February 2012 Archives

February 29, 2012

With Senator Nicole Eaton publicly leading the charge, the government's effort to demonize environmentalists is moving to the next level.

Promising to reveal information that would make "your blood boil," a Conservative senator opened a new front in the federal government's attack against environmentalists Tuesday.

"There is political manipulation. There is influence peddling. There are millions of dollars crossing borders masquerading as charitable donations," Senator Nicole Eaton declared as she launched an inquiry in the Senate into the "interference of foreign foundations in Canada's domestic affairs" and their "abuse" of Revenue Canada's charitable status.

Eaton is throwing around a figure of $300 million that has supposedly poured into the country in an effort to shape Canadian policy to serve "foreign" interests. Never mind the fact that we're talking chump change compared to the lobbying budget of the oil industry. As saner people quoted in that story point out, that $300 million has come into Canada over more than a decade intended to address a broad range of environmental issues and not just tar sands development and pipelines. And of course building pipelines that would allow the development of the tar sands to expand is what this is all about.

And if you think Nicole Eaton is getting a bit carried away with herself, check out Peter Kent.


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February 28, 2012

Inside the wire revisited: What wire?

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It's true that government and Canadian Forces spokespeople will readily acknowledge that no part of Afghanistan is absolutely safe. But when the subject comes up there's always the implication that Canadians there are safer now that they're training Afghan security forces rather than going on combat missions. That relative safety was a factor in the argument from the government — and the Official Opposition at the time — that extending the mission beyond last July didn't require any public input or even a non-binding, take-note debate in the House of Commons.

Of the 52 American or NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, nine were the result of fratricide. In other words, 17% of the soldiers killed this year died at the hands of the very people that our troops are training, whether the killers were originally legitimate recruits or infiltrators. This is a growing trend, as is the overall number of violent incidents. (It's true that the vast majority of Afghan civilians killed are at the hands of the enemy but if the level of violence is increasing due to attacks by the other side, wouldn't that mean we're losing?)


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The sources for the first half of this Globe and Mail update on the robocall controversy are "Tories, in private conversations Monday", "one Tory source" and "Conservatives who worked on the 2011 election campaign." A quick read through the rest suggests that those affiliated with other parties and those who are coming forward to say they received calls are all named. But the Conservatives are all off the record.

Serious question: whose interests are served by allowing the Conservatives to get their side of the story into the media without having to go on the record or take responsibility for what they're saying? I thought the primary reason for granting anonymity to a source was to protect a whistleblower from retaliation for revealing something in the public interest. Are we to believe these Conservatives are risking retaliation for whispering into a reporter's ear that, with the exception of some rogue operator, their party is pure as the driven snow? Seriously?

Does the Globe and Mail have a written policy about the use of anonymous sources?

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February 27, 2012

A new school for Attawapiskat

Remember this?

When I joined the blogburst in support of a new school for the First Nation community in Attawapiskat, I was already behind the times. The old school had been condemned in 2000, eight years before. It should never have taken this long but at least progress is finally being made and it appears to be more than just talk.


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Inside the wire

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Canadian media outlets began reporting yesterday afternoon that Canada had followed the example set by other NATO allies in Kabul.

Canadian officials in Afghanistan have been ordered to stay out of government buildings after two senior American officers were killed inside a supposedly secure ministry office in Kabul.

The measures come amid a weekend of violence and anti-Western protests in the country following the inadvertent burning last week of Korans at an American military base near Kabul.

That's the Globe and Mail but reports at CTV News and the Toronto Star provided similar explanations for the unrest that's been sweeping Afghanistan, focusing on the burning of the Korans without mentioning any other specific cause. They could have looked a little deeper.


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February 26, 2012

Don't dismiss Del Mastro

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Conservative Dean Del Mastro popped up in the media briefly yesterday to claim that his campaign in the last federal election was the target of fraudulent calls, just like all those Liberal and NDP campaigns. The initial reactions to his claim ranged from skepticism, since this was the first anyone had heard of it, to outright ridicule at what looked like an obvious attempt to claim that the other guys did it too.

But let's not be too hasty. If Del Mastro continues to claim that there were attempts at voter suppression in his riding, let's get the details and add it to the list. If any other Conservatives come forward with similar complaints, by all means let's take them seriously.

