Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Manley, Best-Selling Author?"

reads the incredulous Jan 30 headline at Embassy Mag, following the news that John Manley's Afghanistan panel report has been down-loaded 160,000 times since its release on Jan 22.

Oh man, Manley must be saying to himself right about now, how soon they forget!

Indeed, who could forget his previous hit best seller, Building A North American Community, written for the US Council on Foreign Relations with Thomas d'Aquino of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and Robert A. Pastor, self-proclaimed father of the North American Union.

Here - let me refresh your memory with a quote from it :
"The Task Force's central recommendation is establishment by 2010 of a North American economic and security community, the boundaries of which would be defined by a common external tariff and an outer security perimeter."

In fact, right now at Amazon, you can get Manley's first best-seller plus his co-author Robert Pastor's Toward A North American Community, both for the low, low price of $33.48.
It's a steal.

Kady O'Malley rocks the House

with her totally brilliant live-blogging of the Chalk River nukes fiasco hearings over at,
in which she catches Health-is-BigBiz-and-I-got-me-lots-of-shares-in-it-Minister Tony Clement bemoaning the fate of "the best laid plans of mice, women and men."

Our story so far :
~Back in July, Natural Resources (and by "Natural" we are of course including nuking the tar sands and reinstating oil supertanker runs up and down the BC coast Inside Passage) Minister Gary Lunn holds a press conference to announce he is moments away from successfully inking a deal to sell half the publicly-owned crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada General Electric. Oddly this bit of news fails to even break wind in the mainscream media.
~Nov./Dec. : Linda Keen and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission extend the AEC shutdown of the 50 year old Chalk River nuclear reactor for safety violations.
~All parties, repeat, all parties pass legislation to reopen it after some bullshit story about it being the world's only supplier of medical isotopes for diagnosing cancer patients is briefly circulated before being refuted by, you know, actual doctors.
~Gary Lunn, the Natural Resources minister, fires Linda Keen, head of Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, for doing her job, at 15 minutes to midnight the night before she is to testify before an emergency session of the Natural Resources committee which has been specially convened to look into the Chalk River nukes fiasco.
~Jan 29, 2008 : Linda Keen testifies! Tough, forthright, eminently credible, she makes considerable use of sneaky tricks like statistics and logic and her own expertise to confound her Con critics, who, sadly, are apparently reduced to mangling John Steinbeck.

Take it away, Kady!

P.S. : OK, the top of Kady's blog is now featuring a story about Harper's deputy press secretary Dimitri Soudas' part in a backroom federal contract real estate deal intended to suck up votes from Montreal's Hassidic community!!!, but if you scroll down past this latest bit of Con Accountability Act violation, you'll get to her Tales of the Isotopes etc.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Twenty years, twenty weeks, and point double-oh-seven

Twenty years ago on January 28 1988 in R.v.Morgentaler, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the jurisdiction of the state over women's bodies was unconstitutional.
Justice Bertha Wilson wrote :
"The decision whether to terminate a pregnancy is essentially a moral decision, a matter of conscience. I do not think there is or can be any dispute about that. The question is: whose conscience? Is the conscience of the woman to be paramount or the conscience of the state? I believe, for the reasons I gave in discussing the right to liberty, that in a free and democratic society it must be the conscience of the individual."
So there you have it : In a free and democratic society, the conscience of the individual is paramount.
CBC reports that some fetus fetishists, who presumably hope to one day celebrate the supremacy of the state over the individual here, have attempted to mark the occasion by selling anti-abortion billboard ads for buses and shelters in St John's, Fredericton, and Hamilton. The ad was declined on the grounds that it was misleading.
It reads :
"Nine months… the length of time an abortion is allowed in Canada. Abortion.
Have we gone too far?"
Yes, fetus fetishists, I'm afraid you have gone too far this time.
A fetus becomes viable at around 20 weeks, no?
According to Statscan, the percentage of Canadian abortions performed at the 20 week mark in 2003 was .7% or 0.007. That's point double-oh-seven.
OK, let's try that one as a billboard ad instead :
" .007...the percentage of abortions performed at 20 weeks for medical reasons in Canada."
Yes, I think that would more adequately meet the stringent truth-in-advertising requirements of Metrobus in St. John's, Nfld.
Good luck with it!
And Happy Anniversary, everyone!

