Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MediaWatch : The Vancouver Sun and the Fraser Institute

An article at The Tyee notes the "remarkable success" the Fraser Institute has had in blanketing the Vancouver Sun with its guff.
Not so remarkable when you consider The Sun's senior editor for the editorial pages is Fazil Mihlar, former director of regulatory studies at the Fraser Institute, and that the Sun is owned by the Aspers, former Fraser Institute board members.

Here is all you need to know about that :
From Peter C. Newman's book, Izzy: The Passionate Life and Turbulent Times of Izzy Asper, Canada’s Media Mogul, as quoted in the Georgia Straight :

Leonard Asper : “I don’t see that a journalist is any different than an employee at Wal-Mart."

David Asper, chair of the National Post : “We own the papers. We have the right to have the papers print whatever the hell we want them to say. And if people don’t like it, they can go to hell. They can leave, get another job."
According to the CRTC, as of Sept 22 2009 Canwest holdings in Canada include :
Global TV - National Post - Calgary Herald - Regina Leader-Post - Vancouver Sun - Edmonton Journal - Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Victoria Times-Colonist - Montreal Gazette - Vancouver Courier - Windsor Star - Ottawa Citizen - Vancouver Province - Alberni Valley Times (BC) - Nanaimo Daily News (BC)
plus 21 weeklies and 7 shopping guides.
So Canwest adherence - and subsequently much of the Canadian public - to rightwing Fraser Institute principles is not so remarkable after all.
Where are you getting your news?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Van Loan : Oh noes - activist judges on the bench!

Oh noes - activist judges on the bench, some of them appointed by Cons!
Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan says he fears for the government's ability to fight terrorism because of "an increasingly complex legal environment" in which judges are no longer deferring to the government in its efforts to deport foreign suspects.
"It raises questions about whether we can protect national security and I can tell you I am concerned," Van Loan told Canwest News Service. "I spend a fair bit of time thinking about it."

"It" presumably being the Supreme Court's efforts to balance our rights and freedoms against your crap cases based on hearsay and intel derived from torture.
Meanwhile - oh noes for Cons again - Russkies!
A Lutheran church in Vancouver has been providing sanctuary since June to a former Russian KGB translator who is now facing immanent deportation to Russia for ... wait for it ... admitting to being a former KGB translator on his application for permanent residence in March 1999.
The federal court has found the government does have the right to deport Mikhail Lennikov back to Russia but, as CBC points out, is not required to do so :
The issue, then, is why Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan thinks Lennikov is "detrimental to the national interest."
The public safety minister adopted as his reasons a ministerial briefing note by Stephen Rigby, appointed to be the head of the Canada Border Services Agency in 2008.
CBC debunks the CBSA's "factual errors" intended to discredit Lennikov here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The SPP is undead

Just three months shy of 2010 - the date by which the Canadian Council of Chief Executives originally projected the goals of the SPP would be completed - some people have been mourning or celebrating for years already.

The SPP is dead - a short history :

Oct. 10, 2007 "The Security and Prosperity Partnership is dead," wrote John Ibbitson in the G&M. "Nothing's going to happen anytime soon."

Aug. 1, 2008 "The Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America is dead," says Robert Pastor, chair of the 2005 Council on Foreign Relations task force "Building a North American Community" available in book form with co-author John Manley.

Feb. 25, 2009 "The SPP is probably dead," Canadian Council of Chief Executives President Tom d’Aquino tells the foreign affairs committee, adding that "something else" will replace it.

July 13, 2009 "The SPP is in hibernation," - Chris Sands, Canada-U.S. relations expert at the Hudson Institute, in Toward a New Frontier which recommends "rebranding a revived SPP."
Aug. 2009 "The SPP's Death Knell has Sounded" - Embassy Mag. "The Security and Prosperity Partnership, as we knew it, is dead. May it rest in peace."

Aug. 19, 2009 "The SPP is dead, so where's the champagne?" - Stuart Trew, Council of Canadians, at Rabble.

Sept. 24, 2009 "The SPP is dead. Let's keep in that way." - Murray Dobbin, Canadian author, long time foe of deep integration, and one of my personal heroes.

That's two whole years of announcements about the SPP nailed to its perch and pining for the fjords.

The most recent - Dobbin and Trew - do not imagine for a moment that the push towards deep integration is over by any stretch, yet Dobbin does not see any successor on the horizon:
"Some on the left are so accustomed to losing that they make the claim the SPP will just re-emerge with another name."
And indeed I do so here - Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas.
Bush's outgoing gift to Obama has been embraced and described by Hillary Clinton as "a multilateral initiative to promote shared security and prosperity throughout the Americas".
Stockwell Day has already begun dutifully using the phrase "pathways to prosperity" in the House, while exPM Paul Martin, Chris Sands, d'Aquino, David Emerson and other fans of deep integration assure us of the inevitability of some future SPP rebrand and relaunch.

But what worries me is : do we even need a rebrand and relaunch anymore?

In 2003 the Canadian Council of Chief Executives' came up with the North American Security and Prosperity Initiative to shape Canada's future within North America. It called for "reinventing borders; regulatory efficiency; resource security; and a North American defence perimeter."

Here's how that agenda has been achieved through the SPP so far :
Joint RCMP-Homeland Security “Shiprider” pilot project
Civil Assistance Plan signed in Feb. 2008 allows the military of one nation to support the other during a civil emergency
Passenger Protect no-fly list
Sharing military responsibilities in the arctic
"Smart Borders' and unmanned drones patrolling the Canada US border
The exile and/or detainment in Canada of persons of interest to Homeland Security
Canada's cats paw FTAs with countries the US hopes to reach
The Canada Israel 'Homeland Security' pact
Canada helps the US occupy Afghanistan
Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative
Biometric data into visas for foreign nationals
RFID drivers' licences - a de facto continental ID
Run-of-river projects and ramped up tarsands extraction for energy export
Proposal for national Canadian energy or water policy blocked
Streamlining regulations on food, drugs pesticides, genetically modified seeds.
"Intermodal transportation concept for North America"
Integrated North American energy and resource program

Does anyone really think just because 30 odd CEOs from the North American Competitiveness Council aren't meeting as a designated SPP group anymore that that's the end of it?

