December 2009 Archives

December 31, 2009

Bye bye 2009


It was the best of times; it was the worst of times ... and I'll stop that now or we'll all get seasick.

All day I've been trying to decide whether we live in interesting times (the old curse) or truly boring times or just plain irritating times. All suggestions for option 4 welcome.

A good thing to wish for us all on this night, it strikes me, is that we should live in sexy times, and this is one of the performances that does it for me every time. I was glad to learn just the other day that the bassist Julie is flirting with here, Don Bagley, is still thriving, and maybe still pickin'. (Do we say that of bass players?) What can I say? Happy New Year, Don Bagley!

Julie London and Don Bagley, "Bye Bye Blackbird," 1964

Thank you, Boss, and all the crew of the good ship POGGE, and all our friends, new and old. A good new year for us all, and peace ... that other old hopeless, irresistible desire.

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Dear Stephen Harper



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December 30, 2009

I didn't know Michelle Lang, but she was a reporter for my dad's old paper, the newspaper I grew up with, and I don't know why that stabs so hard but it does.

I mourn all five of the Canadians who died in Afghanistan today, the four soldiers still to be identified, as well as the eight U.S. civilians who died at a forward-operating base in Khost province. We may find out in a day or so that the Americans were innocent service workers, chefs or waiters, perhaps, or maybe hairdressers, like the young woman from New Brunswick -- Vanessa Mead, twenty-five-year-old "combat barber" -- Lang wrote about on her blog and in the Herald just yesterday.

Or we may not find out who those American civilians were, which could be more horribly interesting, but I'm trying not to prejudge.

I don't know whether Michelle, reporter and blogger, will be honoured with the ritual drive along the Autoroute des héros, although if she is, I promise to make it to my local bridge for her and for the soldiers she rides with. I don't know whether she hated and scorned this "mission" as much as I do, but I can imagine the life she should be living still in Calgary, and I sorrow for the loss.

I've been reminded in the last few days of online friends we've lost, a couple of them friends of this blog, beautiful women who were blogging one day and then taken from us the next. For Melanie, Marie Roget, and Michelle, the song that Melanie sent me once when she was in mourning herself:

Annie Lennox, "Every Time We Say Goodbye," by Cole Porter

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Simple-minded question of the day

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Various sources are reporting that Harper will seek to prorogue Parliament for two months (more than a month beyond its scheduled return date of 25 January).

Besides giving such well-known sporting chaps as the PM and Jason Kenney the chance to appear at the Vancouver Olympics, the delay will, we're told, have a couple of other incidental effects:

Dimitri Soudas, press secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, would not confirm or deny the story saying only that "no decision had yet been made" with respect to proroguing parliament.

Preventing the return of Parliament until after the Olympics would effectively shut down all government committees, which would stop MPs from pursuing the Afghan detainee controversy until Parliament returned.


A Conservative source also told Sun Media proroguing Parliament was considered the best way to give the Harper government the upper hand in the Senate.

In early January there will be five vacancies in the Senate, all of which Harper could fill with Tory loyalists. Even though the new senators would give the Tories majority over the Liberals in the Senate, the Liberals retain their majority on Senate committees until the next general election or until Parliament is prorogued.

Suspending parliament would allow the Tories to reconstitute Senate committees making it much easier for them to pass legislation unchanged.

Shame about those incidental effects, eh?

Anyway, my simple-minded question concerns the CPCCA. If all the other committee hearings are suspended, will the proceedings of that curious hybrid be suspended as well? They claim to be independent of the government, independent of just about everybody (except the people who give them money, whose identities have yet to be vouchsafed to us), and yet they hold those meetings in some of the most expensive real estate in the country, and the word you'll hear most often in the audio of that first session they held in November is "parliamentarian." I mean, they definitely think that they're working as parliamentarians. And I have a powerful hunch that the keepers of the Parliament buildings are not going to let me reserve a room in the Centre Block for the next meeting of my local cat-rescue association.

