November 2009 Archives

November 30, 2009

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

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Since Rosie DiManno apparently feels qualified to reach this kind of conclusion based on redacted emails that Christie Blatchford read and told her about, I might as easily have dubbed this a Today in WTF? Moments post. But we'll go with Simple Answers to Simple Questions. DiManno weighs in on Richard Colvin's emails:

Nor does there appear to be, in any of that voluminous correspondence, an eyes-on grasp of the chaos on the ground in Kandahar in 2006 and 2007, when Taliban units engaged in traditional combat - standing and fighting, as they did during Operation Medusa - with Canadian troops taking into custody an unexpectedly huge number of prisoners.

What were they to do with them?

They were to do what their commanding officers ordered them to do.

And it was up to their commanding officers — all the way up the line to the CDS and the Minister of Defence — to have an order for them that protected them from even accidental complicity in war crimes.

Nobody has answered that question.

That might be because no one has asked it in quite that way. And that would be because the rest of us already understood what we're talking about. That.

This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions. H/t to Greg.

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November 28, 2009

An unscheduled musical interlude

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Let's go ridin'...

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November 27, 2009

Friday night

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Police officer, how can it be
You arrest everybody but cruel Stagolee
Talkin' 'bout the bad man
Oh Stagolee

Stagger Lee Shelton killed Billy Lyons in 1895. Here's Eric Bibb to sing about it. (I have no idea what happens to the camera part way through but it gets fixed pretty quickly.)


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Their next stupid idea

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Maybe we could call Van Loan's proposed legislation to abandon as many Canadians imprisoned abroad as possible the Conrad's Revenge Bill. (You will recall that Lord Black cannot take advantage of current law on international prisoner transfers because of that little matter of thumbing his nose at his Canadian citizenship on his way to the House of Lords.)

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the current law on transfers is tilted toward the right of criminals to return home. He said recent court rulings have made it difficult to block transfers except in cases where prisoners are deemed a threat to national security.


"Right now, the law emphasizes the interests of the criminal," Van Loan said.

"We are rebalancing that law to take into account the interests of Canadian society."


You have to wonder, though, why Van Loan would suddenly be worried about what the law "emphasizes," much less what it actually says. According to NDP justice critic Joe Comartin, the Harper government has already blocked up to 80 per cent of transfer applications, in open violation of the law and treaty obligations, and the proposed changes are an attempt to legalize their current practices retroactively:

[Comartin] pointed out that transferred prisoners are put behind bars in Canada and, therefore, can't be considered a threat to public safety. Moreover, if they've been convicted of a crime abroad, their victims are unlikely to be in Canada.


"It's a complete masquerade," he said. "I mean, that's just outright falsehood on their part. This has got nothing to do with public security at all.

"It is straight ideological on their part. They promised that they would do this to their hard-core, right-wing supporters."

...

Liberal consular affairs critic Dan McTeague expressed concern that the changes could allow the government to ignore human rights abuses against Canadians jailed in countries with notoriously harsh justice and prison systems.

Moreover, he said part of the rationale for returning prisoners to Canada is to ensure they get rehabilitation that will help reintegrate them into Canadian society upon release.


What? Human-rights abuses in the notoriously harsh -- maybe even unjust -- justice and prison systems of other countries? Peter Van Loan or any of his colleagues is going to give a fig about such sissy concerns after the nose-thumbing they've given domestic and international human-rights law these past few weeks? Especially when one of those other countries now running a notoriously harsh and unjust prison system just happens to be the U.S. of GTMO, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and countless other sites to be named later, much later, far too late for all kinds of people:

Van Loan said the proposed changes don't relate to Omar Khadr, because he has not been convicted of anything yet ...

...

"In the case of Mr. Khadr, obviously, he is facing a trial," Van Loan said. "He has not been found guilty at this time."


But he faces "very serious charges," the minister no doubt wishes us all to remember. And the minister's boss is not for giving in to any law that "emphasizes" the interests of the criminal person who faces "very serious charges." Not that that person has been found guilty ... at this time ... of course.

And with that, the minister licked his chops and headed off for dinner.

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Today in WTF? moments

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Since when is it the responsibility of the Canadian Border Services Agency to protect the reputation of the Olympics and its sponsors by detaining and interrogating journalists to ensure they won't say anything about the games that departs from the approved script?

