Monday, May 31, 2010

Israel attacks flotilla bound for Gaza

Hours after Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was presented with this Toronto Maple Leafs jersey in Toronto, Israeli commandos dropped from helicopters onto the lead vessel of a six ship international aid flotilla bound for Gaza and opened fire.

Israeli Radio is reporting 16 to 19 killed with 30 injured and confirms the flotilla was in international waters.

According to AFP, "the Israeli military censor ordered a block on all information regarding those injured or killed during the storming of the ship."

The six ships bearing 10,000 tons of supplies and over 600 activists from 40 countries, including 86 year old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, are now being towed to Ashod.

I was watching a Turkish TV live feed from the lead vessel until it went off the air. I couldn't understand what anyone was saying except for a voice shouting in English that they were in international waters and a woman calling for help for the wounded. The live footage is now being rebroadcast at the same link with commentary in English.

But back to the jersey photo op. Netanyahu says Israel has never had a better friend than Canada and thanked Steve today for being "an unwavering friend of Israel."

Too true. Canada was the first country in the world to boycott Gaza for electing Hamas. When Israel bombed Lebanon in 2008 killing 1400, Steve called Israel's actions "measured". A Canadian killed when Israel shelled UN offices went unremarked by our government. We support the Wall at the UN. Peter Kent, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, has more than once stated on his website that "an attack on Israel would be considered an attack on Canada." We have cut off funding to humanitarian groups like Kairos and UNRWA who have been sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, and replaced members on the board of the once independent group Rights and Democracy with pro-Israel hawks. Canada had the largest delegation at last year's Conference on Anti-Semitism in Israel and provides nearly twice the Canadian forces to man the borders of Gaza as does the United States. We have our own McCarthyite Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism and banned George Galloway from Canada. Con MPs have sent out flyers to their constituents suggesting that Liberals are soft on anti-Semitism, the definition of which has now been expanded to include any criticism of Israel, following the lead of our prime minister who has accused MPs of anti-Semitism in the House of Commons. Last month the Ethics Commissioner reported that Israel is the top destination of choice for MPs seeking junkets abroad paid for by outside organizations, and Ontario Premier McGuinty is there now drumming up trade. Two years ago Israel and Canada signed what it pleases Israel's Ministry of Public Security to describe on their website as a pact on "cooperation in home land security and counter terrorism issues."


Against this complicity by our own government in the three-year-old Israeli blockade of Gaza, we must raise our voices in support of international law. We must no longer allow our government to speak in our name here.

Witness Gaza. Witness. Gaza.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gulf oil spill - That was then; this is then

Right. So they're just doing their very darnedest to deal with this completely unexpected environmental tragedy with their miles of boom and their top hats and junk shots and top kills - exactly the same useless shit that didn't work 30 years ago either.

Still, they have to tiddle about with something while the media cameras are rolling and Obama frowns on a beach.

Meanwhile the real plume is five miles away and spewing oil into the Gulf at the rate of 120,000 barrels a day according to this guy. What they're trying to cap now is just the sideshow. It's like the drunk looking for his carkeys under the streetlight; it's not where he dropped them but the light is better there.

'Plume' sounds pretty benign, doesn't it? Something you might wear on your tophat.
Underwater oil volcano - that's what they got.
Time to revisit this idea, courtesy of commenter Neil H at The Beav :


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Yo! Opposition parties! This is what an election issue looks like

Globe and Mail online poll G8/G20 May 29, 2010

Security for the billion-dollar boondoggle is being managed by ex-CSIS director Ward Elcock, who also just spent another billion on Vancouver Olympics security.
Asked why the London G20 expenses clocked in at $30-million last year by comparison, Elcock answered, "Bookkeeping."
I wonder if we could possibly get some of that.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Poilievre : "No one takes Ethics Committee summons seriously"

"At the end of the day, [Ethics Committee Chair]Paul Szabo and this kangaroo court have no credibility and no one takes their summons seriously."

So said Con MP Pierre Poilievre in August two years ago when he was only an associate member of the Ethics Committee.
Since becoming fully-fledged, and also Parliamentary Secretary to Steve, his job there is apparently to pipe up "Point of order" every few minutes like some demented Energizer bunny until the Chair finally cuts his mike.

Lib Wayne Easter's spirited response to John Baird's surprise appearance before the Ethics Committee on Tuesday in place of Dimitri Soudas as scheduled has already been well covered.

Chair Paul Szabo first let Baird speak, setting off an hour of angry motions to dismiss the usurper - interspersed with Poilievre's points! of! order! - versus the Con committee members dutifully bent over their brand new talking points on "ministerial responsibility for their staffers", carefully read aloud heads bowed down, when it was their turn to speak.
Eventually Szabo broke a tie vote over whether or not to let Baird stay and booted him out.

