August 2010 Archives

August 31, 2010

Rounded at the free end

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Liberals rally gun registry support at expense of divided New Democrats

BADDECK, N.S. - Forget all that talk about federal Liberals merging or forming a coalition with the NDP.

The Liberals now aim to co-opt NDP support and they're using debate over the controversial long-gun registry to do it.

They announced Tuesday they'll open a national campaign to save the registry. In the process, they hope to mould a defining issue that will establish the Liberals as the only real alternative to Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government.

Emphasis added. There was an interesting piece in The Hill Times yesterday about the increasing tendency toward "hung parliaments" in countries with a parliamentary system like ours. The story pointed out that the politicians in those other countries have been quicker to adapt to the electorate's unwillingness to grant any single party a mandate to govern. They've recognized that the nature of the game may have changed and so they're exploring both coalition governments and the possibilities of electoral reform.

But the people at the helm of the Liberal Party of Canada won't let a little thing like a changing political reality get in their way. They saw a minor bump in the polls for a few days and they're ready to go all in on trying to make Iggy the next Emperor of Canada. There may be some minor revisions to the playbook but they think they can continue essentially the same game they've been playing for most of the last four and a half years and get a different outcome. I don't think it's going to play out that way.

H/t to Antonia on Twitter.

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Government set to appeal Abdullah Khadr extradition

A Canadian citizen's four-year fight to stave off extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on terrorism-related charges, is poised to become even longer.

The federal government has decided to appeal a court ruling that stayed extradition proceedings against Abdullah Khadr on the grounds U.S. authorities had been complicit in his jailing and abuse in Pakistan.

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In granting the rare stay on Aug. 4, Ontario Superior Court Justice Christopher Speyer found the U.S. had violated basic principles of justice.

Didn't Stephen Harper once promise to stand up for Canada? Because here he's standing up for another country's right to illegally detain and abuse a Canadian citizen and still have its way with him. Let me repeat that: our courts have ruled that the United States was complicit in the illegal detention and abuse of a Canadian citizen and that citizen's own government is appealing on behalf of the abuser and not in protection of its own citizen.

But this government has long made it clear that it reserves the right to decide which of us are worthy of the protection a government should provide to all of its citizens and which of us are not. See Abdelrazik, Abousfian. And if it can happen to Abdelrazik or Khadr, it can happen to you the moment someone in power decides that he doesn't like ... the cut of your jib.

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Our lawyer's not talking

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MacKay denies Afghan committee request

Letters obtained by CBC news show that Defence Minister Peter MacKay was unwilling to waive the government's right to solicitor-client privilege when it comes to the testimony of the military's one-time senior legal adviser, despite a request for it to do so from the House of Commons special committee on Afghanistan.

The tense in the headline makes it sound as though McKay's denial is a recent development but what's recent is the CBC's discovery of it. It was last November when a former judge advocate general of the Canadian Forces, Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Ken Watkin, testified before the Commons committee. At the time he refused to answer certain questions claiming that they involved privileged communications with his client, the government of Canada. The CBC is now confirming that MacKay, on behalf of the government, refused a request from the committee to waive privilege. It's always good to know that our government is doing its best to thwart our government's ability to hold our government accountable. Or something.

It doesn't surprise me and it probably doesn't surprise you either. I just note it for the record as further evidence that the Harper government will block disclosure on this file at every turn, using every means at its disposal. It almost makes you wonder what they're hiding, doesn't it? Have I said that before?

H/t to JB on Twitter.

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August 30, 2010

Today in Too Stupid To Govern

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John Baird.

The link is to a Globe and Mail report on the determination of the opposition parties to gain access to documents that newly appointed government house leader John Baird has declared off-limits. The article reviews Baird's reasoning, including this:

...a Parliamentary committee's ability to summon people and documents has never been used to give the majority of MPs, in this case the opposition, access to internal communications of the government minority.

I'd be surprised to find that no minority government has ever faced a demand from an opposition majority to summon documents. In fact, given recent events concerning documents relating to Afghan detainees, I'd say Baird is on shaky ground even if he could somehow make the case that an absence of precedent is, itself, a precedent. But strip all the distractions away from his statement and we're left with the assertion that a minority government is entitled to some kind of special protection precisely because it governs with less than a majority of seats in the Commons and much less than majority support from the electorate. The Conservatives want extra points for being less popular. It's just inane.

I've said before that I don't think folks like Clement, Baird, et. al. are actually complete morons. But they seem quite content to pretend to be moronic on the national stage in order to defend policies that are really indefensible, so who am I to argue?

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August 29, 2010

Today in WTF? moments

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The story is actually a few days old but I just stumbled across it today. And it's the U.S. and not Canada but their law enforcement trends seem to show up here eventually, don't they? It certainly made me go "WTF!?".

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn't violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway - and no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking your movements.

That is the bizarre - and scary - rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants - with no need for a search warrant.

The lack of "reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway" involved a suspect whose vehicle was parked in a driveway a few feet from his trailer home. The court ruled that his expectations were limited because the driveway was open to access by "delivery people and neighbourhood children." One of the dissenting judges, a Reagan appointee, took particular issue with this aspect of the ruling.


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August 28, 2010

About that judicial process

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In the matter of Omar Khadr, the government of Stephen Harper has always maintained that there was a judicial process in place to determine Khadr's guilt or innocence and that the proper thing for Canada to do was to allow that process to unfold. It now appears that even the Americans don't want that process to unfold.

After working for a year to redeem the international reputation of military commissions, Obama administration officials are alarmed by the first case to go to trial under revamped rules: the prosecution of a former child soldier whom an American interrogator implicitly threatened with gang rape.

...

Senior officials at the White House, the Justice Department and the Pentagon have agreed privately that it would be better to reach a plea bargain in the Khadr case so that a less problematic one would be the inaugural trial, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former officials. But the administration has not pushed to do so because officials fear, for legal and political reasons, that it would be seen as improper interference.

Khadr was already offered one deal: to be publicly sentenced to thirty years and actually serve five. He turned it down and I guess that's really put the Obama administration on the spot.


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Apparently gaming the system works

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I keep a fairly close watch out for media reports on the Afghan detainee issue. It's possible that I may have missed something in recent weeks that actually advanced the story but I don't think so. It was reported on July 14th that the panel of judges who would advise MPs on the national security implications of the documents under review had been named. And since then?

On July 28th, Thomas Walkon wrote a column on a key revelation in the "War Logs" documents that WikiLeaks had just finished releasing: that up until 2009, Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security had been entirely funded by the CIA. It had already been reported that the agreement to turn prisoners over to the NDS had been created in the first place to avoid the perception that the Canadian Forces were turning prisoners over to the Americans. If the NDS was working for the CIA, well, so much for that.

On August 14th, there was a photo of Laurie Hawn standing beside a pile of binders — a nice little photo op that seemed designed to assure us that our representatives were working hard without actually telling us anything useful.

And today, Thomas Walkom uses his column to remind us that there's a serious and unresolved issue here that goes beyond the dispute over access to documents. He reviews what we know in broad strokes and concludes:

... there is considerable evidence that the abuse-riddled detention system set up by Canada was not a mistake but deliberate.

