June 2010 Archives

June 28, 2010

Victory!

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The leaders of the G20 have endorsed Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's call to make deficit-fighting the highest of priorities. According to CTV's Robert Fife:

This is clearly a very, very major victory for the prime minister...

Paul Krugman sees a victory of sorts in the call for belt-tightening as well:

It is ... the victory of an orthodoxy that has little to do with rational analysis, whose main tenet is that imposing suffering on other people is how you show leadership in tough times.

That pretty much covers it. We just paid north of a billion dollars to burnish Harper's image and to be told that we're going to suffer for the sins of the wealthiest among us.

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Conspicuous by their absence

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Federal opposition leaders silent on police actions at G20 summit in Toronto

But so far, none of the three federal opposition parties with seats in Parliament have breathed a word about this on their Web sites.

Party leaders Michael Ignatieff, Jack Layton, and Gilles Duceppe also haven't sent a single tweet to their followers on what happened in Toronto this weekend. They'll send the most inane messages over Twitter on a regular basis, but when there's an attack on constitutional freedoms, they go strangely silent.

Nor has federal Green leader Elizabeth May sent out a tweet. As a lawyer, she has no excuse for staying silent. Yet there is no comment about police tactics on her party's site.

Well that's peculiar, isn't it?

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June 26, 2010

On being a citizen

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The citizen in this video makes me proud to be a Canadian. He stands his ground not only for himself but also for the Charter and for you and for me.

Early in the video you will hear one officer say -- of Allan Gardens! -- "It's a government building in here." He says that quickly and quietly, and it's the only time in that long encounter that any of the police comes close to admitting to citizens the regulatory "boost" that Dalton McGuinty slyly gave the police almost a month ago, as pogge outlines here and here.

Even before the female sergeant appears, it becomes clear that police have been instructed to treat citizens' defence of their rights as matters of opinion, and that's the sergeant's whole outrageously ignorant argument (although she eventually pretty much admits that the secret rules are just a delaying tactic, and for her the conversation is just a "tennis match").

Harper. Clement. McGuinty. Blair. The cops in this video. They shame us, sometimes to the verge of despair. But then a real citizen turns up in a beautiful city park on a lovely summer's day and shows us how it's done. May I shake your hand, sir, and thank you.

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Thanks for nothing, Dalton

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Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, defending the sweeping powers granted to law enforcement during the G20 summit and the manner in which the regulation was passed:

I just think it's in keeping with the values and standards of Ontarians

There you go. Allowing the police to demand identification from citizens who are just walking on the street, to search people without cause and to arrest people for nothing more than insisting on the rights we're supposed to be guaranteed under the Charter is in keeping with our values. Passing that regulation behind closed doors and doing the absolute minimum necessary to inform the public about it is in keeping with our standards. Should we call it the Jason Kenney defence?

As I said yesterday, McGuinty is demonstrating complete contempt for us and now he's justifying it by insulting us about our values. And incidentally, he and Toronto police chief Bill Blair have given the mayor of Toronto the same treatment. According to this article, David Miller found out about this the same way we did: he read it in the news yesterday.

Has anyone heard any comment from Ignatieff or any other federal Liberal about this?

H/t to Antonia on Twitter.

Update:

From Walkom in the Toronto Star with my emphasis added:

On Friday, Toronto police were stopping and searching people entering Allan Gardens, a public park about three kilometres from the fenced off-zone where the G20 leaders are due to arrive Saturday.
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June 25, 2010

Friday night

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Think anyone at the G8/G20 Summits will drop in to listen to some blues? If they do: I want my money back!

And now, on with our show. The Reverend Gary Davis was an influential blues and ragtime guitarist and I Belong To The Band is one of his tunes. It's performed here by Scrapomatic.


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What Greg said

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Here.

When a police chief can tell elected authorities he wants more power and they give it to him, without public debate, I would say that is the very definition of a police state.

Pretty much. Dalton McGuinty has managed to demonstrate complete contempt for the people he governs and for the rights we're supposed to have. I'll be happy to return the favour the next time we have an election in this province.

