Saturday, July 31, 2010

Alert : The. Russians. Still. Have. Planes.

Frankly I don't think we can be expected to write a whole new blogpost every time Flying Ace "Airshow MacKay" and his trusty sidekick Woodstock Kory climb up on top of the Con doghouse to fight off the Red Baron yet again in the Arctic, so this time we're just going with what David Pugliese reported last time 18 months ago (h/t Maclean's) :

"The military officers I was talking to yesterday were full of kudos for Defence Minister Peter MacKay for a move that one described as “playing the media like a finely-tuned fiddle.”

The officer was referring to the breathless Canadian news media coverage of the flight of two Russian bombers that were “intercepted” by Canadian CF-18s … Yesterday’s incident prompted some amusement at NDHQ about how gullible some in the news media can be and how easily some journalists swallowed the government’s bait hook, line and sinker."
We would just like to add in the media's defence that this time they didn't actually swallow, opting instead to quietly spit it out into a hankie afterwards.
Subject: Ignatieff Liberals Embarrassed by Russian Bomber Flights Over Arctic

"Mere days ago Michael Ignatieff pledged to cancel the new fighter jets the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces urgently need.

Embarrassingly for him, Russian bomber flights over the Arctic -- just two days ago -- underscore why our men and women in uniform need modern equipment to do their jobs."
Perhaps because he wasn't in Canada at the time, Mr. Ignatieff is unaware of how past Liberal governments gutted our military. More proof that Michael Ignatieff isn't in it for Canadians. He's just in it for himself."

etc ... etc ...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Blood on their hands

CNN : WikiLeaks founder may have 'blood' on his hands
Reuters : WikiLeaks may have blood on its hands, U.S. says

Both sources quote Admiral Mike Mullen :

"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing," Mullen said. "But the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."
Guardian : The War Logs :

"...the marines opening fire with automatic weapons as they tore down a six-mile stretch of highway, hitting almost anyone in their way – teenage girls in fields, motorists in their cars, old men as they walked along the road. Nineteen unarmed civilians were killed and 50 wounded."
Two hours later they returned to confiscate camera evidence.
A news photographer said they told him : "Delete them, or we will delete you."
A US army colonel paid $2,000 to the families of each victim and Major General Francis Kearney ordered the marines to pull the entire 120-man company out of the country.

Washington Post reader question to Assange :

"Did you take steps to delete the names and other identifying information of informants before you released the 90,000+ documents? If not, how do you answer the charge that your actions may get these informants killed?
Assange :

"We released 36,000 out of the 92,000 or so documents in the Afghan War Diaries. 15,000 have been held for further review because they may contain information about innocents or informants. We also asked the White House to provide resources to help us vet the materials; the White House did not respond."

Yesterday Obama signed the new Afganistan troop surge bill, passed by both Democrats and Republicans.
Last month, after accusing Stephen Harper of making a decision to “cut and run” from Afghanistan, Michael Ignatieff called for Canadians to stay in Afghanistan after 2011 as police and army trainers.

Harper and Iggy both supported the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and both voted to extend the Afghanistan occupation from 2009 to 2011.
Former human rights advocate Ignatieff is providing Harper and Obama with the cover necessary to support and extend that occupation.

It's down to all of us now to blow that cover : Rethink Afghanistan

Update : Voice of America Aug. 3
"Documents containing the names of sources were marked "Secret," a mid-level security classification. They then were widely distributed across a classified Pentagon computer network called "SIPRnet," a kind of classified Internet, as one analyst put it, which was set up to foster greater information-sharing within the defense and intelligence communities.
Officials believe this is how the leaker got his hands on them.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden tells VOA that means the real identities of sources were available to thousands of people."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

No jokes please, we're Canadian

Vancouver company The says their humorous suitcase stickers featuring bags of cocaine, US bills, sex toys and a bound-and-gagged flight attendant will help you find your luggage more easily, but Transport Minister John Baird's spokesy says :
"Joking about potentially trafficking illegal substances, or worse, is not funny, and the government will use the full force of the law to ensure Canadians who travel by air are safe"
...from stickers presumably, and also from any rumour indicating we might not be completely humorless morons.
Says The : "Caution: Some of these stickers may cause offense to airport and immigration staff. But you would have figured that out whilst enjoying those cavity searches."

However due to that "full force of the law" quote, The Cheeky have decided to stop selling them in Canada although as they point out on their site : It’s a sticker. And they include a possibly snide quote from a UK Border spokesy to the effect that : "Our officers see a lot of joke stickers on suitcases and it doesn’t affect their professional approach.... Our staff use intelligence ... "

The Cheeky has other fine products bound to offend John Baird's spokesy when he is off-duty also. My fave is the camouflage, uh, Man Bib "for the discerning gentleman", and the Tea Bagging Bag, which should start popping up on blogs about US politics any time now.


