Conrad Black Trial Historic

May 26, 2007 · By

Whatever the verdict in the Conrad Black trial, we seem to be witnessing a unique turn of history in American justice, a turn this trial reveals, whichever side comes out on top.  Mark Steyn’s coverage has been nothing short of extraordinary; when all is said and done, the verdict rendered, appeals filed (be they necessary), he has more than enough material for another best-seller; one that will be read for years, possibly even like we still read about the Dreyfus Affair.

Regardless of your view of Lord Black, his ability to challenge the prosecution on their own terms, to play their game and reveal it largely a fraud, spectacle and all, will ripple across the American justice system for years to come.

Here’s the jist of it:

We’re in the ninth year – whoops, my mistake, ninth week – of this trial and, in the longueurs of mid-afternoon as some underwhelming attorney combs the fine print of the 2001 10K SEC filing for the umpteenth time, one’s mind naturally wanders to more congenial topics, and often alights on the very pronounced differences between US courts and our own tradition. In the United Kingdom, the routine criticism of the robes and wigs and whatnot is that they can be “intimidating” to the ordinary citizen. Really? I would have thought Joe Public might just as often be reassured by the anachronistic garb: the dress code signals that he is in a system that operates to ancient and enduring legal principles immune to the passing fancies of the age. In the British West Indies, the silk and wing collars and jabots and horsehair wigs exemplify the difference between a genuine rule of law and what passes for justice in Haiti and Cuba.

America, by contrast, has thrown out the costume party and significantly tilted the balance between judge, jury and prosecutor, yet retains Count of Monte Cristo sentences. Indeed, it sometimes seems that the more deals you cut with “witnesses” the more decades get piled on to whoever the remaining designated “criminal” is. If you believe the government’s version of events, Black and Radler committed the same crimes and stole exactly the same amount of money. Yet Conrad Black is facing 101 years in jail, which means he will almost certainly die in prison, while David Radler will get 29 months, which means that, as the US is not opposing his transfer to British Columbia, he will (under Corrections Canada policy) serve just six months, most likely enjoying the “golf therapy” and other amenities of Ferndale. This time next year, he’ll be back running his company Horizon, the group of small newspapers he filleted off the Hollinger carcass.

Polling Afghanistan Missions – A Push Too Far?

May 25, 2007 · By

As Tom had reported earlier today, Charles Adler recently had a showdown with a representative of the Strategic Council, CTV Globemedia’s regular polling firm over an infamous poll that they conducted about the Afghanistan mission.

I can’t say how happy I am that a polling firm now has egg on its face after Adler did his fine work. For years and years, we’ve watched as polling firms have skewed results, tried to herd public opinion and really, really screw up, time and again! Listen to the Adler clip if you haven’t already and it becomes obvious that the Strategic Council’s Tim Wollstencroft has little regard for unbiased and clear polling practices. The fact that he was willing to attempt to defend his company’s conduct shows that he’s ignorant of even the most basic understanding of polling in general: it’s always going to be biased. The trick is to try to minimize the bias as to provide as accurate a picture as possible…if credibility is your objective. From the Wollstencroft incident, it’s clear once again that credibility isn’t on the radar for the major polling firms in Canada, who would rather try to bend the numbers to match a predetermined result.

Thinking about this, I had (I admit) a radical idea: why not ban polls during elections? It’s an idea my father first suggested years and years ago (during 1999’s Ontario election I believe) but it’s making a great deal of sense to me after hearing about the Adler-Wollstencroft incident. Before critics suggest that this is a freedom of speech violation in the making, might I state that no it isn’t. It would be a restriction on the press to publish certain stories (polls) but given the large precedent in our political system to restrict the press during trials, for example, as well as restrictions already placed on polls during the last weekend before an Election Monday, this isn’t such a dramatic change. In the spirit of compromise, I’d even be ready to settle on banning polls during the last week of an election.

These laws are put in place, like many others dealing with political advertising, fundraising and spending, to provide our country with a fair election. Think of how much polls change within one week of an election, and particularly during the last week of an election. It’s not like the idea that polling firms are trying to manipulate voter behaviour hasn’t been suggested before, by all the major parties’ supporters as well. Now imagine if we didn’t know where the Tories and Liberals were sitting in the polls. Imagine if, in 2004, voters leaning to the NDP weren’t so certain that their vote could mean the difference between a Liberal and Conservative government. It would likely have meant a lower Liberal seat total, but to the benefit of the NDP’s seat total. Such a restriction would likely give us a more accurate reflection on what kind of Parliament they’d want and who they’d want to represent their district. The alternative, the status quo, as I said before is a bunch of inaccurate polls that just seem to invoke strong reactions from swing voters yet for all their “credibility” turn out wrong every time we have an election. Strange coincidence? I think not.