SPP, TILMA, and the tar sands

Macdonald Stainsby, writing at The Dominion :

"TILMA is a new set of limitations on government's ability to regulate, and the SPP is the removal of a pre-existing set of regulations. Both TILMA and the SPP have specific aims that go beyond the usual attempt to enshrine investors' rights and protect corporations from government regulations.

Both agreements pave the way--in many cases literally--for the largest industrial project in history to move forward: a project that calls for the extraction of over 170 billion barrels of recoverable oil from the tar sands of Alberta's Athabasca, Peace and Cold Lake regions.

The SPP and TILMA have anticipated popular resistance and preemptively removed the ability of governments to control the massive supply of energy, land, water and labour needed in the tar sands. They similarly preempt governments' ability to regulate the destruction and pollution that the "gigaproject" will create.

In response to Chinese interest in the tar sands, US energy expert Irving Mintzer blurted out, "The problem with the Chinese is that they don't know that the Canadian oil is ours. And neither do the Canadians."


Sunday, January 27, 2008

How the markets really work

And, yes, it really is this bad.

Go. GO!

"I misspoke," said Sandra Buckler,

by way of explaining how it was she came to tell the Globe&Mail that the Canadian military had failed to inform the Canadian government that it had halted the transfer of Afghan detainees two months ago.

Amusingly, Defence Minister Peter MacKay refused to clarify her remarks : "I'm not going to do anything that's going to endanger the lives of the Canadian Forces personnel or Afghans involved in this operation," he said.
"Or endanger my increasingly dimming chances of ever succeeding Harper," he did not add.

Perhaps she actually said, "I miss Gunsmoke" or possibly even "I'm Miss Poison Oak" instead.
At times like this I find it's best to stick with the professionals...
From Word Pirates :
Misspoke - "Used by politicians to imply they expressed themselves "imperfectly or incorrectly" (Websters) when in reality, they were lying through their teeth"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Torture - What Canada knew about our detainees

Here, let me help you with that :

"3. Of the ... detainees we interviewed ... said ... had been whipped with cables, shocked with electricity and/or otherwise "hurt" while in DNS custody in Kandahar. This period of alleged abuse lasted from between ... and ... days, and was carried out in ...... and .......... ........... detainees still had ........ on .... body; ..... seemed traumatized."

OK you get the idea.
These are the heavily redacted first-hand reports from Canadian government officials in Afghanistan, detailing the continued abuse and torture of detainees who are captured by Canadian soldiers and turned over to Afghan forces. None appear to have been charged or even properly identified; they just seem to get detained and tortured.

And the only reason, the only reason, we are seeing these reports, which effectively refute the continuous stream of lies and denials about torture in Afghanistan from Harper and Co, is because the BC Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International Canada have brought a lawsuit against our government in Federal Court.

POGGE and Impolitical both have very good posts up on this already.

What caught my eye was who these reports were addressed to....

To :Vincent Rigby, Assistant Deputy Minister for Policy, Dept of National Defence
Rigby stood in the HoC on Dec 11, 2006 and said :
Hansard : "We've had absolutely no information passed to us directly by the ICRC or the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission or Afghan authorities themselves as to mistreatment of detainees passed on to Afghan authorities by Canadian Forces."
Rigby, you will recall, was also O'Connor's minder in the HoC, sitting to his left and answering all questions about detainees with the stunning bit of misdirection that as we hadn't heard anything about detainee torture from the Red Cross - with whom, he was always careful to add, we have an excellent relationship - well, then, we had nothing to worry about. This feint worked swimmingly until O'Connor was in the HoC sans minder one day and made the direct causal link between "no prisoner torture" and "no Red Cross reports about it" which Rigby himself had been so careful to avoid. After that it fell to Michael Byers to explain to us that it would contravene the Red Cross's mandate to report on torture to third parties, so we would not be hearing from them no matter how many of our prisoners were being tortured.

