters practically lept up and down, shouting in faux amazement that Obama had whupped Clinton. That let them open the door to an analysis of why Clinton lost, and to repeat the lies and misinformation of the last week: the media-created fiction that Bill Clinton is divisive and Hillary Clinton is a dirty politician.

The really telling aspect of media coverage last night and today is that it is all about Clinton losing, rather than about Obama winning. The media is twisting this win to continue their character assassination of the Clintons. The story is still all about obliterating the Democratic front-runner.

And front-runner she still is. As of today, Clinton has 249 delegates; Obama has 167; and Edwards has 58. In national polls, Clinton is at 43% and Obama is at 35%. Perhaps the best thing for her candidacy would be to slip from that spot for a moment so that the ravaging attack dogs of the press can start turning their rabid eyes on Obama. In any event, the character assassination by the media is in such high gear that Hillary's lead is very much in jeopardy.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Take Off the Kid Gloves, Mr. Szabo

From today's Globe & Mail:
Brian Mulroney may not return for a second appearance in front of a Parliamentary committee looking into his relationship with Karlheinz Schreiber unless he gets assurances from the committee that it won't stray from its mandate.

In a letter to committee chair Paul Szabo, Mr. Mulroney's lawyer is accusing the House of Commons panel of bias and of violating his client's rights, saying its final report on the matter could be tainted. Guy Pratte writes that Mr. Szabo wrongly allowed questions not related to the committee's mandate and expresses concern about a request from Mr. Szabo that Canada's Auditor-General examine the former prime minister's tax records.

Mulroney's lawyer wrote to the Ethics committee: "... allow me to remind you that Mr. Mulroney has co-operated fully with the committee and to assure you that he intends to continue to do so to the extent that legitimate questions remain to be examined. But given the way the proceedings have unfolded thus far, any reasonable observer must conclude that very serious breaches of fairness have occurred..."

Can you say someone has "cooperated fully" when they lied?

Most reasonable observers concluded that Mulroney was not only treated fairly, but was treated so fairly as to enable him to walk all over the hearings:

* Mulroney wasn't made to swear an oath.
* Mulroney was allowed to present his case with very little cross examination.
* Mulroney was treated with deference and respect, even while uttering what appeared to be great big fat whoppers.

The Globe goes on, "In his letter, Mr. Pratte says that Mr. Szabo's inquiry about having the Auditor-General's office audit Mr. Mulroney's income-tax returns was an attempt to violate the former prime minister's privacy." But Ethics chair Paul Szabo asked for the Audit-General to handle the tax returns to protect Mulroney's privacy - it was a way to avoid the returns becoming public.

We need to see the tax returns, and they need to be made public. Mulroney must return to the Ethics committee, and he must answer probing questions about his previous testimony and anything else the committee deems relevant.

The Ethics committee cannot give in to Mulroney's bullying the way governments have previously.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Twisting of Truth: Analysis of an Event

In the Nevada Democratic primary debate, Obama pretended Hillary said something she didn't, and the exchange has been further twisted by media into renewed charges that Hillary is playing dirty. What Hillary said is, in fact, completely accurate and fair.

The week before, Obama had made two separate comments to the Reno Gazette-Journal:

* One quote related to Reagan. Obama said, "I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path..."

* The other quote referred to ideas. Obama said, "I think it is fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time over the last 10, 15 years..."

Note that the last 10-15 years does not have anything to do with Reagan, who left office 20 years ago.

In the debate, Hillary referred to the second quote. She said, "The facts are that [Obama] has said in the last week that he really liked the ideas of the Republicans over the last 10 to 15 years, and we can give you the exact quote. Now, I personally think they had ideas, but they were bad ideas. They were bad ideas for America." This is an accurate representation of Obama's second quote and a fair criticism of it. You don't say a group is "the party of ideas" if you mean that they have useless, crappy, or even neutral ideas. Obama was obviously praising the Republicans for being the party of ideas and implicitly criticizing Bill Clinton's presidency (which started 15 years ago) as not having ideas.

Obama started to respond about Reagan. Hillary immediately said, "I did not say anything about Ronald Reagan." It was clear she was referring to Obama's statement about ideas, not to his statement about Reagan. Obama chose to pretend to misunderstand Hillary and he responded as if she were referring to the Reagan quote.

The media took Hillary's completely fair comment and twisted it to make her look like a dirty politician. Maureen Down wrote, "Hillary tried once more to take Obama's remarks about Ronald Reagan out of context, making it seem as though Obama had praised Reagan's policies." On Meet the Press, Tim Russert's panel went even further, claiming (by over-emphasizing selective quotes) that both Bill and Hillary had been big Reagan fans and that Hillary was being hypocritical about Reagan. On Hardball, Chris Matthews attacked Hillary for her comment that she hadn't mentioned Reagan; he said, "Why did she deny doing so, clearly having done so, by saying, almost in a high school fashion, 'I didn’t say the name Reagan?'"

The blogs have gone nuts too. Paul Waldman said she "twist[ed] some remarks Obama made about Ronald Reagan and the years since his presidency beyond all recognition." Even Ezra Klein mistakenly said that Hillary exaggerated Obama's comments about Reagan.

This is not just about Hillary. Whoever is the Democratic frontrunner is going to be subject to this sort of distortion. Al Gore was briefly made to seem a delusional liar and John Kerry was made to seem a coward, and now Hillary Clinton is being made to appear a dirty politician. It's a lie.

Hillary has been the clear frontrunner for a year (see chart below), but Obama is catching up quickly. When he is the frontrunner, the character assassination will switch to him. We never learn.

Chart courtesy of TPM Election Central.


Media Subverting Democracy

For the first time in our lives, we thought a strange thought as we watched this corruption last night: We’re close to a type of proto-fascism... A big defense contractor buys a news network—and put tools like Matthews in place, paying them millions of dollars per annum. These tools then lie, and lie, to your face. The dead of Iraq are in the ground because, in 1999 and 2000, the liberal world let this game play.

They bought a news network; hired some tools; and last night, one of them lied in your faces. This has gone on for a very long time. Do we still call it "democracy?"

For the complete analysis, see When GE can lie to you this way, you're no longer in a democracy.


Monday, January 21, 2008

The Huffington Post and Irresponsible Alternative Media

We should start taking a hard look at the conduct of alternative media as well as main stream media.

