Thursday, April 30, 2009

Piglet and Pooh and a walk in the snow

Pillaged from Bond Papers
Confirmed Canadian H1N1 influenza A cases now stand at 34.
Swine flu deaths worldwide - 13.
Deaths from other flu variants worldwide - 250,000 to 500,000 per year.
Update : WHO doesn't want us calling it swine flu anymore.
Rick Arnold of Common Frontiers suggests NAFTA flu would be more accurate.
Laura Carlsen at the America Program, Center for International Policy, provides the reasons :
  • a rapid transition from small livestock production to industrial meat farms after NAFTA established incentives for foreign investment,
  • the failed decentralization of Mexico's health system along lines established by multilateral lending banks,
  • lax and non-enforced environmental and health regulations as the Mexican government was forced to downsize,
  • the increased flow of goods and persons across borders, and
  • restricted access to life-saving medicines due to NAFTA intellectual property monopolies for pharmaceutical companies.


Take it to Iggy tomorrow at Canada Place

Via the Canada-Colombia Project
The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement can only pass with Liberal support. The NDP and Bloc are already opposed.
Take it to Iggy tomorrow at Canada Place at noon.

"We the undersigned are deeply concerned that Canada would abandon its values and its support of internationally recognized human rights in order to gain economic advantage for its companies at the expense of millions of displaced, impoverished Colombians."

Signed by Maude Barlow, Stephen Lewis, Ed Broadbent, Claudette Carbonneau, Alex Neve, Paul Moist, Rev. Bill Phipps, Farley Mowat, Sarah Polley, Naomi Klein, Council of Canadians, Greenpeace, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the B.C. Teachers' Federation, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, the National Union of Public and General Employees and many more. h/t Rabble

Appearing before the International Trade Committee on March 26 of this year, Colombia Senator Robeldo was absolutely scathing re the Canada-Colombia FTA :
~Approval of the CanCol FTA will effectively "absolve, pardon, and reward" Uribe for his support of human rights abuses.
~It will condemn Colombia to poverty and result in even lower labour standards than they already have in order to compete with influx of subsidized Canadian foodstuffs. Local farmers will not be able to compete and will lose their land.
~Another 49 assassinations last year. More paramilitary orgs now, not fewer.

Top ten reasons why Canada should cancel Harper's "free trade" deal with Colombia

Canada steps into the void ...
Bowling for Colombians
How much for the little girl?
A licence to kill
Update : A couple of hundred of us I would guess at the rally on Friday. Many good speakers including NDP trade critic Peter Julian who has been a very effective critic of this FTA on the trade committee.
Dr. Dawg was inside the convention. Hi Dr. Dawg!

The dark side of Canadian foreign policy

by Yves Engler , Fernwood Publishing

A 2007 poll that Engler cites found "84% of Canadians believed Canada played a positive role on the world stage while 10 percent felt it was negative."
Being peacekeepers is a big part of the Canadian national identity.
We are at pains to differentiate ourselves from US corporate colonialism and we are pissed with Steve for his Cold War era mongering and his nonsense about "putting Canada back on the world stage." We never left, we say.
In his new book to be launched May 3, Engler asks us to take another look at that mythology of Canadian foreign policy in dozens of countries in South America, the Middle East, Caribbean, Africa, and Palestine.
Via The Dominion, a book review at Canuck Media Monitor.
The entry on Colombia [as the Cons shepherd the Canada-Colombia Free Trade bill through the House] :

"Colombia Canada's closest ally in Latin America is the country that has consistently had the worst human right record in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1997, Ottawa initiated a re-write of Colombia's mining code.
CIDA worked on it with a Colombian law firm and the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI). The proposals became law in 2001 and offered a familiar list of goodies to mining corporations: the weakening of environmental and labor laws, reduced royalties paid to the government, tax exemptions, and added years to mining concessions.

In the resource sector, the link between profiteering and massive human rights abuses, especially forced displacement, is very obvious. Colombia's population of internally displaced persons (3 million as of 2008) is second only to that of Sudan. Engler described how two Canadian companies, BFC Construction and Agra-Monenco, contributed to human rights violations in northeastern Colombia:

"With $18.2 million from EDC [Export Development Canada] the companies' Urra dam submerged over 7,400 hectares, including old-growth forest as well as the
lands and homes of 411 families, all of whom were without individual legal land titles, only having collective indigenous land rights. About 2,800 people were forcibly resettled to make way for the Canadian companies' project and a further 70,000 people were directly impacted. Predictably the community resisted the dam. According to Amnesty International, six indigenous people protesting the project were killed and ten additional members of the community were disappeared by paramilitary and guerrilla forces."

When Canada opposed a 2007 UN General Assembly declaration on the rights of
Indigenous people, it was not only facilitating the ongoing dispossession of indigenous peoples in Canada. It was protecting Canadian companies that have trampled on the rights of indigenous peoples around the world."

Chile? We sided with the US to cut off IMF funds to Salvador Allende but after the 1973 coup, endorsed sending Pinochet $95 million of IMF funds. By 1978 direct investments by Canadian companies in Chile totaled $1 billion.
Iran? We tried to sell them nuclear power.
Iraq? Them too.
Colombia we can still do something about. Go.

Oh well then

Two experts on the TASER™ payroll testified at the Braidwood Inquiry that they don't believe that the five TASER™ jolts inflicted on Robert Dziekanski contributed to his death.

Dorin Panescu, an electrical engineer who received $92,896 from TASER™ last year for "consulting work " :
"With a high degree of scientific certitude, it is my opinion that Mr. Dziekanski's death was not caused by, and not contributed by, the use of a TASER X26."
Dr. Charles Swerdlow, a US cardiac electrophysiologist on Taser International's scientific medical advisory board :
"There is no medical, scientific evidence to support the conclusion that [conducted energy weapon] discharges contributed to Mr. Dziekanski's death. The circumstances of Mr. Dziekanski's death are typical of the poorly understood syndrome of sudden, in-custody death, often occurring after restraint."
That would be the "poorly understood syndrome of sudden in-custody death, often occurring after restraint" in conjunction with five applications of 50,000 volts.

