Obama, Harper and Ignatieff

Extraordinary Rendition:
The extrajudicial transfer of terror suspects from one state to another, usually to states with lower standards on human rights in their treatment of prisoners.

Barack Obama on extraordinary rendition:

“Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.” — LA Times

Michael Ignatieff on extraordinary rendition:

Arar is a case of rendition: the Torture Convention –Canada is a signator — forbids the rendition of anyone to confinement in a country where there is a reasonable chance that the person will be tortured. Arar claims he was tortured in Syria. But that’s not the only violation: the Americans can turn back a Canadian citizen to Canada, but surely have no right to deport him to a third country.

Stephen Harper on extraordinary rendition:

What I would like to see is obviously the United States government come clean with its version of events [Arar rendition], to acknowledge … the deficiencies and inappropriate conduct that occurred in this case, particularly vis-a-vis its relationship with the Canadian government [Canada wants to hear that] these kinds of incidents will not be repeated in the future.”

Same-sex marriage:
Stephen Harper on same-sex marriage:

“I have no difficulty with the recognition of civil unions for non-traditional relationships but I believe in law we should protect the traditional definition of marriage.” — Stephen Harper interviewed by the CBC

“We made a promise to have a free vote on this issue, we kept that promise, and obviously the vote was decisive and obviously we’ll accept the democratic result of the people’s representatives … I don’t see reopening this question in the future.” — Stephen Harper after MPs reject to re-open same-sex marriage debate

Michael Ignatieff on same-sex marriage:

For Liberals gay marriage is an equality issue. The [Liberal] government’s position gets the balance right. We will not compel religious communities to perform ceremonies that go against their beliefs, but we will not deny marriage rights to Canadians on grounds of sexual orientation.

Barack Obama on same-sex marriage:

“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix. … I am not somebody that promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.

Enhanced interrogation:
Michael Ignatieff on enhanced interrogation:

“As Posner and others have tartly pointed outif torture and coercion are both as useless as critics pretend, why are they used so much? While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur. I submit that we would not be “waterboarding” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning — if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded. . Indeed, Mark Bowden points to a Time report in March 2003 that Sheikh Mohammed had “given US interrogators the names and descriptions of about a dozen key al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks.” We must at least entertain the possibility that the operatives working on Sheikh Mohammed in our name are engaging not in gratuitous sadism but in the genuine belief that this form of torture—and it does qualify as such—makes all the difference.”

The Globe and Mail infers Stephen Harper’s government’s stance on enhanced interrogation by other governments aided by Canada:

“The Harper government knew prison conditions were appalling long before The Globe and Mail published a series of stories last April detailing the abuse and torture of prisoners turned over by Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan’s notorious secret police, documents released this week show.” — The Globe and Mail

Israel:
Michael Ignatieff on Israel:

“I was a professor of human rights, and I am also a professor of the laws of war, and what happened in Qana was a war crime, and I should have said that.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict

“Canada has to support the right of a democratic country to defend itself … Hamas is to blame for organizing and instigating these rocket attacks and then for sheltering among civilian populations.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hamas conflict

Barack Obama on Israel:

“My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction”

Stephen Harper on Israel:
[The] source of Israel’s strength and success, in my view, is its commitment to the universal values of all civilized peoples: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. …

… Our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada, because, as the last world war showed, hate-fuelled bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all, and must be resisted wherever it may lurk.

In this ongoing battle, Canada stands side-by-side with the State of Israel, our friend and ally in the democratic family of nations. We have stood with Israel even when it has not been popular to do so, and we will continue to stand with Israel, just as I have always said we would.

I know that we all hope and pray that someday freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law will be a reality for all the peoples of the Middle East.

Abortion:
Stephen Harper on abortion:

“I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion” — Speech at 2005 CPC Policy Convention

Michael Ignatieff on abortion:

Strong majorities of Canadians believe that while abortion should be rare, it should be a protected right for all women. … I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.”

Barack Obama on abortion:

“I trust women to make these decisions in conjunction with their doctors, and their families and their clergy… When you describe a specific procedure [partial-birth abortion] that accounts for less than one percent of abortions that take place then naturally people get concerned, and I think legitimately so.” — Barack Obama

Iraq:
Stephen Harper on Iraq:

On Iraq, while I support the removal of Saddam Hussein and applaud the efforts to establish democracy and freedom in Iraq, I would not commit Canadian troops to that country. I must admit great disappointment at the failure to substantiate pre-war intelligence information regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Michael Ignatieff on Iraq:

The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president … But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion.