The lengths the Conservatives have gone to in trying to keep us all in the dark on this story only fuels the suspicion that they're trying to cover up serious war crimes. Since opposition MPs united to pass a motion demanding access to secret documents, the government's strategy has been to delay at every turn, seemingly in the hopes that the story would eventually drop off the radar. It appears to be working. Needless to say, I appreciate Walkom's efforts to keep that from happening.

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August 27, 2010

Friday night

Good evening. We're starting with a slow blues instrumental by Rick Estrin called Marion's Mood.


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Then you need to do more of it.

At various times I've referred to Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty as both an incompetent hack and an ideologue. Here's an illustrative example. Ireland's program of cutbacks has had the opposite effect to the one desired: instead of helping to improve their economy the Irish find themselves mired deeper in debt and have now had their credit rating reduced. But Flaherty is so tied to the notion that austerity is the best course of action in all circumstances that he's actually prepared to meddle in the debate concerning the economy of a country on the other side of the Atlantic in a circumstance where, clearly, the course of action Flaherty is praising isn't working.

But the economy isn't healthy so obviously someone must be punished, even if the people being punished aren't responsible for the problem. And even if the punishment will make things worse instead of better.

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August 26, 2010

In which my question is answered

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In a recent post about the supposed end of combat in Iraq, I wondered what effect that might have on combat pay for the 50,000 troops who remain in Iraq as advisors and particularly for those who will continue to do counter terrorism operations. Courtesy of Steve Hynd on Twitter (retweeting someone else's tweet), here's the answer from Stars and Stripes:

"Iraq (land and airspace) is included in the list of designated hostile fire or imminent danger pay areas (effective since Sep 17, 1990)," said Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez in an e-mail. "These pays are based upon a location's designation as a combat zone or direct support area. Therefore, the pays won't change Sept. 1."

So regardless of what the politicians say, as far as the paymaster is concerned nothing has changed.

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August 25, 2010

Whew! That was close!

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Canadian jets scrambled to intercept Russian bombers in the arctic

CHURCHILL, MAN. - Two CF-18 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept Russian bombers that came within 55 kilometres of Canada's Arctic territory, just as Prime Minister Stephen Harper prepares to make a high-profile visit to the region.

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! They're targeting our prime minister!

But we know from previous reporting that these flights aren't unusual. This dance in the skies has been going on for years and until recently wasn't deemed to be headline news. Note the response from the PMO.

"Thanks to the rapid response of the Canadian Forces, at no time did the Russian aircraft enter sovereign Canadian airspace," Dimitri Soudas, Harper's director of communication said in an email.

Right. Without the rapid response by Canadian Forces, those Russian aircraft would have violated Canadian airspace and bombed your house. Dimitri Soudas knows this for a fact!

It's interesting to see the way these stories are now breathlessly reported in the news just when there's renewed criticism of the government's intention to buy those F-35s.PS: Why isn't Dimitri Soudas in jail for dodging a subpoena? Or did he make that statement from a holding cell?

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August 24, 2010

The most interesting part of this report on the opinions of members of the Canadian Association for Business Economics is towards the end. I would have expected an organization like this to come out in favour of maintaining the mandatory long form as part of the census. Sure enough, 74 per cent of those surveyed think the government's intention to replace it with a voluntary household survey is bad policy. This would be a true conservative approach: don't take something that's been working for decades and just take it apart without good reason.

But the CABE's attempts to measure its members opinions helped make the point.

The CABE says the problems it encountered in conducting the survey of its own members underscores the difficulty Statistics Canada will have trying to obtain, through a voluntary survey, a large enough sample size to produce reliable data.

The association had trouble reaching its members, many of whom were on summer vacation. In the end, the CABE received email responses from 337 out of 828 members.

"This highlights the problem of achieving acceptable responses from surveys," the association says.

Paging Tony Clement.

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Canada's back!

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We can definitely count on Stephen Harper and his government to raise our international profile. Amnesty International has certainly noticed us.

Amnesty International's new secretary general, Salil Shetty, on Monday accused the Canadian government of a "serious worsening" of human rights in Canada.

"Amnesty International is more and more concerned about the serious worsening of the human rights approach of this government," Shetty said in a speech to the CIVICUS world assembly on citizen participation.

"There is a real shrinking of democratic spaces in this country. ... Many organizations have lost their funding for raising inconvenient questions," he added.

Heckuva job, Harpie!

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August 23, 2010

The rule of "regulation"

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The RCMP was supposed to be out of the intelligence business in 1984, the year that legislation was enacted to implement the recommendations of the McDonald Commission which included the creation of CSIS. But in the aftermath of 9/11 the Chrétien government, in a hurry to be seen to be doing something, did a rushed reorganization of Canada's security assets. In the course of doing so they apparently managed to forget entirely that the whole reason for the commission of inquiry that led to the creation of CSIS was bad behaviour by Mounties playing at being secret agents. They put the RCMP back into the spy business without enough thought given to training and policy.

It was only a year later that Maher Arar was kidnapped from that airport in New York and ultimately rendered to Syria on the basis of inaccurate information supplied by the Mounties to American intelligence officials. One of the recommendations of Justice Dennis O'Connor's inquiry into the Arar case was that oversight of the RCMP be thoroughly reviewed and strengthened with particular attention paid to the force's renewed involvement in intelligence matters. That was in December of 2006 and Arar's comment at that time seems prescient now:

I just hope it won't take years.

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A profoundly disturbing quality of information

In my last post I suggested that the Conservative government's refusal to confront the reality of climate change and its attempts to stall efforts to try and mitigate it amount to gross incompetence on the file that Conservatives themselves point to as their priority: the economy. This is more of the same.

Sustained cuts to Environment Canada weather-service programs have compromised the government's ability to assess climate change and left it with a "profoundly disturbing" quality of information in its data network, says an internal government report.

The stinging assessment, obtained through a freedom-of-information request, suggests Canada's climate network infrastructure is getting progressively worse and no longer meets international guidelines.

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The analysis noted the lack of data on climate conditions can affect decisions on major infrastructure such as roads, buildings and sewers as well as a number of "real-life" decisions made by Canadians every day.

The story notes that the deterioration in Environment Canada's programs began ten to fifteen years ago so there's lots of blame to go around. But our immediate problem is a government whose idea of managing the economy is to contrive programs that will encourage people to add decks to their homes while ignoring the most significant issue of the century.

Now consider how often the usual suspects among the pundits will try to deflect criticisms of Harper and his crew by suggesting that at least we're getting competent government. Not even close.

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August 21, 2010

Stephen Harper likes to play to the stereotype: conservatives are competent fiscal managers. Your Conservative government isn't scandal-mongering, politicking and wasting its time on frivolous issues; it's focusing on balancing the books and nursing a weak recovery back to health 'til that free market goodness can kick in and resume providing prosperity for all. We've hit a bump in the road but Harper and the gang are focused on minimizing the damage until we can get back to business as usual — or their idea of the way business as usual ought to be. That's our No. 1 priority and conservatives are all about prioritizing.

And the next time he uses that to brush off questions about his government's policies regarding the environment, and specifically about climate change, perhaps someone could refer him to this post: Climate change is bad for business.