Creekside has held a grudge against Mr. Rigby ever since he appeared before the rightwing US Heritage Foundation and referred to Canada's refusal to help the US invade Iraq as "a glitch".

and to : David Mulroney, associate minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and head of the government's Afghanistan Task Force, he was also one of the six government minders assigned to "assist" Manley's farce of a five-stooge panel on the future of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. Manley's much reviled report was released this week. The word "detainee" did not appear in it at all. Not even once.

You can see the rest of the DFAIT torture reports here.

The Jan 21 transcript of the testimony from Nicholas Gosselin, Canada's human-rights officer stationed in Kandahar, is here. Mr Gosselin personally took the statement from an Afghani detainee abused with an electrical cable in the interrogation room where the torture occurred. Mr Gosselin located the electrical cable in its hiding place and confirmed the detainee's wounds were consistant with his statement. Other detainees who complained of abuse could not be located upon subsequent visits by Canadian officials.

And I think we'll just pause here for a moment to recall that Harper and Stockwell Day have both stood up in our Parliament and insisted that the reason detainees - hell, let's just call them prisoners from now on, shall we? - claim to be tortured is because the Taleban trains them to do so to trick us.
One guy had no toenails left. That's really quite the trick.
Dion and Layton were slagged as traitors in the HoC for even suggesting that the allegations be looked into.

WED NIGHT DAMAGE CONTROL UPDATE : Yesterday on the eve of the hearing, the Department of Justice sent a letter to the groups' [BCCLU and Amnesty Int] lawyers, saying that soldiers had temporarily halted the transfers.
From CTV : "Canadian authorities were informed on November 5, 2007, by Canada's monitoring team, of a credible allegation of mistreatment pertaining to one Canadian-transferred detainee held in an Afghan detention facility," wrote senior counsel J. Sanderson Graham. "As a consequence there have been no transfers of detainees to Afghan authorities since that date. The allegation is under investigation by the Afghan authorities. Canada will resume transferring detainees when it believes it can do so in accordance with its international legal obligations."

This doesn't begin to explain why the Cons continued to slag Layton and Dion in the HoC after they knew the allegations - which btw have been documented all the way back to April 2006 - were credible, but it's a start.
The BCCLU and Amnesty Int., having succeeded in getting this much public but noting the prisoner transfer has only been halted temporarily, will continue with their lawsuit.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Server in the Sky

"Server in the Sky" is the FBI's proposed shared database of biometric information - our fingerprints, palm prints, and iris scan data - to be exchanged among the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and eventually the EU, to catch criminals and terrorists. The International Information Consortium, as the five founding nations including Canada call themselves, will meet behind closed doors in May in San Francisco to plan their strategy.

Tom Bush, the FBI Assistant Director of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division was on CBC's The Current last week. "It's to catch the worst of the worst", he said, "murderers and rapists".
However an RCMP statement carried in the Globe and Mail instead placed greater importance on the sharing of "information on terrorist files".

Perhaps one of Server in the Sky's most alarming aspects is that Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, heard of it for the first time last week by reading about it in a UK newspaper. No Canadian officials had informed her of the project.

From The Guardian : "The FBI is proposing to establish three categories of suspects in the shared system :
  • "internationally recognised terrorists and felons",
  • those who are "major felons and suspected terrorists", and finally
  • those who the subjects of terrorist investigations or criminals with international links."
Suspected terrorists? Subjects of terrorist investigations?
A few paragraphs into the FBI's explanation and we're already into Maher Arar territory.
Stoddart agrees and says so on CBC's The Current.: Canada has a very weak 25 year old Privacy Act, she says, with no human rights standards built in to our agreements with other countries. Additionally she is alarmed by "the conflating of criminals and suspected terrorists", the lack of oversight of the biometric info once it passes to other countries, and the rise of "a survellance society".

Also, as Council of Canadians points out, despite Canadian horror at the grotesque misuse of intelligence data in the Arar case and the subsequent support for recommendations for greater paper-trail accountability, getting rid of any legal impediments to cross-border intelligence information-sharing was one of the primary security aims of, yes you guessed correctly, the SPP.