Barack Obama on Iraq:

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars. — Barack Obama, October 2nd, 2002

On capital punishment:
Stephen Harper’s government on capital punishment:

Citing the “wrong signal” it would send to Canadians to plead for mercy for convicted killers, the Conservatives said they would no longer attempt to convince the United States or other democratic countries to commute death sentences meted out to Canadians.

The government later said it would review such situations on a “case-by-case basis.” — Montreal Gazette

Michael Ignatieff on capital punishment:

Canadians do not support capital punishment… I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.

Barack Obama on capital punishment:

“While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes — mass murder, the rape and murder of a child — so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment” — Barack Obama from The Audacity of Hope

Watching Obama’s visit on Facebook

There were only about 1000 people on Parliament Hill today to greet President Obama as much of downtown was locked down. There were barricades and security officials on the MacKenzie King bridge and checkpoints a plenty as the Parliamentary precinct was secured for Obama’s seven hour visit. Barricades also line Wellington street past Sussex through Rideau and also cover the street to the US embassy.

Staying away from the fray, I’m tracking the Obama visit passively via status updates on Facebook. Here’s a sample.

F – if this was Bush, they’d be calling it a police state.

J is irritated that Air Force One delayed flights at Ottawa International today, and that all of Ottawa is going crazy b/c of President Obama…

S is chuckling at the Canadian news media who are all experiencing the big O.

R can’t shake the feeling that there’s something going on here today. I guess everyone else is excited about the Oilers taking on the Stars tonight too.

N saw obama in his motorcade, and did not experience any change.

B is demanding 20 minutes with Obama as well.

A is happy for Ottawa’s leper community today.

R is Obamatastic!

E just missed barack in the stairwell… saw his entourage.

S questions the sanity of the people calling in to cpac.

C counted from his office window 40 vehicles and 2 helicopters in the Obama entourage

B is stuck in traffic, why didn’t the President just fly to the Hill like a superhero? Or he could have walked on the canal proving he can walk on water.

L just saw the motorcade go by! Video to follow!

H is going to the Obama press conference!

J is wondering – can Canadian media get any stupider over a Presidential visit? “Yes they Canada!”

Z thinks that if they’re going to close the city down, it might as well be a holiday.

J is wondering were the anti-war protesters are?

E – OBAMA IS HERE! EVERYBODY FREAK OUT

Obama motorcade arrives in Ottawa

Picture taken on Sussex today just outside the US embassy.  President Obama’s motorcade arrives in Ottawa.

The Presidential limo is just out of frame on the right.  There’s an indent on the door where a magnetic presidential seal is affixed when the President is in the limo.  The second vehicle to the right in the photo is a Chevy Suburban and has an interesting feature that any self-respecting motorcade should have:

There are usually 15 cars in the motorcade including two “presidential” limos. One limo serves as a security decoy and both are missile proof.

Perhaps Harper’s “Bush-like” motorcade can upgrade itself to “Obama class”,

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s motorcade has acquired a presidential look.

But one MP says the big black SUV now cruising at the rear of the entourage is a bit too remindful of President George W. Bush.

And its gas-chugging potential raises other issues, even for a prime minister who ditched the Kyoto accord, says New Democrat Pat Martin.

CBC gets Obama

There are reports today that the CBC has secured a pre-visit interview from US President Barack Obama.  Congratulations to the team at the public broadcaster, for any network that’s what they call an exclusive in the biz.

These sorts of of coups are usually a combination of networking, of credibility and of audience, but to be serious, it’s mostly like anything else in politics, media or business; it’s the strong interpersonal contacts that one builds up that open most doors.

This reminds me of when I found myself at the intersection of US politics and the media.  Last year, during the election at which Obama would ultimately succeed, his GOP opponent John McCain took a history-making detour to Canada.  Never before had a major-party candidate for President visited our country during an election.