As you'll see from their schedule, they were expecting to hold three extra hearings in January and February, partly so that they could call on the carpet chat with a number of university administrators and partly to hear even more from law-enforcement persons.

To the credit of the law-enforcement persons, when I listened to the first batch, I thought that, by contrast with committee members like Carolyn Bennett and Hedy Fry, Julian Fantino came off sounding like a constitutional scholar and champion of civil liberties.

So anyway, that's my simple-minded question. Who do you think we should write to? Scott Reid? Mr Silva? All the members? The Godfathers (Kenney and Cotler)?

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December 26, 2009

Saturday night

Music to let turkey digest by?

The fellow on the left who doesn't get credit is Jack Lawrence. Turns out he can pick more than well enough to hold his own, which is saying something considering the company he's keeping. Hope you're enjoying.

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December 24, 2009

Stille Nacht


The Thomanerchor, Leipzig, "Stille Nacht"

Merry Christmas to all our friends -- oh, what the heck: to our bitter enemies too, not that we have so many of those, but you never know, y'know ...

And peace. One day. We might as well keep trying. What else is there to do?

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In the spirit of the season. Sort of.


I spotted this recently at FDL and filed it away for a rainy day. Since Environment Canada is now predicting rain (along with ice and snow) for my neck of the woods, here's a Christmas song for you. Actually it's several songs.

But before they start... I'll be out of here in a bit until well after Christmas dinner. For this week only, Friday night will be moved to Saturday night. Neat trick, eh? Have a safe and happy holiday season and I'll see you back here next week when I'll resume whining and complaining about everything. And now, on with our show.

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December 22, 2009

Not quite the change I was hoping for


It doesn't take many incidents like this to wipe out any benefits from any number of pretty speeches.

At least 34 people died last week, when Yemeni forces hit suspected al-Qaeda targets in the southern governorate of Abyan and in Ahrab, a district northeast of the Yemeni capital Sana'a. Western and Yemeni media outlets reported that the United States provided Yemen with key intelligence and firepower to carry out the strikes, but to what extent is unclear. Yemeni state media reported that President Obama phoned Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to congratulate him on a job well done, and ABC News said that U.S. cruise missiles had been used.

But regardless of who did what, a primary target in the attacks -- Qasim al-Raymi, the al-Qaeda leader who is believed to be behind a 2007 bombing in central Yemen that killed seven Spanish tourists and two Yemenis -- is still at large. And reports of a U.S. role, and mass civilian casualties at the sites of the attacks, have sparked a public outcry and added to anti-American sentiments across the country. "They missed that individual," says Johnsen of the targeted al-Qaeda chief. "And at the same time, they ended up killing a number of women and children in the strike on Abyan. So now you have something where there are all these pictures of dead infants and mangled children that are underlined with the caption 'Made in the USA' on all the jihadi forums. Something like this does much more to extend al-Qaeda."

Obama may have retired the War on Terror™ brand but, like his predecessor, he still seems to think that the way to make Muslims like America is to kill more of them.

H/t Glenn Greenwald.

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December 20, 2009

Deep thought

It's so comforting to know that the process of preventing catastrophic climate change will soon be under the control of the richest nations and the corporations that own them. They've done so well up until now.

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December 19, 2009

I guess what Conservatives were really saying was that when it came to GHG emissions and climate change, Canada would have a "Made in Connecticut" policy.

The CBC reports on the outcome of the meetings in Copenhagen here and note this part in particular:

...the agreement is not binding and does not set new greenhouse-gas reduction targets. Instead, countries are to set their own emission-reduction commitments, which would not be legally binding.

And as all those world leaders head back to their individual countries to develop their individual policies, our own illustrious leader has made it pretty clear that our government intends to sit back and let the U.S. government set policy for us. This means that our approach to this issue will be entirely determined by the same legislative process that has turned health care reform into what Keith Olbermann recently described as an "animated corpse." It means that the final shape of Canada's role in meeting the challenge posed by catastrophic climate change will be determined by the individual who holds that all important, filibuster-breaking 60th vote in the United States Senate.

