Saturday, March 31, 2007

Zerbisias bemoans narrowing of media voices

PSYCH!!! She’s just gloating over the supposed imminent demise of the Sun Media chain (you’ll have to find her March 30th column yourself at the Star’s website; their links never work for me):

You may not notice it as you go by, but the smell of death is on many street corners in the GTA.

It comes out of all those red boxes offering the Toronto Sun.

It’s not just here. The same stench emanates from Sun Media boxes in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and London, where the Free Press is also being bled to death by Quebecor.

The other day, I asked former Sun staffers about their joy and relief in 1998 when they learned that Quebecor and not Torstar would be taking over.

“They were hugging and dancing in the atrium,” recalled one.

Now that atrium echoes with the voices of ghosts.
--“Bad news for setting Sun,” Antonia Zerbisias, Toronto Star, March 30

Sun Media’s purported troubles are a welcome distraction for the Zerb, given that her regular predictions of the National Post’s demise have yet to come to pass.

I don’t know much about the finances of the news business, all I know is that I pay to have the Toronto Sun delivered to my house Saturdays and Sundays, and buy it every weekday. The Star, on the other hand, has been delivering its paper – for free –seven days a week for over two months now.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Liberals: 33 1/3% women candidates, but still 100% business as usual

Federation of municipalities president says Dion had her ousted because she ran for Conservative nomination

Never let it be said that the Liberal party allows its veneer of diversity to get in the way of its tried-and-true brand of shiv-tastic politics. A Guelph municipal councillor is claiming Stephane Dion is behind her ouster just two months away from the end of her term as president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (h/t National Newswatch):

“I’d like an apology for what has happened,” said [Gloria] Kovach, who was stripped of the FCM presidency after losing the local Conservative Party nomination to Brent Barr last week.

Kovach, who has been FCM president since December 2005 and whose term was supposed to end this May, announced Feb. 1 that she was seeking the Conservative nomination to run in the next federal election.

She said the trouble began soon afterwards when she met with Dion for prebudget discussions. With her at that meeting, her first with the new Liberal leader, was FCM first vice-president Gord Steeves of Winnipeg.

Dion “was not very engaging. He did not have a lot to say to us,” Kovach said.

Now, to be fair, Dion has never been known for his charisma in small groups. Or large ones. Or by himself. And his office is denying any connection with Kovach’s removal.

As the story notes, other FCM presidents, most notably Jack Layton, have pursued provincial or municipal office while serving in the post.

[Kovach] went on to say that she’d have thought a new Opposition leader would have better things to do “than trying to discredit a committed community leader. I didn’t do anything untoward towards him.”

She said she took an unpaid leave of absence from her nursing job to take on the FCM presidency, which has no salary.

Just because you’ve never done anything untoward towards a Liberal leader, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not in his way. Just ask Sheila Copps.

Old media cling desperately to their fading power

But barring political staffers from scrums won't preserve their gatekeeper status

From CTV (h/t National Newswatch):

While political operatives often eavesdrop on news scrums, the head of the press gallery said it's unprecedented and improper for them to gather political ammunition there.

"(Politicians) who talk to us should know that what they're saying will be used by media people," said Richard Brennan, gallery president and a reporter for the Toronto Star.

"They should know that it is not going to be used against them in an attack ad."

Brennan’s concern for politicians is touching, especially coming from one of the most aggressive reporters in the history of parliamentary reporting. But his argument is (1) not true, (2) specious, and (3) futile.

For 15-plus years Brennan covered Queen’s Park. In recent years, political staffers there have regularly recorded other parties’ scrums and news events, including in the halls of the Legislature. (A notable exception was the latter years of Dalton McGuinty’s time as opposition leader, when he barred opposition staffers from all his news events). So he knows very well that this is not “unprecedented.”

As for using scrum material in political ads, parties are already free to use scrum quotes in their own communications, or a network’s video or audio (if they get permission).

Then there’s the amusing contrast between a press gallery that, on one hand, resisted the PMO’s attempt to conduct orderly news conferences, yet, on the other hand, is apparently trying to impose its own order on post-Question Period scrums.

Brennan’s rationale is a fig leaf for the notion that only accredited media (usually accredited by each other) should be allowed to decide which remarks made by a politician constitute “news.” Sorry, that ship has sailed (and I believe the ship’s name was “Macaca”).

Perhaps the newly-elected press gallery president is of a mind that he is going to single-handedly reverse the new order that the PMO has brought to media relations, or the changes wrought by the Internet. History is not on his side.

Speaking of the old media’s privileges, another is the tradition of political reporters expecting party leaders and other officials to deliver funny speeches or perform dubious “comedy” routines at their annual piss-ups. The most recent example is the awkward rap performance of Karl Rove at the Washington correspondents’ dinner. I agree with Peggy Noonan, who wrote in one of her books that the trend toward the public expecting politicians to be comedians is a regrettable one.