Well sure. After all, as Minister of Transport, Baird is not Soudas' boss and would not be able to answer any of the questions the committee was intending to ask Soudas, despite Baird's sinister hand waving about something he called "collective responsibility".
And as Bloc Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac pointed out, the last time a minister appeared before the committee on behalf of one of their staffers - that would be Christian Paradis, Minister of Asbestos - his idea of "ministerial responsibility" was to just blame the staffer.

Bloc Carole Freeman brought up committees' right to subpoena witnesses, reminding that Soudas
"is an ordinary citizen and should be treated as such. A house leader does not have the power to change existing rules simply by standing up in the House and making a statement."

But then there was another tie vote following that I haven't seen discussed.

What to do about the many named bureaucrats already scheduled to appear in the few weeks remaining before the committee last meets on June 22? And what to do if their ministers wanted to show up in their staffers' place?

Chair Szabo asked for a motion to give him authority to summon the witnesses already scheduled to appear ... if necessary ... even if it meant allowing those witnesses' ministers to come as substitutes in their stead.

A pretty weak motion but as he explained, they were waiting on an expected future ruling by the Speaker on such witness substitutions. And he was only asking for either the scheduled witness or his/her minister to appear if that's what was offered.

OK so it was an astoundingly weak motion to exercise parliamentary committees' right to summon witnesses, but you know what? That vote was tied up 5 to 5 - the Cons vs everyone else - and only passed because the Chair broke it by voting in favour.

Pierre Poilievre suggested what he called "a friendly amendment" to solve the impasse over the next scheduled witness :
"just replace the name of the political staffer in question with the name of the Minister."
Your moment of hideous irony : The work currently before the committee is looking into "allegations of systematic political interference by ministers' offices to block, delay, or obstruct the release of information to the public regarding the operation of government departments".

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jason Kenney, duplicitous douchebag

via Boris at The Beav, Stageleft , CC , Dammit Janet , the Rev, JJ , Saskboy , JAWL, KNB , MgS, The Jurist, and suddenly you have a duplicitous douchebag with a bullet. More bullets, please.

Dave calls him out, mano a guano. Heh.

And Boris. Boris nails it : Conservatives are not right in the head.


$13-million an hour for three days

That's the security budget for Steve's upcoming billion dollar bunfest.
Could go even higher says Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
Originally pitched to us at $179-million, the cost of G8/G20 security is now creeping up to a billion dollars.
"I understand that the Liberals don't believe in securing Canadians or the visitors here," Toews told the House yesterday. "We're different."
How different are they?
Well, by comparison, an hour and a half's worth of our security budget this time round would have paid for the entire security bill for the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, which clocked in at $18-million US.
An hour and a half's worth.
But then the US has never been all that concerned about security, have they?
Bonus BS : For the G20 portion of the show, Toronto will be locked down, the CN Tower will be closed, and the Toronto Blue Jays will have to play in Philadelphia. Nothing is too much trouble to protect our safety.
Bonus irony : Among the list of topics at the billion dollar bunfests will be how to battle poverty and get government spending under control.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

BP fails fucking Booming School 101

Booming is a method by which oil spills are contained through the use of booms.

Who among us did not look at the aerial footage of quite small waves lapping quietly over the single broken up lines of orange booms in the Gulf of Mexico and think That's your disaster clean-up plan?

Someone who apparently does know how it should be done explains what she says every oil company and the US Coast Guard already know. There's noises about taking BP off the clean-up now. And that took a month?

h/t Mind of Dan

Update : EPA Considering Banning BP from Gov't Contracts

Over the past 10 years, BP has paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and been implicated in four separate instances of criminal misconduct that could have prompted this far more serious action. Until now, the company's executives and their lawyers have fended off such a penalty by promising that BP would change its ways.

BP is the largest oil and gas producer in the Gulf of Mexico and operates some 22,000 oil and gas wells across United States, many of them on federal lands or waters.

In the past decade environmental accidents at BP facilities have killed at least 26 workers, led to the largest oil spill on Alaska's North Slope and now sullied some of the country's best coastal habitat, along with fishing and tourism economies along the Gulf. "

On May 21 BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles told CBS News that "there have been larger spills in the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico has survived".

Anne Drinkwater, President of BP Canada, appeared before the Standing Committee on Natural Resources on May 13th to explain why BP Canada had raised the possibility of getting exemption from some disaster prevention measures should they be allowed to proceed with their three bids to drill in the Canadian Arctic. Drinkwater was not able to answer any technical questions but did admit that the disputed safety measures would be expensive.