Ten days ago Harper stood in the White House and said :

"Today, Canada is announcing a major hydroelectric project, a big transmission line in northwestern British Columbia, which has the capacity down the road to be part of a more integrated North American hydroelectric system."

"Canada is not leaving Afghanistan; Canada will be transitioning from a predominantly military mission to a mission that will be a civilian humanitarian development mission after 2011."

So, no, I'm not celebrating anything until the SPP and the groundwork already laid by the CCCE - plus the unseen continued integration of its facets throughout the public service - can be stopped and rolled back.

Paul Manly is taking his film ‘You, Me and the SPP: Trading Democracy for Corporate Rule’ on the road.

The tour, which will visit 33 cities across Canada, will be launched with an Ottawa Premiere on Parliament Hill on October 1st. hosted by NDP International Trade Critic, Peter Julian.

The Ottawa screening will be followed by a panel discussion and Q & A, featuring, Peter Julian, Teresa Healy (Senior Researcher, Canadian Labour Congress), Bruce Campbell (Executive Director, Canadian Council for Policy Alternatives), Maude Barlow (Chairperson, Council of Canadians), Louise Casselman (Common Frontiers) and Paul.

The screening and panel will be streamed live by - see promo page

From Ottawa, the tour will be working its way east to Newfoundland and then back across Canada to British Columbia. You can see all the tour dates on the film website here

Each confirmed screening date has a pdf poster, handbill and press release that can be downloaded and used to promote the screening. Please help out where you can. All of the screenings are either free or by donation.

This ain't over yet.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Preserve those precious moments ...

... between when the safety catch comes off and your victim drops screaming to the ground twirling in circles like a giant bug.
Or just stick your pinkie over the lens.
The choice is yours ... with TASER CAM™ :

"Taser International's site says the video recording "is an invaluable tool in protecting officers from baseless complaints regarding professionalism and courtesy."
I'm thinking 'baseless complaints regarding courtesy' will not be much of a problem after that safety catch comes off, but the 'excited delirium' photo greeting card possibilities are endless.
h/t West End Bob by e.

Abdelrazik sues Ottawa and Lawrence Cannon for $27-mil

After nearly six years of exile, prison and alleged torture in Sudan "at our request", Canadian Abousfian Abdelrazik is suing Ottawa for $24-mil and Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon personally for $3-mil.

Mr. Justice Russel Zinn of the Federal Court ordered the government to bring him home in June after years of cruel cat-and-mouse games with his constitutional rights under both Cons and Libs.

Zinn :"CSIS was complicit in the detention of Mr. Abdelrazik by the Sudanese authorities in 2003."

Despite having been cleared of any wrongdoing by CSIS, the RCMP, and Sudan, for five years Abdelrazik was repeatedly assured by DFAIT that they would grant him an emergency passport only to have them withdraw the offer again under various pretexts. They had no intention of delivering.

From the excellent Paul Koring :

"CSIS agents interrogated Mr. Abdelrazik in a Khartoum prison, offering him – according to Mr. Abdelrazik – freedom if he would help them and warning him if he didn't he would never return home to his family and Sudan would be his "Guantanamo Bay."

In his lawsuit, Mr. Abdelrazik's lawyer claims: “While in Kober prison, he was deprived of sleep, subjected to verbal assaults, pummelled, kicked and flogged with a rubber hose on his back.” At other times he was hanged by his wrists, he said.

"This does not amount to torture or mistreatment. It is the reality in Sudan and he would not have been targeted for mistreatment any more than other fellow detainees," senior Foreign Affairs official Odette Gaudet-Fee said.
Another suggested Mr. Abdelrazik mutilated himself.

It is presumed that CSIS' original interest in Abdelrazik came via Abu Zubaydah, the schizophrenic halfwit waterboarded 83 times in 2002 in order to elicit a false confession linking Sadaam and al-Qaeda that could be used to justify the US invasion of Iraq.
CSIS has said while it once might have received evidence derived from torture, it no longer does.
Lawrence Cannon really has this one coming.
In July, Abdelrazik asked the federal government to help him get his name removed from a United Nations terror watch list so he could lead a normal life - get a job, healthcare, a bank account. This can only be done with the help of your own government; Cannon suggested Abdelrazik get himself off it.

It seems the only way to get this bunch of crackerbox politicians to obey Canadian law is to take them to court and embarrass them with massive lawsuits.

Had enough of this yet, Canada?

Braidwood Inquiry resumes bickering

after being derailed just prior to final summation in June by the sudden appearance of an email written on Nov. 5, 2007 in which Chief Supt. Dick Bent alluded to the four officers' having a plan to TASER™ Robert Dziekanski prior to arriving on the scene, in direct contradiction to their sworn testimony that they did not have such a plan.

There's lots of media on this so I'm not going over all of it, but a couple of the more obvious Cover Your Ass points are being under-reported here.

Constables Bill Bentley, Kwesi Millington, Gerry Rundel and Cpl. Monty Robinson, who all gave startling similar but - according to the video we've seen -clearly wrong accounts of the events, were permitted to work together for several weeks after the incident.

The email from Chief Supt. Dent to Assistant Commissioner Al Macintyre regarding his conversation with Supt. Wayne Rideout on the eve of the release of bystander Paul Pritchard's video, which showed Dziekanski being Tasered five times, being restrained and dying face down in handcuffs on the airport floor :

Media Strategy — Release of YVR video.
Al, spoke with Wayne Rideout today about our strategy for the release of the video. He had a couple of concerns. First, he didn't think we should be providing any explanation for what was transpiring but instead just say the Inquest will take evidence under oath etc. I went through the rationale and said we need to have an explanation otherwise our detractors will put their own spin.
...then a paragraph on who would be the best media point man to "do the narrative" in order that they not "lose the perception of independence", then :

Finally, spoke to Wayne and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw symptoms of excited delirium, but instead had discussed the response en route and decided that if he did not comply that they would go to CEW. He has asked investigators for a synopsis and should have it by noon tomorrow.