There are some really crappy money-making blogs (MMBs) around. One, I believe, is gawker (I won't even provide the URL). It pays a pittance to its contributors - I have heard it was recently $12/post - and the site makes millions. Gawker strikes me as particularly offensive because it tries to be counter-cultural and edgy, when it's just big business taking advantage of the little guy.

One MMB/alternative news site that I read and like is the Huffington Post. There are lots of good contributors and a variety of viewpoints. But there's something very unsettling about HuffPost: The comments are mostly utterly vitriolic, hate-filled rants by Democrats (or people posing as Democrats) against other Democrats. If you thought HuffPost was representative of America, you'd think that the Democratic party was tearing itself to bits.

Now, lots of blogs and news sites have angry, rude commenters. The thing that bothers me about HuffPost is the concentration of intraparty hatred. There is really no need for the Obama camp and Hillary camp to be so angry and nasty. And from my experience, HuffPost commenters don't represent average people who support those two candidates.

So I took a harder look at HuffPost content, and I conclude that HuffPost uses inflammatory articles and headlines to up their readership (and ultimately their profits from ads). HuffPost is creating scandal and dissension, or at least exacerbating it.

On Saturday, January 19, I made a note of every headline on the HuffPost front page that mentioned Hillary, Barack, or both. (This required checking every couple of hours over the day.) There were 25. Of those, I judge 15 to be inflammatory in some way: dealing with scandal or dissension rather than policy or fact. I provide links below.

I believe that HuffPost is being worse than MSM in stirring up controversy in the Democratic race. HuffPost should take a good, hard look at their editorial policy. They should be focusing more on policy and fact, and scale down the dissension and scandal. Fifteen inflammatory posts in one day is at least 14 too many.

AlterNet has taken a more sober, responsible approach to what it posts (compared to how it covered the last presidential election). HuffPost might learn from them.

Here are the inflammatory posts. The headlines are what appeared on the HuffPost front page:

* Racist Obama joke leaves banquet crowd gasping
* No More Mr. Nice Guy: Obama Mocks Hillary In Standup Routine
* The curious math of Hillary’s "35 years of experience"
* Judge rejects Clinton gambit to block casino workers from voting
* Clinton's Anti-Union Allies
* Anna Lambasts Hillary for Rejecting Vogue
* Nevada Union in battle mode for Obama
* Roy Sekoff with Dan Abrams, Joe Klein and Kate Obenshain on Hillary, Obama and Fearmongering
* Southern Blacks Split Over Obama Vs Clinton
* Chris Matthews apologises for harsh coverage of Hillary
* Chris Matthews Doesn't Rewrite History About the Clintons, He Just Makes It Up
* Anna Wintour Takes Hillary Clinton To Task
* Barack Hearts Ronnie: An Old, New Song
* Chris Matthews Had the Guts to Apologize for Hillary Loathe, Don't Bet the Others Will do the Same
* Hillary Opens Up to Tyra About Adultery

The rest of Saturday's posts on HuffPost are relatively neutral:

* Debate Shocker: Iraq Returns to the Campaign Spotlight...and Hillary Puts it There
* Open Letter to Senator Obama: What Exactly in the Clinton-Era Nineties Did You Not Like?
* Michigan Results Reveal Some Dangerous Trends For Clinton
* Progressive Leader Feingold Split Over Clinton, Obama
* Reagan Advisors: Obama a Bit Like the Gipper
* Obama Could Be Our Tony Blair!
* Senator Leahy Endorses Obama
* Hillary Clinton Delivers Most Watched Meet the Press in Almost Three Years
* Obama Volunteers Transform San Fran Bong Shop To New HQ
* Obama's Wife Gets Vegas Night Out


Sunday, January 20, 2008

What the Next US President Faces

The next US president will inherit a deficit that will make it nearly impossible to enact any new policies and a war that will make it nearly impossible to correct the deficit. He or she will probably also walk into a recession that will require enlightened economic management.

Seven years of spectacular mismanagement have left such a pile of deferred problems and crises that most of the new president's time will be spent digging out from under and cleaning up the messes. And many of the problems depend on each other. As one example: the current world financial system, unofficially called Bretton Woods II, is based on emerging economies keeping their exchange rates low to support exports to the US. US consumers now represent 35% of world GDP. The system was unsustainable from the start, and as the US currency collapses it threatens all involved - perhaps most of all the vulnerable Chinese economy, which doesn't have the domestic demand to support its production. We need to create a new economic order and it's not going to be easy. The defacto dollar standard and even US position as world superpower is at stake.

In a recession, economic issues are social issues. When the economy suffers, the poor suffer most of all, and layoffs create more and more of the poor. Much as I support an enhanced social safety net and income redistribution, in a recession the size of the pie is more important than the shape of the slices.

Similarly, solving the US health care dilemma is about a lot more than assuring universal coverage. Health care costs are so out of control in the US that the US government spends more per capita on health care than Canada does, and still leaves out tens of millions of people. Health care costs have created a crisis in Medicare as boomers retire.

On top of all that, there's a brewing crisis in the middle east; an environmental crisis; US financial market regulations that require a vast overhaul; an immigration problem; and, oh yes, the probability of new terrorist attacks. No doubt I've left out dozens of vital issues.

Given this, what we need in the next president is someone with good values - social justice, economic prosperity, rule of law, environmental improvement - but whose emphasis is on good management and getting things done. To my mind, the best candidate is Hillary Clinton - but I respect Barack Obama as a choice as well.


Don't Get Fooled Again

The interesting thing about the anti-Hillary trashers is that they are the same people who have trashed every Democratic front-runner for the last 20 years. The M.O. is always the same: to demonize and make the person a laughing stock. To create a caricature of a person with no foundation in truth. The aim is to weaken resolve among their supporters and strengthen resolve among their opponents.

In an earlier post I reproduced an article that details the horror of Chris Matthew's campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton. Matthews devoted all of 1999 to a similar campaign against Al Gore. The Daily Howler said in 2002, "Among major pundits, [Matthews] was almost surely the most enthusiastic trasher of Gore. He liked to combine smutty sexual jibes with moronic observations about Gore’s movements and clothing." Matthews called Gore "the bathtub ring," "dim-witted" and "a man-woman" (the latter in a bizarre attack on Al's three-button suits) and said he looked "un-American". One of Matthews' favorite insults was, "Gore would do anything to become president - even lick the floor." It sounds so juvenile now that it defies belief that anyone could have taken it seriously, but at the time Matthews' attack was extremely effective in eroding the seriousness of Gore's candidacy.