Climate change will have a profound impact on the global economy. Enacting policies to limit carbon emissions would certainly have serious economic consequences but so will doing nothing and being forced to deal with the results, of which we're getting a good preview this summer. Business as usual is not an option and a competent government attempting to work in everybody's best interests would be explaining that, not denying it and actively opposing the efforts of others to deal with it.

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Wankers of the month

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Because wankers of the day wouldn't be nearly strong enough. Time Magazine and its managing editor Richard Stengel.

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August 20, 2010

Friday night

I suppose I could subtitle this: Tunes for which I'm not likely to find videos by the original artists

Big Bill Broonzy had a career as a blues guitarist, singer and songwriter that stretched from the twenties through to the fifties. Banker's Blues was one of his and here it's covered by Rory Gallagher.


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Make Paul Wells happy

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Go read this Maclean's piece by John Geddes. Wells has been on Twitter this afternoon encouraging people to read it when it's available and I can see why. As if you needed any more evidence that our federal government is unwilling to let facts get in the way of their opinions. Or another reminder that Tony Clement should never have been allowed back into public service after the defeat of the Mike Harris/Ernie Eaves governments.

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The National Post has picked up a column from Slate by Christopher Hitchens that brings the debate about attacking Iran to Canada. And the biggest problem with it is right there in the title: The price of not disarming Iran.

Of course Hitchens is referring specifically to nuclear weapons. And on that score, in order to be disarmed Iran would first have to be, er, armed. There is no evidence that Iran is currently in possession of a nuclear weapon or is currently in the process of building one. I suppose I could repost a quote from the 2007 NIE that stated with "a high degree of confidence" that Iran currently had no nuclear weapons program. And I guess I could also repost a quote from this past February's Annual Threat Assessment as delivered to the American Senate Select Committee on Intelligence which stated that the American intelligence community didn't know whether the Iranians would decide to actually build a weapon — which seems to me to imply that they aren't currently doing so.

I could point out that pound for pound there are more IAEA inspectors in Iran than in any other country and that as recently as this week, the White House has suggested that they would detect "within weeks" if Iran began a concerted effort to actually construct a weapon. But all of this would qualify as evidence and the people who have been promoting this confrontation for years have no interest in evidence. Remember Iraq? We're dealing with largely the same crowd.

The second basic premise of Hitchen's rant is that given a single nuclear weapon, Iran would immediately use said weapon to launch an unprovoked nuclear attack on an Israeli city knowing as well as you and I do that Israel can retaliate with a nuclear arsenal that the Iranians can only dream about. Do I have to rebut this?

So we have an unproven claim that Iran has a nuclear weapon and the absolutely ridiculous claim that they intend to use it in order to provoke the Israelis into turning all of Iran into a smoking cinder. Dear National Post: Was this column supposed to further some kind of debate? Or did you just have a hole to fill?

H/t to Antonia at Bread and Roses.

Editing to add: And with one pundit after another publicly promoting the merits of mounting an unprovoked military attack on Iran, why would Iranians ever even consider the possibility that they might need some kind of deterrent?

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August 19, 2010

Before they stop being referred to as "special interest groups" because they represent most of the population.
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"This is Maurice Duplessis stuff..."

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I certainly agree with the concern expressed by Impolitical at the possibility that the next arms-length agency in Harper's sights is the CRTC. The thought of Kory Teneycke armed with a TV station that cable companies are forced to carry as part of their basic packages would be enough for me to issue threats about canceling my cable if I weren't already relying on an antenna. But it was the comparison to Maurice Duplessis that really made me shudder. Duplessis was Premier of Quebec for a total of eighteen years with fifteen of those years continuous from 1944 to 1959. At this point I expect you're shuddering too. And if you're not, you should be.

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For WikiLeaks and the Pirate Party

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Apparently someone (and gosh -- who could that have been?) discovered that WikiLeaks were not as well protected as they thought they were by relying on hosting in Sweden and Belgium. As I understand it, Swedish law indeed "enacted" (Julian Assange's term) the protection WL need for their sources but wouldn't prevent prior restraint against a publisher who didn't have Swedish press credentials. So Assange has spent the last week or so in Stockholm having interesting adventures, many of which you can watch on YouTube. Nice haircut, eh?

Assange now has press credentials personally as a newly hired columnist for Aftonbladet, and even more wonderfully, the Swedish Pirate Party has agreed to host several new WL servers:

For Wikileaks, support from the Swedish Pirate Party is a significant win. If the Party is voted into Parliament next month it could use Parliamentary immunity to run the site from inside the Swedish Government, making it impossible to take it offline through legal procedures.


And the huffy-puffies in Washington don't understand why so many of us love these guys?

It is a sad thought that Assange and his WL colleagues would probably not be safe in Canada, where we understand pirates so well on the pulse, but you know Jason Kenney and Alykhan Velshi. If they thought George Galloway was "infandous," what would they do with Julian and a bunch of Swedish pirates?

Nothing daunted, however, I thought I'd send these honest and brave and obviously good-humoured folks a like-minded Canadian tribute to the work they are doing to let a little more light into a world that sometimes seems to be closing down on all of us.

The Arrogant Worms, "The Last Saskatchewan Pirate"

Thanks to Toedancer, pogge, and Alison at Bread and Roses for much of the background here, and thanks especially to Purple Library Guy, from whom I first learned about the Worms some years ago.

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Baby steps

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The latest editorial about the Tamil refugeees attributed to Sun Media is filled with sneering, name calling and not a little blatant bigotry. But you may be pleased to know that it's a marginal improvement over a recent offering on the same subject. Of course that recent offering included incitement to mass murder so I guess it didn't set the bar very high.

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Mission accomplished?

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U.S. combat troops leave Iraq

The last group of American combat troops left Iraq Thursday, bringing an end to U.S. combat operations there and signaling a new chapter in the country's future.

When I saw that headline at the CBC I checked to see whether it was an Associated Press story that had been picked up and reproduced verbatim. But no, it's a CBC News story. Apparently our public broadcaster has decided to be an active part of this public relations exercise.

As the story notes, there are still 50,000 American troops in Iraq. They were combat troops right up until the moment someone issued a press release designating them as "non-combat" troops. They will still see combat, they just have to be invited to participate by the Iraqi forces they're mentoring. When the bullets are flying, who will be checking for invitations? And there are still American special forces doing counter-terrorism ops which will now be classified as something other than combat. I wonder if the soldiers involved will still draw combat pay.

The remaining troops are officially scheduled to withdraw at the end of 2011. But there have already been public statements from both American military officials and from Iraqi officials who owe their positions to the American presence suggesting that withdrawal should be postponed.

One of the goals of the neocons who began lobbying for the invasion of Iraq long before 9/11 was a permanent American military presence there. I'd say they got it. Of course one of the larger goals was to weaken the influence of hostile players in the region such as Iran and that backfired badly because Iran has ended up with more influence, not less. But the obvious solution to that is a direct attack on the Iranians. I'd say they're working on that since the possibility is being openly debated in the pages of a national American magazine.

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August 18, 2010

Facts are stupid things

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And by now you know this is an ongoing series. This installment, which could also have been entitled "Timing is everything", is courtesy of Antonia Zerbisias on Twitter who pointed out this Globe and Mail story. It's a followup on the sudden announcement concerning the replacement of the head of the Canadian Firearms Program and it adds an interesting bit of information:

As a result of the move, Supt. Cheliak will not be able to attend the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police annual meeting in Edmonton next week. He was to present a major report at that meeting that was expected to underline the effectiveness of the registry.