Her prepared statement on the Gulf of Mexico spill included the info that :

"Over 1.5 million feet of boom has been installed to contain the spill and protect sensitive coastal areas, with more than a million more feet available."

As the oil laps up onto the Louisiana marshlands tonight, maybe someone should send her the Booming School 101 vid.

Update 2 from Ian in Comments : New York Times

"Federal regulators responsible for oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico allowed industry officials several years ago to fill in their own inspection reports in pencil — and then turned them over to the regulators, who traced over them in pen before submitting the reports to the agency, according to an inspector general’s report to be released this week.

In mid-2008, a minerals agency employee conducted four inspections on drilling platforms when he was also negotiating a job with the drilling company"


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cons ban staff from testifying at committees

Obviously Con political staffers couldn't continue to rely a fire alarm going off every time they were summoned to testify before a parliamentary committee, so on Tuesday morning Government House leader Jay Hill will announce a new policy in the House of Commons exempting them from ever appearing at all.
[Jay Hill, amiable defender of the Cons 2007 manual on disrupting committees, once "lavished praise on the committee chairs who caused disruptions and admonished those who prefer to lead through consensus".]
"The Conservative cabinet has decided to ban its political staffers from appearing as witnesses before committees ....
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, explained the new policy Sunday during an appearance on CTV’s Question Period.
“Ministers are the ones who are accountable and answer to Parliament,” said Mr. Soudas"
That would be the same Dimitri Soudas whose appearance before the House of Commons ethics committee was sadly pre-empted last Tuesday by a fire alarm bell going off just moments before he was due to testify about the government's crap handling of Access to Information requests.

Yes, it's only the ministers who are accountable to Parliament, but as Accidental Deliberations points out:
"The Cons' new policy is that all committee questions must be directed toward the lone group of people who can't be subpoenaed to testify."
Well, Steve has never been overly fond of either Parliament or its committees, has he?

We will of course still be hearing from government staffers through the Cons' new hasbara program for Facebook and message boards :

"The next time you post an opinion in an online forum or a Facebook group message board, don't be surprised if you get a rebuttal from a federal employee.

The government is looking for ways to monitor online chatter about political issues and correct what it perceives as misinformation.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has paid [Social Media Group] $75,000 "to monitor social activity and help identify ... areas where misinformation is being presented and repeated as fact," Simone MacAndrew, a department spokesperson, said in an email.

The firm alerts the government to questionable online comments and then employees in Foreign Affairs or the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, who have recently been trained in online posting, point the authors to information the government considers more accurate."

Foreign Affairs employees "recently trained in online posting ..."
Ho boy. Are they all gonna be called Bob from Burnaby or will we have to figure who the bots are for ourselves? Bot from Burnaby - coming soon to a Facebook page near you.
h/t Waterbaby by email

Friday, May 21, 2010

Water wars - Objects may be closer than they appear

Gosh, was it only 18 months ago US Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci was recommending "constructing huge aqueducts to carry Canadian water to the US" ?

Ho hum, responded the Cons, as they continued to obstruct any and all opposition motions to protect Canadian water from bulk export, including the recommendation to do so from the parliamentary trade committee.
John Baird said the threat was too insignificant to bother with, while Jim Abbott said the issue was too explosive to risk opening up at all. Don't go nears the NAFTA, warned the Cons.

Then in the Throne Speech, Steve suddenly promised to put some protections for water in place, and on May 13th, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon tabled Bill C-26, An Act to amend the 1909 International Boundary Waters Treaty Act and the International River Improvements Act.

As noted in news reports via Pogge : Actual product may not be as shown.
This ammendment
1) does not cover bulk water exports from waterways that aren't boundary waters, in effect only extending the protection on the Great Lakes to include boundary rivers as well, and also
2) still permits bulk removal of 50,000 litres in the form of bottled water and beverages.

That's 50,000 litres per day. And presumably - per company.

Also worrying is this new clause about Schedule 3, which covers over 160 waterways 82 waterways including Lake Champlain and the Colombia and Red Rivers :
The Act is amended by adding the following after section 21:
Clause 9: New. Order — Schedule 3
21.01 (1) The Governor in Council may, by order, on the Minister’s recommendation, amend Schedule 3 by adding, deleting or amending the name of any transboundary waters.
(2) Before recommending that Schedule 3 be amended, the Minister is to consult with the appropriate Minister of the province where the transboundary waters are located.

So the Minister, after consultation with which ever province wants to start up bulk water sales, may delete a waterway from the list of prohibited transboundary waters. Got it.

Also exempt from protection is short-term not-for-profit exporting of bulk water for fire-fighting - ok - and "humanitarian purposes".

