Sunday, December 07, 2008

News and Pop Culture Round-Up

Canadian Parliament in Turmoil: Don Newman's analysis of the coalition crisis and the lessons learned
In the pure adrenalin rush of the past week, it is easy to miss or forget what really happened in Ottawa between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4. And what lessons should be taken from those events. 
What happened: The Conservatives recklessly risked their minority government by acting as though they had a majority. The decision to load an economic update that was thin on policy proposals with enough partisan attacks and manoeuvres to tempt even an enfeebled opposition to try to unseat them was both reckless and careless. 
Lesson: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is apparently like someone with a drinking problem who can keep it under control much of the time, but just when it seems not to be a problem, falls off the wagon with damaging consequences. Harper's problem isn't booze. He doesn't partake. His problem is excessive partisanship. Even when he was publicly calling for more political co-operation, he was attempting to cripple his political opponents financially. Harper's falling off the co-operation wagon triggered all that followed for the next seven days. It led him to create the worst national unity tensions we have seen since 1995 and a humiliating trip to Rideau Hall to get the Governor General to save him from his folly. Harper should get into a 12-point program to control his partisanship. READ MORE

Canadians take to streets in pro- and anti-coalition rallies
Last week's showdown between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the fledgling coalition of Liberal and New Democratic Party MPs has galvanized thousands of ordinary Canadians, who took to the streets Saturday in massive political demonstrations. In Toronto, about 1,500 coalition supporters flooded Nathan Phillips Square to hear Liberal Leader Stephane Dion and NDP Leader Jack Layton explain why their united parliamentary front, which is backed by the Bloc Quebecois, is better for Canada than Harper's Conservative government. "Harper and (Finance Minister Jim) Flaherty have done nothing for the economy and that is why the Conservatives have lost the confidence of the House of Commons," Dion told supporters, who were singing along to lyrics such as, "I don't like Stephen Harper; I wish that he'd just go away."

In Montreal, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe told a rally of more than 2,000 flag-bearing protesters that Harper has "declared war on Quebec." "The mask has fallen and what we have seen in the last weeks is the true face of Stephen Harper, the true face of the Conservative party," he said. "He has launched the fiercest attacks against Quebec that we have ever seen since the Meech Lake events." In Windsor, Ont., 200 NDP_supporters and members of the Canadian Auto Workers Union rallying in favour of the coalition clashed with 15 Conservative supporters outside of NDP MP Joe Comartin's office.

Canadian Liberal party leader Stephane Dion should be replaced before Parliament resumes
Two main contenders to replace Stéphane Dion said Sunday the Liberal party needs a new, permanent leader before Parliament resumes on Jan. 26. Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae told CBC News, "We need to find a leader of the party before the House comes back at the end of January." His comments came three days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper persuaded Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean to suspend Parliament and ward off the possible demise of his minority Conservative government. That move came after the Liberals and NDP agreed to form a coalition headed by Dion and aimed at ousting Harper's government, which the opposition accused of failing to propose an adequate plan to deal with the economic crisis. The Bloc Québécois is not an official member of the coalition, but has agreed to support it on matters of confidence. "Mr. Dion has indicated that as soon as a new leader is chosen, he will step down, and I think the party is obviously considering ways in which the leadership race can be moved forward," Rae said. Rae's rival, Michael Ignatieff, echoed the same sentiment on CTV's Question Period on Sunday. "There's an emerging feeling in the caucus that, given the importance of this [Jan. 27 budget] vote in late January, it would be appropriate to have a permanent leader in place," he said. "The caucus is considering various options about how to do that." READ MORE

More Canadian Politics:
LeBlanc to drop out of Liberal leadership race, support Michael Ignatieff


Kiefer Sutherland to receive Hollywood star
Canadian-born actor, Kiefer Sutherland is to be honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. The 24 actor's name will be the 2,377th to be displayed on Hollywood Boulevard at a ceremony outside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which will be attended by his father Donald. Also in attendance will be movie director Joel Schumacher, with whom Sutherland worked on Phone Booth and Flatliners. His induction comes after the return of 24 in a two-hour precursor to season seven.

Shania Twain arrives in New York with a surprising companion!
Three weeks after getting a standing ovation for her surprise appearance at the CMA Awards, Shania Twain turned up in Manhattan Thursday with a number of friends from Switzerland, Nashville and Virginia for a weekend of Christmas shopping. Among her group of pals? Frederic Thiébaud, the ex-husband of Twain's former best friend who sources say broke up the country star's marriage to Robert "Mutt" Lange. Twain and Thiébaud were photographed arriving from Switzerland at JFK airport together. Back in May, Twain, 43, split from her producer husband Lange, 60. Though Lange denied having an affair to PEOPLE, sources close to the situation told PEOPLE that he was involved with Marie-Anne Thiébaud, a close friend and manager of the couple's chateau in Switzerland. The two couples had socialized together for years. Twain – who has been staying strong after the split – came to New York City to "hang and shop," says a source close to her. Among her group of pals is Thiébaud, whom the singer has considered a friend since the days when their families were close.