Based on this and other stories out of Vancouver over the last couple of years — and with all due respect to the athletes themselves — my own attitude towards the Olympics has become one of outright hostility. I want nothing to do with it.

I wonder if I can be sued for that.

H/t skdadl at Bread and Roses.

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November 26, 2009

MacKay needs a new line of attack

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I was able to watch the first part of David Mulroney's testimony before the parliamentary committee investigating the handling of Afghan detainees earlier today. I was particularly interested in the references to the report by Richard Colvin that was the subject of the post at The Galloping Beaver to which I linked in my own post. Despite the redactions, Mulroney was able to establish that the report would have been written and submitted in the spring of 2007. When he was asked whether or not that report was a credible allegation of torture of the kind that the government has claimed no one had raised, he replied that the prison Colvin was reporting on was in Kabul. Since Canadians were operating in Kandahar and any prisoners they took would have been sent to a local facility, the prisoners Colvin referred to couldn't have been detained by Canadian forces.


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Today in WTF? moments

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Shorter Maurice Vellacott: Women should oppose abortion because men are superficial jerks who only think of their own pleasure.

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"reverse-Kafkaesque scenario"

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The Canadian Press reporting on Tuesday's Question Period in the House of Commons:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper moved Tuesday to calm the political storm surrounding the handover of Afghan prisoners. vowing to release all "legally available" documents related to the matter.

Of course the government has since announced that Colvin's reports will remain classified which leads to Kady O'Malley anticipating David Mulroney's testimony this afternoon before the special committee investigating the handling of Afghan detainees:

...committee members now find themselves trapped in the increasingly reverse-Kafkaesque scenario that we saw unfold during yesterday's testimony by the three generals, in which it became clear that everyone at the table had read -- and, in some cases, reread and re-reread -- the material in question except for the MPs asking the questions -- the same MPs who are, at least in theory, supposed to rationalize the contradictory accounts from witnesses of who told what to whom, and when.

But it follows naturally from the other tactic the government has pursued: gag or intimidate every other witness who might support Colvin's story and then claim that Colvin is the only one who thought there might be a problem.

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What a country, eh?

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Apparently you can rise all the way to Chief of Defence Staff in this country without having to understand that being whipped with cables and shocked with electricity qualifies as torture.

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November 24, 2009

Dear Stephen Harper

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I certainly understand your concern for poor David Mulroney. I agree with you that he should be allowed to testify before the Special Committee to tell his side of the story. Of course we shouldn't muzzle testimony from anyone who might help us to understand what happened both in Afghanistan and here at home during that crucial period. So I would propose we hear from Mr. Mulroney right after we hear from the other 27 government and military officials that your government has attempted to intimidate into silence.

Deal?

Love,
pogge

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Dear Jack Layton

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Just a short note to say that this is a really, really stupid time for this. I'm sure the Conservatives would love to see this whole issue of torture turn into a partisan free-for-all that the general public will then tune out as being simply more of the same nonsense that they've come to expect from the overgrown children in Ottawa. You're now helping them and making it appear as though the NDP is only too happy to use human rights as a partisan issue.

The governing party has long since made it clear that they'll use every trick at their disposal to thwart any kind of serious investigation into the handling of detainees in Afghanistan. The opposition parties need to work together, stay focused and concentrate on the business at hand. That doesn't mean you have to stand and applaud every time Iggy comes in the room. God knows I wouldn't. But put the sniping on hold when it actually has nothing to do with the issue you're supposed to be examining.

Stop screwing around.

Love,
pogge

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November 22, 2009

Shall we call it a Hillier Unit?

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One year to turn Afghanistan around, Hillier says

Western forces have just over a year to turn around the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, or the decade-long military effort could be lost, Canada's former top soldier says.

Gen. Rick Hillier, the former chief of defence staff, said NATO countries have no more than 18 months in which to boost security to the Afghan population, bolster the newly elected government of President Hamid Karzai and convince Pakistan to take on Taliban insurgents hiding just across the Afghan border.

If Hillier went on to explain why it's the next year that's crucial rather than the one just passed you won't find out about it here. He just thinks that Obama should work his oratorical magic, get us all on the same page and we can push on to victory. Whatever that is. And John McCain agrees with him. It reminds me of nothing so much as the infamous claims from Tom Friedman that the next six months in Iraq was always the critical period — the turning point.