Implicit in those claims would be an acknowledgement that there really is a major problem involving voter suppression and violations of election law. A problem like that should never be dismissed by simply suggesting that if everyone does it, it balances out. That's not nearly good enough.


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February 25, 2012

So much for that strong mandate

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Evidence continues to mount that there were numerous and widespread attempts to suppress the vote in the last federal election. Even if there is no direct link established between the dirty tricks — some of which rise to the level of violations of election law — and members or agents of the Conservative party, it wouldn't change the point of all those fraudulent phone calls. Given the nature of the calls and the people who were targeted, the point was obviously to boost the fortunes of Conservative candidates by suppressing the turnout for their opponents.

We may never identify all the guilty parties or establish how effective all of this was or whether it actually changed the outcome in any riding. But it's enough to suggest at least the possibility that the results of the election were tainted.

The Conservative claim to a strong mandate for their policies was already weakened by the fact that they managed to form government with less than 40% of the vote. Now that claim is even weaker. There's simply no justification for continued efforts to stifle any and all debate on Conservative legislation by claiming that Canadians have already decided by virtue of the election's outcome. That strong mandate is looking more like an illusion all the time.

The next time the Conservative House Leader, Peter Van Loan, moves for time allocation, someone really needs to rub that in his face. Call it an exercise in freedom of speech.

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Our prime minister's concern regarding the Iranian threat to world peace has gotten a fair amount of attention in recent weeks. Stephen Harper insists both that Iran is definitely attempting to develop nuclear weapons and that the Iranians are fanatics who would use those weapons without hesitation. On the former, and despite what you'll hear from some, there really is no consensus in support of Harper's position.

Even as the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said in a new report Friday that Iran had accelerated its uranium enrichment program, American intelligence analysts continue to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb.

Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier, according to current and former American officials. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America's 16 intelligence agencies.

That's 16 intelligence agencies who beg to differ with Stephen Harper. (And Aurel Braun — follow the first link above if you don't get the reference.)


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February 24, 2012

Old fashioned Friday night blues blogging

Want Ad Blues, which is the real title, was written and recorded by John Lee Hooker. This is Rory Gallagher flying solo on what appears to be an original National Steel guitar.


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Is that a bus I hear coming this way?

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Updated below.

This Ottawa Citizen article is dated Feb. 23rd but the story actually broke on Wednesday evening, the 22nd. After a five month investigation, fraudulent robocalls placed during last spring's federal election campaign had been traced back to a company in Edmonton that had worked for 12 Conservative MPs, including Stephen Harper. And while it took five months to begin to unravel the mystery, it took the Conservatives less than an additional 24 hours to decide who should be the target of an internal investigation.

The Conservatives are investigating a party staffer who worked on the campaign in Guelph, Ont., after reports connected the party to an Edmonton phone-dialing company that made fake phone calls directing voters to non-existent polling stations during the last federal election, two senior sources tell QMI Agency.

Michael Sona was the Tory who took issue with a special ballot box that was set up by students at the University of Guelph prior to the official election day, saying the polling was illegitimate.

And things have continued to move quickly now that the matter is back in the public eye.


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This isn't the first time I've asked that question. On the previous occasion it was because he had been shown to have lied to parliament, which ought to be reason enough for a cabinet minister to stand down. But this time we have a situation that's arguably much more serious.

OTTAWA--Military personnel were asked to dig up dirt on an opposition MP in the wake of revelations Defence Minister Peter MacKay was picked up in a search-and-rescue helicopter from a 2010 fishing trip, defence department records show.

The DND, along with law enforcement and above all other federal institutions, ought to be — needs to be — above this kind of involvement in politics. There's simply no way that Canadian Forces personnel should be pressed into service to do oppo research in an effort to prevent political embarrassment on the part of their civilian master. MacKay is supposed to be their boss, not their buddy. In a sense they're his subordinates but they're not his political allies. An important part of his responsibility is to leave the military in proper condition to answer to the next defence minister and that's not what's happening when they're targeting opposition politicians.

I think it can be a mistake for the opposition to be too quick to demand a cabinet minister's resignation but not this time. I don't think it should be that difficult to make the case to Canadians that there's a big, bright line that's been crossed and it represents a type of corruption that has developed within the DND. MacKay's resignation would only be the first step in repairing the damage but that's where it ought to start.