In short: if you wish to have some influence on the policy governing Canada's approach to climate change, you can address your campaign contributions to Joe Lieberman.

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December 18, 2009



Glenn Greenwald, in a post about the state of the health care debate among Democrats, sums up the Obama adminstration:

...I've honestly never understood how anyone could think that Obama was going to bring about some sort of "new" political approach or governing method when ... what he practices -- politically and substantively -- is the Third Way, DLC, triangulating corporatism of the Clinton era, just re-packaged with some sleeker and more updated marketing. At its core, it seeks to use government power not to regulate, but to benefit and even merge with, large corporate interests, both for political power (those corporate interests, in return, then fund the Party and its campaigns) and for policy ends.

I would add that the Obama organization studied the involvement of what became the netroots starting with Howard Dean's presidential primary campaign and was careful to duplicate the functionality without bringing in the key figures. By design, the progressive netroots activists aren't closely connected to Obama and however much money his online operation may raise, he isn't dependent on them. The wallets that interest Obama — and Rahm Emanuel — belong to big money donors. Legislation by lobbyist has long been a fundamental problem in American politics and it remains.

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Friday night


The first time I can recall hearing this song, it was performed by a Toronto band called David Clayton-Thomas and the Shays (long before Clayton-Thomas got together with Blood, Sweat and Tears). Here's a solo performance of the original by John Lee Hooker.

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Wankers of the year

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That's us. Are you as proud as I am?

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Today in WTF? moments

A Vancouver musician named Nicole Scoffield wrote a song to commemorate the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and sent the song to the organizing committee to see if they would consider using it as part of the event. The response she got seems outlandish even by the standards VANOC has already set.

She got a shock when officials at VANOC sent her a contract demanding she give up ownership and royalties -- even before they would listen to it.

The agreement would also give the organizing committee unrestricted rights to use the song however they saw fit.

Is there a place I can go and get a definitive list of the names of the people on this power trip so I can be sure and stay as far away from them as possible?

H/t Michael Geist.

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Watch what you say


Or Jason Kenney may find a way to use the power of government to punish you.

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December 17, 2009

Gee, what was your first clue?


Impolitical points us to a column by Lawrence Martin in the Globe and Mail that provides a summary of the damage that Stephen the Petulant and his loyal followers have been doing to democracy in this country for the last four years. And while I agree that it's a pretty thorough and articulate column my own response is a wee bit snarkier than hers: what the hell took you so long?

Some of us out here in DFH land have been talking about this stuff for a long time now. How about you explain all this to the editorial board of the newspaper you write for? They're the ones who endorsed that wannabe tinpot dictator. Twice.

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December 15, 2009

Not quite the change I was hoping for


It turns out that Barack Obama isn't really going to close Gitmo. He's just going to move it to Illinois.

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Paging Rick Hillier


You can visit Impolitical for the extended look at today's chapter in Richard Colvin's memoirs as presented by the Globe and Mail. What I take from it is that the special parliamentary committee should really call Rick Hillier back for a return engagement. He was the CDS during the period when Canadian forces in Afghanistan were refusing to cooperate with our allies and flouting the protocols established by NATO for the ISAF. Instructions to do so may have originated with our political leadership but they would obviously have had to go through the chain of command to reach the boots on the ground. Hillier's at the centre of it and I think he needs to answer a few more questions. Whether or not he's in the mood.

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December 14, 2009

Another one bites the dust


Court strikes down security certificate against Almrei

A federal judge has struck down a national security certificate against a Syrian-born man arrested eight years ago on terror suspicions.

The ruling today by Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley effectively frees Hassan Almrei.

And so ends another security certificate case. But what's this?

...[the ruling] says federal cabinet ministers breached their duties of "good faith and candour" to the court by not thoroughly reviewing the information on file prior to reissuing the certificate against Mr. Almrei in February of last year.

A breach of duty by members of this government? Unpossible! I wonder if we'll ever find out what that was all about.