Backseat Blogger has also posted on this.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fiberal spinners: lottery retailers were beating the odds by playing more

Ontario government funds addiction awareness campaign that says that’s not possible

Well, this should make for another interesting Question Period at Queen’s Park today:

Top Liberal political advisers plotted damage control in the wake of a startling TV broadcast exposing an insider win scandal at the Ontario Lottery Corp., according to documents obtained by Sun Media.

Warren Kinsella, Jim Warren and others met four days after the Oct. 25, 2006, Fifth Estate program which revealed the story of Bob Edmonds, a 78-year-old lottery customer and cancer survivor who was ripped off of his $250,000 prize by a lottery ticket retailer, the documents show.

The meeting of Liberal strategists days after the Edmonds’ story focused on hiring experts to counter the view of a CBC mathematician that a disproportionate number of insiders were claiming major prizes, due to the fact that this group spends almost three times as much as the ordinary consumer.

The lottery corporation spent $5,000 for a survey of retailer spending and $44,250 for the views of stats experts.

The PR brain trust wanted to convince people that insiders won more frequently only because they played more often.
--”How the Grits tried to spin a scandal,” Toronto Sun, today

Unfortunately, taking such a message to the public would have run counter to one of the central messages of the gambling addition community: that placing more bets or gambling for longer has no effect on the odds of winning.

This message is currently being seen in the “friends 4 friends” campaign of the Responsible Gambling Council. According to this release, the campaign is supported by the Ontario ministries of health and health promotion.

From the campaign’s “Myths about gambling”:

Myth: My strategy will help me win. For example, picking certain numbers for a lottery or pressing the button of a slot machine at exactly the right time.

Truth: The outcome of all games is random - you cannot influence the outcome. The winning number selection is random and independent from previous draws, so betting the same weekly numbers won’t help you win. In fact the odds of winning the Lotto 6/49 are 1 in 14 million each and every time. Slot machines are computers and outcomes are the result of randomly drawn numbers that determine where the reels will stop before they’re even set in motion. It doesn’t matter when you pull or press.

I have also heard radio ads that emphasize that the odds are the same every time you play. I am trying to track down who is running those ads.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Anybody smart enough to fix your software from India can probably figure out how to vote in American Idol

Tonight American Idol returns, and millions of Sanjinas and Sanjaya-haters alike are poised to pounce on the performance of beleaguered Sanjaya Malakar, possibly the most ridiculed Idol contestant since Justin Guarini.

Theories abound as to why this endearing lad with the average voice has survived two rounds of voting since the field was winnowed down to the top 12. Apparently Howard Stern (the shock jock, not Anna Nicole Smith’s lawyer) has endorsed the website, which is dedicated to ensuring the ostensibly least-talented contestant wins the contest.

Frankly, I don’t think Sanjaya is that bad (but then, I was a big Scott Savol fan). And it's the three judges' fault that he made the top 24. But if something untoward is taking place to ensure his survival, has anyone considered the possibility of thousands of tech-savvy, English-speaking Indians figuring out how to circumvent the U.S.-only voting restrictions?

UPDATE: I think Sanjaya gave his best performance so far, tonight. (Haley Scarnato, who followed him, was way worse.) Given everything that's going on, his confidence level was impressive. Unfortunately, his voice continues to go soft or fade in spots, a function I think of his youth and shyness. Overall, the show was weak because of what I assume were Gwen Stefani's song choices.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Dennis Miller is back!

For those who miss his CNBC show (which was replaced by that guy who yells and makes sound effects about the stock market), here’s a link to his website. Today’s first broadcast is already archived for your listening pleasure.

Miller was joined on his maiden broadcast by Rudy Giuliani (whom Miller is endorsing for President) and Miller's SNL castmate Dana Carvey. This week's scheduled guests include Mark Steyn (Tuesday), Dick Morris (Wednesday) and former American ambassador to the UN, John Bolton (Thursday).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dalton McGuinty, meet Dalton McGuinty

McGuinty opposed PC budgets, but wouldn’t have repealed their centrepiece tax cuts

As promised, here are the quotes of then-opposition leader Dalton McGuinty – who opposed every PC budget between 1996 and 2003 – saying he would not roll back the tax cuts contained in those budgets:

“I will not reverse the tax cuts if I become Premier. You can’t afford to do so. It would send out a negative signal about our economy.”
--Toronto Sun, June 27, 1997

“The tax cut, I mean I can’t reverse it and I wouldn’t increase taxes because that’s a bad idea.”
--Focus Ontario, Global TV, October 18, 1997

Sean Mallen: Following on the tax cut issue, another thing that was raised in the debate was that you voted against the tax cut in the last Legislature, and you criticized them in this campaign for borrowing for a tax cut, but it seems to me we are still borrowing for a tax cut to take the criticism further, yet you are refusing to rescind any of those tax cuts. That seems to be a leap of logic doesn’t it?

