Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Velvet Touch"? Oh, Come On.

When I heard about Jack Layton getting smeared about getting an innocent massage at a Toronto rub'n tug nearly twenty years ago, I thought it was just that - a smear.

I didn't know it was true until Jack's wife, Olivia Chow, told reporters that Jack had told her about it and his run in with police at the time, way back when.

That's when I began to wonder about this massage parlour.   When I practised in Vancouver there was one of these joints above a nearby restaurant we often frequented.    As I recall it went by the name of "Swedish Touch" and nobody remotely sentient had any doubt about what sort of touching went on in there.

Now there are plenty of legitimate massage therapists in Vancouver and, if they have a trade name at all, it's usually the therapist's own.  So that got me wondering just what was the trade name of the spot Jack frequented.  According to the Toronto Sun, the establishment went by "Velvet Touch."

Oh, come on.  Layton is allegedly caught in the room with an "attractive, 5'10" Asian woman" in the Velvet Touch?  Bringing it up at this point is a blatant smear job but, in my opinion, the ever sanctimonious Jack is as much to blame for that as anyone else.

Shades of Grey

I'm wrestling with how to vote on Monday and I probably will be even as I take pencil in hand in the booth.  It's unfortunate they don't have a specific  "none of the above" option because that's the way I'm feeling right now.

A good deal of my problem is that I'm coming to see the NDP, Liberal and Conservative leadership as something of a gelatinous mass.  I suppose it's the predictable result of the Liberal leadership/policy vacuum that left the centre ground up for grabs.   Harper moved to the left, Layton to the right and Iggy fought for air between them.

Travis Fast, over at Relentlessly Progressive Political Economy, illustrates the point:

...The NDP has long since jettisoned, something Stephen celebrates and I lament, any commitment to the types policies that would restore the governments capacity to unwind the inordinate amount of power the corporate sector wields over the public. Without such “radical” options in their public policy arsenal they will be more or less forced to make the same type of trade-off’s. 

The fix is in.  Just as America fell to a corporatist Congress, Canada has been overtaken by a corporatist Parliament.   Nobody, including Jack, seems willing to accept that 18th century capitalism, 19th century industrialism  and 20th century geopolitics have run their course, have lost much of their former utility.  Layton, Ignatieff and Harper all seem committed to governing as though we were still in the 80's.  They're all stuck in the "growth and jobs" paradigm, a mechanical frame of mind that all but rules out vision at the very moment when we most need vision from our political leadership.

It's becoming increasingly harder to shove our heads in the sand.  Globally we're already well into what has been called the "Century of Revolution."  The evidence of the unrest that has already broken out or is quietly building through the developing economies and Third World is everywhere.  Yet the reality of this is not even on the radar screens of our leadership.   Are we to assume that, even if Canada remains stable, we'll be immune to the upheaval elsewhere?  The indifference of our amorphous political leadership appears to assume just that.

Our civilization is beginning to slam into a wall that limits what is a genuinely finite world.  Many resources remain in abundance but others, including some essential to a stable world, are becoming depleted or critically scarce.  When demand (as in the sum of both want and need) exceeds supply, want loses its currency while need persists and grows in importance.   This is where we either shift from a growth-based consumption model into an equity-based allocation model or else accept some seriously brutal alternatives.  Again our amorphous political leadership appears oblivious.

Anthropogenic or man-made global warming is here and spawning climate change effects.   Some of the best and brightest warn that we have a limited time left to break our carbon addiction or risk triggering unstoppable feedback mechanisms, runaway global warming that will move earth into a new climate mode that will render most of our planet inhospitable to most life.  Yet again our amorphous political leadership mumbles vague promises about cap and trade measures that experience shows they have no intention of implementing on any effective basis.  It's all greenwash and nothing more unless it is harnessed to a powerful break in our carbon addiction.

Even if we were willing and able to end our carbon addiction tomorrow and managed to do just that on a global scale, existing carbon emissions will continue the heating process for at least another century.  We're in for a century of sea level rise; severe storm events of increasing frequency and intensity; precipitation pattern changes leading to extended drought and flood cycles impacting on our food security; species migration and extinction (and the resulting spread of pests and disease) - and this is just for starters. 

We're not alone.  Every corner of the planet is in for this.  We are, however, unique.  We're one of just a handful of countries that, by virtue of their geographical placement, stand to be the last and least affected.  We also enjoy certain demographic and resource advantages necessary to meet these challenges.  Yet most of this bounty, these advantages, won't be realized on their own unless they're harnessed to our service in a timely and effective manner.  Again we're met with a deafening silence from our amorphous political leadership.  They alone have the power and resources absolutely essential to initiating the information, evaluation, planning and implementation processes of climate change adaptation but they show absolutely no willingness to act.

I suspect the reason that Layton, Ignatieff and Harper seem so amorphous, so gelatinous is because none of them has any real vision and I'm pretty sure the reason they're all so devoid of vision is because each is working so hard to avoid acknowledging the great and pressing challenges facing our country.  They have no vision because they're all looking backward, imagining they're still in the 80's.  None of them has the courage to look forward and tell us what they see.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Curbing Asian Appetites - A Stark Look at the Future

Billions of Asians want one thing - to live pretty much like you or me.  The fact is, they can't.   There isn't nearly enough of anything to go around for that to happen.  The UN Secretary General has warned it would take two and a half Earths to come up with the resources to make those aspirations a reality.

India and China haven't come to grips with the West's economic exceptionalism but some, such as Chandran Nair, are speaking out to warn that the western model of consumption-led economic growth would be disastrous for Asia.

"It's a matter of numbers," Nair said on a visit to London to speak at the Royal Society of Arts. "What Europe and America does about restricting its impact on the environment is pretty irrelevant. The future will be determined by what happens in Asia. Three billion Asians want what you and I have, but there is not enough to go round. By 2050, there will be 5 billion Asians," says Nair, who grew up in Malaysia and now lives in Hong Kong.

"If Asia continues like the west, the game is over; as people in Asia get richer, they eat further up the food chain. If 500 million Chinese want to eat just one seafood meal a week, it will empty all the seas of Asia. If Asians ate as much chicken as Americans, by 2050 that would amount to 120 billion birds a year instead of today's 16 billion. To aspire to the western model in Asia is a deadly lie.

"If China and India had the levels of car ownership evident across the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development], that would amount to 1.5bn more cars – and it would take the entire oil production of Saudi Arabia to run them," says Nair, whose book Consumptionomics: Asia's Role in Reshaping Capitalism and Saving the Planet has just been published.

...Nair reserves most scorn for the west's mythology about Asian growth. Yes, millions have been lifted out of poverty but rather than putting this down as a triumph of liberal market capitalism, Nair argues that the model of development has consigned many millions more to continuing abject poverty. Trickle down doesn't work. Consumption-led growth creates a comparatively small middle class floating nervously in a sea of poverty. Its a cruel illusion to claim that the poor can all one day join the middle classes.

 ..."This is my key point. The majority of Asians are being left behind by the current model of growth, and governments will have to change tack or risk losing legitimacy," argues Nair. He challenges the development model of rapid urbanisation and calls instead for investment in rural areas to improve sustainable farming methods and raise farming incomes. A policy that the Chinese have already adopted.

He uses a telling fact: 2.2 billion Asians now have mobile phones, but far fewer have access to drinking water or toilets. The problem is not about needing more technology but about restructuring an economic system to meet human needs. How is it that TVs, playstations and mobile phones are more easily accessible in some of the cities of Asia than a glass of drinking water from a tap?

"We live in a world whose values are set by an economic system that incentivises and rewards those who can generate growth for a select group of mostly western institutions," states Nair in Consumptionomics.

It is in the meeting of genuine human need that the future of Asian capitalism must lie: food production, environmental stewardship, and health and education. "It's harsh for Asians to be told that as latecomers to the capitalist party they will never be able to attain that way of life taken for granted in developing countries," he admits.

What's needed is a strong interventionist state that can take these difficult long-term decisions – Nair talks of "benign authoritarianism" and insists that the key issue is good governance, not whether it meets democratic criteria.

Benign authoritarianism may well be Asia's fate, perhaps even its best hope.  That, however, begs the question of what lies in store for us, for the West?  The Asians may be running into a wall but it would be absurd for us to smugly assume it won't be felt in our homelands, that we will be able to maintain business as usual.  Absurd and dangerous.