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February 23, 2012

Please feed the trolls

The latest analysis of the uproar over Bill C30, Vic Toews, child pornographers and @Vikileaks30 comes from Jordan Owens at iPolitics. The biggest problem with it is here:

We all played a part in lowering the public discourse to this precise, pathetic moment.

...

How is this everyone's fault, though? Every time we don't say "hey wait a second, so-and-so, you don't get to accuse him of being un-Canadian because he disagrees with you," we are allowing the tone of debate to drop. Every time we don't say "excuse me, but believing finite resources should be allocated differently doesn't mean she doesn't support the troops," we are lowering the bar a little bit more. Whenever we don't say "hey jerk, you don't get to be a bully like that," we are reminding bullies that their tactics work.

This doesn't go nearly far enough.


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February 22, 2012

In an op-ed at the Globe and Mail, Adam Goldenberg considers those provisions of Bill C-30 that would free the police from the need to seek warrants where warrants are currently required. In the context of other Harper Government™ initiatives Goldenberg sees a pattern.

The Conservatives apparently see judges as an obstacle to effective police work; the purpose of the proposed legislation is to get them out of the way.

This is part of a pattern. Within months of the 2006 election, the government introduced legislation to limit judges' use of conditional sentences and impose mandatory minimums for gun crimes. More mandatory minimums followed in the Tackling Violent Crime Act, in 2008. In early 2011, Parliament abolished the "faint-hope clause," which had allowed judges and juries to review and, if appropriate, reduce parole ineligibility for inmates serving life sentences. And last fall, the Tories tabled an omnibus crime bill that would, among other things, force judges to send people to prison for no less than six months for possessing as few as six marijuana plants.

Anyone who has dared to question these measures has been branded as "soft on crime."

And that fits an even larger pattern.


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February 21, 2012

Much of the establishment media coverage of the public reaction to Bill C-30 — and Vic Toews initial comment on it in Question Period — has been annoying, to say the least. Did you know it's naive of us to be outraged at Toews claim that opposing the bill is the equivalent of supporting child pornography? This isn't the first example of this kind of nasty comment. So has there always been a Best Before date on criticism of gutter politics?

And apparently, unless we line up in order by height and express our outrage only when called upon and in the approved manner, we're an hysterical mob who have worked ourselves up into a frenzy. Good to know.

But in a roundup of some of the punditry on the issue, Chris Selley gets close to something the other columnists have either missed or skipped over. He's responding to Andrew Coyne, who wondered why the reaction to the actual contents of the bill is so much stronger than it was to very similar measures proposed by previous Liberal governments.

Over the seven years since the Liberal bill, police set fire to some of the credibility they had among conservative freedom-lovers: the Robert Dziekanski coverup, the G20 debacle, supporting the long-gun registry, and so on. ... beneath the hysteria is real and growing anger and distrust, which is quite heartening to see.

I could be snarky about this from a number of angles.


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February 19, 2012

Sunday afternoon

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Because I forgot to do it on Sunday morning.

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February 18, 2012

Journamalism: The Death of Privacy Edition

To all those who think that Bill C30, Vic Toews' new legislation, represents an invasion of your privacy, Robert Fulford would like you all to know that you're being naive. There is really no such thing as privacy online anymore. And Fulford knows because he's been paying close attention.

Experience tells us that just about any level of secrecy on the Web can be cracked. Surely that was proven when the WikiLeaks hackers demonstrated that even the U.S. government can't shield secret State Department memos sent by its ambassadors.

So there.

Except that if we're to believe what the American government alleges, Wikileaks didn't actually obtain the cables directly from the State Department but received them from Bradley Manning. The people at WikiLeaks didn't hack anything.

But surely the principle remains the same, right?


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Mostly competent government

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How can tabling legislation in the House of Commons without knowing what it actually says be considered competence?

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says he is surprised to learn that a section of the government's online surveillance bill provides for "exceptional circumstances" under which "any police officer" can request customer information from a telecommunications service provider.

When informed of one of the provisions in the bill — and not even the most egregious — Toews said "I'd certainly like to see an explanation of that." You're not alone, Vic.

This is the same man who, earlier in the week, accused people who questioned the merits of this bill as siding with child pornographers. So how many other bills has Toews sponsored without knowing their contents? And when will the editorial board at the Globe and Mail (among others) apologize to us?

