July 2010 Archives

July 31, 2010

STFU

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Feds deny funds for Middle East conference

The Conservative government ignored the advice of its bureaucrats and denied funding for a conference on the Middle East planned by a human-rights group, internal documents show.

The conference, called Global Crises and Local Challenges, was organized by Alternatives and planned to focus on environmental degradation, global economic crises and conflicts in the Middle East.

...

Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show bureaucrats from the Canadian International Development Agency recommended the agency fund at least part of a $50,000 request from Alternatives because the conference matched agency priorities.

Despite the evaluation and positive response last September, the government nixed the funding and Alternatives did not receive an official response until six months after the event.

Emphasis added because that seems to be part of the pattern.


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July 30, 2010

Friday night

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Let's start off with an instrumental from Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters called Chili Ba Hugh. No, I have no idea.


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Even the lawyers

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Lawyers want return of mandatory long-form census

In a letter to Industry Minister Tony Clement, the Canadian Bar Association calls for the return of the mandatory long-form census, saying lawyers and judges use the information to help determine how much injured clients should claim in court.

And then they, perhaps unwittingly, explain why Harper wants to weaken the integrity of the census data in the first place.

The association says the ditching of the mandatory form will especially hurt women, children, the disabled and others without a regular work history.
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July 29, 2010

QOTD

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How many op-eds have you read so far that have responded to the leak of the "War Logs" documents with what amounts to "nothing to see here, move along"? This is from a piece called Bubble Boys by Joel Meares at the Columbia Journalism Review:

...in rushing to declare what the war logs are not, many in the media have been quick to pass over what they are. Or, at the very least, what they might be: If not something "new," "shocking," and Pentagon Paper-esque, certainly a trove of material to add texture, detail, and anecdote--in other words, reporting--to a war that, despite the good work of some brave and diligent correspondents, has gone largely underreported in recent years. To assume, as many commentators have, that the average reader is so well-versed in the Afghan war that nothing in the reports is revelatory, is perilous--and betrays the insider mentality that journalism too often suffers from. To assume further that they would not benefit from the extra information the reports provide--and the outlets to which the documents were leaked provided in synthesized form--seems to argue against the very idea of journalism.

H/t to Steve Hynd at Newshoggers.

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This is from a Globe and Mail article concerning a recent change that Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made to the immigration process:

David Matas, an immigration lawyer in Winnipeg, said what disturbs him about the change is the way it was enacted. Section 79 of the regulations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act states that skilled worker applicants may choose to submit to a language test or provide written evidence of their proficiency. Last month, Mr. Kenney issued a ministerial instruction, effective immediately, that said only applicants who write a test will be considered.

"What he's doing is taking a power over processing and using it, in effect, to amend the law," Mr. Matas said. "Frankly [it] gives me a good deal of concern and isn't just about language testing or immigration. It's the sort of power that, if accepted, would wreak havoc with all our laws."

He went so far as to call it an abuse of the system.

There's nothing new in this. All along the Conservatives have been taking every opportunity to make changes by regulation instead of by legislation . And when they've resorted to legislation, they've crafted it to provide ministers with as much discretion as possible so that they can act in future without any oversight whether the subject in question is immigration or environmental assessments. This contempt for the electorate, for democracy and for the institutions of government outside of the PMO and cabinet — including existing legislation and the courts — has been on display for four and a half years.

H/t to Antonia on Twitter.

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Today in WTF? moments

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The CBC put a story up last night informing us that senior RCMP officers and Commissioner William Elliott are working through their "issues." This follows reports that those same officers had taken the unprecedented step of making public complaints about Elliott's managment style. Towards the end of the article you'll find this revelation (and it certainly came as a revelation to me):

Last year, Elliott attended a $44,000 course in Arizona that dealt with behavioural barriers to success.

He subsequently acknowledged to employees in a memo that he learned his actions "can and did have unintended, sometimes negative impacts."

Excuse me? We paid $44,000 to have someone explain to the man that he can be a jerk and a year later he's still such a jerk that his subordinates' complaints are making headlines? Hell, I would have been happy to explain to him what a dick he is for half that.

