Saturday, May 01, 2010

I'll be back...just not quite yet...first, to Israel

Apologies for this corner having gone dark recently.

It's been a busy stretch at work, including spending most of the last week in Las Vegas for HP's Americas Partner conference. It's an event that always generates lots to cover for us, but then throw in HP deciding to drop $1.2 billion to buy Palm while I was there, and it got even busier. Was a fun trip though. Stayed at one of the newer Vegas properties, Aria, and I quite liked it. Unlike most cavernous Vegas properties where they don't want you to be reminded of the world outside, Aria has lots of glass and natural light. And there's also a route from your room to the conference centre that doesn't involve going through the casino , a first in my Vegas experience and surely a design flaw... And speaking of the casino, I'm not a big gambler but did finish in the green, including a win in the sports book from taking the Habs in game six. Didn't bet on game seven; they surprised me there.

After less than three days back home though, on Sunday afternoon I'm on the road again, but this time for pleasure. I've been invited on a week-long trip to Israel, organized by the CIC and funded by a private donor. Steve at Far and Wide will also be coming, along with some NDP/left-wing bloggers I look forward to meeting. Steve has a good run-down in the itinerary so I won't re-hash it, suffice to say it's busy, diverse and interesting. A good mix of sight-seeing and meetings with an interesting group of local politicians, journalists and bloggers, and even our ambassador to Israel. I shall try to approach it all with an open, but slightly skeptical mind. (If you're interested, here is the current Coles Notes of my opinion on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.)

I'm not sure the schedule will allow for much time for blogging during the trip, but I shall try, and certainly I'll have lots to say and share upon my return. All I ask are for two things while I'm gone: my Canucks to still be playing hockey, and my country not to have bumbled its way into an election.

Since my hiatus is to continue a little longer, a few brief thoughts on recent developments in Canadian political land:

* While we've all been distracted with either Jaffer/Guergis nonsense or the detainee docudrama, the Liberals have actually been talking and releasing policy. And much of it is aimed at rural Canada. First was some very sensible ideas around getting more doctors and nurses into rural areas by, among other things, forgiving part of their student loans if they make that commitment. This was followed by a "Canada First Good Policy" to support and promote local farmers and access to safe, healthy food, and a commitment to rural postal service.

Of course, policy isn't sexy enough for media coverage these days so you may not have heard about any of this, and the punditry that scolded the Liberals for not talking policy are, when they talk about it at all, scolding them for talking policy. Outside the Ottawa bubble, however, Canadians are much more concerned about finding a family doctor than they are about who Rahim Jaffer e-mailed. So I hope we keep pushing the policy.

* That's not to say the Jaffer/Guergis stuff isn't important. The investigations should proceed, and if serving ministers acting inappropriately or in contravention of the rules, that should be exposed and they should face the consequences. The e-mails and other documents that came out this week certainly seem to show that the Conservatives have been far from honest about Jaffer's access and influence in his seemingly not overly successful non-lobbying career. And it's often more the lack of honesty than the actual deeds that seems to hurt more in these stories, in my experience.

* On the docu-drama, the speaker's ruling this week was certainly very significant, as was the reaction of Conservative partisans. I think what some of them fail to recognize is that this isn't really about detainee torture anymore. It's about democracy, and it's about the right and responsibility of the legislative branch to be a check on the activities of the executive branch. Harper was elected by a little over 38,000 people in Calgary Southwest; he has no right to thumb his nose at the Parliament of Canada.

One has to think saner heads will prevail here. Ignore the testosterone-fueled rantings of the likes of Kory Teneycke. The Conservatives don't want an election over this. They won't be able to make it about coddling the Taliban, it's an asinine argument. It would be about a dictatorial leader refusing to respect the will of the people's elected democratic representatives. And the Cons didn't exactly fare well during the prorogation drama, now did they?

There will be a compromise reached that allows the opposition access to the uncensored documents, likely in a secret or confidential manner that respects national security concerns. We've seen signals along those lines already from Conservaland. Ironically, always concerned about political posturing and positioning, they're already trying to paint such a compromise as an opposition back-down. Truth is though, the opposition has been proposing such a scenario for months; the government has continually rebuffed it. So, as much as it matters, it would be them backing down. Let's just hope saner heads prevail all around though.

* Speaking of saner heads, the head of our military, General Walter Natynczyk, is cool with giving all of the un-redacted documents to parliament, saying the military has nothing to hide. Which raises two questions for me. One: must it be the Harper government with something to hide then? And two, if we employ standard Conservative logic here and respond as the government would in question period, I have to ask, why does our Chief of Defence Staff not support our troops, and why is he a Taliban sympathizer?

* Speaking of interlopers in our midst, turns out that pollster Frank Graves, who the Conservatives are portraying as some kind of undercover Liberal mole polluting the public airwaves of the CBC pretending to be unbiased, has actually been getting millions of dollars of polling contracts from the Conservative government. Including $131,440 from Harper's own Privy Council Office.

I'm sure Dean Del Mastro will join me in demanding that a Parliamentary Committee immediately investigate how this government could give millions of dollars in polling work to a know Liberal stooge. Or maybe they could just, you know, admit this whole manufactured drama is stupid and move on to serious issues. Either one would be fine.

* And on Graves and this culture war nonesense the Cons are hyper-ventilating about, I could go on at length but let me just say this: the Cons have been fighting a culture-war for years in this country. Urban vs. rural, Tim Horton's vs. academic elites and fancy gala goers, support the troops vs you're all taliban lovers, tough on crime vs hug-a-thug. They've been fighting a culture war, we just haven't been fighting back. All Graves "advised" was for the Liberals to start employing some wedges of their own, to fight back, to basically use some of the same tactics Harper et. al. have to some success. And this is news, somehow? For the Cons to be all bitchy about someone suggesting their own tactics be used against them, tactics which have been part of politics, by the way, forever, is just stupid.

* Lastly, I have a great deal of respect for Ujjal Dosanjh, for what he has consistently and resolutely stood for throughout his career, the principled approach he takes to public life, and the energy and commitment with which he approaches it. And I join those who have condemned the threats and attacks against him and others who have dared to stand up to extremism in any of its guises. I'm no sure I agree completely with his take on the impact multiculturalism is having on Canadian society. But it's an important issue we should be debating, and it should be a debate free of threat and intimidation, in the best of Canadian traditions.

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CanadianSense said...

Aside from our political view, stay safe and have a great time.

Omar said...

Aside from our, um, difference in age, stay safe and have a great time.

(rolls eyes at CS)

penlan said...

Aside from our difference in gender, stay safe and have a great time.

(also rolls eyes at CS)

Looking forward to your blogging of the trip upon your return!

Northern PoV said...

Well, I left this over at Far and Wide and he deleted it.

Wonder if you have more intestinal fortitude?

"Go on the trip. But please keep your mouth shut until you have also visited Gaza and the West Bank as a guest of a Palestinian group.
Then share you experiences with us."

Dr.Dawg said...

Amazing that Steve V. would delete that.

Anonymous said...

Also deleted:

"You have accepted the King's coin and you are now the King's man."

Bloggers need to accept the same standards that they demand of politicians.

bocanut said...

"Dr.Dawg said...
Amazing that Steve V. would delete that."

Are you amazed at yourself when you censor?

Gallahad said...


Go suck an egg!!!