Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For, Especially If It's Guergis' Head

People like Helena Guergis just don't turn up every day and they're damned handy to have around when you're sitting on the opposite side of the House of Commons.

Between Helena and Mr. Guergis, they've done it all - tantrums in airports, Bolivian Marching Powder, even aides writing shill letters to newspapers and dubious magazines. When you're polishing your sniper scope it really doesn't get much better than Helena Guergis and spouse.

Nothing looks better on Stephen Harper than a gross embarrassment in his own cabinet ranks. He's got his share, more than his share, but it's handy for the Opposition to keep them alive and kicking (windows perhaps)?

Unfortunately it seems that Helena's days in cabinet - and her usefulness to the Opposition - may be numbered. The Conservative Television Network's stand-in for Mike Duffy, Robert Fife, says a lot of Cons, including some in Harper's own den of vipers, are looking to give Helena the boot. Oh please folks don't drop Helena. This is only her, what, third or fourth strike? Why not wait to see what she can find to step in next week or next month? Oh please?

Guergis Affair Speaks Volumes for Canadian Media - And It Ain't Good

A second staffer discovered planting shill letters for Helena Guergis.

The Terrible-Tempered Miss Bang is in it again. A second aide has now "admitted" (i.e. been caught) writing the praises of Guergis in a letter to a publication without disclosing the connection to her boss. Yesterday it was Jessica Craven who wrote several letters under her maiden name, Jessica Morgan, to local papers in Guergis' riding. Today it's Valerie Knight, a staffer in Guergis' Alliston constituency office, who slipped one past the Tory house organ, Maclean's magazine.

Guergis, of course, is playing dumb about it all - perhaps the one thing she's remarkably good at. She claims she only learned of Knight's letter when her communications director spotted the story online. Yeah, sure.

While Guergis' own integrity is a legitimate question for debate, the most troubling issue is how do these letters get published without the media at least checking out the writers? I've never had a letter printed in the Globe, the Star, McClatchey, the LA Times or the NY Times without being directly contacted first.

It's pretty obvious that most of Canada's media today have an unspoken "reacharound" deal with the Tories but this is a bit much even for them.

Budget Woes? Here, Take a Hit

Is legalizing marijuana the elixir of states facing financial disaster?

A report from Reuters claims that several American states are looking at marijuana as a tax revenue source to replenish empty treasuries.

...California came the closest to taxing tokes last week by putting an initiative on its November ballot. The top marijuana-producing state could raise $1.3 billion annually, according to the California Board of Equalization, which collects taxes.

...Similar voter initiative efforts are underway in Washington and Oregon for 2010, and Nevada for 2012. New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are all considering legislation to legalize and regulate the drug, and states as conservative as Virginia and South Dakota are debating decriminalization.

Backers say the debate is gaining steam for a variety of reasons: a softening of attitudes, the spread of legal clinics for medical marijuana use and frustration with the drug war. Supporters say reducing the amount of money spent on marijuana law enforcement would help state budgets.

...Each time California or Oregon has stepped closer to making marijuana legal, others have made the same move four to five years later, said Allen St. Pierre, a spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Other states could follow California's lead, as more than a dozen did after it approved medical marijuana in 1996.

Steve, are you listening?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mankind - Too Stupid to Survive Climate Change?

James Lovelock seems to have thrown in the towel on mankind. Four decades ago Lovelock introduced the theory of Gaia, the Earth functioning very much like an organism. He is considered a luminary of the global warming movement.

In a recent Guardian interview, Lovelock took the opportunity to praise 'legitimate' climate change skeptics, to upbraid some aspects of the scientific community, and, as always, to advocate the need for adaptation to what's coming instead of wasting time and resources on arresting global warming itself. This time he went so far as to suggest global warming is the sort of existential danger that may require the suspension of modern democracy:

...We need a more authoritative world. We've become a sort of cheeky, egalitarian world where everyone can have their say. It's all very well, but there are certain circumstances – a war is a typical example – where you can't do that. You've got to have a few people with authority who you trust who are running it. And they should be very accountable too, of course.

But it can't happen in a modern democracy. This is one of the problems. What's the alternative to democracy? There isn't one. But even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.

...I don't know enough abut carbon trading, but I suspect that it is basically a scam. The whole thing is not very sensible. We have this crazy idea that we are setting an example to the world. What we're doing is trying to make money out of the world by selling them renewable gadgetry and green ideas. It might be worthy from the national interest, but it is moonshine if you think what the Chinese and Indians are doing [in terms of emissions]. The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful.

...I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change. We're very active animals. We like to think: "Ah yes, this will be a good policy," but it's almost never that simple. Wars show this to be true. People are very certain they are fighting a just cause, but it doesn't always work out like that. Climate change is kind of a repetition of a war-time situation. It could quite easily lead to a physical war. That's why I always come back to the safest thing to do being adaptation. For example, we've got to have good supplies of food. I would be very pleased to see this country and Europe seriously thinking about synthesising food.

The problem I always have with Lovelock's approach, and those of many in the science community, is that they tend to address global warming in isolation rather than incorporate it into the mix of manmade threats facing our species. As Maude Barlow points out, the looming global freshwater crisis is easily as dire a threat to mankind as global warming. Add to these the host of lesser but contributing problems such as desertification, resource depletion, species extinction, air,land and water contamination - and others - and the real nature of the problem we're facing begins to emerge.

I'm absolutely convinced that none of these problems, not one, can be solved in isolation of the others. They all must be solved for there to be a meaningful solution to any of them. Only by approaching them holistically will we identify the common threads that run through each and all of them. Only in recognizing the commonalities will we be able to shape the approaches we need to tackle them en masse.

Unfortunately I find myself agreeing with Lovelock that garden-variety democracy may be too flawed, too clumsy to meet these challenges or to prevent them from spreading beyond our control. The fact is we have no solutions to any of them, not even one.

Realize this. You are today standing on the cusp of what will become a world of rapidly accelerating change. Our ability to control that change is slipping through our fingers. It won't be global warming but the freshwater crisis that will hit first and it will hit us extremely hard and very soon. This is a danger that will be here, full blown, within 15-years if not sooner.

You may think of water in the context of what comes out of your taps on demand. You may think of water problems as a blight experienced in the poorer corners of the world. If so, you need to take a hard look at what's happening just next door, in the backyard of our immediate neighbour. Here's a glimpse from Maude Barlow excerpted from her book "The Global Water Crisis":

"...Florida is in trouble. The state's burgeoning population, with a net influx of 1,060 people every day, relies almost entirely upon its dwindling groundwater sources for its water supplies. To keep its fast-spreading lawns and golf courses green, the sunshine State is sucking up groundwater at such a rate that it has created thousands of sinkholes that devour anything - houses, cars and shopping malls... ..California has a twenty-year supply of freshwater left. New Mexico has only a ten-year supply. Arizona is out: it now imports all of its drinking water. ...scientists and water managers throughout the American Midwest and Southwest are saying that it is more than drought: major parts of the United States are running out of water. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that if current water use continues unchecked, thirty-six states will suffer water shortages within the next five years."