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July 27, 2010

Still wondering what they're hiding

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One of the Guardian series of stories based on the "War Logs" documents released by Wikileaks this past Sunday concerned a secretive unit of special forces known as Task Force 373. The NATO coalition has been using this unit to "to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial" from a list of targets known as Jpel. The Guardian identifies the unit's members as American troops drawn from the 7th Special Forces Group but it also suggests that there might be similar units from allied countries.

... the leaked war logs reveal details of deadly missions by TF 373 and other units hunting down Jpel targets that were previously hidden behind a screen of misinformation. They raise fundamental questions about the legality of the killings and of the long-term imprisonment without trial, and also pragmatically about the impact of a tactic which is inherently likely to kill, injure and alienate the innocent bystanders whose support the coalition craves.

What follows that paragraph is a description of a number of missions gone badly wrong. As with many of the other reports, we get descriptions of civilian deaths covered up by misleading press reports and misinformation. As you would expect when the source documents themselves are of American origin, the stories centre on actions involving the American unit.


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Today in Too Stupid To Live

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Bump!

Movable Type currently isn't allowing anyone to sign in to comment. Nor is it allowing anonymous comments. Will investigate after coffee.

Update:

Comment sign-in is working again. I can haz mor coffee now?

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You had to say coffee, didn't you

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Lindsay Stewart does this to me too.

The internets. We all know what they lead to. Coffee.

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July 26, 2010

Wanker of the day

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July 25, 2010

QOTD

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Dan Gardner in the Ottawa Citizen:

If governments talk about drugs, journalists talk about drugs; if they don't, we don't. And since governments are full of people whose budgets, salaries, and careers depend on the status quo, they talk about drugs when doing so is good for the status quo, but they are silent as mimes when it's not. Thus the media become the unwitting propaganda arm of the status quo.

I'm not sure what it will take to change this. It would certainly help if the media would stop letting governments decide what is news and what is not. Even better would be leaders with the courage to put evidence ahead of cheap politics, entrenched thinking, and vested interests.

But that's not happening. And so, on Monday, the government of Canada felt free to categorically reject the Vienna Declaration because it is "inconsistent" with its policies -- policies which have never been subjected to evidence-based evaluation and would surely be condemned if they were.

This is how failure lives on.

Of course the Canadian government rejects the Vienna Declaration. The purpose of the declaration and the people who support it is the improvement of "community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies." As is becoming increasingly clear, this government simply doesn't do scientific evidence because it would get in the way of the partisan politics.

You can read the text of the declaration at this link. And there's a link you can follow to endorse it.

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July 24, 2010

Staying the course on the census

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Updated below.

If I wasn't already certain that the Conservatives intend to dig their heels in on the census, this would convince me.

In an interview with QMI Agency Friday, Clement said he couldn't say anything about the advice of Statistics Canada staff because advice to cabinet ministers is considered secret.

Nonsense. The people at StatsCan can't reveal what they told the minister but as Munir Sheikh pointed out in his letter of resignation, the government can decide at any time to share that information with us. It suits Clement's purposes to suggest otherwise because it leaves him free to speak without fear of contradiction.

But when asked about Statistics Canada opposition to the voluntary survey, Clement was terse.

"That is not what they said to me."

Sheikh gave us enough in his letter to be sure that Clement is lying here. And the lies are obvious but Clement doesn't care. The Conservatives are quite capable of chanting obvious lies while ignoring the fact that everyone knows that's what they're doing. I believe they call it "staying the course" and it's often accompanied by smarmy innuendo — at best — about whoever is disagreeing with them. That's on display here too. They're not going to change their minds on this.

H/t to Greg.

Editing to add... I don't mean to suggest that people who oppose the government's decision should give up. By all means, keep the pressure on. Harper is at his worst when he ad libs or responds to unexpected events and especially when he loses his temper. I don't believe they anticipated the depth or breadth of opposition they've seen on this and the more it's sustained, the more likely that Harper, in particular, will make a mistake that will cost him. Besides, lately I think the opposition to Harper is getting wider, stronger and better organized with each outrage. As I said, keep the pressure on. It couldn't hurt.