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June 24, 2010

Zombie lies

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With a big tip of the hat to Impolitical...

How often have you heard the line that Canada's banks, unlike those in so many other countries, didn't require help from the taxpayer during the recent financial unpleasantness? Stephen Harper has been rather fond of touting that story, as if the glory of our well-run banking sector reflects primarily on the so-called economist who was still insisting there would be no recession in Canada even after it had already begun. (He also committed in no uncertain terms that his government would never run a deficit. How's that working out? But I digress.)

The Canadian Bankers Association certainly appreciates all that good press the prime minister has been giving them and is only too happy to run with his version of events:

"Unlike banks in other countries, Canada's banks have not experienced financial difficulties and did not need taxpayer-funded government bailouts," said the bankers' group.

"That's because our banks have been prudent and well-managed and we have a balanced approach to regulation in this country.

"Those who are in favour of a tax on financial transactions see this as a way to recoup the costs of bank bailouts in other countries and curb speculative behaviour. It doesn't seem fair to make the customers and shareholders of financial institutions throughout the world fund the bailouts of a handful of financial institutions."

This is a variation on Harper's theme: that including Canadian banks in any transaction tax would be to punish them for something they didn't do.

But the difference between Canada and other jurisdictions isn't that our banks didn't need any help; it's that our government was able to deal with the crisis in ways that didn't grab the headlines. And the media has mostly been happy to oblige.


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June 23, 2010

Memories of Rick Hillier

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As we hang out and read around, waiting to hear of how Obama proposes to dispose of his (and our) troublesome NATO ISAF commander, we run into some pithy observations about how far removed sheer swagger is from the Right Stuff, in military operations and in foreign policy both:

"Commanders who indulge in sloppy, tough guy, cowboy lingo -- 'smack-down, scumbags,' etc. -- tend to run sloppy, tough guy, cowboy operations,'' said an experienced combat commander. "Units, and especially staffs, tend to adopt the language and demeanor of their commander ... Applause lines in the testosterone-driven subculture of combat units are not likely to play well on CNN.''

Me, I don't care how it plays on CNN. I care that a CDS set that tone for troops in a theatre where the disregard for, if not the actual commission of war crimes on a casual basis seems to have become SOP. And worse, that he was never disciplined by a succession of Defence and DFAIT ministers or their prime ministers, at least some of whom seem to have enjoyed puffing up their own faux-macho egos on "sloppy tough-guy cowboy" military culture.

H/t to Toedancer at Bread and Roses

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June 22, 2010

Real generals fall on their swords

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If Stanley McChrystal (pdf) were a good Roman, he would have fallen on his sword by now. Mind you, he would have done that because he'd know what the summons back to Rome meant and what was about to happen to him if he didn't do the honourable thing.

I guess McChrystal isn't exactly expecting anything that drastic, since he is headed for Washington, for a chat with SecDef Gates first and then a more sternly worded chat with the C-in-C. Don't ask me: I haven't the faintest idea where this is going or what Obama will do, although I know how he'll look whichever way he jumps.

If you've read Michael Hastings' article for Rolling Stone you are already suspecting that McChrystal is a psychologically, ah, interesting sort of fellow (I'm trying not to be defamatory here), and if you've read the full Esquire files on McChrystal's history with JSOC in Iraq, you know that he is a war criminal (I don't mind being defamatory on those grounds).

Stephen Harper and his cabinet and the brass of the Canadian forces seem to have been happy to have this man as the overall commander of NATO ISAF troops -- which includes our troops -- for the last year (plus a week or so). Me, I'd say that's been a year (plus a week or so) too long. I guess we're not independent enough, though, to support our troops by demanding that Steve pick up a phone and tell Obama that we're not playing for his team of war criminals any longer.

It's not as though McChrystal's history has been a secret for quite some time.

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June 21, 2010

It is not often that I agree with Stockwell Day about just about anything. He's sure right about the G20 leaders, though, and the paranoid xenophobes in Ottawa who have turned a modestly civilized city into a nightmarish armed fortress.