Since the event was political, and in Ottawa, the political flacks of this town registered through their centralized guild that is the Parliamentary Press Gallery.  Since the press conference would occur off of Parliament Hill and outside of the sphere of control of the Gallery, I called the press office of the McCain campaign.  Could a blogger get credentials for a press conference with a presidential candidate? Yes.

During McCain’s speech at the Chateau Laurier a producer from CBC spotted me and was puzzled by my media credentials and asked how I got credentialed.  I told them that I called the campaign and easily set it up.  The producer then explained that it had been very difficult for them to get a one-on-one interview with the GOP nominee and asked if I could make a call to set up an interview for the CBC.  Political capital is a real currency in both Washington and Ottawa.  Though I have some friends over at the public broadcaster, I wasn’t about to spend any capital on the CBC that day.

At the press conference, I asked a simple question to get McCain on record for his first foreign trip if he should become President.  I asked if it would be Canada, he cracked a joke but then mused seriously, “why not?”

This week President Obama will make that first foreign visit of the 44th Presidency.  In the tradition of Presidents Reagan and Clinton, Canada will be his first international destination.  And, as in most “gets” in news media, it does come down to who you can get on the phone.

My congratulations to the CBC for their good connections — already established and newly formed — into the Democratic Party, it will serve them well as they cover the Obama administration in Washington.  However, nobody was shocked when Fox News scored exclusives with the 43rd man to serve as POTUS during his two terms.

I wouldn’t be surprised if CTV and Canwest are now looking into the rights to such CBC favourites as “Fahrenheit 9/11“, “The World According to Bush“, and “The Unauthorized biography of Dick Cheney: Ascent to Power“.  It’s a pity that CBC’s invested capital in “The Arrow“, “Trudeau: The Man, The Myth, The Movie“, “Trudeau II: Maverick in the Making” and “The Fifth Estate: Mulroney” isn’t paying dividends in the domestic market.

FINALLY: Partisan bickering and CBC institutional teasing aside, the Obama interview is a great get and the people who set this up deserve a lot of credit.

I can’t hear you all over the foofaraw of Hope and Change!

From the Wall Street Journal this morning,

About half-way through President Obama’s press conference Monday night, he had an unscripted question of his own. “All, Chuck Todd,” the President said, referring to NBC’s White House correspondent. “Where’s Chuck?” He had the same strange question about Fox News’s Major Garrett: “Where’s Major?”

The problem wasn’t the lighting in the East Room. The President was running down a list of reporters preselected to ask questions. The White House had decided in advance who would be allowed to question the President and who was left out.

Presidents are free to conduct press conferences however they like, but the decision to preselect questioners is an odd one, especially for a White House famously pledged to openness. We doubt that President Bush, who was notorious for being parsimonious with follow-ups, would have gotten away with prescreening his interlocutors. Mr. Obama can more than handle his own, so our guess is that this is an attempt to discipline reporters who aren’t White House favorites.

Few accounts of Monday night’s event even mentioned the curious fact that the White House had picked its speakers in advance. We hope that omission wasn’t out of fear of being left off the list the next time.

One wonders why President Bush, or as a matter of fact why Prime Minister Stephen Harper were unable to get away with “prescreening” reporters, making them sign up for a list, and running their own press conferences.

Our intrepid Washington reporters, some of which recently held tenure in our own Parliamentary Press Gallery holding the Prime Minister to a higher standard, will surely get to the bottom of this kid-glove treatment of President Obama.

Buy American: Canadians to become “American”?

Late breaking news from DC,

The Senate will vote on this surprisingly contentious issue tonight, after a day of vocal lobbying from corporations and other countries. Sens. Byron Dorgan and Max Baucus have an amendment to make the “Buy American” provisions consistent with international trade obligations. That’s in line with what the White House has requested. It’s not clear what the language will require; either companies would be required to use American-made steel, iron and other commodities in projects, or they won’t.

Trying to salvage the Buy American provisions late today, the Steelworkers Union urged lawmakers to include Canada in its definition of “American.”) Some Democrats have threatened to withhold support from the legislation if it doesn’t include Buy American provisions. The Senate and House versions of “Buy American” will have to be reconciled in a conference committee.

