September 2005 Archives

September 30, 2005

This Little Piggy

| 5 Comments | No TrackBacks

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy cried...
"Let me rip off the government for millions of dollars."

From Knight Ridder via Needlenose:

U.S. Paying a Premium to Cover Storm-damaged Roofs

NEW ORLEANS - Across the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast, thousands upon thousands of blue tarps are being nailed to wind-damaged roofs, a visible sign of government assistance.

The blue sheeting - a godsend to residents whose homes are threatened by rain - is rapidly becoming the largest roofing project in the nation's history.

It isn't coming cheap.

Knight Ridder has found that a lack of oversight, generous contracting deals and poor planning mean that government agencies are shelling out as much as 10 times what the temporary fix would normally cost.

The government is paying contractors an average of $2,480 for less than two hours of work to cover each damaged roof - even though it's also giving them endless supplies of blue sheeting for free....

Jim Pogue, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, said the agency strictly followed government contracting requirements and did all it could to get the best deal possible for the roofing work, given the magnitude of the task and the need to protect vulnerable homes as quickly as possible.

Pogue also said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which by statute is in charge of the program, asked the Corps to manage the program because FEMA's resources were spread thin...

In normal circumstances, Lowery said, his company would charge $300 to tarp a 2000-square-foot roof in Austin. For that same size job, the government is paying $2,980 to $3,500, or about 10 times as much, plus additional administrative fees that can't be readily calculated.

And the Golden Porker Award for pork barrel politics goes to....Oh hell. We already know who it goes to.

Would somebody please explain to me again why the Social Credit Reform Alliance Conservative Party wants us to be more like Americans?

Bookmark and Share

September 22, 2005

Scared shitless

| 5 Comments | 1 TrackBack

That's how Canadian Press journalist Helen Branswell recently described the mood of medical authorities as they confront the possibility of an avian influenza pandemic. The latest outbreak in Indonesia has a lot of experts extremely concerned.

But my purpose isn't to suggest that you hit the panic button; it's to suggest that the appropriate response is to be informed and prepared. That's why those of us who are involved with the Flu Wiki are now announcing Pandemic Flu Awareness Week.

Continuing the public health experiment, Flu Wiki in association with the blogosphere will use October 3?9 as Pandemic Flu Awareness Week.

The purpose of Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, and the Flu Wiki, is to allow the dissemination of information down to the local level so that everyone can use each others? experience, planning and ideas so as not to be left unawares should an actual pandemic occur. Like hurricanes, when a pandemic occurs can not be accurately predicted. Nonetheless, that which can be done in advance should be done, because eventually something will happen. Planning can only help, even if at the local level it can?t prevent.

This is a subject that cuts across partisan lines. Anyone can get the flu and if it's a virulent enough form of the virus, anyone can die from it. The little buggers don't really care who you vote for. It's our hope that bloggers from both sides of the aisle will take this opportunity to raise awareness about the possibility of a serious pandemic.

It may not happen. This time. But based on past performance there's an influenza pandemic every thirty years and we're overdue. Even if you don't get sick, a serious outbreak of a virulent form of influenza can cause serious disruption in our lives and communities. The best way to cope is to be informed and prepared. We have the recent experience of Katrina to remind us that "it probably won't happen here" is a dangerous assumption.

Since it went live late in June, the wiki has become the repository for a great deal of information ranging from links to pandemic plans from various levels of government, through essays on the science of influenza geared to the lay person to information on resources on how to prepare at the personal and community level. But we can always use more so feel free to add to the information base. That's what a wiki is for.

There are also lots of other resources out there and part of the purpose of PFAW will be to bring those to the forefront.

And if you have Windows Media Player and you'd like to check out the accuracy of my Helen Branswell quote, you can view a presentation at the Wilson Center that features Branswell along with Dr. Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

Bloggers who want to participate are welcome to grab a copy of that logo or to link to my copy. I'll have more to say in October if not sooner.

Cross-posted to the E-Group.

Bookmark and Share

September 21, 2005

Time to gas up!

| 10 Comments | 1 TrackBack

Oil, Gasoline Jump as Refineries in Path of Hurricane Evacuated

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Crude oil and gasoline jumped as Hurricane Rita barreled toward the Texas coast, threatening the biggest concentration of U.S. refineries.

``The Houston area is ground zero of the refining industry,'' said Rick Mueller, an analyst with Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Tilburg, the Netherlands. ``If it suffers the scope of damage caused to refineries in Louisiana by Katrina we could see rationing and queues at the gas pump. This is something OPEC can't do anything to remedy.''