Thanks to Antonia and her many clever Facebook friends.

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June 20, 2010

Unscheduled musical interlude

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June 18, 2010

Friday night Louis Jordan blogging

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His name may not be quite as familiar as Count Basie's or Duke Ellington's but even if you don't recognize it, I'll bet you'll recognize some of the tunes. This first one is not a chewing gum commerical. This is the original by Louis Jordan.


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June 16, 2010

This is where we juxtapose

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Update: As skdadl just pointed out in comments, the CTV story at the first link below bears little relation to the story I linked to. As of this writing, it's reporting that the Conservatives have agreed to "split off" a portion of C-23 that's sufficient to block any possibility of Homolka receiving a pardon. Mysteriously, there's no longer any mention that "CTV News learned" she might actually apply for one. What's that odd smell? The original post follows....

The CTV story includes this headline: MPs look for ways to derail Homolka pardon bid

So we've established that Karla Homolka is going to apply for a pardon, have we?

CTV News learned on Tuesday that she might apply for the pardon.

If you read the rest of the story looking for a source for that claim, you won't find one. Is it a different class of journalistic offence than anonymous sourcing if the story doesn't even bother to say that there's an anonymous source? Or are they just variations on a theme?

There is a government bill — C-23 — that would block Homolka's pardon if she does actually intend to apply but, according to CTV's news staff:

The bill is currently in the committee stage.

The NDP and Bloc Quebecois have stalled the legislation which was introduced in May.

Since May was just a bit more than two weeks ago and it normally requires 2 readings in the Commons before a bill even gets to committee, I'm not clear on what NDP and BQ MPs have been doing to stall this, unless by stalling they mean, you know, studying impending legislation and asking questions which I thought they were supposed to do.

On the flip, we'll look at the way the Winnipeg Free Press reports the same story.


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In support of Libby Davies

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Updated below.

You may have heard that a YouTube video of an interview with Libby Davies has gotten quite a bit of attention in the last 24 hours or so. The CBC has the story leading off with Harper's call for her resignation and giving prominence to Bob Rae joining the hunt. I don't see Tom Mulcair's name mentioned in that story but as Murray Dobbin writes, Mulcair was one of the first to jump on this and to spin Davies' comments into something other than she intended to say. Dobbin also provides a little context on the word "occupation:"

It is part of the unquestioned history of Israel that during the time leading up to its formal establishment by UN resolution 181 there was a massive, forced expulsion of 750,000 Palestinian Arabs from the land designated for the Jewish state. The resolution explicitly banned any such expulsion. The Arab population of that land had equal rights to it.

So when did the occupation begin? Certainly the Arab families who were forced from their homes, farms and villages by Israeli terrorist groups like the Irgun believe their land was occupied. They still do. That is the basis for their demand of the Right of Return.

In any case Libby's point in the interview was the correct one: whenever you date the occupation one thing is clear. It is a grotesque violation of international law, human rights and numerous UN resolutions which Israel, with the carte blanche support of the US and Canada, contemptuously ignores.

Tom Mulcair should be ashamed of himself. And I'd say the same for Bob Rae but there's no point. Davies has more courage than the two of them combined. I hope Jack Layton reads Dobbin's piece very closely.

I just wanted to join with the bloggers at Rusty Idols, Troy's Journal and Judy Rebick blogging at rabble.ca in support of one of the few MPs we have who has been brave enough to really stick her neck out on this issue.

Update:

I hadn't seen Alison's post when I wrote this but you can add her to the list. And you can drop by her house if you want to see the video that started it all.

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June 14, 2010

Wanker of the day

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Martha Hall Findlay.

It's bad enough that the Liberals flip-flopped on their agreement to demand an independent assessment of Colombia's human rights record before moving ahead with a trade agreement with that country. It's even worse that they combined with the Conservatives to block inconvenient testimony before the committee that was considering the legislation. But to stand in the House of Commons and whine for approval from the Conservatives after selling out to them? Pathetic.