The only individual quoted in this story who goes beyond cheerleading is an EU diplomat named Michael Semple who turned up in our media just yesterday to stand up for Richard Colvin. I appreciate that and I believe that Semple is sincere; I just think he's wrong.


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November 21, 2009

"The suggestions are preposterous."

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The Toronto Star's Tonda MacCharles has a profile of Richard Colvin that features comments from an EU diplomat named Michael Semple who served in Afghanistan and knew Colvin there. Semple's comments certainly belie Peter MacKay's attempts to smear Colvin as some kind of lightweight who was duped by the Taliban.

Michael Semple, Colvin's counterpart for the European Union mission in Kabul and an expert on that country, told the Star he was "totally flabbergasted" by the comments of Defence Minister Peter MacKay and cabinet colleague John Baird.

"The suggestions are preposterous."

Colvin, Semple said, was an "absolutely rock solid" diplomatic staffer who stepped up and volunteered to go in as a civilian representative with Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar after Glyn Berry, a close friend of Semple, was killed by a suicide car bomber outside Kandahar.

Berry had been political director of the reconstruction team, coordinating reconstruction projects in the southern region of Kandahar, and worked night and day to rebuild Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.

"Glyn sacrificed his life serving Canada and serving that cause, and Richard volunteered to step into his shoes, and for someone to turn around and suggest that somehow Richard is a closet Taliban sympathizer or someone who's `soft on terrorists' - when every waking day in Kandahar when he was there he knew that the Taliban had killed his predecessor - of all the people in the world who are vulnerable to that accusation, Richard's pretty low on the list, I'd have thought.

But it doesn't matter how faithfully you serve this government. If it becomes convenient for them to throw you under a bus, then under the bus you go.

H/t to Toedancer at Bread and Roses.

.
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November 20, 2009

Friday night

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See that black crow flyin'
Flyin' through the sky
Oh the wind sure is howlin'
Won't you tell me why?

We begin with Kelly Joe Phelps.


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Why am I not surprised?

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Recession or not, Canada's rich keep getting richer

It takes money to make money -- especially in a recession, according to the Canadian Business 2009 list of the richest Canadians. It shows that the rich kept getting richer despite the economic downturn that has cost 400,000 Canadians their jobs in the past year.

But if I were to suggest that raising the marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Canadians would be one way to help deal with debt and deficit, it would be greeted in some circles as if I had suggested we put arsenic in the drinking water.

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A single, solitary case

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Defence Minister Peter MacKay in the House of Commons yesterday, courtesy of Aaron Wherry:

Mr. Speaker, it has been stated here a number of times that there has not been a single, solitary proven allegation of abuse involving a transferred Taliban prisoner by Canadian Forces.

And thus MacKay sets the standard and all it takes is a single, solitary case to prove him wrong. From the Globe and Mail on Jan. 22, 2008 courtesy of Impolitical:

In one harrowing account, an Afghan turned over by Canadian soldiers told of being beaten unconscious and tortured in the secret police prison in Kandahar. He showed Canadian diplomats fresh welts and then backed up his story by revealing where the electrical cable and the rubber hose that had been used on him were hidden.

"Under the chair we found a large piece of braided electrical cable as well as a rubber hose," reads the subsequent diplomatic cable marked "secret" and distributed to some of the most senior officials in the Canadian government and officers in the Canadian military.

Are we to believe that this prisoner not only harmed himself but managed to smuggle this evidence into the prison and plant it while in custody? Or should we consider the possibility that, to be generous, our Minister of Defence doesn't have his facts straight?

Update:

Or you could just read Impolitical herself, who wrote essentially the same post but with additional content yesterday afternoon. Can I get away with saying "great minds think alike?"

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November 19, 2009

Waves

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I knew who the subject of this story would be just from seeing the headline.

Flu vaccination campaign a 'mess' that should be discontinued: health official

But I clicked through anyway and I was right.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has made a "mess"of the H1N1 vaccination campaign and proceeding with it should be up for debate because its benefits are quickly evaporating, according to one of the country's most vocal chief medical officers.

Dr. Richard Schabas, Ontario's former chief medical officer and a top health officer in the province, said Friday it might simply be too late for a mass vaccination program to work.