Our model of consumption-led economic growth is not only unsuitable for Asia but it's unsustainable for the West.   Unlimited, perpetual growth is not capable on a finite planet with finite resources.   And once you reach the wall where consumption exhausts supply you inevitably must (if you're to survive peacefully) transition from a growth-based economic model to an allocation-based model.  Inequality and disparities in wealth and well being are far more tolerable in a growth-based world than in an allocation-based civilization.   Allocation is another term for rationing which begets a measure of collective sacrifice and in an environment of sacrifice, inequality is far less tolerable than it is under 18th century capitalism.

I suspect that globalization itself will falter and then collapse with the demise of growth-based economics.   The preservation of prosperity in the more affluent and self-sufficient nations will depend on restoring trade, tariff and currency controls to arrest the outflow of national wealth.

Will we be able to escape the "benign authoritarianism" that seems to lie in store for Asia?  If we do it won't be without a good deal of vigilance and resistance to the authoritarianism already creeping into our societies.  Democracy will have to be defended and that effort begins by recognizing those among us who would gladly relieve us of our democratic rights and freedoms.  That includes a segment of the Left and of the Right.  It the political centre doesn't hold we may be in for a very rough ride.

The Voice of a Nation in a Tailspin

Bit by bit American democracy is being dismembered.  Masses turn to propaganda mills like FOX News for information, arguing that the very number of viewers (the unseen hand of the marketplace) vouchsafes the Murdoch flagship's credibility.  Notionally grassroots protest movements are funded by shady mega-rich characters and harnessed to their service.  The defenders of the public interest allow corporatism to insinuate itself between the elected and their voting public, transforming them into a "bought and paid for" Congress.  The nation is transformed into a warfare state in which perpetual war is essential for an ascendant military/industrial/commercial war-waging complex.   Support for the country's less advantaged is ruthlessly slashed while their government relies on foreign borrowings to finance tax cuts for the rich and a malignant, bloated and ruinous defense budget.

Working class Americans, millions of their jobs outsourced, their incomes stagnated, their social and economic mobility all but choked off, seem whipped.  An example of that was seen in the wake of a fracking blowout in Bradford county, Pennsylvania that resulted in many thousands of gallons of toxic fracking fluid flooding fields and pouring into an agricultural creek.  Local radio station, WNEP, captured the resignation in the voices of affected residents:

"The biggest thing is the footprint on the environment. Well obviously this is a big footprint," said neighbor Ted Tomlinson. "It's one of those things that happens. Gotta live with it, I guess.  Here to stay." ...

"It's just one of those things," said farm owner Randy Morse. He leased his property to Chesapeake. His beef cattle will no longer be able to drink from the brook that has been contaminated. Morse is broken up over the whole thing, hoping others don't blame him.

...Neighbor Ira Haire is one who does not worry over the leak, saying he trusts Chesapeake will make it right. "I will drink my water. I have salt water as it is," Haire said.

"Just one of those things"?   This is a nation that venerates its independence forged in protest and revolution.  But that steely resolve that once built America today seems hopelessly sapped, resigned to its fate.   It's unclear how long today's America will be able to withstand the challenges that beset the nation but its future looks anything but promising.

Prayin' For Rain

Just what does it take to become a Republican governor in the American south?  That region is in a lot of trouble as in global warming and droughts.  You might think that, being the first of their countrymen to feel the climate change lash, they'd be demanding action from Washington but you would be wrong.  You see, they want their climate change salvation from God.

This time it's Texas governor Rick Perry who is looking for divine intervention to break his state's crippling drought.   Perry has introduced a three-day, "prayer for rain" initiative.  Seriously, here's the gubernatorial proclamation:

WHEREAS, the state of Texas is in the midst of an exceptional drought, with some parts of the state receiving no significant rainfall for almost three months, matching rainfall deficit records dating back to the 1930s ... NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas. I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on that day for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal way of life.

But Perry isn't the first southern governor to seek divine intervention.  The slapstick governor of drought-stricken Georgia, Sonny Perdue, tried the same thing in November, 2007.  Of course Sonny only went at it for an hour and, predictably, his brief prayer vigil was a bust.  What can you expect for an hour of superstitious chanting?  Perdue then said Georgians weren't doing enough to conserve water and the drought was God's way of getting their attention.

Well, if one hour didn't do shit for Georgia, perhaps 72-hours will do the trick for Texas.  Or not.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

And So It Goes - Layton in the Crosshairs

Stephen Harper couldn't have scripted this any better.

The Globe headline says it all, "Liberal, Tory attack ads zero in on Layton as NDP rise in the polls."   Harper's first electoral gift was Layton turning on Ignatieff, deflecting the NDP effort against the Cons.   Now it's the Liberals predictably doing his bidding, slagging Layton and exposing the abject silliness of his platform.

Any true progressive who doesn't see this opposition infighting as paving the way for a Harper majority is delusional.

Harper made the 2005 election a referendum on the Liberal Party and the sponsorship scandal.   He made the 2008 run off a referendum on Stephane Dion.  Now he's turning this election into a referendum on which opposition party is the worst, in the process turning the faithful of each party against the other opposition  party and ensuring Harper smooth sailing ahead.

Harper probably couldn't have managed a majority against a focused, resolute opposition.  Layton neutered that threat by turning on Ignatieff.   Now Iggy is left with no option but to return the favour.   And that leaves Steve away to the races.

Crazy Christofascist Bastard Won't Stop

Hillbilly "pastor" Terry Jones has taken his Islamophobia on the road.   Jones and his equally inbred sidekick Wayne 'Gomer' Sapp were locked up for their own safety as they prepared to stage a protest outside the Islamic Center of America in the heavily Muslim Detroit suburb of Dearborn.

A local jury convicted them of attempting to incite violence.   The judge imposed a $1 fine on each man.   Citing their First Amendment "free speech" right the two refused to pay and were sent to jail in protest.   Once they got locked up they thought better of it, paid the two bucks and were released.

Bahrain Targets - Doctors

Security forces of the despotic government of Bahrain are said to have abducted 32-Bahraini doctors.   The Massachusetts-based, Physicians for Human Rights, says the medics were all involved in treating the victims of state atrocities.

As doctors in Bahrain treat protesters and wounded civilians, they have seen evidence of the atrocities committed by the authorities,” the Massachusetts-based group said in an e-mailed report.

“This knowledge has made them targets. At least 32 health care professionals have been abducted over the past two months and are being held incommunicado by security forces.

In Syria, protest is also being met with state violence.  Al Jazeera reports that two Syrian MPs have quit over the ongoing killings of unarmed protesters by state security forces.   Obama has called the Syrian state murders "outrageous" but the Syrians say the US president simply isn't being "objective."  On Friday, Syrian snipers were said to have slaughtered 88-civilians.

As for Libya, senior NATO officials now admit the rebellion could be turning into a total quagmire.   While this would be disastrous for the Libyan people of all tribes, it could also imperil Libya's neighbours in the region.  Islamist extremists, particularly al Qaeda, are seeking to become established in the rebel forces.  That would place them on Egypt's western border.   The group has been quite open about seeking some way to get established in Egypt.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Clever Boy, Jack!

The Libs, arrogant sods that they are, should have seen it coming.  He did all in his power to help Stephen Harper toss out Paul Martin.   Next time he did everything he could to help Stephen Harper bludgeon Stephane Dion.   Now, when the centre and centre-left so desperately need to hold Harper to a bare minority, he's at it again - dividing the centre and centre-left in a vain bid to carve out his own ascendancy.

I don't care how devout a Dipper you are, Jack Layton is a self-serving prick with all the conniving instincts that let Stephen Harper steamroller the PCs into capitulation.

As a Liberal, albeit a genuinely "Disaffected" member of the tribe, it has been fascinating watching the Libs bring themselves down.  Layton didn't do it, he's merely a crafty and, when it serves his interests, sleazy opportunist who, at every turn, has been content with helping Stephen Harper in order to advance himself.  Jack has been gaming Parliament since he opted to dump Martin and usher in Harper.  That's what pricks do, consistently, predictably.

Oh well the Libs can't complain.   The IgLibs thought they only had to fight Harper.  They didn't see the knife coming from behind.   Layton saw his spot and went for it and it's hard to fault him for putting Jack Layton ahead of Canada.  That's politics.