The National Post, the Province and all the other cross-Canada CanWest papers helpfully ran this story under the headline : "'Experts' say Taser did not kill Dziekanski" or just "Taser did not kill Dziekanski".
Update : Via Chunklets in comments : an item from CanWest's Suzanne Fornier, whose coverage has been excellent and who does not get to write her own headlines, although I have no quibble with this one : Alcohol allegation not backed up : doctor

"An eminent forensic pathologist told the Braidwood inquiry Wednesday that Robert Dziekanski's death -- after five Taser jolts and restraint by the RCMP -- was likely a "cardiac-related" death linked to the Tasering.

Dr. John Butt, who received the Order of Canada in 2000 for his work over almost four decades, disagreed with the report by pathologist Dr. Charles Lee that failed to mention use of the Taser but did conclude "chronic alcoholism" contributed to Dziekanski's death."


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Canada oks torture intel on Abdelrazik

G&M : "More than 16 months after Canada's security agencies cleared Abousfian Abdelrazik, government lawyers are now pressing him to admit to being a senior al-Qaeda operative, echoing American accusations apparently extracted from Abu Zubaydah, the al-Qaeda leader water boarded more than 80 times under the Bush administration."

POGGE : "While the rest of the world is coming to terms with the fact that the Bush administration was actually using torture to elicit false confessions in an effort to justify their invasion of Iraq, the Hapless Government™ is trying to use statements from a man who was waterboarded 83 times to prove that Abdelrazik is a terrorist."

In a March appearance before the public safety committee, CSIS lawyer Geoffrey O'Brian caused a media stir by refusing to unequivocally deny Canadian intelligence agencies' reliance on foreign intel obtained via torture. "Clarifications" were demanded and obtained, the media was apparently placated, and it all went away.

Indeed CSIS Director Jim Judd, appearing before the public safety committee on April 3, said :
"In the past we used information received obtained by torture. Such information is not to be relied upon. We've changed our policies. Our policy now is under no circumstances do we condone the use of torture for any reason."

and went on to emphasize that intelligence agencies take direction from the federal government. CSIS has also called for a formal probe into its role in the Abdelrazik affair to clear its name.

But here is what Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan actually said when he appeared before the same committee to offer his "clarification" on torture:

"We do not condone the use of torture in intelligence gathering and our clear directive to our law enforcement agencies and intelligence services is that they are not to condone the use of torture, practice torture, or knowingly use any information obtained by torture."

Knowingly. Also known as "don't ask don't tell intel".

The rest of us have known of Abu Zubaydah's torture just to provide a pretext for invading Iraq since April 19, so this is perhaps not the best week for the Canadian government to air its filthy laundry in a Federal court on its role in condoning intel possibly derived from torture to prevent a Canadian citizen from returning home after he has been cleared by CSIS, the RCMP, and Sudan.
And, as pointed out by Lib Andrew Kania at the same public safety committee cited above, this also sends out a message to other governments that if they're selling info derived from torture, we're buying.
Update : Dr. Dawg and James Bow

Insite under seige again

In May last year the B.C. Supreme Court gave the supervised-injection site, Insite, a constitutional exemption to stay open without a federal exemption from drug laws. Also known as : provincial dibs.

Over the next three days, Canada's Attorney General and Minister of Health will attempt to overturn that ruling in the B.C. Court of Appeals because their neanderthal ideology prevents them from acknowledging that Insite's clients are actually real people with a right to healthcare.

A very good doc from The Fifth Estate does not make that mistake : Staying Alive
Neither does this piece, with accompanying slideshow, from the Vancouver Courier.

So will we be hearing from your government's expert panel of scientologists and US War on Drugs shills again this time ? Or are you just gonna stick with your "angel defence"?

A Department of Justice lawyer in court today argued that : "Making drug-related laws unconstitutional because they are difficult for drug addicts to obey would be "capitulation" along the lines of changing arson laws to accommodate pyromaniacs."

Or "capitulation" along the lines of changing your high horsie sensibilities to accommodate "not necessarily opposing safe-injection sites for illegal drugs in Quebec" .

Swine Flu Terror Advisory Scale

Currently we are at "Uh oh".

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine flu and factory farming

David Kirby at HuffPost :

April 5 article in La Jornada newspaper :

"Clouds of flies emanate from the lagoons where Granjas Carroll [a subsidiary of US hog giant Smithfield Foods] discharges the fecal waste from its hog barns - as well as air pollution that has already caused an epidemic of respiratory infections in the town."
More than 400 people had already been treated for respiratory infections, and more than 60% of the town's 3,000 residents had reported getting sick, the paper said. State officials disputed that claim, and said the illnesses were caused by cold weather and dust in the air.

The problems began in early March, when many neighbors of the hog CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) became sick with colds and flu that quickly turned into lung infections, causing local health officials to impose a "sanitary cordon" around the area and begin a mass program of vaccination and home fumigation.
"According to state agents of the Mexican Social Security Institute, the vector of this outbreak are the clouds of flies that come out of the hog barns, and the waste lagoons into which the Mexican-US company spews tons of excrement," La Jornada reported. "Even so, state and federal authorities paid no attention to the residents, until today..

"This has been a transition from old-fashioned pig pens to vast excremental hells, containing tens of thousands of animals with weakened immune systems suffocating in heat and manure while exchanging pathogens at blinding velocity with their fellow inmates.

Last year a commission convened by the Pew Research Center issued a report on "industrial farm animal production" that underscored the acute danger that "the continual cycling of viruses … in large herds or flocks [will] increase opportunities for the generation of novel virus through mutation or recombinant events that could result in more efficient human to human transmission."

The commission also warned that promiscuous antibiotic use in hog factories (cheaper than humane environments) was sponsoring the rise of resistant staph infections, while sewage spills were producing outbreaks of E coli and pfiesteria (the protozoan that has killed 1bn fish in Carolina estuaries and made ill dozens of fishermen).