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June 11, 2010

Friday night

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I've got a lot of slide guitar for you this evening, though the stringed instrument on this first one isn't technically a guitar; it's an electric dobro. This is Keb' Mo' and his drummer performing Am I Wrong.


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June 10, 2010

What to say to the telemarketers

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Why would I pay for the Sun when I can go to the Conservative Party's website and get the talking points for free?

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June 8, 2010

As Greg reminded us yesterday, there's still no sign of that special committee of MPs settling down to review all those unredacted documents concerning the treatment of Afghan detainees. It's now just over a week since we were supposed to see that memorandum that would spell out the specifics of the "agreement in principle" and there's no memorandum in sight. Meanwhile, back at the Military Police Complaints Commission:

The federal government has asked a court to quash a summons from the Military Police Complaints Commission to Maj. Denis Gagnon, an officer who testified that key documents about Canadian transfers of Afghan detainees are in a sea shipping container in Kandahar and could take years to retrieve.

Lawyer Paul Champ on Tuesday described the move as another attempt to "obstruct" the commission's examination of a complaint by Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association that Canadian military police knew or had the means of knowing that detainees transferred to Afghan custody faced a substantial risk of torture and failed to investigate transfer orders by senior officers. Mr. Champ represents the two human rights groups.

Do you get the impression the government is any more inclined to cooperate on this file than it was before? 'Cos I sure don't. More than ever I'm convinced there's something in those documents the government really doesn't want us to know.

I have to hope that the court tells the feds to get stuffed and allows that summons to stand because I'm pretty sure that parliament is going to dissolve later this month with no progress made on that agreement in principle. I think the Conservatives will successfully run out the clock and that the opposition will let them. The MPCC may be the only way that any light gets shed on this.

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Wanker of the day

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Conservative MP Jim Abbott.

Count me among those who think that Abbott knows perfectly well he's full of it and doesn't care.

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June 7, 2010

Just wondering

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How many Canadians are actually going to stand up and cheer because Stephen Harper helped to preserve bank profits and in the process helped block a measure intended to hedge against a future financial crisis? Do we all really side with the bankers?

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Winning hearts and minds

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US missile 'used in Yemen raid'

American missiles were used in a raid against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen in which women and children died in December, rights group Amnesty International says.

Amnesty has released images taken after the raid that it says show remnants of a US-made Tomahawk cruise missile.

Cluster bombs were also apparently used in the attack, which Amnesty described as "grossly irresponsible".

I wonder how many more terrorists that attack created.

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June 6, 2010

Iggy speaks unequivocally!

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And says something I agree with. This is a momentous occasion.

Michael Ignatieff says coalition governments are "perfectly legitimate" and he'd be prepared to lead one if that's the hand Canadian voters deal him in the next election.

But the Liberal leader says it would be disrespectful to voters and damaging to his party to try to strike any deals with the NDP before voters have spoken.

...

"Co-operation between parties to produce political and electoral stability is not illegitimate. It's never been illegitimate, it's part of our system," he said, noting that coalitions have been formed in parliamentary democracies around the globe.

"But the right way to do it is to run your flag up, (opposing parties) run their flag up, you fight like crazy, you put your choices clearly to the Canadian people, they make their choices and then you play the cards that voters deal you."

Over the last week or so there are some who seem intent on making this more complicated than that. It's really not. And if the Liberals did merge with the NDP, I suspect it would be a matter of weeks before the announcement of the formation of a new party on the left.

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June 5, 2010

G8 to avoid thorny abortion, climate issues

A leaked draft of the final communiqué for the upcoming G8 summit suggests Canada has dodged a bullet on the thorny issues of abortion and climate change.

We're still three weeks away from the summit and they're already in a position to draft the final communiqué and leak it? Doesn't that suggest that the outcome of this shindig is pretty much a foregone conclusion? Apparently we're paying a billion dollars for a theatre performance.

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June 4, 2010

Friday night

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Personally I was born and raised in the east end. I just thought I'd mention that by way of introducing Blues for the West Side by Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters.