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QOTD: On civil service

Hamutal Dotan, writing at Torontist about municipal politics, gives us a concise paragraph that's as appropriate in the context of what we've seen from the Harper Government™ as it is to the particular issue Dotan is addressing.

Among the things good governance requires: an independent civil service, populated by staff who are committed to providing honest counsel based on research and the best available evidence, and who have the capacity to do so without interference or threat of retribution. Civil servants, by design, are not political staff--they do not change with administrations. Their purpose is specifically to survive administrations, to provide continuity and institutional knowledge and policy expertise it takes years or decades to develop, and to ensure projects that, by their nature, take more than a year or two to implement persist through changes in government. They provide stability in a system that changes with each election cycle, and they ensure government services remain on similarly firm ground.

Contrast this with what we've seen at the federal level for the last six years. That's not to say that there weren't already problems but the corruption of good governance has only accelerated under Harper. Consider the Department of Foreign Affairs alone, which increasingly appears to be primarily a public relations agency for the oil industry.

It will probably take a generation or more to repair the damage already done. And the antics of the Ford administration to which Dotan is reacting remind us that much of this isn't unique to Harper. Movement conservatives don't seem to "get" public service any more than they "get" irony. And they certainly don't do evidence. It gets in the way of the ideology.

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February 17, 2012

Friday night

Is this a somewhat unlikely combination? The opening piece is a return visit by Lincoln Durham, who popped up on my own radar a couple of weeks ago. He's an accomplished fiddle player but it's his slide guitar that's on display on How Does A Crow Fly.


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Leave Vic Toews alooooooone!

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Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wants an investigation.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is calling for an investigation into how his divorce records ended up on Twitter.

Toews has been targeted in an online campaign related to the introduction of a surveillance bill which gives authorities easier access to people's Internet lives.

An investigation by the Ottawa Citizen suggests a Twitter account posting details of Toews' private life is linked to the House of Commons.

Toews may be suffering from some embarrassment, and even humiliation, but if any of the information about him that was posted to Twitter wasn't already in the public record, I'm not aware it. But still, our Minister of Public Safety thinks it important that we get to the bottom of this.

Let me repeat the name of the department for which Vic Toews is currently responsible: Public Safety. Toews was the minister responsible for that department in June of 2010.


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A time to speak up, a time to shut up

Someone should remind the Syrian charge d'affairs that Syria was invited to participate in the O'Connor Inquiry that examined the details surrounding the rendition and detention of Maher Arar. At the time the Syrians had nothing to say on the subject. They should probably keep it that way.

And that's about as diplomatic a spin as I can put on the situation. Ironic when you consider that it's Mr. Akbik who's supposed to be the diplomat.

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February 16, 2012

Transparency 'R'nt Us

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Updated. Please see below.

Here's a pair of media reports about the federal government that suggest an ongoing problem is about to get even worse.

Yesterday the Ottawa Citizen reported on comments from John McCallum, the Liberal finance critic, who drew attention to the lack of details the Conservatives have provided on previous "strategic reviews", which is the euphemism they apply to their cost-cutting exercises.

...the government has provided so few details on the cuts from the strategic reviews that departments have faced since 2007 that no one knows what programs are affected or what jobs are lost until the reductions are implemented a year or more later. Many of the job losses in the public service that have been announced in recent months are from decisions made during strategic reviews of a year or two ago.

One of the primary responsibilities of MPs is oversight on the way governments spend our money. It's difficult to do if governments won't provide details.

"I'm not saying they should leak before the budget, but from the day of the budget we should have the information to have a fulsome debate and for committees to examine the implications," said McCallum.

But as it stands, by the time we learn the details it's too late for debate. And besides, by then we've moved on to newer business. And it seems we can expect more of the same.


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February 15, 2012

Zombie lies

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I haven't seen it in a while but since Ezra Levant is determined to get everyone talking about Omar Khadr, I'm not too surprised to see this claim surface again. This is from a story about Levant's new book on Khadr:

The then 15-year-old Khadr was accused of tossing a hand grenade that killed U.S. medic Christopher Speer.

Christopher Speer was not a medic. He was a special forces soldier who happened to have cross training as a paramedic. On the day he died, Speer was in the field as a combat soldier and was not wearing any medical insignia. The claim that he was a medic has been floated repeatedly and was originally intended to make it sound as though Khadr intentionally killed someone should have been subject to special protection. It's a lie.