I was going to say that perhaps the goverment should take another look at this whole process since these cases are falling apart, one by one. Then I discovered that Peter Van Loan has announced a review of its "rickety national security certificate law." Right on cue.

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December 13, 2009

"Colvin's disgust ... was palpable"

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Canada defended Afghan 'human-rights abuser,' memos allege

OTTAWA-A former governor of Kandahar who is accused of personally torturing Afghans might have been removed from office as far back as 2006 if Canadian officials hadn't defended him, according to diplomatic memos that have never been made public by the Canadian government.

The revelation about Asadullah Khalid, who stayed on as governor two years after concerns about his notorious reputation were raised, opens up another embarrassing avenue of inquiry over Afghan prisoner abuse.

Murray Brewster of The Canadian Press got a look at an unredacted copy of an end of mission report by Richard Colvin, among other things, and gives us the latest chapter in the story that refuses to die. There's another allegation here of abuse involving a detainee who was transferred by Canadian forces to Afghan custody.

When you read the article, note that Colvin's memos about Asadullah Khalid appear to have been the subject of serious discussions at "the highest levels." What does that say about previous claims that Colvin's memos were never read by anyone (except maybe when his boss was editing them and reducing the distribution list)?

H/t to Robert McClelland.


Kady O'Malley is reporting that there will be an in camera (so far) meeting of the special parliamentary committee on Tuesday and both Minister MacKay and Gen. Natynczyk have been invited.

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In a 2006 review of the work of Robert D. Kaplan, Tom Bissell summarizes foreign policy under George W. Bush:

Bush has gone from an isolationist to an interventionist minus the crucial intermediary stage wherein he actually became interested in other places.

H/t Robert Farley.

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Mistakes were made


Iraq invasion justified: Tony Blair

Former British prime minister Tony Blair said he believed it would have been right to invade Iraq even if it was known that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.

In a BBC interview broadcast Saturday, Blair said he would have found other arguments to justify the U.S.-led invasion. He said it was right to remove Saddam from power because he was a major threat to the Middle East region at the time.

Absolutely. Iraq was a major threat because of all those nasty weapons. The ones Iraq didn't have. Wait, how does that work again?

"I would still have thought it right to remove him. Obviously, you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat," he said.

How much more blatant could Blair get? The decision to invade came first and then the publicly stated reasons to justify it were fabricated identified.

The concerns about weapons of mass destruction were the only way that Bush and Blair could even come close to claiming that there were UN resolutions supporting the invasion. Without that, it was just a bunch of countries getting together to pound the crap out of another country because they could. International law be damned. And they'll get away with it. The inquiry in process in Britain is strictly to "prevent mistakes from being repeated in the future."



Thanks to croghan27 in comments, here's a link to a longer BBC piece on Blair's comments including a video clip of Blair and an audio clip of Hans Blix offering dissent.

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December 12, 2009

Hug a Sagittarian Day


Some of my favourite people are Sagittarians, and that's a mild-mannered Libran talking.

The wild and crazy youngster who runs this blog, for instance, is a Sadge whose birthday is a little earlier than today and who would have blushed and shuffled if we noticed it at all. (It's a good blush and shuffle, though -- go for it.)

For no doubt deep and suspect reasons, a lot of my publishing colleagues in the olden days were Sadges, so many of them that the best of our company Christmas parties became the Sagittarian party that my beloved Thorfinn used to throw for himself and several score of his closest friends on this night or the closest Saturday to it. Many were the December Sunday mornings I would wander about our upturned living room and dining room, munching on bits of smoked salmon salvaged from the piano wires and the fireplace as a hangover remedy ... But I digress.

Today my beloved Thorfinn would have been eighty years old, and no one would have been more astonished at the thought, although everyone who knew him would line up right behind me to be astonished too.

Instead of one of the auld songs, I thought I'd play for him this clip from "Rumpole's Last Case," which would have delighted him for many reasons -- the reminder of the "golden thread" (the presumption of innocence) especially, of the commitment to "only defend" (comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable), the windfall that licenses that fantasy desire to tell the pompous boss off just before you quit on principle, and then the gracious one-and-only concession as the last act of your career -- "Guilty, Milord."