Any amelioration of this new pathogen ecology would have to confront the monstrous power of livestock conglomerates such as Smithfield Farms (pork and beef) and Tyson (chickens). The commission reported systemic obstruction of their investigation by corporations, including blatant threats to withhold funding from cooperative researchers ."

New swine flu info at Public Health Agency of Canada and Flu Wiki

Friday, April 24, 2009

Blame Canada!

"Well, some of the 9-11 hijackers did come through Canada, as you know," McCain, last year's Republican presidential candidate, said on Fox News on Friday."

He was defending U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who made similar, now deemed "mis-spoken", allegations a few days ago.

So, the current head of Homeland Security and the guy who came alarmingly close to being the President of the US are both getting their intel from South Park now?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Condi Rice : The first to ok waterboarding, the first speaker at The School of Public Policy in Calgary

"Condoleezza Rice gave permission for the CIA to use waterboarding techniques on the alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah as early as July 2002, the first known official approval for the technique, according to a report released by the Senate intelligence committee yesterday.

The revelation indicates that Rice, who at the time was national security adviser and went on to be secretary of state, played a greater role than she admitted in written testimony last autumn."

"A few days later, the Justice Department approved the use of the harsh interrogation technique."

"On May 13, The School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary will be formally launched with a gala at the Hyatt Regency Calgary, and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will offer a keynote speech at the event.

In her keynote address, Rice will offer her perspectives on the critical issues facing North America from a global perspective and highlight the role of organizations like The School of Public Policy in providing solutions that define North America’s place in the world.

The School of Public Policy is honoured that Condoleezza Rice has agreed to present the keynote speech at our inaugural event," said Jack Mintz, director and chair of the new School of Public Policy and Palmer Chair in Public Policy. "There is no better way to emphasize the purpose of The School than to have someone with her level of practical and theoretical policy expertise present our vision to the community."

"providing solutions" ... "Our vision to the community"...
Good one, Jack.

Omar Khadr v. Stephen Harper

G&M : "The ongoing refusal of Canada to request Mr. Khadr's repatriation to Canada offends a principle of fundamental justice and violates Mr. Khadr's rights,” Judge James W. O'Reilly O'Reilly said in his 43-page decision.
"To mitigate the effect of that violation, Canada must present a request to the United States for Mr. Khadr's repatriation as soon as practicable."


I am satisfied, in the special circumstances of this case, that Mr. Khadr’s rights under s. 7 of the Charter have been infringed. I will grant his request for an order requiring the respondents to seek his repatriation from the United States.

[9] First, on detention, Mr. Khadr was “given no special status as a minor” even though he was only 15 when he was arrested and 16 at the time he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay.

[10] Second, Mr. Khadr had virtually no communication with anyone outside of Guantánamo Bay until November 2004, when he met with legal counsel for the first time.

[11] Third, at Guantánamo Bay, Mr. Khadr was subjected to the so-called “frequent flyer program”, which involved depriving him of rest and sleep by moving him to a new location every three hours over a period of weeks.
Canadian officials became aware of this treatment in the spring of 2004 when Mr. khadr was 17, and proceeded to interrogate him.

63] The CRC [Convention on the Rights of the Child] imposes on Canada some specific duties in respect of Mr. Khadr. Canada was required to take steps to protect Mr. Khadr from all forms of physical and mental violence, injury, abuse or maltreatment. We know that Canada raised concerns about Mr. Khadr’s treatment, but it also implicitly condoned the imposition of sleep deprivation techniques on him, having carried out interviews knowing that he had been subjected to them.

And Steve's rebuttal?
"Speaking in the Commons, Mr. Harper said his government is simply following the same policies of the previous government and will consider an appeal of the ruling."

Coming soon to the Commons : Con complaints that "activist judges are upholding the rule of law in Canada" .

h/t Waterbaby for the cas

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Once again Ahmadinejad does not call for the eradication of Israel

The Star : News correction

"An April 21 article about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at the United Nations World Conference against Racism in Geneva on Monday included incorrect information that resulted from an erroneous early translation of the speech. In fact, Ahmadinejad did not call for the eradication of Israel. Nor did he brand Israel as illegitimate.

According to the translation given in the United Nations' webcast of the speech, the Iranian president did say "Efforts must be made to put an end to the abuse by Zionists and their supporters of political and international means and in respect of the will and aspirations of nations.
"Governments must be encouraged and supported in their fights aimed at eradicating this barbaric racism and to move towards reforming the current international mechanisms."

From The Star's article yesterday :

"As Ahmadinejad began to talk, delegates from many of the 192 states at the conference walked out of the room in protest. Although Canada was the first to decline attendance at this year's conference, Israel, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States were also conspicuous by their absence.

"Our government is leading the world, not following it," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said yesterday. "We observed clear, unmistakable signs this conference will again scapegoat the Jewish people."

Go on - listen to Ahmadinejad's speech. After two minutes of salutations in a couple of languages, he says that after WWII, the UN Security Council awarded itself veto powers and used them, "under a pretext of Jewish suffering", to "install a cruel and oppressive racist government in occupied Palestine in compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe. The UN security Council has supported this."

Then he calls for a reform of the UN.

And this is the speech that is supposed to be too terrible to hear?

H/t Divining the News

Update from Paulitics :

"The Canadian, Australian, American and New Zealand governments were the only governments in the entire world to reject the UN declaration on the rights of Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples and thus did not want to be a part of Durban’s discussions on Aboriginal peoples. And the Israel government doesn’t want to talk about a whole host of issues on which it has long been in violation of UN declarations and Geneva Convention rights (notably the injunctions against acquiring land through military conquest, the right of refugees to return to their homes, nuclear weapons, the slaughter of refugees and engaging in illegal warfare).

So, in this context, the West was poised to find any excuse to discredit the UN’s attempts to eradicate racism and they believe they found it with Ahmadinejad’s speech. Indeed, if the public didn’t read or listen to Ahmadinejad’s speech, there wouldn’t be a problem."