Dr. Schabas has been receiving a lot of publicity in the past six months or so by being the contrarian. And several paragraphs down, even this story will tell you that his views aren't shared by a lot of his colleagues. But his opinion makes for a sensational headline so his opinion leads.

Dr. Schabas has previously referred to this pandemic as a dud and yet I can find stories in which physicians and front-line health care workers say that they've never seen a flu season like this one and it's only the middle of November. But I'll settle for repeating something that we do know about influenza pandemics: they tend to come in waves. And I doubt very much that GSK will give us a refund on the vaccine if we return it.

I actually hope Dr. Schabas is right. But I wouldn't assume this is over just because he says it is.

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On early warnings

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Last night Aaron Wherry provided a few links to articles that undermine the Conservative insistence that they had no reason to believe there was a problem regarding the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan and that Richard Colvin is the only person on the planet who seems to think there was. In reviewing the material I'd collected I came across another relevant story published by the Toronto Star on May 1, 2007.

Foreign affairs staff directly involved with overseeing Canada's Afghan mission were told last year about disturbing reports of growing human rights abuses within Afghan detention facilities.

Sam Zarifi, of Human Rights Watch, says he personally delivered that message when he met with Canadian officials on the "Afghanistan desk" at foreign affairs headquarters in Ottawa in the latter part of 2006.

Zarifi speaks of reports he and other members of his agency had received of ill treatment of prisoners by the National Directorate of Security, the same Afghan intelligence agency that Colvin names as the one to which detainees were turned over by Canadian forces. Zarifi also mentions that he expressed similar concerns to both the British and Dutch governments and their officials took appropriate steps.

"Canadians didn't and that's a mystery.

"We know that one of the main suggestions we had, namely that they have to monitor the detainees, was not taken onboard," Zarifi said.

No matter how much the Conservatives bluster about his lack of credibility, Colvin's charges don't come out of the blue. High ranking Canadian officials, both civilian and military, had good reason to believe there was a problem at the time even without Colvin's reports. They chose to do nothing.

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November 18, 2009

The fat's in the fire now

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At some point in the near future I'll be doing an update on the whole issue of the handling of detainees in Afghanistan. This post is just to draw attention to Kady O'Malley's live blogging of today's testimony by Richard Colvin before the parliamentary committee of inquiry. Just to hit some of the high points:

  • We can be pretty sure that detainees captured by Canadian forces and turned over to local authorities were tortured. We're not talking about just isolated cases; this was pretty much routine. The abuse continued even after the new agreement the government touted in May, 2007 as the solution to the problem.
  • According to Colvin, he knows his memos were read by Rick Hillier and by Margaret Bloodworth who was (and apparently still is) the PM's national security advisor, among others.
  • Laurie Hawn is an idiot.

And as of this writing, it's not over yet.

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McGuinty turns down HST public hearings

Premier Dalton McGuinty won't agree to hold public hearings on the HST across Ontario, but says he expects voters will pass judgment on the new tax in 2011.

...

McGuinty said Wednesday that people can call talk radio or write letters to the editor ...

If I were a political opponent of McGuinty's, I'm pretty sure I could get a lot of mileage out of that remark. He might as well have said "talk to the hand."

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November 17, 2009

Journamalism

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Don Martin is in today's Calgary Herald lecturing the Liberals about their fear-mongering regarding swine flu. Shame on those silly Grits for misrepresenting the facts in order to score political points. Why surely the first influenza pandemic in forty years requires that we all take extra care to get our facts right. Just as Don Martin does.

For starters, [the Liberals] warned, the immunization completion date will be delayed by several months and could extend into February.

This is patently false-- minister Leona Aglukkaq says it's still on track for completion by Christmas and notes some jurisdictions will be finished their rollout this week--and it does nothing but heighten anxiety among Canadians and add panic to the lineups of parents seeking to ensure their kids have the shot.

Patently false! It'll be done by Christmas! Um, hang on a sec...


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November 15, 2009

I feel safer already

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As a result of the listeriosis outbreak that took the lives of at least 22 Canadians in 2008, the government appointed Sheila Weatherill to lead an independent investigation and report back to us. And despite criticism of the inquiry, including the lack of subpoena power and the fact that most of it took place behind closed doors, the Conservatives on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food insisted that Weatherill's work was "complete and comprehensive" and that no further public inquiry was required. Case closed.

Except, of course, for the small matter of Weatherill's recommendations.

