Friday, November 27, 2009


I have read at least one book by Murray Dobbin namely 'Preston Manning and the Reform Party' and many of his writings. He is one of Canada's great progressive writers and one whose values I respect and share. This piece appeared in his blog yesterday. I thought the substance was so accurate and the emotion so compelling about the dangers posed by the Harper government that it was worth repeating on this blog.

The Republicanization of Canadian political culture
Posted: 25 Nov 2009 09:17 PM PST

Watching the sickening performances of the Harperites in the House of Commons this week – out right lying, bullying, slander, contempt for the public and parliament, and a stunning disregard for the public good – brings home a hard reality: we are witnessing the Republicanization of our political culture.

And it’s not just the torture issue – it’s the Conservative labeling of Liberals as anti-Semitic – a kind of shit-house rat politics virtually unknown in Canadian political history. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that Karl Rove is on the PMO’s payroll; his disciples certainly are.

This is storm trooper politics and the most alarming and depressing part of it is that it actually works. In a poll done by the CBC (though on Afghanistan the CBC and its polls can’t be entirely trusted) only 50% of Canadians believed the testimony of Richard Colvin. The rest, presumably, believed a politician, Peter Mackay, who has repeatedly demonstrated a total lack of character – most notably his self-serving lie to David Orchard about handing the Progressive Conservative Party to the barbarians of the Reform/Alliance.

Colvin – a man of extraordinary courage, knowing that his testimony would effectively end his career – told the truth simply because it was the right thing to do. But in the new Republican world of Canadian politics viciousness can win out – just as it did in the US with the Swift Boat attack ads going after decorated soldier/politician John Kerry. In a political universe where there are no rules of civilized behaviour, the most ruthless can win because the side that plays by the rules just isn’t mean enough.

There is no obvious way to deal with overt and unapologetic political thuggery. Fighting back in the same manner actually plays into the thugs’ hands because part of their broader objective is to poison the well of public discourse. The ferocious partisanship of the Harper Conservatives – who should really be called the Libertarian Party as there is nothing conservative about them – is designed to drive ordinary citizens away from politics. I can barely stand to watch and listen to the vitriol and lies and I have spent my whole life observing and analyzing politics.

I try to imagine what people who have very limited for it must think when they see this performance. But there is no question that it partly explains the fact that 42% of Canadians didn’t vote in 2008 – a huge advantage for the Libertarians.

Part of the explanation for the weakness of Obama’s administration is the simple fact that the Republicans, even though they are out of power, have so damaged the political culture, so scorched the political landscape, that rational discourse is simply no longer possible in the US.

Eight years of George Bush (building on eight years of Ronald Reagan) lives on and will do so for many years to come. Compassion was simply beaten out of US democracy – day after day, week after week, year after year reason was degraded, community destroyed, truth and genuine discourse ridiculed and crushed. It is impossible to predict whether or not these things are actually dead in the US – or whether the hints of fascism will grow into the real thing before reason and compassion can be rebuilt.

The election of Obama suggests that the fight isn’t over – there are millions of progressive Americans who share the best of civic values. But so far they are losing.We are not there yet in Canada but we are naïve if we think the same destruction can’t happen here. After four years of sociopathic governance by a man full of hate and contempt, Canada is already becoming unrecognizable.

We must stop this man before he literally destroys the country – that is, destroys the core of who and what we are and how we see ourselves. The first step is recognizing that we are in grave danger.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


The following erudite column written by the brilliant columnist Lawrence Martin was published today. I hope everybody in the OLO has read it and memorized it.

Conservative record of smears tells the story
Lawrence Martin
24 November 2009 08:00

When in doubt, check the track record.

If that is done on the question of diplomat Richard Colvin’s testimony on the Afghan detainees, the Harper government’s side of the story doesn’t make it to the dance floor.

The Conservatives have a long history of trying to shield embarrassing truths from the public and of smearing anyone who challenges them. It’s one of the reasons critics were quick to pounce on Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s attempt to undermine Colvin last week.

In the same week, the Tories were distributing flyers to various ridings trying to paint the Liberals as anti-Jewish. The charge is ludicrous. Michael Ignatieff, one of the most right-wing leaders on foreign policy the Liberals have ever had, is decidedly pro-Israel. But that’s the way the Tories operate.

We recall how they went after Linda Keen, the former president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and how they slandered Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour, calling her a “national disgrace.” They smeared NDP members as being pro Taliban.

As for their record of secrecy and concealment, they may well exceed any Canadian government before them. They’ve muzzled their own ministers, shut down a giant government information registry, and made a mockery of access to information regulations.