The "personal transformation" of RCMP Commish Elliott

Pogge notes that last year RCMP Commissioner William Elliott
"attended a $44,000 course in Arizona that dealt with behavioural barriers to success.
He subsequently acknowledged to employees in a memo that he learned his actions "can and did have unintended, sometimes negative impacts."
and generously offers "to explain to him what a dick he is for half that".

If the RCMP is reading, Creekside would also like to enter the bidding fray at half again what Pogge is proposing to charge.
Oh wait. There were no other bids considered last year in the decision to send three RCMP to Arizona to take "personal transformation" and "100 per cent accountability" training for a $¼-million, accommodation and travel not included. At the time the RCMP said that Malandro Communication is the only known firm that can deliver the "leadership transformation services" it needs.
Well, at least they didn't send them off to Scientology.

Some might say "leader transformation" is the job of the government, but as noted yet again today by James Travers :
"Instead of bringing the fabled horsemen to heel for banana republic meddling in the 2006 election, the Prime Minister rushed to headquarters, cash in hand."
And then he laid off vociferous RCMP watchdog Paul Kennedy, replacing him with a former Con party operative in what the G&M termed "one of the most cynical and discouraging appointments this government has made in the past four years".

"Horribly broken" continues....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wikileaks : Canadian "combat deaths" were friendly fire

One of the Wikileaks war logs released yesterday contained a friendly fire report filed by the 205th RCAG U.S. military unit which states four Canadian soldiers were killed and seven other Canadians and an interpreter were wounded on Sept. 3, 2006, when a fighter jet dropped a guided bomb on a building they occupied during the second day of Operation MEDUSA. [bracketed explanations mine].

At 030414Z Sept 06 received SAF[small arms fire] & RPGS from sawtooth building. returned fire 1x GBU[Guided Bomb Unit] dropped on it.
Sawtooth building is heavily damaged. only 4x sections remain standing. no activity observed. Casualties 4x CDN KIA[Killed in action] 4X CDN WIA[Wounded in action].
This was later updated to 4 dead and 7 wounded Canadians:

At 030419Z Sep received SAF and RPG fire on op, a total of WIA in these hour 7x CDN, and 4x CDN KIA and 1x WIA interpreter
Attack on: FRIEND

Type : Friendly Fire .... Category : Blue-Blue .... Affiliation : FRIEND

At the time the Canadian military reported that the four Canadian soldiers died in battles with Taliban forces.
CBC got official clarification of that tonight from Jay Paxton, spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay :
"The loss of four Canadian soldiers on September 3rd, 2006, was the result of insurgent activity in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan," Jay Paxton said in an email Monday evening. "The only friendly fire incident from the time period in question occurred on September 4th, 2006."

Anyone think the Americans just casually inflate their friendly fire reports?
And what about the "guided bomb unit" in the US report?
Do the Taliban have fighter jets now?

Also, they took fire from a building, returned fire and dropped a GPU on it : "only 4x sections remain standing. no activity observed" Then they report : 4 Canadian dead, 7 Canadians and 1 civilian wounded. Zeros under enemy killed or wounded. No activity and no enemy kills counted? So where did the enemy who killed the Canadians go?
PS Gotta love Laura Lynch on CBC's As it Happens tonight.
She asked Julian Assange whether things weren't "better now under Obama" and whether Assange "had broken the law".
Obama - that would be the guy who just ordered up a 30,000 troop surge for a war that is already costing $7-billion a month to retake Kandahar.
Assange called her repeated questions on whether he had broken the law "naive". I thought that was unnecessarily charitable of him.
Earlier today Taliban Larry said the Wikileaks war logs had "nothing to do with Canada."
Update :Bombshell claim that friendly fire killed Canadian soldiers unravels
US report discounted by soldiers who were there; "friendly fire" GBU rolled into Canadian troops but did not detonate.

Lawrence Cannon, unplugged and disconnected

At a "media availability" he called this morning, Taliban Larry was blindsided with questions on the publication of the Wikileaks war logs. Echoing U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones, Cannon said :

"Our government is concerned obviously that operational leaks could endanger the lives of our men and women in Afghanistan."
Cannon then went on to repeat several times that the "leaked American documents" have "nothing to do with Canada."

Ok then.

Asked by the G&M if the leaks indicate the government has "misled the Canadian public", Lawrence replied that they have been very "transparent" and besides, ministers regularly go before the parliamentary Afghanistan committee.

Ahem. Didn't your government just shut down parliament entirely earlier this year in part to stop that very committee from doing its job, Larry? Is this Afgan committee not the very place from which the word "redacted" assumed its prominant position in the news ?

Meanwhile, over at the Pentagon ...
Pentagon still reviewing records, but so far finds no threat to U.S. security
"An ongoing Pentagon review of the massive flood of secret documents made public by the WikiLeaks website has so far found no evidence that the disclosure harmed U.S. national security or endangered American troops in the field, a Pentagon official told NBC News on Monday."

Julian Assange interview on the Afghan war logs

Julian Assange on Wikileaks release of 91,000 classified Afghan war documents from 2004 to 2009 to The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel.

