Monday, April 30, 2007

Chrétien: there he goes again

Virginia Tech killer used handguns, which have been registered in Canada since the 1930s

I see that business consultant Jean Chrétien apparently regards the Virginia Tech massacre as a vindication of his government’s $2-billion long gun registry debacle. (If the reporter – CP’s Alexander Panetta – thought to ask Chrétien how the Dawson College shooting vindicated the gun registry, sadly Chrétien’s answer has been left out of the Star story.):

“It’s a lot harder to get weapons here in Canada than in the U.S.,” Chrétien said.

“I was pretty stunned to see how easily he [the Virginia Tech shooter] managed to get himself armed to the teeth without any trouble. He would have had to answer a lot more questions here.”

One day after conducting the interview last week, the former Liberal prime minister was asked by the Conservative government to represent Canada at Boris Yeltsin’s funeral in Russia. But during the interview, he took a swipe at the Tories’ hostility to the long-gun registry his government introduced.

Critics have complained the Conservatives have rendered the registry toothless by waiving penalties for people who fail to register their firearms.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day insists the latest one-year amnesty is an attempt to offer recalcitrant gun owners another chance to register their weapons. Chrétien said he can’t understand why people would be dead-set against registering their weapons.

“Apparently, you have to register your dog, no? And your bicycle, too. It’s way less dangerous than a gun,” the former prime minister said.

“There’s nothing to it. ... I don’t understand why we’re having a hard time getting people to register their firearms – when people register their bicycles and pets.”
-- Chrétien defends Liberals' long-gun registry, Virginia Tech carnage shows law's value, former PM argues, Toronto Star, today

Now, this may be more a case of the Star – and not Chrétien – trying to connect Virginia Tech to the long gun registry, but regardless, and for the umpteenth time: the Liberal long-gun registry had no effect on the law regarding registration of handguns and fully-automatic weapons such as AK-47s, M-16s, etc. Handguns have been required to be individually registered since the 1930s. And people don’t have to register their bicycles – not in Toronto, anyway.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In case you missed Conan O’Brien last Friday

Check out this parody of the Aaron Sorkin series “Studio 60,” called “Studio 6A” – with Liev Schreiber playing Conan O’Brien.

It lampoons the pedantry, self-importance and torqued melodrama of Sorkin’s “The West Wing” (and, I’m guessing, “Studio 60,” but I’m not sure – I never saw it. Having to tolerate Brad Whitford every time I watch one of my favourite moves, “Kate & Leopold,” is about all I can take of him).

I was reminded of a joke “30 Rock” creator Tina Fey made recently at a public appearance. Referring to her outfit, she cracked “I hear Aaron Sorkin is in Los Angeles wearing the same dress - but longer, and not funny.”

“30 Rock” has been renewed for a second season. The future of “Studio 60” is uncertain. It has been pulled from NBC’s schedule, its timeslot filled by the “Black Donnellys” and “The Real Wedding Crashers.”

Friday, April 13, 2007

Media Grindhouse: Kinsella and Brennan

Brennan remakes Kinsella, Star remakes the Post's apology

When the National Post published an apology to Brian Mulroney on its editorial page, for Warren Kinsella’s selective quoting of Mulroney’s testimony vis a vis his relationship with Karlheinz Schreiber, I resisted the urge to post it under the title “Fury’s Grovel.”

But now that veteran Toronto Star reporter and newly-elected Parliamentary Press Gallery President Richard “the Badger” Brennan has apparently made the exact same mistake, resulting in a correction in today’s Star, to remain silent would be unjust, and fairness and comedy demand that they both be posted:

First Feature: Planet Error

In the column "Don't Ignore this Scandal" by Warren Kinsella (Feb. 1), some of the testimony of former prime minister Brian Mulroney in his libel action against the government of Canada in 1996 was quoted. The column did not set the full context of a quote from the transcript where Mr. Mulroney said he had not had any dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber. The column did not report that Mr. Mulroney was answering a question about the purchase by the federal government of the Airbus product and stated that he had no dealings with Mr. Schreiber in that context. Elsewhere in the examination, Mr. Mulroney testified about conversations and meetings he had with Schreiber after Mr. Mulroney was out of the prime minister's office. The National Post sincerely regrets any false impression it created about the testimony of Mr. Mulroney and apologizes to him for any embarrassment or concern it has caused.
--"Brian Mulroney," National Post, March 1, 2007 [N.B.: this was published on the editorial page]

Second Feature: Desk-Proof

Several years ago, Mulroney sued Ottawa for libel and received an apology and a $2-million settlement. Under oath at a pre-trial hearing, he testified that he "never had any dealings" with Schreiber. However, in 2002, the former prime minister indirectly acknowledged he did receive money from Schreiber, but as payment for his help in promoting Schreiber's pasta business.
--“It’s the saga that just won’t end,” Richard Brennan (with files from Tonda MacCharles), Toronto Star, April 7

In a transcript of an examination for discovery held in 1996, former prime minister Brian Mulroney was asked a question about Karlheinz Schreiber and replied, ‘I had never had any dealings with him” A story in Saturday’s paper did not reproduce this quote in full. The Star regrets and false impression this error may have caused and apologizes to Mulroney.
--Corrections, Toronto Star, April 13

Well, at least Kinsella can no longer complain that the media is ignoring this story.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Exit Stronach, enter May

Getting into bed with Liberals looks bad on May; conceding a seat not so flattering to Dion either

What with all the women coming and going, the Liberal Party of Canada is starting to resemble one of those French farces, replete with slamming doors, hastily-contrived explanations for people being where they shouldn’t, and general déshabillé. Or perhaps I’m thinking of a Benny Hill sketch.

If it weren’t for the unfortunate coincidence that both Belinda Stronach and Elizabeth May are women, I might say something to the effect that there must be a reason why no society has ever completely eliminated prostitution. Oops, I guess I just did. I hope the fact that I am a woman will lessen any sexism that might be inferred from the observation.

Anyhow, this is only partially about May. Mostly it’s about Dion. It seems the Conservative party’s ads that say “Stephane Dion is not a leader” were so effective, they convinced even Dion himself. A leader of a so-called national party does not concede any seat before all the votes are in. Dion has done so even before an election has been called.

As for May, her détente Liberale will put in her the awkward position of having to defend the federal Liberals’ sorry environmental record (psst – that’s a hint to the Conservatives and NDP). But if she thinks Dion was such a good environment minister, and would make a good prime minister, then why doesn’t she run as a Liberal?

Also posting on this:

Dissonance and Disrespect
Adam Daifallah
Dust My Broom
Canadian Jedi

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

No apparent conflict for Stronach, but Liberals likely have one less vote

(And there’s not much Dion can do about it)

In answer to any dark mutterings about Belinda Stronach and conflicts of interest, please note the following excerpts from the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons:

7. Nothing in this Code prevents Members who are not ministers of the Crown or parliamentary secretaries from any of the following, as long as they are able to fulfill their obligations under this Code:

(a) engaging in employment or in the practice of a profession;

(b) carrying on a business;

(c) being a director or officer in a corporation, association, trade union or non-profit organization; and

(d) being a partner in a partnership.

12.(1) A Member who has reasonable grounds to believe that he or she or a member of his or her family has a private interest that might be affected by a matter that is before the House of Commons or a committee of which the Member is a member shall, if present during consideration of the matter, disclose orally or in writing the general nature of the private interest at the first opportunity. The general nature of the private interest shall be disclosed forthwith in writing to the Clerk of the House.

13. A Member shall not participate in debate on or vote on a question in which he or she has a private interest.

On the one hand, given that Belinda Stronach is a member of the opposition and, it is fair to say, among the governing party’s least favourite people, it will be difficult to allege that she could exert any undue influence on the government.