Later that same day:

The Jurist read the same Sun article and came to the opposite conclusion: he thinks Clement is laying the groundwork for a tactical retreat. Here's the comment I left there:

It would be better for the country in the long run if the Cons back down and the census is done as it should be. And I don't think this issue by itself is any kind of tipping point that makes all the difference between Harper's victory or defeat in the next election. So I actually hope you're right. But I don't think so. Time will tell.
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July 23, 2010

Friday night

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Help Me was written by Willie Dixon and was originally associated with Sonny Boy Willamson. This is Little G Weevil.


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July 22, 2010

There's a lot of that going around

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When I first saw the headline on this post — "Radical Conservatives Make Sure Government Isn't the Solution" — I wondered briefly if the folks at Firedoglake were actually paying attention to the census uproar here in Canada. It quickly became apparent that wasn't the case, but the overall conclusion the blogger has arrived at seems applicable to recent events here.

What dominates conservative action is not a belief in the inherent inferiority of government but a radical, nihilistic desire to throw sand into the gears to assure it is inferior.

He's writing about things like senate filibusters and the recent brouhaha surrounding former (and soon to be once again?) USDA employee Shirley Sherrod but it certainly rings true for Canadians as well when he writes:

...this is collective action to stop the government from working, and an attempt to drive competent individuals out of civil service.

I've seen alternative explanations for this government's insistence on crippling Statistics Canada but I would suggest that this is the fundamental motivation. This is what Conservatives have been attempting to do since they first wrote the infamous manual on sabotaging Commons committees: "throw sand into the gears."

Harper and his crew take their inspiration from American movement conservatives and Harper himself made that clear long before he became prime minister. If you wonder why they're sticking together despite reports that Clement and Flaherty privately questioned Harper's decision to make the census long form voluntary, it's because they may occasionally disagree on tactics but they do agree on the overall goal. And while it's fair to look forward to the day Harper moves on, don't lull yourself into thinking that will be the end of it. This is a movement that crosses borders. Its members have been organizing and building out their infrastructure for forty years. They own "think tanks" and media outlets, they regularly share ideas on how to further their agenda, and they have money to burn. If you want to defeat them, it'll be a long haul.

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July 21, 2010

QOTD

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Boris at The Galloping Beaver, who has also been a must-read recently on the F-35, reacts to this bit of political theatre by Peter MacKay and Laurie Hawn:

McKay and Hawn have inserted themselves where no politician has any place being.

It's not only a baseless, shameless exercise in self-serving political theatre, it also blurs the line between partisan politics and the armed forces which absolutely must, in a democracy like ours, remain as clear defined as possible. It violates an institutional boundary on par with church and state, and represents a clear and overt co-opting of the armed forces for partisan political alignment. The Canadian Forces are not the Conservative Forces and are duty bound to serve any government we elect. McKay is not a military governor occupying a colonial possession, he is not First Sea Lord Churchill, nor is he a political leader in a militarised state. However, politicians with martial fetishes tend to try to create them.

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July 20, 2010

"Like most Canadians, I am indifferent to the visit of the Queen." Thus pretty much ended the Canadian television career of Joyce Davidson, an otherwise admirable presence on CBC's early public affairs program Tabloid in 1959.

Even at the time, I thought that Davidson's misstep had more to do with her presumption that she knew what "most Canadians" thought or felt about almost anything than it did with enthusiasm for the queen, and Gallup poll numbers seem to confirm that reading. (She had also generalized about what Canadians think in front of an American audience, which just made things worse, although it led to a successful career in U.S. television for her.) If there's one generalization about Canadians that I feel safe in making, it is that Canadians hate being generalized about, hate elites who presume to read their thoughts without asking, to put words in their mouths, to define their "values" for them, to claim they just know that Canadians do or don't care about particular issues. You can see where I'm going with this.

Harper had his major Joyce Davidson moment at New Year's, when he smugly opined that Canadians don't care about the Afghan prisoner-transfer scandal, thus provoking the formation of CAPP. The bullying language of "shared values" is never far from the lips of any minister who is unmuzzled for an approved purpose and runs into a little resistance. And now we have the sheer farce of Tony Clement and Maxime Bernier falling back on a few choruses of "The lurkers all love me" in their increasingly pathetic attempts to argue that Canadians not only don't care about the long-form census but actively hate it. (They might have tried appeals to "the silent majority," but Dalton McGuinty has the corner on that one for the moment. Whose idea was it, btw, to send Bernier out to talk about the place of the state in the bedrooms of the nation? Bernier, a man who left state documents in a bedroom?)