You've been warned. I'm going in a few minutes.

Hat-tip to Bump.


Read the first comment. It's from a journalist on the scene.

Bookmark and Share

September 19, 2005

Time to Close the Border

| 5 Comments | No TrackBacks

Canadians are now subsidizing the neocon fantasy rebuilding of the Gulf Coast in the wake of hurricane Katrina. It's not enough that we are paying excessive fuel prices so we can ship gasoline to run American SUVs but now we are subsidizing, through lumber prices, a US version of the Iraqi CPA that proved so wonderfully successful in that country.

Local news on the weekend showed a man doing renovations to his garage who had just paid $20 for a sheet of particle board that had sold for only $12 three weeks earlier. A spokesman for a local lumber yard said that prices on plywood were up an average of $4 per sheet as the demand for lumber increases for the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast.

The US government has ripped off the Canadian forest products industry for $5 billion dollars and the bill is much higher if you add in the ripple effect of lost jobs in the industry. Now we are going to have to subsidize another neocon dream through astronomical building materials prices for the next year. That is roughly the same thing as having a burglar break into your home and load up all your possessions and then having to give him money to buy gas for his getaway.

Bookmark and Share

Phoning it in

| 8 Comments | No TrackBacks

No regrets about Arar, U.S. ambassador says

The new U.S. ambassador to Canada is making no apologies for Maher Arar's deportation to Syria, arguing that it's better to be safe than sorry in the fight against international terrorism.

David Wilkins is also warning that other Canadians with dual citizenship could face a similar fate if they fall under suspicion.

?The United States is committed in its war against terror,? Mr. Wilkins said.

There's certainly no surprise here. This is Paul Cellucci with a South Carolina accent. The Bush administration never admits mistakes. I think it has something to do with "staying the course" or "showing resolve" or some such.
Ottawa and Washington signed an agreement last year ? known as the Monterey Accord ? that promised closer and higher-level consultation in future cases involving Canadians detained in the United States.

But the deal did not give Canada an absolute veto over the deportation of its citizens to third countries.

Mr. Wilkins appeared unfamiliar with the details of the accord but maintained that the general rule is still, as it has always been, to ?look at each case on its merits.?

Emphasis added. Maybe this explains why the U.S. government has so much trouble keeping agreements it signs with us. They can't remember what they agreed to. This one is only a year old and it's already gone down the memory hole.

Not that it meant much anyway. The Globe laments that Canada didn't get a veto on the deportation of Canadian citizens to third countries but maybe that's because we didn't ask for one. But I digress.

The ambassador, a former speaker of the South Carolina legislature and a close political ally of President George W. Bush, was also at a loss to explain why American authorities refused to participate in a public inquiry in Canada into the Mr. Arar affair.

?I honestly don't know the answer to that,? said Mr. Wilkins. ?Were they asked? I don't know.?

Yes, Mr. Wilkins, they were asked.

So far, Wilkins has enraged even our limp government with his comments on softwood lumber and revealed that he's completely clueless about recent developments in a story involving our two countries that has made major headlines up here.

I think it's going well so far, don't you?

Bookmark and Share

September 16, 2005

Nothing was learned

| 13 Comments | No TrackBacks

It is my belief that the disaster along the U.S. gulf cost represent a major failure of the conservative governing philosophy as it is practiced in the United States (and as many would like to see it practiced here in Canada).

If you believe that the only legitimate role of government is conduct war, why should you expect it to be there for you when disaster strikes? If you hobble it through irresponsibly low taxation, how can it provide vital public services that help improve everyone's quality of life? If you believe government agencies are nothing more than repositories for political hacks who need to be rewarded for being good water carriers, why should you expect them to be able to function in a time of real crisis?

I didn't really expect the Bush administration to learn anything from the disaster, and it seems that not only are they not learning, they are using the Katrina disaster to further their destructive conservative agenda.

From Paul Krugman:

Bookmark and Share

September 9, 2005

Reverse Robin Hoods

| 3 Comments | No TrackBacks

American legislators must now face the task of allocating funds for the rebuilding in the wake of Katrina and figuring out where the money will come from.

But they certainly can't take it away from Paris Hilton though they'll quietly move the repeal of the estate tax off the agenda until it's politically safer to return to it.

So they'll look for even more ways to shift the burden to those who are already living from one paycheque to the next. If they're lucky enough to even be in that position.

How transparent do Bush and his cronies have to get before even the trolls are too embarrassed to defend them?