What passes for political leadership of any stripe in Canada never acknowledges these matters much less opens them for discussion with the Canadian public. At best they make some tangential reference usually accompanied by a meaningless bromide. Do they think Canada will be immune to the fallout from America's crises? Are they simply afraid to mention these matters lest that negatively impact their personal political aspirations? Harper certainly is, Ignatieff too. Layton simply takes a free ride on their silence. Unfortunately we'll all pay dearly for their political cowardice.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


"To this observer, it seems that Liberals today don't stand for much in the way of principles. I have the impression that they will endorse anything and everything which might return them to power and nothing which won't, whatever the merits of either. It's all about getting to power, and it shows."

- Ambassador Robert Fowler, Canada 150

Fowler said what an awful lot of us have been thinking and saying for more than a year now. He only pointed out the obvious when he warned the Liberal Party is in danger of "losing its soul" in the direction it's been taking.

Will Ignatieff and all his IgLibs listen? Without restoring progressivism to the party, the new LPC will never be anything more than "conservative lite."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Far Right Disease - Republicanism

In case you haven't noticed it, Obama's healthcare victory, modest as it was, has sent Republicans and Republicanism wildly spinning and off kilter. The Republican movement is purging its ranks of intellectuals, leaving more room for the guiding wisdom it takes from Limbaugh and Beck and Hannity. Republicanism has become a pathology and, if you don't believe that, take a look at this excerpt I found at a medical web site:


"Republicanism" is a symptom of mental illness characterized by a radical change in personality and a distorted or diminished sense of objective reality.


"Republicanism" appears as a symptom of a number of mental disorders, including mood and
personality disorders , schizophrenia , delusional disorder , and substance abuse. It is also the defining feature of the psychotic disorders (i.e., brief psychotic disorder , shared psychotic disorder , psychotic disorder due to a general medical condition, and substance-induced psychotic disorder ).

Patients suffering from advanced Republicanism are unable to distinguish the real from the unreal. They experience
hallucinations and/or delusions that they believe are real, and they typically behave in an inappropriate and confused manner.

A mental illness can exhibited through various forms of Republicanism, such as:

Delusions. An unshakable and irrational belief in something untrue (see "birthers, tea bagging, climate change denialism"). Delusions defy normal reasoning, and remain firm even when overwhelming proof is presented to disprove them.

Hallucinations. Republicanism causes false or distorted sensory experience that appear to be real.

Republicans often see, hear, smell, taste, or feel things that aren't there (see "Sarah Palin").

Disorganized speech. Republicans often speak incoherently, using noises instead of words and "talking" in unintelligible speech patterns (see "Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity").

Disorganized or catatonic behavior. Behavior that is completely inappropriate to the situation or environment. Catatonic patients have either a complete lack of or inappropriate excess of motor activity. They can be completely rigid and unable to move (vegetative or "McCainism"), or in constant motion (Limbaugh Spasm disorder). Disorganized behavior is unpredictable and inappropriate for a situation (such as screaming obscenities in the middle of class or at Fox News).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ann Who? Ann Who Gives a Crap, That's Who

A scan of the prog blogs reveals that Ann Coulter sure got their notice. Why? Does anyone really care what she says or what publicity stunts she pulls? Why?

They're called "publicity stunts" because they're a vehicle to generate publicity and that's something that's in sufficiently short supply for this hag these days that she has to travel outside her own country to get it. She wants to get noticed and she really wants you exorcised enough to write about her.

Screw it. Screw Ann Coulter. Ignore her and she'll make an ass of herself and then go away.

Forget Oil, Invest in Water

Within a couple of decades water will become the resource most heavily in demand throughout most of the world. By 2030, just four countries - India, China, Brazil and South Africa - are estimated to require fully 42% of the world's freshwater stocks. It doesn't help that each of these four countries already faces serious clean water shortages.

There's now a "2030 Water Resources Group", a consortium of mainly private companies assessing how to meet our world's future water needs. Their study reveals that, by 2030, there'll be a 40 per cent gap or deficiency in available, clean freshwater and global demand.

The consortium's solutions appear to lie in conservation and desalination. The conservation part is a no brainer but the desalination remedy is fraught with perils. We're talking about enormous quantities of sea water and, remember, the salt and other byproducts extracted by desalination doesn't simply vanish. They have to go somewhere and the cheapest somewhere is straight back into the ocean. The problem is this can skew salinity levels that can destroy marine ecosystems in the vicinity of the outflow. One water plant's damage may be somewhat localized but a lot of plants could have major regional impacts and this at a time when the world's fish stocks are already reeling.

The World Bank is now strongly advocating for water pricing. The WB maintains that putting a price on freshwater is the only way to enforce conservation and facilitate treatment and delivery. Of course this can also pit massive consumers - industry and agriculture - against relatively powerless consumers, the poor, who are already bearing the brunt of the global freshwater shortage. The line becomes dangerously blurred between pricing water and privatizing the resource. Introducing the "for profit" factor can risk conflicts with national social policy. Isn't water, after all, the ultimate public utility?

You don't have to look hard to discover that conglomerates are already well on the way to establishing a private sector water cartel. They're betting a lot of money that they'll succeed as public sector efforts fail.

NYT Calls Obama Health Bill an Attack on Wealth Inequality

According to the New York Times, the Obama health bill is the first significant measure to reverse the wealth gap between America's rich and poor that has been steadily expanding since 1970.

Over most of that period, government policy and market forces have been moving in the same direction, both increasing inequality. The pretax incomes of the wealthy have soared since the late 1970s, while their tax rates have fallen more than rates for the middle class and poor.

Nearly every major aspect of the health bill pushes in the other direction. This fact helps explain why Mr. Obama was willing to spend so much political capital on the issue, even though it did not appear to be his top priority as a presidential candidate. Beyond the health reform’s effect on the medical system, it is the centerpiece of his deliberate effort to end what historians
have called the age of Reagan.

The "Age of Reagan"? Might as well call it the "Age of Ruin." When Ronald Reagan entered the
White House, America was the world's largest creditor nation. In the breathtakingly short span of but eight years Reagan transformed the U.S. into the world's largest debtor nation. Reagan and Bush I and II were the only presidents since the end of WWII not to reduce America's debt as a function of GDP. Under them it skyrocketed to the near ruinous state inherited by Obama.

The Age of Reagan saw Americans become utterly stupid, willing to believe fantastic ideas such as their ability to live in wealth due to the endlessly increasing value of their homes. It wasn't just "casino capitalism" that brought America down, it was also "casino consumerism."

There were two types of wealth in America - real wealth and mirage wealth. Real wealth was what accumulated at the top among America's wealthy elites. Mirage wealth was the illusion of prosperity conjured out of cheap foreign borrowing and a bubble economy. It was scam wealth although it bought all the trappings of genuine affluence - while it lasted.