So what do Canadians do when the presumptions of the popinjays in Ottawa provoke them to proving once again that we can be a pretty uppity bunch? Well, we write songs, of course. As Tom Lehrer once sort of sang, "They may be winning the battles, but we've got all the good songs." And such a summer of song it has been. Jennifer Smith and friends' ode to Harper's fake lake, "If I had a billion dollars," Alison's musical tribute to the wired little kettling copper bears of the G20 (video still in development, Alison? I know a blogging guitar man ... or should that be a guitar-playing blogging man?). If citizens on the march (or even just passing through) learned to sing that old standby "Oh Canada" with one eye to the nearest exit, there were also those serendipitous moments on the street when they suddenly got rhythm (that one comes with a lap dance).

So this newest addition to the summer song canon should come as no surprise, if a happy and fitting response to the tin-eared tyrants in Ottawa. After all, who but Canadians (ok: some Canadians -- no overgeneralizing offence meant) would think to spend their summer singing the praises of the long-form census? I may even have a little something about the collection of vital statistics in nineteenth-century Ontario up my sleeve after this. I promise: you'll be able to dance to it.

Here are John Campey and the Data Hounds with the census song, "Count Me In."



H/t Chrystal Ocean at Challenging the Commonplace for the vid and April Reign for the lurkers.

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Erin Weir informed us just a few days ago that Canadian corporations have money they're not spending.

Corporate Canada is hoarding cash. The Canadian-dollar deposits of private non-financial corporations shrank during the first two quarters of the financial crisis, but then grew during the next four quarters, reaching an all-time record high in the first quarter of this year.

...

Four months ago, I suggested that low capacity utilization explains sluggish investment. If corporations already have a lot of idle capacity, why invest in adding more capacity?

That makes perfect sense. Employment is the lagging indicator in a recovery from recession. And even the recent report that showed a significant increase in the number of jobs still showed that most of the increase was in lower paying jobs and there was actually a decrease in the hours worked. Under these circumstances, demand is still lagging. Why should corporations invest their cash to meet demand that isn't there?

So what does the Ontario government propose to do about this? Harmonize sales taxes and continue with planned corporate tax cuts, both of which will put more cash in the bank accounts of corporations that aren't spending it. And freeze wages. In other words, at a time when we really need to increase demand to support a nascent recovery, the province wants to take steps that can only reduce it.

But of course it's absolutely essential that we punish the average Ontario resident, and especially the public service, for a crisis brought on by greedy investment bankers. Makes perfect sense.

H/t to The Jurist for the Globe and Mail link.

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July 19, 2010

Can we throw them out yet?

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Just a few days ago, Environment Minister Jim Prentice was in the news reacting angrily to an ad campaign that's critical of the tar sands development. Says Prentice:

"All Canadians really have an obligation to speak up about this and point out that we are an environmentally responsible producer of the resource."

This Canadian thinks that Prentice may be the biggest liar in a government full of liars.

H/t to Kevin Grandia.

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I look forward to public statements from Maxime Bernier and Dimitri Soudas criticizing the invasion of our privacy inherent in this:

Bill C-42 amends Canada's Aeronautics Act to allow airlines to communicate passenger information to "a foreign state" for flights over that country without landing.

...

If Bill C-42 passes, passengers leaving Montreal on a flight to Cuba or France, for example, while flying over the U.S., would have their name, birthdate and gender subject to screening by U.S. Homeland Security, which involves running that information through various government databases to determine whether there is a terrorist threat.

Surely providing the personal information of Canadians to a foreign government is a violation of the privacy of that silent majority that Bernier and Soudas are now rushing to defend. I'm certain we can expect them to suggest that the government needs to rethink this intrusive legislation. Yes sir, we can count on them. Any minute now.

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I began using variations on that title last August.

Canada expected to follow U.S. in economic slowdown

The mighty U.S. economy is slowing again, and with it Canada's chances of escaping the global downdraft.