I’m not sure about how I feel about US law defining “American” as inclusive of Canada (what other legal implications might this have one wonders). However, if this goes through, this may save Jack Layton’s base (unionized steel) and infuriate his protectionist sensibilities too. Layton has been pushing a “Buy Canadian” policy, effectively reacting to protectionism with protectionism. A change in the provisions to label it a “Buy North American” policy would still be protectionist (though broader to include Canada) and one wonders what sort of concessions would be asked of our country in participating in such an arrangement. What would this mean for labour and/or commerce mobility within Canada and the US, and outside of both countries on steel manufacturing and related industries?

Canadian labour and therefore the cost of our steel is relatively expensive compared to Mexican steel. Dems are considering the competitive quotient between Canada and Mexico and are likely finding that Canada is a safe concession for their constituents.

Senator John McCain, who Canadians passed over for Obama, introduced legislation earlier today to completely strip the “Buy American” provision out of the Obama stimulus bill. Stephen Harper, Gilles Duceppe, Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff have hoped that the US Congress will remove the protectionist element from the stimulus package.

Michael Ignatieff taking illegal donations?

(The Liberal Party says the National Post got it wrong and they respond in the update)

That’s the conclusion one may come to if one reads Don Martin’s latest column in the National Post. However, it seems that Don doesn’t come upon the conclusion himself. The fundraising numbers for the last quarter of 2008 have come out and the story is the same, yet this provides fodder for political columnists since money is important in politics to build well-oiled political machines. The Conservatives are flush with cash rounding out 2008 with $21 million while the Liberals with about $6 million. Yesterday, I spoke with Jack Layton and the NDP leader was astonished that his party posted 90% of the Liberal total, though he sounded like he was chastizing the Liberals rather than bragging about his own party’s strength.

These particular paragraphs of Don Martin’s piece stand out,

The other glimmer of Liberal hope is political weaponry they have purchased from the Barack Obama campaign.

Specifically, they have purchased computer programs and donor-targeting technology at a discount from the friendly U. S. Democrats and plan to unleash hundreds of gigabytes at crafting a master list of donors while combing the country for new support.

It looks like the Liberals are starting to get their game in gear, or are they? Last summer, I met a member of Obama’s senior staff at a web 2.0 conference in New York City. The staffer told me that the Liberals had once contacted the campaign to adapt some of their fundraising capacity. The result? The Grits never followed up. According to Martin’s piece, Ignatieff’s team finally did and they got a discounted rate.

But it is this discounted rate which may pose a problem for the Liberal party.

What does the Elections Act say about discounts?

“commercial value” , in relation to property or a service, means the lowest amount charged at the time that it was provided for the same kind and quantity of property or service or for the same usage of property or money, by

(a) the person who provided it, if the person is in the business of providing that property or service; or

(b) another person who provides that property or service on a commercial basis in the area where it was provided, if the person who provided the property or service is not in that business.

“non-monetary contribution” means the commercial value of a service, other than volunteer labour, or of property or of the use of property or money to the extent that they are provided without charge or at less than their commercial value.

Ok, so the Democrats allegedly provided a non-monetary contribution because they sold computer programs to the Liberals at a discounted (less than commercial value) rate.

When an official agent receives a non-monetary contribution from a donor, the official agent must obtain complete documentation about the commercial value of the goods or services donated, and the name and address of the donor, so that the contribution may be (subject to its commercial value) reported in the Candidate’s Electoral Campaign Return (EC 20120) as a contribution and as an expense. “Gifts and other advantages” are reported separately in the Candidate’s Statement of Gifts or Other Advantages Received (EC 20053)

So, do the Liberals have to fill out some forms? No! Thankfully, they’ll save some time because the contributions themselves are ineligable.

404.(1) No person or entity other than an individual who is a citizen or permanent resident as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act shall make a contribution to a registered party, a registered association, a candidate, a leadership contestant or a nomination contestant.

The Liberals as a registered political party appear to be taking non-monetary contributions from foreigners to raise more money in Canada. If Don Martin’s account is true, the Liberals aren’t playing by the rules. This should raise some serious questions about the judgement of Michael Ignatieff.

Liberals receiving discounts from the Barack Obama campaign?

No, they can’t.

UPDATE: And they didn’t according to Liberal Party spokesman Daniel Lauzon. Daniel writes:

You should note that the Liberal Party has not, in fact, purchased software from the Obama campaign or any other supplier. Though we are currently exploring options for more powerful software – including products like those used by our friends to the south – we have not made a purchase, let alone at a discount.