McGuinty: You can’t roll – taxes only go one way. They should only go one way in this province. Okay? They can’t go back up . . .
--"Focus Ontario," Global TV, May 22, 1999

Question: Are you advocating the roll back to any of the tax reductions from yesterday’s budget?

McGuinty: Uhhh . . . No! Politics is no longer about left and right anymore. It’s about backward and forward. And I’m for moving forward. And I’ll leave it at that.
--speech to Canadian Society of Association Executives, May 3, 2000

McGuinty did, however, include a vague tax cut pledge in his 1999 election platform:

“Immediate investments in the education and health of our people. A balanced budget. And then tax cuts as the economy grows. . . .Once the budget is balanced, the fiscal dividend would be split three ways: . . . 25 per cent in tax relief aimed at lower and middle-income Ontarians . . .”
--“20/20” Liberal platform document, April, 1999

When Apple met Orange

Fiberal attack on Tory a limp fruit salad

The McGuinty Fiberals at Queen's Park put out a lamer-than-usual hit release on Ontario PC Leader John Tory at 12:30 p.m. today. Their banker’s hours timing was consistent with the Ontario Liberal party Budget e-mail that went out last night – at 11:00 p.m. (your War Room’s going to have to be a little faster than that during the election, Premier Pinocchio)

The PC Party’s blast e-mail, on the other hand, went out around 8:00 p.m. And, unlike the Fiberals, Tory’s team wasn’t in a position to know what was in the Budget ahead of time. (Full disclosure: I help out the Ontario PCs from time to time.) Here’s the Fiberals’ release:

John Tory, meet John Tory

Credibility gap widens as Tory pledges both support and opposition to the Liberal budget

QUEEN'S PARK, March 23 /CNW/ - Today John Tory's credibility gap grew wider as he has simultaneously pledged support for the McGuinty budget, while pledging to vote against it.

Meet John Tory No. 1 - he likes the progressive investments in the McGuinty budget:

Reporter: "(Are) there any initiatives in yesterday's budget that you would reverse?"
John Tory: "No, I can't think of one I would reverse... I can't think at the moment... I can't think of one that I would tell you right now that I would reverse." (Tory Press Conference, March 23, 2007)

Now meet John Tory No.2 - he doesn't like the progressive investments in the McGuinty budget:

"Conservative leader John Tory pronounced the budget 'disappointing' and accused Premier Dalton McGuinty of orchestrating a 'political spending buffet'." (Ottawa Citizen, March 23, 2007)

It sure does take a different kind of leader to oppose what you support. Or maybe that's support what you oppose? John?


/For further information: Dave Penfold, (416) 325-3676,

First of all, I seem to recall that McGuinty opposed every single PC Budget between 1996 and 2003, but at the same time, when pressed by reporters, refused to commit to reversing any of the Harris tax cuts. (I’ll dig up some quotes at home and post them tonight). So this is no different.

And now that I think of it, didn’t McGuinty promise during the last election, like, in writing and everything, that he wasn’t going to raise personal income taxes at all?

If the Liberals intend to make the next election a contest between Dalton McGuinty's crediblity and John Tory's, well, that will be something to see.

Perhaps more interesting, the fact that the Fiberals’ contrasting “quote” is not a quote at all but a reporter’s paraphrase, suggests that Tory didn’t give McGuinty’s crew much to work with in his post-Budget reaction.

The upshot is, Tory emerges unscathed from the Budget immediately preceding his first election as leader. Which is more than I can say for McGuinty, who had a memorable meltdown in the 1999 Budget lockup.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

As Dr. Krauthammer was saying . . .

"Death to America" merely an old whine in a new bottle

For those still wed to the delusion that hatred of America is as new to Europe as Old Dutch chips are to Eastern Canada, check out this 1950s reminiscence, sent to the National Review’s Jay Nordlinger (last item):

I distinctly remember as a short-trousered grade-schooler in Paris during the first half of the 1950s passing “US = SS!” and “Yankee Go Home!” (my fondest wish!) signs, and absorbing anti-American insults and threats (“A mort les ’ricains!” — “Death to the Americans!”) and receiving the occasional missile from nearby French construction workers on my way into the American School of Paris, which was then located in the Communist-controlled suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. This was at a time when the so-reviled George W. Bush was naught but a similar grade-school scamp, albeit in Texas, and occurred a scant dozen years after we’d liberated the swine, and lost a half million of our best and bravest in the process. It only served to puff me up with pugnacious patriotic pride then, and it still does.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

British MP: "We owe Conrad and Barbara gratitude"

Johnson is a Conservative MP. This is from his op-ed in Wednesday's Telegraph:

I defend Conrad and Barbara because they are now bestowing on the human race a very special and personal gift. They are doing far more for British happiness than the Chancellor, with his bogus recitations of double-counted cash. Lord and Lady Black are distributing lashings of lovely old Schadenfreude, and how sweet it is to the British palate. Though Conrad and Barbara might not know it or even desire it, they are doing their bit for social cohesion.