A sudden plunge Friday in a closely watched index of consumer confidence is the latest clue the recovery has stalled in the U.S., Canada's neighbour and largest trading partner.

Economists warn that Canadian businesses and investors should brace for the inevitable spillover as the U.S. grapples with a slowing economy and a growing fiscal hangover from years of excess.

The stimulus in the U.S. wasn't big enough. Nor was much of it well-designed by the time Obama compromised it in an effort to placate Republicans who still didn't support it and were never going to. Unemployment south of the border remains at nearly 10% so for many Americans the recession has never ended.

As for the stimulus here in Canada, it was driven by political considerations and as a result its effects were spotty and shallow. We may be about to see the second dip in a double dip recession. If so, an austerity program will be exactly the wrong thing to do. That won't necessarily stop Harper from doing it, though.

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July 17, 2010

You might consider dropping by the website of the U.S. Census Bureau to see how much information the government of that country — that bastion of free markets — makes available to people at no charge. I think the page on Data Access Tools is particularly interesting. The internet access may be a recent development but the U.S. government has long made information available for free that StatsCan charges for. And why not? The taxpayer pays to have it gathered and analyzed. Why shouldn't the taxpayer have access to it?

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July 16, 2010

Friday night

Please do not adjust your set — all of tonight's clips are in black and white. This is Hound Dog Taylor with Little Walter on harp performing Wild About You Baby.


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Simple Answers to Simple Questions

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Yes.

This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions. I indicated yesterday that I didn't think Tony Clement was quite as stupid as he's allowing himself to appear. But I do think he's every bit as dishonest as he appears.

Later that same evening...

Did someone say something?

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July 15, 2010

Just wondering

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As reported yesterday and today, the Toronto Police Service has announced its intention to share the video and still images captured during the demonstrations on the G20 weekend with the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) in an effort to identify individuals guilty of vandalism. This raises a number of interesting issues, some of them outlined in this Globe and Mail article.

But I have a fairly basic question I haven't seen addressed. This is from the website of the CBA.

The Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) works on behalf of 50 domestic banks, foreign bank subsidiaries and foreign bank branches operating in Canada and their 260,000 employees. The CBA advocates for effective public policies that contribute to a sound, successful banking system that benefits Canadians and Canada's economy. The Association also promotes financial literacy to help Canadians make informed financial decisions.

Is anyone else curious about why a lobby group with that kind of mandate has developed facial recognition software that is obviously more powerful than anything law enforcement would otherwise have access to?

Almost immediate update:

A little further investigation — you should pardon the pun — on the CBA's website leads me to the page about the Bank Crime Prevention and Investigation Office.

The purpose of the BCPIO is to protect bank customers against financial crime, including credit card and debit card fraud, bank robbery, counterfeiting, cyber crime, money laundering, the use of forged documents and more.

Information about suspected fraud and criminal activity is shared among members of the BCPIO and, as appropriate, with law enforcement agencies, resulting in the detection, prevention and prosecution of crime that could cost banks and their customers hundreds of millions of dollars in losses each year. Industry personnel involved in investigations of criminal activity follow strict privacy policies and must sign annual confidentiality agreements.

The CBA's BCPIO has been designated as an investigative body under the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act that is overseen by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

So a lobby group representing the private sector has been designated as "an investigative body" by the federal government and is now, effectively, being deputized by the Toronto Police Service to investigate crimes against property that certainly don't involve "credit card and debit card fraud, bank robbery, counterfeiting, cyber crime, money laundering [and] the use of forged documents." Is this supposed to make me feel safer? It doesn't. We paid a billion dollars to put 20,000 police on the streets so they could stand around and watch while about 100 people — and that's the high end of the estimates I've seen — could commit vandalism. Now we're using the banksters to do law enforcement? It just keeps getting more ridiculous.

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The big news on the census story yesterday was the ridiculously small number of complaints about privacy concerns that have been received by the federal privacy commissioner. It certainly undermines the claim by Industry Minister Tony Clement that his decision to make the long form voluntary was a response to complaints about it being "intrusive." But that seemed like a cover story from the start. And given the prime minister's tendency to micro-manage, it seemed unlikely that Clement had made this decision on his own. So there's no real surprise here:

"Harper does not like StatsCan, that's what we kept hearing," according to a longtime employee of the agency. "In particular, he does not like the analytical work we've done for years." The Prime Minister thinks of it as fodder for critics.