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[NDP MP Joe Comartin] is also concerned that the report on the long-gun registry will no longer see the light of day. The public safety committee had asked to see the study, Mr. Comartin said, but the government held it back to be translated.

The Conservatives have a long history of burying reports on the gun registry in order to keep inconvenient facts from influencing the debate about whether or not to keep it. I'm guessing those translators are going to be way too busy to expedite this job. Either that or they'll suddenly be transferred too. Or, failing all other alternatives, the final report in both official languages will be buried in a cabinet minister's desk drawer until after the next vote on that private member's bill.

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Paging Michael Ignatieff

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In a public appearance yesterday, Prime Minister Harper once again invoked the coalition as a scary alternative to a Conservative government. Paul Wells notes that this is consistent with statements Harper has been making for over a year and a half and suggests that we should look forward to more of the same.

One thing I've learned fairly recently about Harper is that he almost always tells you what he's going to do. He tells you some other stuff to bamboozle you, so figuring him out is never entirely straightforward, but he also usually tells you his plans. For 19 months, beginning weeks after Dion, Layton and Duceppe nearly took his job, Harper has been perfectly consistent in framing the next showdown.

So let's replay one of the quotes from Harper that Wells supplies, from a Maclean's interview in January of last year.

...if they defeat us the only constitutional political and moral option is to ask the people to choose who should govern and then there will be two choices, and somebody will win a majority if those are the choices...

And from the answer to a followup question:

...if they defeat us as a coalition they have to run as a coalition, and I think those will be the real choices before the electorate. The electorate will know that if you're not electing the Conservative government you're going to be electing a coalition that will include the NDP and the separatists.


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August 17, 2010

Head of federal gun program ousted

The head of the Canadian Firearms Program who is a strong supporter of the long-gun registry is quietly being bounced out of the position, CBC News has learned.

RCMP Chief Supt. Marty Cheliak, director general of the program, is being sent off to French language training after nine months on the job on orders from RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, according to police sources.

It would appear that here, too, we had someone who took his job a bit too seriously. It wasn't just a simple case of supporting the long gun registry that the Conservatives want to scrap. Cheliak had gone beyond that to testify forcefully in favour of the registry before a parliamentary committee. And we all know how Conservatives feel about parliamentary committees

But even worse than that, the man built a damned coalition.

Cheliak's key contribution has been to guide the country's three main police alliances -- the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and the Canadian Association of Police Boards -- into a common front to fight for registration.

A common front to oppose the Conservatives! God knows we can't have that.

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Not with a whimper

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The CBC has already updated the story they posted earlier today in anticipation of the press conference called by departing Veterans Ombudsman Pat Stogran. Judging by Kady O'Malley's live-blogging post, it's still going on as I write this.

Stogran isn't claiming to know for certain why the government has already decided not to renew his term as ombudsman though he's not shy about admitting that he's been outspoken concerning the problems veterans face and the neglect they've suffered at the hands of their government. He certainly seems capable of ruffling feathers. According to O'Malley, his opening shot was to talk about...

... the overall rot within the system, the depth and breadth of which is so vast that he has barely been able to scratch the surface, particularly given a bureaucracy that seemed designed to obstruct.

A lot of the attention is being focused on the Conservative government's decision to "sack" him, as the CBC's headline put it, from a position this government created and advertised as one that would set a new standard of support for Canada's veterans. And Stogran does centre this government out when he says, again working from O'Malley's coverage:


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Prepping witnesses is hard work!

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After stonewalling yesterday's parliamentary committee meeting on the census, the Conservatives have suggested that if the opposition insists on actually discussing a government policy, the government needs time to properly prepare.

Faced with a list of groups that so far tilts heavily toward the "bad idea" camp, Tory MPs say they will be calling individuals as committee witnesses to speak out in favour of the government's plans.

...

The Tories said the opposition was proposing a timeline that was not realistic. They suggested instead that meetings be called a couple of weeks from now to allow witnesses enough time to prepare what they want to say.

It will be hard enough just finding people who aren't obviously Conservative operatives and who will actually testify in public that they agree with the government's position. But they also have to have the capacity to memorize the talking points the Conservatives will feed them and recite them on cue. This could take a while.

H/t to King of the Shiners.

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August 16, 2010

Just so I don't get your hopes up, the following headline is from a New Zealand website and refers to that country's government, not ours. It seems the inquiry currently under way in the UK has other jurisdictions taking a good look at how their troops have conducted business in Afghanistan.

Govt investigating what happened to Afghan prisoners

The Government is looking into whether any prisoners arrested by an Afghanistan military unit being mentored by New Zealand troops were handed over to torturers.

Did you get that? They're going beyond concern for prisoners captured directly by New Zealand forces to investigate what happened to those detained by the Afghan troops that New Zealanders trained.

Questions have been raised about whether New Zealand's Special Air Service (SAS) were responsible for sending prisoners to the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), the troubled country's intelligence service.

Haven't Canadian troops turned prisoners over to that same intelligence service? Now here's the really novel concept.

[Prime Minister John Key] said the findings of that review were likely to be made public.

And just so we remember who we're dealing with, this is a quote from the chief executive of Amnesty International New Zealand:

Afghanistan's intelligence service, the NDS, has demonstrated a persistent pattern of human rights violations perpetrated with impunity. Dozens of NDS detainees, some arrested arbitrarily and detained incommunicado without access to defence lawyers, families, courts or other outside bodies, have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including being whipped, exposed to extreme cold and deprived of food.

My first post on the public inquiry convened by the Military Police Complaints Commission in an effort to get around our own government's stonewalling on this issue was almost two and a half years ago. I'm sure you'll be pleased to know that two and a half years of effort to get to the bottom of this has gotten us a nice photo of Conservative MP Laurie Hawn standing beside a pile of binders.

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August 15, 2010

QOTD

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Silver Donald Cameron, writing for The Chronicle Herald, gives the Harper government a bad review. Then he makes a point and quotes from a petition:

Since the Liberals are jellyfish, the true opposition must come from outside Parliament. A petition now circulating begins, "Since 2006 the Government of Canada has systematically undermined democratic institutions and practices, and has eroded the protection of free speech, and other fundamental human rights.

"It has deliberately set out to silence the voices of organizations or individuals who raise concerns about government policies or disagree with government positions. It has weakened Canada's international standing as a leader in human rights. The impact and consequences for the health of democracy, freedom of expression, and the state of human rights protection in Canada are unparalleled."

All true, and you can find the petition at www.voices-voix.ca/en/declaration.

There are presently over 3,000 signatures (including mine) and endorsements from 174 organizations.

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August 14, 2010

Or not

| 4 Comments

Obama Says Mosque Upholds Principle of Equal Treatment

President Obama said on Saturday that in defending the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near Ground Zero he "was not commenting" on "the wisdom" of that particular project, but rather trying to uphold the broader principle that government should treat "everyone equal, regardless" of religion.

...

In clarifying his remarks, Mr. Obama was apparently seeking to address criticism that he is using his presidential platform to promote a particular project that has aroused the ire of many New Yorkers.

This is taken from the direct quote later in the story:

I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.