If only.  If only the Dippers had some coherent policy that would persuade the Canadian public to back them, but they don't.   The best they can do is harness the popular discontent with Harper and his feckless Opposition and play that for what it's worth.

The bottom line.   I don't care.  Not one of these offerings - Conservative, Liberal or NDP - has earned my support.   Not one is worth a shit to my country.  None of them is willing or perhaps even able to rise above political brinksmanship to address the real challenges facing Canada in this century.   A pox on all their houses.

Can somebody get me Louise Arbour's home phone number?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Afghanistan - This Is Progress?

Now that Canadian soldiers are about to give up their warfighting role, our senior officers don't waste an opportunity to crow about all the progress our side has achieved in Afghanistan.

Really, this is "progress"?

The Obama/McChrystal Surge was supposed to make Afghans more secure in their homes, to win their hearts and minds over to the government side.  Unfortunately, according to the Oslo-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) we've been a lot more successful at running Afghan civilians out of their homes.   The UN Humanitarian News service, IRIN, reports that Western forces have displaced hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

About 400 individuals were displaced each day in 2006-2010 - 730,000 in total - mostly due to military operations by US/NATO forces, according to the Oslo-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), an affiliate of the Norwegian Refugee Council.

The so-called “surge” in US/NATO troops and increased counterinsurgency operations in 2010 resulted in the displacement of about 85,000 people in the volatile south of the country alone. About 10,000 were also displaced by anti-insurgent offensives in the north, IDMC said.

“The US and ISAF [NATO-led International Security Assistance Force] currently lack an understanding of internal displacement in the context of their operations,” Jacob Rothing, an IDMC country analyst, told IRIN, adding that their own standard operating procedures to minimize civilian displacement were not developed and used by US/NATO forces in Afghanistan.

And, naturally, it only gets worse.  One highly controversial tactic American commanders in Afghanistan devised was to establish and arm local militias who would supposedly keep the Taliban at bay.  There were plenty who warned that the idea was madness and that arming gangs of tribesmen would give rise to banditry.   Those warnings were ignored with the predicted consequences.

Furthermore, local militias hired by the government and its US/NATO allies for counterinsurgency purposes, were extorting communities and grabbing land, resulting in further internal displacements, Rothing alleged.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is It Christmas? Bruce Carson Keeps Coming Up With Gifts

The Harper line is that he didn't know his close advisor Bruce Carson was bent until very recently.  He knew about the initial fraud, misappropriation, disbarment, conviction and imprisonment but, hey, let bygones be bygones.   He just figured that Carson was rehabilitated and a fine guy.

Heck, nobody in the Prime Minister's Office had an inkling about Carson until just recently.   Nobody.   Not Stephen Harper certainly.   And not anyone close to him either.   How Carson got a top security clearance, well, sometimes these things just fall through the cracks.

Harper is now caught in another blatant lie.   A damned fine lie too.  CBC News reports that Harper's PMO smelled a rat as far back as 2008.   The evidence comes in the form of "at least" two letters about Carson written by Harper's Chief of Staff, Guy Giorno, to the federal ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson.   It's reported that Ms. Dawson received another letter concerning Carson from a senior deputy minister in the Harper government.

Last month, the Prime Minister's Office called in the Mounties to investigate allegations Carson may have illegally lobbied the government in 2010 on behalf of a water-filter company employing his girlfriend, a 22-year-old former prostitute.

When that story broke, Harper and his senior staff all said they had no prior inkling there was anything amiss about Carson.

The relative hail of mail to the ethics commissioner about Carson in 2008 adds another bizarre twist to the unfolding saga of the convicted fraudster who became one of Harper's most trusted advisers.

The fact two of those letters came from Harper's then chief of staff is also bound to raise new questions about how much the prime minister knew of his former aide.

"Bound to raise new questions"?   That's an understatement.   It was a real stretch to believe that somehow Carson got a security clearance that wasn't vetted by the PMO or Harper.   But to claim that everyone in Harper's immediate circle thought the guy was clean collapses with the disclosure of the Giorno letters.   When Harper's chief of staff writes letters to the ethics commissioner, he doesn't do it behind Harper's back.  Not Furious Leader and Control Freak Extraordinaire Stephen Harper.

Lay on MacDuff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

America - In Iraq and Afghanistan and There to Stay

First it was Defense Secretary Robert Gates session with Iraq's Maliki to broach the idea of American forces remaining in that country (shall we say indefinitely) after the end of 2011 deadline set for their complete departure.

Now it's Afghanistan where US forces are supposed to begin a gradual withdrawal process beginning this summer to be completed with a handover to Afghan forces in 2014.  The late Richard Holbrooke's replacement, Marc Grossman, is busy trying to negotiate a Strategic Partnership Declaration for post-2014 Afghanistan.

Strategic Partnership Declaration is essentially code for permanent American military bases in Afghanistan.   Critics have a better name for it, Great Game 3.0.

When word got out it sparked a buzz of activity from the neighbours.   Iran's interior minister raced off to Kabul.   He was followed by Indian and Russian national security advisors.

One person’s long-term base is another’s permanent base, however — and in the region many people took Mrs. Clinton’s assurances as proof that the United States was not leaving, whatever the bases are called.

“A 10- or 20-years agreement can be prolonged at any time,” Mr. Anikeev said. “And we have no guarantee they’re not permanent.”

The Americans have not been honest about this, even among themselves,” said Mullah Attullah Lodin, deputy chairman of the High Peace Council of Afghanistan, which is charged with leading reconciliation efforts with the Taliban. “One says we are not building bases, another says we are building them, and it’s very confusing.”

The big concern, he said, was that if any such agreement were reached, it would make it that much harder to enter into serious peace talks with the Taliban. “That is the first thing the Taliban demand is the withdrawal of foreign troops,” Mullah Lodin said. 

What is politely left unsaid in all of this is what an indefinite American presence in either Iraq or Afghanistan will mean for those countries.   In both cases it's going to mean a hell of a lot more fighting as nationalist groups of all stripes join together to drive out the Infidel occupiers.  It will be like going back to 2005 except the ranks of America's enemies will be greater and more lethal.  Muqtada al Sadr has already warned that his Mahdi Army forces will be hunting any American soldiers remaining in Iraq after New Years day.   The Pashtun Talibs will probably be able to recruit other ethnic warlords into their own coalition of the willing to make a continued US presence unacceptable to the American man on the street.

So why is America bent on stirring up these hornets' nests?   Could it be that Afghanistan and Iraq provide their sole opportunities for maintaining a large, strategic military presence in a resource rich yet unstable region on the Middle East/South Asia?   Could it be that America still wants to get a lock on the Caspian Basin oil and gas to keep it out of Russian control?   Could it be that Washington is fearful of expanding Chinese influence in the region?  It's probably all of these and more.

Monbiot - Canada Is To Climate What Japan Is To Whaling

The Guardian's top enviro scribe, George Monbiot, says Canada has become the top global warming pariah in the world.

The tar barons have held the nation to ransom.
This thuggish petro-state is today the greatest obstacle to a deal in Copenhagen.

Well, Stephen Harper always promised us that, under his management, Canada would punch beyond its weight.
When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world's peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country's government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee's tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I've broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

...the future [emissions] cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won't accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren't worth the paper they're written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.

...After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007, it singlehandedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations.

...In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada's obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth.

In Copenhagen next week, this country will do everything in its power to wreck the talks. The rest of the world must do everything in its power to stop it. ...Canada now threatens the wellbeing of the world.

...Canada is a cultured, peaceful nation, which every so often allows a band of Neanderthals to trample over it. Timber firms were licensed to log the old-growth forest in Clayaquot Sound; fishing companies were permitted to destroy the Grand Banks: in both cases these get-rich-quick schemes impoverished Canada and its reputation. But this is much worse, as it affects the whole world. The government's scheming at the climate talks is doing for its national image what whaling has done for Japan.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How To Know When You're Talking to a Conservative

Just  because you're on the right doesn't mean you're a genuine conservative.  Just because you're to the left of that person on the right doesn't make you a true liberal either.  The political spectrum is very broad but both conservatives and liberals are inherently centrist.  To the left of liberalism lies socialism.  A good bit further to the right of conservatism lies what we might call, for the sake of a better name, Harperism.

In the United States, the equivalent of Harperism is the uber-right lunatic fringe populated by the likes of Bachmann, Gingrich and Palin.  Granted they're more extremist than Steve would like to be but they share a good  many similarities.