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Cubans, cynicism and corruption

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To recap a bit, the "Cuban five" are a group of Cubans who came to Florida to investigate terrorist conspiracies on the part of anti-Castro members of the ex-Cuban community there. They uncovered some pretty serious evidence. They gave it to the Cuban government, who in turn handed it over to the FBI; apparently there was some hope that the US might, you know, enforce the law even if it meant stopping terrorist attacks on Cuba. As you all might suspect, this hope was vain. Instead, the US authorities declared the investigators to be terrorists, tried them in Florida while the local media whipped up a frenzy against them (despite defense arguments that to get a fair trial they should be tried elsewhere), and stuck them in jail for many years. This is all fairly well known.
What's new is that it seems some of the chorus of media was quietly paid for by the government.

Others, however, claim it's just coincidence that the same journalists who were paid $1,125 to $58,600 to appear on anti-Castro programs produced by the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting before and during the trial for the Cuban Five also published scandalous articles about the Five in an influential Spanish language newspaper owned by the Miami Herald and in other local media.
The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five, during a recent press conference in Washington, released documents listing both the amounts of federal funds paid to the journalists and the articles they published.

So. The US government has not only had five people put away for crimes they didn't commit, the better to avoid investigating the crimes these people reported and make sure they didn't dig up anything else embarrassing. They also bought black propaganda to use on their own public, the better to stack the trial. I can't believe there are still things that can shock me about the US authorities. I mean, I'm not sure if you'd call this injustice, or corruption, or destruction of the rule of law, or destruction of democracy, or aiding terrorism, or all those things and many, many more. But it's not pretty whatever you call it.

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On perspective

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I continue to be disgusted at the idea that someone who openly displays contempt for parliament and works to undermine its authority can be named parliamentarian of the year. But I wonder if I should take some small comfort from the fact that the United States has an ex-president who openly admits to being responsible for torture and not only doesn't fear prosecution but earns six figure speaking fees for talking about it.

Okay, I've wondered long enough. The answer is no.

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June 3, 2010

Updated on the turn.

New Israeli Tack Needed on Gaza, U.S. Officials Say

The Obama administration considers Israel's blockade of Gaza to be untenable and plans to press for another approach to ensure Israel's security while allowing more supplies into the impoverished Palestinian area, senior American officials said Wednesday.

The officials say that Israel's deadly attack on a flotilla trying to break the siege and the resulting international condemnation create a new opportunity to push for increased engagement with the Palestinian Authority and a less harsh policy toward Gaza.

The officials in question are anonymous but that's normal. While Obama's election campaign was notable for extremely tight information control, his administration has been notable for frequent leaks as trial balloons. (And the New York Times has been notable for completely ignoring its own guidelines on the use of anonymous sources.) So I would take this as an indication that the almost universal condemnation of Israel's raid on the flotilla has actually penetrated someone's consciousness.

Obama's previous efforts to take a firmer position with Israel have fizzled out. But between the current public outcry and the recent acknowledgement that uncritical support for Israel could endanger American lives and damage American interests, perhaps the administration is seriously considering a renewed effort at applying some pressure on the Netanyahu government. There's even an acknowldgement by those unnamed officials that the blockade has actually strengthened the position of Hamas rather than weakening it.

Meanwhile it will be interesting to watch for any hint of movement in our own government's position.


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June 2, 2010

According to this. And my own reaction is liable to be shorter than others you'll read.

If John Baird qualifies as parliamentarian of the year then the rot in both politics and the media runs even deeper than I thought. And that's saying quite a bit.

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Apparently there are now photos that prove that the activists on board the Mavi Marmara really were carrying weapons. At least, that's what you may hear since the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted some images on its Flickr page. But it seems someone overlooked the fact that a digital image file often contains information on when the photo was actually taken. If you're interested, you can head over to this blog to discover that some of the photos are as much as seven years old.

But we can totally trust the government of Israel to do a fair and honest investigation of this incident.

H/t to Steve Hynd.

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I guess they didn't STFU

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Critics cite 'punishment' in Conservative aid funding

The Harper government is brushing aside accusations it's playing politics by withholding cash to the major umbrella group of Canadian aid agencies.