The Age of Reagan ruined the country and ruined an awful lot of Americans' lives. It allowed Washington, Wall Street and the American people to dig a horribly deep hole to the point where, today, their only salvation in the short to medium-term is another economic bubble. That's like a junkie relying on the next fix to keep the throes of withdrawal at bay.

For Obama and the United States, measures to arrest and narrow the wealth gap can help heal the damage done to the country and its people. On March 13th I addressed the sinister side effects of wealth inequality in a post, "A 'Must Read' for the Liberal Right." That post covered the book "The Spirit Level" in which two prominent British epidemiologists looked at the relationship between income inequality on half a century of data covering everything from mental health, drug use, physical health and life expectancy, obesity, educational performance, teen births, violence, imprisonment and punishment and social mobility.

Spirit Level compared every Western, industrialized democracy and also put America under a spotlight on a state by state comparison. What they found, and linked most persuasively, is that all of these blights on society worsen markedly (and predictably) as income or wealth inequality worsened. As income inequality diminished so too did these troubles. The authors also showed this wasn't just about the poor. Everyone but the very wealthiest suffered the scourges resulting from income inequality.

There's little question that America's rabid social Darwinism leaks across the border and into weak minds like that of our current boss, Harper. You might recall that, prior to his recent transformation, Harper subscribed to every bit of this made-in-America nonsense and even rebuked Canadians for our backward ways, the same ways that kept Canada from falling into the fiscal abyss created by the Americans.

I hope the New York Times has this one right and, if so, I hope Obama succeeds beyond his dreams. There are some who believe healthcare reform will be the spark that ignites social change in the United States. Among their ranks lie many hardcore congressional Republicans now struggling furiously to find a way to douse that very spark before it can catch hold.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CRTC Sells Out Canadians to CTV and Global

Global and CTV have one thing in common - they both shill for the Conservative government. However I'm sure that had nothing at all to do with their "win" before the CRTC which decided the broadcasters are entitled to compensation from the cable companies that distribute their programmes.

I carry no brief for the cable companies. They plainly overcharge for a second-rate product. But this isn't about what Rogers or Shaw charge or deliver to the public.

Television networks like CTV get their revenue through advertising. That's why they fill their spot on the public airwaves with American programmes of mass consumption, usually mindless reality shows and tired sitcoms. Agencies like the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement (BBM) track how many viewers watch individual shows. The larger an audience a particular show delivers the more advertising during that time slot will cost.

Having been a BBM survey participant I can attest that the company doesn't care less whether you watch a particular programme via a coaxial cable or a rooftop antenna. Doesn't make the slightest difference. All they care about is how many people are watching a particular show. That's all the advertiser cares about too.

Cable transmission allows the TV networks to reach a larger audience than they could ever achieve by over-the-airwaves broadcasting. Larger audience = more advertising revenues. It could (and should) be argued, therefore, that the cable companies already help the TV networks by delivering their shows and their shows' advertisers to a far larger audience.

The corollary asks why a network should be able to get money for a cable viewer that it doesn't receive for an over-the-airwaves broadcast viewer? The cost to the network for an antenna viewer and a cable viewer is the same. If you have a rooftop antenna and live close enough you get the shows free but if you get the shows via a cable then you'll have to pay for them? Make no mistake, the CRTC does foresee that the consumer will bear the cost and have proclaimed that we can afford it.

There was a time the CRTC placed the public interest first. That mandate seems to have gone out the window under the Tories.

How Long Before Americans "Get It"?

Trolling through American media web pages it quickly becomes apparent how the American people are divided into two utterly different realities over Obama's healthcare reform. Some truly support it, others act as though Joe Stalin himself was marching down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Oh the tyranny of it all!

John Kenneth Galbraith would find the anguish hilarious. The Canadian-born economic advisor who served Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, long ago noted that the only socialism Americans could accept was socialism for the rich. From the Wall Street bailouts to tobacco and energy industry subsidies to the endless grants, subsidies and massive overruns of the defense industry, America is the ultimate corporate welfare state. Socialism for the rich and powerful indeed.

Yet bringing the health insurance industry to heel and extending coverage to millions of formerly uninsured Americans is more than those taxpaying teabaggers can stand. It doesn't matter that, in the short and long-term, it will save their government money. These are the idiots, 19 out of 20 of whom don't realize that Obama has lowered their taxes. These are people who have disconnected themselves from reality which, I suppose, qualifies them as mentally disturbed at best, deranged at worst.

Obama got his healthcare bill. Maybe not the legislation he sought at the outset but a toehold bill in any case. He's signed it into law. But he's not out of the weeds yet. The Republicans, well and truly deep in the healthcare industry's pocket, will fight furiously to kill this off. They think they still have a chance to rescind this law but even they know they have to act fast before the public come to understand what healthcare reform really means. Once the American people "get it", the Republican resistance is finished.

Monday, March 22, 2010

This Is Why Staying in Afghanistan is Madness

Peace is at hand? The electorally-engineered president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is having peace talks with the insurgents. Well not exactly all of the insurgents. Just Hizb-i-Islami, the insurgent militia of the most treacherous of all Afghan warlords, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

From time to time Bush and others have referred to monsters who throw acid in girls' faces.
That monster was Hek. While studying engineering at university in Kabul, Hek made a name for himself by murdering a Maoist student and by chucking acid in the faces of female students who chose not to wear a veil. He was jailed for a couple of years in the early 70's until he was given amnesty by the then prime minister Daoud Khan. To show his appreciation for Daoud's leniency, Hek wasted no time bolting to Pakistan where, with the assistance of authorities, he promptly organized an anti-Daoud Islamist militia.

When the Russians showed up in 1979, Hek was showered with cash and weapons by the CIA to wage jihad in Afghanistan. He was one of the most prominent warlord "freedom fighters" during the 10-year battle with the Russians. Hek was an early multi-tasker, finding plenty of time to run a successful drug empire while also taking the fight to his fellow warlords.

When the Russian gig wrapped up in 1989, Hek stirred it up in the subsequent civil war. He was an equal-opportunity hater, switching sides repeatedly. For brief spells in 1993 and 1996 he was the Afghan prime minister. When the Talibs took over in 1996, Hek beat feet for Iran.

After the Taliban were routed in 2001, Hek rejected a peace overture from Karzai and instead joined up with his old rivals, the Taliban and has spent the last eight years as what some call "the most prominent anti-American guerrilla" operating with the Talibs.

Earlier this month Hek's Hezb-i-Islami fighters turned their machine guns and rocket propelled grenades against the Taliban which, for Hek, is nothing out of the ordinary. Encouraged, Karzai has received a Hezb-i-Islami delegation to Kabul for peace talks.

Hek's plan, according to CBC, would see the Afghan parliament dissolved and replaced by an interim government. The insurgents also want a new constitution merging the existing "democracy mandate" with former, presumably less democratic constitutions.