Rideout testified on Tuesday that Dent's interpretation of their conversation is "wrong" and his superior Dent, who is due to retire in two weeks, reluctantly admitted that might be possible.
Al Macintyre has said he never even received this email but as a week of his blackberried emails from Nov 1 to 8th has gone missing, this is impossible to verify.

The RCMP has belatedly released another 18,000 relevant documents since June but the inquiry is wrapping up with closing arguments scheduled to begin on Oct. 5 regardless.

Meanwhile, the break in proceedings caused by the sudden appearance of the not-terribly-explosive-after-all email gave the four RCMP officers time to file in Appeals Court seeking a "permanent injunction to prevent the commission from continuing any proceedings against them", while Taser Int is asking the B.C. Supreme Court to quash all 19 of Justice Braidwood's recommendations.

And suddenly, B.C.'s police chiefs and top RCMP officers, including Rideout who calls the current in house investigation system an "unwinnable image problem", are all over the media recommending a new independent office to investigate police, but most balk at the suggestion that such a body be comprised entirely of civilian investigators.

Too much CYA still going on here all round.

My confidence in the Braidwood Inquiry took a beating in June when Justice Braidwood held a presser in which he displayed a childlike thrill at learning all about tasers immediately followed by blaming the media for much of the public lack of trust in the RCMP.
We'll see.
Braidwood Inquiry posts to date.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Emma the Embryo on teen pregnancy

A new study published by Reproductive Health found that US states with higher religiousity also have higher teen birth rates. The study hypothesizes that this correlation may be because "teens in more religious communities may be less likely to use contraception."
According to Ms Mag today - and Dammit Janet a week ago - the study author ... speculated that a potential explanation of this relationship is that "religious communities in the U.S. are more successful in discouraging the use of contraception among their teenagers than they are in discouraging sexual intercourse itself."
But then you knew that.
40 days of Harrassment begins today, that special time of year when the god botherers focus their bothering on women who want birth control or sex education because their sky monster needs more teen moms.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Poll : Do you think the war in Afghanistan is winnable?

Poll in yesterday's Toronto Star - One vote per IP (yes, I checked!)
h/t CanNurse in comments below - Thank you.

Map of Taliban presence in Afghanistan
from The International Council on Security and Development :

Data detailing the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan was gathered from daily insurgent activity reports between January and September 2009. ICOS believes that the level of incidents recorded by this methodology is conservative.

Permanent presence: defined by provinces that average one (or more) insurgent attack (lethal and non-lethal) per week.
Substantial presence: an average one or more insurgent attacks per month and include residents who believe Taliban are active locally (based on frequency of Taliban sightings).
Light presence: defined by less than one insurgent attack per month and local residents don’t believe Taliban is active locally


Sunday, September 20, 2009

The occupation of Afghanistan : "Useless"

"A bit useless" is how 23-year-old Private Jonathan Couturier, the 131st Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan, described the Afghan 'mission' that took his life.

If we are to have standing armies, the very least we can do, the absolute minimum responsibility we have to them, is not send them off to die in the useless occupations of nations who have done nothing to us.

Why are we occupying Afghanistan again?
Not, as Gordon O'Connor foolishly announced in the HoC in April 2006, to prevent "them from coming here".
Not, as recent elections there attest, to bring democracy to the people.
Not even apparently to improve their lot in life.

Fisk :
"Every three months, the Canadian authorities publish a scorecard on their military "progress" in Afghanistan. ... The latest report, revealed this week, proves that Kandahar province is becoming more violent, less stable and less secure – and attacks across the country more frequent – than at any time since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. There was an "exceptionally high" frequency of attacks this spring compared with 2008.

There was a 108 per cent increase in roadside bombs. Afghans are reporting that they are less satisfied with education and employment levels, primarily because of poor or non-existent security. Canada is now concentrating only on the security of Kandahar city, abandoning any real attempt to control the province.

Canada's army will be leaving Afghanistan in 2011, but so far only five of the 50 schools in its school-building project have been completed. Just 28 more are "under construction". But of Kandahar province's existing 364 schools, 180 have been forced to close."

And not, as Ann Jones - author of Kabul in Winter and a teacher in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006 - writes at Tom Dispatch following her return trip this July, to train an Afghan police force and army to take over after we've gone either :
"So who are these security forces? They include the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP). International forces and private contractors have been training Afghan recruits for both of them since 2001. In fact, the determination of Western military planners to create a national army and police force has been so great that some seem to have suppressed for years the reports of Canadian soldiers who witnessed members of the Afghan security forces engaging in a fairly common pastime, sodomizing young boys.

Current training and mentoring is provided by the U.S., Great Britain, France, Canada, Romania, Poland, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Australia, as well as by the private for-profit contractors MPRI, KBR (formerly a division of Halliburton), Pulau, Paravant, and RONCO. "

Eight years on and $10-billion later just for training the police force, Ann Jones tells us, with a projected goal of 400,000 as the supposed end-strength quota for the combined security forces -- an army of 240,000 soldiers and a police force with 160,000 men, where are they?

The Invisible Men

"What is there to show for all this remarkably expensive training? Although in Washington they may talk about the 90,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army, no one has reported actually seeing such an army anywhere in Afghanistan.

When 4,000 U.S. Marines were sent into Helmand Province in July to take on the Taliban in what is considered one of its strongholds, accompanying them were only about 600 Afghan security forces, some of whom were police.

Why, you might ask, didn't the ANA, 90,000 strong after eight years of training and mentoring, handle Helmand on its own? No explanation has been offered. American and NATO officers often complain that Afghan army units are simply not ready to "operate independently," but no one ever speaks to the simple question: Where are they?

My educated guess is that such an army simply does not exist. It may well be true that Afghan men have gone through some version of "Basic Warrior Training" 90,000 times or more. When I was teaching in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2006, I knew men who repeatedly went through ANA training to get the promised Kalashnikov and the pay. Then they went home for a while and often returned some weeks later to enlist again under a different name."