It's also where I stopped reading. Either the author of this article hasn't done his homework on a story that should be well known by now or he's intentionally misleading his readers. Either way, I wasn't going to waste any more time on him.

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Credit where credit's due

You might want to prepare yourself. I'm about to compliment the federal Liberals.

A few weeks ago I was expressing concern about what seemed like an increasing tendency on the part of the Conservatives to take the business of parliamentary committees behind closed doors. Not that I was the only one. Today the Liberals unveiled a proposal to limit the circumstances under which a meeting can go in camera. The subject under discussion would have to be on this list:

  • Wages, salaries and other employee benefits;
  • Contract negotiations; labour relations, or other personal matters;
  • Information that cannot be disclosed publicly without demonstrably putting national security at risk;
  • An item of business that cannot be discussed in public without disclosing information supplied in confidence such as legal advice supplied in confidence; and\or
  • Consideration of any draft report of the committee.

And good for them. If the NDP caucus has any sense they'll either get behind this or figure out a way to move even further in the direction of keeping the public's business public.

The Globe and Mail report on this is under the following hed: Liberal record undercuts push to curb closed-door meetings. So? If they've had a change of heart in the direction of greater transparency, that works for me.

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Inciting hysteria

The Vancouver Sun has a report on the reaction to our prime minister's recent statements regarding Iran from an Iranian expatriate named Trita Parsi who is head of the "Washington-based National Iranian American Council."

A prominent Iranian expert says Prime Minister Stephen Harper is inciting "hysteria" with his comments about Iran and increasing the odds of war at a time when the U.S. administration is trying to pursue diplomatic options.

"Bringing this issue to a level of hysteria does not make it easier to resolve ... All it does is that it increases the likelihood that all the remaining options are confrontational options."

And on the issue of Harper's claim that the Iranian rulers are insane enough to actually use a nuclear weapon in an offensive strike:

Making such characterizations, as Harper has, he said, hurts the odds of reaching a peaceful resolution - perhaps intentionally.

Perhaps intentionally.


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Free Mohamed Harkat

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Mohamed Harkat has been either imprisoned or subject to restrictive bail conditions for over nine years without ever being convicted of a crime. He's been the subject of a Security Certificate issued on the recommendation of CSIS since December, 2002. He'll be back in a courtroom — this time a Federal Court of Appeal — next Tuesday.

We have it on no less an authority than former CSIS director Jim Judd that the evidence on which Security Certificates are based is unreliable. In 2008 Judd wrote a letter to the Minister of Public Safety in which he stated his concern that if CSIS was barred from using information that may have resulted from torture, the entire Security Certificate regime would collapse. If any of the evidence against Harkat falls outside of that concern, we don't know and neither does Harkat because neither he nor we are allowed to see it.


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February 14, 2012

When reports about job cuts at Environment Canada surfaced last year, we were assured by Environment Minister Peter Kent that there would be no consequences for "core services." We heard the usual talking points about efficiency and streamlining and eliminating duplication and we were told that any vital work would continue.

That same post linked to above also reported concerns expressed by scientists in the international community that Kent's soothing noises masked a very real problem: the potential elimination of important programs. Scratch the word "potential" from that last sentence.

Five scientists from high-profile U.S. universities and NASA say in a recently-released paper that Canada is jeopardizing the scientific community's ability to monitor for holes in the ozone, especially over the Arctic. They point out that monitoring has already stopped in five locations in Canada and the website that distributed the information has been pulled down.

And it would seem that the Kyoto Protocol isn't the only international agreement we're walking away from.


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February 13, 2012

Today in Gutter Politics

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The Harper Government™ introduced the latest version of what is colloquially known as the Lawful Access bill today. This is the legislation that would force Internet Service Providers to equip themselves to be able to track the surfing habits of their customers and turn the information over to law enforcement on demand.

Many critics, including the government's own privacy commissioner, have objected to the bill because of the potential for abuses of privacy but obviously Public Safety Minister Vic Toews can see through that smokescreen. He understands where the criticism is really coming from. This was reported on Twitter about a half an hour ago by journalist Dale Smith:

Toews on Lawful Access bill: "You can stand with us, or you can stand with the child pornographers." Seriously.