We let ourselves get manipulated into not electing Gore and not electing Kerry. Every time we say we won't get fooled again. But here we are and it's happening again, RIGHT NOW. I'm not saying that people should not support Obama. I'm saying that Hillary is being attacked because she's the Democratic front-runner, and is being set up as evil, manipulative, status quo, etc - and if Obama wins, the same thing will happen to him.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Why the Rush?

Soon after Stephen Harper said that the public inquiry into the 1993 Schreiber-Mulroney payments will not be started until the Ethics committee is finished, the Ethics commmittee started uninviting some previously-invited witnesses.

I hope they reconsider this haste. The inquiry covers an important, but very narrow, issue: the propriety of a prime minister taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from an arms dealer, not paying GST or tax on it, and lying about the relationship under oath to stop the RCMP from discovering more.

The Ethics committee could look into what Mulroney was lying under oath to keep us from finding out. The Ethics committee has the potential to learn much more about bribery of leadership convention delegates, payouts to government officials, attempted coverups and more.

So far there's no connection between the current Conservative party and corruption of the Mulroney-era party, so Harper should stop trying to extradite witnesses or push the Ethics committee to truncate its business.

Canadians deserve to get to the bottom of Mulroney-era corruption.


Analysing Anti-Woman Media Bias

This article is so thorough and well-thought out that I reproduce it completely, including links. It's from Media Matters by Jamison Foser. The issue goes far beyond Chris Matthews, of course.

MSNBC's Chris Matthews problem
I do not care which person is your candidate. I don't care what you think of Hillary Clinton as a potential president. What is being done in the press is akin to a pack of rabid 7th graders trying to haze the nerdy girl in school simply because they can. It has nothing to do with her qualifications -- it has to do with gender, and these lemming pundits think that it's perfectly acceptable because everyone is doing it, including women like Andrea Mitchell and Anne Kornblut.
-- Christy Hardin Smith, Firedoglake

"OK, let's put the gender thing in here. I love gender politics, guys."
-- Chris Matthews

The behavior Christy Hardin Smith describes has its epicenter on MSNBC's Hardball, where rarely a day goes by without host Chris Matthews sputtering and shouting about Hillary Clinton, often in terms that would give Bobby Riggs pause.

Put simply, Matthews behaves as though he is obsessed with Hillary Clinton. And not "obsessed" in a charming, mostly harmless, Lloyd-Dobler-with-a-boom-box kind of way. "Obsessed" in a this-person-needs-help kind of way.

More than six years ago, long before Hillary Clinton began running for president, the Philadelphia Inquirer magazine reported that, according to an MSNBC colleague, Matthews had said of Clinton: "I hate her. I hate her. All that she stands for."

Even before that, Matthews told the January 20, 2000, Hardball audience, "Hillary Clinton bugs a lot of guys, I mean, really bugs people like maybe me on occasion. I'm not going to take a firm position here, because the election is not coming up yet. But let me just say this, she drives some of us absolutely nuts."

Not that there was much chance his feelings would go unnoticed by even the most casual Hardball viewer.

Matthews has referred to Clinton as "She devil." He has repeatedly likened Clinton to "Nurse Ratched," referring to the "scheming, manipulative" character in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest who "asserts arbitrary control simply because she can." He has called her "Madame Defarge." And he has described male politicians who have endorsed Clinton as "castratos in the eunuch chorus."

Matthews has compared Clinton to a "strip-teaser" and questioned whether she is "a convincing mom." He refers to Clinton's "cold eyes" and the "cold look" she supposedly gives people; he says she speaks in a "scolding manner" and is "going to tell us what to do."

Matthews frequently obsesses over Clinton's "clapping" -- which he describes as "Chinese." He describes Clinton's laugh as a "cackle" -- which led to the Politico's Mike Allen telling him, "Chris, first of all, 'cackle' is a very sexist term." (Worth remembering: When John McCain was asked by a GOP voter referring to Clinton, "How do we beat the bitch?" Allen reacted by wondering, "What voter in general hasn't thought that?" So Allen isn't exactly hypersensitive to people describing Clinton in sexist terms.)

Matthews repeatedly suggests Clinton is a "fraud" for claiming to be a Yankees fan, despite the fact that all available evidence indicates that Clinton has been a Yankees fan since childhood. In April of 2007, former Washington Post reporter John Harris, who has written a book about Bill Clinton, told Matthews to his face that the attacks on Clinton over her history of being a Yankees fan were false. Harris said: "Hillary Clinton got hazed over saying she was a New York Yankees fan. It turned out, actually, that was right. She had been a lifelong Yankees fan. But people were all over [her] for supposedly embroidering her past." But Matthews doesn't let a little thing like the truth get in the way of his efforts to take cheap shots at Clinton: At least twice since Harris set him straight, Matthews has attacked Clinton over the Yankees fan nonsense, once calling her a "fraud."

Matthews has described Clinton as "witchy" and -- in what appears to be a classic case of projection -- claimed that "some men" say Clinton's voice sounds like "fingernails on a blackboard." In what appears to be an even more classic case of projection, Matthews has speculated that there is "out there in the country ... some gigantic monster -- big, green, horny-headed, all kinds of horns coming out, big, aggressive monster of anti-Hillaryism that hasn't shown itself: it's based upon gender."

Matthews has suggested that Hillary Clinton "being surrounded by women" might "make a case against" her being "commander in chief." He once asked a guest if "the troops out there" would "take the orders" from "Hillary Clinton, commander in chief." When his guest responded, "Why wouldn't they listen to a [female] commander in chief? Sure," Matthews responded: "You're chuckling a little bit, aren't you?" When his guest responded "No," Matthews couldn't quite believe it, sputtering: "No problem? No problem? No problem?"

Matthews has wondered if she is unable "to admit a mistake" because doing so would lead people to call her a "fickle woman." He has said that Clinton is on a "short ... leash" as a presidential candidate, lacking "latitude in her husband's absence" to answer a question. He has, at least twice, called Hillary Clinton an "uppity" woman -- both times, pretending to attribute the phrase to Bill Clinton. But, as Bob Somerby has explained, there is no evidence Clinton has ever used the term.