On the other hand, minority Parliaments are different, in that opposition parties and members can and do exert greater influence on the content and passage of legislation than in a majority situation. Stronach’s preference will probably be to sit out most votes and debates (if she is even able to find the time to come to Ottawa in the first place), and Dion has neither leverage to compel her attendance nor incentive to force a by-election.

So not only is Stronach’s seat now in jeopardy, the Liberals may also have effectively lost one of their MPs for voting purposes in the Commons.

In the words of Larry Birkhead: “I told you so”

But don’t rule out a Stronach return to politics

Recently I observed to a few people that if Magna were successful in taking over Chrysler, Belinda Stronach would be provided with a plausible rationale for returning to Magna, and the Conservatives could get back the Newmarket-Aurora seat. She is not even waiting long enough for the takeover to go through. From Canadian Press:

OTTAWA — Belinda Stronach’s brief but tumultuous foray into federal politics is about to end.

The heiress to the auto-parts fortune announced today that she won’t seek re-election in the next federal election and will become executive vice-chairwoman of Magna International Inc. (TSX:MG.A).

“I am always assessing the best role I can play in public life and, after being encouraged by members of the corporate leadership at Magna to return, I have decided that the timing of my return to the business should not be delayed,” Stronach said in a news release.

I’d love to know how many members of the corporate leadership who aren’t named Stronach encouraged her to return. As others have observed, the last time she quit Magna her job was left, er, vacant. But this time she is replacing someone, her father's longtime associate Manfred Gingl. Gingl announced recently that he is taking over Magna's new after-market division. (N.B. if you Google Gingl (tee hee), you will find a March 31st Toronto Star story about his departure.)

The Conservatives have already nominated Lois Brown to contest the Newmarket-Aurora seat.

Given Stronach’s high regard for her own abilities and dilettantism – which she calls “always assessing the best role I can play in public life” – I lay at least even odds that she runs again.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The media giveth, and go f--- yourself”

Is my favourite line from the film “Primary Colours” (Billy Bob Thornton’s character says it). A fresh example of this phenomenon is now emerging, via Senator John McCain. Fred Barnes writes on the daily Standard:

What’s happened to McCain as he runs for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination is a “tragedy,” E.J. Dionne wrote in the Washington Post. Newsweek headlined that a “McCain Meltdown” had occurred. In the New York Times, Frank Rich was beside himself. On CBS’s 60 Minutes, Scott Pelley got McCain to zing Bush and his administration but couldn’t get him to agree that the public’s disapproval of the war in Iraq should prevail today. “I think you have to stick with what you believe in,” McCain said.

That attitude used to thrill the press. Reporters and commentators gushed about McCain the political maverick and straight talker who was willing to take on his own party and president. McCain, in truth, has continued to do this, saying in the 60 Minutes interview that Bush should talk to Syria and Iran and shut down the Guantanamo prison. He’s persisted as well in criticizing Bush’s management of the war.

But all of that is no longer enough to satisfy the press. Why? Because McCain hasn’t bought into the verdict, rampant in the media, that the war in Iraq is lost and victory cannot be salvaged. Instead, he backs the president’s new strategy of counterinsurgency in Baghdad, bolstered by 21,500 additional troops, and insists that progress is already being made.

As I argued on March 19th, McCain has long had a bad case of wanting to be loved by the media (i.e. Mulroney Disease). This is dangerous, I wrote, because “the media are often poor proxies for the public, and their tastes in politicians and policies are as unreliable as Britney Spears’ lingerie drawer.”

McCain is also being ridiculed in some quarters for his assertion that he was able to walk safely through parts of Baghdad on a recent visit, because he was accompanied by a large armed contingent. But this April 4th ABC report supports his view.

UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal weighs in today with its editorial, "McCain's finest hour:"

Not surprisingly, all this has the media in a state of apoplexy, with his former liberal pals shaking their heads in phony regret that his supposed blunder in Baghdad--observing last week that a market is safer than it was only a few months ago--is going to sink his candidacy. Our view is that Mr. McCain's difficulty so far in attracting conservative voters has nothing to do with Iraq, and everything to do with the positions that once made him the media darling. On the contrary, his support for the war and his appreciation of the stakes is one thing that keeps his candidacy alive, at least within the Republican Party.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Apology-Lawsuit Party

Liberals give a writ about their own egos, but not Canadians’ priorities

I don’t know whether it’s the friendship with Belinda Stronach, but erstwhile tough guy Tie Domi is sure starting to act like a full-fledged member of the Liberal Party of Canada, which lately looks more like the League of Extraordinarily Touchy Gentlemen:

Tie Domi served notice yesterday on his son’s coach that he will seek damages for slandering and libelling the ex-Maple Leafs enforcer with accusations of rink rage.

Domi’s intentions, drafted by his lawyer Symon Zucker, were sent to Lucas Miller a day after the coach told reporters his version of a confrontation last Friday.

The Sun was contacted by people who claimed Domi became verbally abusive at Miller for not giving his son Max, 11, enough ice time during a playoff game as captain of the minor peewee AAA Toronto Marlboros.

The team lost to the Toronto Red Wings that night.

Witnesses differed dramatically in their recollections, claiming Domi swore at the coach and used threatening body language.
--Toronto Sun, today

With his donning of the Kleenex mantle, Domi joins a group of Liberal politicians who have similarly tried to paint themselves as victims. (I wonder: can a group of victims have an enforcer?) And by filing a libel notice, Domi’s not just a member, he’s also a plaintiff.

You know, it wasn’t so long ago that the Liberal Party of Canada was an awesome machine that won majorities, shed dollars like dander, and randomly sucked up politicians from other parties.

But having to arrange one’s own transportation, and the other indignities of being stripped of power, appear to have reduced the former leviathan to a sewing circle of tenderized egos and barely suppressed fury.

In just the last few months, the Liberals have issued shrill and sometimes coordinated demands for apologies in the following instances (even threatening lawsuits in some of them):

Belinda Stronach, because some Liberal MPs claim Peter McKay compared her to a dog.

Ralph Goodale, because charges were eventually laid against a civil servant over the income trust scandal, but not against him – which in his mind proved the former finance minister blameless. On the various political chat shows, Goodale was visibly angered for several weeks, regardless of the topic at hand.

Navdeep Bains, because during Question Period Stephen Harper started to read a news story revealing that one of Bains’ relatives may be a witness in the Air India inquiry. The Liberal caucus promptly abandoned its prepared questions and spent all its time in Question Period demanding an apology – for words that were never entered into the record, because the same Liberals shouted the PM down before he could even get to the story’s juicy bits.

Gerard Kennedy, Navdeep Bains and Omar Alghabra are suing the National Post over Jonathan Kay’s column in which an unnamed source alleged that Kennedy obtained the support of delegate blocs controlled by Bains and Alghabra, in exchange for a promise to oppose national security measures.

Michael Ignatieff, because Peter Van Loan described Ignatieff as a member “who said that torture is justified when dealing with terrorists.” Ignatieff’s demand that Van Loan withdraw his comments was met by Van Loan reading several of Ignatieff’s quotes into the record, including, “defeating terror requires violence” and. “It may also require coercion, secrecy, deception, even violation of rights.”

Stephane Dion, for Stephen Harper’s quip during Question Period that “I can understand that the leader of the Opposition and members of his party feel for Taliban prisoners. I just wish occasionally they’d show the same passion for Canadian soldiers.”

Mark “Nancy Drew” Holland is (according to National Newswatch) considering suing Sun Media columnist Ezra Levant, over Levant’s April 3rd column about Holland’s possession of dozens of confidential Conservative staff records.

I’m sure my five or so devoted readers will enlighten me as to any other examples I may have missed.