Sure enough, it's the analytical work that he has been decimating. Gone, truncated or privatized are surveys that kept track of pensions and benefits at our places of work; the proportion of our incomes going to housing, vacation, medical expenses to see how well or badly we all were doing; the level of inequality among Canadians; the economic integration of immigrants; and how people with physical and mental disabilities were coping.

...

Another source said that Clement had, in fact, advised against the decision, as had Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Both were overruled. "It was a one-man decision," Harper's.

The more that the quality and integrity of available information can be undermined, the less useful that information becomes in arguing against Harper's policies. And if the information disappears completely that's even better. This dovetails quite nicely with the strategy of undermining the effectiveness of every part of the government except the PMO. We mustn't have anyone in a position to question the prime minister's actions, be it a bureaucrat, a journalist or an academic with a calculator.

Increasingly we're seeing policies imposed on the country at the whim of one man, whether those policies are good for the country or not. All that matters is what Stephen Harper thinks is good for Stephen Harper. Meanwhile Tony Clement, who isn't actually responsible for this, is prepared to allow himself to look like an incompetent loon rather than openly oppose a destructive decision. So Clement still looks bad, just in a different way. (I'd say he looks like a ventriloquist's dummy but that's Jim Prentice's job.)

H/t to Impolitical.

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July 12, 2010

Zombie lies

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Putting it nicely, the editorial boards at the Sun newspapers seem to have put "Be Edgy and Provocative" at the top of their list of Things To Do recently. But it would be nice if they could at least stick to the facts while doing so. According to this editorial, Omar Khadr faces a trial by U.S. military commission for:

.. killing a U.S. medic, Sgt. Christopher Speer.

Once again: SFC Christopher Speer was a member of Delta Force. He had cross-training as a paramedic but was a combat soldier and was in the field as a combat soldier on the day he died as a result of wounds from the grenade allegedly thrown by Omar Khadr. But I guess it makes Khadr sound so much more guilty if he's accused of killing a medic rather than a member of an elite special forces unit.

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July 10, 2010

Let me ruin your Saturday for you

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Paul Jay of TheRealNews network asks Jonathan Kay of the National Post whether there should be an independent public inquiry into police actions over the G20 weekend (I would date it back further than that) in Toronto.

Kay's basic strategy: deny, deny, deny. He tries in his pompous way to sound even-handed and fair, but this is a man in some serious denial. When cornered, he waves section 1 of the Charter -- the section that he says sets our human and civil rights "in context" -- thus giving it a weight that I do not believe the courts in practice have given it.

No rubber bullets, in spite of reliable eyewitness testimony and video evidence. No "serious" injuries. All groups of people in public spaces are "mobs" or present the danger of mob action.

He even takes the name of this blog in vain!


NB: The journamalism tag is for Kay, not for Jay, who has been producing one excellent report after another on the G20.

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July 9, 2010

The early show

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Since I won't be around later on this evening I thought I'd do an afternoon show. And I'll start it off with a little serious picking from (from left to right) Jack Lawrence, Doc Watson and David Grisman. The tune is EMD which stands for Eat My Dust and is a Grisman composition.


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July 5, 2010

There have been two developments in the case of the banning of four reporters from Omar Khadr's pre-trial suppression hearings at GTMO.

You will recall that the four banned journalists are Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, who has written a book on Khadr, Paul Koring of the Globe and Mail, Steven Edwards of Canwest News, and Carole Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, the most experienced reporter covering GTMO generally. Pretty clearly an example was being made of the four keenest reporters on the case -- "to discourage the others" -- since other reporters had also published the name of Joshua Claus, known at the Khadr hearing only as Interrogator 1 but interviewed two years ago by Shephard and notorious for his conviction in several cases of "abuse" at Bagram, notably the murder of the Afghan taxi driver Dilawar. Claus has his own entry in Wikipedia, in which his role in both Dilawar's and Khadr's "interrogations" is mentioned, as it is in Khadr's entry. It would be hard for the connection to be more public.