"This is the story of the war since 2004. Like most of the accidents on the road are the result of cars not of buses, most of the deaths in this war are the result of the every day squalor of war not the big incidences."

Among other disclosures, the US gives Pakistan $1-billion a year to help fight the "insurgency" in Afghanistan but these reports indicate that the Pakistani spy service ISI, which works in concert with the CIA, is guiding the attacks on US/NATO/Afghan troops.

The Real News Network, who you should all be sending money to, has a very good interview up with Assange on the significance of these leaks and how they were obtained.

Ch. 4 : So how does Wikileaks work?

JA : Other journalists try to verify sources. We don't do that, we verify documents. We don't care where it came from - but we can guess that it probably came from somewhere in the US military or the US government, from someone who is disaffected. Clearly, a heroic act by the whistleblower.

CH. 4 : So the same computer system that protects the source also stops you from knowing that source?

JA : The system we have deployed to make whistleblowers to us untraceable, also prevents us knowing who they are.

Two hour presser with Assange in London yesterday that was excerpted in the clip at top. First 40 minutes is a Q&A, followed up by Assange giving the press a workshop on how to read, dissect, and package the released material. Preceded by annoying 30 second ad. (h/t Waterbaby)


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Poll found in Kandahar Airfield toilet

Francis Silvaggio : Notes from Afghanistan, July 2, 2010
"While I doubt Ipsos would approve of the collection process, the data was interesting. Out of 26 respondents, only 7 thought progress was being made. 18 people marked “No” and 1 person ticked “HELL NO!!!” That means 73 per cent of those polled think the mission is failing.

Anywhere else, this may mean very little. But this poll was done in a military bathroom, in the middle of a war zone, by soldiers."


Taliban Larry

NaPo : Vindication for Taliban Jack (h/t : Boris)

"So now it’s time to talk to the Taliban.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters on Tuesday that the Taliban has an important role to play in laying the foundations of a new Afghanistan. “We encourage a reconciliation process that is inclusive of all Afghans, no matter their ethnicity,” he said.

Now cup your hand to your ear and listen for the caterwauling of the uber patriots here on the home front decrying the minister’s capitulation to the enemy. Hmm. Oddly quiet. Could this minster really represent the government that so cravenly branded NDP leader Jack Layton “Taliban Jack” four years ago for suggesting exactly the same thing?

“Is it next going to be tea with Osama Bin Laden?” asked Peter MacKay.

A Globe and Mail columnist [Christie Blatchford] indignantly wrote “Would he pull out the chairs for their representatives? Would he pour tea for those who have killed 23 Canadian soldiers this year?

So almost four years after Layton suggested talking with the Taliban the minister acknowledges this is now official policy. For a guy who was labeled a soldier-hater and a Taliban-lover Jack Layton is remarkably gracious about the turnaround. I asked him recently if he was planning to ask for an apology and he demurred. “As long as the right thing gets done I don’t really care”.

Cannon has actually been making quiet noises about Taliban "reconciliation and re-integration" since January : Canada considering Karzai plan to offer cash to Taliban: Cannon

From John Manley's 2008 Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan :

"When asked whether President Karzai should enter into negotiations with the Taliban and allow them to participate in the political process, some 60% of Afghans currently believe a negotiated settlement should be pursued."
About the same margin of Canadians, including Conservatives, also favoured negotiation back in May 2007 : CTV : Canadians support talks with Taliban: poll
"Canadians still think it's a good idea to negotiate with Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents as a way to end the violence there, a poll finds.
In The Strategic Counsel poll conducted for CTV and The Globe and Mail, there was almost two-to-one support for the notion:
Net good idea : 63 per cent
Net bad idea : 32 per cent
Donolo said 57 per cent of Conservative Party members supported the idea of negotiations."
Airshow Pete, "Goldie" Hawn, and World Stage Steve will eventually have to find a whole new place to play dress-up.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A short visual history of the Cons behavior in government

Or, as Boris put it in comments over at The Beav :

"Sometimes I don't even think there's an ideology at work. Just a bored kid in the garden with firecrackers and a BB gun. Being elected was like getting grounded for them."

Next time, Canadian electorate, please use Con-doms.


Julian Assange on TED

h/t WestEnd Bob, who knows that goodness is sexy.

Long and short versions of Wikileaks "Collateral Murder". Assange has said he was more appalled at the shelling of the surrounding buildings than at the more widely shown event.

From the blog of Ethan McCord, the US ranger who pulled the two surviving children out of the van that was shelled for stopping to help the "Collateral Murder"survivors. h/t Wikileaks .