The statement appears to stem from an interview granted yesterday, and I am in the process of clarifying this unfortunate misunderstanding.

I hope this clears things up. I appreciate your cooperation in clarifying this matter for your readers.

Name the budget!

The annual federal budget in previous years has had bland, generic corp- gov-speak titles applied to their card stock-bound covers. In 2006, scoring another shot at Paul Martin post-election and seeking to underscore their main election theme (those 5 priorities), the Conservatives named the budget (drumroll) “Focusing on Priorities” and in 2007 the budget plan was titled “A stronger, safer, better Canada“, which the Liberals promptly paraphrased in their messaging by labeling their campaign “a richer, fairer, greener Canada.” In 2008, the budget was called “Responsible Leadership“.

With President Obama plunging the US deficit into the range of a trillion dollars, and Canada being dragged along the same path by the elephant projecting a 64 billion deficit over two years, what should we name this budget? Here are a few proposals:

– Yes We Can (Too)
– Welcome to the economic Obamalypse
– For God’s sake, give us a majority already
– Canada’s doomed, we couldn’t even cut $1.95
– Turning the corner… into your livingroom
– Stimulate this
– If you think this is budget’s bad, imagine a Liberal-NDP one

Post yours in the comments.

The inauguration of the 44th President of the United States

I’ve been back in Ottawa for about 36 hours after making the trip to Washington DC to observe the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.  It goes without saying that the inauguration was a historic event as the United States turned a page on centuries of troubled history as the first African-American ascended to assume the highest office in the nation.  I write this blog to report on the news, to offer opinion, and to give an account of my experiences.  I’ve never been to a Presidential inauguration and I’d like to share some of my observations of those couple of days in DC.

After going through an unusually thorough screening with Homeland security, I boarded my Air Canada flight with a number of Canadians and Americans heading to Washington.  When traveling, one often see travelers reflecting, in a clichéd way, their departure point or arrival.  On a trip to Hawaii, for example, you might see an inordinate number of leis and cheap plastic “grass” skirts on fellow passengers, in Vegas, empty plastic souvenir ‘hurricane’ margarita cups.  On this trip to DC, a number of Canadians and Americans were decked out in the colours of the American flag.  Minister Peter Kent was on my flight, on his way to represent Canada in DC as minister of state for the Americas.

Landing in at Reagan national airport, I was immediately struck by the shops which had switched from generic Americana to 99% Obama merchandise.  One t-shirt I saw had a mock headline that read something along the lines of “Now is our time” with a photoshopped image of Obama’s head on Michael Jordan’s body going for a slam dunk from the top of the key wearing a Superman outfit.  I immediately became determined to find the most tacky and absurd Obama memorabilia during my trip and if this was a location as mainstream as the airport, I’d hold my greenbacks for the streets of DC.

I took the metro to the Capitol and after fighting the lines leaving the metro, I found the line that snaked around the buildings which held the congressional offices.  As I had a ticket set aside for me, I joined the queue.  After making my way inside and after having picked up my ticket, I crashed a mid-western pre-inaugural party in the congressional district.  It wouldn’t be the last party I crashed on my trip, but for the main event, I had my golden ticket.

Next up, I made my way over to a party held by the British mission in DC.  On the way, in Dupont Circle BDS-afflicted revellers were tossing shoes at an 30-foot tall inflated cartoon effigy of George W. Bush.  In 24 hours, what would these people have to do with themselves?  After the British party, I made my way over to Clarendon with some GOP friends to attend a leftwing netroots blogger party sponsored by big labour, netroots nation, blue state digital, and a host of well-read “progressive” blogs.  With drink tickets, guitar hero, and a live band, the festivities certainly had a hobbyist-gone-mainstream feel.  I met some very talented people working on social media the Obama side of the partisan divide.

Next day was inauguration day and the common wisdom was to show up at the metro as early as possible to make one’s way to the Capitol.  Despite my best efforts, I arrived to the metro station to find it packed with people.  Apparently, record ridership was recorded on the previous day with 600,000 people passing the DC metro gates.  It’s a bit harrowing standing on a platform packed 20 rows deep with anxious DC residents and inauguration tourists when one indeed has to “mind the gap” between a packed station and the tracks.  On the train, however, people were in good spirits despite the overcrowding.