At the very least, maybe the mere talk of curbing polling firms from publishing their results during their most profitable season might just make some of these guys re-think just how manipulative they want to be the next time they commission a poll! That in itself would be a reward all Canadian voters deserve.

Global Warming Hypocrites – Get Out Your Eco-Friendly Barf Bags

May 25, 2007 · By

Paul Joseph Watson, from Prison Planet, outlines his frustration with the moronic sheep that blindly drink from the climate change koolaid handed to them by celebrities and eco-activists.

The exact level of idiocy these morons embrace was underscored perfectly yesterday when throngs of them queued up outside a London supermarket from 3am to buy “eco-friendly” bags that have become the latest must-have fashion item and another ego trinket for them to grandstand and revel in the pomp that they are saving Mother Earth.

In reality, the bags were made by slaves in China and transported thousands of miles by CO2 belching jet planes. But let’s not concern ourselves about that – as long as we can feel good about ourselves while wagging our finger in judgment at anyone who uses those dirty old plastic bags that’s all that [Via Tim Blair]

This story reminds me of a article in the October 2007 issue of Wired Magazine. The article featured some interesting statistics about water and energy use relating to common household products. One example given was,

“Which coffee cup sips the fewest resources? Before you get all high and mighty about your brand-new coffee mug, consider: You could use 294 paper cups or 1,800 polystyrene cups before their energy and pollution debt exceeded that of your mug. Verdict: If you already have a ceramic mug, use it.”

More Evidence of Global Warming

May 24, 2007 · By

Calgary got snow. Toronto is warm.

Charles Adler Takes Down Strategic Pollster

May 24, 2007 · By

Via SDA, Charles Adler flays Tim Wollstencroft of Strategic Counsel over their poll showing Canadians apparently supporting negotiating with the Taliban. A good example of “push polls.” One could find lots of other examples of such polls.

Doer’s 3rd: The Ontario Factor

May 22, 2007 · By

Going into the 21st century, not much was thought about with regards to the “dynasty” enjoyed by the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, whom ruled over Canada’s largest province for 42 consecutive years (and could’ve lasted a bit longer if the leadership at the time was a bit wiser in the ways of strategy). Political scientists have labeled this era a fluke, a contained event, an exception; something that we’re not likely to see ever again.

It is with this in mind that I write tonight about Manitoba Premier Gary Doer’s victory tonight which will allow his NDP to sit for another four years on the government side of the legislature. I have to admit that I have only been following the election casually, since I was out of the country, moving and doing a few other major tasks over the last few weeks but one thing I have consistently heard is that Manitobans were not inclined to switch parties despite a few issues that certain groups were upset over. The most memorable promise was that of the McFadyen PC Party, who had told the electorate that they would return the Winnipeg Jets to the capital city of the province if they were elected. This promise was symbolic to me of just how much the PC Party of Manitoba was desperate to win this election at any cost; however it looks like they will be a few collegues short when the legislature resumes its work later this year now.

What stands out more, getting back to my original thoughts is that the election that concluded tonight is much like those of the Ontario PC dynasty, and could easily transpose itself onto the Ontario scene later this year when that province goes to the polls. What the PC Party of Manitoba failed to realize (and what their Ontario cousins are also forgetting so far) is that the incumbant government, despite being the other guys, are currently satisfactory to the electorate. It’s not that the Doer government or the Ontario McGuinty Liberal government have done good jobs over the past four years (they haven’t), it’s that they haven’t really screwed up yet. This is much the same song we heard during Jean Chretien’s reign in Ottawa, and even during the early days of the Martin regime. Admittedly, it’s much harder to unseat a popular government than one which is going through crisis, but the one way you don’t do it is to try to mimic that government as much as possible. The two PC Parties in central Canada are making a fatal mistake by misreading the contentment of the public for their provincial governments as a sign that they would only elect parties that are like the incumbants.