UPDATE : The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has a blog! :
"In terms of Canadian participation, our citizens rightfully expect that their personal information remains safeguarded and understandably, could be reluctant to see that information freely shared with two countries that were ranked near the bottom of Privacy International’s ratings of privacy protection around the world."
Go, Ms Stoddart!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Steve and sandra and the new two-tier torture awareness program

Oooops - NYTimes says it is, Steve. And then Max forgot to give Afghanistan special torture dispensation in his presser yesterday :

Ottawa Citizen : "Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier yesterday disavowed the inclusion of Israel and the United States on an official list of countries where prisoners can be tortured, and said the document would be revised.
"I regret the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual used in the department's torture awareness training," Mr. Bernier said in a statement.
"It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten."

Silly civil servants. Why can't they keep up with who our allies are?
Luckily, Max is gonna fix it with his new two-tier torture awareness program.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Staying the course in Afghanistan

Remember Manley's little troupe of hawks and deep integrationists who were appointed by Harper to a review panel on what to do with Afghanistan after 2009? That would be these guys - and of course their six appointed government overseers.
Their mission was to bring in a verdict on our real interest in Afghanistan which, as explained by Thomas Walkom in the Star back in October, is "our relationship with Washington".

From today's Ottawa Citizen, in a piece wickedly titled "Stay the course in Afghanistan":
"After touring NATO headquarters, Afghanistan and receiving hundreds of submissions, the independent commission created by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to advise his government on the way forward is not expected to recommend any significant scaling back of Canada's commitment of 2,500 soldiers in the Kandahar region, or any profound change in their current marching orders."

Gosh, I hope I haven't spoiled the surprise.

Anyway, just for a change of pace from hearing the opinions of gov flacks who know fuck-all about Afghanistan, here's a few words from RAWA, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. For 30 years they have fought the soviets, the Taliban, the war lords, the Northern Alliance, any and all oppressors of Afghan women.
From a RAWA interview with John Pilger :

"We, the women of Afghanistan, only became a cause in the west following 11 September 2001, when the Taliban suddenly became the official enemy of America. Yes, they persecuted women, but they were not unique, and we have resented the silence in the west over the atrocious nature of the western-backed warlords, who are no different. They rape and kidnap and terrorise, yet they hold seats in [Hamid] Karzai's government. In some ways, we were more secure under the Taliban.
By experience, [we have found] that the US does not want to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda, because then they will have no excuse to stay in Afghanistan and work towards the realisation of their economic, political and strategic interests in the region."

So we're 'staying the course' ; we're just not supposed to actually succeed.
It's a piss poor reason to ask a Canadian soldier to die for.
Support the troops, oh yeah, fer sure. Bastards.

SPP : Surveillance and privacy

Canada drops a ranking this year in the annual report from Privacy International, "a human rights group formed in 1990 as a watchdog on surveillance and privacy invasions by governments and corporations".
Why is Canada worse off this year?
  • The hideously flawed and secret Canadian 'no-fly' list, compiled with assistance from Homeland Security.
  • The CIA's accessing of Canadian banking records through the SWIFT banking information system.
  • Canadian government compliance with US calls for biometric documents and passports.
See a pattern here?
The US, towards which Canada is increasingly bending its previously excellent record on privacy, is listed as an "endemic surveillance society", along with the UK, Russia, China, and Malaysia.
The US Constitution, despite some search and seizure provisions in 4th Amendment, contains no right to privacy.
West End Bound has already provided extensive coverage of this report. I just wanted to underline how Canadian participation in the Security and Prosperity Partnership and the US 'war on terra' is now directly widening the circle of who is reading your financial records, your medical history, where you shop, who you know...

Still catching up on what's happened while I was...whoa! - WTF!

In July the Toronto Star reported that the federal government was negotiating to sell part of the Crown-owned Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. to General Electric, with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn leading the privatization discussions.
"Lunn is driving this himself," one source told the Star. "GE is very confident that this is a done deal."

Next we hear that Canada's nuclear watchdog, Linda Keen, president of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, has been fired for doing her job - in this case shutting down the Chalk River nuclear facility for safety infractions - and that the feds have reopened it again anyway over her objections.
Gary Lunn : "The federal government has lost confidence in Ms Keen's leadership abilities."