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Head of Statscan quits over census

Munir Sheikh, head of Statistics Canada today:
"I want to take this opportunity to comment on a technical statistical issue which has become the subject of media discussion. This relates to the question of whether a voluntary survey can become a substitute for a mandatory census.
It can not.
Under the circumstances, I have tendered my resignation to the Prime Minister."
Cue ShamWow Tony from last Friday :
StatsCan recommended move to voluntary census, Tony Clement says
“So I went to StatsCan. They’re the experts. I said to Stats Canada, ‘Give us some options. Is there a way that we can have a balance, get the data that everyone hankers for . .
"He said he asked whether the voluntary survey would produce “robust” data.
Stats Canada replied “in no uncertain terms, ‘Yes, it would give us the data that everybody hankers for.’ ”
Tony Clement is using the word "everybody" to mean the word "Steve" here. "Hankers" is a Canadian heavy metal band.

But Sheikh's resignation must have come as a big shock to Tony, given that he got around 10 supportive tweets from his 3500 followers about gutting the census (h/t Aaron Wherry) in this G&M interview yesterday.

In the same interview Tony said Sheikh would be making a statement today "to assure Canadians that Statscan is going to do its job".

And Mr. Sheikh did indeed come through for us today. Hats off to you, sir.

Reuters :
"Some Statistics Canada employees have complained to the media that the Conservatives have cut or curtailed several major surveys since the party took power in 2006 in an effort to reduce the amount of analysis the agency does."
... because pesky facts and science and analysis get in the way of the Cons making shit up.
Thursday update : Munir Sheikh's letter of resignation taken down from StatsCan website.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

And in the news, crime is down again

From StatsCan today : The numbers, rates and severity of crimes reported to police dropped again last year, continuing a 10-year trend. StatsCan Tables here.
Aha! say the Harperclones, that's because people aren't reporting the crimes. Yeah. Sure.

The crime rate, a measure of the volume of crime reported to police, fell 3% in 2009 and was 17% lower than a decade ago.
The Crime Severity Index (CSI), a measure of the seriousness of police-reported crime, declined 4% in 2009 and stood 22% lower than in 1999.

Violent crimes, which range in seriousness from harassing phone calls to homicide, accounted for about 1 in 5 crimes in 2009. Police-reported violent crime in Canada is also declining, but to a lesser extent than overall crime.

Police identified about 165,000 youth aged 12 to 17 accused of a criminal offence in 2009. Both the number of crimes and the seriousness of crimes committed by youth have generally been declining since 2001, including a slight drop in 2009.

"Unfortunately, our safe streets and healthy communities are increasingly under threat of gun, gang and drug violence."
an exact quote lifted in its entirety from Harper's April 2006 Speech From the Throne
... and repeated yet again on the website of Con Ed Fast, Chair of the Justice Committee no less.
StatsCan better be careful ...

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Census : Jedi Knights in your bedroom

Via Kady, an anti-census Sunday missive from Dmitri Soudas, Steve's ninny Director of Communications :

"21,000 Canadians registered Jedi knight as a religion in the 2001 census"
Fun facts : The Australia 2001 census boasted over 70,000 Jedi devotees while New Zealand had 53,715, making it the second largest religion in New Zealand, along with The Church of Elvis and Rugby, Racing and Beer.

In England and Wales, the Office of National Statistics announced their census totals in a press release entitled "390,000 Jedis there are", going on to suggest that the opportunity to give the hoax answer possibly boosted response from the usually laggardly teens and twenty somethings.
I think anyone who is not Dimitri Soudas appreciates that the Jedi answer was given by the same proportion of the population that normally writes "atheist" or "none" in the census box on religion. Of course, we would need an unbroken lineage of long-form census results to know that.

Soudas goes on to use the Canadian Jedi stat, information he presumably guiltily gleaned from the census, to battle the mighty census-supporting IggySiths :

"Canadians don't want the government at their doorstep at 10 o'clock at night while they may be doing something in their bedroom, like reading, because government wants to know how many bedrooms they have."
Take it away, Christopher Walken.

And finally, a week after the Cons stonewalled the SECU committee's call for a G20 inquiry into the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, they are now calling for immediate emergency committee hearings to "examine the urgent public issue created by the Ignatieff Liberals' threat to prosecute and jail law-abiding Canadians who do not wish to participate" in the long census.

Urgent public issue?
The Canada Long Census of 1871, which "asked 211 questions on area, land holdings, vital statistics, religion, education, administration, the military, justice, agriculture, commerce, industry and finance", is now pared down to 59 questions used in the present long-form ever since 1971, but hey, an emergency is an emergency when you're a Con fighting off Jedi Knights in your bedroom at 10 o'clock at night.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

While you were sleeping ... the G&M census poll

When I went to bed last night, the G&M poll on the census looked pretty much the way it had all day - 70% to 30% - with over 11,000 people voting NO :

And this is how it looks this morning :

So some time in the middle of the night, over 8,000 people suddenly got up and voted YES ? Really, G&M?
As The Pundit's Guide says in comments below : "Also, pretty much proving the invalidity of voluntary surveys, n'est-ce pas?"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Globe&Mail poll on the census

Updated poll

Globe & Mail online poll on the long-form census.

Participation in the above poll is of course voluntary, rather like democracy. If you or your government don't have accurate information or the means to obtain it, it doesn't work properly.