It still has to get through committee, another two readings in the House, and the Senate before it becomes law.
In the past, Canadians have shown considerable outrage at any variation on the idea of aqueducts carrying bulk water exports to the US. Indeed this amendment actually bothers to list "aqueduct" as a prohibited means of exporting water - along with "pipeline, canal, tunnel, or channel" - but does not mention containers.

Expect this amendment to have a rough go in committee. Stay awake, Canada.
Edited 160+ to 82. Yup, I had initially added the English and French names together.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Paging James Dobson to the teletubbiephone

Meet Wenlock and Mandeville, the London 2012 Olympic mascots.

Erect one-eyed beasties brought to life by a rainbow.

Obviously this will call for an intervention by the legendary Spongedob.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Military-Industrial-Media-Government Complex

In a 2007 article entitled "The Conference of Defence Associations gets $100,000 a year from the Department of Defence", CDA executive director Alain Pellerin told Maclean's John Geddes :

"We also have to write a number of op-eds to the press."
Asked if there is any aspect of Tory defence policy the CDA opposes, he couldn't think of one.
Six days ago the Ottawa Citizen ran an article "End the Inquisition" by Paul Chapin which rather hysterically equated the Afghan committee's hearings on the detainee issue with Senator Joe McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunt. The Citizen did note in Chapin's bio that he is director of the above-mentioned Conference of Defence Associations, but rather unhelpfully failed to mention he was also the author of the very detainee agreement he was defending.

Yesterday Harper Bizarro had a very good post up detailing missing bio info in a Globe and Mail David Bercuson editorial, Liberals, lay down your arms. In it Bercuson advised Iggy to clamp down on Lib defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh and Lib foreign affairs critic Bob Rae re their determination to get to the bottom of the Afghan-detainee issue. As noted by Harper Bizarro, the G&M omitted to mention that Bercuson is director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary and director of programs at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute(CDFAI), and therefore has funding ties to the very Department of Defence he is defending. h/t Pogge

Also worth noting is that the comment editor at the Globe and Mail who runs these pieces joined the Advisory Council of CDFAI in 2006.

At 13 university centres across Canada, the Department of National Defence funds defence 'studies' through its Security and Defence Forum. This is from Embassy Mag in 2007 :
"According to the Department of National Defence, over 600 people, including 183 faculty members, are employed in these centres across Canada. In 2005-2006, scholars from these centres churned out 600 publications, including articles, books, and chapters. In this same period, the centres received funding worth $1,255,000. As of October 2006, DND approved a 25 per cent increase in funding. In the next five years, the funding will shoot up to $1,650,000, a 32 per cent increase."
Steve Staples, Rideau Institute, Feb 2007 :
"It's not about scholarly journals, peer reviewed articles that they have written -it's really about appearing in the mainstream media. What you tend to get as a general trend, is a steady stream of hawkish opinion from academics that are all linked together through Department of National Defence funding."

Not all this hawkish think tank funding is DND of course. CDFAI donors for instance also include Enbridge, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin.

Something to think about given that media Rolodex seems to fall open so easily to the same DND and corporate funded analysts over and over again.

As Pogge says, "What we have here is taxpayer dollars being laundered through the defence budget and used to pay academics to lobby us ."


Labour unions hire Abdelrazik

In defiance of a UN edict making it illegal to hire Abousfian Abdelrazik and to put pressure on our government to get him off that 1267 terrorist blacklist, the Canadian Labour Congress will hire Abdelrazik for a week, while the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the International Association of Machinists will each hire him for a day. They are hiring him to tell his story, which will presumably include his being kept an exile inside his own country.

The Canadian government froze his assets in accordance with the UN list earlier this year, although they are permitting him to have an allowance from it, but he is still not permitted to work.

Here, by the way, is what the UN Security Council 1267 page has on Abdelrazik. Good grief. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon maintains it's up to Abdelrazik to get himself off the list, although no one has yet succeeded in getting off it without the help of their government.

After Abdelrazik was arrested in Sudan at the bequest of the CSIS in 2003, he was imprisoned for twenty months during which time he was beaten and tortured and later interrogated by two CSIS agents. Abdelrazik says he also remembers being questioned in Sudan by Foreign Affairs parliamentary secretary Deepak Obhrai, who questioned him about Osama bin Laden and what he thought of Israel.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Barn owl nest on live feed

Stream videos at Ustream

July 2010 : Molly's back again with a whole new brood! Thank you, Carlos and Donna Royal.