Neither Harperists nor American neo-conservatives feel constrained by facts, by the real world.  When facts don't support their ideology, they either ignore them or make up suitable fantasies to present as facts.  

In the States, for example, despite three decades of experience to the contrary, the far right continues to support the fantasy that tax cuts for the very rich boost their nation's economy.  Facts don't matter, fantasy will do very nicely thank you.  Universal healthcare is a mechanism to subvert American democracy.   Single payor healthcare will give rise to Death Panels that will pull the plug on granny.   Obama is a raging socialist and a foreigner to boot.  Climate change is a socialist plot, a hoax perpetrated by many thousands of scientists to secure endless grants.  Fantasy layered upon fantasy layered upon ever more fantasy until you're left with an entire socio-political matrix based on sheer fantasy.

When you're talking to someone like this you know you're not talking to a conservative but to something else altogether.   Real conservatives abhor fantasy just like any reality-based group.   You can talk to real conservatives because they prefer to be fact oriented.  They may see those facts differently or they may derive different conclusions from them but you and they are still working from the same facts, the only facts.   You can and usually will disagree but at least no one is setting up an alternative universe to confound legitimate debate.  And, being willingly constrained by the facts, even contrary opinions are rarely offensive because - they conform to the facts, to reality.

Harperism holds that science and statistics should never be allowed to get in the way of instincts, religious superstition and ideological urges.   Crime rates may be declining but ignore that reality and trust your gut instinct instead.  That's precisely how Harper instructed his caucus to approach his prison building fetish.  And so, like little robots, they did as their master commanded.  Trying to talk to someone who thinks that way is futile.   All you can ever hope to get out of them is "Because I said so, that's why."  They're infantile.

True conservatives and true liberals can respectfully disagree without impugning the others' motives.   They can accept that the other also seeks nothing but the betterment of the country and its people.  They don't have to fear that the other is so besotted with raw ideology or religious superstition that he will drive the country into the ditch.  Harperism, with its Old Testament ways and superstitious distrust of science and democratic openness,  affords no such comforting assurance.  One fact my conservative friends and I agree upon is that Harperism is very far past even the fringes of conservatism.

Fraser Insitute Urges Harper to "Suspend" Canada Health Act

The festering pustules better known as the Fraser Institute are at it again.  They want the feds to stop enforcing the rules governing medicare for five years to allow provinces to "experiment" with private healthcare alternatives.

The report by the Fraser Institute says Canada is experiencing a "medicare bubble" as its spending on health care becomes increasing costly and unaffordable.

The controversial report has been released as health care emerges as a major issue in the federal election. All of the parties are attempting to lay claim to the title of medicare's defender.

They have all promised to pump billions more dollars into the system, but none has presented a comprehensive plan to respond to the increasing concerns of experts, who say the system is heading toward financial unsustainability.

Curiously missing from the report is the punchline.  A five year suspension would be all but impossible to reverse by the end.  The uber-rightwing slime at the Fraser Institute know that full well but they also know that their approach is precisely matched to Harper's deceitful incrementalism approach to suppression of democracy.

An Ode to Rightwing Journalism Everywhere

The Guardian's, Charlie Brooker has written an interesting screed on Britain's tabloid journalists caught in Britain's phone-hacking scandal.   But, as I read it, I realized how well his observations also fit modern, rightwing journos on this side of the Atlantic.  See if you don't agree.  Think FOX News but also think NatPo and the Sun group: can't be easy being a tabloid hack at the best of times. Sure, there's the camaraderie, the sense of power, the rush of skulduggery, the thrill of feeling like one of the chosen few who can see through the Matrix but these are illusory compensations, sweatily constructed by your quaking, sobbing psyche in a bid to counterweigh the cavernous downside: the awful knowledge that you're wasting your life actively making the world worse.
Chances are you're quite smart. And you probably love to write – or did, once, back then, before . . . before the fall. Now you're writing nothing but NYAHH NYAHH NYAHH ad nauseum. You use the only brain you'll ever have to puke out endless gutfuls of cheap gossip or crude propaganda. Half the time you're wrecking lives and the other half you're filling your readers' heads with nakedly misleading straw- man fairytales. Every now and then something might come along to temporarily justify your existence: a political scoop; a genuine outrage . . . but do you build on it? No. You retreat to the warm cave of your celebrity chef shag-shocks and your tragic tot death- porn double-pagers: wasting your life actively making the world worse.

I suppose the best way to cope with the dull, constant, pulsing awareness that you're wasting your life actively making the world worse is to somehow bewitch yourself into believing you're actively making the world better. 

Another strategy, I guess, would be to focus on the fun of the job, to see it as one long naughty jape. To swap tales about Fleet Street legends of yesteryear and consider yourself a fellow swashbuckling pirate. 

...Successfully forging the belief that tabloid journalism is a worthwhile use of your brief time on this planet must require a mental leap beyond the reach of Galileo. This is one reason why so many tabloid stories are routinely peppered with lies – if their staff didn't continually flex their delusion muscles, a torrent of dark, awful self-awareness might rush into their heads like unforgiving black water pouring through the side of a stricken submarine, and they'd all slash their wrists open right there at their workstations. The newsroom hubbub would be regularly broken by the dispiriting thump of lifeless heads thunking on to desks. Each morning their bosses would have to clear all the spent corpses away with a bulldozer and hire a fresh team of soon-to-be-heartbroken lifewasters to replace the ones who couldn't make it, whose powers of self-deception simply weren't up to the job. Who couldn't cope with the knowledge that they were wasting their lives actively making the world worse.

Need More Reason to Dump Harper? Ask the Brits

One of the top medical journals, Britain's The Lancet, has published a resounding endorsement of Vancouver's Insite, safe injection centre.  Harper despises Insite and has been trying to get it shut down.  It is an affront to his darkest ideology.  So far the British Columbia courts have been holding the tyrant at bay.   Now, according to Reuters,  they'll have even more reason to send Harper's minions packing:

North America's only sanctioned facility for injection of illegal drugs has cut overdose deaths and should be used as a model in other cities, according to a study published on Monday in the Lancet medical journal.

The study came as Canada's highest court prepared to hear a lawsuit over the federal government's attempt to close down the Insite facility in Vancouver despite calls by local health officials and police to keep it open.

 Insite's critics say it promotes illegal drug use, and the federal government has said it wants to shut down the facility now that the medical trial period has ended. The United States has urged Canada to shut down the facility.

Two courts have blocked the government's efforts, ruling Insite needs to remain open as a needed medical service. Ottawa has appealed those rulings to the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the case in May.

A commentary in Lancet accompanying the study's results said they demonstrated the facility's success and why additional sites should be opened across Canada.

"Supervised injection facilities clearly have an important part to play in communities affected by injection drug use," wrote Dr. Chris Chris Beyrer, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

al-Sadr Warns Washington - Be Out by New Years Eve

American troops are supposed to be gone from Iraq entirely by December 31, 2011.  That's just eight months from now, not much time to dismantle the US force and base structure.   In fact, the Americans have let it be known that they'd rather stay - indefinitely.  That's got bad boy Shiite Mullah Muqtada al-Sadr seeing red.  He's warned the Americans to be gone or else a guerrilla war starts 1 January, 2012.

...this is what the Sadrists sent as a gift card to the "liberators"; you'd better leave our land by the end of 2011, for good, as agreed. Or else one of the Pentagon's ultimate nightmares will be back; a revived, revamped Mahdi Army unleashing guerrilla tactics.

 The message came like clockwork, just one day after Pentagon head Robert Gates visited northern Iraq to convince the Nuri al-Maliki government to, well, keep occupying the country to an indefinite future. By then, the US State Department had already announced it wanted to keep an army of mercenaries and what could amount to thousands of bureaucrats in the largest US Embassy in the world. The mercenaries allegedly will protect the bureaucrats. Talk about American exceptionalism.

According to Muqtada, "The first thing we will do is escalate the military resistance activity and reactivate the Mahdi Army in a new statement which will be published later ... Second is to escalate the peaceful and public resistance through sit-ins." So if the US stays, Muqtada will turn Baghdad into a giant Tahrir Square - with the added bonus of commandos turning the Green Zone red and condemning contractors to road-kill status. The great 2011 Arab revolt keeps reinventing itself in myriad ways.