No one should be surprised, therefore, if in fact they tried to cover up the Afghan prisoner abuse and are now forced into trying to discredit the whistleblower.

The Conservatives keep using smear tactics for a good reason. They work. Take the personal attack ads they launched against Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion and Ignatieff. Those leaders, who came out of the soft ivory tower of academia, had no response. Dion didn’t have the money to run counterattack ads. The party was broke.

Iggy’s team had the money. But what did he do? After being belted by Conservative commercials labelling him a just-visiting, power-hungry, carpetbagger, he turned the other cheek. In a series of commercials he stood in front of a forest mouthing platitudes and bromides.
Looking on, Stephen Harper was probably laughing his butt off.

The Grits, hovering at historic low levels of 23 per cent in the polls, desperately need a new strategy. They’ve got to throw out the kid gloves and start responding to the Tories in kind. Ignatieff hasn’t wished to be front and centre on the Afghan allegations because of his past controversial remarks on the use of torture.

But the torture allegations are only one element of this story. There’s a bigger one. It’s the alleged cover-up. Iggy should smear the Conservatives with that. Unlike most Tory charges, it might even be true.

Lawrence Martin is a journalist and author of 10 books who writes about national affairs from Ottawa.

Saturday, November 21, 2009




As I look at recent current polls the increasingly nagging question that keeps reverberating in my brain is, Has Harper already changed Canada in his almost four years of power?

There are many indications that perhaps he has. Canadians appear to have been sucked in by negative swiftboat tactics that destroy the reputations of good people. They have ignored Harper’s history as a far-right tub-thumper while he was head of the National Citizens Coalition, and that he had his nose so far up George W. Bush's ass he could see Tony Blair. Canadians seemed to pay little attention to Harper's fascistic attempted coup to destroy opposition parties by cutting off their funding last December, and they even seemed to fall for the canard that the evil was not the threat to democracy but the threat of a coalition.

Canadians gave Harper a pass during the last federal election when he tried to hoodwink the whole country into believing the big lie that there was little wrong with the economy. They seem to pooh-pooh his spending of gazillions of stimulus largesse only in Conservative ridings.

Neither do Canadians seem to recognize or care about Harper’s foreign policy gaffes and screwups that damage our international reputation and business relationships and put Canadian lives at risk. Canadians do not seem to have given a hoot about the confinement and torture of Islamic Canadian citizens abroad on trumped up charges brought by third world gestapoes, while Harper either does nothing, or worse yet, throws roadblocks in front of the efforts of those confined to extricate themselves.

Canadians seem to be ignoring or paying little heed to lies repeatedly fed to them by their government about Afghanistan – lies such as, that the allies are making headway, or that Karzai is an honest and decent man, or that we are bringing the Afghans the rule of law, or that we are making headway training Afghan police and soldiers. They have shown little concern for the Canadian lives lost and the cost to our national treasury in what most certainly is to become one of the West’s great lost causes.

Despite the Harper spear headed character assassinations, despite his government's dismal record in domestic and foreign policy or in protecting Canadian citizens abroad, and despite his government's lies and obfuscations, Canadians don’t seem to care. What the hell is going on? Has Harper already turned this country into a nation of sheeplike neocons like himself? Have we become a bunch of unthinking conservative lemmings?

Or are Canadians just playing possum? ‘Playing possum’ means to convincingly pretend you are dead so that others leave you alone. In boxing the definition is much more Machiavellian and lethal. It means pretending you were dead or asleep until your opponent gets careless and leaves an opening so you can deliver the knockout punch or move in for the kill. The famed middle-weight champ Jake La Motta (above, bloodied but unbowed) was good at playing possum. He won a lot of important fights that way.

Let us hope the Canadian people are just playing possum. Or perhaps just in the process of giving Harper enough rope as the saying goes for his lynching later on. Otherwise, this country is going to change, and not for the better.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


According to Wikipedia the definition of ‘Swiftboating’ is “American political jargon that is used as a strong pejorative description of some kind of attack that the speaker considers unfair or untrue – for example, an ad hominem attack or a smear campaign.”

The term comes from a smear campaign against Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry in the U.S. Presidential election of 2004 which was launched by a loud-mouthed, right wing group of ex-military personnel, who told the world that Kerry did not deserve the war medals that were awarded to him for his war service in Viet Nam, and that he was basically a fraud and a coward. The ‘swiftboat’ term relates to Kerry having been a swift boat commander in Viet Nam as well as to those who defamed him, some of which were comprised of rock-ribbed Republican swift boat veterans who called themselves the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The whole sleazy operation – including television ads and a best selling book - was financed by wealthy and extremist, right-wing Republicans.