Most of us lead lives of blameless bourgeois domesticity, and on the whole we are pretty pleased with our lot; and yet from time to time we may behold some titanic figure cruising past in his Roller, or pushing past us at the airport to board his Lear jet, with short-skirted glamour-puss wives bobbing in his wake. At that moment, a certain antsiness can descend, even upon the most equable. Oi, we think to ourselves, what about me? Why am I just a drudge, a wage slave, churning out articles when that fellow is an intercontinental tycoon?

For those of us who will never be global bigshots, who despair of ever owning a Lear jet or a chateau, for those of us with status anxiety - and that is all of us, baby - the hubris and apparent nemesis of the Blacks is a chance to feel just that little bit better about our place in the order of things, and that behind every great fortune there is indeed, as alleged, a great crime.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Now McCain wants to be loved by Old Europe too

Will shutting Gitmo and buying into climate change erase decades of resentment?

I’ve never much cottoned to Arizona senator John McCain. For one thing, he has a bad case of what could be called the Mulroney Disease: wanting to be loved by the media. You saw it in his daily and lengthy “Straight Talk Express” media schmoozes during the 2000 campaign. You see it every two months or so when he appears on the Leno or Letterman shows, sweating neediness, as most politicians do in those venues (the only politician I’ve ever seen on Leno or Letterman who didn’t reek of wanting to be loved was George W. Bush, in his Letterman appearance during the 2000 campaign).

For obvious reasons, the Mulroney Disease is dangerous to any politician hoping to be elected, and fatal to elected officials who want to achieve anything that lasts. The media are often poor proxies for the public, and their tastes in politicians and policies are as unreliable as Britney Spears’ lingerie drawer.

But, as if dancing to the whims and fancies of the media weren't frightening enough, McCain says he will make it a top priority to make Europeans love Americans too. From the Telegraph:

In a sign that he wants to distance himself from the president - to whom he lost in an ugly campaign in 2000 - Sen McCain outlined a series of measures to roll back Bush policies and counter the “ugly American” image.

“I would immediately close Guantanamo Bay, move all the prisoners to Fort Leavenworth (an army base in Kansas) and truly expedite the judicial proceedings in their cases,” he said. “I would reaffirm my commitment to address the issue of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. I know how important this is in Europe in particular.”

John Weaver, Sen McCain’s chief strategist, confirmed his plans for a markedly more conciliatory foreign policy. “The next president will have to work extra hard to unite our friends and divide our foes. Sadly the opposite has occurred in recent years,” he said, as Sen McCain addressed a crowded hall in the farming community of Cedar Falls.

Yikes. Where to begin with this? One of the most frequent talking points among Bush critics is that America “squandered” the sympathy that 9/11 engendered among European and other nations. This conveniently papers over the reality that hatred (or at least condescension) towards America is the default position of many Europeans, especially European media, political and intellectual figures. Charles Krauthammer ably exploded the myth in a November 2003 Time magazine column:

It is pure fiction that this pro-American sentiment was either squandered after Sept. 11 or lost under the Bush Administration. It never existed. Envy for America, resentment of our power, hatred of our success has been a staple for decades, but most particularly since victory in the cold war left us the only superpower.

The world apparently likes the U.S. when it is on its knees. From that the Democrats deduce a foreign policy — remain on our knees, humble and supplicant, and enjoy the applause and “support” of the world.

This is not just degrading. It is a fool’s bargain--3,000 dead for a day’s worth of nice words and a few empty U.N. resolutions. The Democrats would forfeit American freedom of action and initiative in order to get back — what? Another nice French editorial? To be retracted as soon as the U.S. stops playing victim?

Sympathy is fine. But if we “squander” it when we go to war to avenge our dead and prevent the next crop of dead, then to hell with sympathy. The fact is that the world hates us for our wealth, our success, our power. They hate us into incoherence. The Europeans, Ajami astutely observes, disdain us for our excessive religiosity (manifest, they imagine, by evolution being expelled from schools while prayer is ushered back in)--while the Arab world despises us as purveyors of secularism. We cannot win for losing. We are widely reviled as enemies of Islam, yet in the 1990s we engaged three times in combat — in the Persian Gulf and in the Balkans — to rescue Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, Muslim peoples all. And in the last two cases, there was nothing in it for the U.S.; it was humanitarianism and good international citizenship of the highest order.