It's hard to imagine the American public tolerating a resumption of the carnage that beset US forces in Iraq just a few years ago.  Yet the Americans have legitimate concerns about a Shiite Iraq falling into step with the Mullahs of Tehran.
This brings back the one prescient comment made by America's former proconsul, L. Paul Bremer, who said that the important decisions about Iraq's future would all be made after the Americans were gone.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Want Some Real Election News? You'll Have to Visit The Tyee.

This week The Tyee is chock full of helpful opinion pieces on our curious federal election and what it means to Canadians.

It begins with a report on how the Conservatives could kill off British Columbia's shipyards.

In two British Columbia seaside ridings fears of job loss stem from a move by the Conservatives some see as a gambit to shore up support in Quebec leading into this election.
The concerns arise from a $35 billion contract the Conservatives promised to two shipyards -- a contract B.C. shipbuilders fear they won't get, spelling the end of the province's industry. 

Murray Dobbin laments "Our Wounded Democracy" in which voter apathy has paved the way for Stephen Harper to run roughshod over democracy in Canada.

What does it say about our democracy when the prime minister can with impunity demonstrate contempt for it and repeatedly violate its rules, conventions and the independence of its institutions and agencies?
Combined with a trend towards disturbingly low turnouts in federal elections, there is reason to start using the term crisis in describing Canadian democracy.

Visiting scribe Aleeza Kahn offers a "compare and contrast" piece on Britain's Conservative prime minister David Cameron and our own Conservative PM Harper.

While Cameron is desperate to be seen as fresh, Harper lumbers like a dinosaur of Canadian politics. He's ruthless, old fashioned, someone you wouldn't particularly want to have a beer with but wouldn't mind running the country. Bluntly put, he's dull. And has Lego-man hair.

Crawford Kilian examines "Tom Flanagan's Playbook for Ultimate Harper Victory."

The key lesson: Fear works. Raising money to support Harper's leadership campaign taught him to follow "the time-honoured advice for raising money by direct mail -- make people angry and afraid, and set up an opponent for them to give against."

Ah, Steve, How's Your War in Libya Going?

The 21st century has barely begun yet it has taught us some invaluable lessons.  One is that while Western leaders may be marginally capable of some things, when it comes to warfare they all ought to be locked away safely in some basement.

Another lesson is that military supremacy doesn't guarantee military victory and, even then, rarely translates into the desired political victory.

America and her leaders are positively besotted with their military prowess.   Including their foreign adventures, the US government borrows about a trillion dollars a year to achieve - almost nothing.  A trillion dollars is a lot of money, a lot of a lot of money, and it's even more so when you get it on the "never- never".   But when you spend a lot of a lot of money borrowed on the "never-never" and get nothing back for it except the chance to do it all over again next year and the year after that, you're being led by a class of political morons served by a gaggle of ticket-punching military morons.   If it was your kid, you would take away their allowance, hide the car keys and send them to their room without dinner.

To prime minister Steve, America's military misadventures are as seductive as a Friday night frat house poker party.   Ya gotta get a seat at that table.  You're dying for the chance to ante up with the fellas, pound a dozen Buds and smoke a couple of stogies.  You're so eager to get in you never figure out how you're getting home when you're tapped out, can't remember your address and can barely stagger your way to the front door.

Vietnam taught the Americans never to get into a war without a clear exit strategy.   You need to know how and when you're getting out no matter how the war turns out.  Bush the Elder knew that when he stopped at the Iraqi border instead of driving on to Baghdad.  A decade later his son, Bush the Lesser, decided he'd fix papa's mistakes and finish the job - without an exit strategy.   American troops are still there.

Steve thought it was shameful that we didn't stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with our traditional (i.e. 'white') allies and join with them in invading Iraq.   He was, however, a boasting booster of the Afghan fiasco - until he wasn't.  Overnight, Steve went positively weak in the knees on that one.

However Afghanistan may have given Steve but a soiled nappy when he really needed scorched fingers.  How else to explain his rush to get six Canadian Hornet fighters in on the 'beat up Gaddafi' bandwagon?  If there was ever a mission that screamed "NO" that was it.

What was/is the mission?  There's a wobbly UNSC resolution that seemed almost deliberately vague.  Nowhere does it authorize regime change yet that is the plain objective of Washington and London.   Our approach has been to use air supremacy to wreak havoc on Gaddafi forces, paving the way for the rebels to storm Tripoli and oust the dictator.   But no one had a game plan to cover the "what ifs".   What if we ran out of targets?   What if we had nothing left to bomb and the rebels still couldn't win?   What if our airpower was nullified and Gadaffi was poised to inflict a murderous defeat on the rebels and civilian population in their territory?   How does this adventure end?  What does victory for the guys driving our CF-18s look like?   The answers?  No one has a clue.

As recently reported in Asia Times Online, it seems Gaddafi has successfully called our bluff:

You don't remain in power over four decades in a developing country without learning a military trick or two from illustrious predecessors such as China's Mao Zedong and Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh - not to mention bunglers such as Saddam Hussein in Iraq. After learning the lesson of having his tanks like sitting ducks in the desert bombed at will by the "coalition of the willing" (a few NATO members plus Qatar), Gaddafi is now fighting light-armor guerrilla style against the "rebels".

NATO's response has been more predictable than those everyday multilingual stalemates in Brussels; hurling accusations that Gaddafi is using human shields - as in his tanks in Misrata being "dispersed" across town and inside the perimeter. Translation: NATO's Tornado/Rafale air war is useless, unless you can bomb a tank column resplendent in the desert sun.

The circus is one more instance of how this war that is not a war is in fact a farce. The French and the British especially have bought their own hype that Gaddafi's regime is crumbling. They have also bought their own hype that this mixed bag of former Gaddafi loyalists, dodgy exiles, al-Qaeda-linked jihadis, business opportunists and true youthful revolutionaries have a political and militarily coherence, and are truly representative of the whole of Libya.

The war that in fact no one wants except Sarko and Cameron is fizzling out like a ghastly remake of The Three Stooges (bidding is open for nominating the third stooge). That's what you get when you take sides in an African civil war where even the "good guys" are murkier than the waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Western members of this "coalition of the willing", the Brits and the French foremost, not to mention the Pentagon, pray there will be, at the end of the tunnel, plenty of oil and a strategic Africom/NATO base in northern Africa. But there's no guarantee.

The last hope for sanity in all this mess is Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proposed his version of a roadmap for peace - calling for humanitarian aid corridors and steps toward democracy.

...Let's wait. As it stands, any road map will beat bombed-out NATO. 

Is Japan a Ticking Seismic Time Bomb?

With Japan still reeling from the tragedy of its March 11th earthquake, seismologists warn that one or more of the other three tectonic plates may have been left under increased strain.

...scientists are warning that the March 11 event not only will lead to years of aftershocks but might also have increased the risk of a major quake on an adjacent fault. A new calculation by American and Japanese scientists concluded that the March 11 event heightened the strain on a number of faults bracketing the ruptured segment of the Japan Trench.

“There’s quite a bit of real estate on which stress has increased by our calculations,” said U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Ross Stein. “The possibility of getting large, late aftershocks to the north and south of the main shock is real.”

 ...The scientists are not making a formal prediction of another big earthquake. But they believe that the section of the Japan Fault to the east of Tokyo now has more stress than before March 11.

“That section of the subduction zone is clearly loaded,” said Chris Goldfinger, an Oregon State seismologist who was not part of the new research.

...“It will take probably a decade before this aftershock sequence is over,” Stein said. “The watchword in Tokyo should be long-term vigilance. Nobody should think this should go away in a few weeks or a few months.”

Harper Caught in G20 Scandal?

CTV is reporting that a leaked draft of Auditor General Sheila Fraser's report into the Harper government's G20 spending claims Harper misled Parliament.  The spotlight is on Tony Clement and some $50-million lavished around his riding apparently with very little at all to do with the summit.  Fraser is said to recommend that Clement's largesse be investigated.

The news story comes out just one day prior to the English-language leaders' debate.  Here's hoping Ig-Lay are able to use it to effect.

Reminds one of the Zaccardelli/Goodale smear that springboarded Harper into power.  There is, however, no suggestion that Fraser was involved in this leak. Her report was to have been tabled April 5th but was put on hold due to the election.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Can Somebody Tell Egypt's Generals to Get Off Their Asses?