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why the rush to PowerUp?

A map of proposed and existing run-of-river licences via IPP Watch:
Blue - generating; green - granted; red - application
Large Google map of sites here.
I wonder what the salmon think of it?

So given that we generally generate more power than we need in BC, what are all these for again?
Oh yeah - exporting power to the US :
"A key adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said yesterday that B.C. run-of-river power may yet qualify as green power.
Utilities in California are nearly all struggling to meet a requirement that 20% of their electricity come from renewable sources by 2010.
They have only months to meet the target or face financial penalties, and private-sector power producers in B.C., along with the provincial government, are urging California to expand its definition of renewable power to encompass run-of-river projects with up to 50 megawatts of capacity as part of the solution."
Which is interesting because projects of less than 50 megawatts do not require environmental reviews.

Over at Plutonic Power, home of the $4-billion Bute Inlet run-of-17-rivers Project in partnership with US General Electric, environmentalist and executive director of PowerUp Canada "citizens initiative" Tzeporah Berman gave us another reason :
"We're in a recession and calling for a moratorium of the private sector of renewable energy companies would send the signal to the business community that this is not a place for them to invest in."

Certainly Gordo is invested in IPPs. In response to Squamish’s strenuous objections to a run-of-river development on Ashlu River, Gordo passed Bill 30, retroactively removing the right of local municipalities to stop such developments.

And Plutonic Power has in turn invested in Gordo's Liberals :

"CEO Donald McInnes said his company did not donate to the Liberal Party, in response to a caller on CKNW's Bill Good show this morning, but Elections BC records prove otherwise.
When asked why he made that claim, McInnes responded, "I don't consider that to be donations, that's buying a seat at a table."


In comments in the post below - BC's Watershed Election - commenter Racheal11 left some handy info and links to Liberal party insiders and BC Hydro execs who have recently shifted over to the extremely lucrative IPP industy : Insiders move to IPP industry

So we're good with all this, are we?
Gordo's government, former BC Hydro execs, private industry, and prominent environmentalists all pulling together ... to export power to California.
The mind boggles.
And if we decide we want our rivers back before the 25 to 50 year leases are up, are we looking at a NAFTA Chapter 11 challenge?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

BC's Watershed Election

"Environmental blah blah" is how retiring NDP MLA Corky Evans describes the privatization of BC's waterways under the guise of addressing climate change. So-called "green" run of river hydro projects, also known as independent power projects or IPPs, divert water into a pipe several kilometres long and then into a turbine before returning it to the same watercourse downstream.

Among the over 500 streams and rivers staked by private companies so far, the Plutonic Power and General Electric Bute Inlet Project plans to divert and dam 17 streams and rivers, while constructing 445 kilometres of transmission lines, 314 kilometres of roads, and 104 bridges. Across the inlet from me, the Sea-to-Sky corridor has stakes for 110 streams and rivers.

How did this happen? The 2002 B.C. Energy Plan forbade our formerly very profitable Crown corporation B.C. Hydro from producing new sources of hydroelectricity. Further, BC Hydro will now be forced to buy energy from the new private producers at $120 megawatts per hour for which they will receive $60 in the market. Well, you know Gordo and privatization : BC Rail, BC Ferries, healthcare,

What about local opposition? Silenced in June 2006 when Campbell passed Bill 30 to retroactively abolish local zoning authority over them.

Who supports the run of river projects? You mean apart from speculators and Liberal-led astroturf orgs like BC Citizens For Green Energy? Well, there's David Suzuki, economist Mark Jaccard, and environmental activist Tzeporah Berman who started the foundation PowerUp Canada just to promote them.

And why are we doing this again? To sell our "green" energy to the US. says Berman, through what Gordo referred to at the last PNWER summit as "electric transmission corridors".

Coincidentally, Suzuki, Jaccard, and Berman all made media headlines in the last few days criticizing the NDP for not supporting Gordo's "gas tax". Not that they support Gordo, they say, just "his environmental leadership". That would be the Gordo who gutted the BC Environment ministry and supports fish farms, the Gordo of Gateway Pacific and twin Enbridge pipelines from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat, the Gordo of expanding the oil and gas indutry in the north and building more roads and bridges instead of light rail and public transit, the Gordo of offshore drilling and renewed tanker routes ... that Gordo.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Summit of the Americas

Harper at the Summit-of-the-Americas-of-34-countries-minus-Cuba is described in the G&M as a lone wolf boosting free trade :
Steve : "There are some countries that want to keep fighting the Cold War and frankly wars that go a lot farther back than that."
United Fruit Co?
After urging a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations : "That said … we don't turn a blind eye to the fact that Cuba is a communist dictatorship and that we want to see progress on freedom, democracy and human rights as well as on economic matters."

Indeed, ALBA - the trade group comprised of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela - had a few points of its own to make about progress, freedom, democracy and human rights, including the embargo of Cuba. ALBA has said it will not sign the Summit Declaration until they are addressed.
Excerpted :
  • Capitalism has provoked an ecological crisis by subordinating the necessary conditions for life on this planet to the dominance of the market and profit.
  • We question the G20’s decision to triple the amount of resources going to the International Monetary Fund, when what is really necessary is the establishment of a new world economic order that includes the total transformation of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO [World Trade Organisation], which with their neoliberal conditions have contributed to this global economic crisis.
  • We condemn discrimination against migrants in all its forms. Migration is a human right, not a crime.
  • The solutions to the energy, food and climate change crises have to be integral and interdependent. We cannot resolve a problem by creating others in the areas fundamental to life. For example, generalising the use of agro-fuels can only impact negatively on the price of food and in the utilisation of essential resources such as water, land and forests.
  • Basic services such as education, health, water, energy and telecommunications have to be declared human rights and cannot be the objects of private business nor be commodified by the World Trade Organisation. These services are and should be essential, universally accessible public services.
  • [E]liminate interventionist practices such as covert operations, parallel diplomacy, media wars aimed at destabilising states and governments, and the financing of destabilising groups. It is fundamental that we construct a world in which a diversity of economic, political, social and cultural approaches are recognised and respected.
  • The legitimate struggle against narco-trafficking and organised crime, and any other manifestation of the denominated “new threats,” should not be utilised as excuses for carrying out acts of interference or intervention against our countries.
Hugo Chavez presented Obama with a book : "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent." He then suggested that the next Summit of the Americas be held in Cuba.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The selling of the prime minister

Via Impolitical comes the news that Harper has hired former White House spokesmen Ari Fleischer and Mike McCurry to help him get more facetime on US network TV.
Yeah, I know, just go read her post.