Bookmark and Share

There's an editorial in today's Ottawa Citizen which is ostensibly about Louise Frechette's role in the UN Oil for Food scandal. My particular reason for drawing attention to it is this part at the tail end of the second paragraph.

That program was supposed to help beleaguered Iraqis without unduly enriching their then-dictator, Saddam Hussein. It failed on both counts, according to a damning report from an investigative panel led by former U.S. central-bank chief Paul Volcker, and collapsed under corruption and incompetence.

It didn't fail. Certainly it might have helped Iraqis even more without the corruption but by all the accounts I've read it did help Iraqis. And it didn't collapse, it became irrelevant when Iraq was invaded and the reasons for the sanctions themselves became irrelevant.

On the first point, this is from Paul Volcker who wrote the report that all the UN's critics have latched onto:

Well, I think and we commissioned another study on that from some of the best-known experts on humanitarian assistance in the world. And they concluded certainly that a situation that was dire on the nutrition side threatening rather large spread starvation was definitely improved by the shipments of food.

Shipments of medicine and medical supplies helped stabilize that situation. So that in an immediate sense the program worked. But over time, more and more inefficiencies arose and as you indicated earlier, elements of corruption certainly both in Iraq but disturbingly within the United Nations itself.

That speaks to a program with serious problems but not one that simply failed to do what it was designed to do.

By all means investigate the corruption. But let's not rewrite history in the process.

Bookmark and Share

September 8, 2005

Works for me

| 3 Comments | No TrackBacks

Calls grow for torture inquiry

The government must go beyond the case of Maher Arar and shine a public light on the situation of other Canadian citizens who were investigated by federal authorities at home and tortured abroad, the three opposition parties said yesterday.

The NDP is calling for an extension of the public inquiry into the case of Mr. Arar to deal with similar situations faced by people such as Ahmad El Maati, who came under scrutiny after a map of federal buildings in Ottawa -- now revealed to be innocuous -- was found in his truck.

No surprise here. The NDP led the charge on behalf of Arar in the first place. And I truly believe that the Liberals only set up a public inquiry because they were embarrassed into it.

And while I'm tempted to get snarky and ask the CPC what took them so long, I'm encouraged by this:

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper told reporters in Halifax that, although the full nature of what transpired is still unclear, he is "very concerned" about the allegations regarding the investigation of Mr. El Maati.

"There is a process in place to investigate these allegations and they are obviously very, very serious," Mr. Harper said after meeting with his caucus.

"Hopefully, members of Parliament, through their role and my own role in the Privy Council, will be fully briefed on what the specifics are here."

Notice that he hasn't gone as far as encouraging a broader public inquiry. His concern is that he and his fellow legislators find out more. That's a start but Alexa McDonough makes a great point.
Ms. McDonough said that Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor, who is conducting the Arar inquiry, should be asked to stay on, as well as his staff.

"Otherwise, they will get on with other things and their experience will be lost, and I think that would be criminal," she said.

I would sound one note of caution here though. Part of O'Connor's mandate is to examine the accountability mechanism that's in place for the RCMP and to make recommendations in that regard. I think he already has enough evidence to judge that the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is pretty much toothless and that the Mounties have been successful at obstructing and thwarting that body's efforts. I would hate to see O'Connor's recommendations in that regard delayed by a broadening of his mandate.

More to the point, I would hate to see the government provided with an excuse to hold those recommendations in abeyance because "there's an ongoing public inquiry and it would be premature to make any comment."

Cos I can see that coming a mile away.

Hat-tip to My Blagh News and kudos to Mark at Section 15 and Robert for conspiring to keep it going.

Bookmark and Share

September 7, 2005

Speaking of disasters

| 4 Comments | No TrackBacks

Lewis warns of 'carnage' if AIDS vaccine not found

The world could face "carnage" because of a lack of money and global commitment to find a vaccine for AIDS. That warning came from Stephen Lewis, the United Nations' representative in the fight against the deadly disease in Africa.
Lewis, Canada's former ambassador to the UN, was speaking at the AIDS Vaccine International Conference in Montreal. He said he couldn't explain the lack of enthusiasm for the research in Canada and other developed nations.

"I don't think the world yet realizes the carnage that is to come," Lewis said. "I don't think the world yet realizes the full, incomparable horror of AIDS, and its inexorable spread around the planet."

Katrina has pushed a lot of other issues off the front pages and she certainly reminds us of how quickly a natural disaster can occur. And there's the looming threat of an influenza pandemic to worry about as well. But the AIDS pandemic is already here.