...in her final report presented to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in July, Weatherill called on the clerk of the privy council, the bureaucratic wing of the Prime Minister's Office, to appoint an "independent expert" to lead a review involving top bureaucrats at Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to sort out the roles of federal departments and agencies in food safety.

We are pleased to announce that after searching high and low, the clerk of the privy council has found just such an "independent expert", someone who no doubt can bring a fresh and objective eye to bear on the issue: current Deputy Minister of Agriculture John Knubley. Prior to his position in Agriculture, Knubley was Deputy Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs at the PCO (imagine that) and before that he was Associate Deputy Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Quite the food safety background.

They're not even pretending to do more than go through the motions.

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November 13, 2009

Friday night

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If you ever get lonesome, honey
Set right down and you can write to me.

This is Son House.


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Forum shopping

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I believe that even as I write this, the Supreme Court of Canada is in session to hear the federal government's appeal of a lower court decision instructing the government to repatriate Omar Khadr. Meanwhile the Toronto Star reports an announcement by American authorities that Khadr will face a trial by military commission.

Oddly enough, though, in that same announcement by American authorities we're told that five of the detainees currently held at GTMO will face a trial in civil court where the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, is confident that the "ultimate punishment" will be meted out. Why the different treatment for different prisoners?

"The only conceivable basis for prosecuting cases in the discredited military commission system is that the administration lacks the confidence that it can obtain a conviction in the legitimate courts," said the ACLU's Ben Wizner.

The phrase in common usage is "forum shopping." If the Obama administration isn't confident of the outcome in civil court, they're relying on the military commissions for a guilty verdict. And if a military commission won't guarantee the wanted outcome, there's always indefinite detention at Bagram.

It's almost as though the White House wanted to send a reminder at just the right time that the legal process to which our federal government wants to leave Omar Khadr's fate is a sham.

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November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

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November 7, 2009

A keen observer

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I spotted this at the bottom of a brief Canadian Press article on Afghanistan as carried by CTV News.

Meantime, a keen observer of the conflict says he worries the public won't understand that Canada's real success in Afghanistan includes building new roads and farm infrastructure.

Lee Windsor, of the Gregg Centre for the study of war and society at the University of New Brunswick, says success should be measured in the number of Afghans employed in a legitimate and functional farm economy.

I'm not sure what criteria are used to determine that Dr. Windsor is a keen observer. He may well be and I'm not trying to suggest otherwise though I would argue with his choice of the metric he thinks we should focus on in Afghanistan. But I think it would be fair to describe him as a paid observer. It seems pretty obvious that the Gregg Centre is affiliated with, and funded by, the DND. And the government has been pleased to use Dr. Windsor as part of its public relations effort on behalf of the mission. I really think these associations should be noted when someone is presented in a news article as an expert — the obvious implication we're meant to draw from "keen observer" — whose opinion we should be paying attention to.

Or is that just me?

Later that same day:

The story is at least twice the length it was when I first linked to it and judging by Toe in comments it's been revised at least twice.

And my point stands. Dr. Windsor is introduced into the story as if he's some kind of neutral observer when he really isn't. In a sense he reports to the same people as Brig.-Gen. Bowes, who's featured at the top of the story. Windsor just reports through a different chain of command. So to speak.

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November 6, 2009

Friday night

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It's back to the blues this evening. Here's a little song about a song from Keb' Mo'.


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As I was saying...

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The ACTA negotiations I noted in my previous post have been noticed by the traditional media and the story doesn't sound any better the way they tell it. This is from the Ottawa Citizen:

Canadian officials are taking part in negotiations for a top-secret copyright treaty that could see families barred from the Internet for a year if someone in the household is suspected of illegal downloads.

Under the worldwide rules of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Internet service providers such as Bell and Rogers in Canada would be required to become copyright police and filter out pirated material from their networks, hand over the identities of customers believed to be infringing copyrights and restrict the use of identity-blocking software.

There's more. For those of you who have closely followed intellectual property laws in the U.S., this will probably tell you what you need to know:

The treaty, which is being pushed forward by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, closely mimics the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that governs copyright issues in the U.S.

While the lede mentions Canadian officials, it doesn't tell us what side of the issue they're on. The article also notes that public consultations currently underway as a prelude to new copyright legislation here in Canada would become largely moot if the agreement as outlined above came into effect. And note this as well:

Federal trade agreements do not require parliamentary approval. Only the signature of a government representative is needed for an agreement to be passed as law.