Why Hekmatyar, why now? Either Karzai is desperate to save his skin, even foolishly so, or perhaps he thinks Hek may be a lever to draw the Taliban into talks. It really doesn't make much difference. The importance of this is that our contribution - in lives and treasure - can have little lasting significance while these characters pull the strings in Afghanistan. Any "peace" Karzai brokers with Hek will probably be no more stable or lasting than Hekmatyar has been his entire adult life. We gave Karzai an opportunity. He's made the absolute worst of it. It's time to cut our losses.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Every Progressive Must Read This - An Israeli Mea Culpa

The progressive Israeli newspaper Haaretz has thanked prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for finally shining a light on Israel's shameful past:

A revelation has come forth in Jerusalem: Most of it is a settlement. After decades in which we lied ourselves to pieces and rendered kosher that which was not - only to ourselves, not to any other country - the truth has been revealed. It has been revealed after years in which no one thought to call the residents of these giant neighborhoods settlers. Years in which Teddy Kollek, a Labor Party man and a man of peace, of course, was considered a "builder" and not the greatest of settlers. He settled more Jews in occupied areas than any settler leader. Years in which doubting the settlement enterprise was tantamount to heresy and treason. So of all people, this right-winger, Netanyahu, proponent of the Greater Land of Israel, has lifted the veil.

The work of the righteous is sometimes done by others, as the saying goes. (Let's not forget the assistance of the Obama administration - its only real achievement so far.) From now on we will have to conduct ourselves in the neighborhoods in the occupied areas just as we do in the settlements in the occupied areas. Any additional construction will come at a heavy political cost. House demolitions in the city have already been completely stopped; we can thank Netanyahu and Obama for that, too. Those who wanted it all may now lose it all, and that's a good thing.

How pleasant it was all those years to think that Jerusalem was ours alone. We did what we wanted, we enacted the Jerusalem Law, we annexed areas that were not ours and believed that this was enough to whitewash reality.

Now, perhaps, it's over. Thanks to the Obama-Netanyahu team, questions will arise: What exactly is the difference between this occupation, which we never admitted to, and the occupation we have admitted to? What's the difference between the Shoafat refugee camp and the Deheisheh refugee camp? Why is it okay to issue blue ID cards to residents of the Shoafat refugee camp and allow them relative freedom of employment, and not to the residents of Deheisheh? Why does a Palestinian from Beit Hanina not endanger security when he drives on Israeli roads and even takes off from Ben-Gurion International Airport, while his friend from Abu Dis is a ticking bomb? After all, they are the same Palestinians - in Jerusalem as in nearby Bethlehem and distant Jenin.

Why, in the framework of negotiations "without preconditions," are eastern and northern Jerusalem not up for discussion, when every provocative act of construction on the other side of the Green Line in the capital, which has hardly expanded westward at all, is intended to create unilateral "political facts" - in other words, preconditions?

And we must not forget that this huge building project in Jerusalem is for Jews only; not one Palestinian neighborhood has been built in 43 years of occupation. Should that not be called apartheid? Even the new magic and foolish solution of the greatest master of words, President Shimon Peres, has persuaded no one: Israel, the president now tells his guests from abroad, has the right to build in "Jewish neighborhoods." And how, Mr. President, did they become Jewish, all of them on Palestinian land, if not by massive, illegal settlement, just like in Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion, which are now within the "consensus" we invented for ourselves? Consensus? Only in Israel. And to a great extent this consensus, too, has been fabricated.

And we have not yet said a word about "sanctity," another reason for demands for sovereignty and settlement. Since when is sanctity a value in a secular state? What does it have to do with sovereignty? And to how many Israelis in this city, in all its new Jewish neighborhoods and old Palestinian suburbs, is it indeed sacred? And is it sacred only to us?

Can someone with connections inside the LPC, someone perhaps who's able to contact Michael Ignatieff, please send him this link?

Friday, March 19, 2010

NYT's David Brooks Turns ...Pink?

While he's supposed to be a voice of the Right, you might be hard-pressed to come to that conclusion by reading today's New York Times column by David Brooks.

Brooks laments that his country is becoming a "broken society":

"The public has contempt for the political class. Public debt is piling up at an astonishing and unrelenting pace. Middle-class wages have lagged. Unemployment will remain high. It will take years to fully recover from the financial crisis.

"This confluence of crises has produced a surge in vehement libertarianism. People are disgusted with Washington. The Tea Party movement rallies against big government, big business and the ruling class in general. Even beyond their ranks, there is a corrosive cynicism about public action.

"But there is another way to respond to these problems that is more communitarian and less libertarian. This alternative has been explored most fully by the British writer Phillip Blond."

Communitarian? Did I read that correctly? From David Brooks? Yes, that is indeed the case Brooks makes in his column.

Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.

Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.

The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage.

...The effort to liberate individuals from repressive social constraints didn’t produce a flowering of freedom; it weakened families, increased out-of-wedlock births and turned neighbors into strangers. In Britain, you get a country with rising crime, and, as a result, four million security cameras.

In a much-discussed essay in Prospect magazine in February 2009, Blond wrote, “Look at the society we have become: We are a bi-polar nation, a bureaucratic, centralised state that presides dysfunctionally over an increasingly fragmented, disempowered and isolated citizenry.” In a separate essay, he added, “The welfare state and the market state are now two defunct and mutually supporting failures.”

...Economically, Blond lays out three big areas of reform: remoralize the market, relocalize the economy and recapitalize the poor. This would mean passing zoning legislation to give small shopkeepers a shot against the retail giants, reducing barriers to entry for new businesses, revitalizing local banks, encouraging employee share ownership, setting up local capital funds so community associations could invest in local enterprises, rewarding savings, cutting regulations that socialize risk and privatize profit, and reducing the subsidies that flow from big government and big business.

...Essentially, Blond would take a political culture that has been oriented around individual choice and replace it with one oriented around relationships and associations.

...Britain is always going to be more hospitable to communitarian politics than the more libertarian U.S. But people are social creatures here, too. American society has been atomized by the twin revolutions here, too. This country, too, needs a fresh political wind. America, too, is suffering a devastating crisis of authority. The only way to restore trust is from the local community on up.

With Brooks it's always a good idea to wait for the other shoe to drop in a week or a month down the line but his analysis sounds sensible - and radical - coming from an American conservative. However it reminds us that not all American conservatives are the malevolent scum manifested in the Cheneys and today's Republican Congress. There are indeed moderate, fiscal but not social conservatives struggling to find a way to regain control of the American Right. We should all wish them well.

The Supreme Court Hands Harper a Thick Slab of Raw Meat

It was a tough case and came down to a 4-3 decision but the Supreme Court of Canada today aquitted a Saskatchewan man of kiddie porn charges. The case came down to the validity and scope of the search and seizure of the man's home computer.

It's a highly technical and complex legal decision on a subject that the public will not abide. The Court showed great courage in holding the line even though it meant aquitting a child pornographer. The fact that the Court was do sharply divided will do nothing to quell the inevitable outrage the Harpies will delight in exploiting.

R. v. Morelli

Canada Thwarts Bluefin Protection

The Atlantic bluefin tuna is on the ropes. Overfishing has caused stocks to drop by 75% and many countries, including the United States, warn the prized species is seriously endangered. That's why the Harper regime joined forces with the Japanese to sabotage a proposal to ban the export of the bluefin.