Bookmark and Share

Turd Blossom Strikes Again

| 4 Comments | No TrackBacks

"Turd Blossom" is George Bush's pet name for Karl Rove based on Rove's ability to spin beautiful flowers out of absolute bullshit. And Rove's signature is all over the announcement that Preznit Incompetent W. Dumbass will personally lead the whitewash investigation of the failure to protect Gulf Coast residents from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Putting the Offender in Chief in charge of the investigation would be a brilliant plan if it wasn't so utterly transparent. If the American people buy this total crock, they fully deserve whatever happens to them for the next three years.

Excuse me. Gotta run. There is a fox out here insisting on personally leading the investigation into the security failure at the hen house he was supposed to be guarding. And I have to decide whether I want nice furry mitts or a new hat.

My usually reliable sources in the White House have informed me that the final report from the Bush inquiry is completed and on Karl Rove's desk. Among the conclusions are:

There was no way anyone in the federal government could have known that such an itty bitty ol' hurricane could cause so much damage. Under the circumstances, the federal government's response was super peachy double awesome.

The report also concludes that:
The responsibility for any governmental failure lies with the state and local governments who were stupid enough to actually believe the federal government would assist them in any way. As a result, state and local governments should expect to be billed for the costs of the federal government having to come in and clean up their mess after them.

The most scathing criticism is levelled at the people of the Gulf Coast region. The report concludes:

America is an ownership society. The poor (especially if they are black) need to take ownership of their own poverty. They should expect to die if they are unable to remove themselves from harm's way. They should not expect the federal government to postpone tax breaks for the rich to save their sorry poor asses. After all, that is what compassionate conservatism is all about.

The full study will be released the day after people begin to call for the president's impeachment.

Bookmark and Share

September 6, 2005

We've known for over a year and a half that Maher Arar's arrest and imprisonment was tied up with that of Ahmad El Maati. The latter was a truck driver who was already a "person of interest" to local intelligence agencies when, while on a run from Canada into the U.S. in August of 2001, American border guards discovered "a schematic map of Ottawa marking government buildings and nuclear research facilities" in his rig. Of course visions of terrorist cells at loose in Canada's capital city ensued.

The Globe and Mail has been doing a series of articles lately that take an in depth look at the circumstances of some of the other Canadians who have enjoyed the hospitality of the Syrians, El Maati included. I would have liked to have seen this kind of attention paid to the story much sooner but better late than never, I guess. And today's installment definitely has something new to add to El Maati's story.

I knew that El Maati's employer had written a letter to the authorities to vouch for his employee and to explain that the rig El Maati was driving had recently been driven by another employee with a route in Ottawa who could easily have left that map behind. But the news is in the nature of that "schematic map" itself.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the map -- scrawled numbers and all -- was in fact produced and distributed by the Canadian federal government. It is simply a site map, given out to help visitors to Tunney's Pasture, a sprawling complex of government buildings in Ottawa, find their way around.
There is nothing secret about the map. The existence of the nuclear facilities and the virus labs at Tunney's Pasture was never a secret.

Moreover, they were gone from Tunney's Pasture long before the map aroused the suspicions of U.S. customs agents when they stopped Mr. El Maati's truck at the border at Buffalo in August of 2001.

One can forgive American border officials for not knowing what they were looking at. But did no Canadian official throughout the events that followed bother to look at this thing and figure out what it was? Is there really no intelligence in our intelligence operations?

El Maati was subsequently detained in Damascus in 2001 and...

... says his torturers in Syria and Egypt used the map as the basis of their interrogations. He says this suggests the Syrians were fed information from Canada and that Canadian authorities were complicit in his torture. He's never been charged anywhere, despite more than two years in detention in the Middle East.

Mr. El Maati's lawyers made a copy of the map available to The Globe. The RCMP has the original.

Oh look. It's the Mounties again. Apparently no one on our national police force recognized a guide map to Tunney's Pasture prepared by our own freakin' government.

But CSIS comes in for some attention too. In the days following 9/11 when El Maati realized that he was really under suspicion of being a terrorist...

He retained Rocco Galati as his lawyer to set up a meeting with CSIS. But CSIS wouldn't sit down with Mr. El Maati with a lawyer present, Mr. Galati said.

"How seriously are we supposed to take these people when they consistently refuse to speak to people who they say they are interested in speaking to, if those people want a witness or a lawyer to ensure accuracy of statements?"