When an opposition party chooses to spend a good chunk of its limited media exposure demanding apologies and threatening lawsuits over typical Question Period rhetoric, offhand remarks, or the theories of columnists, it is sending a message to the public. The message is that the party in question regards the images and self-esteem of its officials as the most pressing public issue there is. More important than Afghanistan, terrorism, taxes, the economy, health care, crime, child care, national unity – you get the picture.

The likely root cause of this obsession with slights, apologies and lawsuits (oh my!) is that the federal Liberal party remains in a deep funk and an even deeper denial over the fact that they are in opposition, and it was that rube Stephen Harper who put them there. Until they get past this, they are unlikely to be serious contenders for power. As Paul Wells has often observed, the guy who auditions for the job of opposition leader usually gets it. Looking at the Liberal party under Stephane Dion, I can't help but be reminded of the newly-defeated Ontario PC party of 1985 proclaiming "We'll be right back." We weren't. For 10 years.

Yes, the Conservative party and its predecessors suffered their share of calumnies, and demanded their share of apologies. But I don’t recall the demands being as frequent or all-consuming as the ones that obsess the Liberals of today. More to the point, did Elinor Caplan ever apologize for calling CA supporters bigots and holocaust deniers? Hardly. Part of the discipline of achieving and maintaining power is not being distracted by personal issues that mean little to accessible voters.

Macleans’ Aaron Wherry beat me to this topic, but he cast his aspersions on both houses:

The question now, you might think, is whatever happened to parliamentary decorum. But you would be wrong. Because the real question is this: When did our MPs become such a bunch of weenies?

A couple weeks short of the five-year anniversary of Keith Martin’s seizing the ceremonial mace and declaring Canadian democracy to be dead, let’s not kid ourselves with another lament for lost civility. By comparison with, say, this, our elected representatives still seem nearly demure.

More worrisome is this culture of apology and besmirched honour that seems to be overtaking our nation’s more sensitive officials.

For the Liberals this seems something of a strategy - claim offense at every government insult and portray the Prime Minister as little more than a big bully in the process. But the sight of Stéphane Dion stomping out of the House like a six-year-old this week was surely a dispiriting one to behold. And Thursday’s proceedings brought the whole thing down to the level of farce.

Somehow, expressing shock and dismay at the actions of one’s opponent has become a default tactic. As soon as that infamous curse word had crossed Charlie Angus’ lips on Wednesday, a half dozen Conservative MPs were yelping at the Speaker and pointing in the New Democrat’s direction. But as your kindergarten teacher surely told you, no one appreciates a tattle-tale.

We could say that a higher level of mannerly discourse might eliminate the demand for apology. But we all know such enlightenment is unlikely. And one suspects we’d all secretly prefer politics remain the messy, snarky business that it is (lest CPAC become completely unwatchable).

So perhaps, in the meantime, our elected representatives might just - to put this delicately - suck it up. Yes, the bad men in bad suits can be very mean sometimes. But this ain’t a tennis match. Nor should it ever be so., March 23, 2007

ProAm Politics with Britney Cherniak

Two screw ups in two days move the needle closer to "am" than "pro"

Lawyer, new media consultant, Dion Blog Campaign Co-Chair, and member of the Internet Task Force of the Liberal Renewal Commission Jason Cherniak has had a rough couple of days. People need to lay off him because he's totally, like, new at all this:

Tuesday's News Release

Liberal blogger: your press release sucked.

Cherniak: Apparently Broadcast News thought it was good enough.

I've been thinking a lot about this, Antonio. You maybe right that it wasn't a great release. However, I've never worked for the party or a politician and I have never been part of a central campaign other than a local campaign. You can laugh all you want as an "expert", but I think I'm doing pretty damn good for a guy who is self-taught.

Wednesday's Harper Video

"Perhaps I went a [sic] too far with this one. With no training in media, I didn't realize how strong an emotional reaction I was creating. The great thing about the Internet is that thousands of people don't need to see an ad on TV before you realize you made a mistake."

Good thing this is a short work week.