Personally I would have preferred a poll that asks :
"Are you in favor of StatsCan having the same info you freely offer up to Facebook and your insurance agent?"
"Do you think the long-form census should be scrapped in favour of an increase in the number of government ten percenters sent to each household?"
Update : And while we're at it, how come Warren Kinsella got "an exemption" from filling in the long-form census while Sandra Finley got charged under federal law with non-compliance?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

G20 Ten Most Wanted

At this morning's presser, the Toronto Police media guy announced their "G20 Most Wanted Individuals" list :

"They are individuals who are not suspects - they are people who are wanted for criminal offences and the only difficulty that the investigative team has is at this point we don't know who they are so we're seeking the assistance of the public to identify them to us ."
He further advised they have "over 14,000 still images of individuals and over 500 videos", which they will be sharing with the Canadian Banking Association to run through their facial recognition software. Keep those citizen CDs and vids coming, he said.

So after ignoring the rioters for an hour and a half on June 26th in favour of taking their pictures, and then rounding up, IDing and photographing over a thousand hapless random citizens the following day, you will now use the banks' software tools to look for a match between the two groups.
Got it.
Well at least we know the point of the Sunday bucket detainments now - it was just their bad luck to be chosen to act as the control group.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Thugs, hooligans, and anarchists. Oh my!

A special meeting of the Public Safety and National Security Committee was held today, "Requested by Four (4) Members of the Committee to Undertake a Study of the Issues Surrounding Security at the G8 and G20 Summits".

Will there be a parliamentary study on G20 security issues?
Well, first they have to agree to a motion to have such a study and they have only two hours to get over this seemingly insurmountable procedural hurdle. Let's look in ....

Dave MacKenzie, Con : Motion to commend the efforts of the police to protect Canadians. Violent mob, thugs, hooligans ... violent mob of thugs and hooligans ... violent mob of thugs, hooligans, and anarchists who set fire to police cars ... mob of thugs, hooligans and anarchists ... cowards packed with weapons ... mob of ...

NDP Paul Dewar : Is this a new motion? What about the motion to have a study?

Con Chair Garry Breitkreuz : No, this is just a discussion. Go ahead, Mr. MacKenzie

Con Dave MacKenzie : Mob of thugs, hooligans, and anarchists ... let's wait for the ISU to do their study first.

Con Dean del Mastro : Summit a great success ... thugs, hooligans and anarchists ... anarchist groups ... call for a study is just a cheap political stunt ... Unlike the NDP-led coalition we stand for our police ... There have been no allegations of PMO interference ... NDP's coalition is lining itself up with anarchist groups ... We should trust the ISU and Toronto Police to do its final review - they have the expertise .... We should condemn the actions of anarchists, not give them a public forum to defend their criminal deeds and I believe the motion Mr. MacKenzie has discussed does do this - condemn the actions of these hooligans. This is the view of the overwhelming majority of Canadians - 75%. Stand with our police, stand with the appropriate bodies, and condemn the thugs and hooligans.

Con Paul Calandra : How disappointing to be here to promote the agenda of the thugs and hooligans ... hooligans and thugs ... [omigawd, now he's reading from the gov's promotional G20 pamphlet] ... growth prospects, make our financial systems stronger, going forward more work remains, transparency, we stand united with the people of Haiti, resist protectionism, blah, blah, blah, and finally... thugs, hooligans, and hooligans ...

Thugs, hooligans, and hooligans?
Oh dear, an unfortunate and probably unauthorized variation. No drink for you.

Anyway, I'll save you the suspense. After two hours of this "discussion", and despite attempts by NDP Paul Dewar, Libs Andrew Kania and Mark Holland, and Bloc Maria Mourani to get around to the actual reason for convening this meeting - the motion to study G20 security issues - the committee adjourned without voting to have it.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

G20 - Who gave the orders?

Oddly, Media Co-op has an opinion piece up, criticizing Paul Jay for doing opinion pieces like this one above.

Meanwhile, in an alternate universe :

After an emotional morning-long debate, city council voted 36-0 to "commend the outstanding work" of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, his officers and other police forces working during the G20 summit in Toronto.

Then they all signed another one of those "Please, sir, can I have another?" greeting cards everyone is sending to Steve lately and fired it off to him, just in case he missed their public endorsement of Lockdown Toronto on the news.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Environment Committee scuttles its own tarsands report

After 18 months of deliberation and listening to expert testimony, the Standing Committee on Environment announced it will scuttle its own investigation of water pollution from the tar sands :

It was agreed, — That the Committee cease its study of the oil sands and Canada's water resources.

It was agreed, — That all circulated copies of the confidential draft report be returned to the Clerk of the Committee and destroyed (paper and electronic version).

It was agreed, — That any member of the Environment Committee be authorized to consult the one original copy of the draft report kept in the Committee Clerk's office.

They can look at it ; you can't.

The last seven committee sessions on the tar sands have been locked to the public.