Trying to bomb Muammar Gaddafi out of business isn't working.  He's become quite adept at hiding his heavy weapons from NATO strike fighters.  Worse yet, as he now proceeds the punitive destruction of the population of Misrata, his mercenaries are using Libyan civilians as human shields.

The rebels seem unable to topple Gaddafi's Libyan and mercenary forces without NATO air strikes and yet  Gaddafi  seems intent on forcing us to kill civilians to get at his army.

Somebody is going to have to go into Libya, on the ground, and put an end to this quickly.  The one and only somebody for that job is the Egyptian army.  They have brigades of state of the art American M-1A1 tanks that make very short work of the Soviet-era rust buckets Gaddafi fields.

There's really no love lost between Egypt and Gaddafi.   They've tussled before.  Anwar Sadat was on the verge of invading Libya and toppling Gaddafi in 1977 until he was talked out of it by other Arab leaders.  That was then, this is now.  Gaddafi's forces still aren't very good.   They're just good enough to transform the uprising into a drawn out, bloody civil war.

This is really an Arab problem and it needs to be solved by supportive Arab states and, of those, Egypt is right next door with the ready means to shut this madman down in days, not weeks.  NATO's prime directive is to protect Libyan civilians, not kill them.  We don't have some "collateral damage" quota.  Once he gets his people into urban areas air strikes are all but futile.

Egypt has a responsibility to protect the Libyan people, some of whom are from tribes resident across the Egypt-Libya border.  Egypt should also have some say in ensuring the next Libyan government isn't Islamist, the first al-Qaeda state, one awash in oil money.  With newly liberated Tunisia's help the job would be even easier.  Best of all, we wouldn't have to look like Crusaders yet again.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Mound Nailed It. Elliott Implicated In Carson Security Clearance.

It's not that I had any specific reason to think Bill Elliott was involved in getting Bruce Carson the requisite top security clearance needed to score a cushy advisory job in Harper's PMO.  It was that I knew just enough to understand it was so unlikely, almost impossible, that it could happen otherwise.

CBC claims to have confirmed that the current RCMP Commissioner, William Elliott was instrumental in Carson getting that top security clearance despite five fraud convictions, imprisonment, disbarment and two bouts of institutional insolvency.

As the Carson scandal unfolded I kept thinking back to my law school colleague and former occasional drinking buddy, Bill "Bubbles" Elliott.  Bill was the stereotypical Ottawa boy, born and raised, Tory insider.  As I recall, he'd gone almost straight from law school to become exec. assistant to some Mulroney cabinet minister.  During the dry spells of Liberal governments he percolated up through the public service, eventually being appointed by Paul Martin as Canada's national security advisor, our anti-terrorism czar.  The last time we spoke he was in that position.

I consider myself lucky to have a small and dwindling number of , well placed, veteran Tory insiders among my friends today.  Old school Progressive Conservatives going back to the Stanfield era.   Guys that predate Elliott and Mulroney.  You can't be good friends with someone for forty years without a healthy measure of candor and give and take.  We're all centrists from an era when there was centre-left and centre-right and everyone grasped the difference.  You could be a Liberal without loathing a Conservative back then and the other way around.  We could freely discuss things without having to start in a debate that degraded into partisan squabbling.  I hope we can all find our way back there when country came ahead of party affinity.  But I digress.

One of the biggest non-secrets in Ottawa was Bruce Carson.  He earned his considerable notoriety and, in that political enclave, such things do not go unnoticed.  That's especially true for the circles in which Bill Elliott traveled.

Harper says he didn't know, he was let down, Privy Council procedures failed.  Maybe that sort of bullshit is palatable in Red Deer or Moose Jaw but don't try to peddle it in Ottawa.  One of my Tory friends volunteered that there were repeated warnings given to Harper's staff, not the PCO but Harper's own personal staff.  Apparently everybody failed, everybody that is except Harper.  He not only didn't know but he had to deliberately look away if that's true and that's one thing control freaks never do.

Think about it.   How could Steve Harper have a hand-picked, political operative appointed to head the RCMP and claim he was in the dark about Carson's extensive criminal record?  Now it's being reported that Harper's hand-picked, political operative was directly involved in getting Carson his security clearance.  Can that really be any surprise save to the most strident Harper apologist?

As I've written repeatedly over the past two weeks, are we witnessing yet another instance of the RCMP being turned into a Conservative political agency?  Both Bill Elliott's and Steve Harper's integrity and fitness for office have been called into question and both of them have a lot of explaining to do before Canadians go to the ballot box.  Until they come forward and explain themselves to the satisfaction of the Canadian public, Stephen Harper deserves to be treated with our scorn and contempt.

Why Are Harper and MacKay So Blase About the Lives of Canadian Pilots

Here's the scenario.  Air patrol over the vast, empty Arctic.  February.   A long, long way from the nearest airbase.  Suddenly warning lights turn the instrument panel into a Christmas tree.  One F-35 pilot out of luck.

Since Canada first took to patrolling the far north we knew the job required a twin-engine aircraft.   We used the CF-100 Canuck, the CF-101B Voodoo and the CF-18 Hornet.   We once  knew that the vast Arctic was no place to run out of engines.  Apparently Harper and MacKay know better.

My guess is that the air force won't put our pilots lives at more risk than necessary.  In other words, if we do wind up with the F-35s, don't ever expect them to venture very far from their home base on patrols.

The Australian Sounds the Alarm on Harper's Ruinous Democracy

He's Not Finished With Our Canada Yet, He's Only Begun to Trash Our Democracy

One of Australia's top newspapers and anything but left wing, The Australian, carried an op-ed piece warning that, bad as democratic abuse has become in Australia, Britain and the U.S., Canadian democracy has eroded alarmingly under Stephen Harper.

Edmund Burke noted that all that was necessary for evil to triumph was for good men to do nothing. Canadians are certainly good and worthy folks, but they suffer an excess of civil obedience, politeness and lack of civic rage that could be harnessed to combat political atrophy. At a time when Arabs risk life and limb for political freedoms, Canadians seem largely apathetic about the erosion of their democracy.

The centralisation of power in the hands of the prime minister and political staffers - with the resulting diminution of the role and status of cabinet, parliaments and parliamentarians - is common to Anglo-Saxon democracies in Australia, Britain, Canada and the US, but the extent to which constitutional conventions, parliamentary etiquette and civil institutions of good governance have been worn away in Canada is cause for concern.

A minister told parliament she did not know who had altered a document that cut funding to a foreign aid group. Later, she admitted to ordering the changes, but did not know who had carried out the order. Lying to parliament, a cardinal sin of Westminster-style democracy, has become a political tactic.

Following rulings by Speaker Peter Milliken, for the first time in Canadian history, the government and a minister have been found to be in contempt of parliament for withholding information and misleading the house.

The Integrity Commissioner was so inept that she failed to uphold a single one of more than 200 whistle-blowing complaints.

Forced out of office by the ensuing public outcry, she was awarded a $C500,000 severance package on condition that neither she nor the government talk about it.
That is, a public servant paid by the taxpayer was financially gagged by yet more taxpayer money to stop taxpayers finding out what was going on.

When a foreign service officer blew the whistle on the Canadian military handing over detainees to Afghan security forces, in likely violation of international humanitarian law, the government tried to destroy him and refused to give documents to a parliamentary inquiry. The Speaker reminded the government parliament controlled cabinet, not the other way round.

After the last elections, when the opposition parties were close to agreement on a coalition majority government, rather than face the house in a vote of confidence, Harper talked the governor-general into shuttering parliament for a month until he shored up his own support.

When the time came to choose a new governor-general, Harper opted for someone who had carefully drawn up terms of an inquiry commission to exclude the potentially most damaging aspects of a scandal involving a former conservative prime minister.

Having come into office on campaign promises of greater transparency and accountability, Harper has silenced civil servants and diplomats, cynically published guidelines on how to disrupt hostile parliamentary committees, and suppressed research that contradicts ideologically-driven policy, for example data that show crime rates to be falling.

Judges who rule against the pet causes of the government's ideological base are not immune to attacks from cabinet ministers.

Civil society groups that criticise any government policy or ideology risk loss of funding and hostile takeovers by boards stacked with pro-government ciphers.

It speaks volumes for Canada's corporatized media that this had to find its way to print in Australia while here at home the PostMedia chain, the Sun chain, CTV and Global look the other way and stand mute.