In keeping with its enthusiastic support for seabed trawling, Canada joined other nations in rejecting a bluefin ban proposal that came before a United Nations conference on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Qatar.

But wait, there's more!

Canada also blocked an American proposal to ban the international trade in polar bear skin and parts.

Oh well, did you hear about all the gold medals we won at the Olympics?

Arms Race Update - Attack of the Drones

North Americans have been largely spared the sort of attacks experienced in other lands. We're surrounded by oceans vast enough to have kept most potential aggressors at bay. The Japanese sent over a few dozen balloons and their subs lobbed a few shells on shore targets but, by and large, we've not had much foreign aggression to contend with.

We did, however, institute a joint US-Canada air defence command, NORAD, to monitor the aerial approaches to our countries and maintain a fighter deterrent to potential aggressors. The focus was mainly on the bomber threat from the former Soviet Union. We deployed a sophisticated, conventional force to meet a somewhat less sophisticated, conventional threat. Well, what about the unconventional?

The Brookings Institute is examining the risk to the North American homeland from attack by unmanned, aerial vehicles, UAVs or drones. The point is no place is out of reach when "..a 77-year-old blind man from Canada designed an unmanned system that in 2003 hopped the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland."

America has gone heavily into drone technology and its potential rivals and its enemies have been watching. Today, two-thirds of military expenditures on drones and drone technology is coming from countries other than the US.

Anyone with the money and a moderate amount of skill can acquire, assemble and launch an intercontinental drone from components freely available on the marketplace. And, as the Brookings report showed, drones can be devilishly hard to track, much less down. They're relatively stealthy and fighter jets have great trouble flying slowly enough to gun them down.

So, here we have an emerging 21st century threat to North American security with an enormously high-tech but potentially ineffective 20th century defence. We know that we're vulnerable, the bad guys know that we're vulnerable and, now, you know it too. It's conceivable that even Peter MacKay and Stephen Harper have finally clued into it ...but then again.

The question is what are we going to do about it? That the threat is real is beyond question. If the bad guys want to hit hard at Main Street, USA, drones are a far better option than highjacking airliners to fly into buildings. These can deliver real WMDs and they don't even have to succeed. The psychological blow is struck as soon as the public learns somebody actually launched one of these drones that could have caused widespread devastation, because, once it's happened the only question on peoples' minds will be when the next one will be launched, the one that will actually get through?

We've spent a lifetime, my lifetime at least, taking war to other peoples' backyards. In fact we're currently waging protracted but ineffective wars in the Middle East specifically (so the Right tells us) that we don't have to fight "them" at home. What if these rightwing nutjobs are wrong? What if their perpetual war actually ensures that the bad guys have every reason to bring their war to us? Tough questions, tough times.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Third Time... Lucky? Or Why Does Stephen Harper Hate Theresa Fraser?

It seems the Harper government can't wait to see Theresa Fraser in the cold, cold ground.

The poor 77-year old from, get this, Garden of Eden, Nova Scotia, has twice been given up for dead by the feds in just the past five months. The government Scrooged Mrs. Fraser the first time in November when she drove into town to do some Christmas shopping. She went to the bank to get out some of her pension money only to find the cupboard bare. The insanely cruel Harper government had stopped depositing her cheques when another Theresa Fraser of Pictou County died.

The bank teller helped Mrs. Fraser get the Canada Revenue Agency sorted out, but not for long. Last week she received a letter addressed to the "estate of Theresa Fraser" demanding return of the $94 GST cheque they had mailed to her in January.

Mrs. Fraser hopes to get this mess sorted out before the Feds are right.


Flak. Today, it's a mildly perjorative term for those who toil at "public relations" which is, itself, a highly flattering title for what are often little more than rank dissemblers, obscurers and spin meisters who seek not to 'relate' to the public but to mislead, confuse and manipulate the public. The name itself comes from the German Fliegerabwehrkanone or anti-aircraft cannon that barraged Allied bombers in an attempt to rattle their crews and make them miss their mark.

We're told that the already hyper-secretive Harper regime is not going to allow Parliament to see its documents pertaining to the handling and subsequent treatment of Afghan detainees but, instead, is going to have ex-judge Frank Iacoboucci review them so that he can opine on what MPs may and may not see. Judge Frank has been given guidelines with more than generous wiggle room for him to pass judgment on these documents.

How do we know Judge Frank will be more jurist than flak in this job? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who watches the watchmen? Why, I guess that would be Stephen Harper and Peter MacKay, wouldn't it? And isn't that precisely the problem that brought us here?

The opposition needs to dig in on this one but I can't see them willing to risk facing an election over a few tortured Afghans. No, I think they'll use it to make a bit of noise before scampering back into their dark corners. Brace yourselves kids, we may be in for the full Flakoboucci.

Just Plane Screwy

The Federal Court of Canada has ruled that flight attendants can refuse to fly with a pilot they deem suicidally depressed.

Fair enough.

In August, 2008, four Air Canada cabin crew refused to fly to Paris with a pilot who, on the previous trip, had talked about flying his aircraft into the Atlantic. Air Canada was so concerned that it rounded up replacements and the flight proceeded from Toronto to Paris.

Wait a minute.

Shouldn't Air Canada have handled this just a bit differently? Shouldn't the airline have also found a replacement pilot at least until the situation could be looked into? Maybe the captain was just fine but, when four crew members are willing to risk their jobs over it, shouldn't Air Canada have done just a little more for the passengers and changed pilots?

Just sayin.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bravo for the Bloc

BQ MP Francine Lalonde has shown the sort of courage we could use a lot more of in the opposition ranks. She's introduced a private member's bill to amend the Criminal Code and legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada.

Lalonde, who has herself battled cancer on and off in recent years, is morally and ethically right on this one. From the Toronto Star:

"Helping someone to die gently and without pain, can we call this murder? Many would say 'no.' And that's what I say," said Lalonde (La Pointe-de-l'Île).

"People who are going through a painful terminal phase, we should not refuse them the right to die with dignity.
She said her bill would allow terminally ill patients to "decide for themselves the time of death."

Ms. Lalonde provoked the expected outrage from Conservatives, especially the hysterical social cons like my MP, James Lunney. "Contrary to her intentions, this bill will allow doctors to provide a patient with a lethal injection, making many Canadians vulnerable to premature death," said Conservative MP James Lunney (Nanaimo-Alberni).

This "slippery slope" argument is utter nonsense and Lunney could and should know that. He lives just a few hundred miles north of Oregon which introduced its own assisted suicide legislation several years back. Anyone interested in this would do well to explore Oregon's experience.

In Oregon, terminally ill residents diagnosed with less than six months to live can apply for their programme. This is followed by counselling and interviews with independent physicians. If the applicant meets the criteria and satisfies the physicians there is a waiting period and a subsequent review. Only after that is the individual given a prescription for life-ending drugs.