Which turns the act of political courage for which I praised you earlier into a fairly unremarkable confirmation of the contents of the Constitution you swore to uphold when you took your oath of office. After criticism from the people who would criticize anything you would do anyway, you're pretending to accept their intentional misinterpretation of your remarks so you can walk them back to the neutral, risk-free position. Reminds me of Michael Ignatieff. That's not a compliment.

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More like this please

Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site

WASHINGTON -- President Obama delivered a strong defense on Friday night of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, using a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan to proclaim that "as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country."

I've been highly critical of Obama and I'm quite sure I will be again. And maybe it's a sign of the times that the kind of stand he's taking here is even remarkable. But he's on the right side of this issue and Glenn Greenwald explains why this is remarkable in the form of a question:

when is the last time a President voluntarily entered an inflammatory public controversy by taking a position opposed by 70% of the public?

Substitute "politician" for "President".

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August 13, 2010

Friday night

| 3 Comments

Just because I'm an unbeliever doesn't mean I can't enjoy that place where folk and country music, blues and gospel all come together. Appropriately enough, I'm opening with The Band of Heathens playing Shine A Light.


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US decline in Latin America

| 6 Comments

There have been plenty of articles talking about US influence declining in Latin America, and some about how it's taking back some turf lately what with the coup in Honduras. But generally it's been a discussion in a vacuum, only described in terms of popular reaction against the harm done by neoliberal governments in the 80s and 90s. While that's real, there are structural shifts under way. This Venezuelanalysis article goes to the root of changes:

The question arises - why does the White House rely on the military option? Why militarize foreign policy to gain favorable outcomes in the face of decided opposition? The answer, in part, is that the US has lost most of the economic leverage, which it previously exercised, to secure the ousting or submission of adversary governments.

Kind of sums it up. In short, the increased reliance on bases and fleets is an effort to make up for lost economic power. In the end it seems likely to fail. This explains also why many non-leftist Latin American governments are pursuing their interests via some of the same institutions championed by Chavez--left or right, Latin American governments are for the most part less dominated by the US, and so are in a position to join organizations the US is not part of such as UNASUR. But why has the US lost economic leverage?

In some countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru, China has replaced the US as their principal trading partner. Most countries no longer look to US "aid" to stimulate growth, they seek joint ventures with multi-national corporations, frequently based outside of North America . . . To the extent that the US financial elite have hollowed out the US industrial sector, Washington has been unable to rebuild its international economic levers.

The US economic elite are killing the empire on which they depend.

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Today in Too Stupid To Govern

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There's been a lot of discussion in the last few weeks concerning proper statistical methodology, selection bias and self-selection bias. And still, Jim Flaherty's response when asked about the census controversy is this:

"Canadians are good citizens. I just did a conference this week. I invited some really smart Canadians to come and give the government advice through Finance, and everybody I asked showed up. Nobody got paid. I didn't have to threaten anybody with going to jail. We don't need to see that in this country. I expect that the long form's being sent out to a substantial number of people across the country [who] are being asked to complete it voluntarily, and knowing Canadians as I think we know them, we'll get lots of those forms completed and sent back without having to threaten people with jail or fines," he said.

That would be the man responsible for managing the nation's finances and he's not only dodging the critical issue in a controversy that has dominated the news cycle for weeks, he appears to be completely oblivious to it. Doesn't that inspire confidence?

H/t to Greg.

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Just wondering

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So now that the Fraser Institute has confirmed once and for all that they have no understanding of, or interest in, proper statistical methodology, can we count on newspapers like the Globe and Mail to stop using them as a source of free content?

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Conservatism can never fail

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It can only be failed.

Unless Stephen Harper finds a magic bullet that guarantees him that elusive majority government that conservatives crave, I imagine you'll begin to see more of this kind of thing.

I love partisan Tories. They make me laugh.

They just can't accept the fact that their leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has turned on them. Turned left that is.

I know it's painful to accept. But Harper and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty are not fiscal conservatives. When it comes to fiscal policy, they are now liberal social democrats.

After reminding us of Harper's conservative roots and then summarizing his recent fiscal record, the columnist — Tom Brodbeck in the Winnipeg Sun — concludes:

The conversion is now complete. Stephen Harper's a lefty, at least when it comes to government finances.

Of course it couldn't be that Harper and Flaherty are simply incompetent conservatives; or cynical conservatives who have been happy to play politics and spend huge amounts of taxpayer dollars in an effort to consolidate political power. They have failed to live up to conservative ideology so they must be disowned. Traitors! Apostates! And then the really serious insult: lefties!


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Rumours of recovery...

| 5 Comments

BMO warns against deficit cutting

The Bank of Montreal said Thursday governments should not lock themselves into deficit cutting, because the global economy is too fragile.

The bank also called, in its commentary, for Ottawa not to lock in to any hard deadline for ending its stimulus programs.

They had much the same message for other industrialized countries, contrary to the conclusions of the G20. This is also of interest:

[BMO's Deputy Chief Economist Douglas] Porter said another myth is that the U.S. has committed itself to massive stimulus. The truth, he said, is that spending cuts by state and local governments have negated much of the spending by Washington.

Atrios pointed to this news yesterday — the foreclosure rate in the U.S. continues to rise and isn't expected to peak until some time next year. Ian Welsh posted an interesting graph the other day and suggested that our largest trading partner is actually in a depression. And the news from Europe isn't what I'd call uniformly encouraging either.

But our own government's position seems to be that we're all done with stimulus and it's time we all tightened our belts and tackled the deficit, as if we can continue our own recovery even if everyone else's stalls. I don't think it works that way. Is there a plan B?

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August 12, 2010

How to get your war on in four steps

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  1. Announce that behaviour by [insert name of designated villain of the decade] is a threat to world peace and you're imposing economic sanctions in an effort to force cooperation.
  2. After a respectable period of time, announce that the original sanctions haven't had the desired effect so you're imposing even tougher sanctions.
  3. After a further respectable period of time, announce that tougher sanctions haven't had the desired effect. Make appropriate noises about the terrible threat posed by [insert name of designated villain of the decade] including ominous comparisons to Hitler, and impose really tough sanctions. Be sure to demonize the targeted regime for the terrible harm it's causing to its own citizens by forcing everyone to, you know, impose really tough sanctions.
  4. After a final waiting period, announce that sanctions have failed leaving no choice but to let the bombs fall. Assure everyone that you're actually liberating the people who are about to find bombs falling on their heads and who will, of course, be grateful. Freedom bombs! (©Atrios)

You may then justifiably increase your military budget even while cutting services to your own citizens. After all, you're at war and sacrifices must be made. You can also justify moving your own society ever closer to a police state in the cause of fighting terrorism because, for reasons you simply can't fathom, people from other countries don't seem to like you much.

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August 11, 2010

Paging Lawrence Cannon

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About two weeks ago Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon was pleased to announce that Canada was joining with other jurisdictions in implementing tough new sanctions on Iran. Cannon was quick to add that there was no intention to harm the Iranian people and that the sanctions were aimed at that country's "aggressive and irresponsible government." According to someone who's in a position to know, that would be the aggressive and irresponsible government whose position we've managed to strengthen.