Just wanted to add here that the longer version of the vid clip provided by Impolitical showing Ari defending Bush's record just one month ago contains this extraordinary claim from Ari at the end :
"After September 11, having been hit once, how could we take a chance that Saddam might not strike again?"
By comparison, selling Harper should be a piece of yellow cake for Ari.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Harper's Nafta Superhighway

Once upon a time the NAFTA Superhighway/Trade Corridor was just a conspiracy theory.

Then it was a gleam in Manitoba Premier Gary Doer's eye. From his 2007 Speech from the Throne :

"Manitoba is also taking a major role in the development of a Mid-Continent Trade Corridor, connecting our northern Port of Churchill with trade markets throughout the central United States and Mexico. To advance the concept, an alliance has been built with business leaders and state and city governments spanning the entire length of the Corridor."

That alliance was the Ports-to-Plains Trade Corridor, a lobby group comprised of US and Canadian elected officials and business leaders, and SPP luminaries like Ron Covais, chair of the US end of the North American Competitiveness Council.

Later it showed up as a useful map on an Alberta government website - see above.

Now, according to the Government of Canada website, it's "a new job-creating investment contained in the Harper Government’s Economic Action Plan" :

"The CentrePort Canada initiative involves using the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport and surrounding land as a hub to import goods from Asia and Europe and then distributing those goods throughout North America by air, rail and road. The governments of Canada and Manitoba are jointly funding the next phase of this project, which involves building a high-speed transportation corridor.

It serves as a natural connection point between Atlantic shipping lanes and the Asia Pacific Gateway and as the northern terminus of the fast-growing mid-continent trade corridor, with the potential to expand to take advantage of trade opportunities in Canada’s North."

Sigh. They just don't make conspiracy theories like they used to.


BC Election Pablum 2009 : Campbell and James wax fatuous on the RCMP

Responding to Green Party Jane Sterk's proposal that the RCMP be replaced with a provincial police force subject to civilian oversight, NDP Carole James and LINO Gordo immediately fall into matching comas. :

Carole : "It's not a priority I've heard from the public. I think in many of our communities the RCMP are an integral part of our history[Ian Bush], and our future."

TASER™ fan Gordo : "The fact of the matter is the RCMP is the provincial police force and it does an extremely good job across the province. That doesn't mean we can't improve some of the administrative-review things."

One useful "administrative-review thing", Gordo, would be to put a stop to the RCMP running out the clock on the time under which those review things can happen at all.

The current BC contract with the RCMP runs out in 2012.

Meanwhile, over at Braidwood Inquiry, whose eventual recommendations no matter how brilliant or stringent will not be binding because BC does not have jurisdiction over the federal-based RCMP, a federal lawyer took a shot at explaining why all four Mounties' testimony into the killing of Robert Dziekanski is erroneous in exactly the same ways :
"Much time was spent attempting to highlight the fact that there were some discrepancies and suggesting that there was some nefarious explanation," Jan Brongers told the inquiry.
"My point is that other witnesses, too, have had discrepancies between what they told police, and that there is a perfectly innocent explanation."
Unfortunately Mr. Brongers did not elaborate on just what that "perfectly innocent explanation" might be.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stonewall Wally begins his re-election campaign

CanWest today : RCMP officers may be charged in Dziekanski death
"The four RCMP officers who Tasered a Polish immigrant at the Vancouver International Airport may face charges in his death, B.C.’s Attorney General said Monday.
"Nothing is final . . . particularly where we’re getting more and more evidence elicited on a daily basis," Oppal told the CBC, referring to the inquiry evidence. “So it may well be, at the end of the day, the people in the criminal justice branch could re-examine this."

Really? Are you quite sure that's what he said?
Because what I'm remembering is that all three levels of Executive Management in the Criminal Justice Branch watched exactly the same video footage the rest of us did and compared it to Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson's statement in which he claimed 12 times that Dziekanski swung the stapler at them and had to be stunned twice before being wrestled to the ground.
Then they said the video supported the officers' accounts and mustered the gall to issue the following unanimous statement on December 12, 2008:

"There is a substantial body of independent evidence which supports that the Officers in question were lawfully engaged in their duties when they encountered Mr. Dziekanski, and the force they used to subdue and restrain him was reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances.

In light of this independent evidence, there is not a substantial likelihood of conviction in this case for any of the offences considered, in fact, the available evidence falls markedly short of this standard."

So what did Stonewall Wally Oppal actually say today?

CP (Italics mine) :

"RCMP officers who testified at the inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport could still face charges after the inquiry but so far there is nothing to suggest that might happen, B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal said Monday.

"It's always the case in any determination where we decide that no charges were warranted that if there was new evidence and that new evidence was appreciably different then in those circumstances charges could be laid," Oppal told The Canadian Press. "But we're talking theory here."

"(The criminal justice branch) said at that time there would be no charges and all I said is that if new evidence emerges there's always a possibility to lay charges, but I didn't specifically say in this case it would happen," said Oppal.

Oppal said he's "not prepared to buy in" that there was a significant change in evidence and there were false statements made."

Care to revise your bullshit headline now, CanWest?
Everyone else ... as you were.
Electioneering for the May 12 BC Election apparently started in earnest today with Wally suddenly remembering this means his seat is up for grabs too.