The patient is given the prescription, that's it. They can have it filled or simply leave it unfilled. As it turns out, only a small percentage get it filled and fewer yet take the drugs. And that's the point, make no mistake about this.

What Oregon's programme does is alleviate the fear of the terminally ill that they may experience absolutely intolerable pain in the process of dying. This programme effectively targets the fear of an anguished death. It is about providing assurance and comfort to those facing the end. That's why most don't take the drugs. They only wanted them to ease their fears.

What kind of animal would refuse that ease of mind to the terminally ill?

The Rank Hypocrisy of the Right Makes Even the American Enterprise Institute Puke

It's not easy to get something as far right as the American Enterprise Institute to turn on its own but congressional Republicans and their backers in America's delusional rightwing media did just that.

Norm Ornstein, writing in AEI's Enterprise Blog tears a strip off congressional Republicans, the Wall Street Journal, and all the Republican hacks that infest America's TV and radio outlets:

...I can’t recall a level of feigned indignation nearly as great as what we are seeing now from congressional Republicans and their acolytes at the Wall Street Journal, and on blogs, talk radio, and cable news. It reached a ridiculous level of misinformation and disinformation over the use of reconciliation, and now threatens to top that level over the projected use of a self-executing rule by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the last Congress that Republicans controlled, from 2005 to 2006, Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier used the self-executing rule more than 35 times, and was no stranger to the concept of “deem and pass.” That strategy, then decried by the House Democrats who are now using it, and now being called unconstitutional by WSJ editorialists, was defended by House Republicans in court (and upheld). Dreier used it for a $40 billion deficit reduction package so that his fellow GOPers could avoid an embarrassing vote on immigration. I don’t like self-executing rules by either party—I prefer the “regular order”—so I am not going to say this is a great idea by the Democrats. But even so—is there no shame anymore?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A "Must Read" for the Liberal Right

Canadian liberalism seems to have lost its way in the Liberal Party's quiet drift to the right under Michael Ignatieff. The Liberal leader is unquestionably well-educated yet he regularly demonstrates the limited value of intellect alone.

Michael's Gumby-like character that seems capable of stretching in any direction on any issue at any moment should be enough to give all Liberals real cause for concern. It points to a serious character flaw, the sort of failing that allows a person to endorse illegal war of conquest before repudiating it or to condone torture before rejecting it or to pre-absolve Israel for its war crimes in Gaza. A person who vacillates so easily, so repeatedly and to such extremes is mere chaff blowing in the wind. You cannot find vision in beliefs anchored to the briefest moments in time.

I don't think the Liberals have much hope of regaining their former prominence until the party returns to the centre-left. And, until it does, I think Canada will be much the worse for it. We will pay a real price, in the medium and long-term, if we don't even our own keel. One point demanding Liberal intervention is the growing wealth gap between rich and poor in Canada.

To those on the right end of the Liberal spectrum I invite you to read "The Spirit Level" by two prominent British epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. In Spirit Level, Wilkinson and Pickett bring the scientific approach of epidemiology to bear on the issue of income inequality, the gap between rich and poor, and its effects on modern Western society.

The authors digest half a century of data from the industrialized democracies of Europe, North America and Asia and similar data from each of the United States. The nations and the states are ranked from least to most-inequal and against that are charted their respective performance on everything from mental health, drug use, physical health and life expectancy, obesity, educational performance, teen births, violence, imprisonment and punishment and social mobility. Whether it's a comparison of individual states or of various nations, the results are consistent. Societies with the greatest income inequality always have the poorest performance records. As wealth gap narrows, performance improves. As it widens, conditions worsen.

What's most impressive about Spirit Level is the depth of the research and the manner in which the authors foresee and pre-empt rebuttals about causation, ethnicity and historical influences. They examine and dispose of each of these at length relying not on professional opinion as much as half a century of observation and study.

The lesson of this book is that income inequality results in societal dysfunction. The authors show that this isn't merely a blight on society's poor but also has profoundly negative impacts on all social stratas save for the narrowest at the top. The likewise show that measures to curb income inequality benefit almost all social segments proportionally.

Why I feel it urgent that Liberals open their eyes to the realities of Spirit Level is that it reveals we are closely and perhaps inseparably intertwined with the most dysfunctional society in the developed world, the United States of America. Despite Barack Obama's grand promise of change, the U.S. continues to trend very negatively on income equality and the social ills that it spawns.

A dysfunctional society is a weak society. It is a vulnerable society. Weak or failing societies and enormous social upheaval are expected to be the hallmarks of the 21st century. Even the Pentagon and the CIA have warned this is our future whether we acknowledge it or not. Canada needs a strong, healthy and resilient society even if the United States sees the situation differently. Liberals need to embrace these lessons and realize that Canada and Canadian society may pay dearly for acquiescing to the current drift to the right. Getting back to an even keel isn't going to be easy. It's going to take a leader with resolve and vision and principle.

How We Lose Afghanistan

Afghanistan today is really little more than an unresolved civil war in hiatus. We have interceded between the main protagonists, the Northern Alliance warlords, and the Taliban. In the process we have handed over the levers of power to the brutal, corrupt and treacherous warlords of the Northern Alliance while we stepped into their shoes to give battle to the Taliban.

While the warlords have certainly entrenched their cancerous hold on Afghanistan, we have fought a half-hearted, short-sighted war against the Taliban that has seen the 'bad guys' return as an insurgency that morphed into a full-blown rebellion, holding or controlling territory that is supposed to belong to the regime in Kabul.

If we believed we actually had a chance at defeating the Taliban that's what we'd be doing. But we know - and they know - we're not going to defeat them and so, in a war where there is no Option "B", we've decided to go with Option "B" and seek to bring "the Taliban" into a power-sharing arrangement with their Northern Alliance brethren.

As I said at the outset, there is no Option "B" and there never will be. Option "B" is at best a fantasy, at worst a dangerous delusion. Option "B" presumes the existance of a valid central government onto which we can graft the Taliban. Afghanistan has no valid central government, merely a "criminal enterprise" based on a nexus of a corrupt administration and a narco-economy undermined by warlordism and tribalism. We can't even get that to stand up on its own much less graft something else onto it.

Option "B" also presumes we can somehow get these disparate groups to set aside their rivalries and join to form a harmonious, marginally democratic government that will be compatible with our own geo-political interests in that region. We want a proxy state and nothing less. We want a pro-Western Iraq to the west of and a pro-Western Afghanistan to the east of Iran. We want a fortress with which we can contain not merely Iran but also the energy hungry appetites of China and Russia. We want it all.

We want the unreliable Karzai out. He knows it. He knows that Britain and the United States are going behind his back to erode his support among Afghan leaders. We know it. He knows it. Iran knows it. China knows it and Pakistan knows it. Iran and China are moving vigorously to consolidate their positions in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants in too, especially as Karzai has tested the winds and knows there is much to be gained by dumping Islamabad's rival, India, in favour of an Afghan-Pakistan alliance. Iran, China and even Pakistan may have a great deal to gain by backing Karzai, particuarly if that drives a deep wedge between Kabul and Washington and London.