Leo McKern in "Rumpole's Last Case" by John Mortimer

For Thorfinn and all my beloved Sagittarians, from She Who Must Be Obeyed

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December 11, 2009

Friday night: Old white rockers


I really only set out to grab three tunes that made me smile and tap my foot because it felt like that kind of evening. I didn't realize I had a theme until I had them picked out.

Two things I learned about Levon Helm recently are that he's a throat cancer survivor and that when he steps out from behind the drums, as he does here, it's often his daughter Amy who sits in. If you're impatient for the actual tune to begin, it gets underway at almost exactly the 1:30 mark. But really, what's your hurry? It's Friday night.

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Goodbye and good luck, Mr. Tinsley


Today is Peter Tinsley's last day as the chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission. It was Tinsley's perseverance in the face of the government's attempts to obstruct his public hearings that brought the whole issue of the handling of Afghan prisoners back into the headlines. And you'll notice that our illustrious minister of defence hasn't named a replacement in advance of Tinsley's departure to ensure a smooth transition. Is anyone surprised?

Tinsley expressed concern about the "chilling effect" of the government's failure to renew his term. But this isn't new; it's just a continuation of Harper's governing style. That's the reason "Linda Keen" can be used as a verb.

I do think we owe Tinsley our thanks for doing his best and for remembering that his first duty wasn't to burnish Stephen Harper's image. He took his responsibilities seriously even when the government of the day refused to do the same.

Almost immediate update:

And incidentally, now that it's becoming increasingly clear that Stephen Harper intends to ignore the will of parliament in the matter of that motion ordering the release of unredacted documents, I wonder if L. Ian MacDonald will resume the practice of using the word "coup" in his columns at every opportunity.

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Glenn Greenwald on the reaction to Obama's Nobel acceptance speech:

Obama puts a pretty, intellectual, liberal face on some ugly and decidedly illiberal polices. Just as George Bush's Christian-based moralizing let conservatives feel good about America regardless of what it does, Obama's complex and elegiac rhetoric lets many liberals do the same. To red state Republicans, war and its accompanying instruments (secrecy, executive power, indefinite detention) felt so good and right when justified by swaggering, unapologetic toughness and divinely-mandated purpose; to blue state Democrats, all of that feels just as good when justified by academic meditations on "just war" doctrine and when accompanied by poetic expressions of sorrow and reluctance. When you combine the two rhetorical approaches, what you get is what you saw yesterday: a bipartisan embrace of the same policies and ideologies among people with supposedly irreconcilable views of the world.
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December 9, 2009

It has been widely reported that the current chief of defence staff, General Walter Natynczyk, has been denying that the story of one particular Afghan who was beaten by Afghan security forces actually made liars out of called into question statements made by Defence Minister Peter MacKay and his supporting cast. Since I normally spend my lunch hour getting caught up on torture stories (doesn't everyone?) I just happened to cruise through Kady O'Malley's place to see if there were any new developments.

Sure enough, O'Malley is reporting that the general is now saying he was previously misinformed. That prisoner who was beaten with shoes until the blood ran down his face was, in fact, originally taken into custody by Canadian troops and transferred to the Afghans. The general isn't sure why he was originally misinformed and therefore (and quite conveniently) misinformed the Conservatives but he'd like to assure everyone that he intends to find out. Personally I'm feeling a bit cynical about the whole thing. Does it show?

More at the link. I'm going to finish my lunch.

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December 8, 2009

They write press releases


MacKay misleading Canadians on Afghan detainees

OTTAWA - Defence Minister Peter MacKay has repeatedly misled Canadians about detainee abuse in Afghanistan and must resign, say New Democrats.

"Every day new revelations contradict what MacKay has told Parliament," said New Democrat Defence Critic Jack Harris (St. John's East). "Canadians have no confidence in this minister and we call for his resignation."