Marc Zwelling of Vector Research : "In polls Canadians express wariness over selling the government-owned nuclear facilities, probably because voters are afraid private companies would cut corners in the name of profit and risk meltdowns and Chernobyl-type disasters."

Yeah. So you can just imagine how we feel about friggin government cutting corners in the name of profit and the chance to sell off yet another Crown corporation that we've already paid for once.

Fucking unbelievable.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Traditional greetings

Hello again.
I just got home from a stay in hospital - no news, no net, hence no blogging for ten days - and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Anyway I was sitting in the hospital hallway waiting for a CATscan on Tuesday and this front page from the National Post was on the seat next to me :
The traditional first year anniversary symbol is paper, year ten is tin, and at 25 years you greet your mate with silver, but after three generations of facillitating arms dealing, apparently the appropriate traditional greeting from a Bush is weaponry.
This is the man our own PM would emulate, as if we were all sitting around in caves decorating our faces with feces and waiting for Kowabunga to do the moon disappearing trick again.
What is the appropriate traditional greeting among people appalled to realize that these parasites are the same ones to whom we have entrusted the care of the environment and our resources, the education of our children, advocacy for the poor and powerless, care for the aged and sick, the championing of justice, and the safeguarding of the sovereignty of our country?

Monday, January 07, 2008

We're just not that into you.

Ipsos Reid : "In four polls in November, 43% of men said they would vote for the Conservatives, compared with only 28% of women.
"There really seems to be a very strong gender effect in Conservative voting," said Ipsos Reid president Darrell Bricker."

Well, duh, Darrell.
In fact compared to a number of polls over the previous year, like this one from Strategic Council in July, 28% actually represents a highwater mark for the Cons with women, who more usually only give them around 24% to 26% approval.

From this latest Ipsos Reid poll for CanWest :
Women's priorities : Environment 29%, Healthcare 27%, and Education and Poverty placing 3rd and 4th.
Men's priorities : Environment 28%, Healthcare 18%, and the Economy and Military Defence in 3rd and 4th place.
Darrell explains this divergent disparity in gender priorities :
"Women tend to not to be as interested in the big-P political-power issues. For them politics isn't necessarily about the cut and thrust of party politics or big-dollar economics or relationships among states," said Bricker. "They tend to be focused more locally; they tend to be more interested in things that affect them and their families."

Apparently we're just too dumb to properly appreciate the importance of all that "cutting and thrusting" stuff.

Happily Harper's old eminence grease, Tom Flanagan, is on hand to explain why women's votes don't count if you're a Con : "Why are women's votes so uniquely important? Each vote counts one," he said in an email.

Yes! Someone put this old Milton Friedman fan back in charge of the Cons' electoral fortunes, because I can't think of a better strategy for going down in fucking flames than going into an election with a firm grip on the idea that the concerns of 52% of the electorate don't matter a damn.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Canada and torture

According to Ottawa, turning a blind eye to the torture of Canadian citizens abroad is just the price of doing business with the international intelligence community in the 'war on terror'.

CBC : "Human rights abuses are not necessarily enough to keep Canada from sharing information with security agencies overseas, Ottawa tells a federal inquiry on torture in a newly released submission.
Canada must maintain relationships with "non-traditional" allies, some of whom do not always treat people appropriately, in order to fight terrorism, says a government brief made public Thursday."

This astonishing submission was made last week to Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci's federal inquiry into the cases of Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, Canadians who allege they were tortured in Syria after Canada submitted a list of questions to Syrian authorites to be asked of them.

This is precisely what happened to Maher Arar. Syria, you will recall, had no interest in Arar but obligingly tortured him for nearly a year as "a goodwill gesture towards the US" after the RCMP labelled him as a terrorist. Indeed Syria attempted to return Arar but Canada was not at all keen to have him back, citing "embarrasment" as one unofficial reason.

Right now Canada is a country which, despite being a signatory to the UN Convention Against Torture, is complicit in having its citizens tortured abroad as the price of admission to the war on terrorism club.
How many Maher Arars are we willing to hand over so that Syria will trust us? How many Benamar Benattas will it take to keep the US appeased?
The inquiry continues.

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