They know our Achilles' Heel - time. Time is not on our side. We can't sustain public support for the Afghan war much longer. The longer Karzai and his backers can dig in their heels, the weaker becomes our hand. We need momentum, they need only inertia.

This might be an ideal moment to fall back on our own default option when dealing with an intractible puppet regime - a military coup. Unfortunately in our eight years of warfighting in Afghanistan we've failed to build an Afghan army capable of taking control of the place.

If nothing else, Afghanistan will have been a terrible expensive object lesson. It has taught us that overwhelming military firepower is no cure all for lousy political leadership.

Global Warming - Looking At Denialists

Those who "get " the science of global warming now call the naysayers "denialists" or "deniers." They, naturally, cloak themselves in a mantle they ill-deserve, "skeptics." They're skeptical, not readily taken in, not gullible, not weak-minded like the global warming crowd and that dreadful IPCC.

A letter written to the folks at has put the real nature of the denialists in a clear and refreshing light:

"...there are plenty of ill-considered opinions to be found either side of any issue, but only the most ignorant person could fail to see the terrible intellectual gulf between the quality of so-called skeptic sites and those defending the science behind the AGW thesis."

And so the point is driven home. There is legitimacy in true skepticism, an authenticity of approach and process, that the denialists reject. Yet they seek to wrap themselves in a legitimacy they themselves don't respect much less uphold.

My friend Scruffy Dan regularly engages the denialist crowd in his posts, rather graciously taking apart their shallow, brittle arguments one by one. Recently one commenter upheld two leading denialist figureheads. Dan pointed out that these two advanced arguments that were not merely inconsistent, but contradictory. He noted that the denialist community is full of 'experts' who regularly run afoul of each other's theories. The denialist replied that didn't make the slightest difference. I couldn't help but interject that when there were 20-people in a room, each with a different reality, we used to call that an asylum.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Cut It Out, You're Scaring the Driver!

I swear, I promise never again to use the metaphor about 'throwing somebody under the bus.' We've all gotta stop, please?

Put yourself in the shoes of the humble bus driver. Imagine. All you ever read about is people throwing other people under your bus. In other words, you're being used - apparently constantly used - as a freebie executioner. I can't understand how a driver could even look underneath his bus. Every little muffled thump, every bump, you'd be wondering if you just ran somebody over.

There was a time we used to throw people off a cliff or throw them to the wolves or toss them to the lions. My point is there are options. And I'm sure with a little creativity we can come up with no end of new things to throw people to or under or off.

But, please, let's lay off bus drivers - at least for a while. Please?

Maybe the RCMP?

When opposition parties of the past thought the government of the day was up to no good, they would meet with the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and ask the force to investigate. Harper even used the tactic with a compliant (and subsequently disgraced) Commissioner in order to successfully skew an election his way.

So, why don't Iggy and Layton and Duceppe hop OC Transpo to Alta Vista for a sitdown with the current Commissioner?

Oh dear!

That would mean sitting down with the RCMP's first civilian commish, a veteran Tory fixer and lifelong bureaucrat, Harper appointee, Bill Elliott.

"Hey Bill, think you might have a look at this and see if Harper or MacKay or Hillier should be chucked into the Greybar Hotel?"

Okay kids, this one's for the lawn furniture, what do you think are the chances that would get anywhere?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

And This Is How Germans Build a Crotch Rocket

Behold and marvel. The new BMW S1000RR

Dear Judge Iacabucci - Sorry To See It End This Way

Dear Frank:

You're old enough that you'll be familiar with the line about getting your tits caught in the wringer. Well Frank that's the sort of predicament you've gotten yourself into right now.

You've got another highly esteemed legal mind, international credentials and everything, who has seen the same documents you're going to be reviewing. For all we know he's got copies of them. It seems the guys who are using you screwed up royally and let the smoking guns out long ago on a Freedom of Information enquiry.

Worse still, Frank, this esteemed legal mind has made accusations that take these documents right out of the 'national security' discussion and into the realm of criminal coverup. This guy, Ottawa U law professor Amir Attaran, says you'll be reading documents that make plain that the government was knowingly complicit in torture of Afghan detainees. Attaran says you're going to read that we handed detainees over to Afghan torturers so they could wring intelligence out of them.

And, Frank, the instant you read that and realize what it means, you're going to have to ask yourself if you've been set up to participate in a conspiracy to conceal war crimes. At that point all this 'national security' bullshit becomes just that - bullshit, neck deep.

You know Harper has no legal right to withhold these documents from Parliament. You know it's an abuse of the Canadian constitution to do that. You also know that if Harper had any genuine belief otherwise, he'd be arguing his point before real judges, the folks sitting just a block away, not an ex-judge.

Once you see evidence of a conspiracy to conceal war crimes, you're right between the rock and the hard place. Professor Attaran has given you a gentle reminder that Harper has let these documents slip through his fingers already. At this point you're being set up as Harper's political shill, his beard. You're not to determine fine points of national security and you're not even being asked to deal with the constitution. You're a prop and that's it, a public relations gimmick for the 30% of Canadians who haven't clued in to what a petty tyrant we have running this country.

You've had an impressive career Frank. You built a fine reputation. Too bad you're willing to let Harper throw all that off a cliff to save his political skin.

A Shot Across Iacabucci's Bow?

Ottawa University law professor Amir Attaran may have thrown a wrench into the gears of Harper's determined, perhaps desperate efforts to conceal documents pertaining to torture of detainees captured by Canadian forces and handed over to Afghan captors.

Professor Attaran claims he's seen the documents and they're unequivocal. He maintains they show detainees were handed to the Afghans for what Michael Ignatieff politely refers to as 'enhanced interrogation' in order to extract intelligence from them.

There are some fascinating dimensions to Attaran's gambit. He says the documents exist. He says they show a deliberate policy of torture. In other words, Professor Attaran is telling the public that retired Justice Frank Iacabucci will be receiving unredacted documents that plainly show we had a policy of using Afghan government thugs to torture detainees to extract intelligence.

But wait, there's more!

What's also implicit in Attaran's statement is that we did this, we duly recorded the fact and that information was conveyed through channels to Ottawa. People in Ottawa knew and that means they'll be accountable for their actions once they knew. Who would that be? Almost certainly it would include senior officers at the Defence Department and, unless they're willing to throw themselves on their swords, the knowledge trail would likely skip right over the Laurier Bridge to Parliament Hill.

But wait, there's even more!

How did a law professor come to see these unredacted documents when the Harper regime has them so securely under lock and key? The most likely explanation is that someone inside thought they needed to be leaked and was willing to risk the consequences to prevent them from being buried. Who, what, when? I would expect professor Attaran has already had his first sit down with the RCMP. We know that Harper doesn't like upstarts telling the public the truth he doesn't want them to hear.

And, you guessed it - even more.

Now most of you kids are probably too wet behind the ears to recall a guy named Daniel Ellsberg and what became known as the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg was a Pentagon analyst who leaked rafts of documents showing that the Pentagon knew Vietnam was unwinnable. That was quite the scandal. The American newspapers had a field day with that. The point is, once this sort of stuff is leaked, the genie is forever out of the bottle.