June : Bye, bye, babies

May 25 - And Wesley has left the building! If you're watching tonight as I type this, that's Wesley flailing around in front of the outdoor cam, as the others look on. They will all be back inside tomorrow during the day for naps if the last few days is anything to go on.

May 23 - Wes the last owlet not to have flown yet, still in the box. Max the eldest has made her first kill.

May 18 - Bumped up again. Two months old now, two of the four of them have been out on the perch outside the owlbox at night and one has so far made it to the roof and back. First real flight any time now, likely at night. Wes still has his little mohawk of baby feathers. Aw.

April 21 - Bumped to keep it from falling off the bottom of the page. Updates in comments.

It takes 10 seconds or so to load. Original stream here.

Mar. 21, 8am Having just polished off the better part of a large rat, mom has a good clean and settles back on her clutch of five eggs, one of which has a small opening on the top and peeping can be heard.

With thanks to my friend Constance for sending me this.

4pm One owlet hatched, four more to go. Mom carefully washed him and ate the shell. At night the webcam owners switch to a black and white webcam, colour will resume with daylight.

6pm Well that was interesting. I guess the male calls to her on his return to the nest. She suddenly got noisy and a few seconds later the male flew in, mounted her enthusiastically for about 3 seconds, and then off he flew again. Mom rearranges chick and eggs, goes back to sleep.

Midnight Male delivered another rat which mom promptly stashed off in the corner. Chick already seems twice the size he was when he was born 8 hours ago. Mom stands up and carefully pats him from time to time with her huge - relative to his size anyway - talons. Mom scissorhands.

With her long legs extended she suddenly assumes a surprisingly human body proportion. I'm now sitting here drawing a woman with an owl's face instead of working.


Monday, May 17, 2010

40 - 40 - 20

Choice Joyce at Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada has researched which MPs are anti-choice, pro-choice, or unknown using their public statements during campaigns, their position on the awarding of the Order of Canada to Dr. Henry Morgentaler, and how they voted on Bill C-484, the Unborn Victims of Crime Act, at Second Reading in 2008.
Con MPs who voted in favour of Bill C-484 but have no other known public position on abortion are possibly still pro-choice, says Joyce, and therefore are not included in the anti-choice stats. Members of the Bloc and NDP are presumed to be pro-choice. Details on individual MPs are listed below the chart.
40% pro - 39% anti - 21% unknown - the support among federal MPs for the right of women to control what happens to their own bodies.
According to Joyce's calculations, one quarter of the Libs are anti-choice.
SoCon Liberal MP Paul Szabo, Chair of the Ethics Committee, spoke at Fetus Festivus on the Hill last week :
"We will be back to reconsidering the question in the House . . . We’re taking incremental steps, small steps. It’s just a question of knowing when it’s the right time."
In March, a Liberal motion to include abortion in Harper's G8 maternal health initiative failed 144-138 because 3 Blue Dog Libs voted against it, 2 abstained, and 12 Libs skipped the vote.
Last fall, Con MP Brad Trost initiated a petition, signed by 30 MPs, demanding an end to the Canadian International Development Agency's $18 million in annual funding for Planned Parenthood. Six months into 2010, Planned Parenthood is still without funding.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Why the opposition parties made the deal

They had to.
Update : Pundit's Guide to Canadian Federal Elections dropped by and kindly left a link to quarterly fundraising by year, party, and contribution type from 2005 to 2010 - vastly more readable than slogging through search pages at Elections Canada - and some analysis of same in comments below. More here. Thank you, Pundit.
Creekside would also like to thank Pundit for not being snotty about my wee foray into realms I know sfa about.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Fetus Festivus on Parliament Hill

21 Canadian MP's await their turn to address the crowd at this year's annual Fetus Festivus yesterday on Parliament Hill :
Rod Bruinooge, Chairman of the Pro-Life Parliamentary Caucus, Harold Albrecht, David Anderson, Leon Benoit, Kelly Block, Royal Galipeau, Dean Del Mastro, Ed Komarniki, Guy Lauzon, Pierre Lemieux, Gurbax Singh Malhi, Phil McColeman, Dan McTeague, Lavar Payne, Paul Szabo, Brad Trost, Tim Uppal, Maurice Vellacott, Mark Warawa, Jeff Watson, and Stephen Woodworth.
Bruinooge says this represents only part of their 30-40 member anti-abortion Parliamentary Caucus which is pretty much still stuck at the loose tea stage and does not include any Bloc or NDP members.
Invited leaders of American fetus fetishist sects praised their junior Canadian counterparts, Catholic high school children were specially bussed in for the occasion, and the Supreme Grand Knights and Primates sported swords and ostrich feather hats.
Best "When the Germans Bombed Pearl Harbour" moment in a speech?
Bishop Nicola de Angelis of Peterborough : "God created life. God did not create death."
Bishop Nicola was not about to allow a little thing like Genesis to spoil Fetus Festivus for everyone.
Buh bye till next year.
More : Fern and JJ and Pogge.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Harper's war on women

Last July in Embassy Mag, Foreign Affairs officials accused political staffers within the ministry of quietly adjusting Canadian policy by eliminating phrases like "gender equality" from foreign policy missives.