At the last public session back in March, the committee heard testimony from a scientist who had conducted the first independent research done since 1983 on airborne tar sands contaminants found in the snow pack along the Athabasca River.
Dr. David Schindler from the University of Alberta told the committee that at the 31 locations he had tested :
"Mercury emitted from these plants has increased three-fold in seven years, lead has increased four-fold in six years, and arsenic three-fold in six years as well."
Further, he said that although Environment Canada tests at only one location on the Athabasca, it has come up with the same numbers, as have the oil companies in their own research.
Schindler contends the oil companies' reports on contaminants are duly submitted to Environment Canada but he believes EC is being muzzled and prevented from making the findings public, and the oil companies of course are not obliged to do so on their own.

And that, my friends, was the last public session of the Environment Committee before it went in camera for the next six sessions and decided against making a report to the House, and to us.

Bad enough, if Schindler is correct, that Environment Canada should be prevented from making its findings public on water pollution from the tar sands; now the Environment Committee won't be either. On the up side, Lib MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who spearheaded the investigation, and NDP environment critic Linda Duncan will be producing their own reports.

What an appalling waste of both resources and public trust.

For an idea of where to lay the blame for this debacle, consider that at that last session, Con MP Jeff Watson blew his allotted time for questioning Schindler pointing out that Iggy supports the tar sands and the Bloc leader has personal investments in it. As EFL points out, at least one opposition MP must have voted with the Cons or abstained to terminate this report. So who was it?

Environment Committee :
Chair : James Bezan, Con .............. David McGuinty, Lib
Scott Armstrong, Con..................... Francis Scarpaleggia, Lib
Mark Warawa, Con ....................... Justin Trudeau, Lib
Blaine Calkins, Con ....................... Bernard Bigras, Bloc
Jeff Watson, Con ........................... Christian Ouellet, Bloc
Stephen Woodworth, Con .............. Linda Duncan, NDP

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Areaman moves to Maclean's

It's been pretty difficult to find any humour in G20, hasn't it?
Inside - a billion dollar bunfest in which leaders talk about implementng austerity.
Outside - 20,000 police decline to confront a hundred or so rioters in favour of spending the following day assaulting and arresting a thousand nonviolent citizens and locking them up in cages for a day.

Undaunted by the emergence of uglier and uglier police stories, culminating in the one where police yank off an amputee's prosthetic leg and order him to hop to his own arrest, Maclean's has apparently asked Areaman from The Onion do its unsigned front page cover story this week.
Some highlights from Lock them up :

anxiety over the behaviour of police is wildly overdone ... arrests and claims of police brutality need to be kept in perspective.

Only the professionalism and preparedness of police prevented circumstances from being much worse.

Many of the complaints seem to involve the quality of the sandwiches in detention.

At the end of the day, debate over street violence, protest and police ought to be secondary to the summit’s practical achievements. ... The role of formal summits is largely to provide world leaders with an opportunity to mingle and pose for a group photo.

Yup, that's Areaman alright.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

G20 : How much worse is this going to get?

A 57 year old amputee has his artificial leg ripped off by police because he can't stand up quickly enough for them from where he's sitting quietly on the grass with his daughter at Queens Park.

"As Sarah began pleading with them to give her father a little time and space to get up because he is an amputee, they began kicking and hitting him.
One of the police officers used his knee to press Pruyn’s head down so hard on the ground, said Pruyn in an interview this July 4 with Niagara At Large, that his head was still hurting a week later.

Accusing him of resisting arrest, they pulled his walking sticks away from him, tied his hands behind his back and ripped off his prosthetic leg. Then they told him to get up and hop, and when he said he couldn’t, they dragged him across the pavement, tearing skin off his elbows, with his hands still tied behind his back. His glasses were knocked off as they continued to accuse him of resisting arrest and of being a “spitter,” something he said he did not do. They took him to a warehouse and locked him in a steel-mesh cage where his nightmare continued for another 27 hours."
No phone call, no reason given for his arrest, no charges laid after 27 hours.
Photographer Dylan Leeder was there and blogged it :
"Throughout the day I saw a few things that I wish I never had to see. One man, an amputee, was even torn down by his neck (where they aimed for), beaten, and then had his prosthetic leg ripped off only to be arrested."
John Pruyn, a Revenue Canada employee, wonders if the idea of the crackdown was to send a message to the public at large that gatherings of opposition to government policies won’t be tolerated.
Update : Media response

Homeland Security damage control in the Gulf

July 2 : CNN : "The US Coast Guard announced new rules keeping photographers, reporters and anyone else from coming within 65 feet of any response vessel or booms, out on the water or on beaches.Violators could face a fine of $40,000 and class D felony charges. The coast guard tried to make the exclusion zone 300 feet before scaling it down to 65 feet."

July 3 : MSNBC : A photographer taking pictures of a BP refinery in Texas was detained by a BP security official, local police and a man who said he was from the Department of Homeland Security.

July 4 : Bloomberg : The US government is expected to take over control of the central information website on the Gulf oil spill response that has been run jointly by various agencies and BP for the 2 1/2 months since the rig explosion.