The continuing trials of Abdelrazik as Josef K

The Canadian government's latest new reason for barring Abdelrazik's passage home :
"In a federal-court filing, the government says its hands are tied and that neither Mr. Abdelrazik's Charter right as a citizen to enter Canada nor the UN's specific travel-ban exemption permitting those on its terrorist blacklist to return home requires it let him fly back to his family in Montreal.

It says the UN travel ban "prohibits other states" from allowing Mr. Abdelrazik or anyone else on what's called the 1267 list of al-Qaeda suspects "to enter into and travel through their territories which includes land, airspace and territorial waters."

However :

"Only two days before Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon rescinded the government's written promise to issue Mr. Abdelrazik a travel document to fly home, another person on the 1267 blacklist flew from London to Nairobi after the British government received a routine exemption from the UN Security Council 1267 Committee.

Mr. Ciise's flight across Europe and Africa would have transited the airspace of as many as a dozen countries, depending on the weather and the routing. None of them was required to approve his travel plans.

The Harper government has never applied for a travel-ban exemption for Mr. Abdelrazik."

Four days ago CBC's The Current did a very good short history of Abdelrazik's plight, comparing his situation to that of Josef K in Kafka's The Trial. Listen to it here, starting at the two minute mark : Abdelrazik/Kafka Doc.


Attawapiskat still being ignored

After waiting eight years for a new school, 700 students at Attawapiskat First Nations in Northern Ontario will instead be evacuated from the community to protect them from further toxic exposure to a 30-year-old diesel-oil spill under the old school. The demolition of the old school in March - nearly a decade after it was closed down due to contamination - has released noxious fumes causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in the local residents.

Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Chuck Strahl doesn't see what all the fuss is about.

I just cannot believe this is still going on.
Let Chuck know you are watching. Send him a cluebat at and cc it to NDP MPs Charlie Angus - and Gilles Bisson who have made a video of the people in this community telling their story.
That video is up at Cam Holstrom's who has been on this for months now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Way to go, Tyee!

The Tyee has been running a fundraiser since Monday to hire an extra reporter to cover election issues. The donation form includes the question "Which election issue matters most?" , allowing contributors to directly fund reporting on the issues most important to them. Now closing in on $9000, the graph represents the per dollar interest in each category.
Not bad for an alternative online paper with the originally modest goal of raising $5,000 by April 14th!

Well done, Tyee. Gord knows we need a stronger alternative to the Gordo shmooze-fest foisted on us each election by the two CanWest dailies - the Sun and the Province - and Tyee coverage of local issues is always excellent. The categories Corruption and Environment are leading so far, highlighting reader interest in the investigation into the sale of BC Rail and the campaign to Save Our Rivers from Gordo's privatization of hydro power.

That said, I'd much rather see a greater focus - with a graph to match - on each category ranking per voter rather than the per dollar they are using as illustrated above. Tyee publisher David Beers has promised to produce one after Chrystal Ocean of Challenging the Commonplace brought it to his attention in Tyee comments.

So go send them a few bucks and help the Tyee reframe the conversation before the May 12th election. My money's on Voting Reform.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Danger! Bankers at work!


h/t Brasscheck TV


Yo! RCMP! Read the TASER™ manual!

On February 12, 2009, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott assured the public safety committee :
"The RCMP’s revised CEW policy restricts the use of CEWs and specifically warns of the hazards of multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW."

On March 25, the CBC reported that instead Elliott had actually relaxed the 2005 restrictions on multiple zappings, removing the following rule from the RCMP operational manual on conducted energy weapons :
3. 1. 3. Multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW may be hazardous to a subject. Unless situational factors dictate otherwise (see IM/IM), do not cycle the CEW repeatedly, nor more than 15-20 seconds at a time against a subject.

From the CBC yesterday : "Mounties shocked at least 16 suspects with a Taser five or more times", including one unarmed man zapped nine times and another - eight times.

May I politely suggest the RCMP read what TASER™ itself says about multiple zappings.

Taser International : Instructor and User Warnings, Risks via Stanford :
"When practicable, avoid prolonged or continuous exposure(s) to the TASER device electrical discharge. The stress and exertion of extensive repeated, prolonged, or continuous application(s) of the TASER device may contribute to cumulative exhaustion, stress, and associated medical risk(s). Severe exhaustion and/or over-exertion from physical struggle, drug intoxication, use of restraint devices, etc. may result in serious injury or death."

"Extensive repeated, prolonged, or continuous applications ... serious injury or death."

Guys just never want to read the manual first.

The Stanford report also notes that the dismissal of stun gun fatality suits in the US - much ballyhooed as victories by TASER™ Int. - are the direct result of the police officers involved not having sufficiently explicit guidelines to work from :

"Rather, in granting qualified immunity, the court simply held that the officers who fired the taser could not be held liable because the use of the taser did not violate clearly established law because there simply was no clearly established law regarding taser use at the time the officer fired one."

In other words - the same position we now find ourselves in here in Canada.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Last call ...

Nominations close at midnight tonight
First Round Voting open now to April 14th

Since when did Canada become bff with the Center for Strategic and International Studies?

They're the other "CSIS" - the Washington neocon thinktank most famous up here for a 2007 meeting in Calgary on their North American Future 2025 Project to implement the SPP, and more specifically this quote from project director Armand Peschard-Sverdrup :
"It's no secret that the U.S. is going to need water. ...
It's no secret that Canada is going to have an overabundance of water.
At the end of the day, there may have to be arrangements."

Two days ago Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon gave a speech at the CSIS Washington headquarters on "enhanced co-operation" in "our shared Arctic interests", noting that "20% of the world's oil is estimated to be in the Arctic".
Last week Alberta Energy Minister Rob Renner was there to tout Alberta's tar sands :
"The world is looking for leadership on climate change and Alberta is taking that opportunity."

Heh. That's pretty funny, Rob.

From their website :
"The CSIS Canada Project is dedicated to the study of Canada and the Canada-United States relationship, and to analyzing the process of deepening North American integration that is transforming them both and establishing the new dynamics of a continental economy."