The search for logic in anti-Americanism is fruitless. It is in the air the world breathes. Its roots are envy and self-loathing — by peoples who, yearning for modernity but having failed at it, find their one satisfaction in despising modernity’s great exemplar.
On Sept. 11, they gave it a rest for a day. Big deal.
--”To hell with sympathy,” Time, November 9, 2003

My other beef with McCain? Like many long-term senators, he seems to have acquired a chronic case of Stockholm Syndrome. In McCain’s case, sometimes his inability to distinguish friend from enemy is so bad, he ends up carrying water for the Democrats, most notably during the 2004 campaign when he was cajoled by his Senate colleague John Kerry, into calling on President Bush to denounce the Swift Boat campaign.

McCain’s aid and comfort to Kerry layered several levels of absurdity onto one another. First, all of the 527 groups, including and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, were all made possible by McCain’s own campaign finance reform legislation. Second, anti-Bush 527 groups had been kicking the stuffing out of Bush for months – with nary a peep from McCain about their tactics or rhetoric.

Third, by taking Kerry’s side, McCain took the side of someone who, though he had served in Vietnam, testified before Congress upon his return that American soldiers had committed war crimes (I believe that at the very moment Kerry was testifying before Congress, McCain was still a guest of the Hanoi Hilton). Fourth, Kerry’s exploitation of his military record for political gain – which would have been distasteful and classless under any circumstances – was astonishingly craven and cynical, given the younger Kerry’s desire to distance himself as far from his service as possible. Yet bizarrely, McCain lent his authority to Kerry’s case, and hurt his own nominee.

Smashing the inevitability of “Big Sister”

Someone else sees a similarity between Hillary and Stalin . . .

At the top of the Drudge Report today is a link to an unauthorized Barack Obama campaign video. The video is a re-cut of a 1984 Apple computer commercial. The commercial was based on the George Orwell novel “1984,” which novel was partly inspired by Stalin. The new video has Hillary Clinton in the role of “Big Brother.”

Unfortunately, I'm not yet adept at doing those embedded links to YouTube, so a link to the video is here.

UPDATE: Apropos of Orwell, Newsday is reporting that the Clinton library is not setting any speed records in answering research requests:

“I haven’t received any documents or even a note indicating that they’re searching the records,” said Jeff Gerth, a former New York Times reporter who requested a wide range of the first lady’s files for an unauthorized Clinton biography he’s working on.

Sixteen months after the library started accepting applications, no major request for sensitive documents pertaining to Clinton’s first-lady years have been released.

Gerth, whose request was logged on Jan. 17, 2006, should be among the first to receive documents - or a rejection letter - based on the library’s first-come, first-served policy. He has received neither.

National Archives officials say the sheer volume of interest in both Clintons is slowing things down. As of last month, the archive had received 336 requests for documents, correspondence and e-mails totaling 9 million pages. That’s three timesthe material requested from George H.W. Bush’s archive in its first year.

“This is a tremendously complex and convoluted process,” said the library’s supervising archivist, Melissa Walker. “We review documents line by line, document by document, not box by box. It takes a lot of time.”
Of the first 54 requests that were acted upon for both Clintons between January and November 2006, only four were granted - and they were for videos and ceremonial letters.

Since then, about 500,000 pages of documents have been released - but there’s been little movement on the three biggest Hillary Clinton requests, according to the people who made them.

“We’re getting nowhere,” said Tom Fitton, executive director of Judicial Watch, a Washington-based conservative government watchdog group that has long investigated the Clintons. His organization wants to see Hillary Clinton’s schedules and diaries. “We may have to consider filing a lawsuit but the legal issues are very, very complicated.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The conspiracy that never was – and the Clinton lie factory that's still going strong

A few years ago, Christopher Hitchens wrote a book about the Clintons entitled “No One Left To Lie To.” But Lord knows, being caught lying has hardly stopped the Clintons from trying to foist new lies onto the same people. (Why fool with success?)

Most recently, it’s Hillary Clinton’s assertion that the so-called vast right-wing conspiracy is back. From James Taranto’s unmissable “Best of the Web Today,” in yesterday’s

But it’s worth remembering the context in which Mrs. Clinton first introduced the notion of the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” The AP says only that “she famously charged allegations of an affair between her then-president husband Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky were the result of a conservative conspiracy.” But here’s an excerpt of her comment, on the Jan. 27, 1998, “Today” show:

We [the Clintons] know everything there is to know about each other, and we understand and accept and love each other. And I just think that a lot of this is deliberately designed to sensationalize charges against my husband, because everything else they’ve tried has failed. And I also believe that it’s part of an effort, very frankly, to undo the results of two elections. . . .

“But I do believe that this is a battle. I mean, look at the very people who are involved in this. They have popped up in other settings.

“This is--the great story here for anybody willing to find it and write about it and explain it--is this vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president. A few journalists have kind of caught on to it and explained it. But it has not yet been fully revealed to the American public. And actually, you know, in a bizarre sort of way, this may do it.

“Now, I have to say, I don’t know what it is about my husband that generates such hostility, but I have seen it for 25 years.