I eventually made my way from the metro to the ticketed checkpoint area.  On my way, more Obama kitsch tempted me as spontaneous capitalists popped up everywhere to hawk everything from Barack Obama action figures to Michelle Obama t-shirts.  The ticketed area in front of the inaugural platform in front of the Capitol building had rows of seats for a few thousand people.  Looking back at the national mall towards the Washington monument, we could see millions of people.  On television, it was reported that 3-4 million people were packed in to see Obama take the oath of office.  Looking across the mall, when the motorcade drove up the street, it was a shimmering sea of red white and blue as people waved their flags.

Sitting and waiting for the ceremony to begin, I spotted New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg sitting a few rows ahead.  Bloomberg was considering a run at the presidency this cycle and would have contested as an independent versus Obama and McCain.  I made my way over to Bloomberg to say hello.  The mayor was a registered Republican, however would have run as an independent.  Some speculated that his run would have made him a viable candidate for a running mate to the Republican or Democratic nominee seeking the presidency through the independent swing vote.

The inauguration ceremony went off fairly well with only the Roberts/Obama oath blunder as the only notable exception.  Obama’s speech was adequate at best and I don’t think it met the oratorical expectations that people have expected; “ask not what your country can do for you”, Obama’s speech was not.  I believe that this presidency will be about managing and decreasing expectations that have been built up during the campaign.  After the wrap up of the inauguration, Obama made his way to the other side of the Capitol building to see President Bush and his wife off in a marine helicopter.  We saw the events on a big screen on our side of the building and a few seconds later saw the helicopter pass over the roof of the Capitol and over our heads.  Everyone waved at the helicopter, though while some gave a warm wave goodbye, others were not so friendly.  The helicopter passed over the national mall and Canadian embassy.  The embassy would be my next stop.

The Canadian embassy is located on some of the best real estate in DC.  The building is about a stone’s throw away from the Capitol and had a great view for guests of the Canadian ambassador.  Party guests at the embassy included former ambassador Frank McKenna, Jason Kenney, Peter Kent, Michael J. Fox, Newt Gingrich and… for some reason… er… Star Jones?

After taking a bit of a break from inauguration festivities, a few of us on the right headed over to David Frum’s to mark the launch of his new website New Majority.  While inaugural balls were going on elsewhere in the city, I had a couple of invites for the post-inaugural Google party.  The party was downtown by the Reagan Center and was the media/Washington insider gathering was well-attended by CNN, MSNBC, DNC and RNC people.

The inauguration of Barack Obama was about the closest thing I think I’ll see to a coronation.  To be sure, Obama was elected through the democratic process, however, the fanfare, ceremony, celebrity, commemorative-plate-esque atmosphere and the millions of people caught up in it was certainly something I don’t expect to see again.

Barack Obama inspired many, from Democrats in the primaries to electors during the campaign.  He was an incredible campaigner.  Now comes the hard part: he has to govern.  With a worsening economic crisis and an ill-advised and massive economic bailout coming, transformational is bound to become transactional and we’ll need more than hope to pay off the interest.

More photos (click any photo on this page to enlarge):


The Obamas wave to the crowd on the National Mall


Joe Biden is sworn in as VPOTUS


John Kerry imagines what might have been


At the inauguration of President Barack Obama


The inaugural band packs up below the inaugural platform


President Obama’s limosine drives by the Canadian embassy


As for Obama kitsch, this hand puppet was too good to pass up


What that Barack? You’re pro-death-penalty, pro-Afghan-mission, anti-same-sex-marriage, and for private healthcare?

Bill Ayers denied entry into Canada. So why the shock?

Today, American radical William Ayers was denied entry to Canada.  Here’s the an excerpt from the article on the story in the Globe and Mail:

William Ayers, a distinguished education professor from the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he was perplexed and disappointed when the Canada Border Services Agency declared him inadmissible at the Toronto City Centre Airport on Sunday evening.

He said he has travelled to Canada more than a dozen times in the past.

“It seems very arbitrary,” he said. “The border agent said I had a conviction for a felony from 1969. I have several arrests for misdemeanours, but not for felonies.”