Punitive international sanctions imposed on Iran have strengthened the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and assisted its post-election crackdown on the opposition Green movement, the leading reformist politician and former presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi has told the Guardian.

In his first interview with a British newspaper since widespread unrest erupted after Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election as president last June, Karroubi blamed the US and Britain for adopting counterproductive policies to combat Iran's suspect nuclear programme, describing sanctions as a gift to the Iranian regime.

"These sanctions have given an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition by blaming them for the unstable situation of the country," Karroubi said in emailed responses to the Guardian's questions.

When proponents of sanctions against Iran tell you that they're carefully constructed to avoid harming the Iranian people and instead will only target the ruling regime, they're lying. But for that matter, when they tell you this is all about the nuclear weapons program that no one has actually proven Iran has, they're lying about that too. For some it's about regime change. For some it's just politics. For some it's just looking forward to the next war wherever it will be because wars are good for budgets, profits and careers.

Our foreign policy is stupid. Unfortunately we can't blame the Conservatives alone since they're getting lots of help from the Liberals. Not to mention Obama, Clinton, et. al.

H/t to Steve Hynd on Twitter.

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Just wondering

Has Christie Blatchford, arbiter of journalistic standards, ever weighed in on this?

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QOTD

| 1 Comment

From an op-ed in today's Globe and Mail by several people who are concerned about good government and good policy.

We call for the three opposition leaders to agree on the text of a resolution in defence of census integrity and preservation of the mandatory long form, and to state publicly their intent to move it upon reopening of the House of Commons. In the spirit of democracy and non-partisanship, the vote should be open, unconstrained by party whips. Parliamentary endorsement of the integrity of the census would be a powerful affirmation of a core Canadian value.

I still don't think that Harper will change his mind on this but it doesn't prevent me from endorsing the sentiment. By all means, let all the opposition members cast a vote on behalf of good government. By all means, provide yet another example of Harper defying the will of a parliamentary majority. Let's have further proof that we're dealing with a prime minister who holds our democracy and our institutions of government in contempt. Apparently we need to keep proving that point.

H/t to The Jurist who highlights a couple of additional pieces on the same general theme.

Note: I could argue with the reporting in that story on the latest poll. I think that pollster's results tend to skew in the Conservatives' favour and compared to previous polls from the same company the change isn't as dramatic as the story makes it sound. But still, it seems that quite a substantial number of people are prepared to re-elect these clowns.

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August 10, 2010

"A grim and bleak picture"

| 4 Comments

Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff have been only too happy to hold the door open by musing out loud about extending Canada's mission in Afghanistan. And sure enough, the Conservatives are quite happy to walk on in.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay strongly suggested today that the Harper government is open to extending the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan beyond July, 2011, if agreement can be reached with the opposition.

So here's the latest from Afghanistan.

The number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan jumped 31 per cent in the first six months of the year due to a rise in violence by insurgents, the United Nations said in a report Tuesday.

More than 1,270 people were killed and 1,997 injured between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2010, according to the report.

Obama's surge coupled with the embrace of COIN was supposed to have the opposite effect but as you can see, it just gets worse. And while the report points the finger at the "anti-government elements" as being responsible for the casualties, it doesn't matter. The whole point of COIN is supposed to be to increase the protection afforded to civilians so that they can safely support the government. Besides, the ISAF is still responsible for a lot of the mayhem.

It's a failed mission. We. are. losing. And Afghans are paying the price. When proponents of a continuing Canadian military presence talk about our troops staying "inside the wire" so they can train the ANA without being exposed to risk, it gives the lie to the whole concept of counterinsurgency. I haven't heard anything from either Liberals or Conservatives that suggests how this comes to a positive end. Instead what they propose is a solution that's painless enough for our own troops to minimize the political damage. And it's to be done simply so we can placate the U.S. by publicly supporting their continued occupation.

Can someone explain to me again why I'm supposed to line up to vote for Liberals?

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Iggy calls on NDP and Greens to vote Grit

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is calling on NDP and Green Party supporters to vote Liberal next election to kick the Conservatives out of office.

"If you vote Green or you vote NDP at the next election, you get one result without any question, you get four more years of Stephen Harper," Ignatieff told a crowd in Pembroke, Ont., Monday night in a campaign-style speech.

Nonsense. In the last few rounds in the riding in which I live, the second place challenger to a Conservative incumbent has been the NDP candidate. On one occasion the margin of victory was less than five hundred votes. The Liberals have fallen further behind each time and voting Liberal would simply have allowed the Conservative to win by a larger margin. If you're going to encourage tactical voting, at least do us the courtesy of explaining it properly instead of pretending that all those incumbent NDP MPs, and all those candidates from other parties who run a close second to the Conservatives, don't actually exist.

Given the list of issues I could rhyme off where the Liberals present no significant difference from the Conservatives, it would be even better if Ignatieff would give us actual reasons to switch our votes to the Liberals. Instead, he gives us gibberish.

Murray Cole, a Manotick resident and a card-carrying Conservative, loudly questioned the Liberals willingness to form a coalition government during the speech. Ignatieff told him he has no plans to form a coalition because he already leads a coalition party.

"We are the coalition, the Liberal Party of Canada is the coalition," he said. "I'm not running to make coalition with anybody else, I am running to win a Liberal government."

You are the coalition? That's pretty rich coming from the guy who cut the legs out from under the coalition so he could cast himself as the alpha male of the opposition and watch "like a hawk" while the Conservatives did pretty much as they pleased.

When the Conservatives use words like "coalition", it creates an opportunity to talk intelligently about our electoral system and maybe make a pitch for long overdue reforms. Instead, Ignatieff just further confuses the meaning of the word.

This is the new Iggy? Not impressed, so far. H/t to The Jurist.

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Today in Too Stupid To Govern

Safety minister baffled by CSIS flap

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says he's "astounded" by the uproar over allegations by the country's top intelligence officer that some provincial cabinet ministers and municipal politicians have come under foreign influence.

Toews went on to say:

There's nothing remarkable about the fact that governments may seek to influence politicians or senior bureaucrats...

That much is true. But to say that there are specific politicians who are "under foreign influence" is an entirely different thing. When that charge is made by the head of our spy service, it suggests that he can identify them and has them under investigation. To make that charge without naming names is to cast suspicion on a long list of people who haven't done anything wrong.

I'm astounded that you're astounded, Minister Toews. But I'm astounded that you're a minister.

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That's the editorial board at the Globe and Mail in reference to a ruling concerning the admissibility of evidence at Omar Khadr's trial. The Globe wanted to put that ruling into the context of Barack Obama's promises to moderate the military tribunal system set up at Guantanamo by the Bush administration. And you thought it was the British who had the gift for understatement.

The ruling in question determined that all of the statements made by Khadr since his original detention are admissible in his trial. So the confessions of a fifteen-year-old under threat of rape and subject to physical and mental abuse aren't considered to be the product of coercion.

The editorial is on the right side of the issue but not nearly strong enough. What happened to Khadr was torture and it should identified as such. Not only should Khadr's confessions not be admissible in a real trial, but the people who abused him should be charged. As for the Obama administration, busy looking forward and not backwards, they've been venue shopping. If they think they can get a conviction in a civilian court, they're in favour of a trial there. But if it looks a bit dicey, they'll opt for the military tribunal where they can stack the deck. And if even that doesn't look like a sure thing, then indefinite detention without charge is the way to go.