It speaks volumes for the haplessness of the opposition leaders that they failed to energize the Canadian public, to mobilize and harness their outrage at Harper's gross insult to Canadian democracy.

Harper has cynically and deliberately reversed Canadian democracy and Canada will need a long period of post-Harper, post-Conservative restoration.  Let's hope we have leaders up to that task when the time finally arrives.

Monday, April 04, 2011

I Might Be Wrong

It seems Harper did acknowledge knowing of Bruce Carson's earliest criminal transgressions.  That much is apparent from a G&M article from March 24th.  What remains unknown is how or why Harper wasn't aware of the subsequent three fraud convictions or Carson's near constant debt problems.

Federal rules require everyone working for the PMO to have a category 2 security clearance.   How did Bruce Carson get a security clearance at all? 

In 1993 Carson first filed for bankruptcy owing just over $100,000.  Seven years later he was in trouble again, this time filing a proposal under the Bankruptcy ActPeople with chronic debt problems usually don't get security clearances because of the risk they might take advantage of confidential information that falls into their hands.

When Carson landed in Harper's office in 2006 he had fallen into default of his payment promises under the proposal.   The Trustee was notifying creditors that it was open to them to have the proposal set aside and Carson thrown into full bankruptcy - again.   2007 saw Carson get yet another chance and a restructured deal which, with his apparently generous PMO salary, allowed him to pay out his proposal in 2009.

Now I'm just guessing here but I think people with five fraud convictions over the course of a decade probably aren't prime candidates for top level security clearances either.   Fraud sort of suggests they're not entirely honest.   Five convictions for fraud and theft should clear up any lingering doubts.

This stuff is on the guy's criminal record.   The Superintendent of Bankrutpcy likewise keeps a register.

Something stinks.   Harper needs to explain how a guy with Carson's record managed to get the mandatory security clearance needed to work in the PMO.  Was there a security clearance at all?  Did Steve break the law by hiring Carson on without a clearance?

Harper still has a lot of explaining to do.  Was security in the PMO compromised and, if so, by whom?   Does Harper not bother to check out the very people he hires as his close advisors?  Did the RCMP do their job?  Did they give Carson a clean bill of health?  Did they report all five convictions to the PMO and the bankruptcy problems including the ongoing one?  Is Harper really this out of touch with his own office and key personnel?

Subverting Democracy

Think individual and corporate political contributes are tightly restricted?  Think again.   According to The Tyee, it's remarkably simple for any corporation, union or individual to funnel as much as $60,000 to his chosen party if it's done right.   And if it's not?   Don't worry.  Apparently enforcement is so weak as to be almost non-existent.   No wonder Cap'n Weasel wants to get rid of government funding of political parties.

A New Weapon to Bring Down Harper - Swing 33

Put your money where it'll do the most good.   That's the idea behind Swing 33.   According to The Tyee, Swing 33 works by identifying ridings where the Conservatives are most vulnerable and then funneling donations to opposition candidates in those ridings.   When the prime objective of this election is to ensure there's no Harper majority, this seems to make really good sense.

Check out Swing 33 here.

Harper Had No Idea His Policy Advisor Was an Ex-Con? Bullshit.

Stephen Harper wants us to believe he had no idea that his former senior policy advisor and office fixer, Bruce Carson, was a disbarred ex-con with five fraud convictions who had done time in the slammer.   Harper now claims, totally unconvincingly, that if he'd only known he would never have hired Carson.


A reliable, veteran Tory insider I spoke with a week or two back, told me that Harper's PMO was repeatedly warned that Carson was toxic and to not let him near Harper.

Carson's lawyer adds that the guy's entire criminal record was disclosed at his security screening which, presumably, was done by the RCMP which is headed by another Ottawa boy and Tory political functionnaire, commissioner Bill Elliott.

Harper, "Had I known these things, I would not have ...hired him."  Well, that closes off one exit.   Harper admits that he hired Carson but based on what?  The guy's been around Ottawa forever.   What did Harper know about him?  Did Harper get the guy's security screening report?   Who did?  What did it say?  Who received all these supposed warnings about Carson and what did they do about them?

This makes no sense, none, whatsoever.

This guy, Carson, didn't just make one foolish mistake.   He's got a rap sheet.  It includes the two convictions for dipping into trust moneys that got him disbarred, convicted and imprisoned in the early 1980s.   Then, in 1990, three more convictions - defrauding the Toronto Dominion Bank, defrauding the Bank of Montreal and defrauding Budget Rent a Car.

Harper's office is running for cover, claiming they can't comment on, "the security screening details of current or former employees."

C'mon guys, let's be real.   A guy like Carson with his record and psychological problems doesn't get hired by accident.  It's not like he landed from Mars and nobody knew the guy.   He'd been around Ottawa and in trouble well before the early 80's.   Somebody needs to find out why Carson was apparently turfed from his job at the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton that led to his hiring by a private law firm where he proceeded to commit what lawyers politely call "defalcation."

Carson had more than a small degree of notoriety in Ottawa and there are plenty of lifelong Tories in Ottawa, the head of the RCMP among them, who would have known about the guy.   Is it conceivable that these veteran Tory insiders wouldn't warn the PMO, repeatedly warn them and probably Harper too, that Carson was trouble?

Sorry, no.   Harper can't get off the hook this easy by hiding behind personnel confidentiality.   The Carson affair strikes at the heart of the security of the Prime Minister's Office.  It's said by some that Carson literally had the run of the place.

If Harper didn't know, who did?   Harper is well known as a demanding, unforgiving guy to work for so surely, if he didn't know, heads must have been rolling in the halls, going bumpety, bumpety, bump down those marble stairs.  Whose heads went to the block?   Or is Harper keeping everybody on staff, under lockdown, lest they might talk about just what he did and did not know about Carson?   Given the control freak that Harper is, I'm sure that's exactly what has happened.   Do you think there are any members of the PMO on paid leaves of absence until the campaign is over?

Carson is a flashpoint for political corruption in the Harper administration.  A lot of people have a lot of explaining to do, people who have no claim to "benefit of the doubt" while they insist on dummying up.   First among them is Stephen J. Harper.   This might reach well beyond the PMO to the headquarters of the RCMP also. Suspicion is an inevitable consequence of appointing a party insider to the top cop job.  Was the RCMP itself compromised from the very top?  Did a report disclosing that Carson was bent make it to the PMO?   Until we get some straight answers, these are questions that need to be asked again and again and again.

This is a legitimate election issue because of the possible repercussions of what happened and what that says about the prime minister.   There are a lot of ways to get information around the National Capital and the Libs and NDP need to mine this scandal hard until the answers leak out.

Update ...

Harper is a terrible liar when he loses control of the facts.   When he started his "coalition conspiracy" gambit and was forced to confront his own coalition machinations during the Martin administration, Harper kept changing his tune as a succession of contradictory facts emerged.  He was desperate to keep the lie alive until it finally died a natural death.

The same pattern emerges on the Bruce Carson scandal.  At first Harper claimed innocence.  He knew nothing.   Something got short circuited in the PMO that kept the information from reaching him.   A key point to remember.  This was during the "two count" period, when word had gotten out that Carson had been disbarred, convicted and imprisoned for two counts of dipping into his law firm's trust funds.

We've moved on.

Today we're in a "five count" scenario as word emerges that, about a decade after the first two convictions, Carson received three more convictions for defrauding the TD bank, BMO and Budget Rent a Car.

Here's where Harper's lie changes.

When we were in the "two count" period, Harper disavowed any knowledge of Carson's criminal history.   Now that we've moved into the "five count" scenario, Harper has tailored his lie.  He now says he did know all along about the first two counts but was totally blindsided by the last three.

Ladies and gentlemen, a lawyer cross examining a witness like Harper would be ecstatic at the prime minister's floundering, contradictory statements.  He would demolish that witness, totally destroy his credibility.  No judge would believe a word he said.   So, should any Canadian?  If he's telling the truth now, he was deliberately lying through his teeth before.   Just like he kept getting caught in his lies about his history of coalition-building.  He gets himself hooked and he keeps squirming to set the hook even deeper.