Today, just weeks before the G8 leaders gather in Ontario to adopt Harper's action plan on maternal health, Embassy Mag reports :

"At Foreign Affairs, the past year has seen the entire division focused on women's rights and gender equality eliminated.

In Pakistan and Kenya, two countries where women's rights violations and violence against women are profound and systemic, CIDA has cut funds that were explicitly dedicated to gender equality. In Canada, Match International, the only international development organization devoted specifically to women's equality, has lost its funding.

Within CIDA, there is a noticeable retreat from gender equality work. Staff have recommended to NGOs that they remove the words "gender equality" from their proposal if they want a chance at funding."


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Goldman Sachs to plot sale of Ontario public assets

Ish Theilheimer at Straight Goods wonders why there has been no public outcry about McGuinty's decision to hire Goldman Sachs to come up with a privatization blueprint for 49% of Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario.

The LCBO, OLG, Hydro One and OPG provide more than $10 million a day, totalling $4.1 billion in profit last year to fund social services for Ontario - making Bay Street's usual privatization argument pretty weak here - but, um, Goldman Sachs?

Ish : "In the USA, for instance, the company has supervised highway privatization deals in which it acted as a financial advisor to the state at the same time as it invested in companies vying for the highways."

In Goldman Sachs : The Great American Bubble Machine, Matt Taibbi describes the corp as
"a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money..."

"the heads of the Canadian national banks are Goldman alums, as is the head of the World Bank, the head of the New York Stock Exchange, the last two heads of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York - which, incidentally, is now in charge of overseeing Goldman ..."
Following its part in managing the recent financial collapse of Greece, the Vampire Squid is being investigated for fraud by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading its own clients and encouraging them to invest in a product that was destined to fail.

Canada doesn't have a national securities regulator. In announcing plans to put one in place on May 3rd, Fin Min Jim Flaherty said that Canada is not directly probing Goldman Sachs because any probe of Goldman would fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Oh, go, McGuinty!

Fun facts : Vampire Squid corporate tax rate in 2008? One percent.
Fin. Times : "Goldman Sachs Group Inc and 22 European banks were the major beneficiaries of US$93-billion in payments from AIG -- more than half of the U.S. taxpayer money spent to rescue the massive insurer."

Banksy comes to TO

presumably to hype the opening of his "documentary" film Exit Through the Gift Shop, "the world's first street art disaster movie".

The Torontoist is following the appearance of new pieces on walls around Toronto over the weekend, and their just as sudden disappearances.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Last call on the Canada-Colombia FTA

There's a rumour going around that tomorrow Con Gerald Keddy, Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, will move to shut down the International Trade Committee's hearings on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. On April 29 committee chair Lee Richardson opened the day's hearings by stating he wasn't going to allow a whole lot of witnesses to testify just so they could put it on their resume.

C-2, as it is known, passed second reading last month with the help of the following Liberal MPs :
Ignatieff, Dion, Rae, Bagnell, Brison, Bagnell, Belanger, Crombie, Cuzner, Dryden, Kirsty Duncan, Easter, Eyking, Fry, Garneau, Goodale, Holland, Hall Findlay, LeBlanc, MacAuley, McCallum, McGuinty, John McKay, Mendes, Shawn Murphy, Murray, Oliphant, Proulx, Ratansi, Regan, Rota, Russell, and Trudeau.

Those Libs need to know we will be watching them tomorrow.
Sign and send a letter here tonight.
People in Ottawa will be filling the Parliamentary Trade Committee hearing room at 3:30 for a Tweet-In.

It's complete bullshit that two years ago all the parties agreed to an independent human rights assessment before the deal was implemented and now they don't even want to hear from the witnesses in committee, but considering what they have been hearing from witnesses so far, it's absolutely unconscionable.
Tuesday night update : The tweeters in attendence report there was no motion to quash today.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Defense Dept. bans reporters from Gitmo

The US Dept of Defense has banned four reporters from Gitmo for divulging the names of two witnesses at Omar Khadr's kangaroo show trial. The reporters are Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Steven Edwards of Canwest, Paul Koring of the Globe & Mail, and Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald.