Kerry to his lasting regret took the high road gently dismissing the charges against him and mildly chiding his opponents for their low level politics. He went on to lose the election and swiftboating thus became a new favorite tactic of the right. For further examples of this odious ploy, see:, and for a further discussion of the term see:
In the United States, politicians who have been ‘swiftboated’ have learned to fight back. For example, Sarah Palin made little headway on her ‘death panel’ allegations in connection with Obama’s health care reform initiative. Neither did the ‘birthers’ get much mileage in their efforts to convince Americans that Obama was born in Kenya and thus ineligible to become President. Much of the press in the U.S. – not being as monolithically conservative as it is in Canada – has figured out swiftboating as well, and is not as likely to roll over as it did in the Kerry episode.
Canadians have been slow to learn about swiftboating. The Conservatives used the technique with their attack ads against Stefane Dion. They knew what they were doing. They wanted to define him to the Canadian people as an inarticulate bumbler who was not a leader. To do so they peppered our television screens long before the last election with highly prejudicial film clips taken out of context which sought to portray him in a bad light. The Liberal Party of Canada –presumably in a Kerry-like misguided attempt to take the high road – pooh-poohed retaliation and did nothing. The Conservatives were allowed to smear Dion with their definition of him. They had swiftboated him. The Liberals had been fooled.

And now – quite unbelievably – the Conservatives have done it again to Michael Ignatieff. The swiftboating of Ignatieff, again in the form of television ads composed of out of context and highly prejudicial film clips, has portrayed him as a selfish dilettante with no attachment to the country. The polls seem to be showing that once again the swiftboating of a Liberal leader by the Conservatives is working. And once again the Liberals seem to be doing nothing to retaliate. Surely, they are not being fooled again. Even the immortal George W. Bush said, “Fool me once, shame on . . . you. . . . . You fooled me once, I can’t get fooled again.” See:
To the Liberals and Mr. Ignatieff I say, "Don’t be fooled again!" There is too much at stake. A Harper majority government will change this country so that none of us years hence will recognize it for the great country it once was.

It is time for Michael Ignatieff and his new chief of staff Peter Donolo, to take the gloves off. The country needs energetic engagement on the political battlefield. Politics is a tough and bloody sport with little place for a genteel Marquis of Queensbury rule book. This is particularly so when one’s opponent has no intention of engaging in the contest pursuant to any kind of a rule book.

Its time to fight and fight back – on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, and in the hills,* not to mention the church basements, small town hockey arenas, barbecues, hockey tournaments, and anywhere else we do politics in this great country. It is time for some realpolitik! And there is not one moment to lose!
(*with all due credit and apologies to the great Winston S. Churchill)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009



Special Ed! I guess, Special Ed! Just when you thought you heard it all there’s more.

Everybody knows about the botch-up on the H1 N1 vaccination program in Alberta. Between Ed and his bully-boy health minister Ron Leipert (aided and abetted by his federal cousins who have not come through with enough vaccine), the program is presently shut down for four days and scheduled to reopen Thursday. Contrary to the original plan which was to ensure vaccination of the high risk people first - namely, pregnant women and babies aged six months to five years - Ed opened the flood gates to all. Come one, come all, Ed said, first come, first served. In doing so he followed the advice of his incompetent - and I do really mean INCOMPETENT IN CAPITAL LETTERS - health minister who said that to vaccinate people who were in the high risk category first would be what the Soviet Union would do because the authorities would have to ask for proof that they were in that category. According ot Leipert, that was no system for Alberta to follow. No siree.

So Stelmach encouraged all Albertans to get right down to those vaccination centers - sick or not sick, unhealthy or healthy, high-risk or low risk – everybody was welcome to get their shots. The result was bedlam. Thousands lined up for hours on end in bone-chilling cold. Many in those queues who were in the high risk category had the doors to the clinic slammed in their faces because it was closing time or there was no more vaccine. Understandably, the people became perplexed, impatient, and very angry. They were also scared. This swine flu, they realize, is not to be trifled with. Why else, would governments want to vaccinate everybody? See:
But it gets worse. Today we heard the astonishing news that none other than the whole Calgary Flames Hockey Club jumped the queue the day before the government suspended the vaccination program. According to a Flames statement it was the Stelmach government’s Alberta Health Services that allowed the pampered stars to get their shots many days ahead of the great unwashed - which include the vast majority of the pregnant women and babies who are in the high risk category.