Now, Michael and Jack - this is for you.   When you've got a bottom feeder on the hook the most important thing of all is to constantly maintain tension on the line.  Don't let it go slack, not for a moment, of he can throw the hook.  Just keep the line taught and keep reeling this sucker in.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Harper Will Mow Your Lawn, Fetch Your Groceries, He'll Even Wash Your Dog - Just Not Until 2015

I guess Steve thinks we're all swept up in the "faith-based" society because he's counting on you to have faith in his child credit and annual fitness credit proposals that won't be coming before 2015.  On these things you have to trust Cap'n Weasel, the very paragon of accountability and transparency.

Steve is acting like he's running the NDP.   When you don't stand a chance in hell of having to run the country you can promise anything.   Steve has probably figured out he doesn't stand a chance in hell of still being around in 2015 so for all the difference it'll make he might as well promise to pave the streets with gold.   Sorry, I forgot we'll need all that gold when the real bills roll in for the F35 short-range, small payload aerial bomb truck.

2015, that's five years off.  That's about the same amount of track record Steve's already logged, five years.   So, if you were to judge the reliability of Steve meeting these new promises five years down the road based on the way he's met all his earlier promises these past five years, how do you rate the odds?

By the way, here's a chance to be creative.   Try to come up with the biggest whoppers Steve can promise for 2015.   The sky's the limit, isn't it?

When Global Warming Turns Real

Americans' belief in global warming may have fallen significantly in recent years but its inescapable signs are beginning to arrive and their complacency is yielding to anxious concern.

The U.S. is just getting its first taste of the lash in the form of sustained drought across the south and southwest, flooding in the northern midwest and the impacts of sea level rise on the eastern seaboard.

The Boston Globe warns that the state of Massachusetts is already fighting a losing battle with the sea:

SCITUATE — A piercing wail startled Gary and Paula Elsmore awake at 3 a.m. Paula knelt on the bed and peered out the upstairs bedroom window. In the blinding snow, she could barely make out a neighbor waving up at her frantically.
The ocean was coming.
Fierce seas had overtopped a sea wall about three blocks away, and the roiling water was now heading straight toward the Elsmores’ neighborhood.
“You could see the storm surge, it was bending all the backyard fences one way as it came in,’’ Paula Elsmore said of that late December night.
The Elsmores’ basement filled with 5 feet of water, and flames billowed into the dark sky from two nearby houses that flooded and caught fire. Their neighbors’ young children had to be evacuated from their house by a bucket loader. In all, some 400 homes were swamped.
The ocean’s fury is an omnipresent threat for the growing number of people who live at its edge. But accumulating scientific evidence suggests that our warming climate could cause sea levels to rise faster than previously thought, making storm surges like the one that pummeled Scituate more dangerous.
Several lines of research now indicate that a 3-foot global rise by 2100 is a plausible scenario, though some scientists forecast a smaller rise. In other words, what was once a problem for our great great-grandchildren is one our children could confront.

The article points to a 2007 survey that found waterfront protection in the greater Boston area needs urgent repairs, to the tune of about a third of a trillion dollars.  That's for one relatively small stretch of America's eastern seaboard.   Every other east coast state is in the same boat - or worse.

The warming atmosphere and the greater volume of water vapour it holds provides powerful fuel for major storms of increasing frequency and severity.  These storms amplify the already rising sea levels to produce storm surges that overwhelm sea walls and send salt water coursing inland.

A great many Americans may have been gullible enough to believe the stories that paint global warming as a hoax or, at worst, insignificant but they'll think twice when the truth starts getting delivered and it's going to come via their bank statements.

America's insurers long ago realized they can't afford to bear this sort of loss.  They stopped writing hurricane insurance years ago for the entire eastern seaboard extending well inland.   There is a massive amount of wealth tied up in an area that is now uninsurable for the greatest hazard they face.   Their federal and state governments are on the ropes, they can't afford to make good these losses particularly as they steadily increase.   How many times can any person reach into his own pocket and rebuild before he has to give up and leave?

Too little, too late.  The world could eliminate all carbon emissions tomorrow but the impacts of the existing emissions in the atmosphere would still continue atmospheric heating for at least another century.

No one is really sure yet when (not "if" but when) America's seaboard, or significant parts of it, will become uninhabitable but it's probably a generation away, two at the outside.   As that occurs, the United States will be vexed with a problem normally only seen in war torn countries - IDPs or internally displaced persons.  Sustained droughts will add to the IDP problem, particularly from the recently populated urban areas of the southwest.  At the same time the U.S. will have to confront the problem of waves of climate migrants from South and Central America.

What do you think this scenario holds in store for Canada?   There are going to be an awful lot of people in dire need of exactly what we have.  Meanwhile our leaders, the lot of them, are asleep at the switch as this train comes barreling down the track straight for us.  If we don't start weighing our choices soon, we may find that we wind up in a jam where we have no choice.

The Clock Is Winding Down for Israel

The State of Israel is literally between a rock and a hard place, both of its own making.  It's a new Middle East today and not one to Israel's liking but the new reality is narrowing Israel's options.

According to The New York Times, Israel has just months to make a "far-reaching offer" to the Palestinians or face a United Nations vote in September admitting the State of Palestine, a nation state comprising Gaza, the entire West Bank and all of East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority  has been steadily building support for such a resolution in September, a move that could place Israel into a diplomatic vise. Israel would be occupying land belonging to a fellow United Nations member, land it has controlled and settled for more than four decades and some of which it expects to keep in any two-state solution.

We are facing a diplomatic-political tsunami that the majority of the public is unaware of and that will peak in September,” said Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, at a conference in Tel Aviv last month. “It is a very dangerous situation, one that requires action.” He added, “Paralysis, rhetoric, inaction will deepen the isolation of Israel.” 

The next few months promise to be fascinating.   The momentum is shifting, leverage is changing hands, Israel can no longer rely on Egyptian complacency even as America's global influence rapidly wanes.   I hope the Israeli government comes to its senses and acts quickly.  I hope it has watched America's fumbles in Iraq and Afghanistan and realized that there are a great many challenges that cannot be resolved by superior firepower.   Above all, I hope this can be resolved peacefully.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Is It Possible? BC's NDP Coming To Their Senses?

There is hope.   All candidates vying to replace the genuinely boneheaded Carole James say they'll ditch her "axe the tax" opposition to carbon taxation.  About bloody time.

“I think we made a mistake in the last election. We as a party got it wrong,” said Mike Farnworth, speaking during an all-candidate debate this weekend in Vancouver.

We were out of touch with the majority of British Columbians and I think that is one of the key reasons why we lost the last election.”

The New Democrats’ aggressive opposition to the carbon tax in the period leading up to the 2009 election upset many NDP supporters and outraged many environmental activists, including David Suzuki.
Out of touch, that's an understatement.   For a lot of us Carole James refusal to repent on this issue showed us her NDP could never be trusted to do what was right for our province.   Winning the public trust back isn't going to be easy or quick but at least some of us will be willing to listen again.

It's too bad Layton can't be man enough to follow the BC NDP's lead.  It was disgraceful how he ganged up with Stephen Harper to trash Dion over his carbon tax proposal and it certainly handed Harper plenty of votes.  Layton could begin by apologizing to Dion for being such a punk and leading his party to fully endorse effective carbon taxation.  I'm not holding my breath.

Beating Up on Blue Collars

The headline reads "Double-Dippers Earning Pensions Plus Paychecks are Targeted by U.S. States."

The bias in the Bloomberg article is blatant.  These workers aren't "earning" their pensions while working elsewhere.    They earned their pensions (past tense) in their previous jobs, as agreed between employer and employee.   Christ, the article makes these people out to be stealing.

There is a genuine concern.   With unemployment so high (for America) should retired workers be taking jobs that could go to those who need them more?   Should those with comfortable pensions do the right thing and make way for new breadwinners?  It's an arguable point.

The giveaway, however, is that the article makes nary a mention of the worst offenders, the greediest offenders - the very people who so freely take shots at middle class Americans for doing what they themselves do on a much grander scale.

How many members of Congress take their generous pensions and go off into retirement?   How many use Congress as a revolving door to more lucrative jobs down the road on K Street as lobbyists?   How many generals clean out their desks at the Pentagon and move their personal effects straight into their new offices at places like Lockheed or General Dynamics?   How big are their parting gifts, their pensions? 

It's the rank hypocrisy that's so troubling, the logical disconnect, the sleight of hand.   When will the rich folks be satisfied?   When they've wiped out the middle class entirely?