The Conservatives seem to be having a contest lately to see who can be the most contemptible. At the moment I think Toews is winning but that could change any moment now.

Correction:

The legislation won't actually be tabled until tomorrow. The exchange that included the Toews comment above took place during Question Period in anticipation of the bill's introduction. That doesn't change the main point: Toews is still a jackass.

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February 10, 2012

Friday night

Good evening. I think it's time for some tunes. Let's start with Ray Wylie Hubbard on Wanna Rock and Roll. I believe the lead guitarist is his son and I'm still pretty sure that the Les Paul he's playing is older than he is.


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If Conservative MP Brian Jean was talking seriously about legislating against foreign funding for any group that's attempting to influence the crafting of public policy in Canada, then he might at least be able to claim to be acting on principle. Legislation like that would apply to so-called think tanks like the Fraser Institute and to lobby groups of all kinds that either receive foreign donations or that began with seed money from parent groups in other countries.

But that's not what Brian Jean is talking about. Aside from the evidence-free accusations of corruption he's throwing around, this is his position:

"Certainly, I would like to look at legislation to stop these [environmentalist groups (sic)] from bringing in the money, doing so either through disclosure or otherwise stopping them from interfering in Canadian interests."

...

He said he would ... like to introduce his [private member's] bill to specifically ban foreign interference in Canadian environmental debates.

He wants to use the law to target a specific point of view and a specific group of people. This is about shutting people up. So is the use of "radicals" as a pejorative but his proposal goes beyond rhetoric. He's talking about using the power of the state to try and silence a particular point of view.

That's the true definition of censorship. I expect Ezra Levant will be along any moment now to explain to Mr. Jean why his position is just wrong. Yes sir, any moment now.

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February 9, 2012

Dear John Baird

You recently suggested that Israel has no better friend than Canada. So perhaps you would be the best one to have a chat with our friends and suggest that this kind of thing is generally frowned upon.

Deadly attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists are being carried out by an Iranian dissident group that is financed, trained and armed by Israel's secret service, U.S. officials tell NBC News, confirming charges leveled by Iran's leaders.

The group, the People's Mujahedin of Iran, has long been designated as a terrorist group by the United States, accused of killing American servicemen and contractors in the 1970s and supporting the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran before breaking with the Iranian mullahs in 1980.

The People's Mujahedin of Iran is also known as MEK and, as I'm sure you're aware, has also been designated as a terrorist group by our own government. Using proxy groups like MEK to commit terrorism in other countries is one of the things we criticize Iran for. It's one of the major reasons cited by people such as yourself and your boss for considering Iran to be the biggest threat to peace in the world.

Were Israel to continue to work with groups such as this in the commission of terrorist acts I'm certain that your government, committed as it is to principled foreign policy, would have to openly criticize our dear friend. It might do some damage to the relationship. So I thought you might want to consider a quiet intervention before things get out of hand.

Cheers,
pogge

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The outcome of the NATO intervention in Libya has been touted as a "political victory" for Stephen Harper and a vindication of his foreign policy. In a ceremony held last November, Harper himself spoke about "honour" and the Governor-General talked about our commitment to international law and "the rights and freedoms we cherish." So I think we should continue to pay attention to what happens there beyond the news of the latest trade mission. Here's a headline from yesterday's New York Times.

Libya Struggles to Curb Militias as Chaos Grows

The militias referred to are the same groups that NATO countries armed, advised and enabled. If they were supposed to lay down their arms once we all decided their country had been liberated, they didn't get the memo.


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February 8, 2012

Wanker of the day

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Lorne Gunter, whose National Post column on the census is thoroughly dissected at Calgary Grit.

Incidentally, should Tony Clement pop up to claim vindication since Statistics Canada has released the first set of results from the recent census today, feel free to remind him that the population data we're getting right now is based on the short form which was always mandatory and remains so. The controversy he ignited concerned the long form. I'd remind him myself but he's not accepting my tweets.

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There seems to be a difference of opinion here

This is Tony Clement, after citing some numbers plucked out of context:

So clearly [Old Age Security] is unsustainable...

One wonders where Clement gets his information. It's certainly not from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

The oncoming demographic time bomb of baby boomers retiring won't cause a fiscal crisis Canada's budget watchdog said Wednesday, despite the Harper government's repeated assertions to the contrary.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page said in a report that the federal government will have the fiscal ability to enrich benefits for seniors and cut taxes, if they choose to do so.