And with 40% of country unemployed who can blame them ?
"Think instead about what you might have won -- and could still win -- had you spent all those military billions on food. Or maybe agriculture. Or health care. Or a civilian job corps. Is it too late for that now?"
Yes, Ann, it is.

John Pilger :
"The Afghan war is a fraud. It began as an American vendetta for domestic consumption in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks, in which not a single Afghan was involved. The Taliban, who are Afghans, had no quarrel with the US and were dealing secretly with the Clinton administration over a strategic pipeline. They offered to apprehend Osama Bin Laden and hand him over to a clerical court but this was rejected.

The establishment of a permanent US/NATO presence in a resource-rich strategic region is the principal reason for the war...The game is over.
Corporatism and a reinvigorated militarism have finally appropriated parliamentary democracy, a historic shift.."

War is a racket. Not "a bit useless" after all.

All links via Rabble.
Monday night update : Ten days ago Senator Colin Kenny compared Canada's role in Afghanistan to that of the US in Vietnam and used the word "retreat".
Tonight he is calling for a diplomatic solution : "I certainly from Day 1 thought (Defence Minister Peter) MacKay was a nitwit to suggest we should not be talking to the Taliban."

Senator Kenny! Yo! Why would MacKay want to talk to the Taliban? This is not a war in which two sides are groping towards some solution; it is an occupation. From his point of view, what's to fix?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

No HST protest in Vancouver

Thousands turned out in Vancouver today in an anti-HST protest that united politicians from across the local political spectrum.

West End Bob was there and brings us details and photos.

Former Socred premier Bill Vander Zalm - yes, The Zalm :
"The HST is a cruel tax - it takes from the people, the consumers... and it's giving to the big corporations. They're the real beneficiaries."

TD Economics reported yesterday that businesses will win big under the HST, aka Harper's Sales Tax, slicing $6.9 billion off their costs in Ontario and B.C. combined. Steve is even giving Gordo $1.6-billion to help implement it.

BC LINO Finance Minister Colin Hansen promises there will be a "trickle down effect" but people really don't seem to fancy being pissed on any further :
Ipsos Reid poll : B.C. Liberal support has collapsed and the party now trails the NDP by 10 percentage points. Only 35 % of voters polled said they'd support the government if an election were held today.
Environics poll, via The Hook at The Tyee : 42% of voters in Vancouver Point Grey - Gordo's own riding - would sign a petition to recall Campbell, including a quarter of those who voted for him in May :

An overwhelming number (79 percent) believed the Premier should have told British Columbians that his government was going to introduce the tax prior to the election.

When told that the tax collected from consumers through the HST would all go to corporations instead of being used to pay for better government programs, 64 percent (including 59 percent of BC Liberal voters) said they were now even more
opposed to the HST.

On the critical issue of whether or not British Columbians would support modest tax increases in order to pay for needed government services -- the poll found a large majority (78 percent) would support an increase.

... This finding crossed all political lines, with 74 percent of Liberals also coming out in support of the proposition that taxes should be increased to support public services.
Recall Gordo. Do it.
Update : Dave at The Beav reports that the Victoria paper The Times-Colonist is looking for evidence that Gordo, despite pre-election promises not to, already had plans to implement the HST before the May election.
Here ya go, Times Colonist : a smoking gun pointed right at our heads from Gordo's policy think tank, the BC Progress Board, dated December 2008 : Investment British Columbia: Current realities and the way forward.

"The most profound area for improvement to productivity, but also the most difficult to achieve, is in replacing the Provincial Sales Tax with a value-added tax, preferably harmonized with the Goods and Services Tax administered by the federal government. Such a change would significantly lower the marginal effective tax rate on investment and reduce distortions across sectors. Harmonization would face considerable challenges, not the least of which is public opposition as a result of a shift of the burden from business to consumers.

"In the short and medium term, lower-income British Columbians could see declines in real income as consumer prices rise. Public opposition to such a shift would be a substantial concern to policy-makers."

They also go on to advocate for TILMA, Gateway Pacific, run-of-river projects, and continued "harmonizing regulation between the province and the US". Additionally, they target the federal Fisheries Act as posing "overwhelming challenges to development in BC"

Friday, September 18, 2009

Canadian military aware of children being ass-raped by Afghan allies since 2007

but, according to David Pugliese in NaPo this evening :
"the concern at the time was that the incident might be reported in the news media"

You're shocked I'm sure.

The incident was reported in the media. In June 2008, the Toronto Star reported that in late 2006 a Canadian soldier had heard an Afghan soldier raping a young boy and later saw the boy's "lower intestines falling out of his body." Military police reported being told by their commanders not to interfere when Afghan soldiers and police had anal sex with children.

It took till May of this year for Maj. Francis Bolduc of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service to state in its "thorough investigation" that the allegations were "unfounded" and what's more were "never reported to Canadian military commanders".

Seems that investigation was all bullshit, according to meetings and emails flying back and forth between generals in Afghanistan and the Defence Department's civilian and military public affairs staff since 2007.

Pugliese :
"The issue is sensitive for the Canadian Forces and the federal government as the Afghanistan mission has been promoted to the public as being about protecting Afghan civilians."

Or, as Christopher Sands of the Hudson Institute put it last year :
"Canadians are rather conflicted about why they're in Afghanistan. Some people saw this as an apology for not going to Iraq [and] some people actually genuinely think that being in Afghanistan is about helping the Afghan people."

No, they don't. Not any more. They just don't have the guts to come out and say that bombing the crap out of people who never did anything to us is the price of keeping those trucks flowing back and forth across the US border.

Another investigation is being undertaken by Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, "even though, according to military records, a member of his staff was informed about the sexual abuse issue back in 2007."
It will only look into the one assault reported in The Star in 2008, and "identify the actions taken by individual CF members and the chain of command in response to that incident, as well as assess whether medical care was provided to any soldier who witnessed the incident."

Words. Fail.