The Department of Homeland Security wants a one-stop shop for information that is completely overseen by the government as it settles into the long-haul of dealing with the response to the disaster. The U.S. Coast Guard falls under Homeland Security's authority.

The site may still be maintained during the changeover, but ultimately it will be taken down altogether when the government moves the response information to its own website."

July 6 : Washington Post : "In the 77 days since oil from the ruptured Deepwater Horizon began to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, BP has skimmed or burned about 60 percent of the amount it promised regulators it could remove in a single day.

In a March report that was not questioned by federal officials, BP said it had the capacity to skim and remove 491,721 barrels of oil each day in the event of a major spill.
As of Monday, with about 2 million barrels released into the gulf, the skimming operations that were touted as key to preventing environmental disaster have averaged less than 900 barrels a day.

On Monday, the joint operations center for the federal government and BP reported that more than 671,428 barrels of an oil-water mixture have been captured and stored. About 90 percent of the mixture is water, so the true amount of oil skimmed is relatively small -- roughly 67,143 barrels of oil. Had the estimated amounts in the March response plan been accurate, 38 million barrels of oil could have been removed by now. "

Although the US House of Representatives voted 420 to 1 to give the presidential commission investigating the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico full subpoena power, the Republicans in the Senate have blocked it. There will be no real investigation.

Instead, the Coast Guard, under the auspices of Homeland Security, and Minerals Management Services, the federal body charged with (not doing any) oversight of oil drilling and now renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, will announce this week the creation of an expert panel to conduct a "preparedness review" for Deepwater Horizon.

Monday, July 05, 2010

G20 Martial Law - a few questions

We have always known in Canada that laws lying in wait to trash the Charter of Rights hover just beyond the sight lines of the courts. The Public Works Protection Act is just such a law, allowing, albeit for a limited time, otherwise illegal searches and seizures and arrests.

Here, constitutional lawyer Paul Cavalluzzo, lead commission council at the Walkerton and Maher Arar inquiries, goes through the act with Paul Jay of The Real News. Transcript here.

I have some further questions.

If I live within an arbitrarily designated "public works area", can Blackwater or a mall rent-a-cop or any other appointed "guard" legally enter my home and arrest me for attempting to deny them entry? Will they be armed?

If I don't consent to being ID'd and searched on my way to work, can I legally be prevented from going to work? I cannot prove this, as it is only anecdotal, but during the Vancouver Olympics, a contractor told me he lost an employee due to said employee being denied passage through Vancouver by the police for the duration of the Olympics for having written an anti-Olympics letter to the local paper that was never published.

If any of the protesters/shoppers/citizens arrested and detained in handcuffs for 24 hours and jammed in a 10 by 12 by 20 foot cage along with 40 other men are not formally charged and given their day in court, will there be no other opportunity to challenge these arbitrary Charter-free zones until the next time they are dusted off for a globalization bunfest?

And finally, why is Chief Bill Blair on the hot seat for having been given these extraordinary powers he didn't ask for when it was presumably the PMO that told the Ontario cabinet to ask for them?

Any responses from legal experts gratefully accepted.
In the meantime, the Toronto's Police Services Board, the public body which holds Toronto Police to account, predictably sees no need for a public inquiry.

Please support the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's petition to "repeal or amendment of the Public Works Protection Act to meet basic constitutional standards"

Sunday, July 04, 2010

If you go out in the streets today ...

If you go out in the streets today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the streets today
There's cops in black bloc disguise

And every cop that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the copper bears have their picnic.

Kettling time for copper bears,
Toronto copper bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch their snatch and grab affairs,
And dodge their teargas and their pepperspray.
Watch them not put fires out
They've got illegal clout
So never have any cares.
At six o'clock McGuinty and Bill Blair
Will send them out again
Because they're wired little copper bears.

If you go out in the streets today,
You'd better not go alone.
It's lovely out in the streets today,
But safer to stay at home.
For every Charter right that there was
Will get a fright for certain, because
Today's the day the copper bears have their picnic.

Inspired by Skdadl's brilliant post at Pogge.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

This is what real journalism looks like

On June 26th Toronto Mayor David Miller exhorted Torontonians to put the previous day's G20 violence behind them and get out into the streets to enjoy their city. Theatre director Tommy Taylor took Miller's words to heart.

This is his story of his day. Arrested with his girlfriend for singing "Give Peace a Chance", held for more than 24 hours in handcuffs in a 10 by 12 by 20 foot cage along with 40 other men, wet and cold, standing room only, no phone call, having to beg for a few sips of water, eventually passing out on the filthy floor.
One of the most compelling accounts on any subject I've read in some time, not least of all for his sympathy for the police forced into this position. This is what real journalism looks like :

How I Got Arrested and Abused at the G20 in Toronto, Canada
by Tommy Taylor

via Back of the Book and Boris.