Khadr will be found guilty because the system he's held captive by is designed to get convictions. Our own government bases its unwillingness to intervene on the premise that the United States is a democracy with a properly functioning justice system that should be allowed to take its course. But Omar Khadr is nowhere near a properly functioning justice system. He's the central figure in a show trial.

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August 9, 2010

Facts are stupid things

| 1 Comment

Canada's intelligence history to remain a secret

After the federal government spent $40,000 ... for a study on the history of Canada's intelligence community, the results remained locked behind the doors of the Privy Council Office.

And in a new twist, the Privy Council Office has now declared that the reasons for the secrecy surrounding the historical study are secret as well.

It took the Office four years to respond to an Ottawa Citizen access to information request on why the official history of Canada's spy community can't be released to the public. The response was 16 pages of completely censored documents.

It seems that Professor Wesley Wark wrote an official history of Canada's intelligence community and not only has the Privy Council Office decided that it's never to see the light of day, but they feel no compulsion at all to explain why. It seems that secrecy has become the default position of our government.

It isn't the $40,000 that has me promoting this story so people will see it. Compared to the money this government will waste while sabotaging the census, $40,000 is small beer. It's the fact that someone can respond to an Access to Information request by redacting the entire sixteen pages that explains why the information originally sought is off limits and never bat an eye. It boggles the mind. What do these people think their job really is?

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August 8, 2010

Letting the banksters off the hook

One of the talking points popular with American conservatives in the wake of the recent financial crisis was that it was Bill Clinton's fault. In an effort to make home ownership easier for poorer, working-class Americans, his administration had supposedly forced financial institutions — particularly the government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — into making bad loans and that was the root of the foreclosure crisis. It's an argument that was debunked almost as soon as it surfaced but it's back, courtesy of Tom Flanagan. At the annual Lake Couchiching conference, Flanagan addressed the causes of the recession and among the reasons offered up is the following:

The "well-intentioned" but ultimately doomed policy in the U.S. to force financial institutions to sell sub-prime loans, in the name of making home ownership more affordable.

Blame the American government's insistence on meddling on behalf of those who are less well off. Here's a McClatchy article from almost two years ago that debunks that point and demonstrates clearly that the loans in question were made by private sector institutions using poor to non-existent underwriting standards. The legislation that's cited as being the cause of all this grief is the Community Reinvestment Act (which was actually passed in 1977).

... only commercial banks and thrifts must follow CRA rules. The investment banks don't, nor did the now-bankrupt non-bank lenders such as New Century Financial Corp. and Ameriquest that underwrote most of the subprime loans.

These private non-bank lenders enjoyed a regulatory gap, allowing them to be regulated by 50 different state banking supervisors instead of the federal government. And mortgage brokers, who also weren't subject to federal regulation or the CRA, originated most of the subprime loans.

Flanagan is part of the Canadian conservative movement that failed to even acknowledge the possibility of a recession until the crisis was already on us. He and his colleagues aren't the first people I'd turn to for an objective explanation as to its cause.

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August 6, 2010

Friday night

| 1 Comment

I was trying to think of some clever way to work the census into this introduction but I've got nothing. So here's Jimmy Rushing with a solo version of Good Morning Blues.


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Rumours of recovery...

| 3 Comments

Canada, U.S. both lose jobs in July

In Canada, there were signs the recovery stalled last month, as Statistics Canada reported the loss of a massive 139,000 full-time jobs. Most of those jobs were not altogether lost but instead transferred into part-time work.

The net loss of jobs was 9,300, and the unemployment rate edged up for the first time in almost a year, up 0.1 percentage points, to eight per cent.

There's a more detailed analysis of the Canadian jobs report at The Progressive Economics Forum.

I expect governments at both the provincial and federal levels to continue to preach austerity (except for the new prisons we need to house unknown perpetrators of unreported crimes, of course) while cutting corporate taxes. After all, the banks are doing fine and last I heard, corporations are sitting on piles of cash. It's a perfect time to fight deficits by freezing people's wages.

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Today in Too Stupid To Govern

| 1 Comment

Clement mocks critics of Tories' census change

Industry Minister Tony Clement says opponents of the Conservatives' decision on the census are just whining because they once had a "good deal" to get information they needed while letting Ottawa force citizens to supply the data.

...

"Hey, listen, they had a good deal going," he added. "They got good, quality data and the government of Canada was the heavy."

Ah. So StatsCan has been providing "good, quality data" all along. Thanks for admitting it. Now you can wear it. And since Brian Mulroney's day, it's the federal government that has had a good deal going by being able to charge the rest of us for the data it should have been gathering anyway.

While there are a lot of other users for census data, the biggest user of all ought to be the federal government itself. That would be the "special interest group" that's charged with crafting public policy that affects all of us and you would think they'd want to work with the best information possible. Clement has just admitted that this government is prepared to throw away "good, quality data" and impair their own ability to govern.

The government was playing the heavy? The government was doing its job. But Clement speaks for a group that are more interested in opportunities to sneer at people they disagree with than in doing the jobs they claimed to want when they stood for election.

Say it with me: you don't get good government from people who think government is the problem.

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August 5, 2010

QOTD

David Eaves may have intended this to be a throwaway at the end of his most recent census post but I think it deserves promotion:

... the people who should be most scared about this are the provincial governments. They just got made blind and didn't even ask for it. It is also obvious that the Feds are going to push all sorts of spending on to them (like on prisons) that they didn't ask for and don't need. If they were smart, the provinces that have spoken out on the census (all of them except Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan) should announce they will conduct an independent census using the long form. This way they'll actually have data to push back against the (now blind) federal government with. Better still, the provinces could license the aggregate data to make it free for everyone... except the feds, who when they come asking for the data (which of course they will) can be charge a big fat licensing fee.

Yo! Dalton!

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For California

| 2 Comments

(Nicked from Atrios but I'd seen it before and didn't need much prompting to post it.)

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Just Say Now

| 1 Comment

Those of you who aren't regular visitors to Firedoglake may not have heard about their latest project: lobbying for the legalization of marijuana. They've joined with an organization called the Students for Sensible Drug Policy in launching a website called Just Say Now where you can follow their attempts to inform, fuel debate on the issue and ultimately end the ridiculous War on (Some) Drugs™. (Note: they've registered justsaynow.com but through the miracle of modern technology, it redirects back to part of the burgeoning Firedoglake empire which is where my link sends you.)

The lead story on the site right now informs us that in Mexico, the last four years of war with the drug cartels has resulted in 28,000 deaths. Mexican president Felipe Calderon has called for a debate on legalizing drugs and wants Barack Obama to join the conversation.

The page at Just Say Now that describes their campaign also lists their advisory board members. There are a few suspicious looking characters like Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald. There's also a former Deputy Attorney General from the Reagan administration (yes, that is ironic), and a couple of veteran law enforcement officers, among others.

And while we're on the subject, yesterday at Hill Queeries Dale Smith posted a brief interview with NDP MP Libby Davies. It turns out that the Vienna Declaration, which I posted about last week, originated with one of her constituents. Davies intends to bring it forward to the NDP caucus and have it adopted as party policy. Which works for me.