One of Matthews' favorite topics is Clinton's marriage. After The New York Times ran an article purporting to count the number of nights the Clintons spend together, Matthews' imagination ran wild, and the MSNBC host couldn't get the Clintons' marital life out of his mind. At one point, Media Matters counted 90 separate questions Matthews asked guests about the topic during seven separate programs; the number undoubtedly grew after we stopped counting. In the middle of one of Matthews' bouts of obsessive speculation about how often the Clintons are "together in the same roof overnight, if you will," Washington Post reporter Lois Romano asked him, "[W]hat is your obsession with logistics here?" In response, Matthews snapped at her: "Because I'm talking to three reporters, and I'm trying to get three straight answers, so I don't want attitude about this. It's a point of view -- I want facts. Tell me what the facts are, Lois, if you know them. If you don't, I don't know what you're arguing about."

Matthews has claimed: "[T]he reason she's a U.S. senator, the reason she's a candidate for president, the reason she may be a front-runner is her husband messed around." John McCain's political career got started after he left his first wife for a wealthy and politically connected heiress, married her, and ran for Congress. But Chris Matthews doesn't suggest that the reason McCain is a "U.S. senator ... a candidate for president ... a front-runner" is that he "messed around." Even Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said Matthews' comments about Clinton went too far: "I mean, it's rough business what these people over there [at MSNBC] are doing. We don't do that here. We would never say that Senator Clinton got her job because her husband messed around. I mean, that is -- that is a personal attack. And it is questionable whether a network should allow that or not."

Matthews periodically gets it into his head that the most important question in the world is whether Bill Clinton will be a "distraction" or whether he will "behave himself." He badgers Clinton aides about the question and warns that Bill Clinton "better watch it." He asks if Clinton will be a "good boy" or be guilty of "misbehavior." Matthews is not so subtly referring to Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. But curiously, he doesn't have the same concerns about McCain or about Rudy Giuliani, as I wrote nearly a year ago.

Think about this for a second: Chris Matthews is holding it against Hillary Clinton that her husband cheated on her. But he doesn't hold it against John McCain and Rudy Giuliani that they cheated on their spouses. Matthews seems to think women are to blame when their husbands have affairs -- and men who cheat on their spouses are blameless.

And then there's Matthews' fixation on Hillary Clinton's "ambition." In December 1999, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson appeared on Hardball to discuss Clinton's Senate campaign. Matthews asked Wolfson eight consecutive questions about whether Clinton was "ambitious." Finally, Matthews said, "People who seek political power are ambitious by definition," leading Wolfson to tell him: "if you say so. If it will make you happy, I'll agree." If Matthews has ever displayed as much interest in the "ambition" of male candidates like John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, or Mike Huckabee, he has done so in private.

And, in the midst of his years-long assault on Hillary Clinton, much of it either directly based on her gender or on a sexist double standard, Matthews has the audacity to accuse Clinton of being "anti-male" and to insist that "she should just lighten up on this gender -- 'the boys are coming to get me' routine."

None of this should surprise us. Chris Matthews acknowledged his feelings about Hillary Clinton long ago: "I hate her. I hate her. All that she stands for." And "she drives some of us [guys] absolutely nuts."

But Matthews' questionable treatment of women extends beyond Hillary Clinton.

Matthews has described House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as "scary" and
suggested she would "castrate" House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. And he has wondered how she could disagree with President Bush "without screaming? How does she do it without becoming grating?"

Just this week, Matthews claimed there isn't a plausible female presidential candidate "on the horizon" because there aren't any "big-state women governors" -- but Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell, and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius all run states with populations comparable to male governors who have recently run for president, including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Bill Richardson. How large a state does a woman have to run before she qualifies as a plausible presidential candidate to Chris Matthews? One that is twice as large as Mitt Romney's Massachusetts? Three times as large?

Last October, Matthews mused aloud about a hypothetical couple trying to decide who to support for president. In Matthews' mind, the wife just wants to see "the first woman president." According to Matthews, the husband has to explain the math to his wife: "[T]he husband says, 'You know, dear, you know, this is going to kill our tax bracket. You know that tuition thing we pay every couple of years for the kids, every year, we can't do that if we get a higher tax bracket. We have to pay more money.' "

After the Des Moines Register endorsed Hillary Clinton earlier this year, Matthews suggested that the paper's "female editors and publisher" succumbed to "lobbying" by Bill Clinton.

Matthews has repeatedly focused on the physical characteristics of his female guests. He recently began an interview with conservative radio host and author Laura Ingraham by telling her, "I'm not allowed to say this, but I'll say it -- you're beautiful and you're smart." He ended the interview by saying: "I get in trouble for this, but you're great looking, obviously. You're one of the gods' gifts to men in this country. But also, you are a hell of a writer." Note that Matthews said Ingraham is also a good writer -- apparently, to Chris Matthews, there is no reason for men to care about whether a woman can write, only about how she looks.

Matthews' comments about Ingraham came only a month after he told CNBC anchor Erin Burnett, "You're a knockout," adding: "It's all right getting bad news from you." Matthews also told Burnett: "Come on in closer. No, come in -- come in further -- come in closer. Really close." Matthews made such a spectacle of himself during the exchange that The New York Post said "it sure looked" like Matthews had been "perving on CNBC hottie Erin Burnett on live TV the other night." Matthews explained that he had merely been "kidding around."

During MSNBC's April 26, 2007, coverage of the first Democratic presidential debate, Matthews discussed the "cosmetics" of the evening. In doing so, he complimented Michelle Obama's pearl necklace and declared that she "looked perfect," "well-turned out ... attractive -- classy, as we used to say. Like Frank Sinatra, 'classy.' "

Matthews also appeared to argue that many viewers would be basing their decisions about the candidates on how, in Clinton's case, the candidate was dressed, or, in the case of the male candidates, how their spouses were dressed: "Some people are, by the way, just watching tonight. They stopped listening a half-hour in, and they noticed how pretty she is -- Michelle -- and they said, 'I like the fact he's [Barack Obama] got this pretty wife. He's happily married. I like that.' They like the fact that Hillary was demure, lady-like in her appearance." When NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell interjected, noting "You're talking about two ... lawyers," who went to "Harvard and Yale," Matthews defended himself, saying, "Cosmetics are a part of this game."

