July 2009 Archives

July 31, 2009

Friday night

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Sorry I'm late. Have some slide guitar.


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July 30, 2009

In a column on John Manley's appointment as president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Lawrence Martin comes to the defence of Manley against those dastardly leftists who would accuse him of being "a pawn of big business."

The political left is much opposed to his appointment. They see him as a sellout to the corporate crowd, a continentalist who catered to the conservative agenda of Tom d'Aquino, the outgoing head of the chief executives' group, and is now being rewarded for his efforts.

Unfortunately Martin doesn't name any names or provide any cites so we're left to wonder just who has "opposed" this appointment. I certainly can't claim to speak for the "political left" but my own reaction to the announcement was to shrug and say "makes perfect sense" and I expect that many who are concerned about the influence that group has on public policy felt the same way. I didn't accuse Manley of selling out by agreeing to represent the CCCE's agenda because it's the same agenda he's been representing for years whether he was speaking as a cabinet minister, a private citizen or the Canadian chair of a task force, sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, whose report read an awful lot like reports from the CCCE. And I certainly wouldn't have thought to come out in opposition to the appointment since the workings of the CCCE aren't up to me and I'm pretty sure they're not really interested in my opinion.

I'll happily acknowledge that if Manley is going to continue to express the same opinions he's always expressed and honestly holds, then it doesn't make him a sellout. It also doesn't make him right, it doesn't make his agenda the best one for Canada and it doesn't mean that he actually represents the wishes of the majority of Canadians. And all of that is studiously ignored by Martin, who's too busy convincing us that it takes courage to agree with the people who have all the money.

H/t to the Jurist.

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SIRC rides again

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Early in the spring when the charges first surfaced that Sudan had detained Abousfian Abdelrazik at the request of CSIS, the agency's director at the time, Jim Judd, requested an investigation into that allegation. He was confident that there was no truth to it and went on to give SIRC, the agency that would do the investigating, a more general, if carefully worded, assurance:

"The service has stated for the public record that it does not, and has not, arranged for the arrest of Canadian citizens overseas," he wrote.

According to this article by Paul Koring, Judd, who has since retired, might be getting a bit more than he bargained for.

The role played by CSIS - Canada's secretive anti-terrorist agency - in the arrest, imprisonment and alleged torture of Abousfian Abdelrazik, the Canadian citizen forcibly exiled in Sudan for years, will be probed by the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

...

SIRC rejected the agency's request for a quick, exculpatory review of its handling of the Abdelrazik case, opting instead for a full investigation into the formal complaint brought by Mr. Abdelrazik.

Koring reminds us that in the ruling that instructed the federal government to ensure that Abdelrazik was repatriated, Federal Court Justice Russel Zinn concluded that CSIS was "complicit" in Abdelrazik's imprisonment. Koring also reminds us that this comes in the wake of a recent SIRC report on the role CSIS has played in the Omar Khadr case (blogged here). That report suggested that it might be time for "a fundamental reassessment" of the way in which CSIS operates. At the time I wasn't all that impressed but I may have to do some reassessing myself. If SIRC has decided to take an active role in that reassessment, things might get interesting. I'd rather see a full-blown public inquiry but this is a start.

The Koring piece has much more in the way of background including a review of Abdelrazik's report on his treatment at the hands of CSIS agents.

Notice that Peter Van Loan, the cabinet minister with responsibility for CSIS, remains pretty much the invisible man in all this.

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July 24, 2009

Friday night

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If there's a theme to this evening's set I guess it's men trying to work it out with women. On the whole, I don't think it's going well for them.

According to his Wikipedia article, Lightnin' Hopkins recorded between 800 and 1,000 songs in a career that spanned 35 years starting with his first recording contract in 1946.


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July 22, 2009

As I was saying...

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Conservative cabinet ministers don't know when to shut up.

Jason Kenney has compromised his position as immigration minister by repeatedly slamming the validity of various refugee claims and blatantly undermining the independence of Canada's refugee tribunal, legal and immigration experts, including former IRB chairman Peter Showler, are charging.

There's much more at the link and snark aside, this is serious business. Kenney is being accused of repeated political interference in a manner that prejudices refugee claims. He and his peers really do seem to have a conceptual problem when it comes to understanding the role a cabinet minister is supposed to play.

The story also makes the obvious point that much of the backlog in processing refugee claims that Kenney pointed to as the impetus for his recent changes in policy has in fact been created because of the government's failure to fill vacancies on the Immigration and Refugee Board.

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July 21, 2009

Reckless speed

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The reckless speed with which they are attempting to jam through this experiment is a grave threat to America's health care, and America's health.

The Republican National Committee, July, 2009, from a memo spelling out their position on the health care reform proposed by Barack Obama and the Democrats.

The Democratic Party holds that the people are entitled to the best available medical care. We hold that they have a right to ask their Government to help.

Harry S. Truman, Oct. 15, 1948. One of the planks in Truman's platform when he campaigned for re-election in 1948 was health care reform including a national health insurance program.