A group of major American news organizations last week challenged the ban as "prior restraint," since it seeks to bar publication of information already widely known and publicly available. David McCraw, an attorney for the New York Times, puts the challenge in lay terms:

"If the government is going to take the position of preventing us from publishing information we found independently, those are rules we can't live with and I don't think it benefits anyone.''

There is always a perverse twist, though, when you're dealing with the U.S. DoD, no? From the McClatchy report we also learn:

The Pentagon has agreed to lift the ban on the four reporters on Aug. 5. That, however, isn't enough, the organizations said, noting that the hearing the reporters were covering resumes on July 12.

In other words, a bunch of PR types at the DoD have said that Shephard, Koring, Edwards, and Rosenberg can reapply in August to cover Khadr's actual trial, but they are excluded from the current hearings, in which decisions are being made about the admissibility of evidence.

That is where things stood before the coalition of news organizations appealed to the DoD general counsel, Jeh Johnson, in whom they seem still to place a touching degree of trust. What can I say? We'll see.

Thanks as always to Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel, not only for the links but for the alert analysis.


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British documents reveal new claims of detainee abuse

Two more previously undisclosed allegations of beatings and abuse of Afghan detainees after they were turned over by Canadian troops to Afghanistan's controversial national security service have surfaced in British court documents.

Since we have nothing new from local sources we have to rely on the British for information. Government officials quoted here are quick to say these incidents were promptly investigated and the allegations were found to be groundless. The system works!

An internal probe by Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security exonerated the NDS interrogator involved.

Got that? The people accused of the abuse investigated themselves and — surprise! — exonerated themselves. And that's good enough for our government. Note this as well:

Prisoner transfers were halted until the investigation into the two cases was completed, but quickly resumed. Unlike previous halts - which were announced by ministers or senior officials - this one was never disclosed.

So would I be rash in assuming that there have been other halts in the transfers that have never been disclosed? Do you think we'll ever find out?

H/t to jimbobbysez on Twitter.

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July 4, 2010

As Toronto police chief Bill Blair has explained to us through this past week, Canadians can't just open their front doors and walk outside on some mindless flibbertigibbet impulse. Only the "curious and naive" do that sort of thing, getting in the way of the police and preventing them from doing their job, which, after all, is what life in the city is all about.

Anyone reckless enough to exit his/her dwelling-place without a government-approved purpose should not be surprised to find his/her civil liberties "abridged," as the premier of Ontario so helpfully put things to his fellow citizens on Friday. (I think that "abridged" is the new "violated," just as "anything that isn't black" is the new black. That last shift is gonna be really tough for a lot of people in Toronto, man. Like, Leonard Cohen is never coming here again.)

The premier would also like you to know that those who feel that their liberties have been, ah, abridged have "avenues available to them," unfortunate choice of words though that may have been, given that it was precisely the avenues and streets that were not available when that counted.

No matter. No question: it is easier to police a ghost town than it is a vibrant city full of, y'know, citizens. With that thought in mind, we have prepared the following questionnaire for all Canadians living anywhere, really, who might be tempted at some point today or this evening to open their front doors frivolously and head out for a stroll that is just going to get in the way of the police.

Please copy and answer briefly and factually the questionnaire that appears on the turn. Fax or email your completed form to the office of the prime minister, or, if you were not born in Canada, to Jason Kenney. Do not open your front door for purposes of exiting into a public space until someone has got back to you. And trust me: someone will get back to you.

1. Are you curious and naive?
If yes, skip the rest of the questionnaire. You're not going anywhere, kiddo.


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July 2, 2010

Friday night

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That seemed like an awfully long week.

I don't know what this is called but it's a nice instrumental with Steve Dawson on pedal steel guitar, Keith Lowe on bass and Geoff Hicks on drums.


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July 1, 2010

An ode to Toronto on Canada Day

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Whose streets?

Harper, McGuinty, Blair -- answer that question. C'mon, you guys: make them answer.

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

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

And then, on the turn, because we all love Robin Williams:


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Shhhhhhh!

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I'd wish you a happy Canada Day but apparently the public expression of such sentiments is now frowned upon.

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