"bff "

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement - A licence to kill

I'm trying to imagine how well it would go down in Canada if we passed a law providing for a token fine to be paid - on a purely voluntary basis -whenever the government combined with Canadian corporations to murder union workers. Not too well I think.

So why are we again considering promoting this behavior from the over 20 Canadian mining and oil and gas operations already in Columbia, including Nexen, Enbridge, Petrominerales, Coalcorp and Vancouver's B2Gold?

In July 2007 Steve stood next to President Uribe of Colombia and proclaimed it would be "ridiculous" to refuse to enter a free trade agreement with Columbia based on the latter's abysmal human rights record - a record which is even worse in 2008 than it was in 2007.

In November 2008 Steve and Uribe shook hands on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
Coincidentally this was the same month the world heard about high-ranking Colombian army officers involved in “false positives” - the execution and dressing up of civilians as FARC guerrillas and claiming they were killed in combat in order to collect a body count bonus.

On March 26, 2009, the Canada-Columbia Free Trade Agreement passed first reading in the House as Bill C-23.

Some notes from the excellent MAKING A BAD SITUATION WORSE -

Canadian Council for International Co-operation
Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

  • Extrajudicial executions by security forces : 2007 - 330; 2004 to 2006 - 220; 2003 - 130 ; 2002 - 100.

  • 270,675 people have been forced to flee from their homes in the first quarter of 2008 - the highest rate of internal displacement since 1987

  • 1,015 people have disappeared over the past year – more than four times the total for 2007 and a 1300% increase over 2005. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, members of the country’s armed forces are suspects in more than 90% of the cases it is investigating.

  • Fewer than 1% of Colombian workers enjoy the right to collective bargaining, hampered by the introduction of anti-union legislation
  • Over 60% of the more than 3 million internally displaced people in Colombia have been forced from their homes and lands in areas of mineral, agricultural or other economic importance.
  • As of October 2008, more than 60 parliamentarians – most of whom are part of President Uribe's governing coalition in Congress… were under formal or preliminary investigation for their suspected links to paramilitary groups..., several have either pleaded guilty or have been found guilty of association with paramilitary groups, electoral fraud, murder, and the organizing, arming and financing of paramilitary groups.”
In Feb. 2008, Daniel García-Peña, VP of the leftist opposition party in Colombia came to Canada and explained why a free trade agreement would be "very negative for Canada and Colombia." :
"Canadian companies would be attracted to Colombia for all the wrong reasons, namely to take advantage of the country's weak labour, human rights and environmental laws. Many companies will come to bypass the laws Canada has and take advantage of Colombian standards, which are much lower. In many ways [this could] promote the exploitation of workers."
Furthermore, Mr. García-Peña says, a trade deal could destroy the livelihoods of many small Colombian farmers by flooding the market with subsidized agricultural imports. "The small peasant farmer would be unable to compete with the cheap imports of food," he says. "[This] would wipe them out."
Those who would benefit, he says, are the large agro-businesses in Colombia that would buy up the land of destitute farmers for the production of biodiesel, palm oil and beef for export.
Worst of all, Mr. García-Peña adds, these large agro-businesses have ties to the paramilitary squads at the heart of the ongoing rights abuses and violence in the South American country."
Please join NDP MP Peter Julian in sending Michael Ignatieff a note asking him to do some credit to his former reputation as a human rights activist :
Top Ten Reasons Why Canada Should Cancel Harper's "Free Trade" Deal With Colombia.

Homer's Odyssey on Twitter


Back home! Who r all these random dudes?
5 minutes ago, from web

Wrecked the boat. Totaled. Everybody dead. FAIL
two year ago, from web

Hot singing chicks! KTHXBAI!
two year ago, from web

Circe is hot! All my bros turned into pigs! LULZ!
three year ago, from web

Just saw a dude with one eye!
four year ago, from web

Continued ...

lmao! Eric Alt at holytacodotcom roxxors the boxxors!
props - arborman at BnR

Afghan marital rape law being ... revised

CBC : "Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said he was informed Sunday by his counterpart in Afghanistan that a new family law, which critics say legalizes marital rape, has been halted and will be revised."

You can just imagine how that conversation went ...
~Look, what you people do behind closed doors is your business but we've got an occupation to run here and it's based on our soldiers dying so your grateful little girls can go to school. It's bad enough 75% of them get forced into marriage between 5 and 15 to old geezers to pay off family debts but you can't be passing laws saying it's ok to rape 'em as well ...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Lunney is a loonie ...

Con MP Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, startled everyone two weeks ago with his peculiar Lamarckian view of evolution:
"We are evolving every year, every decade,” Mr. Goodyear said on the television program. “That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels – of course we are evolving to our environment."
Canadian Alliance/Con MP for Nanaimo-Alberni James Lunney was deeply offended at the subsequent derision heaped on his fellow chiropractor and gave him a rousing defence in the HoC on Thursday :
"Any scientist who declares that the theory of evolution is a fact has already abandoned the foundations of science. For science establishes fact through the study of things observable and reproducible. Since origins can neither be reproduced nor observed, they remain the realm of hypothesis. ... I am prepared to believe that Darwin would be willing to re-examine his assumptions. The evolutionists may disagree, but neither can produce Darwin as a witness to prove his point."
Ooooh, smackdown!
Naturally, the creationists will be producing God to prove their point any day now.
No Word yet on God's opinion of how high heels and cement fit into it.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Canada as a northern banana republic

Good opinion piece in the Star from Jim Travers today : The quiet unravelling of Canadian democracy.
It's not often one reads in the press about our slow slide towards becoming a northern banana republic and I can't remember the last time anyone mentioned the quiet coup perpetuated on an unwitting electorate by Canada's premier paramilitary organization or the failure of our three main parties to address it.