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One of the concepts that members of the Conservative Party seem to have trouble with is that there are times when an elected representative, and particularly a cabinet minister, should quite simply keep his mouth shut. I'm sure it won't surprise you to find that I have a particular example in mind.

Two New Democrat MPs, a candidate for the Liberal nomination and a Laurentian University economist are calling on Industry Minister Tony Clement to resign over what they say are misleading -- and disparaging -- remarks about the Nickel Capital.

The city's mayor is livid about what he says are "intemperate" comments made by the minister and Parry Sound- Muskoka MP.

Even a longtime Conservative party supporter is accusing Clement of treating Sudbury like a "leper colony" for comments he made to The Sudbury Star about the future of Inco Ltd. had Companhia Vale do Rio Doce not purchased it in 2006.

The context here is that Inco workers are currently on strike and Clement's comments appear to suggest that the employer is God's gift to Sudbury. The implication, of course, is that striking workers should take whatever they're given and get back to work. Unfortunately there are those who feel that in the course of expressing his opinion, Clement played a little fast and loose with the facts. But a Conservative would never do that, would he?


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July 20, 2009

Facts are stupid things

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And two of our political parties don't want us to have them.

The Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament reviewed the role of the increasingly controversial Parliamentary budget officer last month and said the PBO will get its $2.8-million budget if it follows its legislated mandate and doesn't release reports if Parliament instructs it not to. The committee was divided on the PBO's independence issue. It fell into two groups. The Liberal and Conservative Members of Parliament wanted the PBO to remain under the Library of Parliament's jurisdiction while the Bloc and NDP wanted the office to be removed from the Library of Parliament and made independent.

In practical terms, the Liberals have joined with the Conservatives in ensuring that the PBO release its reports to MPs but not to the public at large. And that despite the fact that we pay for those reports so it's really all our information.

H/t to Kady O'Malley.

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July 18, 2009

Deep thought

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I wonder if Israel will ever sign on to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and allow the same kinds of inspections by the IAEA which 189 other countries, including Iran, allow.

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July 17, 2009

Friday night

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I guess this would qualify as solo R&B and if you're like me, you'll find this tune by Ruthie Foster rattling around in your head at some odd moment a few hours after watching this.


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Journamalism: International Edition

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At the tail end of a story in the Times (the original London version) about the movements of Israeli warships are the following four short paragraphs which will be interrupted with brief questions from me.

The exercises come at a time when Western diplomats are offering support for an Israeli strike on Iran in return for Israeli concessions on the formation of a Palestinian state.

Which diplomats from which Western countries?

If agreed it would make an Israeli strike on Iran realistic "within the year" said one British official.

Which British official?

Diplomats said that Israel had offered concessions on settlement policy, Palestinian land claims and issues with neighboring Arab states, to facilitate a possible strike on Iran.

Which diplomats said that? What concessions were offered, by whom and in what context?

"Israel has chosen to place the Iranian threat over its settlements," said a senior European diplomat.

Which senior European diplomat?

Why would all of these sources be granted anonymity? Why would this report of concessions offered by the Israelis in return for support of what would, after all, be an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation be allowed to run with so little detail? I thought the London Times still had reasonably high standards of journalism but given the subject matter — not to mention recent history involving unprovoked attacks on sovereign nations — this is remarkably irresponsible. Shortly after his current incarnation as Prime Minister of Israel began, Netanyahu tried to play the issue of the occupied territories off against the issue of Iran and Barack Obama seemed to make it clear that he wasn't having it. If there's been a change in that position I haven't heard about it. This story looks more like psyops than journalism.

H/t to babble where a commenter made an obvious point that I agree with: there's no quicker way I can think of to cause the Iranian regime to dig in its heels and resist democratic reforms than to make that regime feel increasingly threatened by countries that are supposed to believe in democracy. And in case it needs to be mentioned, there are still no reports from people in a position to know that the Iranians have an active nuclear weapons program (though the more they're threatened with military actions like this, the more I'd be inclined to want nukes if I was an Iranian).

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July 15, 2009

Speaking of Peter Van Loan...

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The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the body formally charged with investigating and passing judgement on the performance of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), has issued a report on the role of CSIS "in the matter of Omar Khadr." The press release from SIRC is here and informs us that:

This report was prepared pursuant to section 54 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, which allows SIRC to provide to the Minister a special report on any matter that relates to the performance of CSIS's duties and functions.

The minister in question is Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan who is the member of cabinet with responsibility for CSIS. He's one of the ministers I accused in the post below this one of being MIA. So does anyone know if Van Loan requested this report? Or did SIRC undertake this on its own initiative? Inquiring minds want to know.

As for the report itself...


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July 14, 2009

Lorne Waldman seems to me to be particularly well situated to comment on the recent misadventures of CSIS. As the lead counsel for Maher Arar at the O'Connor Inquiry he was involved in an exhaustive review of Canada's intelligence and law enforcement agencies. And as counsel for Hassan Almrei, one of the five men who have been the subjects of the infamous Security Certificates, Waldman has had every reason to stay up to date. In an op-ed in today's Toronto Star he reviews the recent troubled history of CSIS and raises an important point:

...what is of even greater concern here is the absolute silence of the political overseers. Public Security Minister Peter Van Loan has been invisible and mute. So has the minister of justice.