Alternate link as NaPo link has gone down twice now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Libs support Colombian free trade deal

In the House on Monday, Liberal trade critic Scott Brison defended Bill C-23, the Canada Colombia free trade agreement thusly:
"If we isolate Colombia in the Andean region and leave Colombia exposed and vulnerable to the ideological attacks of Chavez's Venezuela, we will be allowing evil to flourish."
Oooh - two Bush cat's paw points for you. Chavez appeared to be much on Brison's mind yesterday and figured several times in his answers, perhaps because the U.S. military has obtained a 10-year lease at seven Colombian bases to help fight drug traffickers and leftists.

He also said the Colombia FTA will provide jobs that will help to turn Colombia away from being a narco-state.
Nice try, Scott. Farming accounts for 22% of employment in Colombia.
The trade agreement eliminates duties on importing Canadian wheat, peas, lentils and barley.
After those farmers go broke trying to compete with Canadian agribiz wheat but before the paramilitaries drive them off their land for the Canadian mining companies, exactly what crop do you think they will be forced to turn to?

The agreement's Chapter 11 style investor's rights allows Canadian mining companies to sue the Colombian government should it ever implement labour or environmental legislation that affects their profits.

MP Claude Guimond, Bloc :
"When asked to adopt mandatory social responsibility standards for Canadian mining companies abroad, the government decided to adopt voluntary standards instead. When asked to create an independent ombudsman who could conduct impartial investigations to validate complaints, the government created the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor, who reports directly to the minister and investigates only if authorized by the mining company."
Well, what could possibly go wrong with that?

Gerald Keddy, Con Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, amusingly referred to this yesterday as "providing leadership internationally in encouraging free trade and open markets and discouraging protectionism."

Stockwell Day, who has started slipping the phrase "pathways to prosperity" into his remarks, tried to rustle up some good news on the lamentable increase in kidnappings, disappearances, and farmers and their families being driven off their land this last year :
"Kidnappings. Do they still happen? Yes, they do. They still happen in Canada, too. Are people still being murdered in that country? Yes, they are. They are still being murdered in Canada also. More than 350,000 internally displaced persons [in Colombia] have now received comprehensive protection and access to basic social services."
Yes, in addition to the worst human rights record in the hemisphere, Colombia has an internal refugee problem second only to Sudan's.

Chris Charlton, NDP labour critic :
"The shocking reality is that, in the event of the murder of a trade unionist in Colombia, labour protection simply means that the Colombian government would have to pay money into a development fund. Kill a trade unionist, pay a fine. Over 2,200 labour activists have been murdered since 1991.
The penalty for killing a trade unionist was capped at $15 million in any one year, paid by the Colombian government into a development fund. To put this into perspective, one year's maximum payment of $15 million equates to $5,628 per trade unionist already killed."
and then she said something I didn't know :
"Only 0.15% of Canadian exports actually go to Colombia"
and quotes Glen Hodgson, VP and chief economist of the Conference Board of Canada :
"Our annual trade with Colombia is about the same level as that with South Dakota and is actually smaller than that with Delaware or Rhode Island. Compared to other markets much closer, Colombia is not really a major player. Eighty per cent of Colombia’s imports to Canada are actually duty free already."
This agreement isn't about free trade though, remember, it's about protecting investor's rights.

Diane Bourgeois, Bloc :
"Colombian investment in Canada amounts to $1 million, while Canadian investment in Colombia totals roughly $1.058 billion, which can essentially be attributed to the extractive industry....
Twice during the time I was a member of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Development, Canadian companies received funding through CIDA.
They used money distributed through CIDA to get paramilitary staff on the company payroll. That money was used to pay hired guns, not to help the people.
At one point, CIDA disbursed $14,000. That is not a lot of money here, but in Colombia, it might be worth $100,000. TVI used that $14,000 to pay professional soldiers to protect company assets and prevent people from using the only remaining source of drinking water because it had contaminated every other source around the site."
Lee Richardson, Con, responds by telling us that "Canada is a world leader" in "promoting best practices in environmental stewardship" :
"As a member from Alberta, I can say that this is especially true in the resource sector when it comes to environmental stewardship and environmental impact assessments. We can offer a lot to our Colombian partners in terms of expertise and best practices. Indeed, Canadian companies are leaders in corporate social responsibility in minimizing the impact of their activities on the environment."

By now you must think I'm making this up or quoting out of context but sadly, you'd be wrong.

Linda Duncan, NDP, speaking to the 'side agreements' on environmental and labour protections :
"The side agreement is basically non-existent. It is simply paper. There is nothing to it. There are vague references to corporate social responsibility. There is absolutely no recourse. There are no penalties in the side agreement of the Colombia-Canada agreement. I do not think it appropriate that the Government of Canada pass over that responsibility simply to a Canadian investor. Were I a Canadian investor I would not want to have to be fulfilling that complete role."
Paul Szabo was the only Lib to recommend that there might be something wrong here and perhaps the bill ought to go back to committee.
Aside from two pleas for further reassurances, the rest of them kept quiet. I'd like to think they were ashamed.
Bob Rae has said : "The Liberal Party will be supportive of the bill proceeding to committee,"

Nothing from former human rights activist Michael Ignatieff.
Update : And it's shuffled back down in the deck again - for now.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Syncrude ducks

According to CBC, the tarsands company Syncrude has pleaded not guilty to two charges laid in the deaths of what was originally reported as 500 ducks but later turned out to be over 1,600 ducks in their northern Alberta tailings pond in April 2008.
According to Syncrude's lawyer Robert White, the company is pleading not guilty because it has improved duck deterrence measures used at the site :
"The law has recognized for a long time that when people do their best to avoid something, then that isn't a matter for charges. That's a matter for fix-up."
Ah. So according to Syncrude's "fix-ups" logic if you should fail to avoid blowing someone's head off with a shotgun, then it isn't a matter for charges - it's a matter for taking a firearms class afterwards.
Good to know.
Back in June Syncrude, the world's largest producer of synthetic crude from the tarsands, was threatening to challenge the federal government’s constitutional right to charge the company at all. Whether today's 'not guilty' plea is the first step in this constitutional challenge I do not know.
"Fix-ups". For those times when you're just too big busy to pay a possible maximum fine per charge of $500,000.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Proud to be a member of that 'left-wing fringe group' called 'women'

"I'm thinking of making T-shirts: "Proud to be a member of that `left-wing fringe group' called `Women.' "
I woulda put it on a thong for ya too, Zerb, but the letters got all bunched.