“Well, I think that--if all that were proven true, I think that would be a very serious offense. That is not going to be proven true.”

Of course, “all that” was proved true. It’s bad enough that Mrs. Clinton never apologized for her paranoid accusations back in ‘98, but for her to reprise the theme--while at the same time declaring the subject of her “marriage” to be off-limits--shows an unmitigated gall.
--“Best of the Web Today,”, March 13, 2007

Indeed. As history has shown, the real “conspiracy” was not among the right wing, but in the West Wing and Family Quarters of the White House: Bill Clinton’s conspiracy – aided and abetted by the abused Betty Currie and a phalanx of lawyers – to keep his extra-curricular sex life hidden from Hillary, and Paula Jones’ lawyers. When it became clear that Hillary had lied to defend her husband, she parlayed the public’s sympathy over Bill’s betrayals into a senate seat.

If anyone were to ask what offends and frightens me so much about Hillary Clinton, I would respond that it’s because I believe she is willing to do everything Stalin did, just short of the mass murdering (coincidentally, the recent Scooter Libby prosecution certainly had the stench of a show trial).

Perhaps that is too extreme an indictment of her. But, given the level of audacity of which she has been proven capable, perhaps not.

Neither is the New York Post having any of Hillary’s tendentious bulls*** (but then, they never did).

The Wall Street Journal also has an editorial today on the Clintons’ record on the wholesale sacking of U.S.Attorneys.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Star biz editor delivers rant from glass house

Slams CanWest for dual-class voting structure – er, just like Torstar has

At the end of a breathless tirade about CanWest’s dubious investments and indictment of the “shareholder-value-destroying Asper clan,” Toronto Star business editor David Olive delivers this crushing blow:
It’s a rare day that readers of the Wall Street Journal and U.K. Financial Times don’t come across one or more reports of activist minority shareholders successfully pressuring better-run firms than CanWest for bigger returns – and smarter managers. Oh, to be protected by a dual-class voting structure and Canadian restrictions on foreign ownership of media firms.
--Toronto Star, today

Now, I’m no business wizard, but I seem to recall reading somewhere that the only shares of Torstar Corp. available to the public are non-voting shares, so that the Star can remain in the iron grip of a handful of families. Oh yes, here we go:

Former Star publisher John Honderich, a Torstar director who chairs a voting trust comprising five families that control the company, had arrived at the meeting with a litany of criticisms of the newspaper’s editorial direction. He informed the group that the families had met to discuss a variety of concerns at the Star, in particular what they perceived to be a drift away from the so-called Atkinson Principles, a commitment to social justice reporting that is formally enshrined at the paper. To make matters worse, he went on, it had been a poor year for awards at the Star, and circulation was ebbing.

These five families, some now in their third generation, hold 98 per cent of the company’s nearly 10 million class A voting shares. This structure ensures the Star is steered by persons who honour the principles of its legendary proprietor, Joseph Atkinson, not to mention wield considerable control over both the CEO and the board.
--”Private feud, public company,” Globe and Mail, October 21, 2006

Class B shares are non-voting unless eight consecutive quarterly dividends have not been paid.

Registration of the transfer of any of the company’s shares may be refused if such transfer could jeopardize either the ability of the company to engage in broadcasting or its status as a Canadian publisher.
[N.B. that would be those Canadian ownership restrictions Olive mentions above that protect CanWest. And, apparently, Torstar]
--Torstar 2005 annual report, p. 52

But I guess what’s different from CanWest is that Torstar’s motivation for barring investors from having a say in the company’s management is to protect the Atkinson principles from greedy fund managers, who are more interested in maximizing returns for hapless RRSP investors than in police racial profiling or carbon taxes. It’s kind of like when Canada participated in the NATO bombing of Serbia 1999: that was “humanitarian” bombing. In other words, Torstar is protecting its managers from its investors for purely humanitarian reasons.

Oh, and here’s a 2005 Globe and Mail (arch-enemy of the National Post, in case you hadn’t heard) ranking of the governance of companies with similar share structures. Yes, Torstar does outrank CanWest, but not by much:

A dual-share structure doesn’t always mean low marks on the Board Games corporate governance rankings. An analysis of dual-share companies shows that governance practices vary widely. In this sample, we have used the standard Board Games marking criteria, but have not included the 10 points that deal with share structure. The total is out of 90.