And now that I think about it, Waldman is absolutely correct. As he points out, in just the last few weeks we've seen the courts find that CSIS was complicit in the detention of Abousfian Abdelrazik in Sudan and that the agency supplied tainted testimony in two Security Certificate cases. And the government appears to be too busy handing out novelty cheques to even acknowledge that there might be a problem here.

Is it because Van Loan and Nicholson are dodging the questions? Or is it because no one is asking them?

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Breaking News!

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Bernie Farber is still not gay!

Personally I don't care one way or the other but apparently Farber really wants you all to know that.

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July 13, 2009

In a column lamenting the fact that John Manley is apparently out of politics for good since he'll soon be taking over the presidency of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Andrew Potter gives us this curious passage:

For Manley himself, after a lifetime of public service, the job presents an opportunity to finally spin that experience into some decent money, as he enters the last decade or so of his working life.

Is a lifetime now defined as 16 years? Because that's how long Manley was a politician.

He was first elected in 1988 after spending ten years as a tax attorney. I do believe that tax attorneys make pretty decent money, at least by my definition. He left politics in 2004 and immediately joined another law firm. Following that he was quickly named to the boards of Nortel Networks and the CIBC. In 2005 he was named as the Canadian chair of a task force on the future of North America sponsored by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations. And of course he recently headed up the panel that our illustrious prime minister put together to review the mission in Afghanistan so that the government could cherry pick things it wanted to hear and ignore the rest benefit from some objective advice.

So, hands up anyone who thinks that Manley hasn't been pretty well paid for his activities in the last five years.

This certainly isn't the silliest thing that's been published recently. And offhand I don't know if it qualifies as the silliest thing Andrew Potter has ever written. But it still managed to annoy me. While 16 years is a fairly long political career, it isn't "a lifetime of public service" and given the salaries and benefits we pay our MPs, not to mention our cabinet ministers, combined with the compensation that Manley has no doubt received for his subsequent activities, I object to the impression that he's made some supreme financial sacrifice of long standing on our behalf so it's only fair that he now get even more money representing the richest among us.

Almost immediate update:

I suppose I should point out that Potter and I approach this subject from different points of view. Potter seems to have a high opinion of John Manley while I keep wishing Manley would just put a sock in it. Sadly, it appears he's not going to. And you know that given his new position, the institutional media will fall all over themselves to give him a megaphone.

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July 12, 2009

I thought at first of calling this post "Leave Bernie aloooone!" and in some ways I'm still sorry I didn't.

But there is something going on at the Toronto Star that is not funny. Yesterday morning, under the misleading and less than fully comprehensible hed "'Gay' blog post was just not fair" (insert animation of small person stamping little feet), the paper's public editor rapped the knuckles of one of the Star's leading columnists and bloggers in a strange column that opened with a one-and-a-half feat of pretzel logic and then continued thus:

First, this column is intended to address publicly the valid concerns of the Canadian Jewish Congress, whose chief executive officer, Bernie Farber, was the subject of a Zerbisias blog post that was tasteless and fell short of the Star's standards of fairness, accuracy and civility. That's a view shared by publisher John Cruickshank.

Now, if you'd missed the hed and read nothing but that set-up paragraph, what would you think the column and complaint were going to be about? You'd think, quite reasonably, that Antonia Z. had blogged to a topic of predictable concern to the CJC and to Bernie Farber in his official capacity. You'd probably think she'd blogged something about Israel-Palestine, or Canada-Israel relations, and people at the CJC felt that her criticism of Israel had crossed a line, a judgement then lowered also by the publisher and public editor of the Star.

And you would be wrong on every one of those counts except the last.

Then again, on another plane of reality, you wouldn't be so very wrong after all.


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July 10, 2009

Friday night

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I've gone a whole week without hardly thinking about politics. No reason to start now. This should warm things up nicely.


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July 3, 2009

Friday night

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The word for the day is syncopation and to begin, here's an instrumental from slide guitarist Roy Rogers.


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July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day: Afternoon Edition

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And what could be more Canadian than three worms, an orchestra and a song about pirates?

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Happy Dominion Canada Day

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Kate and Anna McGarrigle sing "The Log Driver's Waltz" by Wade Hemsworth. National Film Board of Canada 1979


I thought of playing Chandra Crawford singing the national anthem, but I already did that during the Maple Syrup Revolution, and we all know how well that turned out.

We have a lot of wonderful national songs, actually. I was amazed to learn, for example, that even Stephen Harper thinks of Stan Rogers' "Northwest Passage" as our unofficial national anthem. I loved that man -- Stan, I mean. One other of his songs is probably in the running too:

And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.


Rise again, rise again - though your heart it be broken
Or life about to end.
No matter what you've lost, be it a home, a love, a friend,
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again.


Anyone else have a favourite Canadian song?


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