On an issue like this, I'd normally be inclined to give greater weight to Page than to almost any MP. When the MP is Tony Clement, who's been caught lying on so many other files, there's just no contest.

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Larry Miller wasn't the only one determined to lower the tone of debate in the House of Commons yesterday. Julian Fantino decided to resurrect an old favorite in a comment directed primarily at the NDP's Christine Moore (via Aaron Wherry):

The one thing that should be stated in the House is for NDP members to state categorically that they do not support our military, that they do not support our men and women, that they do not support our airmen and women. That is really the theme here.

Ms. Moore rose on a point of order later in the day to inform Mr. Fantino that she had served in the Canadian Forces herself. But that isn't the point. And I didn't bother to find out what the original debate was about because that isn't the point either.

Questioning an opponent's support for the troops is just a variation on questioning an opponent's patriotism. It's designed to shut down debate and intimidate people into silence. Good for Moore for not allowing herself to be bullied but it shouldn't be necessary for her to bear witness to her own service. The accusation had no place in the discussion in the first place. If that's all the response Fantino had, he had nothing worth saying.

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February 7, 2012

This is from earlier today in the House of Commons.

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CSIS may use intelligence derived from torture, Toews says

The federal government has directed Canada's spy agency to use information that may have been extracted through torture in cases where public safety is at stake.

...

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has quietly told CSIS the government now expects the spy service to "make the protection of life and property its overriding priority."

Quietly. No press conference on this one. I wonder why.


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February 5, 2012

Unscheduled musical interlude: Three Angels

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February 3, 2012

Friday night

Blame Twitter. Someone was tweeting about a musician named Lincoln Durham the other day and when he included the magic words — slide guitar — I went off to see what I could find. The result is the set you see before you beginning with Living This Hard.


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Speaking of political theatre

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While the National Post does its best to hype the threat posed by Iran, here's the news I can't seem to find from a Canadian source:

WASHINGTON, Feb 1, 2012 (IPS) - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Israeli leaders Jan. 20 that the United States would not participate in a war against Iran begun by Israel without prior agreement from Washington, according to accounts from well-placed senior military officers.

Dempsey's warning, conveyed to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak, represents the strongest move yet by President Barack Obama to deter an Israeli attack and ensure that the United States is not caught up in a regional conflagration with Iran.

But the Israeli government remains defiant about maintaining its freedom of action to make war on Iran, and it is counting on the influence of right-wing extremist views in U.S. politics to bring pressure to bear on Obama to fall into line with a possible Israeli attack during the election campaign this fall.

My emphasis. Recent comments from both our prime minister and our foreign affairs minister suggest they're content to play along. Apparently being a friend to Israel means helping to lay the foundation for yet another war of aggression in the Middle East.

Update:

Here's an interview with Minister Baird I hadn't seen when I first posted this:

...Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird says Iran's position on Israel is clear, and Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons • "It's very easy to put one and one together. I believe Iran will use these weapons."

Israel alone has enough of a nuclear arsenal to wipe Iran off the map — the choice of language is deliberate — many times over at the first whiff of an aggressive move by Iran and the Iranians know it. And so does John Baird.

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February 2, 2012

I'm sure a lot of my fellow bloggers will be all over this story but I wanted my own copy to refer back to. I expect to get a lot of mileage out of this one.

Federal bureaucrats pose as 'new Canadians' on Sun News

Six federal bureaucrats were drafted to pose as new Canadians for a citizenship reaffirmation ceremony broadcast on the Sun News network, an event requested by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's office.

Kenney's staff wanted to do something splashy for citizenship week. But Sun TV resisted pressure to attend and broadcast an actual citizenship ceremony and instead suggested that something be done in their studio. After all, it's not like they do real broadcast journalism.

"Let's do it. We can fake the Oath," reads an email from a @sunmedia.ca email address, the name blacked out of the document.

That's the spirit. Don't let a little thing like authenticity slow you down.


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February 1, 2012

Wanker of the day

| 2 Comments

Federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver

But it's easy to see why Oliver is in cabinet. With John Baird's new position keeping him on the road so much, the Commons needed a new Angry McPointy. Now stay the hell off Joe's lawn.

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