Rank Company Score
1 Telus Corp. 80
2 Cogeco Cable Inc. 79
3 Torstar Corp. 78
4 Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. 77
5 Celestica Inc. 74
6 Zenon Environmental Inc. 73
6 CCL Industries Inc. 73
8 CanWest Global Commun. 72
8 Astral Media Inc. 72
8 CHC Helicopter Corp. 72
8 Teck Cominco Ltd. 72
12 Brascan Corp. 71
12 Bombardier Inc. 71
14 Corus Entertainment Inc. 70
15 Maple Leaf Foods Inc. 69
[list continues]

--“Two classes, many opinions,” Globe and Mail, October 18, 2005

And speaking of dubious investments:

“My view is that the long-term performance of a company is the responsibility of the board, and Torstar certainly has struggled with its long-term performance, said Tim McElvaine, president of Vancouver-based McElvaine Investment Management Ltd, which owns about 475,000 Torstar shares. “So I think the board probably has to look carefully at itself.” Mr. McElvaine suggested he “scratched his head” somewhat over the company’s decision to buy into Bell Globemedia at a time its own stock was hurting.
--Globe and Mail, as above.

Full Disclosure: When I attended Ryerson, I was the recipient of an academic award in Olive’s father’s name. (I didn’t receive any Star scholarships.)

It’s called show business, not show friends

O’Donnell reportedly demands ABC fire Walters’ longtime producer

It looks like Donald Trump’s prediction that Barbara Walters would regret hiring Rose O’Donnell may yet be proven true.

There is a report that O’Donnell is willing to extend her contract with “The View” for one year, after which ABC will give her a talk show of her own. But there is a high price for O’Donnell’s signature: ABC must dump “The View” producer and co-creator, Bill Geddie (aka “The Viewmaster”). From

Page Six says that Ro will re-up for another year at ABC when her contract ends this summer, mainly because it’s too late to start her own show this September. The ever-riveting Rosie has been a ratings boon to the morning gabfest since she arrived last September, but rumors of her departure have been persistent.

The Post also says that Rosie wants executive producer Bill Geddie out, but a “View” rep says, “There is not one detail of this that is accurate.”

As a friend of mine likes to say: Niiice. You’d think O’Donnell might show Walters some loyalty and gratitude for the move from her Yoo Hoo-stained sofa to the View table, and put up with Geddie for a year until she gets her own gig. But I guess from O’Donnell’s point of view, she saved a dying franchise and under the “I bought it, so I can break it” policy is entitled to smash whatever she wants on her way out.

Geddie not only created the show with Barbara Walters, he is her longtime friend and producer who produces her Oscar gabfests and other specials. ABC Daytime was dead until Baba and Bill came along with their idea for “The View.” But it is likely that, since retiring from “20/20” and allowing O’Donnell to essentially take over “The View,” Walters has lost much of her leverage at ABC.

On the other hand, Walters (and even Geddie) may consider Geddie’s departure to be a livable accommodation. ABC can’t tell Walters not to use Geddie on her other projects, and there are surely some on which he can keep busy (or he could do other projects, or take some time off). Besides, if O’Donnell hates Geddie, imagine what it must be like for him to deal with her every day. (I can’t wait to see the dirt that becomes public once O’Donnell is off the show.)

I am sure Star Jones – who is set to start her own show on Court TV – is looking on all of this with great interest and perhaps some pity. Jones said after leaving “The View” that Walters “didn’t have her back.” Despite holding no brief for Jones up to that time, I had to agree with her. Jones agreed to finish out her contract even though she knew she had been fired at the behest of ABC. Walters did not go to bat for her with the network, and nasty gossip about Jones continued to emanate from the View set. Then last spring when O’Donnell (who had not yet been hired onto “The View”) publicly questioned Jones’ weight loss, Walters took O’Donnell’s side.

Jones could have played the race card over her firing, but didn’t. When stories leaked that viewers were turned off by her weight loss and swish wedding, she could have taken the position that all she did is what white female celebrities do every day, and ABC should have backed her up. Instead, they bowed to the bigotry of some of their audience by firing her.

When I think of Jones’ departure, I can’t help but be reminded of the “Saturday Night Live” spoof of “The View,” in which Walters (Cheri O’Teri) describes her ideal show including “a sassy black woman, like I’ve seen on TV.” Perhaps when Jones ceased to fill (literally and figuratively) that mold, she became too uppity for the View couch. No doubt the race issue was at least partly behind Walters’ promise to Jones that they would publicly say whatever Jones wanted to make it look like her departure from the show was voluntary.

But, for whatever reason – perhaps simply gratitude for the opportunity to be on “The View” – Jones declined to play hardball with Barbara Walters, even though Walters had acceded to ABC’s request that Jones be dumped from the show. True, Jones pre-empted the pre-arranged “announcement” of her departure by one day, gave a few interviews, and went on Larry King to tell her side of the story, but that was all minor media management. She never challenged ABC’s decision to fire her, and throughout the piece she repeated her admiration for and gratitude to Walters.