We've certainly seen enough of these Conservatives to know that they would have no hesitation at all in ignoring parliament and legislating by treaty if it suits them. I think we have a problem brewing. Negotiations resume early next year.

H/t to Michael Geist who also provided a link to the relevent chapter of the draft treaty in pdf format.

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November 4, 2009

Attn bloggers: Y'all know where to find me

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Updated below.

I'd like to assure those of you who are currently relying on free blogging platforms that should the day come when you have to set up an independent site — which could happen sooner than you think — I can assist and my rates are very reasonable.

Now that I have your attention, be advised that there's a set of meetings taking place in Seoul, South Korea that are ostensibly about negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. But it appears that the Americans have tabled a draft document that, if accepted, would have wide-reaching implications on copyright. Don't take my word for it, here's Michael Geist.

If accurate (and these provisions are consistent with the U.S. approach for the past few years in bilateral trade negotiations) the combined effect of these provisions would to be to dramatically reshape Canadian copyright law and to eliminate sovereign choice on domestic copyright policy.

That post has more information. Cory Doctorow at boing boing has also posted and says the following of one of the proposals:

That ISPs have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. This means that it will be impossible to run a service like Flickr or YouTube or Blogger, since hiring enough lawyers to ensure that the mountain of material uploaded every second isn't infringing will exceed any hope of profitability.

I want to be properly skeptical about this but at the same time I regard both Geist and Doctorow as reliable and not normally given to exaggeration. And Doctorow has a point: if Google would literally be required to examine every item coming in to YouTube and every post being queued up to publish on blogspot.com, how practical is it to continue offering those services?

You won't be surprised that all this is supposed to be a secret. National security, don't you know. Disney's future revenues from Mickey Mouse are at stake. (Let him retire already, will ya?) And if what's been leaked about the American proposals is accurate, there's more to be concerned about than just what I've discussed here.

Remember: reasonable rates. Or we could be prepared to let our politicians know that they ratify copyright provisions like this at their peril.

H/t to matttbastard on Twitter for the boing boing link.

Update:

Courtesy of skdadl in comments, there's more at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. This looks like a back-door attempt to give the RIAA and the MPAA everything they could possibly wish for. And a pony.

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November 3, 2009

"a troubling development"

A couple of weeks ago, when he was being pressed in the House of Commons about the government's efforts to block the MPCC inquiry into the handling of Afghan detainees, Peter MacKay decided to get nasty with the Bloc.

I wish they would spend just as much time standing up and protecting the interests of Canadian soldiers as they do for the vigour they seem to have for Taliban prisoners.

But aside from being a cheap shot, there's a problem with that statement: it assumes that the prisoners in question are Taliban and belong in custody. Bad assumption.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has ordered officials to look into allegations that innocent Afghans may have been sent to jail due to botched translations by Canadian military interpreters.

...

A former language and cultural adviser to the Canadian Forces said he witnessed at least two instances where innocent people were wrongly labelled as Taliban supporters because Afghan-Canadian interpreters did not understand what had been said.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said it's a troubling development and demanded to know what the Conservative government was going to do.

The possible abuse of Taliban prisoners was bad enough but now we have to entertain the possibility that innocent Afghans were detained by Canadian troops and transferred to torture in the mistaken belief that they were combatants. But that's why we have things like the Geneva Conventions, right? The special Commons committee awaits.

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The less polite way would be "shit or get off the pot."

Fund me or axe me, parliamentary budget officer says

Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page says he will recommend the government shut down his operation of monitoring Ottawa's financial performance if he does not get more resources to do the job.

Page told the House of Commons finance committee he still has not been told whether his annual budget will increase to $2.8 million, which he says he needs to do his work.

I find it rather curious that Page hasn't seen his budget increase when the Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament approved it by unanimous vote last July. Now if you can find the original Hill Times article I quoted in that post you're doing better than I did. But the Bloc and NDP ended up dropping their insistence on Page's independence so they could get unanimous approval on the budget increase. That's months ago. I can only assume that Stephen the Petulant has been dragging his feet and ignoring the will of parliament again.

I'll be sorry to see Page go but I certainly can't blame him for being thoroughly irritated at the way he's been jerked around. In addition to all the other problems they present, this government just isn't a good employer if you're not ideologically in tune with them.