There's more at the link. And the sentiment is also expressed by Paul Dewar as quoted in this CBC story about the ex-ambassadors' letter I posted on earlier.

Works for me. Petey's been misleading parliament and that's supposed to be a no-no.

H/t Toedancer.

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Wankers of the day

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That's us.

Canada has been awarded the first Fossil of the Day "award" at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

That was for yesterday which was opening day. And we'll have the opportunity to cover ourselves in even more glory.

For the duration of the conference, the Fossil of the Day will be presented to whichever country has done the most to delay and otherwise disrupt negotiations for an agreement on a global reduction in carbon emissions.

Go Canada!

Isn't it great to have a government that has returned us to our rightful place on the world stage?

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They send mail


Response to Colvin's detainee testimony discourages honest reports, letter says

Twenty-three former ambassadors are speaking out against the Conservative government's attacks on the credibility of diplomat Richard Colvin, saying Ottawa's response to his Afghan detainee abuse testimony threatens to cast a chill over Canada's foreign service.

The ex-heads of Canadian diplomatic missions say in a letter released to the media that they're worried the treatment of Mr. Colvin will discourage diplomats from reporting frankly to Ottawa from their foreign postings.


Paul Durand, a former Canadian ambassador to the Organization of American States, to Chile and to Costa Rica, said the former ambassadors are speaking only on the way Mr. Colvin has been treated by the government - and especially Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who was Mr. Colvin's boss as foreign affairs minister.

"He savaged him in public, and ridiculed him. And that's not the way to treat a guy who's doing his job," Mr. Durand said.

Durand also points out, quite rightly, that Colvin isn't really a whistle-blower. He submitted his original affidavit in response to a subpoena from the MPCC. And he made his subsequent testimony before a parliamentary committee in response to a direct request from them. His reward for simply answering questions about his time in Afghanistan and his judgement on what he saw there has been ridicule from the highest levels of government. Not to mention from one corner of the punditocracy. I can see where that might influence the way other civil servants perform their duties.


Kady O'Malley has the text of the letter.

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December 7, 2009

"This is never going to go away."

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MPs to push for Afghan prisoner torture probe into next year

Opposition MPs are prepared to continue Parliamentary hearings into prisoner torture in Afghanistan for a full year as they press Prime Minister Stephen Harper for a judicial inquiry into the fate of detainees captured by Canadian soldiers.

Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh (Vancouver South, B.C.) said the lists of contacts and names on internal emails from diplomat whistleblower Richard Colvin are so extensive there is virtually no end to the number of witnesses the special Commons committee on Afghanistan can call.

"Some of us are determined that we will not stop hearings on this," Mr. Dosanjh said in an interview with The Hill Times. "... This is never going to go away."

That's what I said over a year and a half ago. It's the issue that won't go away. Would this be a good time to thank Peter Tinsley for hanging in there despite all the roadblocks the government put in his way?

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Paging Peter MacKay


Proof of detainee abuse exists, despite MacKay's denials

Sworn testimony by senior Canadian officers and rare uncensored documentary evidence contradict Defence Minister Peter MacKay's repeated assertions that no proof exists of even a single case of a Canadian-transferred detainee abused by Afghan security forces.

In one well-documented case in the summer of 2006, Canadian soldiers captured and handed over a detainee who was so severely beaten by Afghan police that the Canadians intervened and took the detainee back. Canadian medics then treated the man's injuries. The incident is documented in the field notes of Canadian troops, recounted in a sworn affidavit by a senior officer and confirmed in cross-examination by a general.


The incident - and another in which Canadians refused to transfer prisoners threatened with death - suggest Canadian soldiers were well aware of their obligations under the Geneva Convention.

The rescue incident dates from June of 2006, during the period when ministers and senior officers now insist they were completely unaware of repeated warnings of the risks of abuse and torture being filed by diplomat Richard Colvin.

The story includes a link to a pdf of an affidavit if you care to see the primary source.

Since it has now been established that Peter MacKay has been misleading parliament, I trust we'll see him submit his resignation at his earliest opportunity. Right?