Good question. If anyone associated with CSIS happens to be reading this, be advised that if you ever want to talk with me you ain't gettin' word one from me unless I have a lawyer present. Because nothing I've read in the two years I've been following this whole story has led me to believe I can trust you to even conduct a competent investigation, never mind having the slightest concern for due process.

Cross-posted to the E-Group.

Bookmark and Share

'Creepy' law clears way to track you via laptop, cellphone

Police and security agencies would be able to surreptitiously track unwitting Canadians via their cellphones, BlackBerries and laptop computers, even when the devices are turned off or their location features are disabled, under a "creepy" measure contemplated as part of the federal government's planned electronic surveillance bill.

The government made the proposal during consultations this year on a legislative package that is anticipated to be unveiled in the fall. The proposal, which was raised by justice officials with groups consulted by the government, would amend the Criminal Code to expand the types of "tracking devices" available to police under a warrant.

The definition of a "tracking device" would be changed to include a computer program, in addition to any other device that can be used to help identify the location of any thing or person.

The new definition of tracking device would take in such ubiquitous products as laptops with wireless Internet connections, cellphones with global positioning systems, and wireless personal digital assistants.
Police are able to obtain warrants for tracking devices much more easily than for other types of electronic surveillance such as wiretaps.

To get a warrant for a tracking device, police need only convince a justice of the peace they have "reasonable suspicion" an offence has been or will be committed, and the tracking order would help their investigation. By contrast, for other types of surveillance, authorities must at least demonstrate to a justice of the peace they have "reasonable and probable grounds to believe" that an offence has been or will be committed, and information relevant to that offence will become available via the surveillance.

We've just spent fifteen months watching Justice O'Connor try to unravel a story in which law enforcement's irresponsible use of information was a major theme. We're still waiting for the recommendations to come out of that commission of inquiry but the government is moving ahead with measures like this anyway.

It makes the inquiry look like a sham. Along with our civil liberties.

Bookmark and Share

September 3, 2005

Incompetent is as incompetent does

| 13 Comments | No TrackBacks

It's just possible that Dubya's cover has been blown for good.

We told you so

Ever wonder why New Yorkers detest George Bush?

Because we experienced his incompetence up close and person. We knew this guy was full of shit, absolutely full of fucking shit, after they started to play games with the funding and gave Wyoming terrorism money. We knew he was an assclown then.

We thought DC 9/11 was a comedy, because the Bush we saw hid in AF One like the scared bitch that he is.

But did you listen?

Fuck no. Until last week, Ann Coulter was calling New Yorkers cowards for not endorsing Bush's folly in Iraq.

We have been screaming for two years that Bush and his team sucked. That they had no clue. They sent soldiers to be wounded in Iraq without armored anything. And you idiots cheered him on from the safety of your keyboards. We told you he was fucking up Iraq. But no, we supported Saddam, we were racist, we blamed America.

You say this isn't about politics? Fuck you, this IS politics, real time, real life politics, where the insanity of all your ideas are exposed to the world for the fraud that they are. Tax cuts kill. Ask the relatives of the dead of the Gulf Coast.

Of course the above comments come from Steve Gilliard (and there's more) and to say that he's no fan of George Bush would be a monumental understatement.

But a look around the media sites and blogs suggests that while the talking heads in the studios are trying to move the story off the open criticism of the administration's reaction to Katrina and back to the normal talking points, the troops on the ground are having none of it.

Some defenders of Bush are saying that you can't blame the slow response to this disaster entirely on the federal government, that local levels of government are at fault as well. There's doubtless some merit in that. But it doesn't change the fact that once again with evidence of a severe problem staring him in the face, Bush shrugged his shoulders and continued his vacation. Does it make me an irrational Bush-hater to point that out?

There may be a temporary bounce in the polls as everyone comes together to try and recover from this, but I suspect that the lack of leadership, the revelation that the administration's claims to be making America safer from threats of all kinds are just empty platitudes and the now obvious effects of putting tax cuts for the wealthy at the top of the agenda will continue to reverberate long after the immediate aftermath of Katrina has moved off the front pages.

I think Bush may end up being quite happy that he can't run for re-election. It'll save him the embarrassment of getting his butt kicked. But this may be just enough to tarnish his entire administration and everyone associated with it. It'll be interesting to watch for Republicans with their eyes on 2008 distancing themselves from the current president.

Bookmark and Share


Tip Jar

Total donations to date: $115.00

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2005 is the previous archive.

October 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Blogging Change

Progressive Bloggers

      Canadian Blogosphere  

      Blogging Canadians  

NO Deep integration!

Creative Commons License
This blog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Powered by Movable Type 4.37