Nor is any of this new: In August 1999, Matthews hosted notorious liar Gennifer Flowers, during which he told her: "I gotta pay a little tribute here. You're a very beautiful woman, and I -- and I have to tell you, he knows that, you know that, and everybody watching knows that; Hillary Clinton knows that. How can a woman put up with a relationship between her husband and somebody, anybody, but especially somebody like you that's a knockout?" After Flowers told him "Gosh, you make me blush here," Matthews replied, "[I]t's an objective statement, Gennifer. I'm not flirting."

In 2000, Matthews responded to linguist Deborah Tannen's explanation of then-presidential candidate George W. Bush's efforts to appeal to women voters by saying, "So is this like the political equivalent of Spanish fly? That these seductive number of words you just drop out there and women just swoon." That led another Hardball guest, Lynn Martin -- a Republican -- to point out, "You wouldn't suggest he's seducing men."

Chris Matthews has been treating female guests as sexual objects for years. He has been judging women -- senators, presidential candidates, the speaker of the House -- on their clothes and their voices and their appearance for years. He has been referring to women as "castrating" for years. He has been applying double standards to male and female candidates for years.

This is who Chris Matthews is. He is a man who thinks that men who support women politicians are "eunuchs."

He isn't going to stop unless you make him stop. Chris Matthews uses his voice to marginalize women. Use yours to tell MSNBC you've had enough.

It's time to play a little "hardball." Please contact MSNBC and Chris Matthews today and let them know what you think.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Endorsements for Hillary for President as of January 15, 2008

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
United Transportation Union
National Association of Letter Carriers
Transportation Communications Union
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
International Union Of Painters And Allied Trades
International Alliance Of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists And Allied Crafts Union
New York Civil Service Employees Association
New York's UFCW Local 1500
IATSE Stage Employees Local 720 in Las Vegas
Michigan Operating Engineers Local 324

Other organizations
National Organization for Women
National Women's Political Caucus
Women's Campaign Forum
Alabama Black Caucus

Concord Monitor
Nevada El Mundo
NH’s Four Cabinet Press Weekly Newspapers
Burlington Hawk Eye
Quad City Times
Washington Blade
Keene Sentinel
Foster’s Daily Democrat
Laconia Citizen
Des Moines Register
Eleven Salmon Press Weekly Newspapers
Vinton Eagle
Manchester Democratic Leader
Former ABC News Anchorwoman Carole Simpson

Maya Angelou
Fmr. Ambassador Joseph Wilson
John and Ann Doerr
Civil Rights Leader Raul Yzaguirre
Human Rights Leader Dolores Huerta
Steven Spielberg
Rob Reiner
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Barbra Streisand
Civil Rights Pioneer Rep. John Lewis
Bill Shaheen
Billie Jean King
Quincy Jones
Paul Williams
Dr. Susan Lynch
Dr. Iyanla Vanzant
Former President and CEO of Overseas Provate Investment Corporation, George Muñoz

California Senator Dianne Feinstein
Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale
Geraldine Ferraro
General Wesley K. Clark
Fmr. Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt
Fmr. Nebraska Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland
Fmr. DNC Chair Joe Andrew
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski
Domenech McClintock
National Legislative Leader Calvin Smyre
Former Defense Secretary William J. Perry
California NAACP President Alice Huffman
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe
Fmr. Washington Governor Gary Locke
Former MO Governor Bob Holden
Former North Dakota Governor and First Lady, George and Jane Sinner
Former Maine Gov. Kenneth M. Curtis
Former Missouri Governor Warren Hearnes and First Lady Betty Hearnes
General Johnnie Wilson
San Francisco Asian American (AAPI) Leaders
New Mexico Lt. Governor Diane Denish
U.S. Representative Mike Thompson
Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy
American Samoa Governor Tulafono
Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi
Congresswoman Shelley Berkley
Henry Cisneros
Delaware Governor Ruth Ann Minner
State Representative Bill Hatch
Ambassador Edward Romero
State Representative Jim Webber
State Senator Bob Coffin
Virginia Delegates Adam Ebbin and Jennifer McClellan
New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne
Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey
Former Lieutenant Governor Jo Ann Zimmerman
Iowa Women Elected Officials
Arkansas Speaker of the House Benny Petrus
Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro
Former DNC Chairman Don Fowler
All Three Georgia Statewide Democrats
Congressman Boswell
Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch
Congressman Dennis Cardoza (CA-18)
Long Beach Councilmember Lowenthaln
California Education Leaders
Minnesota Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark
Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher
Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts
NH Commissioner of Education Lyonel Tracy
Utah Leaders
Alabama Leaders
Oakland Vice Mayor Henry Chang
NH State Senator Lou D’Allesandro
California State Senator Jenny Oropeza
Indiana Democratic Leaders
Nevada Assemblywoman Susan Gerhardt
Maryland Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp
Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks
California Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis
Former NH Democratic Party Chair Kathy Sullivan
Georgia Rep. David Scott
California State Controller John Chiang
Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums
Former Secretary of the Army Louis E. Caldera
Ohio Senate Minority Whip Ray Miller
Florida Attorney Bill McBride
California Rep. Diane Watson
Rhode Island Treasurer Frank T. Caprio, State Rep. David Caprio
Former Philadelphia Congressman Reverend William H. Gray III
Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders
Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh
California Legislative Black Caucus Chair Mervyn Dymally
Nevada State Legislators
U.S. Virgin Islands Delegate Donna M. Christensen
Nevada Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera
Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow
Congresswoman Laura Richardson
Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer, Leading Maryland Officials
Senate Minority Leader Arzberger, Arizona Officials
Pennsylvania Lt. Governor Catherine Baker Knoll
Pennsylvania Treasurer Robin L. Wiessmann
King County Executive Ron Sims
Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi
Massachusetts Senate President Therese Murray
Florida Leaders
Leading Pennsylvania Legislators
Fresno Assemblyman Juan Arambula Endorses
Former Las Vegas Mayor Jan L. Jones
Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II
Northern Nevada Elected Leaders
Sparks City Councilman John Mayer
New Jersey Rep. Bill Pascrell
California Assemblymembers Charles Calderon and Jose Solorio
California Assemblymembers Sally Lieber, Anna Caballero and Jim Beall Jr.
Assemblymembers Mike Eng, Edward Hernandez, and Lloyd Levine
Former Nevada Rep. James Bilbray
Oregon Rep. Darlene Hooley
FL State Sen. Ted Deutch
Los Angeles City Council Members Wendy Greuel, Jan Perry, Jack Weiss
Massachusetts State Auditor DeNucci
Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Nevada Higher Education Chancellor James E. Rogers
UNLV President Emerita Carol Harter
California Assemblyman Sandré Swanson
Vermont State Legislators
California Rep. Jane Harman
Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher
Tribal Chairman Arlan Melendez
Chairman Terry Duffy
Former Indiana Sec. of State Hogsett
RI Speaker Tempore Charlene Lima, State Legislators
Iowa State Legislators
New York Rep. Yvette D. Clarke
Southern Nevada Elected Leaders
State Rep. Harvin
Philadelphia Mayor John Street
Rep. Joe Sestak
Wisconsin Lt. Governor Lawton
Illinois State Rep. Franks
Minnesota Leaders
Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall
NH Sen. Molly Kelly
Rhode Island Secretary of State Mollis
Former New York Mayor David Dinkins
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard
Boston City Council President Feeney, Councillor LaMattina
Florida Rep. Corrine Brown
Mayors From Across California
New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires
Arkansas Leaders
Washington Rep. Jay Inslee
Michigan Democratic Senate Leader Schauer, State Legislators
Texas Reps. Cuellar, Hinojosa
Maryland Leaders
Providence Mayor Cicilline
Florida Rep. Kendrick Meek
Maryland Rep. Ruppersberger
Nevada Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez
Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Sheriff Cabral
Leading Massachusetts Legislators
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino
Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin
Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce Chairman Robert Gomez
Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
Former Nevada Governor Miller
Veterans and Military Retirees For Hillary
State Sen. Deb Reynolds
NH Senate President Sylvia Larsen
Leading Wisconsin Officials
Texas Rep. Jackson Lee
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malleyn
Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal
Leading Virginia Officials
Ret. Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy
Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones
CA Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez
Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski
19 Massachusetts Legislators
St. Louis Mayor Slay
Florence, SC, Mayor Frank Willis
Nine More NH State Representatives
Gov. Corzine, NJ Officials
Gov. Tom and Christie Vilsack
Asst. NH House Majority Leader
Pennsylvania Rep. Schwartz
Central Valley Elected Officials and Democratic Leaders
Sixteen NH State Representatives
North Country Leader, Healthcare Advocate McLeod
NH House Majority Leader Mary Jane Wallner
Reps. Wasserman Schultz, Hastings