Sign the Canadian Civil Liberties Association Petition calling for an independent inquiry and "Law reform to ensure that the Criminal Code provisions relating to “breach of the peace”, “unlawful assemblies” and “riots” are brought in line with constitutional standards.
Canadians Demanding a Public Inquiry into Toronto G20 - 41,000 members

Friday, July 02, 2010

G20 Letter of the Day, and Kelly McPoll-land finds a poll

First the letter :

"What is the difference between being told that you do not have the right to public assembly and being told that if you do assemble you run the risk of being injured or arrested? In the first instance, your right has been taken away. In the second, if you stay at home, you have given up your right. The only way to protect your right, therefore, is to assemble after all.

The caution to stay away came officially from the American government, but no Canadian authority contradicted this. The high fences, newly purchased crowd control devices and the assembly of an army of 19,000 security officers served to reinforce this warning, which was essentially a threat.

The most frightening thing that could have happened would have been if the streets of Toronto had been empty last weekend. That is the only reason I went to Queen’s Park last Saturday afternoon. As Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

No one is looking for any sympathy, but the next time there is news coverage of demonstrators protesting against a stolen election and being beaten by riot police in some Third World country, let us give thanks for the rights we do have. They will continue to stand up for us as long as we stand up for them."

~Patrick Heenan, Mississaugaas~
as posted in the Toronto Star and tweeted by the Divine Ms Z.

Good letter, huh?

Meanwhile over at NaPo, Kelly McPoll-land is delighted to report that after watching the same footage of the same guy smashing a window on the TV news dozens of times every night, 1,003 Canadians told an Angus Reid poll they were disgusted by what happened at the G20 demos :

Poll finds G20 protesters blew it big time

Respondents were asked about their feelings about the demonstrations that took place in Toronto during the G20 summit.

Two-thirds of Canadians (69%) are disgusted, 59% are ashamed, 57% are angry, and 54% are sad. In Toronto, the proportion of respondents who reported negative feelings was higher (Disgust 81%, Anger 74%, Sadness 65%, Shame 61%)

Notable that even at NaPo, more than half the commenters below McParland's article pretty much agree with the feelings expressed in that poll - although for entirely opposite reasons - and a number link to the Canadians Demanding a Public Inquiry into Toronto G20 facebook page where over 36,000 members also have no difficulty articulating why they are disgusted, ashamed, angry, and sad.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Happy Canada Day

June 27 G20 march - from above :

Same group of people - from the inside :

Today, on Canada Day, 2,000 people marched through downtown Toronto in support of a public inquiry into the tactics used above. Thank you to all the people in Toronto for both marches.


G20 : Cops avenge themselves on satirist

British filmmaker/satirist Charlie Veitch is here informed by police he is being arrested under the now thoroughly discredited "Public Works Protection Act" for failing to produce ID while being near a public work :

On Tuesday Police Chief Blair admitted that police didn't have any authority under that act to arrest someone for not showing identification within five metres of the fence, but meanwhile Veitch spends 40 horrible hours in the G20 pens specially constructed to detain dangerous comedians and other freedom loving people like himself for exactly that.

Veitch then releases to Youtube a conversation he filmed with a very literal-minded Paragon Security guy explaining why he can't produce ID back on June 24th :

Charlie: "We're from British Military Intelligence, I'm here with the metropolitan it's all fully authorized at the highest levels...cause you know sometimes, have you heard what an Agent Provocateur is....

Security: "I have no ideas."

Charlie: "What it is, sometimes when there are big demonstrations - I can tell you this because you're security - they use fake protesters to cause trouble, and we're here to be those fake protesters. So it's fully authorized."

Security: "OK, I understand that, do you have a certification?"

Charlie: "No, we're not press, 'cause we're undercover, and if we carried ID around, we might get searched by protesters."
Two days ago Veitch is arrested again just as he is about to board a flight home to UK.
Toronto Police Service News Release :

On Tuesday, June 29, 2010, police arrested a man for impersonating a peace officer.
It is alleged that:
− on Thursday, June 24, 2010, the accused was filming the G20 Summit security fence area at Front Street/York Street,
− he was approached by a security officer and was requested to provide ID,
− he indicated that he was not carrying identification because he was working undercover as a peace officer,
− later a warrant was issued for his arrest by officers from the Toronto Police Service,
− the accused was about to board a plane at Toronto Pearson International Airport when he was arrested by officers from Peel Regional Police.

Charlie Veitch, 29, of England, has been charged with:

1) Impersonate a Peace Officer

We are treating this very very seriously," a Toronto police spokesninny told CTV repeatedly in an apparent effort to be taken seriously and win a role in Veitch's next satire.

Un-fucking-believable. They made up the second charge to cover their asses over wrongly arresting him the first time. If this is an example of the level of revenge intelligence gathering by the Toronto police, why not just let mall cops do it?

Down at the mall in the above vid, Charlie delivers some of his trademark advice to shoppers via a bullhorn : "You are not unique and beautiful snowflakes," he says. "Shop faster."
h/t Back of the Book

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