"Instead of subsidizing court challenges, the previous government was doing, subsidizing lawyers to bring forth court challenges by left-wing fringe groups .."

Zerb continues : "Thank you for finally admitting that your government shut down the Court Challenges program in 2006 not just because, as then-Heritage Minister Bev Oda claimed in Parliament, you "recognize the importance of women" but because you believe that that women's rights are "left-wing fringe" rights."

As well as gays, lesbians, persons with a disability ...

The Court Challenges Program (CCP) funded "test-cases initiated by individuals and groups to challenge federal laws and policies that violate their constitutional equality rights."

Yeah, good thing we got rid of that. Since 2006 only the rich can afford to worry about equality.

Anyhow leave me your name to sign onto the virtual t and I'll repost it with more names tomorrow.

And pass it on - I do believe there may still be a couple of women left in Canada in danger of voting for the Conservative Reform Alliance Party coalition.

Check out her blog tomorrow (Sunday) for more.
Sunday night : Final virtual t posted. Thanks to all for your names, your links, your support in getting the word out about Steve's vile petty mean-spirited divisive and undemocratic remarks. Hurray for us. I've thanked you properly at The Beav.
Monday night : Ok, guys, here's your chance. DAMMIT JANET - Go.
10 days later : Thanks to Antonia Z's T-shirt inspiration ten days ago, actual real not virtual Proud to be t-shirts now available as a fundraiser for LEAF.

Canada Colombia FTA : How much for the little girl Part 2

The second item on the agenda when parliament resumes on Monday is the second reading of the Canada Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Bill C-23.
The Dominion posts that :
"There are strong indications that the Liberal Party are intending to support the bill. We managed to back them off once before - we need to do so again."
and provides email addies of the relevant Lib MPs, including former human rights activist Michael Ignatieff. Go.
This can only pass with Liberal support, the Bloc and NDP are opposed.
Yesterday the US State Department ok'd $32 million that Washington had previously withheld due to human and labour rights abuses, bringing to $545 million the total going to Colombia this fiscal year to fight gangs and drug smugglers buy access to Colombian military facilities.
"A U.N. human rights investigator reported separately in June that soldiers had killed hundreds of innocent civilians, falsely identifying them as guerrillas slain in combat to boost body counts. Officials have vowed to eliminate that practice."
Oh well then.
Of course these 'practices' have been ok with Harper since way back in 2007 :

"When we see a country like Colombia that has decided to address its social, political and economic problems in an integrated way, that wants to embrace democracy and human rights, then we say, 'We're in,' he said."

"We are not going to say fix all your social, political and human rights problems and only then will we engage in trade relations with you. That's a ridiculous position," Harper said.

and at last year's Leaders' Summit :
"if the United States and our allies turn their back on an important ally in this region, that will have long-term security consequences for all of our countries in North America."
Not to mention putting a serious crimp in the planned relaunch of the Free Trade Area of the Americas Plan B, aka "Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas".
Two days till C-23 hits parliament. Send a freakin letter to the Libs now. GO.
And I suppose you could also drop a note to Steve :
Update : Pogge's letter :
Dear Honorable Members:
The Conservative government has placed Bill C-23, the legislation to implement the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, on the order paper for this Monday the 14th of September. As I'm sure you are all aware, the Parliamentary Committee on International Trade has recommended that this legislation not be implemented until an objective third party does a thorough assessment on the human rights record of the Alvaro Uribe government which, by many accounts, has the worst human rights record in the western hemisphere.
I would ask that you please honour the recommendation of the committee and vote no on Bill C-23.
Yours truly,
[... ]
I'm betting Pogge wouldn't mind if you sampled it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The two-tier Tories

First there was Harper's support for two-tier health care.
Then there was the two-tier torture awareness program , and his more recent enthusiasm for two-tier Canadian citizenship.
And now? A two-tier cap-and-trade climate policy :

New climate plan would favour oil sands

"Ottawa is eyeing a climate change plan that would allow Alberta's oil sands to continue growing – and polluting – but would clamp down on industries in the rest of the country, multiple sources have told the Toronto Star.

Conservatives intend to put a cap on the emissions from Ontario's manufacturing sector and other polluting industries across Canada, while letting oil and gas companies meet less stringent intensity targets which allow output, and pollution, to increase."

Because, what the hay - we're only 30% over our 2012 targets at the moment.
Somehow these guys never venture too far off the front porch of their firewall letter.

Eight years after 9/11

"General Stanley McChrystal tried to contact his subordinates after a Nato strike killed 125/100/70 civilians, but too many had been “partying it up” and could not be raised.
General McChrystal, head of International Forces in Afghanistan (Isaf), has since put a stop to drinking, admonishing staff for not having “their heads in the right place” on Friday morning a few hours after the attack, the Times reports.
One insider said: "Thursday nights are the big party nights, because Friday’s a 'low-ops’ day"

Mercenaries in Kabul : From Animal House to Apocalypse Now

"The charity group Swedish Committee for Afghanistan expressed outrage today in reporting a US attack on a remote hospital being operated by the group. The troops burst in to the hospital without explanation and conducted a full and rather violent search of the facility.
The troops reportedly tied up several employees and the family of some of the patients, ordered the bed-ridden patients out of their rooms and smashed down several doors."

ICC prosecutor eyes possible Afghanistan war crimes
"The chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court said on Wednesday that he was gathering information about possible war crimes committed by NATO soldiers and insurgents in Afghanistan.
"What we are trying to assess is ... different types of allegations, including massive attacks, collateral damage exceeding what is considered proper, and torture," he said"

US Increasing Force Size in Iraq by Adding Contractors
"A report by Raw Story’s John Byrne notes that despite President Obama’s pledge with withdraw troops from Iraq, the overall force size is actually increasing in recent months, as thousands of new private contractors are being brought in.
This is adding to concern that while the US is pretending to “stand down” in Iraq, it is actually still as active as ever and is just using contractors to do the jobs that were previously done by the American troops. This puts the whole pullout in a different light."