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Problem of the Oil Sands

As we all know, Canada's greenhouse gas emissions are rising out of control. The increase is largely due to pollution in the Alberta oil patch.

Garth Turner had a good post last week about the issue. He says that in addition to the huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, "one barrel of oil takes more energy than the oil actually delivers, plus about four barrels of water." The process results in huge quantities of polluted water and there's no way to clean it.

This link to Garth's post includes a lively comments section with lots of additional information and dissenting opinions.


Mulroney Corruption: How to Proceed

We are almost certainly going to have an inquiry into the 1993 dealings of Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber. The inquiry has a narrow focus and will not deal with other possible corrupt practices by our former prime minister.

Since the inquiry will cover the Schreiber $300,000, the Ethics committee should focus on other matters, such as:

- The huge amounts of cash given to the Mulroneys during his years as PM: how much he got, how much they spent, where it came from, whether the Mulroneys paid tax on it.

- The money Frank Moores said he was collecting to give Mulroney after he was prime minister. How much was this? Was there a quid pro quo?

- Airbus. Where did the $20 million earmarked for Canadian schmiergelder go?

Due to the diligence of investigative journalists Stevie Cameron and Harvey Cashore, we know that Airbus, Thyssen and Messerschmitt Bolkow-Blohm earmarked tens of millions to influence the Canadian government during the Mulroney years. We need to start connecting some dots. We know Frank Moores lobbied for Airbus to help them get Air Canada to buy planes; we know Brian Mulroney appointed Frank Moores to the board of Air Canada just before the Airbus vote, but Moores was forced to resign because of a public scandal; we know Mulroney made other dubious appointments to the Air Canada board; we know that on February 4, 1986, Schreiber and Giorgio Pelossi opened two Swiss bank accounts, one each for Moores and Mulroney. All this has been in the public domain for years. We need to get testimony on these issues under oath and then we need someone to decide what it all adds up to.

- The 1983 Tory leadership covention where Schreiber chartered planes and bribed delegates to vote for Mulroney, apparently bankrolled by far-right Austrians and arms dealers: how many delegates were given free flights or bribed; who exactly was behind this and why; who besides Frank Moores was in on it; what did Mulroney know.

- Whether Mulroney should return the $2.1 million defamation suit settlement, given that he appears to have lied under oath during the proceedings. (David Johnston left this issue out of his recommendations for the inquiry.)

The Ethics committee should from now on put every witness under oath. They should consider granting immunity to witnesses, if that is possible.

In addition to the Ethics committee hearings and the inquiry, I urge investigative journalists and/or the RCMP to look into the wider issue of who else got bribes and who else paid bribes.

Schreiber has said that the ministries of transport and defence are where most of the graft is collected: those two ministries have the big-money contracts that can net the minister and other decision-makers the big kickbacks. During the Mulroney years, did the ministers of transport or defence have any extra spending money? Each big contract should be investigated. It seems pretty clear that the Mulroney government was into extraremuneratory deals, and it's very likely that the shennanigans went on with other nogoodnicks besides Karlheinz Schreiber.

See also:
- Documents in the case

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Glass Jaw

Hillary supporter Bob Johnson, who founded Black Entertainment Television, introduced Hillary to college students in South Carolina by saying that the Clintons were "deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighbourhood." Johnson says he was referring to Obama's time as a community organizer. Obama's team and supporters say it was veiled reference to his admitted cocaine use as a teenager. Heads are wagging around the world.

Geeze Louise, can we get any more overly sensitive?

One: The statement doesn't say or imply anything about drug use.

Two: Even if Johnson had referred to Obama's drug use, why is that grounds for outrage? The man used cocaine. It's common knowledge. Obama talks about it in his autobiography. Does he think the Republicans don't know?