According to the Canadian Immigration and Citizenship website, a decision to keep Ayers out of Canada would not have been made arbitrarily,

“Some people are inadmissible—they are not allowed to come to Canada. Several things can make you inadmissible, including involvement in criminal activity, in human rights violations or in organized crime. You can also be inadmissible for security, health or financial reasons.”

Just in case you’re wondering about the sort of criminal activity Ayers has been involved with, look no further than a New York Times piece coincidentally published on September 11th 2001,

”I don’t regret setting bombs,” Bill Ayers said. ”I feel we didn’t do enough.” Mr. Ayers, who spent the 1970’s as a fugitive in the Weather Underground, was sitting in the kitchen of his big turn-of-the-19th-century stone house in the Hyde Park district of Chicago. The long curly locks in his Wanted poster are shorn, though he wears earrings. He still has tattooed on his neck the rainbow-and-lightning Weathermen logo that appeared on letters taking responsibility for bombings.

In his book Fugitive Days, Ayers writes about bombings he participated in which included the US Capitol Building and the Pentagon.  So, now that we have reviewed a partial record of criminal activity of Mr. Ayers, why would he be so “perplexed” at CBSA’s refusal to admit him to Canada. In fact, in a blog posting by Ayers, the former leader of the Weather Underground writes of a similar experience with Canadian border service officials when he was previously denied entry to Canada,

[The CBSA official] handed me a form called “Allowed to Leave Canada” and asked me to sign under, “I hereby voluntarily withdraw my application to enter Canada. . . .” I, of course, refused.

After an hour in a holding area, he fetched me and escorted me back through security and US customs, where agents from both sides of the border shared a collegial laugh. As we made our way to the next plane to the US, officer 1767 assured me: “I’m not denying entry into Canada on the basis of your membership in Students for a Democratic Society.” I thought of the chorus from Leonard Cohen’s “The Patriot”: “Ah the wind, the wind is blowing.”

I was first on the plane, seen to my seat by my escort, and my passport returned. The times they are a’changing

Ayers’ trouble with CBSA officials seems to be a common occurrence according to his blog post,

“This has become a common-place for me whenever I travel to Canada — I’m always diverted and delayed, always questioned about my anticipated length of stay and the nature of my business, always double-checked. Whenever I’ve asked why I’m being subjected to this special treatment, the reply has always been the same: ‘Just a routine check.'”

Note that this rejected entry into Canada that he describes in his blog post happened in 1995, long before Barack Obama had been suggested to have links with Ayers, long before Obama’s political campaign and long before GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin suggested that Ayers was a “terrorist”. Therefore, this accusation by the man who arranged for Ayers to come to Canada today is moot,

Jeffrey Kugler, executive director of the Centre for Urban Schooling, is deeply disappointed in the turn of events. For him it’s a question of academic freedom. “It’s kind of ironic the day before Barack Obama is going to become president this is what the Canadian border security has done,” said Kugler. “It seems ridiculous that one university can’t have a professor from another university to come and give a lecture on an important educational topic.”

In a CBC interview today on As It Happens, Ayers was interviewed and he was unapologetic for his “illegal actions” during his time in the Weather Underground and to this day calls his acts “appropriate”.

What were his “appropriate” acts? In his own words,

“The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.”

Seems fairly clear, doesn’t it? Though Ayers was never convicted of any crime, he has admitted to having committed criminal activity. The CBSA has previously denied Ayers. However, if you see this as open and shut, you don’t share the bizarre logic of the NDP. Here is Olivia Chow’s press release on today’s events,

New Democrat Citizenship and Immigration Critic Olivia Chow calls on the Minister of Immigration and Minister of Public Safety to allow educational theorist, Bill Ayers entry into Canada.

Bill Ayers was denied entry into Canada Monday where he was scheduled to speak on education reform at the University of Toronto.

“Canada must respect academic freedom and allow Bill Ayers to share his insights on reforming our education system” said Olivia Chow. “At-risk children deserve policies that produce equality in academic outcomes and deserve to gain high academic achievements. The decision to ban Bill Ayers must be reversed.”

When Bill Ayers became a household name during the last election and after his criminal acts were described to the American electorate, Barack Obama wouldn’t touch the man with a ten foot pole. Now, the NDP goes out of their way to speak out against the Canadian rule of law barring the admittance of a self-declared domestic terrorist.