Hugh McFadyen is now a footnote in history, and likely to be replaced soon. I could tell that much when he admitted in his speech tonight that Manitobans were happy with the Doer government; that’s not likely to sit well with the grassroots. Now John Tory is up to bat in his province, hindered by a desire to be as Liberal as possible, while offering a difference from McGuinty and his crew just large enough to make people vote for them. Obviously neither leader has heard of the old saying “don’t fix what ain’t broke”; if they did, they’d know that the only path to victory when you have a content electorate would be to expose the incumbants as the masters of a broken government; one which would need fixing, and one that the PC Party had a clear plan to put straight. The parallel mindset of these two men though (move to the centre, try to woo the voters of the province’s largest city by cheap gimmicks) will gurantee them quick passage to a leader’s tribute at a not-too-distant leadership convention. Now the only question is if John Tory is so blind to what has happened next door to him tonight that he’ll be campaigning on a promise that Toronto will win the Stanley Cup if he becomes the next Ontario Premier!

Garth Turner: a fast learner

May 21, 2007 · By

Garth Turner seemed like an odd fit with the Liberal caucus when he first crossed the floor. But it seems he’s learning.

He’s already mastered the first principle: abandon all consistency (foolish or otherwise).

Garth (21 May 2007):

This process [of enervating committees] started early in the Harper mandate.

[E]nraging Mr. Harper was the refusal of some opposition MPs to allow committees to die. Within six weeks one of them rebelled, disqualifying Mr. Harper’s friend, oil baron and EnCana CEO Gwyn Morgan, as head of a new secretariat overseeing government appointments. PMSH spoke of this incident with uncharacteristic open anger in caucus, vowed revenge on committees and announced his vaunted appointment process would be immediately abandoned.

That’s an interesting take on it. Particularly because at the time, I read this:

Garth (16 May 2006):

I would say the PM is using [Morgan’s rejection] as a very pubic [sic] example of why he wants a majority government – to get the muscle needed to clean up the bueaucratic [sic] process in a way he thinks is appropriate. It’s political brinksmanship. — Garth

So was the Gwyn Morgan episode an example of Harper’s authoritarian streak and love for oil tycoons? Or was it an example of Harper’s righteous frustration at seeing important accountability reforms frustrated by the opposition’s intransigence?

It can’t be both, Garth — so which is it?

Negotiate with the Taliban?

May 21, 2007 · By

CTV is reporting that Canadians think we should be negotiating with the Taliban for peace in Afghanistan.

I refuse to believe that 62% of Canadians believe we should sue for peace with a group that believes in keeping women draped in black with only their eyes visible, keeping them from education, divorcing them for allowing themselves to be raped, and stoning them to death for any reason at all. I refuse to believe that Canadians think we should enable a group that would kill any who dare to profess belief in anything other than Allah, to rule any part of Afghanistan, or have a voice in power in Afghanistan. I refuse to believe that Canadians don’t particularly care for the plight of Afghanis under the yoke of such men that they would not commit to protecting them as best we can.

I don’t want to turn this post into another “it’s all the media’s fault” post, but why wasn’t the question asked like this: “Negotiate with theocracy that seeks to keep women subservient to men and uneducated, and kill anyone who converts to another religion?” I don’t think the answer would have been 62% yes.

Divide The Right: A rallying call for a proportionately represented Ontario

May 20, 2007 · By

Thomas Walkom (not usually a must-link read for me, I’ll admit) outlines the really important point about the move to introduce PR* in Ontario:

What the dreamers too often forget, however, is that changing the rules changes everything. If proportional representation had been in play in the last provincial election, there is no guarantee that the NDP would have won 15 per cent of the votes cast.

Indeed, there is no guarantee that the NDP, in its current form, would have existed.

Most of the media focus w/r/t the PR debate has been about the way it would affect the distribution of votes among the parties as presently constituted. But if PR is introduced, we will likely see different parties emerge.

I’m opposed to PR because I think the polite fiction that we vote for the man not the party is an important one, and because PR tends to increase government spending.

Nonetheless, if the voters of Ontario in their somewhat-less-than-infinite wisdom, decide that future elections should be contested under a PR system, let me be the first to call for the Harris wing of the provincial PC party to split off and let the pale-pink John Tory wing battle the Liberals for an ever-shrinking centrist vote.

Though I am not hopeful that PR will produce conservative public policy, at least we can hope that it might produce a genuinely conservative party.

* Technically, MMP.

Transport News From Alberta

May 19, 2007 · By

Alberta Traffic Nazis have a new toy.

The visionary Calgary-Edmonton Corridor bullet train idea today received a major boost:

“We have to. We have no choice. It will reduce emissions and it’s visionary. Now is the time to prepare because we have the options available to purchase land,” Stelmach said.

And, as everyone knows, the bullet train was advocated in the provincial leadership race by none other than Ted Morton. It’s nice to see Stelmach stealing some good ideas.

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