I mean really - I think it's fine that the camps are fighting hard and fighting back, but don't cry foul over a comment that wasn't made and that would have been reasonable had it been made.


Does He Owe GST?

Diane Francis details what we need to know to sort out whether Mulroney owes GST and income tax penalties on the cash he got from Schreiber:

1. Mulroney took $225,000 in cash, taxable fees, but did not pay GST nor Quebec PST because he said he worked for a foreign entity. You cannot just "say" you worked for someone offshore to avoid charging sales taxes so Mr. Mulroney must produce an invoice or proof from his offshore client, in this case allegedly Thyssen, that he was paid $225,000 for services rendered.

If he cannot prove that Thyssen was his client he owes nearly 14% GST (because Schreiber lived in Quebec at the time) plus penalties and interest for earning fees from a Quebecer. If he cannot prove that Thyssen was his client then he was paid off for some other purpose, or for some unknown entity inside or outside Canada, by Schreiber.

2. Mr. Mulroney admitted he did not declare the $225,000 as income for tax purposes either for six years. What penalties and interest did Revenue Canada charge him? We would like to see the notice of assessment. Or did he get special treatment?

3. Mr. Mulroney said he did not have to declare the $225,000 as income because the fees all went toward expenses. Let's see all the receipts to back up this statement? And if this was true why would he declare income that was not income? Let's see the letters written to Revenue Canada to explain all this.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

When the Media Aims Its Guns

Way back in 2002 the Daily Howler wrote a two-part analysis of the media destruction of Al Gore. The Howler wrote, "In March 1999, the press corps began a twenty-month War Against Gore - a seamless extension of the long war the press corps had waged against [Bill] Clinton." The Howler goes on to describe the first debate between Gore and Bill Bradley on October 27, 1999: about 300 members of the press, seated in a room adjacent to the debate, "groaned, howled and laughed at" every statement by Gore, "like a gang of 15-year-old Heathers cutting down some hapless nerd."

The Howler describes a similar dynamic at work against John McCain in the 2000 primary, which culminated in his defeat due to the Bush team spreading false rumors that McCain had sired an illegitimate black child. In reality, Mother Theresa had asked the McCains to adopt the girl - and the whole scandal was unbearably racist in any event - but the press treated it as a scandal long enough to sink McCain's candidacy.

The wonder of the current coverage of the Hillary campaign is not that the press has been showing strong bias against her - that's misogyny and a continuation of their unfair treatment of her husband - but that it has been brought to an abrupt halt. At least for the moment.

Just last week New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asked, under the headline Can Hillary Cry Her Way to the White House?, "Is this how she’ll talk to Kim Jong-il?" and described Hillary's slight emotional event as "doing the Muskie." Dowd's a discredited crackpot, for sure, but she's also the journalist who popularized the notion that Gore thought he'd invented the internet and a host of other popular slurs. Plus, she was one journalist among hundreds saying similar things. And even more of them tried to convince us that Hillary's campaign was dead in the water. The New Republic even showed a graphic that was a picture of Hillary, an equal sign, and a picture of a piece of toast. Burned.

Instead of succeeding at turning her emotional moment into the Dean Scream and killing the Hillary candidacy, there was a public backlash against the press. How did this happen? There seem to be three main causes:

1. On his Daily Show, Jon Stewart played the clip and asked, "That's it?!"
2. On his blog, Paul Krugman asked, "That's it?!" (Krugman doesn't have the audience size that Stewart has, but he is enormously influential among pundits.)
3. At the next primary vote (New Hampshire), despite the press having already written her obituary, Hillary won.

Suddenly the entire media seems to be doing a collective mea culpa. The Washington Post quotes Salon on the "corrosive hostility and naked slant of the mainstream media" against Hillary. The New York Post describes media bias against Hillary, and the free ride they've been giving to Obama. Even the Huffington Post, which has been a major offender in anti-Hillary bias, wrote about it.

The optimistic part of me remembers when Bill Clinton started to turn back the effectiveness of media attacks in 1992. The pessimistic part remembers that they still hate her - just as in 1999 they hated John McCain and loved George Bush - and their biased reporting will rise again. They're all still a pack of Heathers jeering at the kid they've decided to pick on.


Friday, January 11, 2008

The Writers' Strike

As the writer's strike causes this year's American TV shows to grind to a close - all the good ones except The Medium are over or close to it - we can be sure that the channels will not go dark. Soon reality TV will rule the airwaves during prime time. Will this abominable prospect finally drive the viewing public to force management to make the writers something close to a reasonable offer? Or will the current madness continue? Such as: While NBC alone made over a billion dollars last year on its internet business, management maintains that writers should either get no residuals from video streaming, or get a flat fee of $250. After that insult of an anti-offer, management apparently now refuses to negotiate at all.

It must be clear to everyone other than the Hollywood bosses that the writers deserve a fairer deal. Their main issues are residuals for the various forms of replay of their shows (especially internet) and the definition of what sorts of shows fall under the deal. The length of the strike is unnecessary, and is hurting a lot of people who can ill afford it, such as the production staff, carpenters, caterers, and others who work to support film activities. I have frequently read the unexplained claim that management wants the TV season to end prematurely - but I have no idea why. It seems that this year actually has a few quality shows, for a change.

We in Canada are somewhat luckier in our viewing choices, although I'm a bit worried by the CBC winter schedule making no mention of Intelligence or the sequel to The Tudors. You'd think that CBC wouldn't dream of failing to follow up on its best shows, but if you're a CBC radio follower, you know that CBC has a grand old tradition of deliberately destroying its best and brightest.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Why Hillary Won

Karl Rove's commentary about the New Hampshire primary in the Wall Street Journal is a surprisingly insightful read. Commenters to other blog posts about Rove's piece disagree, one going so far as saying that Rove is racist when he describes Obama as lazy. (Actually, lazy may be going too far: lackluster may be a better word for Obama's political career.)

The thing is, I agree with Rove. Here is my take on how Obama has gone wrong recently.