Well it's a wee bit late for that, isn't it? Michelle Shephard already published part of an interview with one of the witnesses in The Star nearly two years ago :

"Sgt. Joshua Claus was a slight, blond soldier with little experience and lots of responsibility when he became Khadr's interrogator in the cavernous U.S. prison in Bagram detainees nicknamed "The Barn."

Claus would later be convicted for his role in the death of another detainee at Bagram – an innocent Afghan taxi driver named Dilawar. Claus pleaded guilty to maltreatment and assault in return for a five-month jail sentence in 2005. The 2,000-page confidential army file on the investigation into the case, obtained by The New York Times, quotes another soldier saying that Claus twisted a hood over Dilawar's head the day he died. "I had the impression that Josh was actually holding the detainee upright by pulling on the hood."

During the only interview Claus has granted, he told the Toronto Star any allegations of Khadr's mistreatment were false. "They're trying to imply I'm beating or torturing everybody I ever talked to," Claus said.

"Omar was pretty much my first big case," Claus added. "With Omar, I spent a lot of time trying to understand who he was and what I could say to him or do for him, whether it be to bring him extra food or get a letter out to his family ... I needed to talk to him and get him to trust me."

Khadr also described his interrogations, but the U.S. Department of Defense has censored some of the details in his sworn affidavit.

"During this first interrogation, the young blond man would often (censored) if I did not give him the answers he wanted," Khadr claimed. "Several times, he forced me to (censored), which caused me (censored) due to my (censored). He did this several times to get me to answer his questions and give him the answers he wanted."

Later he writes: "I figured out right away that I would simply tell them whatever I thought they wanted to hear in order to keep them from causing me (censored)."

A week ago reporters were ordered out of this same Gitmo courtroom while 'classified' video of an interview with Khadr was shown. The reporters adjourned to the media room and watched it on youtube instead.

Skdadl's source at Empty Wheel sums up the reporter ban : "So DOD is basically saying that once a reporter agrees to go to Gitmo, they lose the ability to report on stuff they have already reported on."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Shut the Fuck Up - The Prequel

If there's one thing Steve does really well, it's using hot button issues to sew strife and division among his enemies.
Within a day of Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth's tactical warning on Monday to NGOs that their insistence on having access to abortion included in Steve's maternal health initiative for developing countries risked blowing the whole thing up, proponents on the pro-choice side were at each other's throats.

Progressive Bloggers featured a whole page of moronic posts denouncing the pro-choice Nancy Ruth, founder of LEAF ferchissakes, for "intimidation" and calling for her dismissal. A quick check just now reveals those "intimidation" posts are still coming.

The Liberal Party immediately dashed off a fundraising letter to supporters :
So this is how the Conservative government treats those who work with women and children in some of the world’s poorest nations?"

Shut the f—- up on this issue," Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth told international aid workers who gathered on Parliament Hill earlier today to express their concerns about the government’s maternal health policy. She then warned them the organizations they represent risk losing their funding, or worse, if they continue to speak their mind. "If you push it, there will be more backlash," she said.

We cannot let the government treat Canadians this way. Their contempt for the public has reached a level you and I just can’t tolerate.

The men and women who were insulted and threatened today have every right to be deeply concerned about this government’s backwards approach to maternal health, which departs from over twenty years of established Canadian policy supporting women’s rights to access safe, legal abortion and the full range of family planning services.

And when they say they find it tougher to do their jobs effectively under Stephen Harper, we believe them.

Thanks, Libs. You know what would have counted? Showing up in the House to vote for your own party's motion to include contraception and the unspoken word 'abortion' in Steve's wee world stage gambit.

Over at Rabble, the regulars are busy announcing their intention to pull financial support for any aid group that buckles under Harper's pressure - you know, the aid groups that have been working for years to get some kind of maternal health funding - any kind of maternal health funding going - for the women and children in poor and war torn countries.

It's principle vs pragmatism for the aid groups.
Pragmatism : If they insist women in poor countries are accorded the same rights women have in Canada, they risk losing their funding - and the desperately needed aid they can provide - after the G-8 spotlight moves on. In fact Harper cut funding for 11 women's groups in just the last two weeks, although I see Wycliffe Bible Translators and Chakam School of the Bible will still be getting their funding.
Principle : Experience shows shutting the fuck up is indistinguishable from compliance - it just encourages the bastards, and your silence will not protect you.

JJ, Just Another Willy Loman, and Dave at TGB have already advised not to shoot the messenger, Nancy Ruth, and to take note of the end of her warning :
"Canada is still a country with free and accessible abortion. Leave it there.
Don't make this an election issue."
Today JJ takes it further : It's a trap.
"... eventually the spiraling debate over funding abortion as part of foreign aid would boomerang as the focus inevitably shifted back to our own domestic policies."
Yes. It may have started with funding abroad but now it's on its way home.