O’Donnell, however, has not been so grateful, or reticent about playing all her cards, despite having been dealt into the game by Walters in the first place.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Chicks fried by Academy of Country Music

Zero nominations suggest country fans not ready to make nice either

The Dixie Chicks won’t be adding any Country Music Awards to their trophy case:

Nominations were announced Monday for the annual ACM Awards and there was nary a Chick to be found despite the Texas trio’s five Grammys for Taking the Long Way. The Chicks have won 10 ACMs in their career, including Entertainer of the Year in 2000, but have been shunned by the Nashville establishment since their President Bush-bashing comments in 2003.
--E! News, March 7

Apparently, neither the passage of time nor the state of the Iraq war has changed country fans’ minds:

None of which comes as a surprise to John Shombly, program director for local country music station Eagle 97 FM. Ever since lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush from a concert stage in 2003, the band has been a three-headed pariah to country stations.

“We don’t play their music, and it’s strictly based on our research with our listeners, not on our feelings,” Shombly said. “After it all happened, we gave them a ‘time out’ and didn’t play their music for about 30 days. Then we went back to playing them for about 30 days, and it was just a firestorm. We had so many complaints from our listeners that we had to pull them off the air.”

He said that even four years after the incident, the station’s research continues to show the backlash against the Dixie Chicks.

The radio station regularly commissions a professional survey in which random listeners give their opinions of more than 500 popular songs. Before the incident - in which Maines told a London audience the band was “ashamed” of President Bush - the Eagle 97 listeners put 20 Dixie Chicks songs in the top 50. After the incident, Shombly said, those same 20 songs fell to the bottom 50 in the survey.

Shombly notes that while the Grammy Awards are voted on largely by artists, writers, producers and publishers, the country awards are chosen by radio and record executives., March 7

Unequal before the law

Coulter compares recent prosecutions of Democrats and Republicans

Her rhetoric is known to push both envelopes and buttons, but in this column Ann Coulter makes a convincing case that there seems to be one prosecutorial standard for Republican targets, and another for Democrats. Some excerpts:

Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh was subjected to a three-year criminal investigation for allegedly buying prescription drugs illegally to treat chronic back pain. Despite the witch-hunt, Democrat prosecutor Barry E. Krischer never turned up a crime.

In another prescription drug case with a different result, last year, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (Democrat), apparently high as a kite on prescription drugs, crashed a car on Capitol Hill at 3 a.m. That's abuse of prescription drugs plus a DUI offense. Result: no charges whatsoever and one day of press on Fox News Channel.

I suppose one could argue those were different jurisdictions. How about the same jurisdiction?

In 2006, Democrat and major Clinton contributor Jeffrey Epstein was nabbed in Palm Beach in a massive police investigation into his hiring of local underage schoolgirls for sex, which I'm told used to be a violation of some kind of statute in the Palm Beach area.

The police presented Limbaugh prosecutor Krischer with boatloads of evidence, including the videotaped statements of five of Epstein's alleged victims, the procurer of the girls for Epstein and 16 other witnesses.

But the same prosecutor who spent three years maniacally investigating Limbaugh's alleged misuse of back-pain pills refused to bring statutory rape charges against a Clinton contributor. Enraging the police, who had spent months on the investigation, Krischer let Epstein off after a few hours on a single count of solicitation of prostitution. The Clinton supporter walked, and his victims were branded as whores.

The Republican former House Whip Tom DeLay is currently under indictment for a minor campaign finance violation. Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle had to empanel six grand juries before he could find one to indict DeLay on these pathetic charges -- and this is in Austin, Texas (the Upper West Side with better-looking people).

Compare DeLay's case with that of Rep. William “The Refrigerator” Jefferson, Democrat. Two years ago, an FBI investigation caught Jefferson on videotape taking $100,000 in bribe money. When the FBI searched Jefferson's house, they found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer. Two people have already pleaded guilty to paying Jefferson the bribe money.

Two years later, Bush's Justice Department still has taken no action against Jefferson. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently put Rep. William Jefferson on the Homeland Security Committee.

Former Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger literally received a sentence of community service for stuffing classified national security documents in his pants and then destroying them -- big, fat federal felonies.

But Scooter Libby is facing real prison time for forgetting who told him about some bozo's wife.

Bill Clinton was not even prosecuted for obstruction of justice offenses so egregious that the entire Supreme Court staged a historic boycott of his State of the Union address in 2000.

By contrast, Linda Tripp, whose only mistake was befriending the office hosebag and then declining to perjure herself, spent millions on lawyers to defend a harassment prosecution based on far-fetched interpretations of state wiretapping laws.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Glad I reserved judgment on this . . .

It turns out the Support Lord Black website is a hoax perpetrated by the booger-flickers at Frank magazine (who stiffed me for a good chunk of my subscription the last time they went tits up.)

Like many bloggers, I was aware of the website. But I was waiting to see who was behind it. Now we know. Here's Black's sporting reaction:
"It is very clever of you, and I would enjoy it as a joke, but you will understand that it is a bit distracting right now," he wrote, according to the magazine. "I do receive a great volume of supportive comment these days, and you passed under the radar screen."