To Jim's points I would add the following three conditions that also qualify Canada for banana republic status :

The Security and Prosperity Partnership
Rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated and mostly by its fans. A government assisted corporate plan to free up the movement of capitol and labour without public participation or oversight within a militarized North America, it has scarcely received mention since the last big Three Amigos bunfest. Yet on Thursday Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan appeared before the public safety committee to announce some princely sum in the millions "towards further implementation of the SPP".

Dispensing with the bother of elected representation
In addition to the first-past-the-post electoral system in which only a handful of votes in a few swing ridings actually count, there is the matter of both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition holding office by fiat. Harper dissolved parliament rather than face an election and Iggy was just simply crowned after the Liberal Party executive voted last year not to give the actual rank and file members of the Liberal Party the vote.

Media concentration
Canadians are more likely to know the names of Sarah Palin's grandchildren than they are to know that they probably got this news from just three Canadian media corporations.

Banana republic stuff - all of it.

Travers' column previously noted today by Jennifer, Chrystal, and Chet.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Canada denies passport to Abdelrazik

April 3, 2009
Department of Justice Canada
DFAIT Legal Services Unit

Dear Mr. Hameed:

Re: Mr. Abousfian Abdelrazik request for an emergency passport

Pursuant to Section 10.1 of the Canadian Passport Order the Minister of Foreign Affairs has decided to refuse your client's request for an emergency passport.

Donna Blois,

Previous DFAIT corespondence on Abdelrazik :

July 13, 2005
Odette Gaudet-Fee, senior Foreign Affairs official in Ottawa,
To David Hutchings, head of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum:

"I wish I had a magic wand and make this case go away ... I find it unethical to hold him like this in limbo with no future, no hope and all because ...

Obviously I cannot address the issue of the no-fly list "

May 2005
Odette Gaudet-Fee :
"[Mr. Abdelrazik] has reached the end of his rope, he has no money, no future, very little freedom and no hope. Should this case break wide open in the media, we may have a lot to explaining to do."

April 2008
Sean Robertson, Director of Consular Case Management
Foreign Affairs :
"Since October of 2003, the government of Canada has provided a high level of consular assistance and support to Mr. Abdelrazik"

April 30, 2008
Transport Canada :
"Transport Canada and other senior Government of Canada officials should be mindful of the potential reaction of our U.S. counterparts to Abdelrazik's return to Canada as he is on the U.S. No-Fly List and the Department of Treasury's Specially Designated Nationals and blocked Persons."

March 2008
"Deepak Obhrai, the junior foreign affairs minister, met Mr. Abdelrazik at the embassy.
Mr. Abdelrazik said they quizzed him about why he came to Canada in the first place and asked about his views on Israel."

Very good summation of Abdelrazik's plight on yesterday's The Current
Skdadl says if you send Abousfian Abdelrazik a message of support at , he'll definitely get it.

And while you're at it, send Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon a fucking cluebat :
Telephone: (613) 992-5516 ... Fax: (613) 992-6802
EMail: .

Torture intelligence - it all hinges on the word "knowingly"

When I read the media accounts of the public safety committee testimony on torture on Tuesday and Thursday, I'm not at all sure they watched the same proceedings I did.

Big hullaballoo on Tuesday following CSIS lawyer Geoffrey O'Brian's testimony before the public safety committee that Canadian intelligence agencies would make use of information obtained by torture from foreign agencies in the "one-in-a-million" eventuality that "lives were at stake". In fact, said O'Brian, who has been with CSIS since its inception in 1984, "we would be bound to do so."

Under further questioning from aghast committee members, he admitted that agencies often "have no idea under what conditions info received from foreign agencies is obtained" and "just because a country has a questionable or even abysmal human rights record does not mean info received from them is necessarily extracted by torture".

That would be the old don't ask don't tell Syria defence. CSIS Director Jim Judd used it back in November 2006 to defend using Syrian intel on Maher Arar.
So are we still trading info with Syria and Egypt? Yes we are, but now "with caveats".

The committee members pressed on : "What Canadians want to hear is that we do not condone the use of information derived from torture."

O'Brian : "I would love to give you a simple answer. The simple answer is that we will never use info from torture. I cannot say that because recipients of info do not know how that info was obtained. I can say we do not knowingly" - and he stressed this again -"knowingly use info extracted by torture."

Huge stink in the Star, G&M, and CBC.

Today CSIS Director Jim Judd and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan appeared before the public safety committee. Judd :

"I think it's unfortunate that Mr. O'Brian may have been confused in his testimony. He will clarifying that via a letter to this committee. I know of no instance where such information has been made use of by our service."


"He [O'Brian] ventured into the hypothetical. In the past we used information received obtained by torture. Such information is not to be relied upon. We've changed our policies. Our policy now is under no circumstances do we condone the use of torture for any reason."
He went on to explain that the intelligence agencies are directed in this by the federal government.
Ok that seems pretty straight forward, right?

Next up - Minister Van Loan, from whence intelligence agencies are directed, responding to MP Mourani - italics mine :

"We do not condone the use of torture in intelligence gathering and our clear directive to our law enforcement agencies and intelligence services is that they are not to condone the use of torture, practice torture, or knowingly use any information obtained by torture."
Uh -oh. There's that "knowingly" again.
And here's the relevant quote from O'Brian's "clarification" letter - again, italics mine :

"I wish to clarify for the committee that CSIS certainly does not condone torture and that it is the policy of CSIS to not knowingly rely upon information that may have been obtained through torture."
So we're pretty well back to O'Brian's "knowingly" on Tuesday again, aren't we?
Which is that because we can claim to have no clue how the info we get is obtained, we're free to go ahead and use it.

I'd also like to point out that the RCMP got a completely free ride here in the media coverage.
In his opening statement to the commitee on Tuesday, RCMP spokesman Gilles Michaud rejected the use of information obtained by torture as unreliable but explained in regards to the RCMP's use of intelligence obtained from foreign agencies :

"I want to be clear here - there is no absolute ban on the use of any information by the RCMP."
Uh huh.
O'Brian caught shit for losing control of the spin for a moment, and that's all that happened here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Stand By Me - International version

Playing For Change. Across several continents in the universal language:



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