I'd like to be able to interpret these as signs that intelligent drug policy is an issue whose time has come. But imagine seeing President Calderon and President Obama invite Prime Minister Harper to join them in a serious conversation about legalizing drugs and doing as the Vienna Declaration advised: basing drug policy on scientific evidence. Now imagine Harper's head exploding.

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August 4, 2010

That's the spirit, Justice Speyer!

Reading passages from his 62-page decision, Speyer told a Toronto court that setting aside the extradition order was a "remedy of last resort" required in this case due to the fact that Khadr was illegally held and interrogated.


Khadr's lawyers Nathan Whitling and Dennis Edney had argued that extraditing Khadr would mean Canada supports countries that violate international law.

Pakistan was paid a $500,000 (US) bounty to arrest Khadr in 2004. He was held without charges for 14 months and interrogated by intelligence and police agents from the U.S., Pakistan and Canada.

The Boston case against the 29-year-old Khadr was based on his own statements made in Pakistan and then repeated in Toronto upon his return in 2005.

Khadr claimed that Pakistani agents beat him during his first two weeks of captivity and to stop the abuse he told them what they wanted to hear.

This is a clear case of Canadian complicity (at least) in U.S. war crimes, one of many. It should be cause for a major inquiry into what the hell most of our politicians and officials at DFAIT and CSIS thought they were doing in our name during the first decade of this century.

Instead, it will probably be a trampoline for an appeal, although I don't know how much perverse political pressure the government lawyers involved at this level are under. I would appreciate legal advice here: if Steve is directing things, I presume there will be an absurd appeal. I do know that the shorter government case in defence of its own agents' actions came down to "Not our fault! The ISI was in charge of conditions of incarceration! Who could have known?"

Anyway, it is always good to see a Canadian in a position of authority rule on the side of humane and democratic principle. We aren't lost yet.

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Wanker of the day

| 4 Comments

Peter MacKay.

Update:

And Dave at The Galloping Beaver weighs in.

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August 3, 2010

Senator Kenny dissents

| 3 Comments

Late in June the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence issued a report called Where We Go From Here: Canada's Mission In Afghanistan (pdf). If you want the executive summary, it was published as an op-ed in the Globe and Mail titled Our Afghan mission isn't finished.

Of the eighteen witnesses whose testimony was heard in the preparation of the report, nine of them are currently serving senior officers in the Canadian Forces, four of them are retired officers and one of them is a board member of the Conference of Defence Associations. The Karzai government was represented by the current Afghan ambassador to Canada. Our government was represented by former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan Chris Alexander and by Defence Minister Peter MacKay. The eighteenth witness was Terry Glavin in his capacity as the Research Coordinator for the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee. Quite a diversity of opinion represented there, eh?


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Today in Too Stupid To Live

| 11 Comments

Stockwell Day. Again. And that's without even considering this attempt to invent a new language. (Obviously BCL gets the tip of the hat for this one.)

No, my attention was drawn to Day's attempt to support the Conservative emphasis on their law and order agenda in the face of published reports that crime rates are down.

Mr. Day doesn't buy the view that crime rates are declining. Rather, he maintains crime is going unreported in Canada at "alarming" rates.

David Akin made the obvious reply.

There is a statistic about unreported crimes? I mean if they are not reported by definition we have no idea about these crimes.

Personally I'm thinking that Day heard it from Maxime Bernier who got it from all those emails about the census. You know the ones, don't you? The ones that were deleted?

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August 2, 2010

Checking the closet for skeletons?

| 4 Comments

CSIS reviews role in Afghan detainee interrogations

Canada's spy agency has ordered a "comprehensive review" of its dealings with detainees in Afghanistan amid questions about its role in conducting interrogations.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service quietly informed Public Safety Minister Vic Toews the review is designed to ensure the agency can clearly account for its involvement with Afghan prisoners, an internal memo obtained by The Canadian Press reveals.

A couple of paragraphs later it's revealed that the memo was originally written in March. I'm sure you won't be surprised to find that both CSIS and Public Safety have declined further comment. But this is interesting:

Wesley Wark, an intelligence specialist at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, said he's a bit startled CSIS would order such a review to prove after the fact its role was benign.

The agency may be engaged in a "damage control exercise" or it is looking to learn something from its involvement in prisoner interrogation, he said.

If this memo was written in March then it followed pretty closely on the two Toronto Star pieces that I referred to in a recent post. Both of those were published in late February when the issue of Afghan detainees was dominating the news cycle. While the articles were ostensibly about JTF2, they also drew attention to the presence of CSIS agents in Afghanistan and their involvement in questioning detainees. I can easily imagine the higher-ups at our national intelligence agency wondering if they had anything to hide and deciding that perhaps they should find out before someone else brought it to their attention.

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Environment Minister Jim Prentice has a "pending proposal" concerning the regulation of heavy vehicle emissions. I think that means he's giving serious consideration to the possibility of making a suggestion about doing something. I believe that might be a first for this minister who, thus far, has mainly settled for attending conferences and watching to see what other jurisdictions are doing so he can explain why that approach doesn't fit with the Harper government's priorities.

But before Prentice actually confirms that he's thinking about doing something, he wants you to know how pleased everyone is that he's thinking about it. So he's released a list of quotes from environmental organizations supporting the fact that he's considering making a proposal. One of the organizations quoted is the Sierra Club of Canada and the entire matter came as a complete surprise to them, at least according to executive director John Bennett.

"We didn't know anything about it," he said. "I got a call from Sun Media last night asking if the quotes were from us. I looked at them and they're not ours, they're quotes from the Sierra Club United States, they're over a year old, they don't refer to any event in Canada and they certainly don't represent anything we actually said."

We seem to be off to a rocky start. The minister's office has been contacted but thus far has had nothing to say. Unlike Bennett.

"When they actually have regulations, we'll comment on them."

What a novel concept. I wonder if someone has run this idea by Jim Prentice.

H/t to Toedancer at Bread & Roses.

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August 1, 2010

Speaking of surges

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In 2007, George W. Bush ordered an increased deployment of American troops in Iraq that quickly became known as The Surge™. The goal was to increase security enough to create room for a political reconciliation that would put that country on the path towards stability. This is the operation that supposedly solidified the reputation of General David Petraeus as the current expert on counterinsurgency. The Washington Post has a progress report today:

Nearly five months after disputed parliamentary elections, leading Iraqi politicians say they have all but abandoned hope of resolving an impasse over forming a new government before fall.

The protracted stalemate is a scenario U.S. officials have long dreaded. By the end of August, the United States will declare the end of its combat mission in Iraq -- and reduce troop strength to 50,000 -- amid a deepening political crisis.

It doesn't sound like much of a political reconciliation. And this doesn't sound like security.

Scores of Iraqis were killed in July in near-daily attacks across the country.

The bloggers at Iraq Today still conscientiously document events in the war that many have forgotten (or want to) and if you look at the entries for July, you'll find that last quote is certainly no overstatement. Bombings, grenade attacks and mortar attacks are almost a daily affair. Some of it is political or sectarian violence and some of it is just thugs taking advantage of a lawless society. When they talk about a successful surge in Iraq, as some do, I can't imagine what kind of result would cause them to regard it as a failure.

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Sunday morning

This was recorded at the 2008 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

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