I'm guessing that Attaran was shown these documents by someone of conscience unwilling to let them be buried. That suggests the documents Harper is struggling so fiercely to bury have already fled the coop and may be circulating in public.

My bet is that Amir Attaran has fired a shot across Justice Iacabucci's bow. He's just told Frank Iacabucci and Stephen Harper and all those safely-retired generals that they've lost control of these documents and, if they don't release them, someone else just might. And, if Attaran's accounts of what's in these documents is right, that kids may be game, set and match.
If Frank Iacabucci was supposed to be Stephen Harper's beard, he just got trimmed.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Is There A Smoking Gun on Afghan Torture Waiting for Iacabucci?

According to an Ottawa University law professor the documents to be laid out before retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Iacabucci reveal Canadian officials handed over Afghan detainees to torturers for the specific purpose of gaining intelligence.

Professor Amir Attaran has told CBC News that he's read the unredacted documents the Harper government is hiding: "If these documents were released [in full], what they will show is that Canada partnered deliberately with the torturers in Afghanistan for the interrogation of detainees," he said.

"There would be a question of rendition and a question of war crimes on the part of certain Canadian officials. That's what's in these documents, and that's why the government is covering up as hard as it can."

If professor Attaran is right and if these documents become public, either by being released by Iacabucci or through back channels, it's foreseeable that the chain of command of culpability could reach straight up to the upper echelons of the Defence Department and into the Harper cabinet as well.

In the United States this would be brushed off as all but completely irrelevant but isn't that mentality part of what has brought that once great country low? If professor Attaran is right, if these documents contain what he says he's read with his own eyes, then it'll be our turn to confront government criminality. Will we stand against it? Will we refuse to tolerate it? Will we demand that wrongdoers in high office be punished? Or will we follow the example of the American people, shrug and avert our eyes to it?

How we, the Canadian people, respond to this may define the kind of people we'll be and the Canada we'll have for decades to come. Let's hope that we appreciate what we may be coming up against.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

What Kind of Moron Does It Take to Support Republicans? Ask the Republicans

How does the Republican Party see the rank and file, small donors to their cause? Well, thanks to an internal, 72-page GOP document carelessly allowed to fall into Democratic hands, now we know. From Politico:

"The small donors who are the targets of direct marketing are described under the heading 'Visceral Giving.' Their motivations are listed as 'fear;' 'Extreme negative feelings toward existing Administration;' and 'Reactionary.'" That's right, the Republicans know their real party faithful. They ought to. They spent the entire dark years of the Bush regime making the American people fearful, preying on their vulnerabilities. Now fear drives the flow of cash into their coffers. And, yes, the Repugs know their nearest and dearest are indeed reactionary. They're knee-jerk rednecks, just the way the Grand Old Party likes'em.

Does anybody think that bottom feeder that passes for our prime monster is any better than his Republican, American Idols? Inculcating fear, anger and bigotry is their very stock in trade.

Reactionary people are stupid. They don't think, they react. You feed them the right stimulus, a heaping helping of fear, or appeal to their base bigotry and out pops their chequebooks.

The Republicans, having been caught with their pants down, are running for cover just as fast as their little paws can carry them. And that, kids, is why these far-rightwingers are assholes.

Lenny Quits the House That Dad Built

Will the last Asper to leave please turn out the lights? Lenny Asper has called it quits at CanWest having steered the company straight onto the rocks and into the arms of moonraker creditors. For a good while, Lenny had transformed CanWest into a public relations arm of his favourite causes, notably Israel and Canada's right wing. Years ago The Globe's Lawrence Martin wrote that CanWest, particularly the National Post, operated as the Conservative's party organ and was so far right it should be "delivered in a holster."

When you're pushing ideology talent is not at a premium, a fact borne out by the gaggle of second-rate hacks the likes of Terrence Corcoran, Kelley McParland, Jonathan Kay and visiting scribbler Lorne "the grunter" Gunter who practically oozed across the CanWest newsprint. These guys weren't journalists as much as side show barkers, carnies. Their output was lame but, worse, it was predictable and ultimately boring. As the headliners of The National Spot, it's not difficult to see why the paper was a monumental money loser. It was in the wrong country. That sort of trash actually has a strong market south of our border but not here.

CanWest's broadcasting arm is gone. G-lowball is lost to the Aspers forever. The papers are up on the block with bidding to close this Friday. Creditors hope the papers will fetch more than the .95-billion dollars they're owed. Failing that they're expected to bundle them up into a new chain and take the whole thing public. Hard to see how well that will work. I'd bet it's just as likely they'll wind up having to flog them piecemeal with bidders paying good money for the wheat and fire sale prices for the chaff.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Afghanistan Failing Right On Schedule

Did someone give Karzai a handbook on how a failing state is supposed to lose to an insurgency?

The latest dictate out of Kabul: a ban on news coverage showing Taliban attacks. Effective immediately, journalists may film only the aftermath of attacks and, even then, only if they have first obtained the permission of Karzai's spy agency, the NDS National Directorate of Security.

An agency spokesman said that live coverage does not benefit the government and only helps the Taliban.

This sounds like something the late Saigon governments would have been perfectly happy with.

Monday, March 01, 2010

McClatchey Newspapers Compares Vancouver Games to Hitler's '36 Berlin Olympics

This from today's McClatchey news:

After a spirited torch relay ignited pride in every corner of the country, the Olympic Games began and quickly galvanized the nation.

Flags were everywhere. The country's national symbol hung from windows and was worn on nearly everyone's clothing.

Fervent crowds cheered every victory by the host nation.

But enough about the 1936 Berlin Olympics

...for the most part, the most underappreciated soul at these Olympics was an American or a European on the medals stand.

Yes, every host nation cheers lustily for its native Olympians. But never in my experience to the extent that we saw here, where the rest of the world's athletes were little more than drink coasters at the party.

South Korean Kim Yu-Na's dazzling gold-medal performance in women's figure skating, for example, was overwhelmed here by the attention given to Quebec's Joannie Rochette, whose mother tragically died.

...Team Canada hockey jerseys became the uniform of the streets. Maple leafs were either hanging or on clothing everywhere.

One thing I never saw: a simple flag or shirt with the five Olympic rings. Not anywhere. After 15 Olympics, that was a first.

I didn't attend the '36 Olympics, but I've seen the pictures. Swastikas everywhere.

...An Olympic host is supposed to welcome the world. This one was too busy being (their word) "patriotic."

"Now you know us, eh?" chief organizer Furlong said.

We thought we did two weeks ago. Now, I'm wondering if Canadians can even recognize themselves.

Nice party. But so 1936.

Cute references coming from a hack from the first Western country to illegally attack and conquer another nation since the Soviets took Czechoslovakia. Typical fucking American bullshit. Typical fucking American.

By the way, this Hitler guy. Isn't he the one who lied his ass off to find an excuse to invade another country? Hmm.