The Canadian Council for International Co-operation said it would lay off staff and put its offices in downtown Ottawa up for sale because it has had no response from the government since delivering its latest funding proposal last fall.

This is an organization that we've been funding since the sixties. This is over forty years of institutional knowledge that goes down the drain if this organization has to fold. That's not a very conservative approach. And this is probably the key part of the story:

The CCIC was a vocal critic of the Conservatives' decision to cut funding last year to the Christian aid organization KAIROS, and has continually said the pursuit of a free-trade deal with Colombia has given short shrift to human-rights issues.

Then I suppose they deserved to have their funding cut. I guess Nancy Ruth should have warned us all sooner and made her message more general.

H/t to Andrew Jackson at The Progressive Economics Forum who got me looking for links.

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Why am I not surprised?

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Canada backs U.S. opposition to UN-led flotilla inquiry

Canada is backing the U.S. position that Israel can lead the investigation into the bloody raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement, watered down by U.S. objections, that calls for a credible, impartial investigation into the incident. But the Obama administration said later the investigation should be led by Israel.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper dodged questions in the Commons on whether he supports the Security Council resolution, but a senior government official said in diplomatic circles, Canada is backing the idea Israel should lead the investigation

Hey, we let the RCMP investigate itself. And that works out so well for us, right?

Update:

I note that even today media stories about the incident continue to report "up to 9" deaths or "as many as" 19 deaths. In fact, there is still no definitive count of dead and wounded from the incident. That's because that information is in the possession of the Israelis and they still refuse to release it. Those would be the same Israelis who can be counted on to provide a full, transparent investigation into their own actions.

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Is this trick in Jay Hill's manual?

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Or is Pierre Poilievre now making it up as he goes along? This is from an article about the testimony of a senior bureaucrat before a parliamentary committee:

Under questioning by opposition MPs, Makichuk acknowledged that committee member Pierre Poilievre, a Tory MP, had earlier in the day supplied him with a list of questions to be expected from government members.

Prepping the witness? Why do I think that if an opposition MP did this, it would be a headline-generating scandal instead of being mentioned in passing in the seventh paragraph?

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June 1, 2010

Here we go again

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Irish aid vessel still sailing for Gaza, 'most serious consequences' promised if passengers harmed

Irish humanitarian aid ship the MV Rachel Corrie is still sailing for Gaza, in spite of Israel's recent, devastating attack on other vessels in the Gaza aid flotilla, resulting in at least nine dead activists and hundreds of prisoners.

The ship, named after 23-year-old U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie -- who was crushed to death in 2003 by an American-built bulldozer operated by the Israeli army -- has been pleading with the international community to pressure Israel into leaving them alone.

The Irish government, for its part, has threatened Israel with "the most serious consequences" if any Irish national, captured or currently aborad an aid vessel, is harmed.

The ship is scheduled to arrive in Gaza tomorrow and the Irish government has formally requested that the Israelis allow it to pass unimpeded. I'm not even going to try and predict what will happen. As far as I know, the Turks are still threatening to send one or more aid vessels with a naval escort so things are still extremely tense.

The story also reports that additional eye witnesses have contradicted the Israeli account of the boarding of the Mavi Marmara, claiming that the ship was taking fire of some kind and there were casualties among the passengers before the Israelis even began boarding.

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I've read a few pieces this morning that attempt to bolster Israel's claim that its marines were acting in self-defence when they killed passengers on the lead ship in the Freedom Flotilla. The problem is that those attempts rely on parroting the reports from the spokespeople for the Israeli military and government. And of course those spokespeople have been free to recite their stories without fear of contradiction because most of the passengers on those ships remain incommunicado in Israeli custody. But as those passengers are slowly released, contradictory testimony begins to surface.

Eyewitness accounts from ships raided by Israeli commandos have cast doubt on Israel's version of events that led to the deaths of at least 10 people.

German pro-Palestinian activist Norman Paech said he had only seen wooden sticks being brandished as troops abseiled on to the deck of the ship.

No metal clubs? No switchblades?


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