H/t to Toedancer at Bread and Roses.

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December 6, 2009

Dec. 6th

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I nicked the image from a post by Judy Rebick. I hope she doesn't mind. You should go read her post.

H/t to Antonia. You should go read her post, too.


And on the advice of skdadl in comments, I went and read the black ewe.

And it would appear that credit for the image goes to JJ.

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December 5, 2009

Liam Clancy farewell


Liam (2 Sept 1935 -- 4 Dec 2009) was the last and youngest of the Clancy brothers, predeceased as well two years ago by his and their partner in folk-musical greatness, Tommy Makem. Liam was a frank-faced, silver-tongued charmer, a natural leader of the group, and friend and inspiration to artists like Bob Dylan who were just coming of age in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

You can watch and listen to a younger Liam performing with his brothers here. This morning I'll play instead a Canadian song Liam helped to popularize in his later solo career. I'm guessing this performance dates from the late 1980s or 1990s, when Liam was still singing, sometimes in partnership with Tommy Makem. I find the sound quality of the YouTube regrettably harsh (so watch your volume), a sad reminder of the subtle beauty of Stan Rogers' own voice, but the character and spirit of Liam Clancy are unmistakable.

Liam Clancy, The Mary Ellen Carter by Stan Rogers

H/t to Croghan at Bread and Roses

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December 4, 2009

Friday night

Some time back I posted a different performance of this song by Doc Watson but YouTube took it down. That gives me an excuse to post this version of Deep River Blues to kick things off.

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Wanker of the day

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December 2, 2009

Now can we have a public inquiry?


Parts of detainee report erased at ambassador's request

Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan asked a diplomat to erase two bluntly worded sections from an April, 2007, report on how Ottawa's delays in notifying the Red Cross of prisoner transfers to Afghan authorities left these detainees vulnerable to abuse.


In one of the sections he was requested to delete, Mr. Colvin remarked on a pattern observed by the Red Cross: that abuse took place almost immediately after prisoners were transferred to the Afghans - timing that meant Canada's tardiness made it very hard for the human-rights monitor to guard against torture.


In another section he was asked by Mr. Lalani to erase, Mr. Colvin reminded Ottawa that it had been warned about 10 months earlier of these dangerous delays in notifying the Red Cross of detainees.

In the deleted text, Mr. Colvin even acknowledged that Ottawa's own internal statistics on notification delays corroborated the Red Cross's estimates.

The story notes that when David Mulroney testified before the parliamentary committee, he denied that Colvin had been "muzzled." But what would you call this? What purpose was served by having Colvin delete those passages? Refusing to acknowledge the problems inherent in the way Canada was reporting on detainees certainly wouldn't be the way to solve those problems.

The more the press digs into this, the more Colvin's testimony is corroborated.

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December 1, 2009

Meanwhile back at the MPCC


Redactions hamper Afghan detainee probe

The Harper government has blacked out large sections of relevant files handed over to the independent inquiry probing allegations of transfer to torture of detainees in Afghanistan, despite the fact that its investigators have the highest levels of national security clearance.

The heavily redacted documents, obtained by The Globe and Mail, underscore the sweeping nature of the government's efforts to keep the documentary record from the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is attempting to conduct an inquiry into allegations that Canada knowingly transferred prisoners to likely torturers in Afghanistan.


In the material delivered to the MPCC, government blackouts render unreadable many of the documents, some drafted by Mr. Colvin. The sweeping redactions were imposed even though everyone who works with or serves on the MPCC must have at least "secret" clearance and all of the senior investigators, as well as the panelists who would conduct the inquiry, have the highest security clearances.

One of Peter MacKay's favourite talking points has been that the government has cooperated fully with the MPCC's investigation and that includes the provision of "thousands of documents." That doesn't mean much if you can't read them. And incidentally, how can this be about national security when everyone involved has the necessary clearances?

I look forward to Christie Blatchford telling the MPCC that they have some explaining to do.

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