I don't think Steve intended his moms and tots feel-good world-stage initiative to blow up in his face this way, putting the spotlight on Canada as the most backwards nation in the G-8. No.
But never underestimate Steve's ability to turn a seeming loss into an opportunity to set his enemies against each other to quietly further his agenda.

For weeks leading up to this, various noosemedia editorials, polls, and live "discussions" have noted the fact Canada doesn't really have its own codified abortion law.
Seriously, who the fuck wants one? Who wants government interfering in this in any way at all?
Speak out for all the aid groups forced to struggle with an unnecessary principle/pragmatism divide imposed by Harper.
Speak out against being silenced with threats.
But when it comes to reigniting the abortion debate here in Canada, which it will, could everyone please just shut the fuck up.

Monday, May 03, 2010

The Bloc! Booga booga!

The Sun :
"The Tories’ house leader Jay Hill told QMI Agency the government has not agreed to allow members of the Bloc to review confidential documents related to the transfer of Afghan detainees."
Haven't said no; haven't said yes.
"Bloc MPs would "have to swear allegiance to Canada and the Queen" if they want access to sensitive information, said Manitoba Tory MP James Bezan.
"If they are not prepared to do that, then I don’t see any way that we can give them the documents," he said."
Take it away, M. Duceppe... (h/t Maclean's)

I'm really fed up with the Cons' sly frogbashing and the anglo media ignoring the Bloc altogether unless it's to remind everyone of how the Bloc was part of the really scary coalition to replace Steve. Gosh, looking back on it, how terrible for Canada that would have been.

As someone who watches parliamentary committees on a regular to sporadic basis, I can tell you that many issues concerning social justice and individual freedom would get scant airing in committee if not for the dogged and fearless determination of Bloc committee members to ask hard questions of witnesses and not dither away their time scoring meaningless political points like our friend Bezan here. And they don't take any crap from anyone. Would they were a federalist party; I'd probably vote for them.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Khadr - The show trial must go on

Skdadl reminds us that Harper sent a wee tepid request to the US government asking that the Khadr kangaroo show trial :

"not use as evidence in legal proceedings there any evidence collected at GTMO by Canadian agents and representatives, which the Supreme Court of Canada has said (2008) was collected in violation of Omar Khadr's rights."
Steve to Obama : nudge, nudge, wink, wink

What to do ... what to do...

McClatchy :

"Earlier Saturday, officers cleared reporters and observers from the hearing to screen a 2003 interrogation video that they said was classified, though it was made public by Canada's Supreme Court two years ago and is available on YouTube.

The video shows the Toronto-born teen weeping in a Guantanamo interrogation booth and pleading for help from his Canadian interrogator.

Reporters locked out of that portion of the hearing watched the video on YouTube in a media center in a crude abandoned airport hangar below the hilltop tribunal chamber."

The other bizarre incident of the day was testimony from the Army Special Forces officer, an assistant police chief in civilian life, who initially reported that the person who threw the grenade at Army Sgt Speer died in the firefight. This is the crime Khadr is charged with. If the grenade thrower died, it couldn't have been him.

Defense lawyers discovered this report had later been altered to say that Khadr survived - what they termed "manufactured evidence" - but it turns out to have been just an honest mistake :
"W said he didn't realize that he got the report wrong until some investigators preparing for Khadr's trial visited him “a few years later.” So he opened it up on his computer and fixed it."
Just like that. Even though, according to Paul Koring , "he had known within days of the original firefight that Mr. Khadr had survived. "

Well alrighty then. It seems to me that there have been hundreds if not thousands of people not in uniform in Afghanistan who either have or have not thrown grenades at the US troops occupying their country. Where's their show trials?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Spill, baby, spill

In Australia last year a massive blowout caused a rig to catch on fire and spew thousands of gallons into the sea for ten weeks.

At a hearing into the accident, the federal U.S. Minerals Management Service faulted the work of Halliburton's cement workers for failing to properly pump cement into the well.

According to a 2007 study by the same Minerals Management Service, out of 39 rig blowouts they studied in the Gulf of Mexico between 1992 and 2006, cementing was a contributing factor in 18 of the incidents.

Fastforward to today. AP :

"In a statement, Halliburton said workers had finished a cementing operation 20 hours before the rig went up in flames. But the company said it was "premature and irresponsible to speculate" on what caused the disaster.

BP profit in the first quarter of 2010 : $5.6 billion

Cost of the acoustic switch to shut off rig blow-outs that BP has to use in the rest of the world but not in the US : $500,000.

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