Gay ambassador, Michael Guest likely to return to under a Hillary Clinton State Department
(Washington) Preparing for her new role as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton is moving to surround herself with a cast of die-hard loyalists and veterans of her husband’s administration to help her cope with world crises and backstage Washington power plays. One notable name on the list is Michael Guest, one of only two openly gay ambassadors ever to represent the United States overseas. Guest resigned from the foreign service in mid-career last December to protest the State Department’s treatment of same-sex partners of diplomats. For her team of foreign policy experts, the nation’s third female secretary of state is expected to draw heavily from the staff of the first, Madeleine Albright, who was an early supporter of Clinton’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Lesbian activist, Mary Beth Maxwell, short-listed for position of U.S. Labor Secretary
Mary Beth Maxwell could become America's first openly gay cabinet member if chosen to lead the Department of Labor in Barack Obama's administration. Maxwell is the founding executive director of the labor organization American Rights at Work, established in 2003. Before that she was a national field director at Jobs With Justice and the deputy field director of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Michigan congressman David Bonior, who is also on the short list for the cabinet position, said Maxwell should get the job. Bonior, a 63-year-old Democrat, is reportedly reluctant to accept the position, saying such jobs should go to younger leaders, according to The Wall Street Journal. READ MORE

Barack Obama opposes gay military ban, but repealing it could take a year or two
When it comes to President-elect Barack Obama making good on his campaign promise to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," gays and lesbians—70 percent of whom voted for him—may have to be patient. Advocates of the repeal are warning that any action might take a year or more. Given the host of issues on Obama's plate, they say that some delay is understandable. But it may not simply be a fiscal crisis and two wars that could put off reversing the military policy, which mandates discharge of gays or lesbians if they speak about their sexual orientation or engage in homosexual conduct. Instead, the delay could be a result of the repeal strategy that many advocates are encouraging Obama to pursue—one that would focus on consensus building and securing the military's support. "At the end of the day, it's not about getting it done in the first 180 days. It's not about the calendar. It's about getting the right results," says Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a nonprofit dedicated to overturning the ban. READ MORE

Travis Fimmel: 'Swayze has good energy on the set of The Beast'
Travis Fimmel (pictured, left) has nothing but respect for Patrick Swayze. Fimmel and Swayze portray FBI agents in the upcoming A&E series "The Beast," which premieres January 15. Fimmel says Swayze, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year, didn't miss a day of work during the months-long shoot. Says Fimmel: "He's just a tough guy and is such a proud guy, and it's amazing - you wouldn't know there's anything wrong with him at all." The Australian actor said in an interview that Swayze had "good" energy on the set and "wants to come back and do it all again." Swayze issued a statement this week affirming that so far he's winning his fight against the disease and is responding well to treatment.

Boy George convicted of false imprisonment
Pop star and DJ Boy George was found guilty of false imprisonment by a jury in London earlier Friday. He will be sentenced next month. He was tried under his real name, George O'Dowd, at Snaresbrook Crown Court, and had denied the charges but chose not to give evidence in his own defence. Audun Carlsen, a 29 year old sex worker, told the court of his ordeal at the hands of O'Dowd. He met the star on the dating website Gaydar in 2007 and agreed to go to his flat in London's Shoreditch late one night for a "photo session." In the following months the pop star sent the prostitute a series of messages on Gaydar and eventually arranged to meet again. On April 28th Carlsen returned to the apartment. He was confronted by O'Dowd and another man. He was attacked, dragged across the floor by O'Dowd, handcuffed to a wall by the bed at the Culture Club singer's east London flat and beaten with a chain, until he managed to flee. O'Dowd was angry because he believed Carlsen had tampered with his computer. He told the court O'Dowd was screaming "F****** whore! Now you're going to get what you deserve". READ MORE

Vatican: Gays don't need protection laws
The Vatican has come out against a United Nations resolution that calls on all governments to decriminalize homosexuality. The resolution, Archbishop Celestino Migliore said, would "add new categories of those protected from discrimination" and could lead to the decline of heterosexual marriage, Reuters reported Tuesday. "If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations," Migliore said. "For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as 'matrimony' will be pilloried and made an object of pressure." France will propose the resolution this month on behalf of the 27-member European Union. The Vatican is not a member, but it uses the Euro. "No other religion in the world is granted this type of status on the world stage," Catholics for Choice president Jon O'Brien told on Tuesday. The Vatican has a nonvoting seat at the U.N., but the Holy See's opinions can be influential. "Other major religions are granted a voice in the United Nations," O'Brien said, "but they're often treated as nongovernment organizations." While more nations, especially those in Latin America, are moving toward separating church and state, the Vatican's stance may prompt other leaders from other religions to pressure political officials. Still, Catholicism is the only major religion with a mouthpiece at the U.N. "You won't find an imam sitting at the U.N. pretending that they're a part of a state," O'Brien added. "You don't find that kind of manifestation in other world religions. We certainly have seen folks like the Mormons and those of extreme Muslim beliefs and überconservatives backed by the Vatican trying to form a lobby together." Homosexuality is still punishable in at least 85 countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, and Ghana. Some countries kill those who are found guilty of such an offense. READ MORE

Was marriage equality bargained away in New York senate deal?
New York State senate Democrats may have secured control of their chamber by bargaining away marriage equality on Thursday. Since Election Day, when Democrats won a two-seat majority in the chamber after decades of Republican rule, three conservative members of the caucus had threatened to defect to the GOP unless they received more power. But a handshake deal in New York City apparently gave the holdouts what they wanted, The New York Times reports. For one, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx, the concessions may have included postponing a vote on marriage equality until 2010 at the earliest, according to the paper. New York assembly member Daniel J. O'Donnell, who is gay and carried a same-sex marriage bill that passed his chamber in 2007, told the Times that he expects momentum to continue for marriage equality regardless of what transpired. "All civil rights movements have moments where they move forward, and moments of perceived setbacks," O’Donnell, who represents Manhattan, told the paper. "If in fact our civil rights were bargained away, that's deplorable. But in the end, I think justice and fairness will prevail." READ MORE