Haroon Siddiqui : Eight years after 9/11, we know that:
"The war on terror spawned infinitely more terrorism worldwide than there was before this war.

The war on Iraq was launched even though the U.S. – contrary to its public assertions – knew that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs and no links to Al Qaeda.

The war on Afghanistan has been going downhill ever since the mission of toppling the Taliban, hosts to the plotters of the Sept. 11 massacre, was swiftly accomplished in November 2001.

The two wars cost the U.S. 5,000 lives and $1 trillion. The Afghan war, which has lasted 50 per cent longer than the American involvement in the two world wars combined, has cost Canada 130 lives and about $15 billion.

NATO does not care enough about Iraqis and Afghans to count their dead. It is estimated that perhaps 1 million Iraqi civilians have been killed, and 4 million displaced. As for the Afghan dead, injured and displaced, there aren't even credible estimates."
Continued ...

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The fuzzy blue sweater comes off...

"Let me be clear about this - we need to win a majority in the next election campaign.

If we do not win a majority, this country will have a Liberal government propped up by the socialists and the separatists. If they get together and force us to the polls, we have to teach them a lesson and get back there with a majority and make sure their little coalition never happens."

At least he didn't say "Let me be perfectly clear" this time ...

h/t Impolitical for the vid

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Happy International Literacy Day!

The interactive Prose Literacy Map from the Canadian Council on Learning is based on the 2006 Census and a 2003 StatsCan International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey.
Prose literacy is defined as "the knowledge and skills needed to understand and use information from texts including editorials, news stories, brochures and instruction manuals."
and, presumably, election brochures. This is about comprehension in either of Canada's two official languages, not spelling or grammar or smarts - a point missed by many commenters under this CBC article.
Level 3 is "the minimum threshold for coping with the demands of the global knowledge-based economy". Lower rates of literacy, represented by light orange through red on the map, show the proportion of the population in each region that scored at Level 2 or lower. Or about half of us.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Mercenaries in Kabul : From Animal House to Apocalypse Now

.ArmorGroup mercenaries in charge of security at the US embassy in Kabul :

"dancing naked around a fire, licking each others nipples and grabbing each others testicles, sex acts, peeing on each other, vodka shots from butt cracks, eating potato chips from clenched buttocks..."
Well, boyz will be boyz, stress of the mission and all that, leading directly to :

"hazing, weekly ritual humiliation, forced by their supervisors to take part in the demeaning sex games. Anyone who refused to take part in the games was ridiculed, humiliated, demoted or even fired. Those who took part were rewarded with better shifts and postings."
and sexual predation and intimidation of Afghan employees :

"An Afghan national who works in the dining hall at Camp Sullivan submitted a signed statement to the POGO [US Project On Government Oversight] in which he described how a guard had grabbed him and said: "You are very good for fucking." The man was accompanied by four other men and all were only wearing short underwear and carrying bottles of alcohol. The man said he was too afraid of them to say anything."

"The climate of fear and coercion" according to the US Project on Government Oversight, has led to "complete distrust of leadership and a breakdown of the chain of command, compromising security."

As in the "cowboy mission" - complete with weapons and night-vision goggles - leaving embassy staff "largely night-blind" in the event of an emergency:

In May, 18 guards, who are not trained for such missions, dressed up as mujahedin fighters and went out on unauthorised night-time military operations in the Afghan capital. The guards are said to have photographed themselves taking part in the "undercover" operation, later posting the images online.

"They were living out some sort of delusion," one of the whistleblower guards told The Washington Post.

The report reveals that, instead of taking action against the guards involved, ArmorGroup North America gave them a mocked-up citation which improperly bore the seal of the US State Department and praised them for their "intrepidity".

ArmorGroup North America has been protecting almost 1,000 US diplomats and Kabul embassy personnel. The 450 security personnel assigned to the embassy, including Canadians, all live at Camp Sullivan, where the sex parties took place. "

At a Senate hearing on waste, fraud and abuse by ArmorGroup in June, senator Claire McCaskill asked in exasperation: "Is this the best we can do?"
The [POGO] report accuses the State Department of being complicit in the problems, citing numerous letters in which the agency expressed concerns about security deficiencies at the American mission in Kabul and threatened to terminate ArmorGroup’s contract. Yet in sworn testimony to Congress, the report said, department officials said the problems had been fixed.
The State Department renewed the company’s contract, worth $180 million a year, through July 2010.

30 supervisors and guards are alleged to have been the instigators of the sex parties, hazing, and cowboy mission.
The State Department has demanded that the security guards in the photos be fired.
ArmorGroup has fired eight and two have resigned. Their identities are being witheld.

The Guardian : Guards gone wild :
"As of 30 June, there were nearly 74,000 military contractors – including 5,165 armed private security guards – in Afghanistan, far outnumbering the roughly 58,000 US troops in the country.

Privatised war: It gives those in power an easy way to circumvent traditional democratic processes. They can escalate war under the radar with far less interference from the public.

Hiring additional contractors in Afghanistan – the vast majority of whom are local nationals or citizens from other poor countries – simply doesn't generate the headlines that sending more US troops does. Moreover, contractor deaths are not counted in any official tally of casualties, which ultimately serves to slow the growth of public opposition to the war."
The Star's appallingly etiolated coverage :
U.S. embassy in Afghanistan cuts out booze :
"Private guards accused of wild partying, hazing
Photos were released of guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties flowing with booze."

is the reason for this post.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Canada to stage Afghan war porn attack in Washington

G&M : Canada to stage mock Afghan attack in Washington

"The Canadian embassy in Washington plans to build a faux Afghan village in the embassy courtyard, populated by Afghan actors, and set of fake IEDs, in an effort to show American opinion makers they're doing all they can to win the war in Afghanistan.
The Taliban will attack an Afghan village set up in the heart of Washington courtesy of the Canadian Forces, who will send in a medic in a dramatic effort to save a civilian crippled by the explosion.
At least four times over two days this month, simulated IED blasts will bring the Afghan war – and Canada's combat role in Kandahar – home to Americans if an elaborate scheme based on modern training realism attracts widespread attention, as is hoped."