Bob Rae wrote a blog post about Obama's Iowa victory speech, saying he "was inspired by the passion and decency" and including a video of the speech. I have a lot of respect for Bob's opinions so I made myself watch the speech twice, but I have a very different opinion of it. I found it overly emotional; I find the preachy style to be manipulative and creepy and had trouble forcing myself to listen to it. I found his ideas hypocritical; for example, he said he's going to "end the strategy that's been all about division" and "end the politics where we tear each other down", but he's not doing that at all, both in that he's running a negative campaign against Hillary and that one of his main points of attack is on the Clintonian use of triangulation as a political tactic, even though it's a pretty effective way to bridge differences (and not as cynical as it's sometimes made out to be). Obama has been praised for his delivery, but as Rove points out, Obama was the only candidate of either party who used a teleprompter, and I found his swivelling his head from side to side to read the words to be clumsy and distracting.

Obama has been consistently iffy in the debates. His strength is reading speeches and looking handsome, not speaking to the issues.

Nobody's talking about it much, but the odd comment creeps into the news that Obama is not a very nice guy. He apparently has a bad temper and gets very grouchy. This side of him was revealed to the world in the debate last week when he said, very ungraciously, "You're likable enough, Hillary."

Finally, I don't like this emphasis on "change". "Change" is too vague. "Change" could be all sorts of crap I don't agree with. "Change" is all about emotion and not about how to take on the incredible challenges of a post-Bush world, which will include a huge deficit that will tie the hands of the next president.

While Obama has been increasingly disappointing me, Hillary has been getting better and better. She said in New Hampshire that she'd found her voice, and I think she has. She has a difficult challenge in that regard: in our sexist world, almost any approach she takes is going to be attacked. To guard against being attacked for being weak, she went strong: then she was attacked for being too "masculine"; and so on. I think the delivery and tone of her recent addresses have been miles above what she was doing previously; the message remains essentially the same, and has always appealed to me in its specificity and pragmatism.

It's a tough road for Hillary and the pundits are still predicting an Obama win, but I'm happy as long as she's a contender. Last fall Time magazine wrote, "Is America ready for a woman president?" They would never have said such a thing about a black president. The hurdles for women are far greater than they are for priviledged members of minorities, and the possibility of a woman in power is much more threatening. But a woman can dream.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Democrats Have Something to Learn From the Liberals

In our 2006 Liberal leadership race, Stephane Dion set themself up as the agent of change - the opponent of the status quo - the fresh new breeze that would take Ottawa by storm and revitalize the party. Dion (or his supporters) sold us the line that Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae were the old guard - the same old-same old backroom sleazebags who'd been in power far too long and needed to be unseated.

This became common knowledge even though it was so obviously untrue. Stephane Dion had been a cabinet minister for a decade. Michael Ignatieff hadn't even lived in Canada for 30 years. Bob Rae had only joined the Liberal party the year before. It was Mike and Bob who represented change, and Dion who was old guard. Mike and Bob were supported by the powers of the party, for sure, but they are both completely their own men. Bob, in particular, represented an activism and left orientation that would have been a significant change for the Liberals - it would have meant actually acting on what we say we want to do.

Since electing Dion leader, we have learned to our chagrin that those backroom boys sometimes know what they're doing when they decide who to support. Plus, they know what they're doing when they run an election campaign. Kicking out the experts and using amateurs has not worked particularly well for us Liberals, and now Dion is slowing asking the old guard to come back and help him out of the hole he has dug for the party.

Enter the American Democratic presidential primaries. Barack Obama and John Edwards have set themselves up as the agents of change - the champions of the working man - the opponents of corruption. They have tried to position Hillary Clinton as an old style corrupt politician, insincere in her policy statements, interested in only helping the rich get richer.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Hillary has a far stronger track record than either Obama or Edwards in working to help average Americans.

She started her career on the House Judiciary Committee considering the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Throughout her career she has worked with the Children's Defense Fund, and currently sits on its national board.

While her husband was governor of Arkansas she transformed Arkansas schools, worked for women's rights, and led the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession.

When Bill Clinton was running for President he said he was "two fer" - that is, he and his wife for the price of one. She was a completely different first lady than anyone else. She is the only person to date who has taken on the health industry and tried to create universal health care - and while she failed, she moved the possibility further than anyone else. Besides health care reform, during her White House years she led efforts to make adoption easier, to expand early learning and child care, to increase funding for breast cancer research, and to help veterans suffering from Gulf War syndrome; she helped launch a national campaign to prevent teen pregnancy; she helped create the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997; she was instrumental in designing and championing the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which has provided millions of children with health insurance; and she travelled worldwide to champion human rights (among other things).

For the last six years she has been a US senator. During this time she has been a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, working to improve the lives of US military personnel. She has initiated legislation to improve health care for the National Guard and Reserves; to tie Congressional salary increases to an increase in the minimum wage; to improve quality and lower the cost of prescription drugs; to protect the food supply from bioterrorism; to increase America's commitment to fighting the global HIV/AIDS crisis; to ensure the safety of prescription drugs for children; to help schools address environmental hazards; to expand access to child care; to improve the qualifications of teachers and principals; to increase access to family planning; and to improve the way elections are run and votes are counted.

Hillary is and always has been a dynamo of action working to improve the lives of Americans. Her track record is a stark contrast to the lackluster political careers of both Obama and Edwards.

What Democrats should learn from our mistake is: Don't be bamboozled the way we were. Look at the candidates directly, and not through the distorting glass of spin and media.

For example, here's the infamous "crying speech" of a few days ago (which doesn't actually involve crying at all). I think her words are more compelling than anything I could write:


Sunday, January 06, 2008

John Edwards' Version of Change: Dirty Politics

In last night's debate John Edwards made the following statement, and it was very clear in the context that Hillary Clinton was the "forces of status quo" he was referring to:

"Everytime [Barack Obama] speaks out for change, everytime I fight for change, the forces of status quo are going to attack. Every single time. And what we have to remember - and this is the overarching issue here, because what we really need in New Hampshire and in future state primaries, is we need an unfiltered debate between the agents of change about how we are going to bring about that change."

Given that Edwards has clarified what he means by change as ending corruption: ending the influence peddling by lobbies and so on, his new line of attack is that Hillary Clinton is actively supporting corrupt practices so she should not be allowed in primary debates.

I watched the debate last night, along with its post-debate analysis, and I watched continuing analysis of the debate this morning on Meet the Press and This Week with George Stephanopoulis. This speech by Edwards was replayed endlessly, but nobody mentioned how utterly outrageous it is. Edwards provided no evidence that Hillary is the champion of corruption, and he couldn't because it's bullshit. It's the dirtiest intraparty politics I've seen since Lyndon Johnson.