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Have I mentioned this before?

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You don't get good government from people who think government is the problem.

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November 2, 2009

Apparently Pamela Wallin is mad at me

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When I posted about Afghanistan earlier this morning, I hadn't realized that Pamela Wallin is in today's National Post demonstrating why she was a member of the Manley commission on Afghanistan and why Stephen Harper subsequently rewarded her with an appointment to the senate. I think Wallin manages to pull out just about every cliche there is to convince Canadians that the McChrystal plan to surge in Afghanistan requires our utmost support. That includes false appeals to patriotism, the claim that if you don't support Wallin's vision then you're a coward who's "cutting and running" and the contemptible suggestion that if you don't support the mission as she envisions it then you don't support the troops. And it includes the even more contemptible suggestion that we're sending our fellow Canadians off to foreign lands to kill or be killed because it boosts our international prestige.

What you won't find in Wallin's op-ed is any acknowledgement that even the architects of McChrsytal's plan are talking openly about an investment of another 15 years and almost a trillion dollars with no guarantee of success. And that assumes that everything goes according to their plan. Since the plan calls for a credible local partner — a legitimate and functioning national government — I think it's safe to say that the plan is already in trouble. A counter-insurgency operation without that credible partner isn't a counter-insurgency at all; it's an occupation. And Pamela Wallin's outrage isn't going to boost Hamid Karzai's credibility.

Neither does Wallin acknowledge that people who have been to Afghanistan couldn't find the Afghan army and that those who train the Afghan police are having trouble finding recruits.

Wallin also doesn't mention that a lot of the people who are in the thick of this, cheering McChrystal on and pressuring Obama to get with the program, are the people who thought invading Iraq was a good idea. Now go back and reread the part about everything going to plan and consider that we're being urged to stop questioning people who have already cheered on a screw-up of monumental proportions. People are questioning the mission because somebody really needs to, though apparently not in Pamela Wallin's world. If she gets to call me an intellectual coward, do I get to call her intellectually bankrupt?

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No

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Once and future NDP candidate Michael Byers has an article in the Toronto Star proposing a "surefire" way to prevent a Harper majority.

The Liberals and NDP should agree to not run candidates against each other in the next campaign.

This is a non-starter on a fundamental level. It amounts to party insiders colluding to rig the outcome of an election by taking decisions away from voters in individual ridings about who they wish to have represent them. Michael Byers teaches political science but apparently he skipped the part in his own studies about the way our electoral system is supposed to work.

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The ungovernment

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Karzai wins as Afghan run-off cancelled

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was declared the victor of the war-torn country's presidential election as the election commission cancelled a run-off vote after his opponent withdrew.

Independent Election Commission chairman Azizullah Lodin declared Karzai the victor during a news conference in Kabul on Monday.

That's a bit anticlimactic when you consider that Lodin, who was appointed by Karzai, had declared him to be the winner over a week ago shortly after the run-off was announced. But back to our exciting announcement:

[UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon] met with Abdullah and Karzai on Monday in Kabul. His visit to Afghanistan was meant to assure the Afghan people "of the continuing support of the United Nations toward the development of the country," the UN said in a statement. But analysts said the UN chief's visit was indicative of the mounting pressure by the international community for a quick resolution to the electoral turmoil in Afghanistan.

Pressure by the international community? Sure, if by international community you mean the people who support the continued occupation of Afghanistan and are desperate to put this mess behind them so they can convince everyone else to commit more troops.


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November 1, 2009

The language of diplomacy?

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Israel making 'unprecedented' concessions: Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Israel is making "unprecedented" concessions on West Bank settlement construction.

Palestinian leaders have said they will not return to peace talks with Israel unless it halts all settlement building on lands they claim for a future state, and they believe Israel has defied a U.S. demand for a settlement freeze.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, Clinton said Israel is putting significant limits on settlement activity.

"What the prime minister has offered in specifics on restraints on a policy of settlements ... is unprecedented," she said.

Unless the CBC rewrites this while I'm not looking (which admittedly has been known to happen) you'll search the article in vain for any specific description of the unprecedented concessions. You will see a reference to the fact that Clinton had previously agreed with the Palestinians that what was called for was a total freeze. The article doesn't mention that originally it was her boss, President Obama himself, who demanded that freeze.


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