According to Flames President Ken King, 'Our players did not seek to avoid a lineup. They didn't ask for special attention. They followed the direction of our physicians.' Yes, yes, the stars didn’t do it. Somebody on their behalf must have asked the Stelmach government for special attention. Now who could that be? You might remember Ken King during his career as the neocon publisher of the Calgary Herald back when his then employer Conrad Black was learning how to loot companies and enter the House of Lords. Well, because of his outstanding service in advancing Black's ideology in those days King has impeccable Tory connections. As do all of the fat cat owners.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this Flames fiasco is what the “Alberta Advantage’ has been all about from the time the term was first introduced by the dumb and dumber crowd of the Klein years. It has always been an advantage only for the privileged establishment. While their incomes and stock portfolios grew and as they built their 10,000 square foot palazzos, the little people had to put up with lousy roads, deteriorating health care, declining education opportunities, and salary levels that just kept their heads above water – barely. The Flames chapter in this sorry saga merely points to a continuing theme in the Klein-Stelmach Tory era – money and power trumps all else. The Flames represent money and power. They jump the queue. To the Tories, nothing gets in the way of money and power - even pregnant women and babies during a swine flu pandemic.

This has to be the last straw for Stelmach. If the Tories don’t dump him in Red Deer and try to salvage what’s left of what was once a proud and honorable party, they are doomed, gonzo, kaput!

By the way, Special Ed's health officials announced yesterday that the vaccination centers are starting up on Thursday. This time it will only be for kids from six months to five years of age, and by God - just like the Soviet Union - they are going to ask for age identification. And on Friday, a week or so after the coddled Flames got theirs, pregnant women will get their shots.

And the Oilers have not received their shots. “Go Oilers, go!!!”

Monday, November 02, 2009




FLU 'FIASCO' FAULT OF FEDS (The Kingston Whig-Standard, November 2, 2009)

HUGE VACCINE SHORTFALL LOOMS (The Province, November 2, 2009)





CONFUSION REIGNS IN FLU-SHOT CLINICS (Toronto Star, November 1, 2009) OVERWHELMED (Edmonton Sun, November 1, 2009)

ALL FLU SHOTS ON HOLD (Edmonton Journal, November 1, 2009)

"Ce changement, les vaccins qui ne sont pas au rendez-vous, c'est à Ottawa que ça se passe." (Chantal Hébert, Les Coulisses du Pouvoir, 1 novembre 2009)

"It's very confusing, and I think it's an acid dripping on this government's key reputation of being good managers." (James Travers, CTV Question Period, November 1, 2009)"

La semaine qui s'en vient va être bien pire... il n'y aura probablement pas assez de vaccins, mais beaucoup moins que prévue, disponible dans les cliniques. C'est là que ça risque à brasser sérieusement pour le gouvernement fédéral." (Michel C. Auger, Les Coulisses du Pouvoir, 1 novembre 2009)

"The facts are that the federal government was responsible for making sure that there was enough vaccine for Canadians...[Prime Minister's] Chief of staff, Guy Giorno was sitting in for the planning meetings for the rollout of the vaccine." (Rob Russo, CBC News Now, November 1, 2009)

"Reaction to H1N1 seems like a horror movie." (Shannon McKinnon, Globe and Mail, November 2, 2009)

"This is the worst side of government as a lack of compassion." (Greg Weston, CTV Question Period, November 1, 2009)

"Chaque jour davantage, le dossier de la grippe H1N1 menace de tourner en fiasco de politique publique." (Chantal Hébert, Le Devoir, 2 novembre 2009)

"We spent something like $2 billion of taxpayers' money making sure that people are ready for this type of thing; and I think Canadians really can justifiably say... what have you been doing all that time?" (Greg Weston, CTV Question Period, November 1, 2009)

"Après avoir convaincu les gens que c'était essentiel d'aller vite, on leur dit: Ah bien, savez-vous, nous ne sommes pas capables de fournir ce qu'on devait fournir." (Chantal Hébert, Les Coulisses du Pouvoir, 1 novembre 2009)

"People are saying, how difficult could this be? Why aren't they doing immunization of the most vulnerable people, the children, in schools?...All those sorts of questions are being asked and not answered." (James Travers, CTV Question Period, November 1, 2009)

"Après s'être fait dire pendant trois mois il y a des vaccins pour tout le monde, on sait où on s'en va... on s'est depuis jeudi après-midi que c'est vraiment pas vrai." (Chantal Hébert, Les Coulisses du Pouvoir, 1 novembre 2009)