Meanwhile, in the real world, same paper, same day :

Afghan officials say 90 dead in NATO air strike

"An American war jet blasted two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan on Friday, killing up to 90 people, including insurgents and dozens of civilians who had rushed to the scene to collect fuel, Afghan officials said.

NATO officials initially insisted that there were no civilians in the area when the attack occurred about 2:30 a.m., but alliance chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen later acknowledged some civilians may have died."

Update : After reading in the Globe and Mail about the Canadian embassy's plan to stage mock explosions in downtown Washington DC, DefMin Peter MacKay put the kibosh on it, perhaps due to two other recent ill-advised WTF? warporn exercises:

On 9/11 this year, a US Coast exercise involving mock firing on an intruding speedboat on the Potomac coincided with President Barack Obama heading across the river to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks:

"The Coast Guard exercise so rattled other security agencies that nearby Ronald Reagan National Airport was briefly closed and high-level officials spent much of the day apologizing and explaining to a rattled public.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was said to be incensed that the Coast Guard planned a mock attack, including reports of shots being fired, on 9/11.

That brouhaha echoed another military embarrassment earlier this summer when Air Force One – the Boeing 747 the carries the president – flew low over Manhattan pursued by a pair of U.S. airplanes, all for a photo opportunity.
Nervous New Yorkers fearing another attack were enraged, and the White House

Seriously, WTF?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

On crying wolf

Last September Harper broke his own rules to trigger an election in the fond hope of being returned with a majority, and he did so to the almost universal acclamation of our national media.
A year later we have Iggy threatening to bring Harper down at the first available opportunity.
How are the major newsies doin' with that?

Liberals only engaged in political opportunism
It's all about vanity
Ok, you get the general idea. Apparently most of our print pundits are again lining up in the considerable shade of concentrated media ownership under Harper's fat arse, and even the more neutral among them are arguing that this election call is a huge blunder on Iggy's part because there is no single burning issue for the voting public to rally around.

Meanwhile the rest of us are looking at the incremental dismemberment of our country.

That last headline - The Liberal leader who cried wolf. Iggy has cried wolf a half dozen times to date and the villagers are rightly pissed at him for this, but in the end of Aesop's fable, the sheep still get eaten by the wolf.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Iggy and ... not Steve?

Well who the hell knows? Happy Groundhog Day.
"The Liberals will no longer help prop up Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, paving the way for a fall election if the other opposition parties also vote no confidence in the Conservatives.
"Mr. Harper, your time is up," Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said in a speech to troops today. "The Liberal party cannot support this government any further."
Meanwhile Steve actually muttered darkly about "bad things happening to this country if there's an election", while NDP MP Thomas Mulcair hinted the NDP might support the Cons "if Stephen Harper comes into Parliament with a willingness to work in the public interest, then we're going to take it on a case-by-case basis. Our caucus will decide."
Reasons to have an election :
The war on Afghanistan, the Cadman tapes, the in and out scheme, attacks on Canadian wheat board, Naftagate, dirty tricks manual, dissing Kyoto accord, gutting public service, cancelling Court Challenges Act, Omar Khadr, Toronto 18/Paintball 11, nuclear watchdog fired, listeriosis mismanagement, C-484, AIDs conference snub, arts and culture funding cuts, Status of Women gutted, war resistors deported, war branding for Olympics, softwood lumber deal, attack on Insite, cuts to mad cow testing, NorthComm pact, deregulating Canada Post, two-tier healthcare push, Abdelrazik, tar sands, ethanol grants to agribiz, extraordinary rendition, Afghan prisoners tortured, refusal to protect lakes, Lougheed Martin census, obstructing HoC committees, conditions on FN reserves, mail-outs from defeated Con candidates, rewriting/deleting research on government websites, Colombia free trade deal, Canada First - not, copycat crime bill, militarization of arctic, Bill C-537, Bill C-10, NACC, Server in the Sky, Canada-Israel homeland security pact, government scientists muzzled/fired, support for Guantanamo, RCMP whitewash, TILMA, Chalk River, no-fly list, biometric passports, CIA access to banking records, Benamar Benatta, North American Forum, red fridays, Bali conference, Commonwealth climate change talks, undermining nuclear disarmament, Question Period a shambles, Independent Panel on Canada's Mission in Afghanistan, war on drugs, lowering pesticide standards, Montebello, deep integration meeting in Banff, "staying the course" in Haiti, DND funding in universities, 600 Canadian companies gone to foreign ownership, support for Wolfowitz at World Bank, Smart Borders, dissing Louise Arbor, P-3 security forces in Afghanistan, attacks on Dion for having a French mother, faking up law and order hysteria, nukes in the tarsands, Accountability Act, UN vote against Palestinian women, Suaad Mohamud, stacking the Senate, dead wrong on economy, Adult Learning and Literacy Program - eliminated, Health Canada- $28M reduction, Medical Marijuana Research Program- eliminated, Law Commission of Canada - eliminated, Museum Assistance Program - funding cut, One Tonne Challenge - 40% budget cut, Stats Can- budget reduced, Status of Women policy research and lobbying - banned, CMHC - funding reduction, Canadian Heritage Centre - eliminated, Canadian Volunteerism Initiative - eliminated, Canadian Labour Business Centre - eliminated, Canadian Policy Research Network - eliminated, Community Access Program - eliminated, privatization of airline safety, sale of federal buildings, isotope "crisis", GHG "intensity targets", Clean Air Act, reversals on aid to Africa, blocking access to public documents, revolving door between Con polis and industry front groups, tacit support for coup in Honduras, prominence of Mike Harris MPs in Harper cabinet, muzzling Con MPs and candidates, gutting the CBC, rewriting foreign policy by banning certain words, and enthusiastic and unstinting support for deep integration with the US.

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